Me and my little lightbulbs in the bluebonnets!

Me and my little lightbulbs in the bluebonnets!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Saying No This Christmas

I love Christmas. Truly. I love everything about it. The decorated homes, the lit trees, the look in a child's eyes when they see Santa Claus, Christmas Eve services at church. It's absolutely my favorite time of year. So, it astounds me to see all that joy diminished by the stress of the holidays.

It's no secret that Christmastime and summer are when crime sprees peak. The stress of Christmas shopping, the duties of holiday parties and over scheduling of events can bring many people to a breaking point.

Just yesterday, I was squeezing in some grocery shopping before picking kids up from school. After swinging into my parking spot, I noticed a yelling match going on between two "gentlemen" in the next aisle over. One man, in his truck, had apparently admonished the other guy who had parked in a spot designated for parents with children. The man who had parked in the spot began yelling obscenities at the man in the truck, dropping f-bombs for all the world to hear. Merry Christmas!

It shook me up a little. The sheer explosion of anger from this person stunned me. Usually I take a while to get boiling mad, and am usually never angry enough to spew expletives. And never over a parking job. But it made me stop and think.

Why do we push ourselves to such extremes? Maybe the guy in the parking lot was just hot tempered by nature. But maybe he was feeling the ever pressing walls of Christmas pushing in on him.

In my book, Blessed Are the Jesus Chicks, I spend a chapter on saying no. As a society, we tend to feel the need to host the party, go to the siorre, volunteer at the church event, dress up the house, make the home-baked goodies. We want our gifts to look like something Martha Stewart would drool over. And now with the popularity of Pinterest, we find ourselves regularly raising the bar to match what the next guy is doing, or, better yet, exceeding them.

My advice: stop it. Now.

Don't get me wrong. I have a strong affinity for lights and tinsel, stockings hung by the chimney with care and rubbing elbows with my beloved friends. But, unless these things bring a vast amount of joy to your life, then you could be missing out on the bigger picture.

Everything around Christmas should be joyful and reflect the hope brought with Christ's birth. If you don't want to hang the lights but would rather spend that time baking with your children, do it. There is no law that says you must decorate every nook of your house for this special season. It doesn't make you a better mother and it certainly doesn't score more points with the Big Man upstairs.

Not to sound scrooge-ish, but we over complicate the holidays. Why not simplify this season? Cut out the extra commitments that aren't adding joy to your family or adding to your spiritual growth. Take that time and put it to better use.

And when you feel the pressure of making the season bright suffocating you, remember the best light of Christmas comes from Jesus shining through you. That is, after all, the very
reason for the season.

You can purchase Blessed Are the Jesus Chicks here:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Shut up, already

About five days ago, I was hit with an infection that ripped my legs, and my voice, right out from under me. My throat was on fire, and eating or drinking, much less talking, felt like I was trying to consume broken glass. So, here I was, an extrovert with no outlet. Because, when you lose your voice, it's very hard to be the life of the party.

I watched the world spin on without my involvement, heard my children playing, unable to join in on the laughter or the fun. Truthfully, it bummed me out. I began feeling a loneliness folding in on me, a dark night without stars.

When I finally got over my neurotic fear of being left out of life, realizing this was not a permanent condition, I sat back and started to notice a few things.

1) If you speak less often, people are more apt to pay attention when you finally do.

Understanding what an effort it was for me to talk, my family sat up and paid attention when I did feel the necessity to do so. This is not the usual response, I assure you. I felt like, instead of ignoring my well chosen scant words, they actually actively listened. Maybe this is what the Bible means when it says "Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent." Suddenly, Mommy's words had weight, by golly!

2) A lot of what I usually want to say can go unsaid.

So, because I have a lot of words in my arsenal, coupled with a lot of opinions about, well, pretty much everything, I tend to talk. A lot. I mean, truly. I process things verbally. Heck, even my love languages is WORDS of affirmation. It really never stops.

