Wisdom Vs. Love

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I might have been a bit of a morbid teenager because I loved the Bible story where King Solomon threatened to cut a baby in half. That’s disturbing right? In 1 Kings 3 16-28 there are two women (prostitutes to be exact) who both had baby boys. One of the women had accidental rolled over her baby in her sleep and suffocated it to death. While her roommate was still asleep she switched her dead baby for the alive one. The other woman was less than thrilled. They were brought before King Solomon for a custody hearing. Upon hearing the women fighting King Solomon ordered a sword to be brought to him. He declared he would slice the baby in two and give each woman a half. The real mother then revealed herself by crying out and pleading with the king to just give the other woman her baby in order to save his life. King Solomon then recognizes the real mother and had her baby given to her- in one piece.

I admired the wisdom and quick wit King Solomon used in his decision making skills. I wanted to be like Solomon! I was hopeful when I came across James 1:5 which states, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Even as a teenager I thought to myself, “There is hope for me!” and ever since then I frequently pray with boldness for God to give me (and now my husband also) wisdom far beyond our years. 

I feel like God has given me a little wisdom in how I spend my money by frequently buying second-hand items. Recently, while thrift shopping, I came across three adorable mini, baby dolls just like I had when I was little. For a dollar each I purchased all three for my own three children. I didn’t figure they would be a big hit since my kids aren’t really into dolls. My 5-year-old daughter Amelia and my 4-year-old son, Benjamin, don’t have much interest in dolls (I was more or less reliving my childhood). However my two-year-old son Curtis took an especial liking to his baby. He named her “Elmo.” I only argued he not name her “Cookie” because that’s what Ben had named his. Every night Curtis tucked baby Elmo under his arm. “Mine baby sleeping,” he would say. It was true. His baby had a permanent eyes-closed-yawn expression on its face. But one day Curtis became frustrated that his baby would never wake up. “Mine baby not wake up!” he sadly stated. The next morning I saw him holding Ben’s baby “Cookie.” Cookie had a perpetual yawn as well, but her eyes were open.

I wish God had imparted some of Solomon’s wisdom on me because sure enough a custody battle ensued. “This mine baby!” Curtis demanded. “NO, your baby is sleeping!” corrected Ben. Why, oh why did I not grab a pair of scissors!?! The expression on their faces would have been priceless if I had pulled a King Solomon and threatened to cut their baby in half. I’m sure Ben would have just watched in amusement and Curtis would have cried out saying, “No cut mine baby!” Considering I don’t have anywhere near Solomon’s wisdom and also I already knew it was Ben’s baby I just gave it to the rightful owner and asked that they both go look for “Elmo.”

I believe this week God was trying to tell me something about wisdom. This past weekend my husband and I went to a benefit banquet. During hor d’oeuvres guests were encouraged to mingle. We spotted a familiar face so we headed over to talk with him. This man held a high place in our minds as a spiritual leader. He was someone who we viewed as successful in his work and family life, and we were open to any bits of wisdom hey may enlighten us with. When we entered the conversation I caught a not-so-discreet eye-roll at our approach. We kept the conversation short and moved on to find someone else who we could apparently annoy. I was saddened. I didn’t really care that someone thought we work dorks. I whispered to my husband what I had witnessed and he joked, “You mean someone thinks we’re dorks??” I looked at him and we laughed our dorky laugh and moved on to our next victim of conversation.

Honestly, even though my husband is great at making me laugh I still felt sad. I was sad because I then realized that one silly, indiscrete unloving gesture can shut the door for any future speaking truth to, ministering to, or as my church people like to say “speaking Jesus to” someone. I was sad because I realized that no matter the massive amounts of wisdom someone may have to offer it means nothing if they are unloving. I was sad because I wondered how many opportunities I have lost to show Christ’s love because I was more concerned about being right. I was sad because I wondered how many times I have shut my own children’s ears to truth because I was not loving in my reproach.

God,

I still pray for wisdom. I know I make an idiot of myself daily. But even more than wisdom I pray for love. Give me a heart like King David- a heart after your own will. Help me to love people like you do. Help me to care more about showing your love more than I care about being right.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” -1 Corinthians 13:1-3

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” -1 Corinthians 13:13

 

 

 

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Church Reject

 

20170501_143245By raise of hand, who here has been hurt by the church? *raises hand. If you’ve been in a church for any period of time I feel confident in saying that you too have been hurt. In the past thirty years of my church-going experience I have witnessed plenty enough hurt to call it quits. I’ll share one experience:

Throughout my entire childhood my family faithfully attended a small church. The church had a lot going for it. #1 They Gospel was preached and #2 We knew how to worship. Hallelujah! Praise Jesus! … It was wonderfully multi-racial. What it lacked was an organized children’s ministry. On Wednesday evening the adults met for prayer meeting while the teenagers had youth group and the little kids were put in a room to watch Veggie Tales. I was twelve at the time. My friends were older and in youth group, but I was not yet 13 so I wasn’t allowed in. I went in with the little kids and watched Veggie Tales. The vegetables sang. The vegetables danced. The vegetables had no appendages. I couldn’t take it anymore! I wanted to chop Bob and Larry up and throw them in a salad! I left the room and read the book I had brought for back-up in case I got bored, as this had been an ongoing thing. I strategically placed myself in front of the youth group room and read my book. In walked a youth group helper. He asked what I was doing out there so I explained. He thought that was silly and ushered me in. I felt the unwelcoming glares from the leaders. After group, the leaders met with me and declared, “We’ve talked it over and decided that you can come to group but you can’t participate in anything.” I was crushed.

Although this was not by any means a serious offense it still hurt. The Devil used that

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I pray my children will always love going to church as they do now.

experience to fill my head with lies: There’s no room for you in the church. You’re not wanted here. Not even your own friends will stick up for you. You should just stay home. The church REJECTS YOU! Several years later I became friends with one of the leaders. I told her of my experience and she sincerely apologized. She explained they were just doing what they thought was right by following the RULES. I’m not sure where they thought a flock of 12-year-olds was going to come from and invade their youth group, but I GLADLY forgave her. Bob and Larry on the other hand . . . they still give me a craving for salad. My children are Veggie Tale deprived.

That was almost two decades ago and I have attended SEVERAL churches since then (church hopping was kind of a hobby of mine), and I have experienced a wide range of ugliness. In no particular order (so don’t even try to guess the church) I’ve experienced: my pastor being sent to jail because of a sexual offense. My small group was excommunicated from the church because of “politics.” A church leader secretly hiding a life of homosexuality. A church leader stealing money from the church. Then there’s the common ugliness of self-righteousness and the nonchalant attitude and blindness of personal sin, which I myself deal with DAILY. Then there’s that old feeling of church rejection which still likes to pop up, but my church hoping days are over.

