Friday, October 29, 2010

The Flipside

So a friend of mine (Katie Jackson) got me thinking yesterday about how the internet is the sort of place where we can only present the positive side of ourselves and give people the wrong impression that we've got it all together, all the time. I figured I'd take this opportunity to be frank about the flipside... of me. Don't worry. I'll keep it funny and sarcastic. Otherwise, it'd be awkward for you and painful for me. And who wants to read a big pity party?

First, a little background. Throughout school, I was always a smart girl. I was a straight-A student, Honors, AP courses, Student Council, the whole bit. I assure you, my ego has quite the appetite. Constantly excelling in school, after-school activities, clubs, and service organizations fed the craving. So, great. You're thinking, "Oh gee Jennifer, poor you. You're so smart. What a horrible quality?." Here's the flipside. PRIDE. I have an enormous pride monster that regularly rears its head. I am always right, and I only receive instruction from a very, very small number of people (two come to mind), and even those two have a tough time with me, despite the fact that they've proven themselves extraordinarily wise again and again. I'm sure my husband will gladly attest to this.

I am stubborn and bullheaded. It takes me MUCH longer than necessary or appropriate to apologize even if I know darn well that I'm wrong about something. My pride monster does not appreciate humbling. (Incidentally, Beth Moore says this thing about a season of humbling preparing us for a season of blessing, and I kind of feel like my pride monster is part of the reason we are/have been in a season of financial humbling for awhile now. I hope I'm right!) Honestly, if I'm mad enough, I may not apologize at all (ask Quincy), or maybe I'll do the really mature thing and say something like, "I'm sorry you felt that way."

Let's see. Sometimes my kids really get on my nerves (like this morning). I love them so much and want to have fun with them, but when I want to craft, I want to craft in peace and quiet. That's been one of the hardest things for me to give up becoming a mom. I used to be able to work on a project all day long if I wanted. Now, there is no such thing as a day off, and I maybe squeeze in a couple of hours on something each day. That annoys me.

I will probably make myself have an ulcer because of all my self-imposed schedules and deadlines. It's insane, really. I make the schedule. It's up to me if I follow it or not. Nobody's going to come after me or fire me. Quincy doesn't care, but I get all anxious (upset stomach and all) when I feel like I'm behind or not accomplishing all that I need to accomplish. I'm guessing this is because most of my life I had teachers, parents, and other adults feeding my "perfectness," so I sometimes still feel the internal need to live up to it.

Tina Fey said this at an awards ceremony one time, and I will never forget it. "I want to thank my parents for for somehow giving me confidence that is disproportionate to my looks and abilities." hahah! Story of my life! The flipside of confidence (though all my worst traits really boil down to pride) is that I can be really pushy. I have strong opinions on all sorts of things, and you probably already know what they are. On the other hand, I am intimidated by approximately three people. Those three people are the only ones who can make me question my opinions or fear speaking up.

For most of my life, I've been really confident and outgoing. On the inside, though, I really cared a lot about what other people thought of me. I would do whatever it took to be the best, perfect, etc. I was a "Yes Man." I was constantly overextended. I promise you I've done more stress-induced vomiting than any person you've ever met. Thanks in no small part to a season of difficulty and the book, "The Emotionally Healthy Church," I swung pretty hard and fast to the opposite side of the pendulum. I did not give a rip what anybody thought about anything, and I officially became a "No Man." You don't even need to finish the sentence before I'll tell you no. The good thing about that, I guess, is that the things I'm doing, I actually want to be doing. Also, in terms of ministry activities, I think because I am a creative-minded person, it's allowed me to get out of the box of serving God in ways that everyone else does and do some crazy, unpredictable things. Oh wait, did I get off track and start talking about my awesomeness again?. ;)

I like to think I'm balancing out a bit now, but I'd say I'm still much more on the side of not caring about the opinion of others. This "can" be a good thing, when I am honestly living in such a way that I am only concerned about pleasing God; however, if I am honest, much of the time it is tinged with a bit of Paula Abdul's "Cold Hearted Snake." In other words, a lot of the time, I don't care, I don't care, I don't care, I don't care.

Because I don't care, I get pretty easily annoyed with frivolous talk and chit chat. It's just not my M.O. I am a terrible "girlfriend" in that way. Don't call me to chat about fashion, celebrity gossip, "your day" (I'd be an awful husband.), or other unimportant things. Obviously "unimportant" is defined by me. I will talk to you about God, tragedy/death (apparently I'm drawn to it), poverty, politics (although you probably don't want to go there with me), culture, funny/sarcastic TV shows, crafts, and Gator football. That's about it.