Suddenly, however, I was forced to shut up already. And I discovered that about 70 to 75 percent of the words I say each day aren't necessary. When I lost the ability to say them, the world as I knew it didn't stop. My opinions did not make or break the global economy or the outcome of Dancing with the Stars (partly because I refuse to pay money to dial a number by which to give my opinion). I started to wonder if I was over using the gift of gab, or, at least, misusing it.

3) Shy people have got to be lonely.

This is not a shot at shy people. I married one. And I think he's pretty awesome. But, when I was unable to engage people in conversation, I felt, like I said before, as if everyone was a hundred feet away, just out of reach but out of reach nonetheless.

If it weren't for facebook and texting, I would have gone stark raving mad at the lack of some semblance of verbal interaction. Because of this experience, I am forming a new charity: the shyness campaign. Just kidding. But, I have sometimes overlooked people who seemed shy because, honestly, they made me nervous, what with their quietness and stuff. I've decided I should be a little more considerate of those without my loud personality. I mean, it's lonely on the other side people. Trust me.

4) God likes us in the quiet places.

I'm a very busy person. All the time. Usually, I'm just a blur, flitting from one task or thing or commitment to the next. I get bored sitting still, being quiet. But, when you are sick and silent, God is glad. I don't mean he wants us unhappy or in pain, but he does want us to "Be still and know I am God." It's very hard to do that when your schedule has you hopping.

When we in our bustling society finally sit down with nothing to do, God uses that opportunity to remind us that we really should do this more often. We saw some amazing sunsets together, God and I, this weekend. We listened to the birds and my children's laughter. We reflected on trials and blessings through those hardships. He spoke to me through his music in my ears and His words in His Book. These are things that, while I attempt to tap into regularly, I'm usually still so distracted with the noise in my head, the things I need to say, He can hardly get an word in edgewise.

I'm still slowly recuperating. My voice has not yet returned, and even though, it's a bit of an inconvenience, I've realized it's not all together bad. In fact, when my voice does finally return, I might be giving it a vacation a lot more often.

Monday, July 1, 2013

An Exciting Time to Be a Christian

Watching my facebook feeds, you would think the sky was falling as of late. With everything from gay marriage to abortion to racial slurs being front page news, my Christian friends are nearly in tears. They fear for their country, their faith and the moral state of the world their children are growing up in. And I understand that fear, but I don't necessarily agree. Instead, I think this is an exciting time to be a Christian. Let me explain ...

Everyone seems so angry, so discontent. Wasn't this exactly the same environment into which our beloved Savior was born? The world where he came to live out his 30 years was fraught with turmoil of every kind, including homosexuality, racial unrest, dissent among nations, wars, famine, waste. Yet, this is when He was working miracles ... both figuratively and literally. Why, then, should we run for the hills?

My dear Christian friends are kind and generous to others. Yet, I find that as modern day Christians, we shrink from that which we do not understand. We consider it an assault to our way of life, our fundamental beliefs, therefore it should be banished from our existence. Should we encourage homsoxuality as a marital choice? Not necessarily. Should we become proponents for the easy choices, those that appease those making the most noise? Not at all.

At times like these, though, it is good for us to remember how Jesus lived. It's believed that his conversations with the woman at the well took place over a period of several different visits. He didn't shrink from her. Instead, he was kind and gracious, thus making a bold statement. He was told to ignore the crippled in the streets clamoring for his attention, the children in need of a kind word, the lepers in need of a gentle touch. Yet, he did just the opposite. His choice? To love without judgment.

Let's consider a moment the adulterous woman who was thrown at his feet. Did he condemn her? Did he hold up posters claiming she was to be thrown into the pit of hell for her actions? No. He was instead silent, letting the mob do their shouting. Until they, too, were quieted. His calm manner cooled the situation, then he delt with the woman in a gentle loving way.

