Saturday, September 22, 2012

Start Counting

I've heard that if you are one who has trouble controlling your temper, when something begins to anger you, you should start counting.
Take a moment and count to ten. It's something I've seen my husband practice and it's something I'm sure I will be teaching our sons (who inherited their father's short fuse).

But maybe, for me, "start counting" means something different. Maybe in order to be the best person I can be, I need to start counting something other than numbers.

On Thursday, I attended my bi-weekly Women's Bible Study, as per usual. The lesson, given that day by our minister's wife, was entitled Don't Waste Your Trials. We began our lesson by reading James 1:2-8, but for the sake of this blog, I will simply share James 1:2--Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.

Pure joy during trials? How can that be?

As we went over the lesson, we discussed what "joy" really meant to us, and how we could achieve that joy even amidst life's many trials. Remember, joy itself doesn't always mean happiness. Joy is a reason to rejoice. And, maybe, if we look deep enough, we can find a reason to rejoice in ALL things. Even our struggles. Even our disappointments. Even our pain.

I ended up spending Thursday afternoon/evening in the ER (7 hours to be exact). No worries, I am fine. That is a completely different story.
As I sat there, I fought off the urge to become restless and even annoyed as the hours passed by. But I chose to remember our lesson from that morning and embrace the blessings that came along with that waiting room silence.
Silence. A blessing in itself. And the fact that I spent that quiet time reading a book, Sacred Influence about be a blessing to my husband? Even better.

The fact of the matter is, sitting in the ER, no matter what may have been going on with me, it's not the end of the world or anywhere near it. There were many blessings to be found in that commonplace, slightly annoying, mildly frustrating situation. And that principle applies to every circumstance in our lives, no matter how challenging.

Let me take a moment to share a couple (very opposite-end-of-the-spectrum) examples of my own:
In November of 2010, my husband and I suffered a miscarriage with our second child. It was devastating to us. We had been trying to conceive for a few months and were feeling so happy and blessed that it had happened so quickly for us. My husband was set to deploy in just a couple short months and things seemed to be falling right into our time-frame and plan. But our plans are mere ideas, dust in the wind. God's plan is the only real plan.
Finding out I was in the process of losing the baby we had only known existed for exactly one week was one of, if not the hardest, things for me to go through.

Within a few days of finding out the news, I decided to call my dad and let him know what was going on. He had called me the previous week to congratulate me, as he found out I was pregnant through a common family member who found out on Facebook. (Yes, I know. I dropped the ball there. But my dad and I are not close and we very rarely talk.)
When I called him and told him about losing the baby, I expected he would say "Oh, I'm sorry." and that would be the end of it. But I heard my dad's voice shake. And he asked me something I had never had someone ask me outside of a church building, and certainly not over the phone: "Would it be okay if I prayed with you?" Of course I wasn't going to turn it down. And so there we were, hours and miles apart, and yet together in the eyes of God. My dad prayed for healing for my body and my soul. And it is one of the most precious memories I have of my father.
Maybe it is because we aren't close, and yet we were sharing such an intimate moment...or maybe it was because I felt like he truly believed that God would take care of it, and so could I...but, something changed in me after that phone call. I decided to try (let's face it, it's not easy) to accept the loss and understand that everything happens for a reason, even if I didn't yet know that reason. Even if I never would know that reason.

Three weeks later I got pregnant with Archer. And here he is now, 1 year old, full of life and energy and smiles.

Shortly after finding out I was expecting Archer, my cousin lost her second baby. Over the past couple of years, many ladies I know have gone through miscarriages and losses of children. Just recently, a very dear friend of mine miscarried her first baby.
And I can't say with certainty that my words truly help them. I can't say that I am a comfort to them, although I hope I am. What I can say is this: I know that my trial prepared me to be a better blessing to them. When I say "God is your comfort.", I really mean it. When I tell them "God has a plan for your family.", I deeply trust it.
And I can rejoice in the trial I faced because I can use it to bless others.

