hot bliggity blog 267

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

driving on a prayer

I am writing from the back bench of what feels like an unusually empty and spacious suburban.  Not empty spacious like I've never riden in a suburban, no, but empty spacious like there are people missing from the ranks-2 to be exact-as well as about 18 more bags, packages, and hamburger buns. But it is empty for the 14+ hour trips that our family is known for. With 3 kids in the family and grandparents that have lived 7+ hours away our whole existence we know how to travel well.

Do not be fooled, though. There is a difference between 'travels well' and 'travels lite'. And lite we do not. Traveling well implies that you can do the following 3 things well: 1) remember to pack enough movies that will interest at least 2 passengers at the same time, 2) remember to pack your electronic diaper bag, forgetting not the car chargers especially, 3) can hold your bladder for periods of time that under other circumstances would be humanly impossible. And don't forget BOTH of your pillows or your fleece blanket. Traveling lite implies that you take up no more space than the seat you occupy and have only one bag checked in the cargo. I really wouldn't know. I don't even travel lite when going to the mailbox. It does get out of control sometimes though. Like the time Emily and I had wrapped Christmas presents escaping the back cargo at stop signs, Andrew with severe pneumonia on the bench in front of us, and frozen carrot cake at our feet. I'm surprised Dad hasn't thought to charge us for extra bags like the airlines. Although being the engineer that he is he has probably already has thought of that but secretly enjoys the puzzle of trying to fit everything and everyone in the car.

As the oldest of the 3 I have rarely gotten the privilege of the entire back half of the Burb to myself. (Well actually, Mom is asleep on the bench in front of me as I write). Many times in recent years I have been in school or working and couldn't make the trip. It's kinda nice, though! I am sitting here with blog in hand, my current read The Blind Side, and 80's hit Girls Just Wanna Have Fun playing on TV. All MY choices.

What I like about these trips with the parents is that I have zero responsibility. Zero. It's not that I wouldn't take any, but they don't give me any. All I am responsible for is waking up and putting on my shoes for bathroom breaks and making it to the McDonald's cashier before Mom closes out. Oh, and be sure to be in the car before Dad puts the car in reverse after said stops. Other than that we the kids are duty free. And to tell you the truth I don't mind it one bit.

Unfortunately this is not a happy or planned trip. My Dad's first cousin, Janice, passed away unexpectedly on Monday morning. So, we packed up our stuff and left Tuesday night for our journey to the deep South. Oh how I miss the deep South. Most of our family will be there; it will be good to see them. If only it were under different circumstances. Please pray for the family; she leaves behind a mother, husband, daughter, 3 grandkids, and countless other family that loved her. BUT! There is good news! We as Christians are comforted knowing that she is in a much better place singing praises to our Lord. And sing she could here on this earth. I can only imagine what she sounds like in Heaven!

Monday, August 29, 2011

it rained, but when will it pour?

It has been one dry, hot summer.  Actually, let me try that again....

Here in southern Texas, it has been one arid, bone-dry, moistureless, barren, dusty, dirty, lifeless summer.  There, that actually sounds like it might do the summer justice. 

I think I heard on the news that we broke a record for the number of successive days that the temperature has been over 100 degrees.  That was over a week ago and I haven't seen anything below 103 yet.

I took my car to the dealership about 2 weeks ago for routine tire rotation and oil change.  Apparently there is no good time to take your car in because there is always a wait.  That particular Wednesday was no exception.  After waiting for a little over an hour I was relieved when they finally called me.  "I will be able to make my lunch date, after all," I thought to myself as I trekked to the counter to collect my keys.  No such luck.  As I approached my Customer Service Rep, he said this:  
'Your windshield wipers have rotted out and are not clearing your windshield properly.  It will only cost about $25.00 to replace them.  Would you like to go ahead and have that done today?'
Seriously?!  I honestly do not know how he kept a straight face when asking me that.  'Are you kidding me?'  I wanted to ask, 'When was the last time you needed your wipers, Mr.?!  I'm sure they are dried out.  They are BORED!!!'  I refrained from yelling and calmly replied, 'Do you think that will make it rain? Because if so, go ahead.  But if the chances of it raining are raised none, I don't think that will be necessary.'  And after all that I still had to wait 20 more minutes for my car to be finished. 

