Thursday, August 26, 2010

Play The Game or Sit Out For a Season?

Its football season again!! I never in my wildest dreams thought that football season could get me so wound up. My oldest son Cameron has always been my artsy, musical, somewhat wimpy type, so when he told me last year that he wanted to play football it threw me off guard just a little. I mean this is my son that gets a pin prick and cries like a little baby. This is the same son that shrinks back when someone looks at him the wrong way; the one that wants his future wife and children to reside with me because he isn’t going anywhere. He has always been my sweet little home grown mama’s boy… until puberty began to inhabit his innocent little body. It happens to all of us and now he’s growing into a young man with more testosterone than I know what to do with and subsequently he wants to play football.
Now here we are with a year of football under our belt and my skinny, wild haired little boy is now a tough, proud, still skinny, testosterone driven young man who plays middle linebacker on his school’s football team. This year, after only a couple of weeks into summer practice, he had an injury to his growth plate and a small hairline fracture on one of the bones leading to his wrist. We were both extremely disappointed. I had become the mom that can’t sit down in the bleachers because I need to see my boy play. I travel up and down the sidelines with the team so that I don’t miss a thing and can cheer wildly when the team needs it. Cameron has grown to really love football and didn’t want to be out for the season. We hadn’t even played our first game yet. So, the first thing he did when we visited the orthopedist was ask if he could still play football. To my surprise, the doctor said yes. He told me that they would put a fiberglass cast on his arm and before playing football he would have to cover it with ample padding so as to not injure the other players. Really? I thought my boy was the one that was injured here. I tell you, times sure have changed since I was a kid. I remember when a cast looked like the sheetrock from my walls and could fall to pieces with the slightest touch of a hand. Deciding not to take the mama bear protective approach, I determined that I would let him settle for himself what he was going to do. A week later he was back in the game practicing with his teammates as if nothing had happened. The only sign of an injury was this attachment on his arm that looked like a mallet or a club from Fred Flintstones garage. After a couple of practices I realized that this injury had turned out to be really positive for him. I began to see a young man on the field that gives everything he has within him to his team and to the game. I saw my once timid, shy and feeble little boy as a young man who is strong, bold, confident and committed to what he had become a part of. My boy was not going to let an injury keep him down. He was going to be there for his team and he was going to give it 110%; and he did. At yesterday’s practice I watched him sack the quarterback twice, break through the line at least ten times and intercept the ball from the opposing side. I had never seen him play like that before. You see, although a little timid at first, when he came back to practice with a cast on his arm and ready to play, his team mates began to encourage him. When he made his first tackle in the cast, the team cheered him on and the coach began to push him for more. His confidence began to build and he now plays the game, in my opinion, even better than he did before. He pushed through the pain of the wound, played the game and stayed committed to his team while still injured and from what I can see he will be a better player because of it.
What about us in our own lives? Do we let the wounds take us out of the game or do we keep playing? In life there will always be wounds. Usually more emotional wounds than physical but I have found that the physical are much easier to recover from. The emotional go much deeper into the heart and take a great deal more than a cast to heal, but the same principle applies. My son’s injury has taught me that when we get wounded, and we certainly will, that we have a choice to make. Are we going to be out for a season or are we going to go to the physician and ask if we can still play? Will we allow God bind up our wounds as the orthopedist did Cameron’s, and allow us to heal while we are still playing? Will our response be “please let me still play LORD” or will we let the wound dictate the path of life for us? My son’s response to the injury has taught me that if we push through the pain of our wound, continue to play the game of life while still wounded, stay committed to our team, whoever they may be, and allow God to wrap our wounds with soft padding so as not to injure anyone else, then we will come out on the other side bold and confident because of who we are in Christ and what he has done for us. We will come out having grown in our relationship with the healer as well as with our team that we have stayed the course with and through our teams encouragement and with God, our coach, pushing us for more because he wants us to grow, then we too will be a better player on our team and in the game of life.

Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I'm So Angry I Could Spit!