Just yesterday, I found myself having a hard time with the kids. I wasn't feeling in my best shape, the house needed cleaned, I needed to email admissions advisers about school and put in some more applications and and and...And the kids were, well, being kids.
Xander decided to bring his bike into the house and proceed to ride it all throughout, and of course when I told him he needed to take his bike outside, he refused. I gave him the option of taking it out himself before I removed him from the bike and took it outside myself, leaving him kicking and screaming. Then I planted his little toosh in time-out. After telling him to get back in the chair three or four times and doing my best to avoid his flailing arms and legs as I sat him back in the chair each time, I was getting pretty frustrated.
"Mommy, you're dumb!!"..All it took was those three words to set me over the edge. [SN: The downfalls of preschool: new, colorful language]. I lifted him out of the chair and I swatted his butt. Hard. Harder than I should've.
At that point I went and sat myself in time-out. I knew I couldn't continue to stand there and let his actions control my own. I sat down on the couch in the other room and prayed this prayer:
God, thank you for my children. Thank you for the blessings that they are and the joy that they bring me each day. Please guide my hands to help them and not hurt them, and please build my patience with them. I pray that I can be humble in front of them and in front of You. Amen. 
And I walked back in and apologized to my son. Not for putting him in time-out, and not for disciplining him, but for losing my cool while doing so.

Later on, when it was just about nap time and Xander was slap-happy and singing at the top of his lungs..and Archer was walking into the walls and stumbling over his own feet...and I was trying SO hard to just simply get the floors swept, I had to take another moment to stop and find joy in my trials. I thanked God for a house to clean. I thanked him for a place to lay my kids down for a nap. For food that leads to dirty dishes. For a husband that may not be home to help me so much, but only because he is working endless hours serving our family and our country. For a mother who is willing to be here, in a place that is not her own, making less money than she was before, in order to help me out with the day-to-day activities.
I simply thanked God for my life. And everything in it.
And you know, after doing so, finishing up those floors and taking time away from cleaning to lay down with my Goob wasn't so bad. It was good. It was joy.

So, try to take some time to truly appreciate life's blessings, even if they are laced with struggles. Even if your life is mostly struggles, you cannot claim you are not blessed. Do you love? Are you loved? Then you're blessed.
If you're going through a trial and you can't find the blessing, that's fine.  Do these four things and see what happens:
Ask yourself if, under different circumstances, would this be a trial?
(Example: If I didn't have a ton of housework and another screaming child, would I have gotten so upset over Xander's misbehavior? Probably not.)
Ask yourself if your struggle can be seen as a blessing to someone else.
(This may be difficult, but I think if we dig deep enough, helping someone else can feel like a blessing to us as well.)
Ask yourself if there is anything you can change in order to turn your trial around.
(Of course sometimes it's completely out of our hands, but others, we can. We've all heard Let go and Let God. Sometimes that means seriously, just let go. But other times, more often, it means let go of the control, and let God lead your actions.)
And finally, pray. Ask God for direction. Ask him for comfort. Ask him for wisdom. And thank him for all He is, all he has made you, and all he has done in your life.

It's not easy, but it's simple. In ALL things rejoice.

Get ready, Get set...
Start Counting.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hot Wheels Season

We've all heard of the Monday Blues. As we get back into the swing of week-day living and emerge from our two days of rest, relaxation, and family time, I think we all feel that small sense of dread. By Tuesday, we're coming to terms with the fact that the weekend is truly over and it's time to get back into our weekly routine. And by Wednesday, we're counting down the days until the weekend again.
This Monday was a bad day for me--and it really had nothing, or very little, to do with what day of the week it was.

I was awoken by Xander climbing into my bed. "The sun's out, Mommy." It was 830, a more than acceptable time for him to get up, but I had been up with the baby a few times through the night and 830 felt a lot earlier than it should have. I convinced him to climb into bed with me and turn on some cartoons. "Want to go downstairs, Mommy." I just shut my eyes and ignored the request. Maybe if I give him a few minutes to "get into" his show, he'll decide that staying up here isn't too bad, I thought. And then I heard Archer fussing.
Well there you have it. Time to get up.

Robert and I had had a bit of an argument Sunday night, and I left him in bed while I went to go read my Bible and do my nightly devotional. By the time I got back into the room, he was fast asleep, as I had expected him to be. But Monday, the fact that we went to bed on less than wonderful terms was weighing heavily on my mind.
Monday also marked one week of my new dieting plan--Weight Watchers, Zumba, as much water as I can stand, vitamins..the works. And my looming weekly weigh-in was in the forefront of my mind as well.

I slipped on my shorts, gathered the baby's things, and carried him downstairs with Xander in hot pursuit. I waded through the ocean of Hot Wheels that was my dining room floor and immediately stepped on the scale.
Up .5lbs. Lovely.

