When God Chooses to Walk You Through Rather Then Remove the Obstacle

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Need You Now by Plumb

Have you ever asked the Lord to change you? I have. I’ve asked him to remove things that were so innate in me; things that were at the very essence of me but caused problems in my relationships. It was a very hard time.

I have recently had to take another spin on that Merry-go-Round. Yet another aspect of what makes me, me was presented to me as fecal matter on a plate. I went to the Lord, fully submissive, begging him to remove it from me and make me different.  Although I was submissive, I wasn’t necessarily asking to be in His will. I was asking Him to make the difficult easier for me by changing me.  Although I thought the change I was submitting for was God pleasing, it was not.  Yes, I was seeking to me more like Christ. My plea was to be more loving and compassionate because my strong, sinewy love was not desirable. My compassion lined with a plan of action to help solve a presented problem was frowned upon. Because no one else valued what makes me, me, it must be against God’s word right? Wrong.

I thought because trustworthy people, whom I love, told me my personality make-up was poor was equivalent to the Lord saying “XARA! Pay attention to this!” but it wasn’t.  When he said no to changing me, that is when I could hear His words. My personality wasn’t the problem.  He did not make a mistake in assigning me my intricacies. He knew those same intracacies would cause conflict with others.  He has used, and still uses, those conflicts to foster my growth in Him. That is not to say that this particular DNA of dust that I am does not require refining or that it is not subject to God’s design. (For example, when I don’t want to submit to my husband, I still MUST submit to my husband). But it does mean that I am not ill fashioned and do not need to long for a changing in me of things innately me for the ease of life with others. I can and will trust that God will walk me through each conflict my personality may cause. I can and will trust that He will use it for His glory.  I totally submit to His leading. I can and will trust that He will convict me in any sin or offense I make.

This is not an easy road by any means. I have become accustomed to hearing verbal jabs at who I am. That is not to say that it is any less tiresome. They say to walk a mile in someones shoes is a valuable life lesson. This process of asking God to take something away from me and not having him do it (not unlike Paul) caused me to have a more meaningful understanding and genuine empathy for Christians who have homosexual attractions. There is truly a war within our members.

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Who Do I Follow?

images-1I like math.  Specifically, I like Algebra. I like its absolutes. I like its formulas. I like its predictability. I know if I follow a particular formula, I will get the correct answer (as long as the formula I am using is the correct one). Once I understood algebra, all of its rules became comforting to me. It was fool-proof.  I couldn’t go wrong as long as I followed the formula.

I tried to apply a formula to God once.  Needless to say, it failed miserably.  I had to learn to really walk by faith and not by formula sight. Praise be to God I have steadily learned how to do that in my married years. However, I still find myself wanting to emulate someone. I would like a pattern to follow.  I would like to see someone who does it well, whom I can follow, and get the same results: a husband who has no complaints and spiritually obedient and successful children.

Because I am prone to attaching myself to something successful and riding it like a rocket, I am often distracted by the success of others. I used to drop everything I was doing, well and poorly alike, and totally change to be just like the newest superstar in my book. That behavior became a serious detriment to my household.

I have since learned to glean. Glean the good that I see emulated and put into practice any truths that person possesses.  I don’t necessarily have to put those truths into practice the same exact way but the kernel of truth that supports their practice is what I am after. For example, I’ve struggled with being consistent with outdoor physical activities with my girls.  The basic truth that I’ve heard over and over is that I need to incorporate my children in my physical activities. When I go for a walk, I use that walk as alone time instead of making my girls go with me. I need to incorporate my girls with me for more things. I need to make more statements about what we are going to do for physical exercise instead of asking and hoping I hear the response I am looking for.

I have learned to glean from others while fully leaning on the Lord.  No one person is going to meet all the areas I’d like to see emulated. No one person gets it all right, even on their best days. The only wifommy in my specific family dynamic is me. I am the right person for the job because God said so. He wouldn’t have put me here otherwise.

So who do I follow? I follow Christ first, and I follow others as they follow Christ. 

My Husbands Words Hurt

imagesHe said I always push him away.

That. Those five words have caused marriages to crumble. That small phrase is a seed that, when full-grown, causes a chasm in a marriage. When he said those words to me, it was as if I had been doused with ice-cold water.

To me, that phrase was a warning light.  Not a yellow light but a flashing red light. “Fix this now!”, it screamed.  I prayed and I cried.

