Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I'll Always be Daddy's Little Girl

“Daddy’s Little Girl” is a title for which most little girls yearn. I know I certainly did. As a young child, I often climbed up into my daddy’s lap in search of his love. It was a privilege to ride tall above the others on his shoulders. Whether at the dinner table or in the church pew, I claimed the seat directly next to him. When the cards I picked or the poems I wrote left him struggling with his emotions, I found myself pleased. I craved my daddy’s time, attention, love and even his tears.

The annual trips we took as a family to the zoo and amusement park gave me an opportunity to claim my daddy for myself. Completely secure in his love, I would go between my parents and separate their interlocked fingers until I stood between them. I wasn’t content until I was the one walking hand in hand with my dad. His rough hands, calloused from long hard hours of labor in construction, left me feeling valued and secure as they enveloped mine. Holding his hand was my declaration to the world that I belonged to him. I was always very proud to be “Daddy’s Little Girl” and wonder, at times, if he cherished our moments together even more.

There is a special bond between a little girl and her daddy. Moreover, I believe that a little girl’s view of God can be deeply rooted in her opinion of her earthly father. Thankfully, as I was seeking my daddy’s love and acceptance, he was seeking God. On Sunday mornings, my dad would sit at the dining room table with his coffee and his Bible. To this day, I can still hear his voice singing out his favorite hymns in praise to God. As I filter through my childhood memories, I value the way my dad exemplified a relationship with God. For all too soon, I would come to grasp the impact of his example in my life.

My world altered drastically the night the doctor called to confirm the diagnosis. While my dad accepted it a little too easily, I refused to believe it. Could I even imagine life without my dad? Over the next year, I watched as the body he prided himself in keeping so physically fit deteriorated. The last time I held my daddy’s hand, it was that of a man whose body was ridden with cancer. As I felt his strong calloused hands for the final moment, I was overcome by just how much it meant to be secure in his love. While “the strongest man in the world” was ripped from me because of a disease we never saw coming, there was still a comfort in knowing my identity stood secure.

I am no longer able to seek approval from the father who raised me. However, in my greatest loss, I have found my richest treasure: it was God’s unconditional love and approval I should have been seeking all along. The determination I had to win my dad’s heart was a pathway to a relationship much more important. No matter how old I get, where I go or what I do, I can be secure in my relationship with my Heavenly Father. All my desires, longings and cravings need to rest in God alone.

I firmly believe that my temporary relationship with my earthly father gave me just a glimpse of my eternal relationship with my Heavenly Father. Every time I seek God’s time, attention, love and approval, my heart is flooded with the knowledge that He cherishes our moments together even more. I want to declare to the world that I belong to Him! Being God’s child, I am forever secure in my identity as “Daddy’s Little Girl”.

“God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure.” [emphasis added] ~ Ephesians 1:5 (NLT)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Lenten Lesson

I’ve been contemplating my experience with giving up desserts for Lent this year. While I did avoid desserts technically, I also found that I am really good at making excuses for exceptions. Pop Tarts were justified even in the evening because they are a breakfast choice, a piece of candy was allowable because I wouldn’t normally eat it as a dessert, and banana bread... obviously is bread... not dessert.

This season taught me that I easily make excuses as to why I don’t live the best life God desires for me. It’s sad really. Jesus Christ gave His life for me and I want to make excuses as to why I won’t keep a commitment I made out of my own free will.

More often than not, I did choose to turn down desserts in the days leading up to Easter. I passed on cake and other delicacies while avoiding the binge foods I find myself craving all too often. Most of the time, I made the conscious choice that I was giving up these choice foods for a greater reason. I was reminded to rely on and lean on God to give me the strength to say “no” to something I seem to lack the willpower to do on my own. And in those moments I justified eating a bowl of cereal in place of a dessert, I have learned about myself and the areas I need to change.

Giving up something for Lent is a matter of personal choice. As far as I’m aware, there isn’t anything in the Bible that dictates this practice. That, in and of itself, left me finding wiggle room in my choices that allowed my conscience to temporarily justify and make exceptions. Overall, I learned that all too often desserts (as well as so many other things) are helping me escape and avoid the unnecessary all the while helping me to escape and avoid my true desire for God as well.

