Anyways, we had our family Christmas celebration on Sunday so that we could all celebrate with Papaw, spend as much time together as possible, and not have to rush off to another holiday get together. It was a perfectly lovely day that began at church with Christmas brunch.
On the more serious side - birthdays are excellent time markers. They allow you to stop and take measure of the life you have lived in the past year. Are you where you wanted to be? Are you the person you thought or hoped you would be?
Last year for my birthday, I made a list of all the things I wanted to do in the coming year. And I really didn't even look at the list after I made it until just now for a refresher. The only things I accomplished on the list were the some of the superficial things - like planting flowers for our balcony or getting a tan. I want this year to be much different - perhaps not quite so superficial but a little more meaningful. They say wisdom comes with age - knowledge you may have at quite a young age but wisdom is knowing what to do with knowledge. I may not have all the answers, but I am becoming more aware of who I am, what I want, and what needs to change.
Because words fail us sometimes.
Because just maybe we all have someone who has or is making us feel this way.
Because some day soon you will have to let go, put your heart back together, and move on.
I have chosen song lyrics - because words fail us sometimes. Then we turn to music. And some of the most beautiful lyrics and music come from the most excruciating pain.
"Because of You" by Kelly Clarkson
Because of you
I never stray too far from the sidewalk
Because of you
I learned to play on the safe side
So I don't get hurt
Because of you
I find it hard to trust
Not only me, but everyone around me
Because of you
I am afraid
Because of you
I tried my hardest just to forget everything
Because of you
I don't know how to let anyone else in
Because of you
I am ashamed of my life
Because it's empty
Because of you, I am afraid.
...Sometimes you just have to get it out to truly let go...
*This quote is from our pastor - John, and I quite love it. The conviction that followed was slightly painful but the idea of this life not being solely about me is beautiful to me.
So here are some of the pictures from the past few weeks - what I am grateful for.
<p>Have you ever thought about what you export - what you pour into your world? I am not talking about legacy - its not about what people remember about you after you die. I am talking more about the attitudes and actions and words you choose to put out into this world.<br>
The pastor of our church has been doing a series called "The Code" where he is detailing a lifestyle that we as a church will ascribe to. Today we learned that we are to be the largest exporters of laughter. Not just silliness but taking the joy we have found to the world. I think that happens in the little things we do.
I was thinking about this while we watched Madison, Wyatt, and Daisy Claire laugh and play, while my Mom and Dad share a look when the grand babies do something sweet, or when Candace, Brit, and I share a great laugh over some memory of something we did when we were younger. For example, when Madi does something so Candace-ish that we visibly wince.
I love these kind of days where we can enjoy our family. There are so many days when we struggle just to smile through the weight of the world that good days must be cherished and enjoyed in all their wonderful abundance.
I definitely want to be more aware of what I am exporting. I want to pour joy into my world - that joy you see on the face of children.
However, that is not the point of this pretty post! I have to tell you a story - I know right, it's so exciting! So, a few months ago I volunteered to lead a small group in our home for our church, and this particular group is geared towards the female of our species. This particular small group is one I am pretty excited about which is why I was a little sad when no one came. Then Shelly Reid, our Small Group Coordinator Extraordinaire, shared with me that statistically the small group that is the most difficult to establish is one for single women. How crazy is that? Then, because I am a nerd, I googled some statistics about small groups and found that people in America in general have become less social, even stating that active membership is local clubs and organizations has decreased by almost HALF! That seems a little crazy to me, and believe me, I know the importance of time at home and just with your family!
So I say all of that to let you know that I really, really, really want you to come to our small group or to a similar small group in your area. However, I know that you probably don't care about the statistics but about the story so here it goes...
I became a believer at a very young age (5ish), but I was never really discipled. People in my church and my parents encouraged me to study the Bible and to live a godly lifestyle; however, I really didn't know where to start or what a godly lifestyle looked like. I mean I tried having a "quiet time," but that didn't really work for me because once again, what the heck is a "quiet time?"
Things changed for me when I was in college at Jones County Junior College. The wife of the director of the Baptist Student Union asked me and a few other girls if we would like to be involved with a girl's Bible study in her home. I tried it out, and it completely revolutionized my world. Oh, it was like she gave me a key that opened so many doors in my world.
She taught us a way to study the Bible - she used studies written by Kay Arthur, and by learning more about Christ through the studies, I did not find simple answers but a place to find answers and a method to gather answers. I also learned that I dislike quiet times and benefit best from an "un-quiet time" as I study best when the television is on and music is playing, and I learned a study method that provided, predominantly, direction mixed with some valuable insights into Scripture.