It seemed from that moment on, nothing went right. I'm not sure if it was my general bad mood, or if the boys were truly testing me, but they were both grating on my last nerve.
Archer was walking around whining. He was hungry, but had no desire to hold still long enough to eat. He'd take a couple drinks of the bottle, throw it down, walk around aimlessly whining, and repeat.
Xander was making it his very mission to say "No" to me as many times as he could in one period. I had been up barely an hour and I was more than ready to go back to bed. But as you mommies out there know, that was not an option.
I made breakfast, checked my email, cleaned up the house a bit..the basics. I went through the motions.
I thought if I could get myself through until the baby's nap time, I'd have a chance to relax and hopefully that would be enough to turn my demeanor around.

I was wrong. I was feeling so stressed out and so detached that those feelings weren't easily extinguished with one child being self-contained for an hour or two.
With Archer in bed, there were plenty of things I could've and should've been doing (cleaning up the Hot Wheels and other miscellaneous toys I had already picked up three or four times, trying to work off that extra half pound, etc.) But, I chose to be lazy and self-loathing. I decided to lay down on the couch and watch some TV.
Our couches are leather and I wanted to spread a blanket out before I laid down, but of course, Xander was finding every way he could to hinder that. He just wanted to play, but I was at my wits end.
"Let Mommy put this blanket up on the couch and THEN you can get covered up." I kept repeating. "NO!" was always the resounding answer. If I heard that word with that attitude one more time I was going to lose it. And I did hear it one more time. And I did lose it.
I yelled at him in my angriest tone. I spanked his butt. And he looked at me like I terrified him. And I felt like the biggest failure on the planet.

Yes, he was defying me. But had I been out of my own mind and my own petty troubles, I would have had plenty of patience for his playing, and his defiance would not have been prompted.
I immediately snatched him up, cuddled him, and apologized. We settled in to relax and I vowed to force myself out of this funk I was in. But, our relaxation couldn't last long. We had errands to run--things to do, places to go, people to see. And as our busy day continued, I found myself reaching my brink around every corner. I wanted nothing more than to curl up in my bed with a good book or a bad show, stuff my face with fattening food, and go to sleep for about three hours.
I didn't feel like being Mommy, Wife, Friend, Daughter--any of it. I felt like being Robin..alone. Just for a little bit. Not that I wanted to relinquish those titles at all, but I wanted to relinquish the responsibility that comes with them. If only for a while.

I went to bed that night feeling defeated, but praying for a better day ahead of me.

Tuesday I met with some ladies from church for a Bible Study. Since becoming a disciple, I've been doing follow-up studies once every week or so and this was one of them. In confiding in one of my friends about some of the struggles I was facing, she said "This is only a season of your life."

I've heard some of the members of the church say this at different times, and I always just thought "Yeah, everyone is at different stages in their lives. This is a stage. This is a time period."
But when she said it to me this time, I really thought about what that meant.

Seasons aren't just periods of time. They are distinct periods of time, marked by individual characteristics shared with none other. Each season brings new experiences that we partake of and new sights that we see.
This is a season in my life. Different than every other part.
But unlike the seasons we experience annually, this life season will never be repeated.

Imagine only getting one go at each of the four seasons. And then, imagine missing out on some of the best things that season has to offer.
Wouldn't it be so sad to have gone through your only Spring and never seen a flower in bloom? Wouldn't it be beyond disappointing to look back on your only Summer and realize you never went swimming, saw the ocean, or had a family cook-out? How about passing through your only Autumn without seeing the leaves change? And wouldn't it be a tragedy to put your only Winter behind you and never experience a snow fall?
I believe it would.

This is a season of my life that I will never again experience. And there are distinct characteristics that mark it:
Sleepless nights. Tantrums. A messy house.
Sticky kisses. Milestones. "I wub ooo"s.
Bottles. Baby food. Diapers.
Potty seats. Training wheels. New Friends.
Car seats. Boo-Boos. Favorite toys. 

Bedtime books. Mid-day cuddles. Unconditional Love.

The fact of the matter is, this is a season. And this season will be over before I know it, never to return again.
There may be difficult days. I may sometimes have to plaster on a smile and trudge on through. But the real smiles will be much more frequent. I may sometimes want to steal away to a hot shower or my comfortable bed. But, the times where I'm content to snuggle up on the couch with some Sesame Street and two little dudes will be much more frequent.
And I have to do my best to remember that.

So, in conclusion, Ladies & Gents,
It's Hot Wheels Season.
And I'm going to enjoy the weather.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The X Files: Part 3

My little Goob is now 3 years old. Hard to believe, that's for sure.
But, here are some little glimpses into a 3-year-old big boy's world:

Not too long ago, we were in the car getting ready to head out and he said "Mommy, do you have your phone?" And sure enough, I had to run back in and get it. Then he asks "Mommy, do you have your card for the store?" "Yep, sure do. We're ready"..Then, as I'm pulling out, "Mommy, your purse!" It was on the hood. Good thing I have such an observant co-pilot.