 The church is meant to be a place of respite from a sinful world, a place to worship and spur one another on in the faith. But the church made a gruesome mistake- They let people in! (including themselves). The church is made up of sinful people, from a broken world, in need of a Savior. Church leaders are there to encourage spiritual growth, but they too are still in the process of growing. No church leader has ever “arrived” in their ministry. If they had then they would die, because God would have completed His work in sanctifying them and call them home. Since the church is made up of imperfect people, mistakes are made. It’s when the mistake is made against YOU that your foundation will be exposed. If your faith is in your pastor, small group leader, church friends, or anyone/thing other than God, you’re headed for catastrophe. People are bound to let you down at some point and when they do (because they will!) you can be outraged and forsake the church or you can use it as an opportunity to show Christ-like love and BE the church.

“What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written.” Romans 3:3,4

Easter Bunny Stew

 

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The first year of my marriage I wanted to spruce up our little apartment for Easter, so I went out and bought an Easter lily. I thought it looked so regal on our kitchen table. It stood tall and strong and at the same time it was whimsical and beautiful. I loved it! That same week I came down with a cold, or so I thought. My nose constantly ran, my eyes watered, my body seized and convulsed with frequent sneezing. My brain and vision felt fuzzy. You guys, it took me a whole week to figure out I was allergic to lillies. I didn’t think I had any plant allergies, but clearly I did. I passed the lily on for someone else to enjoy.

This is the week of Easter and the stores are blooming with spring flowers, including of course the regal, but dreaded, Easter lily. This year when I saw the lilies it reminded me on how that lily had had such a strong immediate effect on my physical health. It got me thinking, how much I would much rather have Easter itself have a strong and immediate impact on my spiritual health. I want the truth of the sacrifice of Christ’s dying for sins to seize my soul. My brain goes fuzzy as I attempt to comprehend the depths of His love for me. My eyes will run tears of joy this Easter Sunday as I celebrate that my Savior is ALIVE!

I want my three young children to share in the excitement of this glorious holiday. We will do the traditional egg coloring and egg hunt. We have started the tradition of the Resurrection eggs, so cool! This week I asked my three-year-old son, “What is Easter all about?” He innocently responded, “Bunnies and Jesus?” I smiled, but inside I cringed. I clarified, “Easter is about Jesus rising from the grave. Bunnies are just for pretty.” I love decorating the house with bunnies. They are fun and whimsical, but if they dare take away from impact of the true meaning of Easter I will have rabbit STEW!!! The kids’ collection of Easter bunny books have been miraculously replaced with colorfully illustrated books about Jesus!

How does Easter impact your soul? Let’s give all the glory and honor to Jesus NOT the Easter bunny.

“Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”  John 12:23-25

5 Shades of Gray: When Following Hurts

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There seems to be a lot of gray area when referring to the subject of wives submitting to their husbands. This concept completely goes against our modern 21-century way of thinking. Everyone should have equal rights, right? Honestly, the verse Ephesians 5:22 made me not want to be a Christian at all. It states: “Wives submit to your own husbands as you do the Lord…” To me it made God seem sexist. I didn’t want to give the verse any consideration, but the truth is I do believe God is the creator of the universe. I do believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, so I have to give the verse some merit. I took that verse into consideration when picking out a husband. I found an easy-going Christian man who is hard-working and tends to be a people-pleaser. I knew he would work hard to please me, so the whole submission thing wouldn’t even be an issue . . . or so I thought.

This past year God has been working hard in our marriage to reverse our roles. God has been instructing my husband on what it looks like to lead his family to the cross and He has been teaching me that in order to be a good leader I first need to learn to follow. I have been a Christian for nearly all of my life, but the whole following your husband aspect still has some shady gray areas. I know for the secular world it’s all black. If they’re told to follow their husband, they’d most likely respond “That’s bull!” and I’d be tempted to agree . . . but then I remember the Bible.

It’s easy to follow your husband when you agree with him. It’s easy to follow when you don’t really care what the topic is or what the outcome is. The gray comes in when you can’t come to an agreement, so what do you do when you can’t agree? What if after you’ve respectfully stated your preference, made the pi-chart, weighed the pros and cons and he still disagrees? What if after you’ve sought Godly counsel together (and that counsel agrees with you!), you’ve prayed together, and he still disagrees? What happens when the wise choice seems obvious and the opposite choice has serious negative consequences but he still disagrees? What if your husband decides it’s time to pack and move, but you love your house and desperately don’t want to leave? You follow.

I never thought we’d be the owners of such a big beautiful house. I’ve been working hard this past year painting it vibrant colors that inspire me. As a stay-at-home mom I have enjoyed working to make this house feel like a home to us and our three small children. Without being pushy or overbearing my husband has made it clear he believes it’s time to move on. I have non-convincingly stated my peace about the matter, but he is still adamant that we move on. Since I love God and my marriage is more dear to me than any house, I will follow.

I will follow not only in word but with my actions. I have been researching how to prepare your house for selling: Neutralize it. Make it a blank coloring page so that when others see it they can more easily picture their own style in the home. Goodbye vibrant colors and hello gray! I have picked out five shades of gray: Repose Gray, Agreeable Gray, Silver Peony, Mindful Gray and Silver Drop. It reminds me of the scene in the movie Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium when the magical toy store is mourning because the owner is dying and the whole store and everything in it turns gray. It’s as if I’m going colorblind and everything is being muted. I’m on my 3rd gray room and the color is growing on me. Some gray shades have a slightly purple tint, so I feel like I’m secretly painting my whole house purple.

I still don’t know what the right answer for us is. Maybe God really does want us to move. Maybe He has a particular house in store for us where we will meet someone and have an eternal impact on their life. Maybe our new next door neighbor will be one of my children’s future spouse, and if we don’t move they will never meet. Maybe we need to get out of this house because our neighbor is a terrible driver and will run over one of my children. Or maybe this house is about to be struck by lightening. I have no idea! And I don’t need to know, but I do know that I am called to follow my husband. I also know that God will honor my obedience. Even if moving is not the wisest choice God can use anything for His glory and I have faith that He will do just that.

Plus turning a new house into a home sounds like an adventure. I might even paint some of the walls gray, because honestly it’s growing on me. With gray walls the attention is focused on the objects in the room or more importantly the people and that’s what counts anyways.

When Life Gives You Lemons: Paint Your Kitchen Yellow

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Have you ever flipped through a Better Homes and Garden magazine and pictured your dream house? Of course you have! Well, I remember doing just that a few years ago. I casually flipped through the pages seeing nothing too inspirational until well I did. I stopped and looked at the picture a little closer. It was a kitchen, a BRIGHT white kitchen. The tiled floors were white, the countertops and even the table was a dazzling white. It reminded me of a winter day when the sun shines on fresh snow making it so bright you have to squint your eyes just to be able to see. With my eyes squinted (maybe I just needed glasses?) I focused my eyes on the kitchen table’s centerpiece. There sat a clear glass bowl filled with gloriously fresh yellow lemons. I envisioned myself waking up in the morning and walking into this sanitary bleached white kitchen. The fresh lemons greeting me as I waited for my coffee to brew.

