"A simple friend expects you to always be there for them. A true friend expects to always be there for you."

So simple. Yet I've been giving it a lot of thought lately. We've been going through an incredibly difficult time. I feel like we have a stack of carpets under us that keep getting yanked. Just when we get our balance and stand up once again, another one gets yanked out from under us. And the area around the carpet is concrete. We haven't healed from previous bruises before we're getting new ones. Of course we've noticed friends who have been there for us and friends who haven't. It's a sometimes painful experience. But when I received the above quote in an email, it leaped out of the page at me like the flash of the bathroom light at 4 o'clock in the morning.

Life is hard. That's something we all know. We are not the only ones going through a hard time. One by one, I have seen friends take one hit after another. A bad car accident, a husband arrested, surgery that's not healing right, a lost job, a lost home, an alcoholic husband who lost his job--again.

There are so many simple ways to help. A meal, a card, a phone call, a visit. Sadly, I can count on one hand the number of times I've followed through on those "simple ways to help." But it takes both hands and feet of everyone in our family to count the number of ways we've been helped in just the past six months. Groceries, gift cards, endless rides for me and my kids, fun gifts, and even cash, just to scratch the surface.

Beth Moore once said, "Life is irritating. And people in life are even more irritating." Am I the sand in the oyster or am I one of the silky layers of pearl coating the sand? Am I a blessing or a burden? Am I someone's cross to bear? Do I count my age by regrets or blessings?

Gratitude and joy. Sarcasm and negativity. Hmmm....which do I share the most? I recently got a glimpse inside someone else's mind as to what they thought of me...and it wasn't pretty. I saw selfishness, ingratitude, and thoughtlessness. I saw people who gave of themselves, and I took without giving back.

I also saw God's grace...His forgiveness...His unconditional love. And I am overwhelmed.

God gave His son not only for eternal life, but for abundant life here. He gave us a new life, and a freedom that nothing, even Satan himself, cannot take away. So why do I feel imprisoned in my own sin? My own character? I don't know how to end this except to say I'm going to find out how to get out of this pit and live the life God has planned for me. I'll keep you posted! :)

Easter thoughts

Plastic eggs, full of candy. New clothes, pressed and hung up. Chocolate bunnies, sitting in baskets. Stuffed bunnies, soft and cuddly. Real eggs, dyed in bright colors. Sugar cookies, iced and sprinkled.  Happy thoughts...bright colors...new growth.  These are the things we like to think about.  We don't want to dwell on the painful week that Jesus endured for our sake. 

I love spring and Easter!  It has been a rough year for a number of reasons, so the thought of new life and the gift of Jesus and His resurrection meant more than usual to me this year.  I signed onto Facebook excited to be in touch with so many old friends and eager to wish them a happy Easter.  I was saddened to see so many crying out, "Bring on the chocolate!" or something similar.  The most important holiday--even more important than Christmas--it is the foundation of our entire faith.  Paul basically tells us that without the resurrection, our entire faith is in vain.

Jesus' resurrection makes life worth living.  Without it, we are doomed to eternity in hell, complete separation from God.  Not only did Jesus tolerate unbelievable physical torture, but His spiritual grief was beyond anything anyone could even think about enduring.  He accepted the sin of the world on Himself...His holy self.  The sin of the world!  I can't even bear myown sin let alone anyone else's.

Three days later, he rose!  Sometimes I try to think about those three days.  You know, from the disciples' perspective.  We've read the book...we know what happens.  They didn't.  Those had to be the worst and longest days in the history of the world.  Jonah spent three days in the belly of a big fish (eewww!), but I think this would be even worse.  They walked and talked with the Messiah...their Lord...their savior.  Three years of hope and a friendship with God's Son.  God's son!  But that's over...He's dead.  He's not who we thought...or so they thought.  Talk about despair and hopelessness.  Then...to realize He's not in that grave...in fact, He was right there with them.  Can you possibly imagine the joy?  Forgiveness, wholeness...all there for the taking.  The relief, the hope, the ecstacy!  Death conquered, eternity with Him and the Father.   I can hardly wait.  I don't think many people (even Christians) "get it."

