Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Grocery Store Blues

I try and grocery shop when I am alone. Sometimes, this is not possible. Like today. Today I ran into the grocery store to grab a few things and in tow were my 8-year-old son and a 43-year-old kid (the husband). These two have been know to race up and down aisles searching for me, making a game of finding me first.

Often times it’s the 8-year-old that finds me first and how do I know this? The same reason everyone else in the store knows this…he shrieks, “I found her” and takes off at a full run, trying to beat his dad.

Another reason I prefer to shop alone is, to an 8-year-old boy, everything, and I mean everything is shaped like a weapon. The Pringles can is a high-powered rifle, the tuna fish can is a grenade and the zucchini makes a great pistol. Every item I put into the cart makes it’s way into the rotation of being a weapon. I draw the line at the bread. I don’t like squished bread.

The above scenarios are really not all that unpleasant. There are times when I grin and enjoy having the “guys” with me. Other times, I like the relative quiet of shopping alone. It’s rare that I get time by myself.

The biggest argument for me not taking my son with me is what I find in the grocery lane checkouts. It doesn’t matter what store I go into, it’s all the same. The checkout lane is lined with women, scantily dressed, often times in bikinis, directly in the line of vision of my eight-year-old son. Gossip magazines, In Shape magazine, Glamour, you name it, it’s there. I have had words with managers over Cosmopolitan magazine. Having a young reader, I don’t particularly care for the naked women gracing their front covers telling my son “how to have great sex!”

Yesterday, as I was standing in line waiting for my turn to be waited on, my eyes roamed the racks in front of me. In the midst of the “soft porn” was a magazine called In Touch. On the cover was someone named Teresa posing with her daughter and her dog. I have no idea who she is or why she is famous. I do know this, the quote under her picture, made me very sad. It read “I am terrified of being poor.”

I admit, being broke is no fun. But, does it terrify me? No.

It is no wonder we read in 1 Tim 6:10 (NKJV) “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…”

When we put our hope, faith, trust, self worth, identity, and value in money, it is no wonder the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. When we determine who is worth being associated with based on how much money they have, we have issues. When our bank account tells us “You don’t have to be afraid anymore”, we are under a huge illusion of where the source of our security lies. When we justify sinning, going directly against the Word of God because our security lies in money, we are telling God, “You are not big enough to handle my issues.”

I am not opposed to having money in the bank. As a matter of fact, I highly recommend that anyone and everyone take Financial Peace University. I believe in the principles taught by Dave Ramsey in this course. I am not opposed to wealth or having abundance. Someday my husband and I will build our dream home, indoor pool and all. Yes, we will enjoy it. But, will it be my source of security? I pray the answer to that question will always be a resounding no.

God is the giver of all good gifts. He is our provider. He sustains us. He clothes us. He feeds us. He has shed his own blood for us. My one source of security is Him. Nothing else can compare. Nothing else will do.

Teresa, whoever you are, I am praying for you. Your hope is in finding the One who can take you through every heartache, every hurt and give you peace that passes all understanding.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Excess Baggage

Perhaps one of the most expensive components of taking a vacation is getting to and from the place you are going.

It seems everything is a factor. Recently I have been checking on prices for rental cars. I tried looking up prices online and was astounded to see the current rate in the Fox Valley area was around $100 a day. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor and reattach it to my head! The price of fuel is through the roof.

Next, I looked at the airlines. It has been a while since I have flown. What amazed me was the fact that a traveler must pay extra to take baggage. It used to be a person could take two bags with and each had to be less than 50 lbs. Then, that changed to one bag at 50lbs. Now, American Airlines charges $25 for the first bag? Has it really been that long since I have flown? Yikes!

One thing led to the next and the next and as most of you who know me know, my brain can really jump from topic to topic. I ended up pondering the word baggage.

Baggage is defined as:

1. trunks, suitcases, etc., used in traveling; luggage.
2. the portable equipment of an army.
3. things that encumber one's freedom, progress, development, or adaptability; impediments: intellectual baggage that keeps one from thinking clearly; neurotic conflicts that arise from struggling with too much emotional baggage.

I started to wonder, what if God started charging us for all the extra baggage we insist on carrying with us all the time?

Why do we Christians insist on letting our past dictate who we are today? Yes, the events of the past should help us grow, become stronger and initiate change that is necessary for us to become the person/s God has ordained for us to be. Unfortunately, many Christians today choose to dwell in the past. We relive our painful pasts day after day. We let the baggage from our past keep us from the blessings God has for us.