I’m personally not big into white. If you know me at all you know I like color (that’s an understatement), but that kitchen just seemed so darn happy and CLEAN. It was as if little fairies had cleaned up the previous days mess and in the morning you get to start all fresh (and make more messes). I don’t even like lemons. Personally, I think anything lemon flavored taste like Palmolive. How dare anyone call anything lemon flavored a dessert! How tart of them. But that kitchen spoke to me. The lemons seemed to say, “Yesterday was sour, but today is FRESH.” I decided then and there that when I had my own kitchen I would paint it a cheerful yellow.I tore the picture out of the magazine and tucked it in a safe place for future reference (Read: I shoved it in a junk drawer to get lost in the abyss until several years later).

Well that time has come my friends. Four years ago my husband and I moved into our first home and guess what color the kitchen floor is? Yes, BRIGHT White. Dreams do come true! . . . However, three toddlers later and the floor is rarely actually white. It’s usually white with orange specs of dismembered goldfish crackers or white with red droplets of juice (or is that blood? Oh geesh, who’s bleeding!?!). What’s so great about tile? Get me that cheap linoleum so I don’t have to bleach the sin out of the grout every week. Funny how after we get what we want we realize it’s not what we want at all, isn’t it? Good thing there’s someone who knows what we really want *points finger upward.

 I really did do the lemon bowl centerpiece … except they were plastic. I’m not one to buy fresh lemons once a week just to look at. It was kinda-sorta-cute until my children chewed on them. Clearly that Better Home and Gardens kitchen was not meant for me. However, I am still planning on painting the walls yellow. For the past year I’ve been on a painting spree (more like a rampage). I have painted every room on the main floor (some more than once!), but for some reason the kitchen has always been over looked.

My husband commented, “When we got married I didn’t realize how often things would get painted.” I chuckled and responded, “It’s a heck of a lot cheaper than therapy.” That’s just it- No, I’m not crazy (well, maybe a little), but I find it therapeutic. Something that was dingy is being made new, and that’s exactly what I felt like God was doing to my heart all of last year. Subconsciously, I wanted my home to replicate the changes that were taking place in my heart. God repaired the damaged entryway walls and painted it a welcoming green. Through my church’s small group I have gained more meaningful relationships this year. The crimson red wall was repainted a deep royal purple. Instead of focusing on the sin that Christ shed His (crimson) blood for I refocused on being a daughter of the King- deep royal purple. The bare family room walls are now blooming with vibrant flowers and birds. I painted the reading room during the fall, so naturally it became a fall color- pumpkin spice, which reminds me that there is a time for everything, “… A time to mourn; and a time to dance…” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). I just hope that in the Spring I don’t get the urge to paint it a pastel color!

Now it’s the kitchen’s turn, but the problem is I don’t feel like painting anymore. At all. Several weeks ago I painted yellow swatches throughout the kitchen to help me decide which shade looked best. Currently the walls look severely jaundice or like I’m trying to start a new fashion trend. The thing is I don’t like any of the shades and I just don’t feel like painting. Maybe it’s the weather. Or maybe… hold on to your metaphorical undies… the renovation in my heart has stalled so there’s nothing worthwhile to replicate. I also don’t particularly feel like cleaning and cooking (not that I enjoy them anyway). Yesterday I gave into those feelings hardcore. The dishes didn’t get washed. The laundry never got flipped. Like I paint my walls I always paint my face, but not yesterday. I clothed and fed the kids something. I broke all of my TV rules by putting on a movie after breakfast. I broke all of my healthy eating rules and ate an ENTIRE container of chocolate covered almonds. Instead of the lovey-dovey text messages to the Hubs he got sarcastic angry bitmojis. I went to bed early last night and knew that the next day I COULD NOT give into those feelings. If I did, then I was only a few short days away from not wanting to do ANYTHING.

This morning came and I still didn’t feel like getting out of bed, but I did. Why? The kids yes, but more so because of my faith. My church’s definition of faith is: believing in the Word of God and acting on it no matter how I feel because God promises a good result. I knew my actions of serving my family were pleasing to God, so I obeyed by getting up and changing the babies diaper. We needed groceries so I bundled up all three kids and hauled them to the store. More than groceries we all needed a change of scenery (especially Mama!). I apologized to the kids and the Hubs for my stank attitude. Even though I don’t feel like it I’m planning on making a nice dinner (Audrey Surprise Chicken Stir-fry Style). I am putting those feelings to death, because I know God’s plans for me are what I really want (remember those white-orange speckled tiles?). From dealing with depression from as long as I can remember, I’ve learned the hard way that the more you give into those negative thoughts-feelings-actions the deeper you go into that depressive state where nothing seems worthwhile (especially painting).

Friends, during this gloomy season I hope you are actively being obedient by doing what God has called you to do especially when you don’t feel like it, because He promises a good result. Now if you don’t mind I have 15 minutes left of my kids’ nap time and I plan to use it to further running those feelings over on the treadmill. Maybe next week I will paint the kitchen yellow. Maybe.

 

Heavenly Father, 

Thank you for Your grace on days that I feel insufficient. Help me to remember that your gift of salvation is enough to be thankful and want to glorify You all the days of my life. Help me to see productivity through Your eyes and not my own.

 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.” Isaiah 55:8

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

“There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Wrestle Me, Bless Me

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Have you ever given a toddler a hair cut? I wrestled this baby thug with buzzers this morning. As you can clearly see in the picture I at least did not cut off his adorable ears.

One of my favorite pass times as a child was wrestling. This might be unusual for the typical little girl, but for me it seemed normal. My childhood role models included: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, MacGyver and of course Hulk Hogan. I would often harass one of my older brothers until they’d wrestle me. On the family room floor we’d wrestle until one of us got hurt. It was always me. With a 3 and 5 year age gap between my brothers and I, size and experience were not on my side. After a couple of days the rug burn and bruises would dissipate and I’d go back for more. My mother would always warn me, “I don’t know why you wrestle with them; you always end up getting hurt.” It was true, but apparently I found the exhilaration of the challenge to be worth the fight. My childhood wrestling matches ended when puberty hit. It just got awkward.

Several years later, I didn’t mind that awkwardness when my boyfriend (now husband) would attempt to tickle me. His flirtatious underarm tickle was met with a WCW wrestling match. He had grown up with two sisters and was raised to never harm a female, so threats from his girlfriend of a knock-down-drag-out-fight took him by surprise. He stepped up to the challenge and quickly learned the rules of the fight: no hitting, kicking, biting, scratching or hair pulling …unless I’m loosing then all rules are thrown out of the arena. My mother-in-law can attest to our wrestling. Recently she recalled the day that our rough housing ended when we shattered the decorative glass lantern on her end table. Her son was then sent to the store to purchase a replacement. In the first few months of our marriage our playful wrestling served us well as the physical contact led to more physical contact. The wrestling ended when the pregnancy began (although perhaps it was the wrestling that caused the pregnancy).