He loves scaring or surprising people. But, he uses the word "boo" instead of "scare". Yesterday my mom was napping on the couch. He says "Shh, mommy..I'm gonna boo Nanny." Then snickers, runs and jumps on her, and yells "Boo!!"

Today, I walked into the kitchen to find him wearing only a shirt, squatting on the counter top and peeing into our shot glasses.

Never a dull moment. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Same old, Same old..

I post an apology for not posting. I post regularly for a short time. I go months without posting. I post an apology for not posting.
Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

I've come to realize I'm not a very good blogger. And for that reason, and perhaps the fact that I'm also just boring, I'm quite sure no one reads this blog anyway. Which, is fine. I'll continue to post when I feel like it, because I do love to write and I enjoy blogging from time to time. But nothing regular. My blog is near the end of a long list of things I need to keep up with and for that reason it often gets neglected, in fact, for weeks upon months at a time it completely slips my mind.

So, if there is anyone left out there still reading, I can promise you this: I WILL post eventually..sporadically. And that's about all I can commit to. Lol.

I hope everyone is doing well. With any luck, you'll hear from me again soon. ; )

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Walk with God Pt 2: The Cross

Hello, everyone! It's been more than a week since my last post and I'm sorry for that. It's been extremely busy around here, but busy in a good way! Lots of Bible studies and church events, family days when we can grab them and spending time with my mom now that she's here.

I wanted to get caught up before my next Bible study, but I ended up not being able to and now I'm even more behind. But, that's no big deal..I'll just be a little behind. Still no excuse not to share!

Today, I want to go over The Crucifixion. Really, the reason for it all. Why shouldn't we want to give to God after seeing all he has given and sacrificed for us?

First, we need to think about really what the Crucifixion meant for the Lord..not just for us. We have to imagine this scenario..Jesus has always been with God. He's always been part of God. They are one in the same and yet have a Father/Son relationship. Before coming to Earth, Jesus was in Heaven with God..but at one point, God had to say "Look, I'm sending you, a part of me, to Earth to live as a human."
Let's stop there and think..what a gift to us. Jesus was sent here not only to die, but to live. To live as a human so that we can have someone to relate to. Jesus isn't some far-off deity that we don't know. He was one of us. He went through the same life experiences as we do, and yet he was perfect. It gives us something to relate to and something to strive for.
God had to tell Jesus that he was coming here to live as a human..and after some time, he would be killed, in order to pay the punishment for ALL of our sins. God didn't have to do this. He didn't have to give us someone to relate to. And, Jesus didn't have to die for us. But He did.

Matthew 26:36-39 says "Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane and he said to them 'Sit here while I go over there and pray.' He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with him and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he told them 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.' Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet, not as I will, but as you will.'"

This is so powerful. And it really sunk into my soul for more than one reason. First of all, this is Jesus at his most vulnerable. He knows what is about to happen and he is dreading it. He says his soul is overwhelmed to the point of death. It's not as if he were facing going to sleep & not waking up. He knew that in order to pay the cost for our sins, his death would be torturous and awful. His body would suffer until suffering was no longer physically possible. He asks God, his Father, to please take this away from him if possible. Yet, notice that he says "not as I will, but as you will." This is another thing that truly cut me deeply. Jesus is overwhelmed with sorrow. He knows what the near future holds for him--a tragic and inexplicably painful death. Yet, he acknowledges that it is God's choice. He leaves it up to God. Just think of all the things we're not willing to turn over to God..of how many times we try to take matters in our own hands or fight His will bc it doesn't make sense to us or "work" for us. That one last statement in that scripture was extremely humbling for me.

Jesus had the power to choose not to die for us. He didn't want to go through that hurt..but he chose to exercise God's will, and he sacrificed his human life for US.

Matthew 27:45-50 explains Jesus' last moments on Earth as follows: "From noon until three in the afternoon, darkness came over the land. About three in the afternoon, Jesus cried out, 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthanti?' (Which means, 'My God, my God, why hath thou forsaken me?') When some of those standing there heard this, they said 'He's calling Elijah." Immediately one of then ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus. The rest said 'Let's see if Elijah comes to save him." And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, his spirit left him."