It did rain last Wednesday night.  I can honestly say these 3 things: 1) I cannot remember the last time I saw rain before last week, 2) we have not seen any signs of possible rain since, and 3) I cannot remember being so ecstatic to see the rain (perhaps maybe a time or two when it meant no marching band practice...8 years ago!)

Last Sunday (3 days before the blessed event), my pastor started out his message by saying 2 things: 1) the fall is coming, cooler days are ahead and 2) one day it will rain.  You know how when you do something ambitious like wash your car, inside and out, and have it looking all glorious and shiny?  Only to have it rain THE NEXT DAY?!  Yeah, well, that doesn't work here anymore in south Texas.  I have tried.  My dad has tried.  My neighbors have tried.  Their neighbors and cousins have tried (I don't have any cousins in Texas or they would have tried, too, I am sure).

I can tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing on Wednesday when the sky outside started showing signs of a storm.  From talking with others, I can safely guarantee that at least 90% of the population could tell you the same.  It would be like asking the infamous question: 'Where were you when Kennedy was shot?'  Everyone knows where they were.

My sister and I were sitting in my bedroom floor; it was about 6:30.  She had her computer out, as she usually does, working on what I can only assume was her Thesis project.  I had my computer, supplies, and X-Acto out, as I usually do, working on what I can only assume was any number of projects that I always have going on.  Or 7.  We were talking about boys or favorite lotions or something in between when we both heard a very strange, unfamiliar sound coming from outside.  We stopped what we were doing (thankfully I wasn't holding my X-Acto at that moment) and looked at each other.  Could that be?!  No, surely not.  But, IT IS, isn't it?

We both turned tentatively, afraid that even looking out the window might scare it away, and, lo and behold, there they were.  Dark clouds.  Dark, lustrous clouds with the faint promise of rain.  And then there was the wind.  Strong, extra blowy wind that we thought for sure would knock our mailbox over.  We stared outside in disbelief for about 5 minutes.  It was getting dark outside and had our mom been home, she would have gotten on to us for not closing the blinds.  But she wasn't home and we wanted to enjoy what could be the last rain we get in 3 months.

And rain it did.  It poured!  I don't know how long it rained for but it was like music to our ears and every 5 minutes or so I would turn around just to make sure it was still actually happening.  As if someone would try to trick me by turning a noise machine on or something.  It was a good rain.

And that was the last time it rained here.  I assume it will be the last rain at least until October.  It's now been 5 full, successive days with no rain.  It was like a teaser for the grass, trees, animals, people, rivers, the animals at the zoo, and so on.  I think the concrete even needed watering and was let down after only 45 minutes of rain.  But every little bit helps; even if we do only get it once every 13 weeks.

And like Ben said, one day, it will rain again.  One day.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

warning: this could change your life

'He [Jesus] gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing what is right.' -Titus 2:14
I have an excuse.

It's this:

If you've never read it, I suggest you find a copy and clear out a week of time to hibernate as you will not be able to put it down.  Yes, it is that good.  Throughout the past couple of years, many of my friends have told me 'You HAVE to read this book.'  Taking their advice I tried.


Each time I got no further than the 28 page Prologue.  Many reasons contributed to my inability to get past this section; the main reason being Grad school.  I also HATED how the first part read-it was depressing, non-attention grabbing, and I could not see anything great about the book.  [I have since then been told that it was me who had the problem, not the Prologue.  Ha!]

That changed 3 weeks ago, however, when I tired of people telling me that it should be the very next book that I read.  I sat down with the determination of a stubborn two-year-old and intended to push through and read it in it's entirety whether I liked it or not.

And I didn't like it.

Not at first, anyways.  I literally got sick to my stomach when I read the last sentence of the Prologue, wanting to throw it across the room.  But, remembering my determination, I picked it back up the next day and from that point on I was unable to tear it away from my hands until I made it through to the back cover.  Somewhere between that last sentence of the Prologue and the beginning of Chapter 1 I got lost in identifying too closely with the main character Angel.

While I have never worked in prostitution, I have often felt unworthy and unclean, just as Angel does in the book.  There are many other self-destructive habits that can lead to similar emotional, mental, and physical abuse.