It was my history of wrestling that intrigued me about the story of Jacob wrestling with God. In Genesis 32 Jacob got wind that his older brother Esau (the one he had tricked the birth right from) was coming with 400 men. He feared for the life and the night before the dreaded attack a strange man started wrestling him. They wrestled ALL night long! When the sun started coming up the man told him to let him go. Jacob refused and the man simply touched his hip and put it out of socket. The strange man said again to let him go, but broken hip and all Jacob refused, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” Genesis 32:26. Sometime during the fight Jacob realized that he was not wrestling an ordinary man but God himself. This was not a 2 to 5 year age gap; this was the Creator of the universe versus His creation. Jacob knew he was no match but in his punitive human strength he was going to give it all he had. God rewarded him for his fight and blessed him. In the morning Jacob was physically exhausted but his faith was stronger than ever. Ready or not he was about to meet his brother. Under the Lord’s blessing instead of being met with the anticipated sword Esau gave him a brotherly hug. God had left Jacob with his blessed limp, which served as a reminder that in his weakness God is stronger.

Do you ever feel like you are wrestling with God? I do! I want God to bless me. After all I’m supposed to do everything as if onto the Lord, so why wouldn’t He bless it? Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” I heed these words and pray boldly:

Heavenly Father, I know this is not Bible times and I’m certainly not Jewish, but I’ve been adopted into YOUR family and I’m requesting YOUR blessing. I’m not the firstborn son. I’m not even a son, but YOU love me just the same, so please bless me. I am limited in my gifts and abilities, but YOU are the one who gives them, so bless them. I am fighting for YOUR kingdom, so strengthen me. YOU are the definition of love, so make me more loving. YOU put me hear on earth, so use me for YOUR glory.

Certainly most of our wrestling matches are not with or even from God, but He can use every trial/match for His glory. He uses the hard times to grow us in our faith. We might come out with a broken hip, but the faith that we have gained from the match will be worth the fight. Keep going back for more. *Ding* Ding *Ding Breaks over. Get back in the game! Fight the good fight.

 

 

Say His Name

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“I do it myself!”exclaims my 4-year-old daughter Amelia. Whether I’m trying to help her brush her teeth, buckle her shoes or get a piece of toilet paper she wants to do it herself. Even as an infant she didn’t like to be rocked to sleep. She wanted to fall asleep by herself. Recently she realized that she is tall enough to reach the water spout on the refrigerator by herself. She chugs her cup of water just so she can fill it up again. All. By. Herself. She is one well-hydrated, independent little girl.

My 3-year-old son, Benjamin, was not born with this drive. Matter of fact he is quite the opposite. He’ll desperately plea, “Mommy, help me put on my shoes,” even though just the other day I watched him put those exact pair of shoes on by himself. He’ll get all distraught as to why sometimes I won’t help him. I started worrying that he was straight up lazy. I had a vision of him at age 22 eating popcorn on my couch in his boxers. I was about to rebuke the spirit of laziness out of him when I had a revelation. His love language is acts of service. He feels loved when I help him do something even when he could do it himself. Obviously I don’t have time to help him with every petty little thing, but I do want him to feel loved (and also learn some independence). We are learning a healthy balance, but the acts of service love language would explain why he is such an unusually grateful child. We teach our children to say “Please” and “Thank you,” but he enthusiastically and sincerely thanks me from the bottom of his heart for helping him with simplest of tasks. “Thank you Mommy, for helping me put my shirt on!” What 3-year-old even says that? Especially without being prompted! It’s wonderful.

With a love language of acts of service and not being naturally independent, Benjamin requests my help often. From the other room I hear him yell, “Momma! Momma! Momma!” I hear the urgency in his voice and I come running looking for blood, “What’s wrong!? Are you broken?” I search his body for fractured bones. None. No blood either. He hands me a lid to a barrel of monkeys, “I can’t put this on.” He then half-heartedly attempts to put the lid on the barrel to prove his inability. With my adrenaline going I should be relieved that he is okay, right? No. I’ve seen him put the lid on the monkeys before and I fear that if he calls me again for something mundane my own barrel of monkeys is going to come out and I’ll go ape on him. Since then it has gotten worse. He yells, “Momma! Momma! MOMMAaaa!” I come running with my Super Mom cape on ready to aid him in his distress, “Yes, Benny?” He’ll look at me blankly, “Uh, Uh . . . Momma!” “Ben I’m right here what do you need?” Without saying anything more he’ll go back to playing. Nothing. He needed nothing. He yelled my name for no reason at all and ignored me when I got there.

When all three of our children were babies my husband and I would compete on who’s name they would say first. We’d coach them, “Say Mama”… “Say Dada.” The first time they’d utter our name are hearts would flutter. It was as if all the love you had been pouring into that child you were finally feeling some acknowledgement for. Not long ago, I heard a story of a dad talking about his son with a disability say “Dad” for the first time- when he was 10-years-old! He had waited a DECADE for his son to say his name. The dad reminded all parents to not take their child’s abilities for granted. Guilt trip taken, thanks. I should be grateful that my son can say my name, right? I should feel honored to hold the title “Mommy” to begin with. Hearing your child say your name is heart moving the first few 100 times, but around the millionth time you’re ready to release the ape. The lid came off, “WHAT DO YOU WANT? STOP SAYING MY NAME!” Don’t judge me. I felt bad enough when I saw the tears well up in my tenderhearted son’s eyes, “Mommy you yelled at me?” I acknowledged the fact, “Yes, yes I did. You keep yelling for me even though you don’t need me.” He breaks down crying. I apologize and we hug it out.

I wonder if our Heavenly Father gets a similar feeling when we say His name out of frustration. When we can’t get the lid off of the can, “Oh my God! Why won’t this come off!?!” Our Heavenly Father comes running to our rescue. He searches for injuries wanting to save you from your distress only to find that you weren’t actually calling for Him. You don’t even acknowledge His presence. Does He react like I did? “WHAT DO YOU WANT? STOP SAYING MY NAME!” No, I don’t think so, but I do think He feels sadness. As our Savior He wants us to call on His name when we have a need. Obviously, people who have not accepted Him as their Heavenly Father will not respect Him as the Almighty authority. But for a person who claims to be a child of God to say, “Jesus Christ” without expecting Him to show up is not a matter of holding the tongue, but evidence of a HUGE heart issue.

Excuse my dorkiness. I have this ridiculous R&B song going through my head. It won’t stop. The ape is canned but the inner dork is about to come out… “Say my name, say my name. When no one is around you say baby I love you.” Destiny Child’s fans, anyone? I had their CD back in high school. I thought they were hot! Thank the Lord He has sanctified my taste in music. I changed the lyrics to the song. Brace yourself…

Say His name.

