Sunday, March 27, 2011

Invisible

I feel invisible.  My smiles are met with blank stares.  My efforts at kindness are visibly ignored.  I turn away so that my tears won't be noticed.  I wonder why I continue to be rejected.  I wonder what I am doing wrong.  Is there something wrong with me? 

I contemplate giving up.  I can't help but think that maybe my energy is being wasted by even trying when time and time again I am overlooked.  I feel so small.

I don't want attention.  I don't want praise and admiration.  I just long to be noticed.  I long to be received.

I try to bear in mind that I'm accepted by the One who matters most.  I remind myself that He remembers even the birds, and that I am more valuable to Him than many sparrows

But my tears soak my pillow.  My stomach turns when I think about facing the dismissal time and time again. 

The Bible says to think on things that are true.  So instead of dwelling on my feelings, I must make an active choice to remember His promises.  To remember who I am to Him

Other people may not know me or care to get to know me.  Other people may not notice me or the efforts I make to be a friend.  But my God? 

My God knows me.
My God understands me. 
My God studies me.
My God rejoices over me.
My God takes great delight in me.

What more could I ever need?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mom's Hands

I love my mom's hands. As a kid I'd sit in church, bored by the sermon, and I'd play with her hands. She had blue veins that stuck out on top, and I'd smoosh them around and poke them. I loved that squishy spot between her thumb and first finger, and would squeeze it and revel in it's strangeness.

Her fingers were often stained red, blue, green, purple from food coloring. She was a cake decorator, and our home was always filled with sweet confections that we weren't allowed to touch. Once in a while she would let us lick the beater, and if we were really lucky she would squirt a little frosting on the back of our hands. Sometimes she would make a flower or write our names and sometimes it would just be a quick blob. Didn't matter. We'd lick the frosting off of our hands, and enjoy it's sugary goodness.

Not only did mom have rainbow colored hands, but she had the most beautiful rings. I can remember playing with her rings and dreaming of the day when a prince would put a ring on my finger. I wanted one just like my mom's. And on that hot day in August, surrounded by fish and family and other random people, with my prince down on one knee, my hands became a little more like my mom's.


My mom used her hands to tell stories, and teach us the motions to countless songs. When I was in high school she learned to do puppets, and at our wedding reception her hand made a puppet talk to me and my new groom.

My mom has the best hands. Hands full of love and experience. Hands that held me and disciplined me and entertained me and made me laugh.  I love my mom and I love her hands.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Church Hurt

Three years ago, God kicked our family out of a Baptist church.  And I'm not talking a soft gentle kick.  I'm talking a steel-toed boot kick that came completely out of the blue.  One minute everything was fine and wonderful, and the next minute we were being escorted to our car by the deacons.

Two days after being kicked out...
It's a pretty unbelievable situation.  When we tell people that we were kicked out of a church, there is almost always a look of shock on their face, and then you can see the questions in their eyes.  But most people won't ask why.  I think that people are afraid of the answer.  I mean, if someone is actually kicked out of a church, it must be because they murdered or stole from the offering or slept with the pastor or something equally as scandalous.  We didn't do any of those things.  It was as confusing to us as it is to everyone else.

I remember driving home that night.  The tires crunched on the gravel and the car was silent.  The kids (we had three at the time) didn't know what was going on, but I think somehow they knew to be quiet (or maybe I just didn't notice them).  Ray and I didn't speak until after we were out of the parking lot.  And then my tears started.  The gasping, aching, wrenching tears.  The tears of disbelief and confusion and anger and sorrow.

The church, afterall, was our family.  We had loved and invested in these people who had just spewed hate and accusation at us.  And the next few days would prove to be even more difficult as people we loved rejected our phone calls and cut off all communication with us.

Ray made us go to Wednesday night church just three days later.  I didn't want to go at all, and I rebelled by wearing a messy ponytail and refusing to dress up.  I remember nothing about that service.  I don't remember the people or the message or the music or anything.  I was angry at God, and I probably sat with a chip on my shoulder refusing to take part in the service.

God had such an incredible plan for our family.  The three years since that life-altering meeting have held a lot of change for us.  We've added two kids, attended and left another church, and by the grace of God our marriage has been completely transformed.  God has brought us full circle.  Instead of sitting with a chip on my shoulder, on Sunday I was blessed to sit in that same room listening to my husband teach the Word of God to a room full of friends.  Our new family.

Even after 3 years, though, my heart still aches a little when I think about the whole thing.  I still get shaky and sweaty when I run into someone from our old church at the grocery store.  I still have major trust issues when it comes to church leadership.  I often wonder how our old friends are, and if they ever think about us.

