Faithful Living

Tomorrow, I have a doctor’s appointment.  It’s one of those, “We have the results of your lab work, and it’s nothing major, but we’d like to discuss it with you” type appointments.  The kind that give folks nervous butterflies, anxious feelings and sleepless nights.  But I’m not worried.  Well, not really.

Of course a teeny, tiny part of me does worry, because I believe it’s human nature.  Those of us cursed with the “worst case scenario” visions are prone to worrying and fretting, biting fingernails, pacing the kitchen floor, folding sheets of paper into perfect squares and counting things in multiples of fives (what? just me?)

Here’s the deal…I want to be here a long, long time.  I want to be with my husband and son for an unreasonable amount of time (millions of days, is that so much to ask?)  And if it’s in God’s plan, we’d like to have a whole litter of children (and cats).  There are places to go, mountains to climb, cheesecakes to eat.  But I’m not worried about missing a moment, because I have faith.

I live faithfully.  I don’t just believe in god; I believe in The God.  The one who breathed me to life, who created the heavens and earth, who provides for us each and every single day, and blesses us tremendously in ways you cannot begin to imagine.  He is my Father, who loves unconditionally, practices grace and forgiveness, and who has never, ever, ever left my side.  I live faithfully, because I serve a faithful God.

When asked why I believe in God, my response is typically along the lines of, “I can’t imagine not believing.”  The number of instances, moments, situations and circumstances in which God has been present in my life are innumerable.  We have weathered many storms, walked many deep valleys and danced on many, many mountaintops, together.

I am faithful and certain that, regardless of tomorrow’s outcome, my God will take care of me and provide for me.  My God is powerful, my God is present, and my God is proven.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they? ” – Matthew 6:26

Slow. Down.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays, and not just for the endless array of casseroles, gravy, cranberry sauce, wine, dessert (and dessert wine).  It’s a time that we get to enjoy at a slower pace, surrounded by friends and family, wearing stretchy yoga pants, watching football and just enjoying each other’s company.  Right?  RIGHT?!

I have never been a Black Friday shopper.  I hate the mall, I hate the crowds, and I really don’t enjoy shopping (my nineteen year old self just rolled her eyes at me…) Some people love Black Friday; the thrill of the hunt, getting up at 3am, standing in line, fighting over Tickle Me Elmo dolls and arguing with the barista when she forgets the triple shot of espresso. 
And each year, stores open earlier, stay open longer, offer more insanely unreasonable sales to drive the hoards of crazies through their doors.  Thanksgiving is no longer a holiday to be celebrated; it’s become a minor preamble that we rush through just to get to the 100 MILE PER HOUR GIVE ME ALL THE STUFF CHRISTMAS SHOPPING EXPLOSION IN YOUR FACE.  NOW WITH MORE STUFF!!!
The commercialism of the holiday season is overwhelming.  There are too many screaming TV commercials with blinking lights, bells, dancing elves, annoying music and size 72 font prices for me to handle.  This time of year is not about getting a Hamilton Beach crockpot for 83% off retail price, just because you can.
People, you don’t need this stuff.  You have enough stuff.  You don’t even have room for the new stuff.  You can’t even name all of the stuff you already have.  Do you know what you really need to do?  Slow. The. Hell. Down.
We wait until after Thanksgiving to put up our Christmas tree.  We wait until after Thanksgiving to do any Christmas shopping.  We want to enjoy each moment, day, holiday, gathering, activity, as it comes.  If you’re constantly racing to the next event, can you truly enjoy and appreciate where you are right now?  Stop.  Sit with each other.  Talk.  Laugh.  Drink more wine.  Eat more pumpkin roll.  Enjoy your time.  And be thankful.
We have instilled a “Get One, Give One” mantra in our household.  If you get a new toy, you must give an old toy to Goodwill.  It’s important to us that our children understand that receiving gifts can be fun, but giving is so much better.  Because if you feel a thousand rays of sunshine happy when you get something, don’t you want someone else to experience that same feeling?

