Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Comment on Commenting

I am thankful for each person who reads my blog, and I would greatly welcome your comments. Just click on the green "0 comments" and follow the prompts from there. You will be required to give an e-mail address, but that's just to authenticate you as a real person and guard against spam. You can be anonymous, or you can click on "other" and leave the name of your choice. And if course, if you have your own Blogger account you can use the Google sign in as well.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Little Bit of Larceny

One of my most favorite movies of all time is White Christmas, a classic Bing Crosby musical based around Irving Berlin’s song of the same name. The premise is extremely cheesy and would never happen in the real world, but for some reason I am able to put my pragmatic nature aside and embrace the impossible when it is set to music.

Anyway, in the movie, Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Betty Haynes (Rosemary Clooney) hook up and live happily ever after, though at first things don’t look promising. Betty has to admit to Bob that her sister wrote a dishonest letter to get him to come and see their musical act. Bob isn’t offended because he thinks people are always working an “angle,” but Betty accuses him of being cynical. Bob responds:

“Oh come, come now Miss Haynes. Surely you know that everybody’s got a little larceny operating in them.”

I think Bing Crosby really hit the nail on the head with that comment, and the Bible backs him up. As the Apostle Paul put it, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

People will often do whatever it takes to make sure their interests are protected, even if it means hurting others – that’s just the way it is. We like to think we’re above that kind of thing, but if we’re honest, we know we have a tendency to put ourselves first. We know we hurt other people and disappoint our loved ones. And what’s worse, we know we disappoint God. But there is definitely hope.

Romans 8:39 says, “Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture…I'm absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”

So whether it’s a little bit of internal larceny you’re dealing with or a lot, don’t worry – God loves you no matter what!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Finding Answers

You know the saying that you should be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it? Well, that’s true for prayer too.

A while ago, my husband told me he’d been asking God to reveal WHY He didn’t want us to have children. He felt that if he could understand what God had in mind for us instead, he could more fully embrace His direction. Apparently God was listening.

We have spent every evening this week with friends or family members who needed our support. Their struggles were not expected, and we had no idea we’d be called upon so much. We have expended considerable emotional energy, invested lots of time, and gotten very little sleep. But the amazing part of everything is, we feel great! We are so honored that God would use us in the lives of people we care about, and it feels wonderful to serve in a meaningful way. We love these people and would do anything for them, and it seems that God plans to take advantage of that.

If we had children, there is no way we could have dropped everything this week. The children’s emotional and physical needs would have had to come first, and the people who needed us would have been out of luck.

I think we all need someone in our lives who we can depend on no matter what, and I hope my husband and I will always get to be that somebody for many people. This week has reminded us anew that children are not the only ones in this world who need our love.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Yes, Be Yourself. BUT...

Earlier this week I was talking to someone whose church is having trouble getting people to sign up for a mission trip because they don’t want to be around a particular woman that’s going. She was described as one of God’s most annoying creations – a complainer who needs constant attention and thinks everything should revolve around her. I definitely know the type.

Hearing this story got me thinking about my last post where I encouraged people to be themselves. But then I thought, “What if yourself sucks?”

At age 16 when I first became a Christian, (on a mission trip I might add,) I sat down and made a list of all the things I didn’t like about myself that I didn’t think God liked either. I don’t have the original, but I’ll hit the highlights.

First off, I decided I didn’t want to worry about things all the time and that I wanted to give up my need for absolute control. A task like packing for a trip could send me into a panic because I was so scared that I wouldn’t be prepared for every situation that might arise. And I remember one particular incident in middle school where I went nuts on my friend because she dropped a raisin in my tea. I’m not kidding – something so stupid made me completely lose it. I decided I’d like myself a lot better if I figured out how to relax.

Secondly, I wanted to stop being an exaggerator. You have probably met someone who does this - for example, if I got something on sale for 20% off it would turn into 30% when I told someone about it. Though I wasn’t really hurting anyone, it was technically a form of lying. I wanted to be a more credible person.

Finally, I decided I wanted to be a better listener. I knew I cared deeply about my friends and family, but I realized I didn’t show it very well. When someone was sharing with me, I was too quick to relate what he/she was saying to myself and turn the conversation back to me. I wanted to be more externally focused.

