Just a glimpse of me...

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Do you ever feel STUCK? In 2000, I began looking for answers to some tough questions in my life. I'd searched high & low and finally conceded to search the promises found in the Bible. Those promises have sustained & guided me through the loss of a parent, the struggle with anxiety & depression, the loss of a valued relationship and so much more! I've found joy amid the pain. And, I want to share it with you!

26 March 2009

Birthday Eve for My Bear

Today, March 26th, is what I call "Birthday Eve" for my hubby. In the past week, I've been thinking a lot about him & our relationship more than usual. I am SO thankful that God placed him in my life. He's a wonderful friend. He's a fun husband and, I enjoy his sense of humor. I love the way that our kids are crazy about him. I feel comfortable with him, even realizing that he knows how imperfect I am. I love his drive to succeed in his career & yet make time for movie nights on the floor in the great room, eating pizza in front of the fireplace, with the family. I don't love that he can't seem to remember where the dirty laundry basket is -- even though I haven't changed its location for over 12 years. Still... I am crazy about my guy :) I grew up in a home with a father who was gentle & loving & a Godly man. He was the father of 3 daughters & made each of us feel special in our own way. As a young girl, there was never any doubt in my mind that MY parents were partners for life & would never divorce. I think that lots of kids feel that way & are then surprised by their parents growing apart. My parents were separated after 50+ years of marriage... when my father lost a brief, aggressive battle with cancer. I grieve his loss but, thank God that I was blessed to SEE a lifelong example through him & my mom. My parents had their ups & downs but, with God's help, they were committed to each other until death parted them. What was the secret to my parents' success? Was it merely their commitment to God? Can you even use the word, merely, when talking about commitment to God? Did my parents do something that other God-loving people don't do? I don't have those answers - really! I did learn some things from observing my parents for so many years though...
  1. They valued time with each other. They had lunches together - often packing a little picnic lunch & sharing it together, sometimes just sitting in the car by a frozen pond in the winter. They sat in the same room together most evenings - even though my dad was often watching a TV show while my mom was sewing or mending or doing something with her hands.
  2. They valued each other's personal time doing what they loved... on their own. Dad would go hit the golf ball around a course from time to time. He'd play tennis with a friend. Mom would go to a craft show in a neighboring town with her "art friends" or visit an elderly person in the nursing home. They didn't have to be together 24/7 to feel connected or committed to each other.
  3. Yes, they DID place God first. Each of them read the Bible daily & had their personal prayer time. They constantly looked at how God wanted to change & improve them. They were not stagnant in their relationship with God or with each other!
  4. They had a life aside from the kids (yep, they did!). They went on dates - usually free ones like a ride in the car or a walk around the block. They went to Pastors & Wives Retreats and left the 3 of us home! When we left the home for college, my parents still had things in common. When their hoousehold was just the two of them, they continued to get out & do things together.
  5. They invested in & valued the lives of others! From the earliest days, I remember my parents having people over for dinners, for desserts after church, for game nights (yuck), and more. With their examples, they showed me that our efforts need to be focused outward toward all of God's children. My father visited people in his role as a pastor but, you could tell that it was one of his favorite things to do. When he retired from being a pastor, he volunteered at their new church visiting people in the hospitals or unable to leave their homes.
  6. They valued FAMILY! Okay, I know that we were poor preacher's kids with hardly two coins to rub together but... vacations for our family were almost always spent in a relative's home. It was usually on the way to/from Anderson Campmeeting too. That might seem like the "cheap way out" but, think about it! You can't spend 4-5 days once to twice a year in someone's home if you can't get along with them. We weren't exactly like all of our relatives but, we learned to adapt to their schedules while in their homes. We watched their family dynamics and found our place in them. We made lifelong memories surrounding "family" times. We learned the value in the statement that blood is thicker than water.
On the eve of my hubby's birthday, I thank God that my hubby & I have adopted so many of the ideals modeled by my parents. Marriage isn't easy most of the time but, it's worth the work. When we strive for the best in ourself and the best in those we love, we become better people, as do they. When we accept each other people's short-comings; while encouraging loved ones to get back up, brush the dirt off, and learn from the fall; we become better people, as do they. When we talk openly & honestly about our struggle to let God truly guide our daily lives, we allow others to be open & honest in their dialogue.