We are also making an effort to spend less because, again, stop it with the stuff.  I have a decent list of DIY Christmas gifts I have put together over the past few months (friends and family, be prepared…)  If spending money on a gift, we are considering things that are practical, enjoyable and most importantly, meaningful.  And if I actually go through with any of this DIY business, rest assured there will be a post about it, wink wink.
We will focus on our time together, more than ever.  Ignore Pinterest, Etsy, Facebook, Instagram and television.  You have enough sugar cookie recipes; you will never get around to making those votive holders (unless it’s a gift, then have at it…), and there’s no need in making yourself feel holiday guilt by comparing your tree, house, gifts, etc., to those of your 1,872 “friends” on Facebook.  Look at each other.  Spend time with each other.  Put down the smartphone, close the laptop, and connect to something other than your wi-fi for a change. 

This really is a time of thanks; if you stop for a moment and take inventory of your life, you will find you are immensely, tremendously, incredibly blessed.  And it’s not just the stuff you have; it’s the people, the relationships, the memories, the time together, the experiences, the laughter, the love. 
Ferris Bueller said it pretty well back in 1986:
“Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

Taking it easy,

Jesus and Politics

Today is local elections day, which is also known as, “No One Knows How to Park” day in my neck of the woods, because of where our office is located.  We share a parking lot with Club Square; for those unfamiliar, it’s a massive, four block parking lot where the city holds the farmer’s market and other events throughout the year.  It’s also the parking lot used by several local business, restaurants, bars, and a church.  This church just happens to be a local polling spot.
And so, with every election, our parking lot becomes filled with eager voters who have total disregard for pedestrians, the right of way, handicapped parking rules and what those white lines painted on the asphalt represent.  Yes, it is as much fun as it sounds.
Seeing the parking lot today reminded me of our national election last year.  Remember the debacle that was “counting votes in Florida”?  Our polling locations staying open until 11pm, with numbers not being reported until well after midnight?  The lines and lines and lines of voters?  Ah, Florida election process…the reason we have always voted absentee, and will continue to do so.
I remember that last year’s national election just happened to fall on the same day as the regular delivery for the Budweiser truck at a bar adjacent to our building.  The poor delivery guy spent the better part of four hours wedged between angry voters and poor parkers.  Silver lining: at least it was a beer truck, and if there was ever a day deserving of a cold brew at 11am, well, national election day was it.
Politics are such a touchy subject, right?  It’s something that we tend to keep to ourselves in the Coke House.  Not because I wouldn’t want people to know who I voted for (Ron Paul 2008 2012 Ron Rand Paul 2016!) but because I’m consistently overwhelmed with the amount of negativity and manipulation involved in the campaign process.
My biggest political campaigning peeve?  Manipulating Jesus for your platform (and this goes for both sides of the spectrum).  Because, to be honest, I don’t think the Jesus I know would share some of the opinions that some of you feel he should have his name attached to.
I don’t believe that my Jesus would use platforms of hate, or scaring the bejeesus out of people, to get his message across.  I don’t think my Jesus would guilt you into feeling we owe people something that we can’t even afford to give.  And I most certainly can’t imagine my Jesus slinging mud, calling names and pointing out faults to get his point across.  He’d also probably want us to stop being so damn selfish.
The Jesus I know would want us to govern ourselves in our political lives in the same manner we do our spiritual lives, or at least the way he’s called us to live.  Decisions based on love and truth, on honesty and well being, on what would help us to create a nation and world that would make him proud.  He most definitely would want us to give of ourselves to help others; giving time, talents and money, in a sacrificial way.  You know, that whole “being a good steward” thing. 
Politicos: Stop using Jesus to try and get others to share your ideas; start putting him at the center of your life, and start sharing his ideas.  Base your decisions and ideas on his, and you may find that others are willing to follow suit for all the right reasons.
Let’s start by loving everyone.  Yes, everyone.  That includes people who voted for Michelle Bachmann, folks who believe in banning gun control, and those who supported the Affordable Care Act.  Because it’s not our place to judge those decisions, remember? 
Jesus isn’t Red or Blue,


The Point.