I must tell you it changed my life. And it was not just the studies - the community I found in that group of girls is still one of my fondest memories from my entire college experience. We laughed and cried together, we supported and challenged each other, and we prayed together and for each other. We lived life together - we knew things about each other that no one else knew. There is something so precious about gathering in a home with a cup of coffee and opening up the Scripture with people who are experiencing some of the very same struggles and joys as you are or who have already walked that path and can offer priceless, godly advice.
This is my prayer for our small group - that we experience that balance of garnering knowledge of our God and gleaning the many benefits of living this life in community with other believers! And along the way I hope we laugh, cry, pray, discuss, agree, disagree and drink lots of coffee!
I pray to see you in small group this Wednesday at 6:30 at our apartment!!!
I was reminded of Miller's book by our Pastor in his recent challenge to our church to go from people far from God to being kingdom catalysts. The steps along this journey he is challenging us to include connecting with our community, getting out of our spectator mentality in service, and moving outside the four walls of our church in mission. All of the steps have challenged me in different areas, but I think my journey has to begin by becoming okay with being uncomfortable. Getting out of my comfort zone and simple interaction with other people seem to be the initial steps.
So I decided that I needed a little adventure in my life, and I roped Candace into going along with it. Now, we are working on a next to nothing budget so these little adventures I am about to share with you are just baby steps. But, they are baby steps in the right direction...
Many of the movies today feature a strong woman who does not need a man to come and rescue her, but the strength in the female lead often leaves the male lead weak - both physically and intellectually. Since when has a weak man been a good thing? Ever? Personally, as a believer the man is to be the leader in the household, so I expect him to fulfill that role. Maybe it is just me, but I like for people, in general but especially men, to have opinions, to be strong, to be intelligent, and to take their responsibilities seriously. A sense of humor is awesome, but there is a time and a place to dial back the comedy and put your big boy breeches on and be the man you are called to be!
Now if you are male and reading this, don't get aggravated with me just yet. Ladies, it is time that you and I do the same thing. I do not feel that the man is strong at the expense of the ladies' strength. Throughout my life, my Dad has been the head of our household, and my mother was and is the submissive partner she is called to be. However, the strength and position my father held came with the confidence in that strength and position that allowed my mother to be strong and independent. Conversely, my mother submitted to the position God placed my father in and believed in His ability to fulfill that position. So ladies, it is time to be the mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, and friends that allow men to be men. Men can step up and assert their leadership all day long, but ladies, we must recognize that leadership and believe in their ability to be a leader! In case you missed it ladies, it is NOT our job to be the one who wears the pants! I am all for and believe you need to be strong, but it is an idea of bridled strength. We must choose not to assert our lead.
What have been your experiences? Why must the female lead in a movie be strong at the expense of the male and visa versa? Do you see this transfer into the real world as well? Just something to think about, and let me know what you think!
Sometimes, I need to be taken by the shoulders and shaken to bring me out of my moments of self-pity. I mean really, I say I believe that "happiness comes from the quiet nobility of leading a good life," but do I really live that. I must remember that everyday cannot be a mountain day - there must be valleys here and there. I think the important thing for me is to be in pursuit of the mountain because I tend to get stuck in the monotony of the everyday. I don't like change so it is easy for me to become bogged down, but then I recognize the bog and immediately become claustrophobic in the surroundings I found comfortable just minutes earlier.
Some things I have learned while in the bog and while struggling to find freedom -
- We as a culture tend to define who we are by what we do. "Hello, I am Jane Doe, and I am a *insert current occupation.*" Well, what happens when you cant find a job in that field or you are laid off or whatever your circumstance happens to be? Are you no longer who you thought you were? Because I do not get paid to teach, does that mean I am no longer a teacher? I have come to realize that teaching is a part of who I am whether I am in classroom or not. If you were stripped of your occupation, who would you be?
- I do not like money. No that is not strong enough. I detest money. Having money can make you prideful. Not having money but wanting money can make you envious and covetous. All three of those sinful attitudes I can find in myself within the same five minutes, and I loathe those feelings and attitudes. It is too easy for money to provide a false sense of security, and all too often I find myself placing my faith in money instead of God. And that is my greatest disappointment in myself because I know that money will fail me and still I decide to place my trust in it.
- Life is beautiful, and family is one of God's greatest blessings. Tonight we all went to the Mexican restaurant (what Madi calls MiCasita) because tomorrow is her birthday and it is her favorite. She and Wyatt played and laughed the entire time while Daddy shed a tear or two because he just feels so blessed by them and Mom recounted the story of Lily (her puppy) digging up a snake in the front yard to Madi. Madi loves stories about Lily and has a love/hate relationship with snakes - she is interested until they are real and present. Brit and Jonathan sat close together the way they do when Jon is about to have to go back to work offshore for 3 weeks, and Daisy Claire just smiled at all of us. Then because we all love a great bargain, including we went to Dirt Cheek (what Madi calls Dirt Cheap) where she spent her dollar and had some fun. I would like to enter into evidence -