[A detailed description of the crucifixion as a whole can be found in John 19. And a medical description of the crucifixion here. Please take the time to read these. I would add them, but that is a lot of typing. ;) ] 

Now, I had always heard the "My God, my God, why hath thou forsaken me?" part of the story and it never quite made sense until I studied the cross and dug deeper into my Bible.
Isaiah 59:1-2 says this about God's relationship to sin: "Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your inequities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear."
So, think about this: At that moment, Jesus was dying for our sins. Jesus was taking on every sin that had ever and will ever be committed. God cannot look at sin, He hides his face from it. At that moment, the only moment, God was not with Jesus. He couldn't be. And Jesus, for the first time and only time, was alone.
Can you imagine the pain that caused for both of them? If you're a parent, you know how much your heart hurts when your child comes to you crying because they are hurting. Can you imagine knowing that the pain they are going through was your choice, and that when they cry out for help, you have to turn away and cannot help them? It breaks my heart just thinking about it.

When I was going over this study, one of the girls I was studying with shared this story with me:
A father and his son were waiting at the train station for their train. While the father was busy checking the time on the tickets, his son wandered down onto the train tracks. When the father looked up, he saw his son down on one of the empty tracks, while two trains, full of people raced down the same track toward each other.  The father knew that if the boy stayed put and the trains on course, his son would be safe. But both trains were full of passengers. There was no time to stop the trains, and the father had to make a decision in seconds flat. Let the trains collide, killing all those people, but saving his son..or direct one train onto the track his son was on, saving the people but having to watch his son perish right in front of him. God made the sacrifice..he let his only son be killed in order to save many others. Could you?
Tears rolled down my eyes when I was listening to this story because it became so real to me. I couldn't imagine a scenario like that actually playing out, but I let my mind go there. I have a explorer..a little boy that sometimes lets his curiosity win out over listening to Mommy. I pictured Xander down there, in danger. Could I watch as hundreds (in God's case, many many more) were killed in order to save my baby? Or, could I sacrifice my beautiful, perfect (to me) son in order to save others? I don't think I could make that sacrifice for innocent people. God made that sacrifice for sinners--for murderers, for liars, for adulterous people, for rapists, for selfishness, for pride, for greed, for lust. I know I don't have it in me to sacrifice either of my wonderful babies for that.
Romans 5:6-8 says "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Jesus died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

One thing that really convicted me during this study was thinking about the fact that Jesus died for MY sins. We tend to say for "our" sins, which is true. But we have to realize that whether it was for everyone's sins or just one person's sins, it would have had to be done. Think about the things you've done, and do daily, that put Jesus on the cross. My study partners encouraged me to make a sin list, beginning when I was 15 and leading up until now. Of course, we can't remember every sin we've committed in that time frame, but we certainly should be able to remember some that stand-out. And, we should be able to examine the sins we commit in our daily lives--the ones we discussed in the first study--the heart sins. I know I struggled with seeing how selfish I was and how deceitful I was and knowing that each time I realized I was doing those things, that was what put Jesus on the cross. He went to the cross and suffered for every time I lie, every time I choose myself over others, every time I snap at my kids or become spiteful with my husband. It's hard to realize that. He didn't just die for everyone else's sins..He died for MY sin. He died for YOUR sin. We have to own that in order to realize the sacrifice.

So what now? What is the response?
Acts 2:36-39 says this "Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah. When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, everyone one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and all those who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call."

Peter challenged us to repent. To change because of the cross & the sacrifice God made. He said we should be baptized--to make a commitment to God because of the cross and in order to receive the Holy Spirit.
(I'll talk more about the Holy Spirit later..but wanted to add here that the Holy Spirit is actually a living thing in Christians..a being, just like Jesus and God. The Holy Spirit is the gift that we have been given after Christ's resurrection; because Jesus is not walking on this Earth, we have the Holy Spirit walking with us and living with us at all times.)

So, having seen the sacrifice that was made in order to give us everlasting amount of forgiveness for all the things we have done and will do, we are called to have a response. And that response is to change our lives, to be baptized, and to persevere  through life trying to leave our  sinful ways and make ourselves more like Jesus.
When you read this, think of what your response has been so that the correct response? If not, are you willing to respond the way God asks us to?

The next thing I'll be posting about is Repentance and Baptism. And on that note, I'm extremely excited to announce that after studying the Bible for a few months now and seeing that I've been called to respond by God..I am getting baptized tomorrow!! I am so ready! I will definitely post about it and about my feelings in more depth afterward, but for now, I'm wrapping up.

Goodnight, and be blessed! 

The X Files: Part 2

Ready for another dose of cuteness?
Yes? Well good!