I asked God not to let me be that person.  The person who wants all the affection and love my husband has to offer me but refuses touches and stolen moments when those touches and moments stop me from the task I am in the middle of. The person who is always ready to fulfill my wifely duties but bats away all other affectionate offerings. I did not know that my husband received that as refusals.  Until then, I did not classify my actions as refusals.  To me, he was trying to get me to slow down and hinder me from completing my task to which, his linear minded wife, would get intensely upset about.  I didn’t know that he received my look of ‘dude, why are you slowing me down?! You see I’m in the middle of something!’ as refusal of his affections.

How could I have been so dumb!

I had already been praying and asking God to help me with Jazmine.  She is so in need of physical touch. A hug, a tickle, a kiss, rest my head on hers, hand hold, all of that numerous times a day.  That is not my love language but it is hers and I struggled with filling her cup everyday. After hearing my husbands words on top of what I was already aware of with Jazmine, I wilted.

Something had to change.  I had to change but I was at a loss on how.  How to change into something that was so innately foreign to me and how to sustain it.  My strength would fail at the second perceived interruption to my task and the third time I heard, “Mommy you never kiss me!”, when I know I kissed that girl at least twice in the past hour. I needed God to do something permanent in me. I didn’t want to lose my family.  I didn’t want seeds of infidelity to begin to grow in my husband because he was looking for his affections to be reciprocated. I didn’t want my daughter to have to look past me for a mother figure who filled her need for physical touch. I knew what I didn’t want but I didn’t know how to prevent it from happening.

God speaks. God speaks, but I will tell you, rarely is it when I am unmoving. I was putting something away in my daughters’ room when God answered my specific prayer about responding to those cries of affection from my family.  It is hard to pen what He said but the gist of it was ‘to remember this is important too’.  When my husband or daughter seek me for affection, I need to remember that this meaning them and their need, is important too.  Their need takes precedent over my current task.  Their need is just as important as what I am trying to do for the house.  Their need does mean that I stop what I am doing to give them that touch, smile, hug, or moment they need to continue their day. Their need does not make my task unimportant, but, the task can wait a few moments. Fullfilling their need does not take any significant amount to time but it is of great significance to them.

I needed God to give me this mental shift. I could not have decided on and executed it lovingly with any type of sustainability without Him.

Father’s Are Important Too

downloadEvery other commercial, news outlet, sports program, and print advertisement told people that Mother’s Day was near.  The date was given and the countdown was repeated. ‘Mother’s Day is in two weeks!  Mother’s Day is next Sunday!  Mother’s Day is tomorrow!  Don’t forget about your mom!’  Could not enter a store without a sign giving date of Mother’s Day.  You did not have the option of not knowing Mother’s Day was coming nor when it was.

Yes, Mother’s Day is a commercial holiday and a very lucrative one at that hence all of the commercialism.  However, the sports casters, news reporters, radio personalities and the like all tooted about the importance of mothers and rarely did not have a story to share about how their mother impacted their life. The hype of the holiday was severely escalated.

Do not hear me wrong.  I too am a mother.  Celebrating mothers is important.  It is a great day for many mothers who don’t regularly receive recognition to get some that day. However, the same should be done for Father’s Day as well.

But alas, Father’s Day came and went silently. Fourth of July favors and cook out gear were given more prominence than Father’s Day. Firework displays were up since mid May, right after Mother’s Day as a matter of fact, but not a peep about Father’s Day.  One display.  One display did I see in my local store about Father’s Day and that was only above a tower of Blu Ray discs that ‘Dad would love’.  The same store had an entire section for the Fourth of July. What does that tell you?

Society has neglected the importance of Father’s.  We ought not too. Society is going to do what it is going to do. We, those that know the importance of men in our lives, should celebrate the fathers on Father’s Day. You don’t have to be married with children nor have a good relationship with your own father to celebrate fathers on that day.  Father’s are important. Period. The role of father is equally important with mothers. Celebrate the good fathers you know.  If you don’t know any, don’t hate the day or minimize it. Every mother isn’t great yet she is “supposed” to get flowers.

#I Can’t

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You’ve heard it before.  You’ve probably started saying it yourself. ‘I can’t’.  It is quite popular to say when one wishes not to continue processing something stupid. I tried saying it but the Holy Spirit stood against that with scripture.

In Philippians 4:13, the Bible says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me“.  Saying ‘I can’t’ regardless of its jovial connotations, goes directly against this new popular saying. I was convicted every single time so, I stopped saying it.