Let’s say we take a walk and we pass 100 people on our journey. It’s guaranteed that each person we pass has a past that includes pain and trouble of some kind. The homeless man lost his wife in a fire while he was at work, now he faces each day with a bottle in a brown bag. The lady who is yelling at her kids doesn’t know any different, she was abused herself as a child. The women in the business suit had three miscarriages. The man driving the fancy sports car is lonely and has not a friend in the world he can trust. The Word says we WILL have trouble in this life. Trouble is not unique to you and I. It knocks on everyone’s door at some point in life.

The question is, what do we do with it once it knocks? How do we react? How do we let it affect us? How long do we let it affect us? Why should we Christians be different? The answer is as simple: Christ.

In John 16:33 Jesus himself says this: These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

We should be finding our peace solely in Him. Not in having the perfect childhood, money, plenty of food or lots of material possessions. All those things are immaterial. They have no bearing on eternity.

When we accepted Christ, we were supposed to hand all of our baggage over to him. He took it all upon Himself when he willingly put himself on the cross. Why do we insist on taking it back?

When our world is falling apart around us, we need to look to Him. I ask you this, is there something you have been holding on to? Something you should have given Christ when you stood before the cross? He is still willing to take that thing. Give it to Him and know peace.

If God was charging for all the excess baggage you are carrying…how much would you owe?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A High Class Bathroom!

I love all of God’s creation. I love to gaze upon the mountains. I love to listen to the ocean and watch the sunset over the horizon. I love forests and meadows, rivers and lakes, the wind and the sun. I love people (well, I’m trying!) and I love the creatures He made to roam the earth. Of all creation, one thing is my favorite. Flowers. I love them. I love flower gardens, wild flowers, bouquets and even the occasional dandelion that my son brings me.

I love their distinct smells. In the spring I can’t get enough of lilacs. I have to say I have clipped a few without permission in days past. The smell of roses nearly brings me to my knees. Hyacinths…what can I say? I have to have at least one potted plant in my home in the spring. Have to!

At the Farmer’s Market in Green Bay, a person can buy huge bouquets of wildflowers. They take my breath away. They are vibrant and bold. I have this wide mouthed vase that I love setting on a decorative table with these particular flowers in it. A mirror hangs about this table perfectly reflecting the flowers. Sometimes I will stand there, staring, thanking God for his beautiful creation.

Of all the types of flowers, none brings me quite as much joy as the ones my husband brings me. It’s usually a complete surprise, I open the door…he’s holding a beautiful bouquet of long red-stemmed roses adorned with baby’s breath and ferns. He runs his hand through his rakishly disheveled hair and smiles…whoa! Wake up Darlene. That has NEVER happened.

All right, this is the point in the post where I must say I love my husband. Very much. He perfectly completes me. He loves me. He is a wonderful father, a great husband, a wonderful provider. He is so many things! One thing he is not is a good “flower” giver.

When it comes to the “love languages”, he and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum. He needs words of encouragement, affirmation and respect. I need gifts. LOL Yep, I like presents. They don’t have to be expensive presents. They don’t have to be fancy. For whatever reason, my psyche recognizes love through gifts.

What is a woman to do? I have asked for flowers. I have left subtle hints (okay, maybe not so subtle hints): You haven’t brought me flowers recently…or it’s been six months (who’s counting?) since you brought me flowers. On occasion my pleas go unnoticed. Other times, I will receive a little bouquet he picks up at the grocery store. (True, they have no scent, but at least they look pretty!) I am appeased for a while.

Fast forward to today. Imagine my surprise when I go into the bathroom to clean and see my favorite wide mouthed vase, not full of glorious flowers, like it is intended for, but housing the toilet brush! WHAT???? YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME?????? I’ll give you one guess who did that!

I can hear him now “This vase doesn’t get used very often. Might as well put it to good use!” I wonder why?!!! Talk about the dog house. That man is in deep doo doo!

Lord, thank you for my husband. Amen.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Peace, Doubt and Forgiveness

A friend of mine, Jessica Patch, (you can click on her link to the right under the blogs I follow) wrote about peace last Wednesday on her blog. She talked of Gideon and the Midianites, about the Angel of the Lord sitting under the terebinth tree, without a care in the world and seemingly oblivious to all the turmoil going on around him.

I could go on and on about her post, but she did such a great job you should go and read it. When you are done, come back. I want to pick up where she left off.

Wasn’t it great? I agree. In fact, I had my hubby read it when he got home from work. It was perfectly relevant to what is going on in our lives.

Peace in the midst of troubles? Peace during a storm? Peace during a war, with bullets flying all around? Peace when all is lost? Peace when there is no food in the cupboard and nothing left in the piggy bank? Peace when a loved one suddenly dies? Peace in tribulations, trials and persecution?