My friend, Lisa, posted about her experience with giving up the computer for Lent. Here’s what she had to say: “I have found that I use it, like people use TV, shopping, or working out...to ESCAPE! Reading posts, viewing photos, surfing through etsy, and my own writing allows me to leave the chaos of life behind for awhile. However, I think at times I was also using technology to AVOID. There is quite a difference between those two words, escape and avoid. We all need to escape once in a while, but not avoid what might surround us in our day to day lives. Whether it was screaming kids, laundry, dinner, a looming doctors visit, a workout, or other unpleasant chores, I could put them on hold, if only for a little while. But my need to escape or avoid, whichever way you look at it, was only causing bigger problems, no time to get those necessary things done.”

She said it perfectly. I escape and avoid everything in life with anything possible… including food. Every time I found myself desiring some delectable dessert, I was faced with the question as to what my real desire was. Rarely, am I truly desiring dessert. I’ve simply created a habit that seems to temporarily allow me to escape… or avoid. Lent has opened my eyes further to the fact that I need to seek God in those moments I find myself reaching for food, flipping on the television or turning to the computer.

I need to utilize these negative responses as positive triggers… to turn my eyes on Jesus. My understanding behind the purpose of Lent is to prepare our hearts and minds for reflection on what Christ did for us. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are something we should constantly be living in light of. Therefore, the season of Lent should spur us on to change, not just during the days leading up to Easter, but rather, as inspiration for how we live life each day.

“And [Jesus] said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.’ Then He said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?’ – Luke 9:22-25

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Third Thursday Thoughts: Miracles



Today I am participating in a blog hop with Hearts at Home. On the third Thursday of every month, I have the opportunity to write on a specific topic and link up with other bloggers and Jill Savage. This Third Thursday’s Thoughts are prompted by the question, “Have you experienced any miracles in your life?”

I cannot tell you how desperately I wish I could tell a story here about the way God healed my dad from cancer… but I can’t. While my dad is no longer suffering from cancer, it was not through the miracle I had hoped and prayed for. Dad is whole now only because he is with Jesus.

Just 3 months later, light came in a dark moment that will forever remind me that God truly works in miraculous ways. Unprepared to face death all over again, we said goodbye to my unconscious father-in-law. The next morning, fully prepared to see his lifeless body and begin funeral preparation, I walked my girls in to be greeted by their Grandpa’s smile as he spoke their names. Our Heavenly Father graced us with a miracle of bonus days to cherish before our final goodbye.

There is another moment, when I think of miracles, that my mind immediately flashbacks to. When I was a kid, our family dogs went missing. After 4 long days, my family gathered around the dining room table to pray for their return. The miracle of the reunion with our cherished pets was a lesson in the power of prayer that I’ve carried with me through life.

While these moments remind me that our God truly does work miracles, I am impressed with the reality that the biggest miracle in my life may not even resonate as a miracle to anyone other than my husband and me. Every time we hear another heartbreaking story of a marriage falling apart, I am reminded to lift up a prayer of thanksgiving for the miracle God performed in mine.

The first five years of our marriage were plain hard. Married just a year after my graduating class’s pomp and circumstance from high school, I heard the whispers of the mistake we were making. We dated for a short 6 months followed by a quick 6 month engagement. It was a union that, to outsiders, seemed to happen way too quickly. In the years to come, I cast blame all too easily on my 7-year-older husband for all of my unhappiness in our marriage.

Young and insecure, I entered our relationship with a broken heart that hadn’t had time to heal. All of my friends were enjoying the prime of their college life as I played house with this man. While he was my best friend on that day of wedded bliss, I couldn’t even convince myself a couple years into it that someone hadn’t held a gun to my head. It really is sad how all the reasons we choose our spouse get blurred when the going gets tough.

Financial stress didn’t help matters much and our biggest problem has always been miscommunication. Adjusting to combining our families of origin and all the traditions and expectations that came with it was overwhelming. Depression took over my soul as we found ourselves living as roommates, all the while, I thought, putting on a happily married show in public.

A friend of mine invited us to FamilyLife's Weekend to Remember. We went having no idea what to expect. I don’t remember much of that weekend outside of the comment my friend made in a moment when the two of us were alone. “You don’t seem to like him much.” I was caught off guard and my response was a flood of tears. It was time to face the truth.

My husband and I started getting real with one another. We shared the hidden secrets of our hearts. The fears of coexistence, for life in a marriage, forever lacking the passionate love we so desperately desired, came to the surface. We made changes in our lives but it was a gradual process that I cannot even pinpoint today. While I cannot give anyone a step-by-step process as to how to save a marriage, I do know God worked a miracle in mine.

In a small book entitled God Things Come in Small Packages, I read words that penetrated my heart of stone. “God often has to do open-heart surgery in us and replace a calloused heart with one that trusts and risks everything for the sweet reward of love and life.” I remember sitting as tears flooded my eyes and I surrendered my heart to God’s plan for my life.