When it would be “appropriate” to say ‘I can’t’, what I was really shortening to convey was I-don’t-feel-like-doing-this-right-now, I-am-so-done-talking-about-this, this-is-on-my-nerves or something similar. Unfortunately, the new shortened speech stands in stark contrast to what the Bible says I am to think. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me means I can do what I don’t feel like doing.  I can complete my thought process.  I can persevere when I want to quit. Do I always feel like it? Heck no! But, I am not to speak against the strength, endurance, and perseverance God is instilling in me with cavalier words like ‘I can’t’.

The Bible says I am to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. I can’t renew my mind with words like ‘I can’t’ and expect to know God in His fullness.

Dear SAHM: There Are More Important Things

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Growing up, I remember doing many chores.  I remember all of our responsibilities. Dishes, vacuuming, dusting, Windex glass, picking up after ourselves, daily floor sweeps, any other assignment either parent assigned, plus homework.  It was life.  It taught us all a great deal. We learned how to be responsible, that actions had consequences, that what we do affects others, how to be considerate, etc and how to clean. Even now, as adults, all of my three siblings and myself, can clean a house spotless.

Our house did not go past a certain messy point. Clothes never stayed on the couch for too long. Dishes were never in the sink for more than a meal. The floor never crunched with food or any other substance. We didn’t grow up in mess. My home, however, is not that.

Right now, there are clothes on our couch; clean clothes, but clothes nevertheless. The sink is full of dishes. Clean dishes are in the dishwasher and on the side of the sink.  The kitchen floor has food in the crease where the wall and carpet meets all along the wall. I have two piles of laundry on the floor of our bathroom. I could go on but you get the idea.

A while a go, I posted that I was going to have Jazmine follow a chore chart. It is going pretty well. She is developing good habits and, gradually, learning to choose not to do a half-way job with her chores. I am a task oriented person. I practice not stopping for any kind of break until all or at least the vast majority of a task list is complete. I want to instill this in Jazmine. The thing is, I am sure I was born with the wiring for this kind of thinking but it did not present itself right away.  It was groomed and allowed to grow. I have to give this same time allowance to my Jazmine.

I have a habit of measuring how well my day has gone by how my home looks.  I get where this thought process comes from. I am a SAHM. I don’t work outside of the home. I don’t have a desk or a boss to please. No one readily recognizes my work and says ‘good job’. Not that that is a daily occurance at any job but I don’t get performance reviews etc. All I have as a showcase, if you will, is my home. When people come in, my home is what reflects me. If, by the time I go to bed, my home is tidy, I feel great.  If it is not, I tend to beat myself up.  I think I spent my day doing too much of everything else and did not incorporate tidying up. This evening, it occurred to me that, on a scale of importance, the nurturing of my husband and children’s hearts and their spirits is vastly more important than having a tidy home. Not that my house should remain untidy but if I spend far more time grooming my children and nurturing both them and my husband, while allowing everyone to grow, I have invested my time well.

The state of my home is no longer a personal measure of my worth.

 

Dear Pastor’s Wife: You Don’t Have to Carry the Church

imgres-3After some serious grooming by my parents, sometime in the 8th grade, I discovered I am wired for order. I like systems. I like processes.

Fast forward to the present, that looks like a person who jumps in to help when something goes awry.  At least that is how it presents in me. However, I am sure 99.9% that that trait is brought on by the presence of the Holy Spirit living inside of me. So, when I attend a home party or any event of which I know the person(s) putting it on, if something goes wrong or help is needed to keep things moving, I volunteer.

My husband is taking a respite from the pulpit for a few weeks. This past Sunday was his second week of absence.  I too was absent last week but returned this week because Jazmine was praise dancing.  We arrived early as is custom when the girls are to dance. But everything was wrong! The deacons had not arrived yet.  The Music Minister was not there and I wasn’t even sure if he would be there. The guest preacher was early. The office he asked to use was locked and no one had a key. There were more non-members who were there to see the girls dance instead of regular church members.  Of course all the non-members were early and there were just a couple of our members there at that time.  I was so embarrassed.  As soon as the guest musician arrived, I asked her if she was ready.  She looked at me confused. She didn’t know she was to lead Praise and Worship. She thought she was only doing one song before the preacher preached. I had no idea what was going on! I was trying to put out what I perceived as fires because nothing looked like it did every other Sunday.

