Fabulous Friday

Fridays generally aren't fabulous for me. I work weekends and Friday is my day to feel sorry for myself catch up on everything that needs to be done before I leave Pablo and the kids to fend for themselves. I have to make sure that the fridge is stocked and I have clean scrubs and matching socks. Being the end of the week, I'm usually pretty tired from the daily grind of keeping house and running kids to and from school. So I tend to dread Fridays.
I decided in my quiet time last night that I would embrace a new perspective on Fridays. Instead of dreading them, I'm going to use them to thank the Lord for what He has done in the past week. It's an attempt to document the daily blessings that I may otherwise gloss over and not recognize for the blessing that they actually are.

This week:
  • Paul had a productive few days in Chattanooga. Even picked up some extra freelance work!
  • Paul made it home safely, even if he did fly in what he thought had to have been Orville and Wilbur's first plane...
  • Griffin lost his first tooth!! (and has another loose one)
  • Figured out a way to pay Newman off by the end of June (huge praise!)
  • Fixed the dishwasher myself. Call me Mrs. Maytag. (This, after repairing the vacuum last week!)
  • Touro nurses voted and the universal RN scrub color is blue (may seem insignificant to some, but we really didn't want to wear gray in the birthing center. I mean, really. Gray? )
  • Lisa Smith is getting ready to have her surgery at MD Anderson right now (enormous praise. Gigantic!)
  • Anne Claire poo'd in the potty every.single.day this week.
  • I have a healthy family, food in our pantry, heat (and a/c; depends on the day here in Nola), clothes to wear (even if they are plus sized), and a car to drive (even though I desperately want to drive it into Lake Pontchartrain trade it in).
That's just a beginning. God works in ways small and large every day. Every day! It never ceases to amaze me that He cares about me. Little, insignificant me.

How about you? What can you thank God for on this Fabulous Friday?

Prayer vs Planning

I'm still safari-ing through the book of Daniel with Amber and the gals. We have made it halfway! Yee-haw! (Guess you say that on a cattle drive, not a safari. Hm. Will have to think about that!)

This week we read the famous story of Daniel and the lion's den. Everyone knows the story. Darius has taken over the throne, Daniel has a high ranking government position, and the other government officials are jealous of Daniel and want him whacked. They go to Darius and have him sign an edict stating that no one can pray to anyone other than him (Darius) in the next 30 days, lest they be caught and thrown to the lions. Needless to say, Daniel, who has a prayer habit of praying 3 times a day, was caught, and Daniel was charged and sentenced. Into the lion's den he goes, where he spends the night amongst the "king of the beasts" only to be rescued by the King of Kings. Speaking of Kings, Darius didn't sleep a wink that night. Daniel, however, did. Darius went rushing to the cave and found Daniel completely and totally unscathed. Daniel told Darius that his God had sent an angel and shut the mouths of the lions. Yeah God!! And those smarmy satraps and officials who'd plotted the whole demise of Daniel? Into the lion's den they went. Justice is sweet, no?

Of course I'd love to say that I have a prayer habit that is very similar to Daniel's. I would love to tell you I pray 3 times a day. I'd like to say that when troubles come, or bad news, or hard times, that I immediately turn to God. I really want to tell you that I don't try to start to plot and plan how I can get out of this mess or that situation or how I can fix things...

The truth is, I am a planner. I'm a fixer. I want to know what the outcome is going to be at all times. I don't want surprises. I don't need spontaneity. I need a PLAN.

I've been incredibly fortunate in my life to be surrounded by people who are the opposite of me. I've always been blessed to have others whose first reaction to trouble is to pray.