I have weird and unique opinions about lots of things, but I have just enough insecurity to keep lots of those things to myself. These are things that neither fall into the realm of popular opinion or what I like to call the "popularly unpopular opinion." I sometimes wonder if I'm crazy for having some out-there idea that neither group would agree with or deem valid, so I constantly have to go back to God and scripture to make sure I'm not a crazy heretic. I frequently comfort myself with the reminder that "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is FREEDOM."

I don't care if my house is perfectly clean. I basically feel compelled to keep up with laundry, dishes, and clutter. Other than that, all's fair till someone comes over. However, I do have these bursts of crazy where I want everything spotless. I expect my husband and children to see the bursts coming and behave accordingly. They never anticipate it though, and therefore face my wrath as I tornado through the place making it shine.

I have a pity party about my house/finances on an almost daily basis. This is not at all where I thought I'd be at  this point in my life. I don't understand it. I find it extremely frustrating, and I often want to throw in the towel. Quincy is the rock about that sort of thing.

Speaking of Quincy, I never give him as much credit or attention as he deserves. He is a good, faithful, hardworking man. It's hard for me to even think of anything negative about him because he really is so perfect, which I obviously find incredibly annoying sometimes.

Let's see. I watch too much TV, spend too much time on Facebook, blogs, looking for craft inspiration, love Coke Zero and chocolate too much, am sarcastic to the point of meanness on a regular basis, and am content to be an island much of the time. I am a horrible group friend, but a great (as long as you consider in-your-face honesty great) one-on-one friend. I can sometimes stretch the one-on-one thing to a small group, under five or so, but that's about my limit.

Sometimes I am probably too laid back with my kids. Well, I was a lot more paranoid with Ephraim, but again, I have swung to the opposite end of the pendulum with Aspen. She's probably eaten more paper than the Times Union prints on a Sunday.

I am not fearful, except for those few people who intimidate me, and NIGHTMARES. I have the most awful nightmares, and now that I've had the whole dream prophecy situation, I get REALLY freaked out by nightmares. I had a terrible one last night. I haven't gotten it off my mind all day. I have to keep reminding myself that the Lord did not give me a spirit of fear.

I can be really judgmental. This is the gift and curse of sarcasm. I find myself to be hilarious, but it is often at the expense of someone else. If you know me and love me, you know this to be true. The most horrible things come out of my mouth sometimes. I could really use a retraction button!

So, there's the flipside, in all its glory. I'm sure there are lots of other things that just aren't coming to mind right now, but there are plenty of reasons not to think I'm perfect or have it all figured out. I DON'T. I don't tend to share the negative because I don't want to be Captain Bringdown to everyone else out there. Usually when I share, I have sufficiently worked through the situation with God that I feel like it can be uplifting or encouraging to others. I don't know if that's good or bad, but it's just what I do. I do want you to know that I am very, very far from perfect. I do NOT have it figured out.

This one thing I DO know. (Here comes my compulsive need to leave this on a positive note.) In Christ, I am perfect, blameless, holy, forgiven, blessed with every spiritual blessing, and FREE. I truly live out my days in that freedom and understanding of my real identity. My character traits, whether good or bad, are just a shadow in light of my true identity. I am a new creation, one that has no flipside.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Status Updates for Moms

Lately, I've been noticing some trends. Specifically, I've noticed a few trends amongst my momma friends on Facebook. I was making myself laugh just thinking about it, so I figured I ought to write it down for you. Tell me if it's true for your momma friends!

There are some basic categories into which mom statuses fall.

First and foremost, the Emotional Outburst. These statuses are posted by moms gone wild. These moms are ready to completely lose it on their children (or maybe they already did), and just need SOMEONE to know about it. You've seen these, right? "Sally Smith is about to drop these kids off at the nearest foster home!" You know (or hope) Sally is exaggerating, and is mid meltdown, but if you start seeing a slew of these without the followup repentant update, you should take a drive on down to Sally's house to make sure she hasn't tried to drown herself in the dishwasher. I should also point out that the Emotional Outburst can also sometimes be directed at the spouse, pets, chores, or nowhere at all. I consider the emotional outburst to be a mom's free therapy session. She generally gets feedback from other moms who sympathize, have ripped a few hairs out of their own heads, and maybe even found themselves locked inside a dishwasher on a foolhardy mission.