Dear fellow Christians, this is an exciting time to be people of faith. For it is during these tumultuous times that we can show others what our Lord stood for. We can also mess this up royally should we let fear take hold and use it to fashion arrows to use against others. I emplor you to stop. Pray. And go forth as Jesus did, in a spirit of love, grace and kindness. As He showed time and again, these are the best stepping stones toward reaching people for Him.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Riding Away

Well, it happened. For the last four years, since my son was five, we've been encouraging him to ride his bicycle. He just would never commit to learning.

"I might fall," he would say. "It will hurt," he would continue. And although my husband and I would combat these complaints with encouragement and typical parent-isms like "Once you learn, you'll never forget" and "If you fall, you can get right back up," I was secretly relieved he didn't have the inclination to conquer his fears.

I'm really not a helicopter mom. I don't want to hover over my children forever, just until they are big enough to defend themselves against the dangerous world outside. I know, I know. As the mom of boys I need to get over it already, but I can't help it. The very thought of him hopping on his two wheels and speeding off toward freedom filled me with dread. And yet ...

So, when, at nine years old he decided to finally overcome his anxiety, I was right there, encouraging, running alongside cheering. Then I let go. And, in a way, so did he. He wobbled, fell. Got up and wobbled some more, and fell a few more times. Then, he found his pedals, got some speed and wheeled beyond my reach into a slightly bigger world.

As I write it now, the moment brings tears to my eyes. Because, the riding of a bicycle is a symbol of something greater that we as parents long for and fear at the same time.

So, I let him go, and showered him in prayers from a distance, as I'm sure I will be doing from further and further away as he grows into a young man.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What to wear?

A friend of mine has recently been eating healthier and working out to the point where she has lost an unbelievable amount of weight. She looks great, and feels even better. So, with Easter creeping up on her, she felt compelled for the first time in a while to find a joyous color to wear on this holiest of days. But, to her great displeasure, she couldn't find anything that made her heart swoon. This opened up the conversation about the pressure we put upon ourselves wear certain adornments, especially to church.

Count me among that number. I'm quite the clotheshorse. Not that I necessarily shop at expensive places, but I always feel a certain need to be, what we in the South call, well put together. I find that I'm drawn to that bright colored pair of high heels, even when my wallet is begging me to keep walking. I convince myself I really need that oh-so-soft and well cut shirt. It will go with so many things! It's an investment, really.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not so plagued by this habit that it is causing me to go into debt. I don't hide purchases from my husband (that often), and I can and have walked away from unecessary purchases (sometimes). But the real question is, why does it matter.

When going to work or to a high class function, the pressure to look professional or "done up" (another Souther euphamism), is understandable. But why the need to adorn ourselves before the Lord, who, in truth, sees beyond our teased highlighted hair and suede pumps. He isn't fooled by our finery. No, he sees to the core, to the root of who we really are and all we may be trying to hide.

I find that I'm even passing on my small obsession to my two boys. When it's time for church, I'm very particular about what they wear. It must be pressed, tucked, pleated to perfection. And I find myself agonizing in the weeks leading up to Easter about what they will wear into His House.

When I was talking to my friend about this topic, I thought about the origins of the church. Held often outdoors, the early Christian church was led by men and women who most likely did not tease their hair, or even wear deoderant. Their shoes were dirty; their smell stout from being in the desert. But their hearts were clean. They came to the Lord with a hunger and a thirst for His word. They didn't head to Target for a bargain sweater vest; they probably didn't iron their pants. Instead, they focused on ironing their souls.

This week, as I humbly enter His House to remember what He sacrificed for me, I'm not going to be so concerned about how I come off to the rest of the congregation. I won't agonize over how many hairs are in place on my kids' heads. Instead, I'll stop and recall how, leading up to this day, Jesus wore nothing more than a loin cloth and sweat; how, on this day, he shed His earthly-ness for me. Shouldn't I be willing to at least try to do the same for Him?