Picture it. Tikal, Guatemala. 6 nurses had just finished a grueling 2 week medical clinic for the poor in the Chimaltenango region and had flown to Tikal for a much needed break. We were going to explore the rainforest and the Mayan ruins for a few days. I, however, had come down with some sort of fever and was not feeling well on the plane to Tikal. I took some Phenergan and fell asleep in the cab. We got to our hotel in the 100+ degree heat (think rainforest -- very hot, damp, and sticky) and learned that there was no a/c in all of Tikal. Excuse me? And we also learned that there was hot water for the showers only between 7-9pm. Okay. I was in a post-Phenergan haze and feeling pretty sick, so decided to lay down under and in front of a fan and pray I'd feel better. The other girls were going to go exploring. I fell asleep for a little while and then woke up feeling like I was going to die. I mean DIE. It was awful. So here I am, alone (while my amigas are gone for God knows how long), sick as a dog, and may I just add -- I don't speak fluent Spanish. I speak poquito -- a very small amount -- but not enough to convey to natives that I am going to be dying soon and would love a cold beverage and for someone to help me get back to Guatemala City. I cannot die in the rainforest, after all. Not without a/c. I finally find my friends, and my dear, sweet best friend Kimmy says "let's go to the airport" -- even though the hotel concierge kept telling us there were no more flights out of Tikal today. We get in a cab, me apologizing the entire time for ruining our trip, and get to the airport. Hotel man was right, there were no flights out until the next morning. Certain I'd be dead by morning, and realizing I had no more Phenergan and would soon be puking all over the airport, I begin to panic and am wondering how in Heaven's sweet name I can fix THIS....when little Kimmy, soft spoken and sweet as ever, says, "let's go over there and just pray." Say whaaaaa? I mean, it sounds good and all, but there are NO FLIGHTS out of here. Didn't you hear? Ahhh...but Kim knows the One who can make a flight appear out of nowhere. Sigh. We prayed, and before we finished (literally), a man walked up to us and said, "Are you trying to get a flight to Guatemala City?" Well, you know the end of the story. We get back to our hotel in Antigua before the night is out and in our very cozy beds in blessed air conditioning. And obviously I lived.

Kim has always possessed a faith that I envy. So does my husband Paul. Whenever things get tough, Paul prays. Always. When I get upset and am running around armed with lists and schedules and my precious plans, Pablo is praying. Always. When I am crying about the bank balance and trying to finagle overtime at the hospital, Paul suggests prayer. Didn't he hear me? We aren't going to make it this month. "I hear you, honey," he'll say, "but all I know to do is to pray." And we do, and guess what? It always works out. God always shows up, just like the angel in the lion's den. And we come out, unscathed, like Daniel. Again.

I pray. A lot. But it isn't my natural tendency to automatically do it. My first reaction is to fix. My next reaction is to pray. I want to be like Kimmy and Paul and Daniel. I do realize how utterly ridiculous it is for me to try to fix anything. God is, after all, God. And I am just me.

Fortunately, I am a work in progress...

"...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Phil. 1:6

*You may also like this post from 2007!

Spiritual Amnesia

This is week 5 of my Daniel Safari. This week we studied about Belshazzar and how he totally forgot what had happened to his father, Nebby, a few chapters ago. (Remember how he had to spend 7 years as an animal, eating grass and wandering around insane? "...until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will." Daniel 5:21.)
So Daniel is called in to interpret the meaning of some words that a bizarre hand-out-of-nowhere has written on the wall. Daniel confronts Bels and says, bluntly, "And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this"...and proceeds to tell Bels that he can go ahead and kiss his kingdom adios. (Which all transpires by the end of the chapter. Bels bites the dust and a new king comes in).

Though you knew all this. Gulp.

How often do I "forget" what God has done for me in the past? Time after time after time I suffer from spiritual amnesia just.like.Bels. (Double gulp).

Just like the Israelites, just like Belshazzar....I forget what God has delivered me from. What He has given me. How He has rescued me. Saved me. Loved me. And I am humbled, once again, to confess my unbelief and my fear and promise (again) to leave it at His feet. But then I pick it up again. It's a vicious cycle. I'm slowly learning. (I'm a very slow learner. Verrrry slllllow). It's one of those things that I wish I could take a magic pill for. Take one pill in the a.m. and by the next morning, you will recall all that God has done for you and rejoice!! Live in faith!! Know that He will take care of you!! Know that He will equip you for what He has called you to!!

In my Bible there are dates in the margins everywhere. I jot down the date that I read a verse and it means something special to me. Or a promise that I have seen fulfilled. I also keep a prayer journal. I have entry after entry of God's faithful provision for my family. Documentation of a God that is totally present in my family's life. With all these "Ebenezer stones", one would wonder why I have such a stinkin' hard time remembering?

I think it is because Satan knows my weak areas, and plants those pesky seeds of doubt in my little human brain. It's funny (or not) that one passage I come to every time I open my Bible is Ephesians 6:11-18. Yep, the whole "armor of God" passage.
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

So here I sit, armed with my Sword, holding my Shield high, and praying, praying, praying that I will remember. The enemy hates that. Hates it. Which is why I struggle so. There is a battle going on that we cannot see, but we are such a part of I think it would stun us if we knew...but that is a post for another day.

For today, I am taking my Rx for my amnesia. I am prayerfully remembering where God has brought me from -- and resting in the knowledge that He is taking me to the place that He has determined for me.

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been thou forever will be.

Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
all I have needed thy hand hath provided;
great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Balentime's Day

St. Valentine was a Roman priest and martyr. How on earth we came to celebrate him by giving out candy hearts and Hershey's kisses is beyond me, but that's beside the point. Growing up, we always made our pilgrimage to the drugstore to buy a cardboard box of wallet-sized valentines, with the pre-printed "to" and "from" on the back of a picture of kittens or teddy bears, declaring on each note that "I heart u" or some smooshy sentiment like it. We'd go home and fill in the blanks, and the next day at school, we'd pass one out to each of the kids in our class and that was it. Maybe some cupcakes and kool-aid (this was before anyone cared about food allergies or red dye #40).

Now up to this year, we've homeschooled, so holiday parties were with our homeschool co-op and were relatively low-key. (Read: cheap).

Times have changed. This year the 3rd graders didn't have a party. They've done a lot of party-ing as of late, and the room mothers (bless them) decided they didn't need another shindig. The kindergartners, however, are another story. So Griffin and I went to Walgreen's to buy a box of cards. We went up and down the holiday aisle. There were boxes of candy, big red teddy bears holding roses, and cute little toys with a few pieces of candy attached, but no cardboard box of cards for 99 cents. We tracked down the store employee (Jonquel) and asked her where the kids Valentine's cards were. Jonquel had to go get a ladder to show me. On the very top shelf, out of reach, were six boxes of cards. $2.99/box. Of course, as Jonquel was up on her ladder, Griffin managed to find a package of cool 3-D Star Wars sticker-Valentine's that were $6. For a pkg. of 15. We needed 20. He also "encouraged" (read: whined) me to buy some candy to attach to each card. Say what? But, being that I'm not a party pooper, I agreed. (read: I gave in).

I have to admit, when he came home yesterday with a hand decorated bag full of pencils, candy, and cards signed by each of the kids, I almost teared up. (I would have if he and the 3 year old weren't in a rumble for a piece of candy at that moment.) I read each card and looked at the precious 6 year old signatures, most in all caps, and was touched. OK, so there was nothing deep or peronally meaningful in the assorted G-Force, Star Wars, and Hannah Montana cards, it was just sweet. I remembered back to my school days and how special I felt getting a card from everyone. Whether they liked me or not. Even from red headed Kyle Bozencurtz, who was the first person to call me "four-eyes" in the 3rd grade when I had to get glasses.

Last night Griffin and Sissy lay in bed with me watching the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics. Griffin told me about his party, and how Sam's mom made a heart shaped King Cake, and how he was going to give all the pink pencils to Anne Claire....and the more he talked, the more I looked at him and realized that he felt special, too.

And right before she fell asleep, Sissy looked at me, pecked me on the cheek, and said, "Happy Balentime's Day, Mama."

Because not every thought of mine is of Jesus and big life decisions...

My husband suggested last night that I not post on facebook for a while. I think my mention of my dream the other night, which involved choking up Snickers bars in front of Alex Rodriguez, followed by my reminder to my "NOLA peeps" to watch TLC's new reality show based on a handsome trash man named Sidney, made my husband, well....embarrassed. (Not really, he just thinks I am a goofball).

In my defense, which is rather pathetic, I am just honest about my life. Perhaps someone else in facebook land has had a dream in which she coughs up chunks of candy in front of a multi-millionaire Dominican baseball player. It could happen.
And as for Sidney --- well, anyone that gets New Orleans TV stations has surely seen the SDT commercials (not to be confused with STD commercials), in which a very handsome entrepreneur with olive skin and black wavy hair talks about his company. Yes, it's a trash company. Whatever. He can take my trash out any day.

Maybe it's because I referred to my friends and neighbors as my "peeps"? I consider myself slightly ghetto-fabulous, since I work at "The Touro", where hungry babies are considered "greedy", any sort of crying/fussing is "cuttin' up", and babies are either "woke" or "sleep" (as in "he woke?" or "she sleep?") -- not to mention, we "make groceries", watch parades from "the neutral ground", and drive east to go to the west bank. You don't have to be somewhere at 7:00, you have to be there for 7:00. "Where y'at?" actually means "How are you?" -- it doesn't have to make sense. It's New Orleans. And you must admit, it's a little bit funny.

My family laughs. A lot. My kids are ridiculously goofball-ish (yes, it's a word).
6 year old Griffin can get a big laugh for doing the robot, walking stupidly, and his 6 year old potty humor can make me and Paul collapse into a fit of the giggles. (If it involves the word "butt", "poop" or God forbid, "fart", Griff will do whatever possible to use it. What can I say? We're raising a genius over here.)