Say His name.

When everyones around you

say Jesus I love you.

If you ain’t runn’n games

Say His name. Say His name.

You act’n kinda shady

Ain’t call’n Him Savior

Why the sudden change?

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45

“Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” James 3:10

Vow Renewal: Five and HALF Years

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So the secrets out (except that it never actually was a secret); my husband Steve and I had a vow renewal. Usually people do that sort of thing after 10 or 20+ years of marriage, so why after only 5 and half years of marriage would we? Yes. I said “and a half.” Like a 5-year-old makes sure you know they are five and a HALF. Five was so 6-months-ago. Five is little kid stuff. Don’t you dare leave out that half. I fought for that half, and whether it’s half a decade or half a century I will continue to fight for that half. I’m not satisfied with a survival mode marriage, or a family business partnership, or no marriage at all. I want the real deal: a Christ centered marriage, and that requires fighting. I learned the hard way that that “fight” looks an awful lot more like a surrender. From the outside it might’ve looked like I was raising a white flag in defeat, but inside I was fully armed. I wasn’t fighting my husband, but instead I was fighting my old ways of thinking and acting. It was incredibly painful, but it was so unregrettably worth it.

In that half year there was a lot of surrendering going on. FIRST, pride was surrendered and replaced with humility. Expectations were surrendered and replaced with a (vocalized) grateful heart. Disappointment was surrendered and replaced with grace. Anger was surrendered and replaced with MORE grace . . . were you expecting me to say “forgiveness”? Normally I’d agree, but if it’s not within your capability to forgive it would have to be through God’s grace not to be angry anymore, right? Right. Grace. Dang, I should’ve been a lawyer, because that’s a good argument right there! Before getting acquainted with grace, I thought it was just a soft feminine girlie name like: Grace Ann or Grace Marie or I know of a Grace Scarlett. So precious. So sweet. Like a little girl in pigtails. But it’s not. It’s tough as NAILS. Nails pounded through my Savior’s bloody beaten body to be exact.

So with all that said, after 5 and half years of marriage and having discovered grace we wanted to celebrate. PART-aaay! I look for any reason to party. Once, I even threw an anniversary party for Sesame Street. Seriously, I’m a dork. There was a pop quiz and everything. My kids thought Elmo was the stuff! For Cinco De Mayo I usually invite friends over for burritos. I’m not Hispanic. I just like burritos. And friends, they’re good too. So to have a newly grace-filled marriage is so much more worthy of a celebration. It was actually Steve who “proposed” the idea to me. I accepted and we invited our immediate family and closest friends to this intimate ceremony. It was indeed intimate and yet I want to share some of it with you. Why in the world would I do that? Because more important than privacy Steve and I have an overwhelming desire to: #1 give God all of the glory and #2 encourage others in their marriages.

 

My Vows:

Steve,

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I shortened the vows during the ceremony, because I was embarrassed that it was too long.

I love you, and I am so excited to be here with you tonight. Five and half years ago we stated our marriage vows, and I can honestly say that since then it has felt like we’ve had two completely different marriages: “The Old,” and as of 9-months ago, “The New.” It’s not a coincidence that it was almost 9-months ago that together we decided to conceive a new marriage. We have given birth to 3 beautiful children, but now we are birthing a new marriage. As future new parents do we have envisioned what our new life will look like. We have gone to all of our appointments, and we have sought the Ultimate Physician, who has been faithful to grow and stretch us. As the old proverb goes “It takes a village to raise a child,” we have joined a community of supporters (everyone here). We have pushed through all the aches and pains it’s taken us to get here tonight, and now we eagerly await to embrace whatever God has in-store for our future together.

As a testament of God’s transforming power I’d like to give some examples of our Old and New marriage.

Old Steve was a good dad, but NEW Steve is an a-mazing dad!

Old Steve was passive when it came to spiritually leading his family. NEW Steve talks to his children about Jesus all throughout the week (not just at bedtime and on Sundays). On nature walks he’ll say things to the kids like, “Do you see the leaves changing colors? God made them do that!” or during thunderstorms when our kids are curled up in our bed he’ll say, “God made thunder to show us a little bit of His power. He’s so powerful, but we don’t have to be afraid because He loves us, and He will protect us.”

Old Steve was complacent when it came to disciplining the children. NEW Steve has taken authority. He lovingly explains what is expected and generously rewards the children with praise. He makes sure they know they’re loved especially when discipline is necessary.

Old Steve did not get excited about going to church. NEW Steve sets the alarm himself extra early and helps get the kids ready. New Steve can’t wait to get to church so he can worship God.

Old Steve considered reading the Bible a bore. NEW Steve eagerly dives into the Word. He enjoys seeking out new study material, AND he has even started memorizing Scripture!

Old Steve did not offer to pray for his wife (at least certainly not out loud). Now, when an issue arises, NEW Steve lovingly grabs his wife’s hands and starts to pray. He even prays over the phone!

Old Steve avoided talking about God to other people. NEW Steve looks for ways to share the Gospel with co-workers and strangers.

Old Steve was quick to anger and often raised his voice. NEW Steve attacks the problem not the person. He keeps a look out for the Devil’s schemes.

Old Steve was overwhelmed and discontent with our house. New Steve sees our house as a blessing and has been more actively involved in restoring it.

Old Steve had unrealistic expectations of what a house with 3 little ones should look like. New Steve doesn’t get angry when the kitchen floor is a Cheerio minefield. Instead, he runs a vacuum and helps pick up.

Old Steve was hesitant to give compliments. He left his wife wondering if he was still attracted to her. New Steve praises and encourages his wife so much so that she has no option but to feel beautiful and desired.

Old Steve made the comment once that he just wasn’t into cuddling anymore. New Steve is so physically affectionate to his wife that she has to fend him off with a spatula just so she can finish cooking.

Old Steve worked late hours and sometimes didn’t come home until after the kids were in bed. New Steve has negotiated with his company to let him out by dinner time or he would find another job. At dinner instead of complaining about the cooking New Steve shows gratitude for “Audrey Surprise.” He has impressively taught the children to say, “Thank you Mommy for making dinner” (even when nobody eats it).

But enough about you, lets talk about me!

Old Audrey was a sleep-deprived Mom who was resentful of never having time to herself. I vow to wrap my arms around our children and make sure they know how grateful to God we are for them. I vow to show Jesus to them in how I treat them and to encourage them to get excited about God’s goodness.

Old Audrey was never wrong and therefore, never needed to apologize. I vow to continue practicing humbling myself and asking for forgiveness (it’s a work in progress!).

Old Audrey was defensive and didn’t take criticism well. She was easily offended and took everything to heart. I vow to let you speak into my life and to take correction without immediately lashing out.