Yes. Peace is possible in every one of those situations, and more. If Christ is our center, our eye of the storm, we can rely upon Him for perfect peace that passes all understanding.

As we were discussing Jessica’s post and God’s plans for Gideon I expressed doubts about what God’s plan are for my life. My husband asked me this, “Don’t you believe everything God has spoken over you? Do you doubt the prophecies? You know what is coming, don’t you?”

I pondered his question, “Yes, I know everything that has been said, but was it really God? What if it wasn’t God? How do I know it was God?” I continued “I mean, it was so easy for all the guys in the Old Testament. They had burning bushes, angels sitting under trees and ladders appearing out of nowhere. Their sacrifices were consumed by fire coming out of heaven and idols were toppled. Seas parted and manna rained from heaven. They knew it was God who was directing them. What do I have?”

A couple of days after reading Jessica’s post, I sat down with the book of Judges and began reading. I read the scriptures she quoted and I kept on reading. Then I read this:

Judges 6:17 “Then he (Gideon) said to Him, "If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who talk with me.”

What? This is Gideon talking. He questioned God too? This blew a whole clean through my theory of all the patriarchs in the Old Testament knowing for sure that they were hearing from God.

Wait, there is more. Gideon prepares an offering. Fire comes down from heaven and consumes it. He still questions God and puts before Him the fleece test. Twice!

Judges 6:36-38 (NKJV) So Gideon said to God, "If You will save Israel by my hand as You have said-- 37 look, I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said." 38 And it was so. When he rose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece together, he wrung the dew out of the fleece, a bowlful of water.

At this point, I can hear the excuses that Gideon made to himself. Because I am pretty sure that I would have come up with the same ones.

He looks at the water collected and looked around for the prankster. Someone took a bucket of water and poured it on the fleece after I went to bed. That must be it!

Ok, God, don’t get mad at me…but can you show me one more time? Please? I just want to be sure it’s you. And the second fleece test is put before God.

This information gave me pause. But Lord? Those miracles were obvious. Why didn’t Gideon believe?

The Lord spoke to my heart. “And what do you have that Gideon didn’t have?”

“What do you mean what do I have? I have something that Gideon didn’t have?”

“What does My Word say you have?”

More than a thousand years after Gideon, Jesus is born of a virgin. He does what he came to do…die on a cross and be resurrected. He sends the comforter.

Yes, the patriarchs had angels, and signs and wonders…but they didn’t have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them.

The Holy Spirit, God Himself, lives within me and still yet…I doubt?

Jesus said in John 10:27 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (NIV)

My heart heavy, I hang my head. “Lord, we are all the same. We have everything we need to believe in You and Your promises and yet we still find cause to doubt.”

“Father, forgive me.”

Friday, July 8, 2011

Why Do We Do What We Do?

My husband has an aversion to mowing the lawn. I won’t say he hates it (only because he insists his aversion is not that strong). But, he barely tolerates it.

Now, imagine the neighborhood in which we live. We are surrounded by obsessive-compulsive lawn mowing people. Yes, at every side, whichever way we turn, someone is moving their lawn…for the second time that week.

As my husband and I were driving through our neighborhood he commented, “everyone’s lawn is so nice and well maintained.”

I rolled my eyes “except for one, dear, except for one.”

Watching our neighbors obsess over their lawns has become a sort of cheap entertainment for us. At least once a week, we get a good chuckle from them.

This morning topped it all. I had just finished up my alone time with the Lord, I was drinking my tea and pondering the words I had just read when to my delight, I see one of my neighbors on her riding lawn mower. I smiled. Their lawn was already shorter than ours (it’s been a week since our last mow). They have a large yard and their normal mode of operation is to take that riding lawn mower in a large square working their way from the outside in. Riding around and around until the job is complete. Makes sense to me.

Well, this morning something changed. Instead of riding around and around, this person was trying to mow their very large backyard at a diagonal…on a riding mower. Laughter erupted as the show began. It took me a few minutes to figure out what she was doing. She was backing up and then moving forward, then backing up and moving forward and then I saw the pattern. I saw the diagonal lines that somehow “up” the social status of those residing in such residences. We are still lowly “get it mowed as fast as you can” kind of people.

Obviously, my husband feels absolutely no pressure, whatsoever, to keep up with the obsessive people all around us. He cares not one whit that his lawn is longer than everyone else’s. Nor does he care what angle he cuts at. He keeps the yard tidy. It’s neat. He does not obsess over it.

