Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tuesday Nights

Last week I blogged about my "My God Loves Me Love Story". It is a clear example of how God has cared for me in my daily life whether or not I deserved it, whether or not I even recognized it at the time, he has loved me in all my utter failings. He has loved me when I've denounced Him. He has loved me despite the sin of my flesh, the sin of my thoughts, the sin of my hopes. He has loved me when I deserved the ultimate judgment. He loved me all the way to the cross.

My hubs and I decided two weeks ago to start spending Tuesday nights together. Even though neither of us perhaps said it aloud, I will say for me, I wanted to do this because.. .

We are in a really good place right now. I feel very open to God's will for me. Part of it is the desire to be a better Mom and to run a Christ centered home. Part of it is realizing that I am horribly self centered and I want to be more giving, more hospitable. I am business minded and resilient and fail to acknowledge my vulnerabilities as a means to sweep them and my insecurities under the rug. I need God. Recognizing this need is new. I want to know myself as a child of God in a way that I've not desired before. I want to be a better wife to my husband - a supporting, loving wife - a role that doesn't come easy to me.

There are a couple of reasons why this time seems so pivotal right now. I've always admired my Hubs manly faithfulness. Manly faithfulness? That's a strange juxtaposition, but he is. He is quiet but thoughtful. For the past year, I've watch with amazement and a bit of jealousy at his daily devotions every morning. He reads. He prays. He tries really hard. He puts his arm around me at church, or his hand on my knee during each prayer. I know he desires to be closer to me and closer to God. That he wants us together in covenant marriage.

But, he's been doing it alone. I'm a pray at night girl. I pray before I sleep and usually fall asleep doing it. There isn't a lot of thought put into it, and it is haphazard like a lot of other things in my life. It isn't a productive way to pursue a relationship with God. It is an exhale on my day.

But that is changing. I now see that we have been doing it apart. We need to do it together. He needs me and I certainly need him. Until recently we haven't talked about that. We haven't prayed together -- we haven't thanked God together. I know a lot of that comes down to my awkwardness -- for whatever reason, I have a stumbling block on praying aloud - praying with an audience - but I want to.  I pray for Hubs now more than ever. I pray short prayers all day long now. I pray for the future husbands of my girls. I pray for Him to ease my fears. I pray for him to allow me to give me the tools to be a more faithful friend to my Hubs. I pray that He helps me be more giving of myself. I pray that God makes me more vulnerable to my husband's love.

So, we're starting with Tuesday nights. We are reading together. Last night we read about friendship in marriage and while it was really important to hear certain things, I kept thanking God -- I have a great friendship with my spouse. God has blessed us with much and friendship is the crucial glue that keeps us together and laughing. I still have a heck of a time allowing myself to just be  - I am a Type A extrovert with a tendency to control and judge - but God blessed me with my partner in life who is teaching me that it is ok to feel, it is ok to trust and ok to allow for events to unfold on their own. To be prayerful and accepting of His grace. This is all new to me...

So we are reading. My hubs picked the book and it is thought provoking - Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll. Two weeks into our new routine, I have some thoughts on the content of the book itself, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that we are praying together - reading together - and talking together - in a way that we haven't routinely done before. It is a small thing but it is doing wonders in my heart.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My God Loves Me Story

Just like in school, I'm not following directions well. The Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies weekly blog post topics included "My God Love Story". Which sounds like a perfectly lovely idea.. but this is what is on my mind today and it is more aptly my, "My God Loves Me Love Story"...

When I was eighteen years old, a ripe young thing, I was blessed with the opportunity to participate in the English-Speaking Union Secondary School Exchange. I left the beautiful confines of the Christian community at the The Stony Brook School (my home as a fac brat) and boarded the British Airlines flight from JFK to London's Heathrow Airport. Now, a little bit of background information for you...

The Stony Brook School, my high school and my home, is conveniently located directly across the street from the train station in Stony Brook, NY. Chapman Parkway, above, is literally directly across 25A from the Stony Brook train station. So, in my youth, if you wanted to go into the the City (as we locals called it and it is THE City such that no other city can ever compare), you hopped on the Long Island Railroad listened to the conductor shout out the stops until you might change trains in Huntington or Oyster Bay or Jamaica, and then bam, you are in a tunnel and heading towards Penn Station. It was rather convenient.