Next up, the Repentance. This generally comes anywhere from minutes to hours after the Emotional Outburst, specifically if and when the mom realizes that DCF could interpret her status quite literally and come try to take her babies away. NO!!! "Sally Smith has it rough sometimes, but she LOOOOVVVES her babies SOOOO much and is learning to be much better by being their momma." Again, if your momma friend fails to follow the Emotional Outburst with the Repentance, check on her.

The next general trend I've noticed is what I like to call the Foodie. You know more about this family's diet than you do about your own. You know what they had for breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner. You know what mom is craving, where she hides her goodies from the kids, and the exact number of calories she takes in on a daily basis. I have two specific momma friends who are all about the Foodie. If I ever have trouble planning a menu, I simply scroll back through their pages for ideas. Thanks girls!

Oh, the Chore Updater. "Sally Smith has a pile of laundry bigger than her head." "Sally Smith has put up two loads of laundry, but has ten more to go." "Sally Smith needs to grocery shop." "Sally Smith needs to do the dishes." My guess is that Chore Updaters are accomplishing two things with these statuses. First, it is therapeutic, i.e., the Emotional Outburst. Second, it creates internet accountability to actually get it done. I've seen it in action. One of those momma friends is gonna come ask later if you've gotten that laundry put away.

One of the most entertaining status themes is what I call the Snark. This is an opportunity for a mom to share her superior parenting choices, passive-aggressively dealing with issues with all the moms who handle it differently. There is the rare occasion when a Snark is genuinely benign and becomes a firestorm. This is rare though. Odds are good if one of your friends has recently posted an article or note on the subject, this status update is in direct response to said article. Here's my example. "Sally Smith just loves having her babies in the bed with her, knowing they are warm and safe." (Again, it is possible this was totally benign, unless someone has recently posted an anti-cosleeping article.) Lots of moms will probably respond to the actual status, but what's more fun is when this happens. "Sally Smith just loves having her babies in the bed with her, knowing they are safe and warm." "Jane Johnson just loves having her babies safe in their own beds at night, not having to fear they will be suffocated." hahah! It's fun to watch the back and forth of this. This is one of the most entertaining parts of Facebook.... passive-aggressive arguments via status update.

So, I admit that I am sometimes guilty of this one. The Couponer. By the way, I went to Publix today. I spent $49 and saved $109. Honestly, part of me would like to share my savings every single week cause it's so awesome, but I know you don't care, so I really, really try to spare you the details! The Couponer friends are great resources though. They tend to know the best deals on everything and can point you in the right direction. They LOVE saving money and want everyone else to have the same success and not be defeated by the hard work of the task. (This entire paragraph has been a true confession of Jennifer Richardson.)

I am also guilty of this next one. Kid Funnies. What can I say? I've got a funny kid. I laugh at your Kid Funnies too, and I definitely prefer those to the Emotional Outbursts. :)

The Honor Roll Bumper Stickers. This category encompasses all the things that make us proud of our little people. We've just got to tell the world.

Finally, the NonUpdater. These gals are good moms. They are busy, emotionally well adjusted, don't care what your status says, and therefore realize that you don't care what their status says. Hence, no updates.

So, did I get them all?

If thinking about your next status update, I hope this has given you some inspiration! This has been a mockery of we dorky moms on Facebook. Just some sarcastic joking. Please don't feel the need to Snark me about it. :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

World's Busiest Lady!

I have a confession. I love schedules. I love charts. I love plans, and I've always got a scheme going. I guess those are several confessions.... and though the title of this blog is a gross exaggeration, sometimes I really do feel like World's Busiest Lady. I have to admit that much of it is self-imposed, though.

You already know how I'm a crazy mad woman in the mornings, so let me give you a bigger glimpse into my life. If you are some crazy stalker, please disregard my schedule. If you show up where I am, be aware that I am truly insane and am always prepared to stab someone with my keys. That. is not a joke.

So, let me share some of my schedules, charts, ideas, and schemes with you.

