Sunday, October 4, 2015

"Run for Haiti"

As most of you know, our family has a HUGE heart for the people in Haiti.  James made a decision a few years ago to spend his first year out of high school serving at a preschool/orphanage that Brent had visited a year earlier.  From that point, Maranatha Children's Ministries has become something we talk about daily in our home.  Last year David told us that he wanted to do a "Run for Haiti" with his friends and got Sarah excited about the idea as well.  He came up with it completely on his own, and we have been thinking about how we might be able to make it happen since then.

As a senior at Valley Oaks Charter School, Jason has to take a class called Senior Seminar in which he has to write a research paper and do a project on the research that he is writing.  He decided to write on the importance of the English language for people in Haiti.  Because Maranatha has a preschool and English camp in the summer, which Jason had an opportunity to help with last year, it seemed we had a perfect opportunity to combine Jason's project with David's vision and Sarah's excitement.

So on November 7th we will be having a "Run for Haiti."  It will begin and end at our house with dinner afterward (nothing fancy . . . keeping it cheap so all the money we raise can go to Maranatha). We've mapped out a one mile circle inside of our neighborhood for running/walking.  The kids will be handing out flyers to their friends hopefully this week, but I thought I would provide some background for parents or other people interested.

The money will go to Maranatha and will be used for children who attend preschool and English Camp.  They have a sponsorship program.  As a family, we pay $50.00 per month to sponsor one child, who goes to preschool during the school year and English camp in the summer.  He is provided two meals a day during both programs.  For some kids this is the only good nourishment they receive.  Our hope is that the kids and their friends can raise enough money to sponsor one child for a year ($600.00).  If it is more, then that's even better.

Those who are interested in participating can ask friends or relatives to sponsor them.  Checks can be made directly to Maranatha (it is a nonprofit, so the money is tax deductible).  We will have plenty of adults and high schoolers for supervision during the walk/run, but we would love for this to be a family event and have lots of parents hang out, too.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Big Decisions . . . and Resulting Lessons

What a week!  I had to announce a big decision.  My boys were in Haiti.  Taxes were due.  There were stressful occurrences at work.  Money was tight.  I was super glad when we got to 6:00 last night!!!  At least I get a weekend break!

Only one of the things in that list pertain to what I want to write.  I had to announce a big decision this week.  I knew it was going to be painful to some people.  I'm being a little vague because there are still some people who do not know.  I prayed through my decision, sought counsel, and trusted God with the decision I made and the fact that my announcing it was going to be difficult.  It was one of those decisions that was more difficult.  It wasn't, "Of course you have to do this; the other is sin."  No, both choices were perfectly good, righteous choices.  But in my time with God and in my conversations with people, I could just feel my heart stirring and leading toward the decision I made.

Once the decision was made, I began asking God to show me when to make the announcement and how to do it in such a way that would be edifying and hopefully not discouraging.  So I wrote a letter.  I had Brent read it.  I reread it.  I made some changes.  I reread it again.  And I prayed that God would give me the courage to give the letter.  I was going to give it in person.  The purpose of the letter was simply so that my words would be down on paper, hopefully preventing my anxiety and stress from doing the talking instead of my real feelings.  In my time praying, I just hoped that God would make the announcement easier . . . make the person receiving the announcement more understanding, calm my nerves, etc.  I was still stressed when I did it, but I had on some level convinced myself that because I was seeking God and following his commands and direction for my life, it was going to go well.

It didn't.  I guess it could have been worse, but it certainly wasn't good.

So the rest of the week was a challenge.  The people it hurt are people I have to see all the time.  And it's hard to face people you've hurt . . . even if your intentions were not to hurt them.