So, when assigned to the quaint Benenden School in Benenden Kent, it never occurred to my sheltered 18 year old mind, how would I get from the train station to the school. It would be, of course, directly across the street.... or not.

The English-Speaking Union gave us orientation. They put us on the plane. They welcomed us in their London headquarters, and then, they shuffled us off to our respective train stations in London. I was sent to Charing Cross. I said goodbye to the other students who were on different trains. From there, I was left with my 3 large Eddie Bauer duffle bags and told to disembark the Southeastern train at Staplehurst, Kent.

My memory is vague. I know I was tired. I was anxious. I was afraid of missing the station. I was afraid of missing a train change. I told the conductor where I was trying to get to - and he shuffled me off the train at one point and helped me on another. My train car was emptying. With each stop more passengers disembarked. I could hardly read the signs on the stations as we flew threw them, in many the train did not stop. It was raining. I learned later, for England, it was raining hard. It was past dinner time. The sun was down. It was dark. I did not know where I was headed.

It felt like a long time later but finally the conductor came to me and said: "Staplehurst next". He motioned that he would assist me getting my bags off the train. I stood up. Fatigued from the flight, the train and the nerves, I noticed not one soul left on the train. The train lurched to a stop. My bags and I were dropped at Staplehurst Station. A couple others got off the train and quickly headed up the stairs and out of sight.

I dragged my stuff into the rain shelter. I looked American. I mean, really American. Blonde hair, blue-eyed, baseball cap wearing American.

A voice: "Miss? Do you need help?"

There stood a nicely dressed gentleman. A man in a suit. A man with a Barbour jacket on. A man who knew I didn't belong here. I man that could have very easily taken advantage of me. I needed this man's help.

I told him I was going to Benenden School. That I was an exchange student. He told me to stay where I was and he would get the bell hop to assist getting my bags over the foot bridge (see photo of bridge to cross - imagine.... rain, dark and a years worth of 18 year old girl luggage!).

I waited. I had no option but to trust this man. I was from New York. I knew not to trust strangers. But I had no options. I was completely at this man's mercy. I said a little prayer - God help me - and he was back.

"The station is closed. Is someone picking you up? How are you getting to Benenden? Well, with this rain, your ride might be waiting in the car."

Yes! That's it. He or She is in the car.

"Lets get your bags over there." And there he went, grabbing my two large duffles and dragging them, step by step up the stairs and we scurried across the bridge.

There was no one in a car. There was no one at the station. There wasn't even a light on.

"Do you have a phone card? Do you have someone you can call?"

Surely I could call a taxi. I had some money. But I had no phone card, and if you are in England you know that pay phones operate on phone cards. I was stuck. The true reality of the situation had not occurred to me. Later I learned that Staplehurst is a 7.2 mile drive thru the rolling country roads of Kent to Benenden.

I shook my head. I had no one. I had not a single person I could call. I couldn't even call if I wanted to. I didn't have a name or a number. In my mind, I was going to hop off the train and scuttle across the street to my new school. I never imagined this. I could call my parents and cry, but that wouldn't help.

This man.. in his suit and his English manners... he looked at me, and he said: "Term started last week. You are late. I have to go by Benenden Village on my way home. I am a father of one, and I'm on my way home from a business meeting in London. Let me get my car, I will drop you."

I don't remember saying yes. I just knew I had no choice.

I let this man load my life into the "boot" of his Audi and got myself into what should have been the drivers seat. I was so overwhelmed I couldn't even process what was happening.

Off we sped thru narrow sunken lanes. Hedges on both sides. Rain pounding on the windshield. He spoke of his family. He asked about my exchange program. How did I get choosen? What organization? I remember talking but more than anything I remember feeling completely at this man's mercy.

We arrived into Benenden School. We drove around the dorms and pulled behind my assigned House. Out came my House Mistress who scolded me about not showing up on the train I was supposed to be on! And who was this man? Why didn't I call?

This man... he handed me his business card. He said that I should call him if I ever needed anything. Come over for dinner. Meet his family. I put the card in my pocket

Girls watched thru the kitchen windows as the House Mistresses grabbed my things dismissed my ride and got me out of the rain. I was making a scene and got a reputation. I was quickly ensconced into what would become my life for the next year. Uniform and all.