Here's the basic daily plan. I wake up at 5 a.m. I do a Bible study, eat breakfast, and work (doing medical transcription from home) from approximately 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. Ephraim gets up around 6 a.m. and joins me downstairs. I fix his breakfast, encourage him to get dressed, and put on the cartoons till Daddy and Aspen are awake. Once he's up, Quincy has the kiddos. He does a morning Bible study with Ephraim, dresses the kids (with the clothes I've laid out the night before), and helps Ephraim to do his daily chore. Ephraim has a different chore every day. On Mondays, because this is the day after our Sunday night campout, he doesn't do a chore. Also, I don't work on Mondays. I work Tuesday through Saturday. On Tuesdays, he cleans the sliding glass door. On Wednesdays, he takes out the garbage from the bathrooms, office, and his bedroom. On Thursdays, he cleans the baseboards with Clorox wipes. On Fridays, he dusts the end tables and whatever other items are within reach. (Yes, there's a chart. It hangs on the fridge.)

At 9 a.m., I take over "custody." :) Right now, I nurse Aspen and pump for a little baby who needs some extra milk. I may have already taken a shower before work, or I may run and do so now. I will also "ideally" unload the clean dishwasher. Once we are all dressed, I move on to the next thing.

My newest scheme is a plan to visit all of the parks in our city. So Mondays are park day! We will begin working our way around the city on a park adventure. I plan to write some reviews here! We go from roughly 10 a.m. to 12 noon. Tuesdays are library day. Sometimes we go to our local library. Sometimes we visit other ones. Ephraim has his own card, so we go crazy and get tons of stuff. We love to read together. Again, this is a 10 a.m. to 12 noon activity. Wednesday is zoo day! Thursday is not so fun (for the kids). It's Publix day! :) Friday is flexible, but I'm thinking I may devote it to my park adventure because I know it's going to drive me crazy not to "finish" quickly. hahah By the way, Aspen usually sleeps straight through all these adventures, so that's part of the reason I like to have fun with my son during that time.

So, now it's noon. We are back home and have lunch. Quincy has lunch with us. We usually watch a TV show at lunchtime. I then do some school time with Ephraim. Here's how we handle school time.
Monday - Phonics/Reading
Tuesday - Giant Activity Workbook
Wednesday - Craft Day (my fav!)
Thursday - Phonics/Reading
Friday - Bible Activity
This lasts from approximately 12:30 to 2 p.m.

Nap time! Hallelujah! :) Right now, Quincy is much quicker and more successful at putting Aspen down for a nap. Since I have the luxury of having him at home, this is the time when I interrupt him. He takes a few minutes and puts Aspen to sleep in our bedroom, while I sit and read stories with Ephraim in his room. I usually read 2-3 books of his choosing, then sit and read my own book in a rocking chair in his room for half an hour or so. It helps me wind down and gives me a break, and it also helps him fall asleep peacefully, without argument.

During nap time, I cram in approximately 1000 different things. I have my own daily chores (bathrooms, laundry, dusting, vacuuming, etc.). If I have orders for Luv Boopas or other crafts, I sew, crochet, knit, whatever. I organize and plan my coupons/shopping trips. I check out Facebook world. I watch whatever TV show or movie I want to watch (in the background of my activities) but don't want my child to mimic. ;) I also have a love affair with my crock pot. Much of the time, I throw dinner in the crock pot during this time as well. I take any and every recipe and make it crock pot friendly. It makes life MUCH easier.

Nap time for Aspen usually ends at 4 p.m. Ephraim sometimes goes way longer, and sometimes his nap is much shorter. For those of you who are jealous of him still taking a nap, please remember that he generally wakes up at 6 a.m. and comes downstairs to watch cartoons while I work. If you don't want a 6 a.m. wake up call, you don't get a napping 3 year old. :)

From 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., things are a bit fuzzy. I may or may not take my kids to the mailbox and park in my neighborhood. I may or may not let them watch TV again. Maybe we'll read a book? Maybe we'll do another craft, cause it is my favorite. Maybe we'll play a game or do a puzzle. Maybe we'll go somewhere else to run errands because we need something. Who knows?.

Around 5/5:30 p.m., if I haven't already done so, I'm preparing dinner. We usually eat around 5:30/6 p.m. After dinner, I'm doing the old nurse/pump activity again. Then, I may request a break and go sit in the bathtub ALL BY MYSELF. I love my kids, but you know what I'm saying...