I want to clarify something. I love a beautiful yard. I am not opposed to doing a good job on your lawn. But, I have to ask myself…why do we do the things we do? What drives us? Who are we trying to impress?

Do we obsess over our lawn because we truly love to be outside, enjoying the beauty of God’s creation and want a Garden of Eden type setting? Do we measure our grass with a ruler to make sure it never exceeds the 2-inch limit because God added that as the 13th commandment? Or do we obsess over things because we are trying to impress or “out do” our next-door neighbor?

What is behind what we do? What is our motivation in doing these things? What should be our motive in doing all things?

Colossians 3:23 and 24 states this: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.”

1 Corinthians 10:31 “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

I may not obsess about my yard, but it would seem my heart needs a good mowing every day! Weeds need to be pulled; thorns and over growth cut down. The junkyard junk hauled away as God renews and restores me to what He has called me to be.

To answer the question, “Why do we do what we do?” All we have to do is look at the condition of our hearts.

I recently asked Him this: “Am I ever going to get there?”

His answer: “No, but I am going to use you anyway.”

Thank you Lord for your grace and mercy. Surely I would be lost without them.

What are you obsessive about? Is it a good obsessive? Or not? Why?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Tag...You're It!

Well, it’s Monday, July 4th! Happy Fourth of July. Thank God that you live in a country that, while in desperate need of Godly restoration, is still free. Blessings to you and your family.

I have a rather fun blog post today. Apparently, I was playing tag with some fellow bloggers (no wonder I got caught…I didn’t know I was playing, no fair Brandi!) and now I am it. Beware; if you are a blogger and I follow you, you are now playing tag.

According to the rules, I must answer the following six questions:

1. Do you think you’re hot?

Do I think it? Hello! I know it! Every single night I wake up, sweating because my hair is long, hanging around my neck and bugging me. It makes me wake up and say…I am SOOOO HOT! So, Yeah…I’m hot!

2. Upload a picture of the wallpaper you are using.

Okay…I can do that.

3. When was the last time you ate chicken?

I ate this amazing chicken dish last the other night for supper. I layered a casserole dish with stuffing, sautéed onions and chicken breasts to which I added a gravy base, topped the whole thing off with some fresh parmesan cheese and baked it. Absolutely delish. Hubby loved it too…which of course made me even hotter! ;)

4. What song or songs have you listened to recently?

Lately I have been on a kick listening to Brian and Ramey Whalen and Let Our Praises Rise. An awesome call to battle. I am going to try and post it here. But, like Brandi, I am not altogether tech savvy. We’ll see!

5. Do you have any nicknames? If so, what are they?

Darn. Do I really have to answer this one? Well, my first nickname is lene. That isn’t so bad, just the last four letters of my name. But, I have another that my grandmother used to call me by, and an aunt or two that still call me by, which is wiener. I do not know how that happened, but they used that name for me from the time I was a little girl. Do not attempt to call me by that and expect me to answer. Ain’t happenin!

6. Tag five fellow bloggers:

No pressure or anything, but I think if I shared "wiener" with you, you should have to share as well! I will try and list their links. I'm technically challenged, so hopefully it works!

First, Amanda Stephan, author of the awesome novel, The Price of Trust and a great all round friend. I have enjoyed getting to know her and I'm proud to call her friend!

Second, I give you Shawn Boreta. This woman is full of the love and grace of God. Her words inspire me; spur me to a deeper, more fulfilling relationship with Christ. I have gotten to know Shawn through Facebook and am thankful that God's divine purpose included our paths crossing.

Third on my list is Faith Tydings, author of the delightful children's book, A Little Yellow Star. Faith is quirky and fun. You will delight in reading her tales of being a wife, mother and an author.

Fourth is Kristi Burchfiel, author of "Without Regrets: A Study of Ecclesiastes," "The Daily Devotional Series: Gospel of John," and "The Decay Within: A Study of Amos." Kristi's daily devotions are a great way to begin your day!

Fifth is Toni Nelson, author of Beggars Purse, a wonderful memoir of growing up with her grandparents and their compassion with the "hobos" as Toni calls them in her book. On her blog you will find wonderful reviews and author interviews. Enjoy!

Finally I would like to introduce you to Lisa Tortorello, author of My Hero, My Ding a memoir of a girl and her grandfather. I met Lisa at a author event in June of this year. What a blessing that was! Enjoy!

Obviously my links did not work, so I made sure each blogger's blog is listed under blogs I follow. Faith's is the blog about hats, Toni's is Press On and Shawn's is Giving Thanks Daily. I think the rest you can find by name.

Have a wonderful day!