So, whether or not Mr. South thought I was slightly, well, stupid, he laughs with (or maybe at?) me every single day. He cracks me up more than anyone I've ever known, and that's saying a lot, because I know some pretty funny people.

As for the TLC show about Sidney? Well, it wasn't that good. Now, if you'd add in a little person and maybe some conjoined twins....

My desire vs God's desire for me

That's a loaded title, isn't it?

Psalm 37:4 says, ""Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."

Paul and I have been praying fervently that God would change our desires to match whatever it is He wants us to do. Because frankly, what we want isn't really based on rationalization, it's based on emotion. And we cannot see The Big Picture, whatever that may be.

This obedience thing is a drag sometimes. I'm sure my children think that, too. The way Griffin responds when I tell him to take a shower is a lot like I feel when God tells me to do something that I don't actually *want* to do. (I do not, however, call God a "little jewk" when I am being disobedient. Just to make that clear.)

As I type this, Anne Claire is in the corner of the room, presumably hiding from me as she does something totally ridiculous. She has a pen and is crushing up her chips from lunch. I saw her doing it and told her to stop. She looked truly forlorn, said, "OK, Mama" and then proceeded to crouch down in the corner, where I can still see her, and I can even HEAR the crunch of the chips. What a silly child to think she is getting away with something.

But wait....what a silly child *I* am for thinking that I can get away with my disobedience. My worry (just a nice name for unbelief), my anxiety (cute way of saying "I don't trust you, God"), my ever-trying-to-come-up-with-a-plan (aka "I don't think God HAS a plan")....those are all sins that I am guilty of every.stinking.day. And I am in plain view of the omniscient God, who created me, who knows my heart, and despite telling me over and over to give it to Him, here I am, crouched down in a corner, doing the same repetitive sin over and over....

So I will continue to pray that what *I* want will not get in the way of what God wants for us. I will pray that God will change my desires to reflect His. And I promise that I will be ever aware of my human heart, which tends to stray at the slightest of distraction.


Just the sound of that word makes me cringe, because I tend to lean toward the opposite -- to, dare I say it, vanity. (Excessive cringe here.) I have always thought myself to be strong and capable and can handle whatever comes my way. Really.

When I was 30 weeks pregnant with my first child, I began to have anxiety attacks. I'm not talking about a little racy heartbeat, or feeling nervous about something. I'm talking about an out of control feeling that I had to run somewhere. Anywhere. I had to get.away.now. To where, I do not know. To what, I couldn't tell you. I felt like I was coming out of my skin. It always happened at night, and always after I'd first fallen asleep. My theory at the time was that I would get panicky because the baby would push up on my diaphragm, making it difficult to catch a good breath, and I'd startle myself awake, panicking. My OB was magnificent. His wife had dealt with the same issues and a nice little Rx for some Zoloft and Xanax was enough to make me feel better. Whew!

No one told me about how I would feel about 24 hours postpartum, when my hormone levels plummeted. I hit rock-freaking-bottom. I was in the hospital, post c-section, when I lost it. I became hysterical. I know the nurses thought I needed to go up to the 8th floor for some serious psych help. But they were sweet and kind and my ultra-precious doctor had warned them that I may snap. And snap I did. My poor husband thought for a few minutes that I might walk out of the hospital and never look back, leaving him and a breastfeeding baby boy all alone.

This was all one week, to the day, after 9/11. Nothing good or uplifting was on the news. It's all anyone was talking about. I remember saying "I feel guilty being happy about the baby." My mother, not the most supportive or loving woman even in the best of circumstances, kept asking me how badly labor hurt and why I had to have a c-section and how she never needed one and her babies were big and I must've not been able to handle the pain and ......well, you get the picture.

My sweet husband would pray over me. He would quietly hold my hand and pray. Not always out loud, because that often would agitate me even more. He felt 100% helpless. He would pray scripture over me often. When sleep eluded me because I was terrified of waking up mid-panic-attack, he'd pray Psalm 4:8 and Proverbs 3:24. And that night in the hospital when I didn't know if I would survive (literally, I didn't see how I could go on like that), the nurse came in, told my husband to climb in bed with me, gave me a beautiful IV dose of an anti-anxiety med, found a peaceful station on the radio playing instrumental hymns, and took my sweet baby to the nursery. My husband held me all night and I slept for the first time in days peacefully, while he prayed and rubbed my head and whispered that everything was going to be alright.

I remember waking up in the wee hours and realizing that I could not do this alone. I couldn't fix it. I couldn't just suck it up. I needed help. I needed my husband. I needed my doctor. Mostly, I needed God. I needed his grace and his mercy. I needed his peace. I needed all those prayers. I needed to not be ashamed to ask for help. I was too miniature in the grand scheme of life to handle this beast on my own.

