Saturday, April 23, 2016

Protect Your Marriage

It started innocent enough. He worked at the school where I worked years ago and used to visit my classroom as part of his job.

I noticed his conversation was friendly and pleasant.

At first.

Completely professional.

But then he started asking about my life outside of work.

Innocent questions.

Questions about my husband. And my faith.

And he told me about his wife. And his faith.

Then he gave me a gift. Said it was something he put together himself because he was thinking of me.

Thankfully, Ryan and I have a very open door policy about who we talk to every day and what happens in our lives.

Ryan knew everything. He has told me repeatedly that some men don't always have good intentions, even though I'm a bit of a Pollyanna and try to think the best of people.

So when I received this gift, I told Ryan about it and he suggested that the best course of action was for me to return it. I agreed with him.

He guessed I would see the true colors of this man.

And I sure did.

It's one of the most awkward situations someone encounters in life, returning a gift.

And when I told this man the words, "I respect my husband and don't accept gifts from any other men," he almost exploded. He raised his voice, told me I had weak faith and a weak marriage. After he was done, he grabbed the gift, asking if I was sure of my decision before he stormed out of classroom.

He never came back to my room and we didn't speak again.

I asked about him years later, when I was visiting a friend who worked there.

She told me he left his wife and married the teacher that worked in the next wing of classrooms over from me and they were expecting their first child very soon.

10 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own andmy own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words.20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” (John 10: 1-21)

Protect your marriage.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Sucker

I admit, I have been distracted.

While breastfeeding my baby for the past four months, I've spent an inexcusable amount of time on my phone, browsing the internet, checking social media and "keeping up with the Joneses."

But three weeks ago, that all changed.

Tonight, I told Ryan I felt better not having Facebook in my life anymore.

The stress, discontentment, and comparisons are losing their stronghold on my life.

As I was doing some midnight gardening tonight, I was pruning my rose bushes. Due to their neglect for the past few years, there were many suckers growing out of the base of the bushes. Suckers are branches that grow off of the base of the bush, but offer no value other than to literally suck the life out of the bush and never produce any roses.

As I was staring at my rose bushes, I realized that I had some suckers in my life, and one of the main ones recently was Facebook.

So I cut it out.

Jesus said in Matthew 18: 7-9 "“Woe to the world for temptations to sin![b] For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell[c] of fire.

It seems an innocent thing to browse social media for 10 minutes here and there, but that's at the expense of paying attention to the people I love who are right next to me. But all this time adds up. And I realize that I could be using my time much more productively, or rather, fruitfully.

How does this relate to my rose garden? An amazing thing happens when rose bushes are pruned, they flourish! I must be getting ready to flourish because I am just coming out of a season of being pruned. (I will keep you posted.)

One of the more effective discussions on my most recent pruning was from Pastor David Ax and Pastor Shadrach Means. Please check out their sermons on 4/13/16 and 4/20/16 respectively. These two pastors discuss the dangers of getting sucked into social media and other apps and gadgets on your electronic devices and how the culture of technology is damaging not only ourselves, but our children and that generation as well.

I have been a sucker for Facebook, checking my emails and texts, and living distracted - away from my family regardless of the fact that we're in the same room.

Even though Cancer has cut out most things that have hindered our lives, this remained.

I won't be a sucker anymore.

I have decided to plug into the root and become a true branch, one that will bear fruit from my daily labors. I am asking God to change me, and guide me in this transformation.

It doesn't just take Cancer in your life for you to make a change, you can do it regardless of your circumstances. Would you like to become a branch too? Here's how from John 15:1-17:

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant[b] does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Photo credit: https://redeemingmoments.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/john-15-1.jpg

Monday, April 18, 2016

Happy 40th Birthday (4/2)

I turned 40 today.

I think back to my last birthday a year ago, and how we received devastating news that day: Ryan's chemo had stopped working and the cancer was growing again.

But God knew what else would take place between then and now. Our bun in the oven was baking and born last year, and had started to grow from a tiny embryo making her debut in my belly on March 22, 2015. The bad news we received less than two weeks later was part of the reason we named her Joy in the first place... "Count it all joy, my brethren, when you fall into various trials..." James 1:5.

She is a joy within this trial and is such a joy to be around.

Someone recently asked me about the transition between one to two kids and I said I hated it. That transition was one of the worst experiences of my life and I'm still having a bit of difficulty overcoming it. Post-partum depression is definitely not helping matters either.

But don't get me wrong. I love both of my daughters tremendously. Yet I feel completely torn in two. I want to give each one 100% and I know I'm not even giving them 50% of me at all times. Whatever inadequacies I felt in the past during motherhood have more than doubled in my life with the increase in offspring.

I am using the advice I've heard from countless mothers to assuage my fears: "it will get better."

Although it has gotten better day by day, I'm waiting for it to get better on a larger scale and look forward to that day.

In the meantime, I've been reflecting on my past and how much things have changed over the many birthdays I've celebrated since knowing Ryan.

One year, early in our marriage, Ryan and I were shopping at Costco together and I saw some baby pajamas, lying on an empty check stand conveyer belt, crying out to me. I had never wanted kids growing up, but after waking up on my 30th birthday looking at Ryan, demanding kids right then and there - this set of baby pajamas really got my attention. And a few days before my birthday, they were tangible reminders of the wishes I made blowing out the candles on my cake that year, and every year after.

It was then that I first felt the ache of motherhood.

As I dressed my second daughter in those baby ducky pajamas to go to bed in tonight, I thought back to us fantasizing about having kids, and Ryan, tenderly and gingerly picking up those empty pajamas so long ago to pretend that our baby (or babies) would someday wear and potentially walk in those very clothes.

I am so blessed that I received an awesome gift today - more time with my growing family.

And I also got a beautiful reminder of my dreams being fulfilled - complete with baby drool and cooing in baby pajamas, while being loved on by my amazing hubby and lovely little lady.