I read a lot of mommy blogs.  Some are sarcastic and funny, some are inspirational, some are full of helpful advice.  But most are just real…full of the tales that photos posted to Facebook or Instagram will never tell.  Reading their experiences is a tremendous help for someone who is a new mom, because I now I know that I am not alone in my fears (allergies), worries (current ear infection/cold) or things I find funny (Miles peed on Evan – again).  It’s like being a part of the most awesome club ever in the history of time and space.
Today, I stumbled on a new (to me) blog.  I had linked there from something else; I can’t recall what, but it wasn’t to read what I ended up immersing myself in for the better part of an hour.  This mom wrote like so many of us, about life.  But her life was different.  They have a daughter who is four, but they have also experienced the loss of not one, not two, but three sons.  They lost their twin boys when they were just 18 weeks in utero.  They lost their third son just a few weeks after he was born, after finding a rare disease that prevented him from having a much needed heart transplant.  This is my unfairly brief summation of the cards they were dealt.
Reading her posts made me do The Ugly Cry.  For those who don’t know, The Ugly Cry is exactly what it sounds like.  That overwhelming, consuming, emotional cry that causes your face to twist and writhe, your breathing to become short and gasping, and your eyes to get so puffy and full of tears you couldn’t even read the address on your mailbox.  You.  Look.  Ugly.
And those of you who know me are also aware of my complete avoidance of all things that bring on The Ugly Cry.  I don’t do Lifetime or Hallmark (lame); I don’t read Nicholas Sparks (lamer) and I change the TV channel every time that ASPCA commercial with Sara McLaughlin singing in the background comes on (lamest, ever).  I can’t do it.  I’m not coldhearted; I just don’t want to cry.  The Ugly Cry is the reason we can’t watch things like Extreme Home Makeover (TWO HOURS OF UGLY CRY – NOTHANKYOU!)
So for me to sit there and read, at length, this family’s story, was difficult.  But I couldn’t stop.  Because, while difficult, I found her healing and faith inspirational.  I felt drawn to continue reading.  And I felt called to pray.  A lot. 
When I picked up Miles from daycare today, I hugged him tight. 
This morning, he had a congested cough, which led to me taking another trip to the pediatrician with him today.  And I’m not going to lie; I felt exhausted and exasperated, and not understanding why after ten days of antibiotics for an ear infection that had no cough, we woke up to a cough.  I felt sad for my baby, even though he smiled and played and ignored the cough completely, because I want him to be well and feel his best.  And I felt frustrated that we were dealt something else to handle, in less than a week.
Now?  Well, now I feel blessed that it’s just a cold.  That’s not to say it isn’t still something to struggle with; in life, you will find that while your situation may be better than others, it is still worse than some.  We all have things to deal with, and there is no diminishing what anyone is experiencing, because it cannot be compared to anyone else.  But, in that moment, I felt blessed.
There are times in life that call us to question, “why?”  Times where we struggle to find a reason, an explanation, a purpose…the point.
What’s the point of illness and struggle?  What’s the point of dealing with hardships?  What’s the point of being here, now, in this?
Here’s what I know about the whole point: there are actually two points.  Two reasons, two purposes, two explanations for what we’re here for:
1.      To love God.
2.      To love each other.
That’s it.  Of all the things we do on a daily basis, our entire purpose, being and existence (in my mind) comes down to those two very important points.
So when someone you know, or even that you don’t know, is going through some stuff…our calling is to be there for them.  To love them, comfort them, help them, pray for them.  We go through this stuff together.  God put us here, now, together, for a purpose. 
You will find love and peace in the arms of friends and family, through conversations with people who understand where you’re coming from, in prayer and meditation, and sometimes, just by reading words on a screen written by a stranger but connected to you in heart and spirit.  And while these things won’t always offer the explanation that human nature may cause you to search for, it will always lead you to the point: LOVE.

“The most important command is this…
Love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your mind, and with all your strength.
The second is this: love your neighbor as yourself.”
Mark 12:29-31
Be the hands and feet.