It doesn't matter though.

Because God is good all the time.  He is just as good on the days that tears flow as He is on the days filled with laughter.  His character doesn't change when our circumstances are difficult.  He has my best interests in mind even when I can't comprehend the situation.  He has never betrayed me or failed me.  He loves me.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Seven

Seven years ago I gave birth to a ruddy baby boy with a shock of dark hair covering his head.  He looked surprisingly different than our firstborn (who was pale and bald), and I fell in love with him.  From the beginning, Drew had his own way of doing things.  Not only did he arrive three weeks early, but he sucked his thumb and refused to sleep through the night.

March 17, 2004

As this little one got older, he developed a very distinct personality.  Drew is a dreamer.  He loves to use his imagination to come up with inventions, and he almost always has a book in his hands.  He is a wonderful artist, and loves to draw in his sketchbook.  He has become a bit of a loner.

Pretending to be an archaeologist

My Drew has such a tender heart.  We first noticed it when he was just a few years old.  He always notices when I wear different earrings, or do something new to my hair, or get dressed up, and he always comments and tells me how beautiful I am.  Drew is always on the lookout for "sunflowers" (dandelions) to pick and give to me.  He loves hugs and kisses and is always willing to keep me company. 

Seven years.  Wow.  The time has just flown.  I love this little one so much. 

March 17, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tragedy

So much pain in the news lately.  I cried as I read about the family in Pennsylvania who lost seven of their eight children in a tragic house fire this week. My heart aches for the parents who are left with only one child.

The home of the Pennsylvania family after the fire.

I can't even imagine facing such a loss.  I can't imagine waking up the next morning with no baby to nurse, with only one child begging for attention instead of eight.  I can't imagine how empty that mother's arms must feel, how she will feel as she lowers seven children into the ground.

Being a mom is so hard.  There are days that I just don't think I can do it anymore.  Days when Megan's eye-rolling and foot-stamping drive me to the edge.  Days when I lose it because Drew complains about what I made for dinner.  Days when I cry because AJ said something that hurt my feelings.  Days when Kaybelle empties out my jewelry box again, and I want to scream.  Days that I can barely function because Melody was up all night crying.

But to lose all of that in an instant?  To lose their smiles and laughter and hugs and kisses and constant chatter?  To lose their dirty faces and holey jeans and smudged glasses and messy hair?  I can't fathom it.

Life is fleeting.  Everything can change in an instant, but we must not worry about tomorrow.

So today, we will practice what to do in case the fire alarm goes off.  And we will write to our five Compassion kids.  And we will eat pizza and laugh together.  And we will do math problems and play make believe.  And I will be thankful for the five blessings that God has entrusted into my care.  And I will remember that even when tragedy strikes, my God is still good.  My God is still just.  My God has a purpose for everything that happens.

Will you join me in praying for the Clouse family?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Words and Forgiveness

A page that is hanging on our refrigerator of things
to practice from our Weekend to Remember.

It had a been a great morning.  I made some new friends, chatted with some old ones, and was feeling encouraged.  And suddenly, a comment....a word.  One word that penetrated straight through me and took my breath away.  One word that took the smile off of my face and took my mind off of the beauty of the morning.

It's striking to me to realize how potent our words can be.  How a lady can make one comment over her shoulder that can ruin my entire day.  The Bible says that "speaking recklessly is like the thrusts of a sword."  Pretty much sums up how I felt yesterday as her words pierced my heart.  

I tried my hardest to shake it off.  To put it out of my mind and forget that it ever happened.  She hadn't meant to hurt my feelings, after all.  She didn't realize that her words would have that sort of affect on me.  She didn't know that I went to my van and put my head on the steering wheel and cried.  She didn't know the power of her words.


The speaker at MOPS yesterday talked of forgiveness.  I was a bit distracted by the baby in my lap and the phone in my pocket and the thoughts in my head of the craft that I had to teach in a few minutes.  But I did catch a few of her main points.  She said that when you choose not to forgive someone, you become resentful and skeptical.  You become revengeful.  You lose your joy and love for life.  More importantly, when you choose not to forgive, you are directly disobeying God and your prayers will be hindered.

I'll admit that as I was listening to her speak, I wasn't thinking of myself.  I was thinking of someone else who needs to forgive.  And I was nodding my head and thinking about how this other person has become resentful and skeptical and has lost her joy and love for life because she has refused to forgive another person.