As I thought about this and prayed through it almost constantly, I was reminded of how silly it was for me to expect God was going to make this easy on me.  I thought about Scripture and how often people suffered for following God and making the decisions He wanted them to make.  The list is endless, but the most significant, of course, is Jesus.  He had a choice, and He made it for us, even though it hurt him.  And every time I don't live my life according to His will, it hurts Him again.  And he was hurt for me . . . there was nothing in what he did that he deserved.  Every analogy breaks down.  And this one does quickly.  The decision I made will benefit me in many ways.  There are things I will sacrifice, but not a lot . . . not my life like Jesus.  There are people who will benefit from my decision, but there are people who are hurt because of it.  Jesus' decision was for the benefit of all mankind, and only hurt him.  Life is not easy.  Sometimes we have to walk through some really hard things, maybe because we were hurt by someone, but maybe because we did the hurting (even if it was unintentional).  So as I have been walking through this over the past several days, I have been trying to see what God wants me to learn through it.

My friend, Isabel, says, "It's easy to love the lovely.  It takes Christ's love to love the unlovely."  One thing I have learned this week is that the unlovely is sometimes someone you would not typically put in that category.  I have also learned that though I want to run and though I want to be angry with the unlovely person(s), God can help me love through those feelings, if I will submit them to Him.  And this love that comes from God and exudes through us makes a lasting impression on people.  I will continue to have to face this challenge (these people/person) for a while, maybe forever, I don't know, but I am praying constantly that God will help me love so that He will be glorified.

And then I look at the positive.  While it didn't go as well as I had hoped, the announcement is made, and I am excited for the change. My boys are back from Haiti . . . they are healthy . . . Jason loved it . . . they are both seeking to serve the Lord in incredible ways.  We didn't owe on our taxes, and I got them done on time.  And the stress at work, while it will continue because of the nature of the job, is allowing me a little break, and overall the lives I have seen changed outweighs the stress.  Money is temporary, and we have so much more than so many people.  And we ended the work with with an amazing time of worship and praise with great friends.  God is amazing . . . providing for us as we need.  We don't normally have Friday night praise and worship nights, but He knew how much I was going to need that last night . . . He is truly incredible!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Love and Respect

I haven’t blogged in a long time, but I have something on my heart that I thought I would share for those few of you who might read my blog occasionally.  A couple things before I actually write this.  First of all, I know my opinion about this is not going to be agreed upon by all, and I don’t really want to get in a fight on my blog.  These are just my thoughts.  Second, if you do want to argue my points, I would rather you read the book (with an open mind), then come back and give me your opinions.  Third, I don’t agree with everything in the book, but I did get a lot out of it and would say that I agree with almost everything.  And one final thing to clarify . . . I may be completely wrong, but Brent always thinks that people might view me as somewhat feministic, I guess based on the fact that I have always worked and that I have furthered my education.  I want to make it clear that I am not at all.  I say this because the book might really bother some of you who lean more toward feminism.  I really think that the best-case scenario in families is the traditional (or old-fashioned as some might say):  Dad works; mom stays home and takes care of the kids.  I would have been perfectly happy in that situation, but God had other plans for me, and I followed them.  But to go along with that, I have said and will say again that I don’t think my working outside of the home or being in school has hurt my children; in fact, in many ways it has benefitted them in ways that my staying home would not have.  The thing I would say about our choices or really, if we are honest, just the way things fell, is that we have not been perfect by any means, but we have tried to keep God in the center and our marriage and children a priority.  Has it been hard at times?  Definitely.  But here we are . . . by the grace of God making our lives work.

With that said, I guess you are probably wondering what book I read . . . Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs.  We have had it sitting in our house for years.  I’ve picked it up a few times, but I have never made it through.  I finally determined a month or so ago that I was finishing it no matter what, and it took longer than it should have, but I finished it while I was on the plane to Virginia the other day.  It was a hard read for me . . . not because it is super intellectual.  It’s not!  It’s actually a very easy read.  But because it was incredibly convicting.  Now that I’m putting it out there, too, I’m opening the door for a ton of accountability.  While I do not consider myself a feminist, I definitely do not consider myself a submissive wife either.  Any of you who know me probably can see that I would struggle with that.  I think I can fairly say that I want to submit to Brent, I really do, but my strong, way too independent personality gets the best of me so often.  It is hard for me.  And as I read about respecting Brent, I was sad because I know that my natural tendency is not to show him the respect he needs or deserves.