I became very conscious of those behaviors and prayed constantly that God would help me change them. And one day, I looked back and realized He had. Not that I don’t revert back to old ways every now and then, but I’d be willing to bet that some of you who know me now would never have guessed that I used to be a self-absorbed, anal-retentive control freak. (And if you could have guessed it, please let me know so I can get back to work on it.)

Anyway, when I really thought about my own personal experience, I realized that long before I ever had the confidence to be myself, I had to sit down and decide who I really wanted to be. I believe there are certain core tenants of your personality you can’t change, but I KNOW that through Christ you can control how those tendencies are displayed in your life.

So, if you have a sneaking suspicion that you’re not exactly the best you can be, (like if you show up for the Mission Trip and you’re the only one on the bus,) maybe some tweaking is in order before you go out unabashedly being yourself. But don’t worry – “…I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Phi 1:6)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Be Myself?

You’ve heard it a million times – whether you’re getting ready for a first date, preparing for a job interview, or meeting the future in-laws, someone always offers the sage advice to “just be yourself.”

This is probably the world’s most widely used adage, and it sounds so simple on the surface. But when people give this advice, do they really understand what they’re saying?

Because if you’re really being yourself, you are guaranteed to irritate, offend, or otherwise alienate someone along the way. What is pleasing to one person will grate on the next person’s nerves. Everyone will not always agree with you. And worst of all, you will eventually commit the cardinal sin of going AGAINST the flow.

Take traditional church folk for example. They want you to be yourself…“unless.” For example, “Be yourself, unless you don’t like the way we’ve always done things.” If you’d prefer an activity other than a potluck supper, if the sound of an electric organ hurts your ears, or if you are (gasp!) a Democrat, you’d best keep quiet about it. And there’s also, “Be yourself, unless you’re life’s not perfect.” If you’re fighting temptation, if you have doubts about your Faith, or if there’s anything unsavory in your past, don’t burden us with it. And for heaven’s sake, if your marriage is anything less than idyllic, keep it to yourself and act like nothing’s wrong.

When it comes right down to it, what people REALLY want is for you to be like them. Because if you are finding fulfillment by doing things differently, that just might mean that THEY are the ones who could have made better choices. And where Christians are concerned, I think sometimes instead of deepening our relationship with God to find confidence that we have chosen the right path, we instead find that comfort in the fact that everyone else is doing the same thing.

Romans 14:22 says, “Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don't impose it on others. You're fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you're not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you're out of line. If the way you live isn't consistent with what you believe, then it's wrong.”

So fortify yourself in the Spirit, and embrace the real you. Then go ahead – dare to be yourself.

Monday, June 11, 2007

You Get What You Give

Now that we’ve made the decision not to have kids, I’ve been checking out some childfree sites and blogs on the Internet. I was somewhat surprised to find that even within the Childfree Community, my viewpoint still leaves me out in left field.

I know that the decision to be childfree is not one that the most people will ever understand, and that’s okay – I don’t really expect them to. The majority of people do not choose my lifestyle, and I know it would be illogical for the world to cater to people like me.

I also don’t hate kids or their parents. Yes, babies scare me a little. Yes, I have run into some kids that I wanted to throttle, and yes, I have met some parents that needed a serious reality check. But I know some really fantastic kids too, and some of my own role models have been parents. I think it’s great when God chooses to give people fulfillment through children - that’s just not how He’s going to do things for me.

A lot of the childfree sites just seem to focus on baby bashing. I was looking more for support resources, but what I initially found was mostly rants about how the Childfree are right and everyone else is wrong. A lot of these posts are very one-sided and cruel, not to mention disrespectful and hypocritical. And ironically, a lot of these people don’t understand why the world doesn’t give them the respect they deserve.

You will never find me condemning another person’s life choices. I may not jump on their bandwagon, and I may even disagree with what they’re doing. But I will always respect them as children of God, whether they recognize Him as their Father or not. I know it is not my job to judge.

Anyway, after digging deeper, I did find some blogs and sites I enjoy and can relate to. And I am looking forward to adding my voice of reason to the Childfree Community.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Honking for the Lord!

Someone forwarded me this "story":

The other day I went down to the religious book store, and there I saw a bumper sticker that said "HONK IF YOU LOVE JESUS!" I bought it and put it on the back bumper of my car, and I'm really glad I did. What an uplifting experience I had! I was driving along, and stopped at the light at a busy intersection, just lost in thought about the Lord, and well, I didn't notice that the light had changed.