I quit focusing on everything that was so blaringly in need of change with my husband and I began to allow God to change me. The One-Who-Performs-Miracles once again had access to my hardened heart. Slowly, I began to feel again. Little by little, I was able to see the positive in my husband as I took my focus off of him and placed my focus on who God wanted me to become.

While God transformed me, I had no idea that my husband was doing anything to work on our marriage. Years later, I learned that my husband petitioned God to save our marriage. As I was falling deeper and deeper into darkness, my husband was fasting and begging God for a miracle. This man I married because of his love for God, captured my heart with his response to our deteriorating marriage.

We will be married for 15 years this summer and I am continually reminded that the survival of my marriage was nothing short of a miracle. I can honestly say today that a life without my husband is not one I can imagine nor would I want to. We overcame a failing union because God performs miracles.

In the pit, God took my heart of stone and gave me life again. God works miracles all the time. Sometimes we just need to be willing to open our hearts to allow the miracles to happen and open our eyes to be witness.

“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” ~ Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT)



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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Our Firm Foundation

I remember the songs we sang as kids in Sunday School engraining the truths of God’s Word in our hearts and minds. Luke 6:47-49 was embedded into our souls with a little song as we motioned with our fists. “The wise man built his house upon the rock. The wise man built his house upon the rock. The wise man built his house upon the rock and the rains came tumbling down. The rains came down and the floods went up. The rains came down and the floods went up. The rains came down and the floods went up. And the house on the rock stood firm.” It was fun to sing about the foolish man because we were able to slap our hands hard together declaring that his house upon the sand went “splat”! However, the message of the song was clear: the only foundation firm enough to build your life upon is the Lord Jesus Christ.

In today’s world, where God is only acknowledged in flippant phrases or cursing, it can be lonely to establish this foundation not only for our children but for ourselves. When “what’s right for you is right for you” and “what’s right for me is right for me”, how can anyone stand firm on anything these days?

Who determines what is right or wrong in any given situation? Author Josh McDowell in his book, Right from Wrong states that, “There is an absolute righteous God and we must compare our attitudes and actions to Him and His word to determine whether our actions are right or wrong. His Word gives us specific and absolute guidelines as to the rightness or wrongness of our attitudes and actions.”

It is extremely important to embrace strong moral standards as a parent. As Carol Kuykendall in Five Star Families stresses, “We can’t pass on something we ourselves don’t have”.

“The most powerful tool [we possess as a positive mom] is holding God’s values in higher esteem than the world’s” Karol Ladd reminds us in The Power of a Positive Mom. “The standards set forth in Scripture are not just a set of rules and regulations, but instructions for a joyful and fulfilling life.” ~ Karol Ladd

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Running and Relying

I'm in my final week of training before the Rockdale Ramblin 10K... and I've got a head cold. Thankfully, mileage the week before a race always tapers. Now, I'm just hopeful I can breathe come Saturday. (Not to mention my request of God for no rain just for the hour of the race - a wet 50 degrees just won't be fun).

I managed to get up and out of bed first thing in the morning to get my miles in both days that I needed to this week. Monday and today I had "short" runs of 3 and 2 miles. Both days I found myself praying for God to help me get through the run (actually I pray this prayer every time I run). As I continued to send up the same prayer over and over again, I came to a realization.

I run because it helps me feel better about myself. If I'm honest, the main reason I run is probably because I get to eat a little bit more without putting on more pounds. Currently, I've been running because I cannot complete a 10K without training. With the race almost behind me, I am faced with the question of whether or not I will make this a habit or go back to making excuses once again.

The realization I was hit with as I cried out to God was that I need to run because it draws me closer to Him. I can't recall a time I've run where I haven't spent time in prayer. Even when it is simply a cry for the run to end. Running teaches me to rely on Him. The discipline required as well as the aches and pains and my feeling of defeat remind me that I need to keep my eyes on God. While running is a small discipline I am learning, it reminds me of a bigger picture.

I'll continue running because it reminds me of my need to rely on God... for everything.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Soldier of God by Nikelle Carlson



As I was sorting through papers today, I found "A Story of Being God's Friend: SOLDIER OF GOD" written by Nikelle.

