Friday, September 20, 2013

NEWSFLASH: I'm not Skinny, Fast, or Crafty

Recently, I've gotten to spend time with some of my favorite people that I don't see regularly. Women who inspire me, teach me, understand me and accept me. Women who are confident, independent, comfortable in their own skin and encouraging of others. Women who are amazing mothers, writers, researchers, advocates, friends and sisters. I love them all and am so grateful for their presence in my life.

A few weeks ago, I read The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson. It was a short, very interesting read that detailed the story of Jabez in Chronicles, his powerful prayer, and how to live a fully blessed life ourselves. So, I started praying the prayer of Jabez every day for myself and my family, for our church and our pastors, and for everyone who asks for prayer.

Right now, I'm gonna pray it for my dog as she is emitting an odor that suggests she may have consumed a cadaver. I sometimes pray for my animals. Some people think that is crazy, and maybe it is. I don't think God censors the things you can talk about with Him though. "It's Friday, and I, the Almighty ruler of the universe, am not taking prayer requests for stinky dogs." When I say that I imagine that God sounds like the Wizard of Oz, you know, behind the curtain before we know that the Wizard's just the door guy. That's how the God from my Catholic childhood sounded. And sorry, if you haven't seen The Wizard of Oz, I just kinda ruined that for you.

Phew. Sorry, imagine that, I strayed off topic.

Refocus. My beautiful friends help me realize that it's okay to be okay with where you are and who you are. I don't mean settling for mediocrity, but for instance, I think I've mentioned a time or two that I don't like to run. Yet, in preparing to turn 40, I set a goal to run a race with my family. Chloe loves to run, and Brad runs but doesn't really love it. In a recent conversation with my pastor's mom (who is my age; my pastor is 18--kidding), she said that her workout consists of meeting a friend at the gym and casually using the elliptical and talking. "Sometimes we don't even sweat," she said. Wow. I don't like to sweat. I don't like to run. I will make a sign and cheer for Brad and Chloe and my brother, and I will drink coffee and snuggle with my little kiddos because I like to do that. And I'm good at it. Yes, I'm good at drinking coffee and snuggling. I'm not trying to be a runner anymore.

So, I'm gonna give myself permission to be better at the things I'm good at and to let go of the things (most Pinterest crafts) that I generally suck at. Fortunately, my dear little friend from church is super creative and talented. She makes beautiful crafts, and for a nominal fee, she'll make something fabulous for me, and I remain free from glue gun burns.

I'm also giving myself permission not to weigh 110 pounds. Ya heard. My friend, Jen, is very thin, has two kids, eats like a 300 pound man, and has an underactive thyroid (yes, I know the difference, and no life is not fair.) She runs too. Not on a regular basis, but like, "Oh, I think I'll run a half marathon," every once in a while. And she does. The more I type the less I like her. (Kidding, again. I brought my A-game, Rivera) But, I am not made like that. I like to eat, but my body flaunts my love for food. That is O.K.

Initially praying the prayer, I believed that I was going to be stretched in all sorts of ways: running, crafting, writing, gardening, building, redecorating. But what I found instead is that God narrowed my focus. He gave me more people to talk with, listen to, and learn from. He gave me more people to encourage, pray for, and, gulp, forgive. He reminded me to focus on my gifts not someone else's.

One more thing. For years, we have prayed for Peyton to grow. He went to high school this year and told me, "Mom, I'm the smallest kid in the school." That hurt my heart. Over the years, we've prayed, bought nutrition shakes, set eating schedules, taken vitamins, and then, as I prayed the prayer for him over and over, God impressed this on my heart: "I made Him exactly how he is supposed to be." When I shared that with him, I was rewarded with a full mouth dimpled smile, and we changed our prayers--not that he would grow but that he would be comfortable in his skin and that God would accomplish great things through him, exactly the way he is.

Please don't mistake this is my attempt to start a slacker movement where we all give up trying to better ourselves. I'm just trying to be a better me and encouraging you to be a better you. But I'm not trying to be you. And please don't try to be me, even though my mad snuggling skills are enviable. Be you. God Bless.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Anybody Got a Light?

Today, is my one year anniversary free from nicotine. I smoked more than half my life. The first time I smoked a cigarette I was 9. Yep. NINE. Two years older than my baby. I LOVED fact I still do. I love the way they feel between my fingers, on my lips, the way they smell...I love them. Even now, occasionally, I will pick one of Brad's up. Just to feel it. But I never light it.

I hated being addicted to nicotine. I didn't smoke in the house or car, but I can remember feeling so agitated on the way home from anywhere. Anxious to get my kids in the house so that I could smoke a cigarette. I was embarrassed that I smoked too. I didn't want anyone to know. I took great pains not to smell like smoke or smoke around anyone who wasn't part of my inner circle. People would say, "I didn't know you smoked!" Good! I didn't want you to.