And an hour later, the word was spoken.  And I cried.  And I felt angry.  And I couldn't stop thinking about it.  And then I remembered the message from our speaker.  The message that was intended for me. 

Forgiveness is hard.  So hard.  But my heart isn't going to heal until I choose to do the hard thing.  I could place blame on the woman who uttered the hurtful comment, but as Neil Anderson said in Discipleship Counseling, "to place blame on somebody else is nothing more than an excuse to stay in bondage."  And staying in that bondage isn't worth it.   There is nothing that could happen to me here on earth that is worth directly disobeying God and having my prayers hindered. 

So I choose forgiveness.  I choose the hard path.  And when something brings that hurtful word back into my mind, I will choose to forgive again, and again, and again.  I will live in joy and love, and choose thanksgiving.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sunglasses

When I was a teenager, I hated my mom's sunglasses. I'm sure I was rude and made fun of her about them. She always wore big huge sunglasses that reminded me of something an old lady would wear. They were awful and they embarrassed me.

Well, today I bought new sunglasses. Kay walked off with my old ones several weeks ago, and I decided it was time for new ones (it's not really very safe to drive with my eyes squinted closed, plus I figure as soon as I buy new ones the old ones will show up again).

Anyhow, so I'm standing in Walmart with all of the kids. They are picking out different pairs for me to try on, and I think they all look ridiculous. I've never been good at picking out stuff like that. I have absolutely no sense of fashion whatsoever.

And then I saw them. The one pair that was only five dollars instead of ten. They were the obvious choice. I mean, if I'm going to spend an extra five dollars, it's going to be on something good like post it notes or new pens or Baked Ruffles, not sunglasses!

So into the basket went the five dollar glasses (and out came the ten dollar mickey mouse pair that one of the children tried to sneak in), and off to the cash register we went.

When we got home, I took out my new sunglasses to take off the tags, and I realized that I have become my mother. Really. My new sunglasses are big and plastic and ugly, but they were only five dollars! A bargain! And I honestly don't care what they look like as long as they keep me from squinting.

I have to admit that becoming my mom isn't such a bad thing. She's a pretty amazing woman, and if I'm going to turn into someone, I'm happy that it's her. (Don't worry though, Ray. I'll steer clear of the Christmas sweaters.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Gramma's House

This is the front of the house we visited every summer.

When I was a kid, every summer we drove halfway across the country to visit my grandparents in upstate New York. My dad's parents lived in a little tiny town called DeKalb Junction, and it became one of my favorite places in the world.

Gramma always had lots of goodies ready for us when we arrived. Her freezer would be stocked with ice cream and cookies and black bottom cupcakes. I remember one time sneaking a cupcake and eating it while it was still frozen.

 Beautiful Gramma who was always working in the kitchen.

Gramma had white wicker furniture on her back porch and I loved to sit out there and pretend that it was my house and that I had guests over.

Grampa had a riding lawn mower, which was such a novelty. I remember watching him mow their huge yard, and the smell of the fresh cut grass.

 The huge yard

We always slept upstairs at Gramma's house. There was one room that we slept in that had weird shadows at night. I remember laying in bed with my sister and making shadows on the ceiling with our hands.

Grampa always made us homemade ice cream when we visited. It seemed to take forever as we waited and waited for the ice cream to firm up. Then he'd call me and my sister into the kitchen and we'd get to eat it straight off of the beater.

Gramma took a snooze almost every afternoon on her couch. She'd stretch out her legs and sometimes would put a homemade afghan over them. Sometimes I would sneak in and watch her sleep. She looked so beautiful.

One time Grampa chased me all around their house with a squirt bottle. I was in high school, and screamed like a little girl as he shot me with cold water.

Gramma sometimes let me and my sister play with her old lipsticks. We would stand in the bathroom and make kissy faces at the mirror and think we were the most beautiful girls in the world.

 The bathroom where we'd put on Gramma's old lipsticks.

Gramma and Grampa's house always smelled like coffee. Grampa drank his black but Gramma put lots of cream in hers, and once in a while she would let me have a sip. I thought it tasted so awful, but I loved it when she shared it with me.

 One of many coffee cups.

Grampa had a leg brace that he would take off in the evenings. It looked like a leg sticking out of his shoe. I thought it was one of the coolest things ever, and when nobody was looking I would stick my foot in his shoe and try to walk around with the brace hitting my leg mid-thigh.

Grampa without his "leg" on.

I haven't seen my grandparents in nearly 8 years. Way too long. I am thankful for technology though, so we can video on the computer once in a while. And we can talk on the phone, and write letters. But sometimes, I miss them so much that it hurts.