She writes:

Dedicated to Dad, God's best friend

Being a best friend to God is like having a party for your whole life. Whenever you become God's friend, the angels are having a party for you. I am a friend of God, and I know what it feels like. I know that I am protected. I chose to admit and believe and it feels great. Now I want to tell the world about God. Now, when I'm in big tests, like I'm in the ISAT, I know there is nothing to worry about. God is your master, and you need to obey his word. Pray for people you don't know and be friends to your enemies. Do not use God's name in vain. Follow the ten commandments. Obey your parents. Become a christian, just like me. Then you will become a Soldier of God.

It's a wonderful surprise to get a peak into my daughter's heart as I'm sorting through papers.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Running the Race

I’m signed up to run a 10K in less than 2 weeks. I’ve kept on track with the 8-week training schedule but I’m still anxious. There was a time in my life that I thought completing a mile would be impossible, let alone “the toughest 10K in the Midwest”. The race seems rather intimidating but I will stay on course and finish the race.

Running any kind of miles is never truly at the top of my priority list. I dread getting on the treadmill or even going outside. That’s why I made the commitment to this race. Personally, I need a goal to strive for or I all too easily make excuses to blow off exercise entirely. Setting a goal gives me something specific to aim for.

One thing I realize as I’m running is that I tend to focus too much on the path directly in front of me. If I’m on the treadmill, my eyes watch the numbers work ever so slowly up to the moment I can declare completion. If I’m on a trail, I watch for obstacles to avoid and stay overly focused on where I am. When I’m tired, my eyes naturally go to my feet. I have learned that I need to be intentional with focusing on where I need to be instead of where I am. The run doesn’t feel quite as overwhelming that way. When I choose a focal point on the course ahead of me, it’s easier to persevere to the end. Envisioning the finish line is the best way to stay on course.

Running has helped me to understand life a little bit better. I now have tangible pictures of perseverance in my mind because of the endurance training I have completed. When I think about the mess my life is in at a current moment, I remember that the race is often easier if I keep my focus on the finish line. I can feel like I am drowning in life when I focus on the here and now. It is only when I keep my eyes on Jesus and eternity that the intimidation of today dissipates and I can continue the race.

“We are surrounded by a great cloud of people whose lives tell us what faith means. So let us run the race that is before us and never give up. We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way and the sin that so easily holds us back. Let us look only to Jesus, the One who began our faith and who makes it perfect. He suffered death on the cross. But he accepted the shame as if it were nothing because of the joy that God put before him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God's throne. Think about Jesus' example. He held on while wicked people were doing evil things to him. So do not get tired and stop trying.” – Hebrews 12:1-3 (NCV)

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV)

“I do not mean that I am already as God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal, but I continue trying to reach it and to make it mine. Christ wants me to do that, which is the reason he made me his. Brothers and sisters, I know that I have not yet reached that goal, but there is one thing I always do. Forgetting the past and straining toward what is ahead, I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God called me through Christ to the life above.” – Philippians 3:12-14 (NCV)

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.” - 2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NLT)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Scarred

Recently, I have been recalling a memory from my childhood that is somewhat fuzzy. While the memory does not come clearly into focus, I remember sitting on our family’s sofa as my mom tended to my bloody knee. From what I recall, my mom was overgenerous in her offering of Fudgesicles as she worked to clean my wound caused by a bicycle accident.

When I was a kid, the child’s seats attached to a parent’s bike were slightly different than those of today. This one had metal handlebars with a somewhat rectangular shaped seat. My brother (who is just 1-year and 2-days older than me) and I were both placed in the same seat intended for a single rider. After conferring with my mom, I think the picture was that of me sitting behind him hugging his waist as though we are both riding on a motorcycle. My mom thinks that my legs must have been sticking out straight (rather than nicely bent like my brother) so we could both fit. This was the position I was in when the bike spun out and my knee caught the worst of the accident in the gravel.

I like to recall this story to harass my mom a bit about where her thought process was prior to the bike ride. When I’m working through my food and weight issues, this memory comes to mind so I can pass the buck. While the main reason for reminiscing on this moment is the scar I know bare. I eagerly shared the story with a smile, just the other day, when my 2-year-old inquired as to its existence in front of my mom.

The scar stories we can tell with a smile reveal healing. It’s the stories of our scars that we want to keep hidden that bring us tears and pain and leave us feeling quite alone. I have those kinds of scars too: rejection, alienation, betrayal, broken dreams, a broken heart, loss, etc. The list is long for each of us.

At church yesterday, we began a new series entitled “Scar”. The gist of it, from my understanding, is that we are all scarred. We are all messed up and we need to face or scars in order to achieve the healing God desires for us. God can use us most when our scars are uncovered.