What made me even sadder, though, was that Brent really does do a pretty great job loving me.  He is a romantic . . . that’s what drew me to him so many years ago.  He loves with all his heart, and most of the time, he treats me like a gem.  I was sitting in a session in my class today and the professor asked us (if we were married) to think about when we first knew we loved our spouse.  I know I would not have articulated this at the time, but the first memory that came to mind was this:  Right after Brent and I started dating (actually we had not even been on an official date, but we were spending a lot of time together in groups, and I would say our friends and other people at our college would have identified us as a couple), I got a little freaked out, and I broke up with him.  Initially he was mad, but the next day, after being out of my dorm room, I returned to find a single yellow rose with a card that said something to the effect of “If you are too scared to be in a relationship, I want to at least remain friends.”  (I know it was worded better).  I think that may have been the moment, though I would not admit it right away.  But after I cried a little, I went and called my dad for advice and a day or two later called Brent and apologized, and the rest is history.  He always took me on amazing, thoughtful, romantic dates.  He planned an amazing proposal (which I ruined, if that tells you anything).  He wrote me a song and had it sung at our wedding.  He had flowers at the house after the kids were born and when I found out I was pregnant.  He will cook and clean and do laundry.  And his thoughtfulness extends beyond me . . . he’s just all around a loving man who desires for others to know how much they mean to him.  Is he perfect?  No.  But he’s pretty amazing.  I say all this because I think for his personality, the loving part comes much more easily than the respecting part comes for me with my personality.

I’m headstrong and stubborn, and I think I know what’s right.  I’m argumentative . . . ask my parents because I always have been.  I also have pretty high expectations.  Am I all bad?  Of course not.  I work hard, and I love my family, and I would give the shirt of my back for other people, but my personality is more of a challenge when it comes to respecting my husband.  So as I read that book, I was convicted, and I was challenged because I can’t figure out how I am going to do a better job and not let my natural tendencies get the best of me.

I hear ladies talk about their husbands or I see things on social media, and it just hurts me for their husbands.  I also see and hear things that hurt me for wives, don’t get me wrong.  As I read in the book about the CRAZY Cycle (which is what Eggerichs refers to when he talks about marriages that are struggling), I could see how very difficult it is to get off of it.  Our human nature keeps us on it.  He’s not loving me, so why should I respect him?  He’s thinking the opposite.  She’s not respecting me, so why should I love her?  Now would either of us admit that we are thinking or saying that?  No, but it shows clearly in our actions and in our words.

The thing I really liked about the book is that, though I know it’s not going to be easy for me to show respect like I should, the book spells out how I can do a better job . . . in detail.  It also spends time talking about how we should work on not taking things personally when our spouse messes up.  On the occasion that Brent is not being loving toward me, I need to remember that he does love me, and he is just messing up like we all do . . . and try not to take it to personally or try to get to the bottom of it.  Did he have a rotten day at work?  Is he stressed about something unrelated to home that is causing him to be short?  Sometimes our feelings take over our logic.  We need to remember what is true and that our feelings often lie to us.

I highly recommend reading the book.  There will be things you do not agree with, as there are in all books, but there are many great truths.  I have learned as I have “grown up” that most books (even those I can’t support) have good principles I can grab, learn from, and implement.  Read the book with an open-mind, with the desire to be the person God calls you to be to your spouse.  Even if you do not agree with all of it, what does your spouse think?  When you got married, you agreed to sacrifice for the other.  For some people, you may not agree with submission and respect, but if that would help your marriage, shouldn’t you do it anyway?  Your husband may not feel like he needs to love you the way you need to be loved either, but don’t you want him to do it any way?  We have to serve each other in order to make our marriages work.  If we are only seeking what we want and not seeking to serve our spouse, our marriages are doomed.