And so, slowly, over the next days and weeks, I began to reach out and ask for help. I had to confess to friends and neighbors and family that I was having a very difficult time and needed prayers and physical help and support. I can't stand asking for help in the best of times. I remember having to pray, sobbing and crying, before I could pick up the phone or tell my husband that I --gasp-- needed something.

God sent so many angels to me in those weeks and months. I ended up being diagnosed with postpartum depression which lasted for months -- close to a year, really. I needed medication and therapy and a lot of support. Women from our church brought food and cards...but more importantly, so many of them just came and sat with me. Prayed with me. And I'd cry, and they'd listen.

I learned that no matter how strong I thought I was, I was really so weak I could barely make it out of bed without God's magnificent grace. He sustained me. He drew me closer to Him through it all.

Humbling? Indeed. Oh, but girls, I've got a long way to go, because through it all, my tendency is to fall back on my "I can fix it" mindset. It takes me a lot -- a LOT -- of self control to let go and let God have it.

But I'm working on it.

Humbly (she writes with a smile),

Genuine Faith

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7

Genuine Faith. Genuine. Gen-yoo-in. "not counterfeit; authentic; real; free from pretense, affectation, or hypocrisy; sincere."

Free from pretense? Ouch.

I am going to admit something to you that only a few people know. Well, I think only a few people. Unless you have said something to me that is, well, boring and un-funny...then you've probably seen it. I have (shhh....) a fake smile. I do. A co-worker pointed it out to me about 15 years ago, and though I was horrified to discover that it was, indeed, true, I realized most people couldn't really tell that it wasn't sincere. But the more people get to know me, they can tell when I'm just "being polite" (that's my southern way of explaining it) or whether it's a genuine grin.

As sad as that is, I wonder how many times I've come across with an insincere faith? I wonder how many times I've said "Oh, sweetie, I'll pray for you" -- but never did. I wonder how many times I uttered a precious, "Bless your heart" but didn't really mean it. I'm fairly certain that in my 35+ years of walking with God, more than a few people have looked at me and thought I was a fake. A phony. A (gasp!) hypocrite.

If only I'd have known then what I know now. (Wasn't that a song by Toby Keith?) It takes a good amount of trial walking to come to a point where all that hypocrisy and falseness is burned away. It takes getting to the bottom of a slimy pit and wondering if there is a way out to realize that there is only ONE way, and that is through Jesus Christ. You have to reach up OUT of that mud and mire and take His hand. It is a verb. An action. It doesn't just happen, miraculously, one day when you've been a Christian for x number of years. It takes lots sweat. And even more tears.

Through the years, I've endured little trial by little trial. Don't get me wrong -- at the time, those trials seemed monumental! I remember several things in my life that sent me falling to my knees and had me begging God to help me. Often I'd find myself at a complete loss for words. I'd just fall to my knees in silence. I always have relied on the verse Romans 8:26: "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."

I think, looking back, that all those smaller trials were preparing me for what was to be, to date, my biggest trial yet. Nearly a year ago, I almost lost my sister. That single event literally rocked my world. It changed everything about me. I remember those days that I could barely speak. I remember crying -- practically screaming -- and praying and begging God to save her life. He did, by the way. :)

And it was there, somewhere in those weeks and months that followed, that I began to see glimpses of a more grown up faith. I began to know with a certainty that I didn't have before that God was indeed right here. And His promises were real. And I started to be more real. When my co-workers asked how my sister was doing, I'd tell them, and I'd tell them that I had no doubt that it was the prayers of literally hundreds of people crying out to God for her life that saved her. I began to pray for people. Not just saying "oh, I'll pray for you" but saying "can I pray for you right now?"

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are the epitome of genuine faith. In Daniel chapter 3, they refused to bow to anything or anyone other than the One True God. They knew that God *could* deliver them, but even if He didn't, they refused to bow to another god. Even if He didn't save them. And for that faith, they got tossed into a fiery furnace. What I love most about that passage of Scripture is the addition of "no smell of fire had come upon them." Isn't that great? They didn't burn up, their clothes were intact, and don't even get me started on the 4th man in the furnace!! But the boys didn't even smell of smoke! It's the small details like that that overwhelm me.

I have a long way to go before I have that kind of faith. I've pondered long and hard about what I would do in the same situation. I like to think I'd say the same thing as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. But would I? If someone held a gun to my child's head and wanted me to denounce Christ, would I? Would you?

I've a long way to go....