I wrote Graham Tardiff. I wrote a Thank You card. The card was "returned to sender". 

I called Graham Tardiff. The phone number was "disconnected".

I still have Graham Tardiff's card. I would post a picture but out of respect for Graham Tardiff's privacy, I won't...

If you need Graham Tardiff, all you have to do is pray. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Oh Sweet! Paper Bakeware Giveaway!

I am riding a tide of Legoland overload and Mary & Martha National Conference, and guess what? Thursday is our favorite day in my house! So what better way to celebrate than with a Giveaway?! 

This is because I love you, and also I'd love to hit 200 Likes on my Facebook Page, so enter, share, tweet, lets get more women introduced to the amazing message of Mary & Martha. Open your home to host a Gathering, and let me bless you with the hostess rewards! 

The Mary & Martha Mission: 
We empower women to share their love of God and makes a real difference in people's lives. 

What We Do:
We provide shared experiences and inspiring products that WELCOME, SERVE and CONNECT people, while bringing them closer to each other and to God.

Why You Should Join:
Mary & Martha is more than a business -- we're a community that laughs, prays, cries and celebrates life together. 

Enter this Giveaway for a chance to win Oh Sweet Bundt Pans, Oh Sweet Large Food Trays and Oh Sweet Large Cups. You will love that you can bake up to 400 degrees, freeze and throw away this cute bakeware. Perfect for baked gifts or parties. No pan to return! Two Bundt pans = 1 cake mix! 

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Preamble of my WHY

I've been running. Physically, in the past 10 days, I've been to San Diego, Phoenix, Kansas City and Phoenix again. I've been reading, Jack Canfield, Lysa Terkeurst, Psalms, Hebrews. A not so conspicuous recurring theme, ok, God has been smacking me over the head with it:

What is my story? What is my Why?

Now, I've sat through a number sermons that have encouraged me to write my testimony. But my Why is more of a testimony of where I've been and how I accepted Christ as Lord, it is the question: How do I live now? How do I now act? Am I being obedient in my calling?

Jack Canfield calls it your personal mission statement - it is the one sentence that encompasses the goal of everything that you do. Now, it all sounds really simple and easy. One sentence. Everything. All tasks, all moments, all purposeful intention should be put towards furthering your Y. Your personal mission.

I've always been wildly jealous of those women who just know......... they were born with this intense burning desire to pursue a certain talent, professional or mission. They seem to be hardwired with an intensity and passion for their calling. They have no doubt. They just march, step by step, towards their goal in relentless pursuit.

I am not one of these people. Oh, I wish I was. I remember in my college years wondering what I was doing. I remember sitting on a balcony in Baltimore lamenting my lack of drive. Wondering what I was intended to do? What am I going to do when I grow up?

And now, I am all grown up. With a loving husband and three beautiful daughters. Sometimes I look around and wonder: How did I get here?! I didn't just stumble onto this blessed life and  yet, I am still full of awe of what I've become and where I've landed.

At Mary & Martha national conference this weekend, the theme was: 

Embrace your Place. 

Maybe my Y isn't a big ambitious goal. Maybe I'm not going to win an Olympic medal (pretty much no chance of that), but maybe my calling is sitting here just waiting to be fulfilled, as a mom, as a contributor to my family, as a Christian in my community. Maybe my calling is to be the best I can be in the place that I am. It isn't glamorous, but it is real. Jesus was real, so I am in good company in my humanity. Maybe my mission is right here and all I have to do is obey. Act. Embrace it. Do something instead of sitting here wondering..

I don't have my one sentence personal mission statement yet. I am putting pen to paper and working on that, so stayed tuned. But I have written down 5 goals that I have in the next year. These are personal goals, and they clearly cannot be accomplished without strengthening my relationship with Christ. They involve acting, doing and obeying:

1. Be a more patient, engaged, Christ-loving mother and spouse
2. Make my house more than a pass thru, make it a home, practice hospitality
3. Take care of the body God gave me, be healthier, lose 50lbs
4. Use the gifts God gave me as a leader, in all my jobs and in the community
5. Work towards more financial security

I've got a lot of work to do but I am renewed in the Spirit and ready to obey. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25.