Ok, so I really need to get this off of my chest this morning. What do we do when we get so angry that we could spit? That’s the nice way we say it down here in the south. What I really want to say is that he is lucky that he is not here in the same state with me because I would love to do things to him that I can’t really allow to leave the private spaces of my thoughts because I could be arrested just for thinking it. But here’s the problem; Jesus knows I’m thinking it. Matthew 9:4 says “and Jesus knowing their thoughts said `Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? `” Oh LORD, this is so hard. Sometimes I feel as if my thoughts are truly out of my control.
As I sit and write this, I am thinking about some things that are important to me. My 13 year old son is wearing football cleats that are one and a half sizes too small because I can only afford shoes for school. I am trying to recover from a summer of paying $600 per month for childcare and that is going to take some time to get back on track. My budget is already tight without the extra childcare cost. Two of my three children need braces that I am not sure how to pay for because insurance considers it cosmetic, yet the dentist tells me they will both need surgery later on if we don’t correct their cross bites. Anyway, you get the point right? So, yesterday was my middle child Benjamin’s 9th birthday. His father who, mind you, has not paid child support in a couple of years and is about $20,000 behind to date, called to tell him happy birthday. This is wonderful! Children need to know their fathers love them, even if they are not around to show it. I once read an article by Don Miller who wrote something that has never left me. He grew up in a single parent home as well and knows what it is like not to have a father around. He said that 10% of his dad was better than none of his dad so I do what I can to keep my children in contact with their father, even if it is minimal; even if my job entails damage control afterward. So, Benjamin hangs up the phone super excited because his dad is sending him and his older brother android phones in the mail. What? Are you kidding me? I can’t get our children things that they NEED yet you are going to buy them things that they WANT. I take that back, they don’t even want them. My 13 year old is completely satisfied with the phone that he has. He probably uses it once per month. He has it for times when I am not home. My 9 year old, who is without a doubt my social child, wants a phone and would be completely satisfied with any phone. I have told him no for various reasons and he is content with my reasons. It certainly doesn’t mean that he stops asking, but the answer remains the same for now; until yesterday. Now Benjamin gets what he wants and I am so fuming mad that I could spit fire.
Now the old me, before Christ, would have reacted immediately to the intensifying emotions that I was suddenly experiencing. In fact, sometimes I still do; but not today. I desperately want to honor God in everything that I do, even when dealing with an ex husband. So I sit here and release my emotions through writing instead of vomiting all over my ex husband with them and really giving him a piece of my mind. This is one of the reasons that I have journals all over my home. So that I can sit with God and filter my emotions through him rather than letting my emotions control my actions. I tell you, my emotions when they are in control have made me look like a raging lunatic with Turrets Syndrome who needs to be committed to an asylum immediately. Seriously! The actually have had that much power over me in the past.
What about you? Do you let your emotions get the better of you? When you get angry does everyone around you know it? When you are sad, do you lay in bed all day so that you don’t have to deal with the world or do you call in to work because you seriously can’t function when you feel this way? When you are afraid, do you let that fear stop you from accomplishing a task that you need to accomplish? Do you let fear inhibit your kids from certain activities? Do you make decisions that stem from any of these emotions? I ask because I have done it all. I ask because I am certain that there are many more emotional struggles in others that I am not aware of. You see, I think we all struggle with our emotions and we all have that one prevalent emotion that seems to rear its ugly head and cause us to do or say things that make us later feel like we were abducted by aliens that really have issues and spewed them out all over those that we love. But the truth is that through the power of Christ and His Spirit that is alive in us, we can overcome this battle that we have with our emotions. We can get angry and not react. We can get sad and still make it through the day successfully. We can be afraid but still move forward through that fear and accomplish the task anyway.
Emotions are not as dreadful as they sound or sometimes make us feel. They are a component of who we are and who God designed us to be. Anger over an injustice can move us to do something about it in ways that wouldn’t be possible without that driving emotion. Fear, when it is proper, can stop us from doing something that we know will bring disastrous consequences. Sadness is necessary for grieving and is a normal emotion. John Chapter 11 says that Jesus was deeply moved and troubled in spirit when he saw Mary crying over her brother Lazarus’ death; and then Jesus wept. This fascinates me. Jesus knew that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead yet he still wept. He still felt sad. You see, God created emotions, but he did not create them to be the driving force of our lives. The driving force of our lives comes from the Holy Spirit which he gives us upon coming into relationship with him.
So, what do I do with this anger that I feel? I give up my desire to react and abandon my heart, once again, to the hands of our capable and loving God. I return to the LORD with all my heart so that he can deliver me(1 Samuel 7:3). I write, I pray, I read God’s word and I shut up. I don’t say a word to the person behind the incident that has made me angry until this mammoth emotion has subsided. Then I rationally figure out how to manage the situation if I am to do anything at all. I seek guidance from a trustworthy friend, pray some more and move forward into my day with the unspeakable joy that I described in my previous post. Does this mean I am no longer angry? No way. It just means that the anger is not going to decide for me that I am going to have a bad day or make a fool of myself. It means that this emotion is no longer about to explode like a cannon from my chest as it was an hour ago. It means that just as Jesus was still sad over Lazarus, I am still angry over this situation but I choose as Jesus did, to let the Holy Spirit lead. I wish I could do it every time anger wells up. It means that God is bigger than any emotion I can feel. After all, He created them so he can certainly help me deal with them accordingly.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Happiness! What exactly is it anyway?