At 7/7:30 p.m., we do the kids baths. We get them dressed and ready for bed and "try" to have them asleep around 8 p.m. Again, Quincy is much more successful with Aspen right now. I lay down and nurse her for a bit, then we trade children. I go in to Ephraim's room after Quincy's read to him and prayed with him and basically do the same thing for a few minutes. I grab the kids some clothes for the next day, and I'm out! I try to be diligent about going to sleep at 10 p.m. because I am a total crab if I stay up much later, so I spend the next 2 hours again, cramming in 1000 more things... finishing chores, sewing, crafting, blogging, TV watching, Facebooking, putting away laundry, loading and running the dishwasher, paying bills, actually speaking to my husband!??!, etc.

One night a week, I do a Bible study with some girlfriends, and I can now officially leave Aspen with her Daddy while I'm gone, so that's a nice break in the week. :) Girl time!

Sometimes Quincy has meetings, training, plans, and we have to adjust to accommodate those things, but it's usually not a huge deal.

So, this is why my days feel so busy. They are. Sometimes it's overwhelming, but for the most part, we have a lot of fun together. I wouldn't trade it. And like I said, I really do love charts, plans, schedules, and organization. I can honestly say that at the end of the days where I've done all I planned to do, I feel a great deal of satisfaction. I LOVE checking things off my list. WHAT. A. DORK.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Eva's Blogiversary!

Today is my friend Eva's Blogiversary! She's got tons of guest bloggers lined up throughout the day. I am set up for an 11:30 a.m. slot. Go check it out, and subscribe to her blog. Every Monday, she posts the CUTEST things in her "I Heart Mondays" posts. You won't want to miss it!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Tale of Joy

Man, I've got a lot to say this week. Crafting hiatus = writing revival. :)

This is a story I've wanted to share for almost two weeks now, since the Bryan Turner Benefit Day, but I wanted to get my facts straight. I know I still will not do this story justice, but I'll do my best.

Bryan Turner was a longtime friend of Quincy's. To read about him and his relationship with my husband, go here.  For those of you who have been following along, you know that he went to be with Jesus after being hit by a car on Saturday, July 10, 2010. In the days since losing him, the Lord pressed it on my heart to care for his widow and children. Specifically, I knew that I could craft, and I knew that I could sell crafts. Ideas were batted around on this very blog, and I believe Kim Reeves actually coined the term "Bryan Turner Benefit Day." The idea was launched.

The day ballooned into crafts, a bake sale, a silent auction, live music, bouncy houses, and food. I was specifically organizing crafters, seeking donations, and soliciting for vendors.

A couple weeks prior to the benefit, I went to the Riverside Arts Market for that very reason. It was about 4:15 p.m., after the arts market was technically closed, and I walked around with a letter, asking the vendors if they would take part.

One of the women I encountered caught me off guard. She read the letter and said, "Do you know this family?" I told her that I did. She said, "Do you know if he was an organ donor?" I said, "Yes, he was." She said, "I think that my future son-in-law may have received his kidney." What?. I was in shock at the moment. I told her to contact me, as my information was on the letter. I wanted to get more information from Joy.

I was still a bit hesitant about sharing this possibility with Joy. I didn't want to get her hopes up or give her false information. I talked to her later and discreetly prodded her with a few questions. The organ donor system does not release specific information until a year after the donation has taken place, so Joy had some vague knowledge about each of the recipients. One of the kidney recipients was a 28-year-old young man who loved basketball. This was about all we had to go on.

The woman from the arts market and I began emailing back and forth. Her future son-in-law was a 28-year-old young man who loved basketball. In fact, basketball probably kept him alive. Because he was sweating out toxins from playing so much, his kidney failure was delayed. I looked into the dates. Bryan was officially declared on July 15, 2010. This family was called in for the kidney on July 16, 2010. Okay, it's got to be him.

I shared with Joy. She was so excited.

Needless to say, the woman from the arts market was more than willing to take a booth at the benefit day. Her daughter began emailing me, and asked if it was okay for her and her fiancé to come. I asked Joy. She gave a resounding, absolute yes.

Fast forward to the day of the benefit. We got there early, of course, to set up. We had a steady flow of shoppers in the craft and bake sale area. Lots of people were able to talk to Joy in a much more upbeat manner than had been possible at the memorial. It was good to have a happy day remembering Bryan, for all of us. We raised a nice chunk of change, and that was encouraging as well... but it wasn't the best part of the day.

At about 4 p.m., in walked Bryan's kidney, in its new home in another young man's body. He was with his fiancée and his father. As they were making introductions, I was sitting near the checkout table with tears welling in my eyes. My friend Eva was doing the same. Joy was so happy. She immediately hugged him.