The Minister of Music arrived and, of course, I had blundered big time. The guest musician and the Minister of Music had already talked and things were fine. The deacons came and opened the office for the guest preacher to use. More members, although not nearly the normal amount, arrived. Everything was fine. I was the one who was a mess!

I was walking around hugging every member who showed, trying to chat them up. What I was really doing was non-verbally thanking them for attending. You would have thought I was hosting a party instead of coming in the House of God to hear His Word! It wasn’t until the very end of service that I realized my blunder.

God’s house doesn’t need me in order for it to run. I don’t have to carry the church in my husband’s absence. I could have come in and sat down. I didn’t have to go check on anything. I normally don’t check on anything because that isn’t my lane.  Why was I putting on a show? Why was I being the dog and pony act, facilitating and trying to make people feel welcome? Making people feel welcomed isn’t an act. It’s a state of being. I know that is my normal demeanor but this past Sunday, I carried it out as a way of saying thank you for bearing with us today, much like a hostess at a restaurant says to patrons after having to wait longer than normal for a table. It was wrong.  I was wrong.

Never again. My arms weren’t created to hold up a branch of Zion. My shoulders weren’t built for that weight, so I will not carry it anymore. Dear Pastor’s wife, free yourself.

I Forgot Who HE Was

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I got so bogged down with the current cares of my life. Folk not acting right. Adjusting to always having an endless to-do list.

I often daydream. I think of spectacular events that could happen to or around me.  It’s a nice escape. This daydream was about me being pregnant with twins and being summoned back to the doctor’s office for another sonogram. The midwife wanted to double-check because either one baby had a heart defect or I was actually carrying triplets. Come to find out, I was carrying triplets!

At the quick conclusion of this daydream, I almost laughed out loud! (Really would have but it’s after midnight and I certainly did not want my voice to awake my girls.  Husband would have slept through it) I FORGOT WHO GOD WAS!

I am daydreaming about the impossible when I am currently living what I could not have imagined, but oh so desperately desired, just two years ago.

Two years ago (May 2015), I was focused on my Zumba. I was determined to live and not wallow in longing for another baby. Two years ago, as I was putting away our winter clothes and hanging up our summer clothes, I was hoping that the next time I saw my sweats, it would be in my our new home. Two years ago, at this very same time, I had NO IDEA WHATSOEVER that God was bringing about the unseen into the seen in our lives.

I found out June 2015, Father’s Day to be exact (how perfect is that!) that I was pregnant. In October 2015, my husband told me to start looking for a house. I May 2016, we got an apartment of our very own! God turned things around so fast! It truly was like a rushing wind.

So now, May 2017, as I am refocusing on my Zumba and learning to home school from a place of rest. Now, that I am focused on thoroughly enjoying my 8yr old and toddler. Now, that I have grown comfortable in our own unique house rhythm, I reflect on my “new” longings. Yes, I still desire to be a mother of many. Yes, we need to soon be in the process of looking into move again. But God! He has already done those things for me!  I don’t have to daydream! I experienced it! It was all real! There is no need for me to daydream now either! If I do dare, it can’t be from the wouldn’t-that-be-great camp.  It must be from the I-know-He-can-do-it/Won’t-He-will camp!

Be blessed!

Mommy Who Is Scared Of Chore Enforcement

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First of all, I understand.

You are not alone.

Let me relay my story.  I hope you take comfort.

My daughter Jazmine is 8 years old. If you are new to this blog, for the first 7 years of Jazmine’s life, we lived with my mother-in-law.  Life was very different then.  I had a lot of “help”; most of which was an easy fix to a current situation. During this past 11 months of living under our own roof, I’ve had to grow A LOT! Jazmine had to grow a lot. It could not and did not happen all at once. Discipline is an area where I’ve had stunted growth. I am not talking about behavioral discipline. I am talking about enforcing chores and household responsibilities.

Jazmine has chores, meaning I’ve assigned them and she knows what things she is responsible for doing.  She also knows how to complete each task to Mommy’s specifications. However, I have not done a consistent job of enforcing those responsibilities. She knows she is to vacuum after dinner but, often enough, because I dismayed at having to address her non-verbal unpleasantness at being told to complete the chore, I would not say a word but let it go.  Other times, it’s not that I didn’t feel like enforcing but that a greater need arose. Namely, Baby Grace needed and eye kept on her while I finish something in another part of the house. Jazmine can not yet vacuum and watch a toddler so, I nixed the vacuum for babysitting.