Xander pretty recently learned how to let me know if he's not feeling good. He says "I don't fiddy good" or "Xander's tummy hurts". Now that he learned that he can tell me his tummy hurts and I will be able to help him, he tells me his tummy hurts in different places. Instead of saying his head hurts, he says his tummy hurts on his head. Instead of telling me his leg hurts, it's "Tummy hurts on my knee." LOL..oh, the traveling tummy pains.

He LOVES Curious George. It's his favorite right now. He's recently taken to saying "Be a good little monkey" any time one of us leaves the house without him.

The other day, we were sitting outside eating lunch. He grabbed two lawn chairs and pulled them together. Then he climbed up and laid down on them with his arms crossed behind his head and said "Ahhh..this is the life." Lol!

We've just begun trying to potty train..and a couple days ago after he had gone in his undies, we took him to the potty and my mom asked him if he wanted undies on again or a diaper. His reply " around naked." lol. At least he's honest.

I know there was at least one other story I wanted to share, but I'm having major mommy brain right now so I may or may not edit it in later.
Until next time, enjoy! =)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Walk with God Pt 1: Die to Live

Hello, friends!

It's a lovely morning here, although this mama is exhausted. Long night with the baby..but now he's napping and Xander is enthralled in Curious George, so I'm hoping I have some time to give this blog my undivided attention.

My plan from here on out is to post at least once a week, usually in coordination with my weekly Bible study. But because I just recently decided to share this with the blog world, I need to play a little bit of catch up. My next Bible study is in two days, and I'm hoping I can do 2-3 posts before then basically going over the important things I've learned so far.

I'm entitling today's post "Die to Live". It's my first post because I believe it's the most important step in following God, and arguably the most difficult. This isn't necessarily just a study concept, although we did touch on it at one of my first Bible studies. It's more of an ongoing lesson, a backdrop for everything else.

Think of it like this (this idea borrowed from a lady at church):
As we enter into Spring, we see new life being brought to all things. All the plants that are beginning to thrive..all the flowers that are beginning to bloom..we know this is only possible because of the death and decay these same plants experienced in the previous Fall and Winter. The beginning of new life and new things is beautiful..something we all like to admire. But the decay that takes place in the previous months has it's own kind of beauty as well, shown in the rustic colors of the fall leaves.
We see the transformation in animals..a caterpillar must become a butterfly.  Predator must eat pray in order to live and thrive. One thing must die so another can live.
Why should we believe that we are the only creation of God's that is exempt from this process?

Luke 9:23-26 says this: "Then he said to them all 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory of the Father and the Holy angels.

Now, upon reading this, I think most people (myself included) have a huh? reaction at first. But when we really sit and think about it, we realize that Jesus is saying here that if we are willing to sacrifice our lives to live for him, then we will have a life with him eternally. However, if we choose not to live our lives for him, we will not have that.
First, we must ask ourselves "What is my life?" It seems like an easy enough question, but really, it's not. Luke 9 says we must deny ourselves and take up our crosses daily and follow him. What does that mean?
For me, my life is my kids, my husband, my family, and friends. But my life is also other, less important, and perhaps shameful, things. My life is TV, the internet, and my cell phone. My life is food. My life is cussing, making fun of people, being lazy, etc. My life is getting frustrated, saying things I don't mean, avoiding situations that make me uncomfortable. My life is selfish, arrogant, and prideful.
Some of those things are good..some of them are bad. Some can be both.
When the kids are screaming and my husband is in a bad mood and I think I'm at my wits end, my initial reaction is to get snappy..possibly yell at the kids or make a snide comment to my husband. In this situation, I need to deny myself, deny those feelings. Take a minute to breathe, and follow him. I need to ask God to bring me comfort, instead of looking for that comfort in releasing my anger, or eating, or neglecting my kids' or husband's needs in order to focus on my own. (And ladies, I'm not saying God doesn't want you to have "me time" or ever focus on yourself..that's another post all together, but God loves you..and he wants you to be taken care of too.)
When I'm not having a great day..maybe I'm tired, maybe I'm in a bad mood, overwhelmed, etc. and someone calls me asking me to do them a initial reaction would be to make some excuse for not being able to so I can get out of it. But Jesus asks me to deny myself. To give unto others.
On a deeper level, and perhaps maybe veering away from "mom problems"..maybe you're going through a time in your life when you feel unwanted. Maybe you seek sexual attention from others to boost your self-esteem. Jesus asks to deny yourself..deny those feelings, take up your cross, and follow him. Your cross is something that might be difficult for you to bear. Maybe it's difficult not to give into sexual temptation..or to find comfort in wracking up your credit card debt on some "retail therapy". Maybe it's difficult to discipline your children the way you know you should, because (let's face it) sometimes it's just a lot easier on us if we just let them get their way. But taking up our cross is not only giving ourselves daily time with God and his word, but denying ourselves of the easy route..or our initial feelings, in order to do what God would want us to do.