I love going to church anyway, but Easter is special.  God said make a "joyful noise," and trust me, I do that with all my heart!  It's a good thing He doesn't give qualifiers on the quality of that joyful noise!  In the meantime, God's people are giving praise all over the globe.  Can you imagine what that is to God's ears?  God is in heaven listening to His children.  Different songs, different styles of worship, different languages, cultures, and tradtions...but the one thing that brings us together is our family...specifically our heavenly Father and His son who have adopted us all into the fam.   One of the main things Jesus practically begged of God in the Garden of Gethsemane was unity among the believers.  Sunday mornings across the globe bring some of that into light.  Can you imagine what heaven will be like? 

Chocolate, dyed eggs, new clothes, and egg hunts are all fun.  And what better day for laughter and fun?  But it's so much MORE than that.   Think about the tears and laughter in that room full of followers after Jesus appeared to them.  After a moment or two of stunned silence, everyone probably started speaking at once:
     "Did you see Him?"
     "I'm not dreaming this, am I?  And if I am, DON'T wake me."
      "Did you see the scars...the wounds?"
     "I wanted to just throw my arms around Him, but I couldn't move."
     "Did you say anything?  I couldn't"
     "When will we see him again?"
     "Peter, tell us about the tomb again...and the rock.  Give all the details!"

I want to be there.  I want to be a part of that joy.  Such pure, unstained joy at seeing my savior face to face when I thought He was dead.  I want to laugh and cry at the same time.  I want my heart to overflow and feel overwhelmed.  I want to hear Jesus say my name, in a voice that tells me He knows me...really knows me.  I want to see pure love in the pools of His eyes.  And I want Him to touch me...to feel skin on skin, to feel the shiver in my very soul when He does touch me.  

That will happen eventually, and in the meantime, I can go to church and have the next best thing...become surrounded by His children, my brothers and sisters.  How can I think of chocolate at a time like this?  My Easter stash is gone now, but I feel even more blessed than before.  Life is hard...God is good.  

Some thoughts on character, talents, and pride...

Shortly after this recital, I had many people tell me how well Hannah did and how proud I must be. It is true. I am proud of my daughter...but probably not for the reasons you might think. God has blessed her with many beautiful gifts, so it's hard not to take pride in those things. As a person still on earth in a society that places prestige, worth, and importance on our gifts and talents, it's easy for my chest to swell with pride when she steps in front of the crowd to sing, give a speech, or play a sport. But take all those things away, and what are you left with? I can tell you that you'd be left with a beautiful young lady with a heart full of conviction to put Jesus first. THAT's what I'm most proud of.

Preteen through and through, she is giggly and chatty. She has her crushes, loves the Jonas Brothers and happily-ever-after endings, but she still thinks that kisses that last too long are icky, and don't even think about hinting that her mom and dad love to do that physical stuff...why, that's just downright gross! She recently told me about this girl who did this and said this to her friend but claims to be her BFF...and that one tries to take charge which is annoying but no one will say anything...and of course all the boys just love her and why is that? Did that make sense? Don't worry, it didn't make sense to me either. But she's talking to me...about things that are important to her, so I try to sort through the nonsense and let her know that if it's important to her, it's important to me.

Obviously, she is not perfect.
She's a drama queen and blonde...NOT a good combination! She can drive me crazy one minute and melt my heart the next. While I wouldn't say she thinks her mom is cool, she hasn't shut me out and does still think I'm pretty okay. She has made a pledge for abstinence until marriage and has begun wrestling with the fact that God just may call her into overseas ministry. She wants to be liked, but not at the expense of her convictions. She doesn't make friends easily, but it's not hard either. She gets along with older girls and younger ones, too. She's still learning how to handle the ups and downs of life. Emotions are a way of life for her, so she's still figuring out that the heart can be deceived, so she must lead with her faith, her head, and her convictions, not her feelings. She wants depth in her friendships, so the number of friends don't matter.

I see my daughter growing, learning, striving, and living out her faith. These are the things I'm proud of. Standing up in front of a crowd takes courage. Playing a sport takes hard work, sweat, and perseverance. Using your talents for God's glory takes faith, love, and conviction. So, while I love to listen to her beautiful voice, watch her make a basket with a few seconds left in the game, or give a speech with enthusiasm and clarity, it is the character BEHIND the voice, the hands, and the feet that make me proud. So, each time someone says, "You must be so proud," I can honestly answer with a firm "Yes, I am."

(BTW ~ Sorry the video quality is not the best...new camera, and the person behind the camera was paying more attention to the singer than the camera lens...! ;)