My husband and I just got back from having some time away.  Now that we are back home, and our weekly routine gears up again tomorrow, I have had time to reflect. I can not be that worn out anymore. I can not stay up late after our girls are in bed to clean, fold, and wash. My husband does not need to stay up after working to straighten up.

The Bible is clear. It says, “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 11:19).  Although that verse is referring to the Israelites teaching their children to carefully obey God’s commands, you will notice that the children are with their parents. The children are with them in the house, on the road, at bedtime, and in the morning. I’ve not had Jazmine by my side while doing most of the things needed to run a household. I’ve let her entertain herself while I completed my chores. I’ve done her and myself a disservice.

I was afraid to enforce before because of what it would cost me. Time.

It’s like teaching her to tie her shoes all over again.  When she was 5, I had to add an extra 5-10 minutes to the get-out-of-the-house routine to allow her time to work at tying her shoes. It was worth it but oh so labor intensive. Until today, I’ve shied away from enforcing chores because I did not want that labor intensive work day-in and day-out for the next few weeks (months) on end while raising a toddler whom, I swear to beans, has hit the terrible twos at 14 months of age!

But the Bible says, “Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul” (Proverbs 29:17) I can take comfort in that, as much hard work that will go into this next stretch of mothering, delight is awaiting me on the other end.

So, fellow scared Mommies, let us journey on together shall we?

Disclaimer:  My decision not to act was selfish and unloving. My desire for perfection (regarding cleanliness) in my home effectively killed much-needed instruction from me to my child. I am armed with laminated and posted chore charts (one of which is pictured above) and a determination to make household responsibilities just as important as school. I will enforce the chores she knows how to do.  Whatever task I am about to do in our home that is new to her, my Jazmine will be by my side.  I will be teaching and she will be observing and learning. We will be conversing. I will not expect perfection when she first attempts task nor when it’s her 50th attempt. I will, however, expect improvement. 

Scripture Works Together

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I was scared tonight. I started back teaching Zumba two months ago. I co-teach once a week.  I teach one half hour and the lead instructor teaches the other half hour.  I have led two full one-hour classes. As happy as I am to be able to teach again, and get paid, I am always nervous. I was such a Zumba snob before.  I would criticize instructors in a heartbeat. I’ve walked out of classes if I didn’t like their style of teaching, mannerisms, song choice, etc. Now that I am the teacher, I had to acknowledge how afraid I was of reaping what I had sown.

It does not feel good to have people walk out of a class you are teaching. I know people leave class for reasons other than they don’t like the class. Folk leave because they only planned to do 30 minutes.  Some maybe trying out a class and are not committed to one format. Knowing this does not make it easier to see people leaving while you are doing your best to teach.

Praise God, I pushed through but I was reminded of several verses as I did.  Matthew 12:36Galatians 6:7James 1:19, Ephesians 4:29.  All of these verses work together.

Careless words are rash, quickly spoken words, phrases, or comments that are spoken without thought to what you are saying. Once those words escape, you are responsible for them.  You have sown those words into your life. You will reap those words because you failed to be quick to listen but instead was quick to speak and slow to listen.  You spoke corruption instead of edification.

I saw this in my own life, bright and vivid in color.  At least two people left my class tonight.  Again, I know there are more than one reason why people leave but unless you know why before hand, a dwindling class is not good. Starting out with 10 participants and ending up with close to 30 is great.  The inverse, not so much.

Now that conviction has taken place, my everything changes.  The way I speak, how much I speak, when I speak, all of it changes.  It will change the people who chose to be around me.  Folks gather when tearing something/someone down and would rather exclude those to build up unless they themselves are in need of edification and encouragement. It will be me who gives alternative reasons why people may be behaving a certain way. It will be me sticking up for people I don’t even know when others start to tear them down. It will be me being the Suzy Sunshine trying to deter conversation from casting judgment on someones actions so that my companions don’t end up speaking carelessly.

Everyone takes a trip on that slippery slope of careless words spoken in the present that leads to future strife. Now that I am aware of it, not only am I responsible to keep from taking that ride, out of love, I am also obligated to help others stay as far away from that slope as possible.

Alas, when I thought my circle of companions had grown small enough, I can feel it getting even smaller. (deep sigh) All for Christ and Christ alone.