His father came over to talk to me. He told me how he and his wife had lost another son. He was so thankful that God saw fit to save this one. I could relate. I was fighting back the tears through my whole conversation with him. He told me that he and his son are Christians. They are lovers of God. He said that his son has not been the same since his operation. He told me he'd been telling everyone about Jesus... just like Bryan. That gives me chills even to type it.

His family sat to talk with Joy and her father. They talked for an hour and a half. As I watched them, I blubbered privately. I felt like God was pressing it on my heart that THIS was the biggest purpose of this day. It was less about money and more about hope.

Joy shared all sorts of little ways that God wove this story into a beautiful tapestry. This young man felt from a young age, called to ministry. He was on the run from God. He is no longer running. He and his father had served at a local event to help the needy, alongside Bryan Turner and the Jesus Bus. They may have even met that day. His family lives on a street that has the same name as Bryan and Joy's original choice for Timothy's first name. Timothy was later decided upon because of Joy's life verse, 2 Timothy 1:7, "For the Lord did not give us a spirit of fear, but one of power, of love, and of a sound mind." How fitting. (And if you've read my whole story, you know that's Quincy's life verse as well, and mine by osmosis.) He is marrying a woman with 2 young children. Joy is now a widow with 2 young children.

They talked about so many things in that short time, and I know he was encouraged by Joy just as much as she was encouraged by him. I'm sure he was relieved to see how graciously she received him and was glad for the gift of life for him, not begrudging him that.

As we left, Joy and her father, along with this young man and his family, had joined hands in a circle. The young man's father was praying. They parted company as family. It was beautiful.

For me, this was one of the times when it was so overwhelmingly, amazingly beautiful and rewarding to follow God's prompting. I got to see this unfold before my eyes. This meeting was impossible apart from God. All the glory is His and His alone. Thank You, Lord, for giving us good gifts like these. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Long Obedience

So as our deferred tax day draweth nigh, the idea of "the long obedience" keeps circling in my mind.

In my Bible study, the author described this idea of the long obedience. When Naomi and her daughters-in-law were heading to Bethlehem, Naomi urged them more than once, to go home to their own people. Their decisions to go with Naomi weren't just one-time decisions. In fact, Orpah gave up and turned around upon further prodding. Ruth, however, chose to continue on her path.

Sometimes I SO want to Orpah this whole lifestyle we've got going on and head back to more predictable waters; however, this is the life God called us to live. About five years ago now, my husband felt that God was calling him to quit his predictable, secure job to start a business. So, if you know my husband, you know he is obedient. He did it. He quit that job and started a business without a single client. Since then, God actually called me to also leave my predictable, secure job as a teacher, and we began living a crazy unpredictable, God-sustained life. We genuinely have no idea, ever, how much money will come in during a month. We live by faith alone. At first, it was incredibly hard. I was anxious and stressed all the time. The waves of difficulty smoothed out a bit though, or at least my reaction to them did. I don't live in a constant state of fear or worry over our finances, but honestly it is sometimes still really difficult. There are many months when the numbers just don't add up (especially tax months!), and I wonder, "God, what are you doing? Is this really what you have for us?" It's been five years now, and since we've received no new direction from Him, we are choosing to walk the path of the long obedience. I'm not gonna lie, sometimes I feel sorry for myself. Five years feels like a REALLY LONG TIME.... but then I am reminded of someone like Noah, who spent maybe ONE HUNDRED YEARS building an ark. Noah didn't do anything wrong. He wasn't being punished. In fact, he was being singled out and blessed. He was going to save his family and the human lineage. Ok, in light of a hundred years, five years isn't so bad. I sometimes wonder if we'll be like one of the folks listed in the Hebrews "hall of faith" who don't get to see the promise in their lifetime, but die welcoming it from afar. Let me just tell you the truth. I am REALLY hoping that's not God's plan for me. REALLY. SERIOUSLY. I'd much prefer a radical six-year turnaround! :)

Don't get me wrong. I am so thankful for what God HAS done over the past five years. There is absolutely NO reason we should have survived. There's no reason, other than God, that we've paid all our bills, never had to pay a late fee for anything, had people leave money on our doorstep, give us two FREE cars, pay our medical bills, or buy us groceries unbidden. That's God. That's miraculous and has really changed my perspective for when/if God sees fit to give us a different lifestyle. When a friend showed up to buy me groceries because God told her to do so, we needed groceries. Never again will I question God's prompting on things like that. Seriously. The enemy's not gonna try to get me to go buy someone groceries, right!?! :)

Anyway, if you're plugging along in the long obedience, choosing God's path day after day, not knowing what's next and sometimes wondering what in the world you are doing, you are not alone. Here I am hashing it out alongside you!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I Went Away Full

I've been doing a  Bible study on the book of Ruth with a couple of friends. Kudos to Kelly Minter! Really love the book (and the RECIPES!).