Well, that bumper sticker really worked! I found there were lots and lots of people who love Jesus. Why, the guy behind me started to pound on his horn and honk like crazy. He must REALLY love the Lord because pretty soon, he leaned out his window and yelled, "Jesus Christ!" as loud as he could. It was like a football game, with him shouting and cheering, "GO, JESUS CHRIST, GO!" Everyone else started honking, too, so I leaned out my window and waved and smiled to all of those loving people. There must have been a guy from Florida back there because I could hear him yelling something about a sunny beach, and saw him waving in a funny way with only his middle finger stuck up in the air. I asked my two kids what that meant. They kind of looked at each other, giggled and told me that it was the Hawaiian good luck sign. So, I leaned out the window and gave him the good luck sign back. Several cars back of me, a very nice man stepped out of his car and waved and yelled something. I couldn't hear him very well, but it sounded like, "Mother trucker," or "Mother's from there." Maybe he was from Florida, too. He must really love the Lord, cause he reached back into his car and honked his horn some more, too. A couple other people were so caught up in the joy of the moment that they got out of their cars and started walking toward me. I bet they wanted to pray, but just then I noticed that the light had changed to yellow, so I stepped on the gas. And a good thing I did, because I was the only driver to get across the intersection. I looked back at them all standing there, and I leaned way out the window, gave them a big smile and held up the Hawaiian good luck sign as I drove away. Praise the Lord for such wonderful folks!

Hilarious because it could be true - aren't you proud to be a Christian?!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Childfree for Me

Not long ago, I wrote a blog about my struggle with the decision to have (or not to have) children. I had always known that there was a strong possibility that children were not in God’s plan for me, and I was very comfortable with that. But as possibility started looking more and more like reality, I started to question myself. Am I sure God doesn’t want me to have kids? So, as I now do whenever something is weighing on my mind, I wrote about it.

After reading my blog, someone commented that it seemed like I’d already made up my mind. I was confused by the statement at first, but when I went back and re-read what I’d posted, I saw what he/she meant. And it rocked my world.

You see, about the time I posted that blog, my husband and I had decided that we would have children. We even went so far as to tell some friends about it, and sketch out a timeline. But somehow, no matter how hard I tried to convince myself, I felt increasingly uneasy. I kept flipping back and forth in my mind, but I didn’t want to revisit the issue. It felt good to have made an official decision, even if it might not be the right one.

The blog comment was the first in a long series of events (of which I’ll spare you the details) that made it painfully obvious that we needed to regroup. After much prayer and discussion, we came to a new conclusion:

It just doesn’t look like parenthood is in God’s plan for us. I know you should never say never where God is concerned, and I won’t. But what I can say is that we’re going to live life as if we aren’t having children, and I know it’s the right direction for us.

Now that I have faced reality, I have that peace again which I’ve only ever experienced when I’ve been in the center of God’s will. But that’s not to say I am bursting with happiness right now either. I wanted to want to be a mom. And I wanted to make my parents happy by giving them a grandchild. And I wanted, for once in my freakin’ life, to do something the same way everyone else does it.

But when it’s all said and done, more than anything, I want what God wants. And apparently, that doesn’t include any little Shelleys running around. Oh well – one is probably enough anyway.

Monday, June 4, 2007

I'm Still Here...part 2

Okay - so once again, I haven't posted in awhile. Every evening I set aside to write seems to get trumped by something else!

Work has been insane - so bad that I had to cancel my 2 planned vacations for this summer. Many nights I've come home completely exhausted and just vegged out instead of writing. We had intended to buy a car in a few months, but that got moved up to last Thursday when we found the deal of the century. A good thing I know, but there went another evening. My stinkin' dog has a wicked case of separation anxiety, and is slowly destroying my house. Today he ate a hand-crafted wooden toy from Honduras that my husband has had since he was a child. His father brought it back from a mission trip, and it had a lot of sentimental value. Our frustration keeps building and building - I don't think anyone wants to read something I'd write while I was mad at my dog. I tend toward irrationality when angry.

On top of all the piddly annoyances, we've been in the process of making some major life decisions and sort of re-charting our direction for the future. That's all good stuff too, but definitely emotionally and spiritually draining.

Anyway, enough whining. I promise I'll get back to posting more regularly, so please keep checking back. Or, you could always sign up to get my blogs via e-mail or add me to your feed burner. But whatever you do, please don't forget about me!