So, on the eve of my "BearBear's" birthday, I thank God for His many blessings & ask for His continued guidance in our lives. I vow to continue with the "work set before me". I vow to continue to model principals & convictions to my children to better equip them to be Godly, responsible, caring, family-oriented adults.

Happy Birthday Eve to my BearBear

Scripture of the Day: "Lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author & finisher of our faith." Hebrews 12:1-2a

05 March 2009

Not a Fan of Choral Music...

Not a fan of choral music... WHAT? Could I truthfully say that? I 'm a long time member of the choir in my church. If I had to list my favorite songs, the list begin with (and consist mainly of) songs that are recorded by specific artists. There are several choral selections that I love but, the majority of the time, I listen to songs by an artist or a small group. I'm not a fan of country music either. I've heard several pieces that were okay to me; however, I can honestly say that I am not a fan of country music. I don't really like hard rock & roll either - aside from the classic rock. WOW, I'm just a picky, stick-in-the-mud music snob.

Well, if I'm not this huge fan of choral music, why do I continue to participate in our church choir? Well, I participate in our church choir because of community... because of accountability... because of support. The choir & Worship Arts ministry at my church is my small group-my family, so to speak. I have friends there who help me to grow in Christ. They ask me the "hard questions". They open their lives to me and give me the strength to make my life more open. They share their struggles & their triumphs. I am challenged to be a better person & a better Christian by those sitting around me AND by the leader of our group, our Pastor of Worship Arts, the director of our choir.

In choral music, you might have a small part for a soloist but, the blend of the voices is what makes the best sound for a choir. We've all been out there & heard one voice sticking out. Sometimes that's an okay thing. But, most times it's not good. You expect a choir to BLEND. When I sing in the choir I am not the soloist! I take direction from the DIRECTOR and allow him to determine what sounds best for the group. In God's kingdome, I'm not the soloist. I must take direction from GOD - often speaking through the leaders & always speaking through the Bible.

photo courtesy of Tom Getz
Do I see the current validity in the use of choral music in the church? I would have to say yes. The lessons to be learned through participating in a choir are great lessons to learn for our relationships with others -- in and out of the church setting. The lessons to be learned from observing & listening to a choral presentation are valuable. We lift Him up so that He is the one seen. There's not really a lot of room for big egos in a choir. It occurs to me that there's not all that much room for big egos in God's church either.

Oh well, those are my "off-the-cuff" thoughts today! Be Blessed... and BE A BLESSING!

Scripture of the Day: Colossians 3:16 says... "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God."

03 March 2009

Painfully Insecure, Yet Full of Pride?

From my youngest days I remember being painfully insecure. As a young child I was just plain scrawny. I remember hearing my mom tell stories to guests at our house in Michigan (when I was 2-5 yrs old) about what a "colicky baby" I was. As I matured through childhood and into my teens, I grew taller but remained really thin - perhaps too thin! I remember kids making fun of how bony I was.

Well, those days have passed & no one seems to think I'm "too skinny" anymore. But, I never got over the feeling that physically I've never quite been quite up to par. Even into my early 20's, I felt like I needed to earn the acceptance of others. I was embarrassed about my appearance. I didn't feel smart enough. I didn't feel like I was particularly funny or talented in any way. I never felt like the popular kid in school. Growing up I was the "preacher's kid" in a small town &; not a safe friend to share secrets with or invite to the parties. For several years after high school, I wrote my own story in an attempt to be accepted & be a cool kid. Thankfully God's grace covered me during that time! Regardless of the number of friends I made & kept over the years though, I still felt like at any given moment they would figure out how "non-special" I was and just find a better friend.