I grew up thinking and believing that perfect was the only way to be.  Only way to be accepted.  Only way to be worth anything.  Perfect was expected.  I also grew up hearing and knowing that God forgives and forgets, no exceptions.  Of course He can-He's God!  But how can that same love and acceptance transcend into a human-especially a man-who is willing to accept me for who I am, the things that I have done, and a past that I so desperately want to forget?  I am not perfect.  Never have been.  Never will be.

There is a particular scene in the book where Michael finds Angel scrubbing her skin so hard-to rid it of dirt, or sin-that she literally rubs large sores all over her body.  I have wanted to do that on countless occasions.  It is so hard to grasp the concept that God requires nothing so physically painful to receive His forgiveness.  Emotionally and mentally, sure, but nothing that will hurt our physical person.

Everyone, guy or girl, has been in Angel's shoes; everyone enters into this world as a sinner.  Your story may not be as drastic or your past not seem as 'bad' as Angel's but the Bible tells us that God sees no difference between thinking of sinning and acting upon that thought.  Sin is not measured in degrees.
'For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.'  -Romans 3:23
You may also relate to the book's supporting actor, Michael.  A believer and God-fearing man, his love for and dependency on God is evident from the very first time he enters the scene.  Perhaps you are a Michael: a messed up background, pursued by the love of Christ through another individual, and seeking to pass that love and truth to the person(s) God has placed in your path.

While Michael is still a human like you and me-struggling daily with trusting completely in the Lord's plan-he is a beautiful testimony [through God's help and strength] of what Christ's love looks like:
Paul leaned forward.  "You're the one who still doesn't understand, Amanda [Sarah].  There's something I didn't even comprehend until now because I was too stubborn and jealous and proud.... Michael chose you.  With all your past, with all your frailties, with everything.  He knew from the beginning where you came from, and it didn't make a difference to him.  There were plenty of women back home who would have jumped at the chance to marry him.  Sweet, sensible virgin girls from God-fearing families.  He never fell in love with any of them.  He took one look at you, and he knew.  Right from the beginning.  You.  No one else.  He told me all that, but I thought it was sex.  Now I know it wasn't.  It was something else."
"A crazy accident-"
"I think it's because he knew how much you needed him."
-Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, pgs 451-452
That passage is so beautiful; I don't think that it bodes any explanation.

Now, before I blog on and on about the reasons why you should be the next person to read this phenomenal book and I get a phone call from my sister telling me that my last blog post was good but toooooooo long for enjoyment, I will leave you with this one, final thought:

If you haven't already done so, go read it now; guy or girl.  And, if you have read it, pass your copy on to someone who 1) you think needs to read it, 2) you think would enjoy reading it, or 3) is a human being.
'Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn, that he may heal us; he has stricken, and he will bind us up.' -Hosea 6:1

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

vow15. Psalm 139:13-17

Psalm 139:13-17 (NIV)
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
I suppose I should post the entire Psalm in this verse-of-the-week post; it is that good.  But if I were to do that I suppose I would have to post the entire Book of Psalms because it too is that good.  Of course then I would feel that I need to post the entire Bible because, well, you get the idea!  [Sounds like an 'If You Give a Mouse a Cookie' Complex. Ha!]

But seriously, this is a beautiful Psalm that-like all of the others-will speak to you and touch you in so many different ways.  No matter your circumstance or lifestance, God will speak through it if you open your heart to hear.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
Do you know that you are wonderful?  And wonderfully made at that?  Sometimes I wonder about myself and unfortunately too quick to forget that God made me this way for a specific reason and purpose.  This is not to say that we can let ourselves go; we must do our best with the means and circumstances that God has placed around us.  God makes no mistakes.
16b all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
This says to me that God does have the green dotted path that I have always longed to have guiding my way. Ever since I saw that Fidelity commercial I have looked for my very own green line.  Having my path drawn out and laid before me seems like it would be a whole lot easier than letting me make my own decisions and mistakes, going where I think-ahem, more like where I want-it to go.

But we are not given a dotted green line neatly labeled with life's pit-stops of heartache, disappointment, and screw ups.   If we did, we would rarely have reason to need Him; we have to rely on and trust in Him, seeking His guidance and grace all the time.

Where are you right now?  If you're searching for a green dotted line I'm here to tell you that it will NOT BE SHOWING UP.  Unfortunately I have looked for it on more than one occasion.

Seek Him and He will make those invisible green dotted paths straight [Proverbs 3:6]