Sometimes it's hard to sacrifice our lives. We get caught up in the daily grind. Our minds are focused on our spouse, our kids, our job, our friends, TV shows and social networking. We forget about God. Sometimes losing our lives means being the outcast. Your friends sleep around. Your friends go out and get drunk to the point of not being able to control their actions. Your friends don't think it's a big deal to hurt someone else, or to not hold up their obligations because they don't feel like doing them.
We get so sucked in to fitting in and worried about what others think that we stop caring what God thinks.
Denying ourselves & losing our lives means not just believing in God, but making every effort for love him, love others, and rid ourselves of sin (not one is perfect but Jesus himself. God expects us to sin but we should make every effort not to).

So what is sin? Of course we all know to follow the ten commandments, but following God is more than that.

Mark 7:20-23 says "He went on. 'What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person's heart, that evil thoughts come--sexual immortality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.'"

Reading that verse was very difficult for me because it really made me examine who I am on the inside. I realized I need more work than I thought.

So, how can we keep from sinning? We have to first recognize our own sins. I know I struggle with being selfish & deceitful. I have to deny myself of these things and follow God. I have to do what He asks of me, which is to love him & others above myself, even if it's difficult.

It's hard because being selfish, arrogant, deceitful, sexually immoral, etc..those things are the norm in this world and are unfortunately, often what it takes to get ahead. But as Luke 9 stated, what good is it for us to gain the world if we lose our very selves? How far would we go to get "ahead"? To get that promotion, to make others like us, to get revenge? Is it worth sacrificing our very selves? Whether we live like it or not, we're children of God. That's who we are and we belong in Heaven with him. Our life here is short compared to eternity. Is it worth taking the easy road?
For Jesus said if we lose our lives for him, we will in fact gain life in him..but if we are concerned about saving our lives as we know them, we will eventually lose them. He can give us the gift of eternal life, but only if we follow him.

1 John 2:15-16 states "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever."

So, is it easy to deny ourselves? Of course not. As I said in the beginning of this *extremely long* post, it's the hardest part of following God. It's not easy, and it's not even 100% doable. We will all make mistakes. I'm pretty new to this way of living and I'm finding more and more things to deny each day (lol), and admittedly, I don't always deny them like I should. I don't always get quiet time to read my Bible, talk to God, and take up my cross daily. I am making I'm working on making every effort. Nothing comes easy, but the reward is eternal life. It's hard to keep our eyes on the prize, but if we do, we realize that promise from God is worth the sacrifice.

I hope my readers take away something special from this post..and anyone has questions feel free to ask..or comment in the comment section.
Have a great day and be blessed!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The X Files: Part 1

It's funny how kids see things so much differently than we do. The difficult things are so simple to them, yet the simple things are so difficult.

When my son asks to do things that he isn't allowed or capable of doing, we simply tell him "You're too young." It seems like an easy enough answer, without much explanation needed (yet). Well, a few days ago, I was cleaning up the house (which, as we all know is a never-ending project). I've been trying to encourage him to do his share, so while singing the Cleanup Song, I prompted him to pick up his puzzle pieces and put them back in the box. With a stern face, he looked at me and said "No, Mommy do it." When I asked him why he couldn't do it, he answered "I'm too young."

Yesterday, my husband was lounging on the couch in a pair of shorts and no shirt. Xander walked up to him and pointed at his left nipple. We could see the look of "what is that" on his face, so I said to him "That's Daddy's nipples; everyone has them." Of course, he immediately wanted to check to see if he, indeed, had them. Then he looked back at Robert's and said "Ohh..nipples big. Too much nipples." LOL

Today after church, he was ready to get home and get some lunch. I had packed Archer up in the car and was buckling Xander in as he kept repeating "Go home. Go home. Go home." Finally, I'd had enough and said "We are going home..Hold your horses." He then replied "Horses are gone." And when I asked him where his horses were..he said "Home." I should have known. LOL

Friday, March 23, 2012

New Bloggy Stuff

Hello all! Hope this blog post finds you in good spirits. =)

I've been pretty busy lately and haven't had much time to update the ol' bloggy-blog..but, a short & sweet update is as follows:
My little (big) man is going to be 3 in just a few short months! Can't believe it. He's so smart..knows almost all his colors, can count to 6, can recognize a few letters (and even draw a couple!) and can pick out the shape of a circle and draw it. He's talking up a storm and getting even more hilarious day by day.
My littler dude is now 6 months old. So crazy. Rolling is old news. He's now sitting up like a big dude, crawling all over the place, and just pulled himself up to stand today! He's such a little sweet heart and full of smiles and kisses.