When I began really to put God first in my life, I realized that even He came second to cigarettes. I am not proud to admit that I had to smoke a cigarette and make coffee before I opened my Bible. God, my kids, my husband...everyone was in second place. When I took a long hard look at that and really let it sink in, I started to pray and surrender. Please take this addiction away. Please...make it easy for me to quit. Please help me to wake up and just not want to smoke.

Over the years, I tried just about everything to quit. Hypnosis, books, nicotine gum, patches, herbal remedies, spiritual healings. I quit lots of times for days, weeks, even months. But every time, I would decide that I was back in control and let myself have just one cigarette. I can just smoke when I have a drink. I can just smoke when we go out with friends. I can just smoke on Fridays. I can just smoke on the weekends until...I can't. I can't. I can't. I can't. I can't ever just have one cigarette ever ever ever again.

One year ago, on Lily's birthday, we went to a party with our best friends. I probably smoked 100 cigarettes. The next morning I felt like there was an anvil on my chest. I didn't want to smoke. I told Brad, "I'm gonna quit smoking today." He said, "Okay, baby," but he didn't believe me. But I did.

I'm not bragging (well, except about God's goodness and faithfulness); I know lots of people who are trying to quit something. When asked how I quit smoking, I used to say, "I just quit," because I didn't like people to roll their eyes at me when I said, "I prayed, and God took away my craving for nicotine." But, that is what really happened. I woke up and said, "Help me not smoke today," and He did. And He keeps helping me not smoke day after day.

I have been tempted, but never beyond what I could handle. On one occasion this summer, I begged Brad to give me a cigarette, but I didn't smoke. Every day, I thank God that nicotine is no longer first in my life. Every day, I thank Him for making it easy. I never could have quit without a divine intervention because I will regrettably admit: I have no will power. Not. One. Bit.

This is the longest I have been smoke-free since the first time I smoked a cigarette 31 years ago. Not in my strength but in His...I am redeemed.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV) But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Peaches and Pain

It feels like fall today, which simultaneously makes me happy and sad. Happy because I love fall. Sad because winter follows, and I don't like winter. I love so many things about fall: football, fires, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin everything, fresh apples, hoodies, snuggling under blankets. When I was little I loved going to the Harding football games with my dad. We usually left at halftime, after the bands performed,which was my favorite part. I held onto his pinky because my hands were little and his were big. We walked through an area of Warren, that most people probably wouldn't walk through at night with their kids now, but I never felt afraid.

Yesterday, Chloe told me she missed my dad. I missed my dad too. It was funny--weird, not haha--though not really because Chloe and I are always eerily connected. Once, I woke up in the middle of the night really worried and uneasy. I prayed for about two hours and finally went back to sleep. She told me the next day that she had wandering through the streets of Pittsburgh at the time. Missing my dad is one of our few sad connections. Fortunately, Chloe hasn't been dealt a lot of sadness since she carries so much of mine.

My bff lost her grandpa earlier this year, another dear friend lost her grandma last week, some of my closest friends lost their stepdad/father in law a month ago, a dear writer I adore and admire lost her mom yesterday, my mom lost two more friends in the last month. Often in empathizing with others, I'm drawn so far in that I relive my own sadness. A few months ago, I had a dream about my dad, and in it, he told me that my mom was going to die. I had longed to dream about my dad for quite some time, but this wasn't exactly what I hoped for. In the dream, I wasn't sad or upset and kind of fluctuated between dreaming and logic. Course, I guess that's where I usually am: fluctuating between dreaming and logic.

For as long as I can remember, every time I went into my parents' playroom, I sat on my dad's lap. When I was little, when I was grown, when I was happy or sad. Sometimes I sat on his lap with one of my own babies on my lap. Sometimes we talked, sometimes we laughed, sometimes I cried and sometimes he did. When I was really little I used to do his hair. He sat patiently while I did. It was so hard to walk into that room after my dad wasn't in his chair.

This morning, I ate a peach, and it reminded me of the peach trees and raspberry bushes in our yard growing up. I used to eat fruit until I was sick, coming into the house sticky and stained. My mom made delicious jam. Then one year, in an aggressive fertilization attempt gone awry, my dad killed the peach trees and the raspberry bushes. The bushes were a total loss, but the trees still grew, though they never again bore fruit. A few years ago, in a super romantic move, Brad bought me a peach tree. It died. Last week, I drove past my parents' old house in downtown Warren, and the peach trees had been cut down. Guess I'll stick with farm market peaches for now.

I think the point of all this is reminding and retraining myself to focus on the beauty, the memory, the what was and what is and what could and will be rather than the pain of the loss. Tomorrow isn't promised, but part of the beauty in this life is the fleeting nature of everything we hold dear. So my sweet friends who are sad today, I am holding you close to my heart and lifting your cares to God.