By the grace of God & thanks to a wonderful Christian counselor, I processed many things in my late 20's and honestly began to claim the promises from God that are available to ALL of His children -- even the odd, skinny, untalented ones who were horrible colicky babies :) I stopped blaming past experiences for the way I was turning out. I began learning from experiences and moving on in a more positive direction.

Why then are there still pangs of hurt when I don't feel like the "cool kid" in my circle of peers? Is it something I've done? Are there just lots of qualities about me that people don't like? Am I not a good enough friend to keep for any length of time? Perhaps there's an expiration date on me as a friend - kind of like the expiration date on a carton of milk. When my mind goes to those types of thoughts and I question myself, I can't help but feel that some sense of self-pride must be at the root of it. But, how can I be so painfully insecure, yet so full of pride? Why can't I just concentrate on being what God wants me to be each day -- moment to moment without trying to figure out why I can't be the "cool kid"?

Intellectually & spiritually I understand that it's not about ME. But "ME" doesn't understand why I have to feel that way when at the same time I'm feeling that I'm following God's plan for my life. My life's focus shouldn't be on ME but on God. And, my heart wants my life to be about God. I'm never more at peace than when I know I am walking in accordance to His will. In Him I am complete!!

But, why does it still hurt? I don't really have the answer. So, in times of uncertainty & pain, I just trust that there's a higher purpose in it all. I take a leap of faith & claim that God is working in & through every situation as long as I'm trusting in & serving Him. I strive to serve Him, recognizing that every good gift is from Him as stated in James 1:17. I trust Him knowing that He loves & cherishes each of His children as promised in Jeremiah 31:3

It's on the hardest days that I find joy in the scriptures that reminds me of how short our time here on earth really is when compared to eternity. James 4:14 says: "How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it's here a little while, then it's gone.I continue to take it moment by moment making every effort to be a reflection of Christ and do my little part to lift Him up before those around me. I claim promises like the one spoken by Christ in John 12:32: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto me."

For me, it's a daily commitment. It's a moment by moment promise. I will continue to search for and claim promises found in God's Word. I'll continue to take it one step at a time while my spirit hollers "Heaven, hurry up!"

"But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world." 1 John 4:4

A NOTE ABOUT ME: If I had to choose ONE thing over anything as being of most importance to me, it would be my relationship with God (the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit). That relationship is the basis of all my decisions, my dreams, my plans, my actions, etc. My relationship with God as His child is what guides me in my choices for all aspects of my life. It truly is what I hold most dear. With that said... PAINFULLY INSECURE, YET FULL OF PRIDE?

Linking with Ann Voskamp - A Holy Experience today... 

01 March 2009

Caitlyn Young vs Caitlyn Old - 1 It's Okay to Sleep Around

NOTE: This is Caitlyn YOUNG!
About 10-15 years ago, a few things began to really "get under my skin" about a dear, cherished, beloved relative. I pondered those things & came to the abrupt conclusion that I too could easily slip into similar and perhaps the exact (gasp) behaviors. It was at that time that I began a new file entitled, "Caitlyn Young vs Caitlyn Old". About 2-3 times each year, I send the file to a few "sister friends" in the hopes that they will NOT let me edit the entries as I get older to suit my fancy. I'm beginning with the first entry & will add others throughout the coming months, years, whatever :) I began the file with a note to read each time I open it...

Dear "Old" Caitlyn,

As you continue to get "older", please DON’T FORGET the following these guidelines from the "Young" Caitlyn:

1. It’s okay to sleep around as you get older! As a matter of fact, it’s probably a good practice :) What do I mean, you ask :) Well, not everyone’s room is as dark as your room, not everyone’s room is as quiet as your room, not everyone’s bed or pillow is the perfect firmness, etc. If it’s difficult to be alone at home all the time and you get lonely, then you’ll have to "visit" other families & places. Don’t set yourself up to not be able to sleep well other places. And, certainly don’t complain about it when you have a less than perfect night. If at all possible, take a rest in the afternoon when you don’t sleep well during the night. Ponder upon the promises of the Lord... and rest! 

Scripture of the Day: "I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." Psalm 4:8