Thursday, February 28, 2013

Stepping Out

Blended families are tough.  There's multiple parenting styles, multiple celebrations, multiple family traditions, all melting together somehow.  Multiple opportunities to have conflict.  Multiple opportunities to show grace.

We've had our share of conflict; every family does.  But God is showing me that conflict brings with it a gift.  That gift is grace.  How we handle that conflict reflects how we let God handle our hearts and how we handle our own conflicts with God.

We can lash out at the other person, with shouts and claims of how right we are.  We can sulk, and close ourselves off emotionally and physically, in an attempt to make the other person prove they deserve our love.  We can give the silent treatment, and in turn give pride a stronger foothold on our soul.  We can hold onto unforgiveness, and allow bitterness to grow in those richly fertile fields.


Or we can choose to work together for the common good.  We can choose to remember that what we fight against is not each other, but the dark forces that are very much at work in the world.  We can reach out and touch and remind one another that we are still here, still supporting even if we disagree. We can forgive and set our own souls free, and those that have hurt us, to be the beautiful creation God intended full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  We can allow God to exercise whatever judgement He deems necessary for the fulfillment of His will.

I'm learning that I have a choice.  Free will.  I'm learning that blessings follow when I choose Jesus and His ways.  I'm learning to step out of my comfort zone.  I'm learning that forgiveness and grace are daily needs for all of us. I'm learning to slow down so that I can remember.

When I take the time to reflect on all of God's mercies in my own life, I can't help but want to pass those mercies on to others.  But, when  I allow my life to become full of activities to the point that I am passing myself on the stairs,  I lose the ability to offer grace.  I snap.  I don't seem joyful.  I trade peace for confusion and chaos.  My kindness is not readily noticeable.  Goodness is not my first thought.  I become faithful only to myself.  I have an edge I don't normally have.  Self-control becomes a stranger.

Stepping out in faith is what brings the blessings.  Stepping out in faith that God will provide, even when it seems impossible.  Stepping out even when life screams for you to hold back.  Stepping out into the beautiful life God created just for me, the life He created just for you.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

In Memory

I had a blog post typed and ready to send this morning.  However, last night before going to bed I checked facebook.  I learned that my great uncle, my favorite great uncle, had died suddenly from a heart attack just a couple of hours earlier.  My head spun, my heart raced, the tears came.  I kept seeing vivid memories of him and I needed to share them.  It may not mean much to you, especially if you never knew him; but it's something I need to do for me and for my kids who will really only know him from my memories.

Tony Baker was my great uncle.  His real name was Will Rogers Baker, although I don't think I've ever gotten the story as to how he became known as Tony.  He was more like an uncle since he wasn't that much older than my dad.  He lived fairly close by while I was growing up and we visited often, even having a family reunion at his house many years ago.  He was the baby of the family and everyone loved him.  Everyone.  His oldest sister was my daddy's mama, MaMa.  The Baker family has touched my heart in such a way that my son's middle name is Baker.  The desk in my daughter's room is from Tony and Fay, a piece that was handed down to me around her age.  It's a family of which I am deeply proud to be a member.

The Bakers are fun-loving people; Tony most of all.  He was already ready with a smile, a hug, a handshake, a good pat on the back.  Always up for a game of Rook, a game of golf, or a game of practical jokes and funny stories; Uncle Tony spread joy liberally.

He was devoted to his family. He gave more than he took.  He was gracious, kind, and loving.  He was an active Rotary member and an Army Ranger, a Green Beret, devoted to his country and his fellow man.

He was the kind of man that left you feeling encouraged, accepted, loved simply by being in his presence.  He was full of grace, common sense, and a deep faith in God.  He looked for the best, accepted the worst, and kept putting one foot in front of the other.

He was the kind of man that we need more of today if our future generation has any chance at succeeding in life and drawing people to Jesus.  He was full of integrity and character, wit and intellect, humility and honor.

The last time I saw him was at our most recent family reunion last June.  It was also my daughter's birthday, so the day was extra special.  I can still hear his voice, his laugh, his prodding of the photographer, my nephew, to hurry to get into the family photo.  He was such a joy.  He will be greatly missed.

I'm betting he is sitting in Heaven giving my MaMa a hard time about something.  I'm betting he's slapping his brothers on their backs as they welcome him home.  I'm betting he's already hugged his mom and dad and I know they are glad to have him home.

He was a blessing, and I'm a better person for having had him in my life.

Lord Jesus, comfort us all as we mourn our loss.  Be near and remind us of your grace, your love.  Hold us close and wipe away our tears. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Rainy Days and Tuesdays

I couldn't resist.  I'm a fan of Karen Carpenter.  Love her voice.

There are so many things on my mind this rainy Tuesday morning.  I'm guessing it will take me a few blog posts to organize the thoughts into some semblance of order.  I'm hopeful at least one of them will connect with you in some way.

I've been sick now for over a week.  It stinks.  For most of the time, I've been in bed trying to be as still as possible, my attempt at keeping the racking cough at bay.

When I was finally better enough to sit up for a bit, the blinding migraine started.  Really?  From what I hear, it was a beautiful weekend.  I missed it.  My kids were home this past weekend.  I missed most, if not all, their activities.  Have I mentioned being sick stinks?

There were blessings this weekend, even in the midst of being confined to my bed.  My parents live about 20 minutes away.  My mama met me at the doctor's office, took me to get my prescription, took me home, made me lunch, tucked me in.  My daddy picked up my kids (all four of them) from school, took them to their practices, brought them home, fed them, laughed with them, loved them.  My brother lives about 25 minutes away.  He got my kids to their Upward game, even though his own wife was home sick herself. My parents brought us one of their cars to use while ours is in the shop.

My husband...well, he did everything I usually do on top of all he usually does, including coach two of the boys in basketball, and went to the baseball draft for Little League.  He took all four kids to a family party for my Grandmother's 85th birthday (Happy Belated Birthday!).  He took the kids to church, went to baseball practice and back to church for the Upwards celebration.  He took the boys shopping for new cleats, practice pants, and anything else they needed.  He cooked.  He cleaned.  He did laundry.  He took care of me.  He loved me like Christ loves the Church.

Now, what did I do beside lay in the bed like a slug?  I was short-tempered with my mom and my husband.  The very people who were caring for me and loving me.  Why?  Because they weren't doing the things I usually do the way I usually do them.  Ugh.

I also learned a lot.  God offers us blessings every day.  It's our job to look for them, seek them out.  Be one of those blessings.  Allow God to use us to bless someone else.  Thank God for using others to bless us.  Thank them for allowing God to use them (even if they don't realize it).

Look for the good.  It's there.  Look for God.  He's there.

Even when the rains fall.  Even when the car breaks down in the parking garage on a Friday afternoon.  Even when you are sick.  Even when the dog's muddy paw prints decorate your freshly cleaned carpet.

Even when...