Many of us, including myself, have spent a lifetime searching for happiness. We pursue it in things like affluence, titles, family, fame, sex, love, friends, and so much more yet somehow we still never seem to be satisfied. We always want more because we are just not as happy as we thought we would be once we have attained those things. I know that we as women tend to search for happiness in things like love and the ability of another to fulfill us. We also seek happiness by extending ourselves in whatever way possible if it might bring us external beauty. Unfortunately our idea about love is elusive to say the least. This vague concept has been formed through our experiences with others and how we have been treated and cared for by those who “love” us. We have come to believe that love is a physical and emotional response in our attraction to another. This is certainly a minute part of it but it encompasses so much more. At least from God’s point of view. Our belief about what beauty is has been shaped by Hollywood and the media who have told us nothing but lies. We have been told, directly and indirectly, that beauty is on the outside; what we look like. We have come to believe that if we are beautiful enough or have the kind of figure she has or weighed the same as she does, then, and only then will we be happy. Or perhaps if we find prince charming and he rescues us from our mediocre existence then, just maybe, we will be happy. You see, women want more than anything in the world to be affirmed and to be loved. It is a God given desire designed to lead us to His heart. Unfortunately through movies, television, magazines and the like we have come to believe that affirmation comes from physical beauty, and let’s face it, men have not been prone to treat us much different because of their own personal battles. In the same respect we have come to believe that love is a feeling that we feel, an emotion that is fleeting and can be here today and gone tomorrow. We believe that if we are no longer happy in our marriage then we must not be in love any longer or if we are no longer fulfilled then the love has disappeared. Unfortunately, this belief has led to the highest divorce rate in history.
Regardless of how we have sought happiness, I believe that we will all eventually, if we haven’t already, end in same place; still completely and utterly dissatisfied. Why is that? Why is it that we can gain everything that we have aspired to and worked so hard for yet still be thoroughly unhappy and discontent? Why is it that once we get to where we want to be we discover that it is not enough? Why do we always want more? I believe it is because we are mistaken in our beliefs about what actually fulfills us. We believe in chasing that which is tangible because, well, it’s tangible. Besides, it’s what everyone else does. We honestly have become a generation that doesn’t know any different. We chase the tangible because we are self centered. Why? Maybe because our parents made us the center of their world allowing us actions with no consequences believing that it was best. To no fault of their own, they were just heeding the advice of the “experts” of their time. Or maybe it’s because of the age we live in where we have anything and everything available to us with the click of a button. Or, we chase tangible things because consumerism has gone so wrong in our society noted by the idea that he who has the most money wins, so we pursue riches to make us happy. We chase tangible love because Hollywood has perverted sex and love so much so that we now believe that it doesn’t matter who it’s with as long as you are happy and your needs are being met. Are you not happy with your current husband? Just get yourself another one. Are you not happy with men? Go find a woman. The idea of the grass being greener on the other side has become so ingrained in us that we are in hot pursuit of the other side of the fence believing that this is where we will find happiness. I would guess that this could possibly be the explanation for over 50% of marriages ending in divorce leaving the same percentage of children growing up in single parent homes. The problem is that we get to the other side of the fence only to find that in order to have greener grass you must be willing to care for it. It must be watered, aerated, fertilized, mowed and genuinely cared for if it is going to be as green as you had hoped. If only we had known before we jumped the fence, maybe we would have cared for what was already in our own yard. Maybe we would have put more time into our own marriages and family rather than pursuing a better one or one that could possibly make us happier.
So where do we find happiness? I can say with 100% certainty that you will not ever find it in another person. Yet that’s what we do. We look for someone else to make us happy and when they no longer do so, we leave; self-centeredness at its best. Now let me say with utmost sincerity that this is not to condemn anyone for their current situation or where they have been. I promise you, I have been there too. This is to shed some light on the truth and inhibit us from making the same mistakes again and again and hopefully prevent our children from the same fate.
Happiness is defined in the dictionary as being characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment or joy. In order to be characterized by something, whatever it is, it has to become a part of who you are as a person. It will begin to define you and whatever it is that’s going on around you cannot change this characterization. Does this mean that if you are characterized by joy that you will never be sad? Absolutely not! It simply means that the sadness does not define who you are. It does not become a part of you or drive what you do, say, think or believe. Where joy lives, sadness cannot stay for long. We will without a doubt feel sadness in this world, but it cannot survive if we are characterized by joy.
So where does this joy come from? How do we seek it? How do we become characterized by it? We do so by abandoning our hearts to the will of God and believing that He has our best interest in mind. By believing that He knows better than we do the path that is right for us and the path will bring us the full joy that is available to us. But we can’t just believe it. We must behave like we believe it. In every circumstance we must pray and ask God what He thinks is best and be willing to obey when He answers. We must read His word and obey His commands, not necessarily with the idea that He is being prohibitive, but with the belief that it is for our protection coming from a father who loves us deeply. It really is that simple. Seek God first and you will inevitably find joy; even if joy is not what you are searching for. Nehemiah 8:10 says that the very source of our strength comes from the joy that is only available from the LORD. This joy does not come from our situation or circumstances. It doesn’t come from our emotional state and how we feel at the moment. Satan has deceived us into believing that when this particular trial is over or when we obtain a bigger home or get a promotion or our husband or child changes or when we lose 15 pounds, then our joy will be complete. But God says our joy is in Him and is available to us right now, right at this very moment. Not tomorrow, not when you are healed, not when your sorrow has passed but right now. I challenge you to take some time to seek him and draw near to him in worship and prayer. Dive in to His word and discover His plan for your life. Discover His commands that will guide and protect. Here is where you will become characterized by joy. Here is where you will find unrelenting strength. Here is where you will find the true meaning of happiness.

John 15:10-12
If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

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