“Everyone has scars. No one runs the human race scar-free. No one.” My heart resounded in agreement as my pastor spoke. Too many times we think we can only come to God after we’ve cleaned up our life. The truth is that God wants us to come to him just the way we are. He doesn’t want us to attempt to hide our scars. Our scars are where Jesus desires to use us greatly. Jesus understands scars better than anyone.

“That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! ‘Peace be with you,’ he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord!” - John 20:19-20 (NLT)

Jesus’ scars give us reason for joy. Because of Jesus, we are more than a mess; we are now a redeemed mess. We need to keep our focus on Jesus’ scars.
“But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” - Isaiah 53:5 (NLT)
While my list of scars runs deeper than a wounded knee, I don’t have to attempt to cover up my scars. Jesus already did.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Ultimate Blog Party 2011

It is my practice to decline invitations to parties where I don't know many people. I feel awkward and don't like the person I become in those types of situations. More often than not, however, I realize that much of what I appreciate about my life arrived after a journey through uncomfortable. With that in mind, I'm joining the Ultimate Blog Party 2011!

It was almost 4 years ago that I started blogging as a way to cope with my dad's battle with cancer. I was able to express my thoughts in writing and have a central source for people to get updates on my dad. In all honesty, a blog seemed like the perfect, safe place for me to express myself in written word without the risk of rejection.

The central theme of my blog came from a conversation with some of my friends about our identity. Something didn't sit right with me as I listened to my friends expose themselves as "mom" or "wife". What would happen to my identity if God forbid, I ever lost those titles?

Thankfully, I came to the conclusion that my identity stood secure in God alone. On February 27, 2008, my dad met His Maker and I started on my ultimate journey through uncomfortable. My dad's death rocked my world and taught me lessons I never realized needed to be learned (and I'm still learning).

While I can seek my approval, security, love and acceptance in many people, there is only One will will never disappoint. That is the center of my writing for that is the center of my soul. I am continually seeking my identity as "A Child of God".

This blog is simply my honest compilation of struggles and joys from a girl seeking Her God. My heart's desire is that as God is teaching me, He can somehow teach others as well. I will gladly journey through the uncomfortable for on the other side God shows me He is the one who satisfies all my desires!

Intentional Parenting

I follow Jill Savage's blog regularly. Jill is the Founder of Hearts at Home. This ministry has been instrumental in making me comfortable in my own skin as a mother and a wife. Jill is honest and open about her own mistakes, reminding me that I am not alone. On her blog today, she is linking up to the Ultimate Blog Party 2011. She is also giving away copies of Hearts at Home books every day (April 1-8). For an opportunity to win her book, My Heart's at Home, all I need to do is leave a comment of one thing I do intentionally as a mom. My mind is drawing a blank. Maybe it is because I am too focused on what she does intentionally that I just can’t focus on my own mothering. Jill says: “I’ll share first…I intentionally try to listen with my eyes. Sometimes it’s hard to make it happen, but I try to stop what I’m doing, look at my husband or son or daughter, and listen with both my ears and my eyes.” That is truly intentional parenting.

There have to be many things I do intentionally. Otherwise, I better reexamine my mothering. I know I am intentional about getting my girls to bed at a decent hour. Making time with grandparents and other extended family is something I’ve always been intentional in implementing. It is important to me to protect their innocence and allow them to just be kids. When their birthdays come around each year, I am intentional about celebrating them and writing a letter to give them when they are older. I know I attempt to be intentional in my parenting. So why is it haunting me that I’m not doing enough?

Whatever comment I thinking of writing as my attempt at intentional parenting seems to be lacking. I know my desire for my children when they are adults. My prayer is that my girls would live in relationship with God. When I talk to my God about my girls I express my desire for them to live in grateful response to all He has done for them. It’s my prayer for my own life as well. Maybe what I do intentionally is parent with thought of the future. While there are moments that I parent with no thought of tomorrow, I do my best to always remember the reason these girls are on loan to me from God. I am to raise them so they can fulfill His purpose for their lives. I want them to be women after God’s own heart. I want them to love Him with their whole heart, soul, mind and strength and I want them to love others.

Being a good mom is more than just making sure they are happy. My goal cannot be to have them view me as their best friend. I can’t simply compete for their heart (it’s a loss anyway as all three of them are daddy’s little girl). Parenting is more than just making sure they receive a good education or achieve their personal best in sports or other activities. 3 John 1:4 sums it up for me. “There is no greater joy than to hear my children are walking in the truth.” I am intentional in parenting with the thought of their future on my mind.

It’s a good question to answer: What is one thing you do intentionally as a parent?