Old Audrey let you know, loud and clear, when she thought you were wrong. I vow to be a more gracious person that can look over certain downfalls, but to lovingly speak truth into your life when needed.

Old Audrey was stingy in giving compliments. I vow to be your number one fan. I want to encourage you (not pressure you) into being all that God has created you to be.

Old Audrey took her husband for granted, as if he’d always been there and always would be. I vow to cherish our time together and to thank God for the precious gift He has given to me in you.

Old Audrey looked to her husband to fulfill her every heart’s desires. I vow to look to God for my identity and ultimate fulfillment.

Old Audrey was never content with her physical appearance. I vow to take care of my body as it is a temple of the Holy Spirit and to freely share its beauty with you.

Old Audrey prayed for her husband occasionally. I vow to cover your life in prayer. I will continually pray that God would protect you physically, spiritually and mentally. I pray that God will continue to increase your faith and use you for His glory. I pray He will be strong where you are weak, and that He will give you grace to love me even when I don’t deserve it.

Old Audrey was unsure if our marriage was strong enough to stand the test of time. I vow to fight for you with all that is within me.

Riding a Tandem Bicycle

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My sis-in-law Stacy and her hubby Daniel (a bike fabricator) on their wedding day. Are they not ridiculously adorable?

Oh. My. Word. Tandem Bicycles. Have you ever ridden one? You know, a bike built for two. Well this past weekend my husband and I rode one during our belated honeymoon. By “belated” I mean we’ve been married for over 5 years. We’d have taken one after our actual wedding but my job at the time, at an assisted living home, wouldn’t give me time off (jerks! I know, right?). Had I known my husband was going to encourage me to quit 4 months later I would’ve quit right then and there. Instead we stayed in the nicest local hotel for two nights, which is where as my elderly resident put it- we got acquainted. Recently we decided it was time to take the honeymoon we never had. With 3 kids 4-years-old and younger we didn’t feel comfortable going too far. We drove four hours north and set sail on a 30 minute ferryboat ride to Mackinaw Island. If you’re from Michigan you’ve heard of it, but if you’re not- It’s the cutesiest, tourist-lad island full of trinket shops, swanky hotels, darling bed and breakfasts, and best of all- the main cuisine on the island is fudge. There are more fudge shops there than restaurants. Also, you feel like you’ve walked into the 1800’s because there are no cars on the island.  You can either walk, surrender your left hoof for a horse drawn carriage ride or rent a bicycle.

A wise word of advice to women who are planning on getting married- take note of your cycle (I’m not talking about your bicycle) and plan your wedding/honeymoon accordingly. I’m not the most detailed planner so that aspect was overlooked. Thankfully my husband and I are well acquainted so this did not ruin the “honeymoon.” It simply gave us more time to site see, which meant we needed to rent a bike. Before we got to the bike shop (“shed” would be a more accurate description) I warned my husband Steve that I wanted my own bike. Tandem bikes are the thing to do on the island, but I wanted the freedom to go wherever I pleased without being tied down to the weight of another person. When we got to the bike shed what-da-ya-know, they were out of single bikes. They did have single speeds but that seemed juvenile, and they had mountain bikes but we were going to be on pavement so we went with our only other option… dun, dun, dun… the tandem bicycle. Sure we could’ve walked a bit further to check out another shop, but when in Mackinaw do as the Mackinacs do: eat fudge and ride a tandem bike.

The bike shed manager advised us that the tallest person should go in front. I think more accurately the heaviest person should be in front, because they have to balance their own weight as well as the passenger. Regardless, my husband met both of those qualifications. The bike man adjusted the back seat to my height. As I sat on it I felt all of my freedoms slipping away from me. I wouldn’t be able to control our speed or where we went or how we got there. We walked our bike out to the rode and awkwardly (it takes some coordination) hoped on it together. The bike swayed this way and that. I asked my husband if he was driving crazy on purpose. “No, I’m getting our balance.” I tried to see what was ahead of us, but since the tallest person was in the front, I couldn’t see over him. I could only see to either side. To the right I saw a gazebo on the beach. I’ve always been drawn to them. They’re mysteriously romantic and yet pointless at the same time.  In tried to stop pedaling so I could coast to get a better look, but since my husband was still pedaling my legs kept moving. It didn’t seem worth the effort to explain my secret gazebo crush so we just sped on by. Actually we were going rather slowly. I was in mission mode to bike the 8-ish miles around the island. I wanted to Go! Go! Go!, but Steve was pedaling so slow I’m not sure how the bike stayed up. It’s as if he thought we were there to site see or something. Eventually we picked up a little speed. My legs were going round and round but they weren’t moving any weight. It was time to move the gear up. The person in the front is in charge of the gears. I waited for him to change the gears… And waited. How does he not know the gear needs to be moved up? And waited. That’s what the gears are for. If I’d known he wouldn’t use the gears I would’ve just went with the single speed bike. And waited. Round and round my legs moved. They moved easily but they were moving nothing other than themselves. And waited. Finally, I not so cordially asked, “Can you please move the gear up!?!” To which he responded, “No, I don’t like it to be hard to pedal.” Ahhhhh! I was annoyed, but I still wanted to enjoy the experience. We were on our “honeymoon” after all. So I stated, “You gotta admit we look super cute on this bike.” He joked back, “We’re so cute I could barf.” He pulled all of our tandem bike cuteness over to the side of the road to take a scenic break, or perhaps he wanted a break from my “helpful” backseat driver comments. “Would you like a turn driving?” he asked. Would I ever! “Yes!”

On the side of the road I straddled the front seat. We lined our pedals up preparing for take off. Steve chanted, “Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get on up, it’s tandem bike time!” (watch the movie Cool Runnings). We pushed off. The bike swayed this way and that way as I struggled to balance our weight. Now I know why Steve was swaying when he first started driving. “What’s the matter? Can’t you drive straight?” teased my husband. When I got the hang of it I picked up speed just as I had wanted. I changed the gear up just like you’re supposed to. “You know,” Steve warned, “It’s your fault if we crash.” “Yes Dear.” I zoomed past some pokey tourist. Steve remarked, “You know they do have tandem bike races.”  Curiously I asked, “Oh yeah? You want to do one with me?” “Not a chance!” I laughed, and then I spat out the bug that had flown into my mouth. “Hey, thanks for catching that bug for me,” teased my husband. I laughed again (but this time with my mouth closed). I began to notice it was quite a bit windier on the other side of the island. If Steve were in the front his body would block me from all this wind. We started swaying again as if I had forgotten how to balance. I quickly glanced behind me only to see Steve thrashing his body from side to side. “Stop, you Goofball! YOU are going to make us crash!” He quit his shenanigans and we carried on. I barely noticed the historic sign up ahead, but I got the gist that Steve wanted to read it when he threw all of his body weight to one side and forced the pedals to stop. Quickly, I had to counteract his movement so the bike didn’t tip over. I had control of the breaks, but I couldn’t make the pedals move so we came to a rolling stop. We pulled over and read something about the War of 1812 and the British seizing Fort Mackinaw.

