Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Flipping Pages

Upon graduating high school in my birth state of Virginia, I took the road to Georgia, calling it my next home.  In doing so, I closed the cover of my book on adolescence and ventured to write my first novel of adulthood.

I went to college in the "Peach State," met my husband, started our family, and bought our first house.  Over 13 years, the chapters developed, seasons at a time-- friendships coming, going, and growing; having babies and raising kids; sharing life with loved ones; and becoming members of a community.  This is where our kids started school, celebrated their first birthdays, and made their first best friends. 

I thought that this parenting thing would be my main adventure- keeping house, volunteering, helping with homework, relating with other moms, and way more than I can list.  It wasn't hard to imagine how the story would unfold.  I made plans and set timelines, but I never expected what would happen next.

As I flipped the pages, a week ago, I found

What?!  The end of this chapter.  The account of our family saying goodbye to the familiar and preparing to meet something new.  A fresh beginning in a strange place.

It's a plot twist, and I'm in suspense.

The next part of this family's series will be set in South Carolina.  I am anxious to read ahead to see what's in store for us, but I suspect I will only uncover the mysteries one sentence at a time.

And so another adventure begins...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Just Start

I was a runner...once.  I wanted to be like my dad.  He ran track in high school and after.  So as soon as I had a chance to enter a meet, I did too.  I was in middle school and filled with dreams of the Olympics.  And I did okay.

After a few years, I learned that my heart wasn't really in the sport though.  My stomach was a mess of knots and dancing butterflies at the starting line.  This energizes some athletes, but it terrified me to be alone- to be running in circles with everyone watching me win or fail.  I hated that responsibility.  The fear held me back, and I lost interest after my freshman year of high school.  In my spirit, I quit.  However, I kept returning to the sport, because how else would I cure my after school boredom?

This is our girls' third year district track & field championship team.  I'm obviously so tough & serious.

So each spring, week after week, when the announcer called my event, I met the competitors on the track.  We listened to a coach go over the ground rules and assign our lanes.  I know I wasn't the only nervous kid out there.  We each joked with each other before the gun went off, in an effort to push aside our common fears.  There was always a fleeting thought to fake sick or injured and run to hide until the race was over. 

Then, the signal sounded. 

Who wants to be left standing like an idiot on the starting line while everyone speeds forward on their mission towards victory?

Not me.

So the decision to put my feet to the pavement, despite my insecurities overruled the temptation to flee.  What's the worst that could happen?  I could lose.  I could make a fool of myself and trip over my own feet.  True.

But I could also finish.  I could beat my best time.  I could place in the top 3 and score points for my team.  I could surprise myself.  I could win.

So why not try?  Why not just start...and see what could happen?

If you're a procastinator like I am, there a few things that I have realized keep me from starting:
  1. I'm afraid to fail.  I'm worried that it won't work out the way I hope.  
  2. I don't think I'm qualified.  I think someone out there can do this better than I can.  
  3. I wait for the perfect time to try.  Unfortunately, life is always full of interruptions.
So how do I overcome these self-defeating thoughts?

I remember the possibilities.
I anticipate a learning opportunity.
I hope for a wonderful outcome.
I pray for strength and courage.
I put my blinders on and look straight ahead.
I set a goal.

Then, I just start.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

True and Lovely

I LOVE this verse, and you have probably heard it before (It's posted on my refrigerator door):
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8 (NIV)


This verse is valuable for so many reasons. When my daughter went through a period when she couldn't put scary images out of her mind, I said this to her over and over, "Bella, is this real? Does God want to scare you? Think of something lovely- of all the wonderful things you have or the amazing things God has made..." 

When I choose what movies my kids can watch or what music I allow them to listen to (yes, I do that), I use Philippians 4:8 as a standard. Is it noble? Is it pure? 

When I hear the buzz of a new book hitting the scene that EVERYBODY is reading, I ask around, seeking to find out first, whether it's dark or if it's uplifting. Basically, my benchmark is, "How will I feel after reading this?" 

I even read reviews on movies that I, myself, am interested in seeing. I've pressed the stop button or turned the channel more than a few times, when I felt the prick of the Holy Spirit telling me this isn't something that's praiseworthy. And when I haven't turned away, I usually felt like I had wasted a good portion of my life on worthless entertainment.

Overall, I value what I allow into my head and heart.  Many things stick, and I'd rather it be the good stuff :-)

I'm completely aware that not everyone has the same levels of tolerance for violence, or cursing, or gossiping, or whistling at shirtless men at the theater. What bothers me, doesn't always bother my husband, and my daughter's always been more sensitive than my son.  But we all know what we feel is appropriate, even if we feel it AFTER we've sat through something uncomfortable. 

So what actions do we take when our conscience taps on our shoulder? Do we ignore God's nudges or do we accept His best for us? Do we turn away from what is false, what is lowly, what is wrong, what is corrupt, what is repulsive, what is shameful...even if it borders anything dishonorable? I hope we choose whatever lifts our spirits, never what pulls us down. So many of our attitudes and beliefs are shaped by our most common influences- good or bad.

Do your friends, that book you're reading, the websites you frequent, or the TV shows you record make you a better mother?  Do they inspire you to help someone or push you to do something daring or brave?  Does your playlist encourage you to love unconditionally or to respect those around you?  If not, I'd recommend looking for something that changes you and those around you for the good.  It may not be popular, but it will make you happier.

Take a minute to soak in the surrounding verses in Philippians 4. God always laces His instructions with beautiful promises of how He will take care of us.

Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute! Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. Philippians 4:4-9 (MSG)

The radio voices, news writers, and even the best-selling book lists can't be trusted.  They have an agenda.  God promises us peace, when we focus on HIM and what He believes is best for us- not because he's going to get paid.  He just loves us, and He is always good.  That's the truth, folks.