...on to the point...

There is one particular scripture that God keeps bringing to mind. Ruth 1:21a says " I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty." 

I don't know what you know about the book of Ruth, so I'll start at the very beginning. At the beginning, there is a family of four of God's chosen people, Israelites. Elimelech is the dad, Naomi is the mom, and they had two sons, Mahlon, and Kilion. They were living in Bethlehem (in Israel) during the time when judges ruled. This is important because we know from the book of Judges (17:6), that when the judges ruled, everyone did as they saw fit. In other words, a lot of God's chosen had turned their backs on Him (again). So God had allowed/caused (Choose your own adventure!) a famine in the land. Naomi and the boys were hunnnngry. 

As a result of this famine, they made a command decision. I don't know how this decision goes down. There is probably a lot more research I could do to find out, but you probably don't care all that much. I am curious though. Did Naomi suggest the move? Was Elimelech behind the whole thing? Did one of the kids hatch the plan? I don't know. No matter how it came about, it is significant because they chose to move to Moab. 

Moab was the child that Lot's daughter bore after getting her father drunk. So, let's just say this was not a blessed lineage. There's plenty of scripture explaining the fact that the Moabites and Israelites were enemies. God specifically commanded the Israelites not to marry the Moabites in 1 Kings. Ruh roh. So, Naomi and crew, two of whom are young men of marrying age, decide to move to Moab. This can't be good.

It seems that this decision was based on the physical. They were hungry. They wanted food. This was not a spiritual decision. If they'd consulted God's plan or ways about this choice, and chosen to follow His plan, odds are good they wouldn't have gone to Moab in the first place. They went nonetheless.

While in Moab, Mahlon and Kilion do, in fact, marry Moabite women. Then Elimelech, Mahlon, and Kilion all die. Uh. What.?.

So here's Naomi the Israelite, living in Moab, with two Moabite daughters-in-law, and her husband and BOTH of her sons have now died. How horribly devastating this must have been for her! How lonely she must have felt. How sad. How heartbroken. Can you imagine being Naomi? It makes my heart hurt just to think about it.

Naomi decides to go back to Bethlehem. In Ruth 1:6, "she heard in Moab that the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there." This story is just such a beautiful picture of God's redemption and constant seeking after us. It was hunger that motivated Naomi's family to leave Bethlehem... and to some degree, it is hunger that calls her home. His desire is for us. He wants us to return to Him, even after we have disobeyed and turned our backs on Him.

In short, Naomi and Ruth arrive back in Bethlehem. The people are surprised to see her. It's been awhile. They say, "Can this be Naomi?" Naomi responds by saying "Don't call me Naomi, call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me." She is devastated. She doesn't even want to be known by her name any longer. Naomi means pleasant. She wants to be called bitter. I can only imagine.

The thing that has really stuck with me, and that I find interesting is that little statement, "I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty." You tell me. Was she full when she went away? Physically, no. There was a famine. The physical was the motivator and decision maker. I'm sure she felt very empty when she left, when she made a command decision to disobey God's law and go live amongst the Moabites, to allow her sons to marry Moabite women. I'm sure she was devastated then.... sad, upset, scared, maybe even angry at God for the famine?. It is interesting how hindsight has changed her perspective. She sees now that she was full then. 

I've seen this same principle in my own life many times, and I'm sure I'll see it again. I feel a range of negative emotion regarding a situation, and I sometimes believe the lie that I am empty. I allow the physical world to deceive me into believing I am anything less than completely and utterly full, and I make poor decisions. It is only later that I'm able to see how very full I really was.

So this is my reminder to you (and me) today. If you have Jesus, you are full. You go out full, and you come home full. Don't believe the lie that you are anything less. Don't be deceived by the physical. Be motivated by the spiritual.  

John 6:35 "Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."