I was getting a bit tired of doing the majority of the pedaling, so after our history lesson I asked Steve if he wanted a turn driving. “Nope!” We hoped back on (this time not so awkwardly) and I continued my mission full speed ahead. We were three-fourths the way there when I noticed my legs were working extra hard to keep pace. I glanced down to see Steve’s feet, but they weren’t there! I gasped, “What are you doing!?!” That punk had tucked his feet up and quit pedaling. “How long have you been like that?” He laughed, “Not that long.” I couldn’t help but to laugh. We carried on with us BOTH pedaling. We were almost back to our hotel; we just had to get through Main Street. Since I was still driving I decided to avoid the traffic by cutting threw a side street. It was a great idea except that there was a huge hill. My husband lost confidence, “We’re not going to make it.” I pedaled my heart out, “Yes, we will! But I need your help!” I felt his strength moving us up the hill. We were almost to the top when we came to an intersection with a horse and buggie. I’m not accustomed to the rules of the road when it comes to horses and bikes, but I figured they probably had the right of way. However, they were stopped and I wasn’t about to lose momentum. “Sorry!” I half-heartedly shouted as I cut them off. When we made it back to the bike shed my husband joked with the bike manager, “I’m never riding a tandem bike with her again!” The man chuckled, “Yes, I call it couples therapy.” Thanks for the warning.

I had thoroughly enjoyed our adventure biking around the island, but I knew I had failed as a backseat driver. The tallest/heaviest (and strongest) person was supposed to be in the front, but I couldn’t keep my mouth shut long enough to let him drive. Sure, he had a different style. He liked to go torturously slow and not use the gears. Was it really that big of a deal? Yes! … I mean no. I wanted to make a pit stop and have a romantic moment in the gazebo, but I was too prideful to ask him to pull over. Instead I kept quiet and became more and more frustrated. It wasn’t until I had a turn driving that I realized it was a lot harder to balance two people than I had originally thought. The driver also carried a big responsibility. Like Steve said, “It’s your fault if we crashed,” it was true! Of course his thrashing about didn’t help. He tried to be helpful by being an extra set of eyes: “Stay in your lane! Somebody is trying to pass us. Scoot over! Slow down. Look out for that horse poo!” “Yes Dear.” Some of his remarks were helpful, but mostly they were just annoying. I know he’d say the same about my backseat comments.

Marriage and the tandem bicycle have a lot in common. They’re both built for two: a driver and a helpmate. Having sat in both seats and having weighed the pros and cons of both I’ve come to realize that it just feels right when you’re in the seat you were designed for. On our tandem bike ride I day dreamed of the comfy, ginormous banana seat I had as a child. “Right” does not always equate to comfortable. In the front, I thoroughly enjoyed the freedom that came with driving. I controlled the speed and the gears, but deep down I knew I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. I wasn’t the tallest nor the heaviest. When I finally was willing to give my husband his rightful spot he refused. I had critiqued his driving so much that I had crushed any ambition of his to drive.

I wonder how many women do that in their marriage? Many of my girlfriends’ number one complaint in their marriage is that they wished their husbands were better leaders. They are tired of the wind and bugs in their face but they are unwilling to give up their seat. Deep down they want their husbands to lead, but when they do they can’t hold back their backseat comments. The husband might attempt to lead by saying a prayer, but it wasn’t heartfelt enough. That’s like saying, “Thank you for driving, but you’re way too slow.” The husband may state his preference on what color he wants the new counter top to be… but it’s not the right speed *I mean shade. The wife gets frustrated that her husband doesn’t do what she wants him to do, but she never expressed her feelings to him. He’s just supposed to know that I want to look at the stupid gazebo! Clear and humble communication can help prevent a marriage from crashing.

The backseat driver can thrash about causing a near crash or they can act as a second set of eyes on the road. They can pick their feet up and quit pedaling or when the going gets tough they can push harder to make it up that hill. The driver is bound to make a few wrong turns, and when he does the helpmate can either embarrass him further or she can use his mistake as an opportunity to show Christ like love and grace. Like Steve said when I was driving, “It’s your fault if we crash,” it was true. The driver has to carry the responsibility of making the final decisions. Yes, you work together as a team to get to your destination, but ultimately somebody has to turn the handle bars and switch the gears. This is a big job that is best done with lots of encouragement from the helpmate. Wives, relax and enjoy the ride! Husbands, please don’t give up on your attempts to lead. Couples therapy indeed!

Epilogue: The next day I apologized to my husband for being an obnoxious backseat driver, and he took back his comment about never riding a tandem bicycle with me again. I’d rather ride a tandem bicycle with him (even with all of it’s frustrations) than to be single again because I know I’m right where God wants me.

“Since we are surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses or pokey tourists, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run or pedal the race or perhaps a site seeing stroll marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus (even if you can only see to either side), the author and perfecter of our faith…” Hebrews 12:1-2  Italics added.

Dear God, Help me to be the helpmate to my husband that you’ve called me to be. Give me direction on how to encourage him as a leader. Constantly remind me that we are on the same team with the same destination in mind. Help us to win the race for Your glory.

 

 

 

 

Mommy’s Got a Gun!

20160820_160242.jpgThis weekend my husband and I went to a concealed gun carrying class. It was the A-Mazing! A few weeks back my husband, Steve, had said he was interested in taking the class and he wanted to know what I thought of it. I knew nothing about guns so the thought of one creeping in our house sounded threatening, BUT then again so are bad guys. So I responded: “Sign me up too!!!” I didn’t necessarily want to be licensed to carry a gun, but knowing how to at least pick one up would sure be nice. When he told me the class was 8 hours long I second guessed myself. I envisioned myself sitting in a hard chair, hungry, and wanting to shoot myself out of boredom, but when Steve told me the qualifications of the instructors I knew it was happening. One instructor was a recently retired police chief of 25 years and the other was a SWAT team instructor. These 300 pound dudes were LEGIT! And they were going to be hands on training little ole’ ME! . . . that is after they showed me how to pick up a gun. Steve’s dad and sister took the class too. We will be one locked and loaded family ready for combat.

The class was far from boring, but two and half hours into the class I started getting nervous. Am I nervous because I’m about to handle a gun and I could literally kill someone? Or is it the 4 cups of coffee I had this morning? I remembered what, Mikayla, my close friend and babysitter said to me, as I was preparing for the class, “Remember to pack lots of snacks, because we all know how you get when you’re hungry.” I had laughed and replied, “I will but my blood sugar issues aren’t that bad anymore.” Sitting in the class just 15 minutes past my regular lunchtime, with my heart racing, I realized I was in denial about not being a Hypoglycemic Freakazoid. I knew if I didn’t eat soon I wouldn’t be able to handle a gun or a FORK! My brain was quickly turning into mush. Hypoglycemia (for those of you who are unfamiliar) is similar to being diabetic- except that it’s the complete opposite. Instead of your blood sugar getting too high it gets too low, but the effects are similar. The frustrating thing is I ate even MORE than usual that morning. The instructor’s wife Leslie, had tantalized us with home baked cookies. I ate 2 cookies plus a banana, which only caused my blood sugar to sky-rocket and then plummet off of the face of the earth taking my brain and all emotional controls with it. I walked out of class and ate my lunch and regained my brain power.

I left for lunch early in search of my brain. After lunch, with brain in tow, we reconvened class. We were given instruction on how to conduct ourselves on a gun range. Only point your gun down range. Duh. Only put your finger on the trigger when you’re ready to shoot. Duh, maybe I know a little something about guns, nah. Emergency plans were put in place. A 911 caller and a back-up 911 caller were selected. The ginormous SWAT trainer announced, “If need be, First Aid will be given on sight, but if the paramedics take too long to get here I will throw your, hopefully still breathing body, into my SUV and take you to the hospital myself.” Stuff was about to get real!!!! “First I need to know if any of you has a medical condition I need to know about?” stated the instructor. I thought about raising my hand but what would I say? “Um yeah, I need to eat a lot,” as the whole class would then bust out in laughter. That’s real impertinent information right there. Not. We followed the big men underground to where the police gun range was located. Water was dripping from the ceiling. It smelled like gunpowder. We’re all going to die.

We were assigned to shooting groups of four. Group #2, my future graveyard neighbors. When my group was called I walked forward and located my rental gun. I looked at it recalling my training on how to pick it up: left hand around the barrel, dominate hand on the grip, then the left hand cups the right hand, thumbs parallel, index finger off the trigger, point it downward. Got it! Now how do I load this thing? Chief Craig showed me with his beefy hands. Locked and loaded. My gun was HOT. I was ready to shoot my cardboard robber. The signal was given. Before I even squeezed the trigger *BANG. My neighbor beat me to the punch. My body jolted in surprise, but I wasn’t going to let him shoot all the bad guys *BANG. The empty bullet casing whizzed passed my face. Good thing I got these sexy safety glasses on. When given the okay I shot again. And again. And again. After 24 rounds I was fairly confident that my cardboard bad guy was no longer a threat. I could get used to this. The highlight of my day was when we shot six rounds in a row. Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! I laid them all on top of each other. I requested to keep my paper as bragging rights to show my Hubs, “I shot him dead!”

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SWAT Team Kurt and Chief Craig. I’d like to have these guys as personal body guards! 

The day was going by quickly. My group had one more turn. This time we had a barrier to hide behind. We were to lean out from cover and quickly shoot our threat and lean back in. When instructed, I leaned out and shot, but I was nowhere near target. Something was different. My will to survive was gone. I was ready to surrender to a piece of cardboard. If it was a real scenario I’d be as good as dead. I cleared my gun and walked off range. What is wrong with me? Why do I feel like crying? Why isn’t my brain telling me what my eyes are looking at? I focused my eyes on the clock. 4:15! I was so busy killing bad guys that I had lost track of time. I hadn’t eaten in 4 hours! I realize for a normal person that is no big deal, but to a freakazoid hypoglycemic I was in survival mode. Good thing I had already surrendered my gun or I’d have held somebody up for their lunch money (just kidding guys). I scavenged for food and my cognitive abilities.

Other than my sugar crashes it was an exciting, educational, adventure of a day. I went in not even knowing how to pick up again, much less load and shoot it. We were also informed that it is important to practice at least every 6 months, because at 9 months you loose your skill especially your muscle memorization on how to handle a gun. I thought that was interesting. The next day, as you all know how I like to do- I started relating the whole experience to Christianity. Stick with me.

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With God on my side the Enemy should be afraid of ME!

As Christians we need to be locked and loaded with the truth of God’s word. Having a gun in your nightstand that you don’t know how to use is about as good as the unread Bible next to it. In class we were taught 3 stages of mental awareness: unaware, aware, alert and alarmed. In 1 Peter 5:8 we are instructed to always be on alert for the Devil’s attack. Maybe you don’t feel like you’re ever under attack. If that’s you than either you are unaware of the burglar in your house, OR you are right- Satan is leaving you alone because you are not a threat. If you’re Christian by title but aren’t concerned about the faith and you certainly wouldn’t dare to talk to anybody else about it then you’re not a threat. OR you’re not being attacked because the Enemy already has what he wants your soul. Are you thinking, “Wow Audrey, this is kind of intense”? So am I!!!

I’ll tell you some of the ammo the Devil used on me just at the firing range this weekend. It was just air soft pellets but they were still a nuisance to duck from. After having my sugar drop twice simply because I changed my eating routine the Enemy shot me with lies: “Wow, who knew you were such a schedule freak?” “You’ll never be able to do anything different than what you’re doing right now.” “No one even believes you have a sugar issue.” “They just think you like to eat a lot.” “What an absurd ‘medical’ issue.” “If you keep eating as often as you do you’re going to get really fat.” Those are just a FEW of the lies he told me in ONE day. It’s constant. Everyday I have to be on guard.

The cookies Leslie made were delicious: oatmeal chocolate, oatmeal raisin and peanut butter. If it weren’t for making me sick I could eat cookies all day every day. Cookies can fool the brain into thinking we’re full, but really they leave us void of real nutrition. Maybe you’re consuming oatmeal chocolate chip devotionals, or oatmeal raisin Fictional Christian stories, or peanut butter cookie church services. They are tasty and with oatmeal and a little peanut butter it may seem like enough, but if your growth is stunted than you’re not getting the what you need. Like me, we’re all a bunch of spiritual hypoglycemic freakazoids. Without meditating on scriptural truth your cognitive and spiritual senses will crash. We won’t be able to defend ourselves from a piece of cardboard much less the real Enemy.

In class we learned the importance of having a flashlight. If you’re holding a gun but you can’t see the intruder, as my mom would say: “You’re shucks out of luck.” If you have Biblical knowledge but can’t see your own sin than you need a friend to shine a flashlight on your life. Sometimes you need to call for back-up when you feel your soul is being invaded. We all need good friends equipped with a flashlight who will illuminate the threat in the bushes. Always be on the look out because he wants to burglarize you. He wants to steal your joy, your hope, your purity and ultimately your soul. Shine that light on the Enemy and don’t hesitate to SHOOT!

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waste, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all of this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” Ephesians 6:14-17

“And no wonder for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” 2 Corinthians 11:14

Dear God, Help me to recognize when I’m under attack. Help me to deflect the Enemies lies. Thank you for giving me hope in knowing that in the end You are the Victor.