Robert and I recently celebrated our 4 year wedding anniversary. Things with us are going great..our only complaint is not seeing each other as much as we'd like because of his hectic work schedule.
My mom is moving here in a little over a week and we're all so excited!! It's going to be so nice to have her here because, well..I miss my mama! Not to mention, I'll have some help with the kids and some adult company during the times Robert is gone..and hubby and I might even be able to sneak in a date night every now and then.
I'm even thinking about going to work part time once she gets down here and settled in.
All good things.

Now, onto another update, and more of what this entry is about:
I've recently started getting back into church a lot and really trying to better my relationship with God. I met a really sweet girl here in our housing community who invited us to church, and things have just been going great since then. We've become really close friends, and after going to church a few times I've begun studying the Bible with her and a few other ladies from church.

It's funny bc I've called myself a Christian my whole life, and it's true, I have believed in God..but never once read the Bible. Sure, snip-its here and there, but until I started doing Bible studies I had never completed one entire book of the Bible..and now in doing so, I'm learning so much about things that I just never understood before. A lot of the questions and doubts have been cleared, just by reading the answers and His promise to us. I've also always thought that being a Christian just meant believing in God..but by reading the Bible I've realized that Jesus calls us to do/be so much more than that. Being a Christian is not only believing but following. So many scriptures have moved me and convicted me. I realize that a lot of the time I've molded God's word to fit my life rather than molding my life to fit God's word.
I've always thought I was a good person..but studying about sin has proven to me that I am truly not. Sure, I am outwardly good, but the sins of the heart are what makes us unclean and I have many. I'm struggling, and working on asking for forgiveness as well as forgiving myself..and changing as a person. I realize that I'm incredibly selfish..with my husband, with my kids, with my friends and family. I don't usually act on it..but sometimes I do. By ignoring or neglecting the kids needs for a few minutes while I cruise the internet or try to catch a few more minutes of wishing that my brother stay here rather than move where ever a job might take him, because I want him here. I realize I'm arrogant..I *believe* I have been a good person. I believe I deserve certain things. Most of my humor is sarcastic, which isn't bad unless it's hurting someone..but often times it is directed at someone else's flaws. It's funny to laugh and carry on at someone who my friends and I deem "psycho" or "pathetic"..not out of the blue, by any means, but even if this person/people have done wrong to us or our friends and made our lives more difficult, does Jesus not say to turn the other cheek? Love your enemies? He says his biggest order in following him is to love one each other as he has loved us. Now all these things are HARD to's not going to happen overnight..and there will still be times when they come up. But I believe I need to try. Because basically, it's black and white. With God there is no gray area. Follow him..or don't. And I'm beginning to see and understand what following him really means..and it's scary, and overwhelming. But I believe that it has to be done. I'm finding that it's a huge challenge because I'm worried (sometimes to the point of tears) that the ppl I love (including my husband) may not like these changes. A lot of times when you don't give yourself to sinful behavior people think you're being uppity, judgmental, etc. It's not that..I'm going to love my friends, family & husband regardless, but will they love me? But Jesus says not to worry..for worry won't bring another day. I just have to live for Him each day & pray that instead of pushing others away, they choose to truly follow him too. I'm not saying I'm a super Christian as is..I've got a long way to go. This is the beginning of a long journey. Jesus says that if you are not hated by the world, you are not loved by God..bc ppl who are of the world are accepted by the world but ppl who are of Him are not. He also says to follow Him we must deny bear our cross daily..for he who wants to save his life will lose it, but he who is willing to lose his life will save it. Those things are inspiring me to truck on..I think I'll be the same Robin, just hopefully a new & improved version. That being said, I'm excited to share all I'm learning & feeling.

I've decided that I will share what I'm learning and feeling right here, in this blog. I do one Bible Study a week and I believe I'll add a weekly installment to this blog, discussing what the Bible study was about and what I took from it. I think it will help me to really be in touch with what I'm feeling, and hopefully, it will help others as well. I know many people don't want to hear about religion or God, and that's fine, but some do. And if you're one that does, stay tuned. =)

On an unrelated note, I also think I'll be adding a weekly installment of something I like to call "The X Files" through the eyes of my two-year-old. The things he does sometimes amaze me, and other times frustrate me, and more often than not crack me up. So, I thought it would be a fun little thing to share some of his quirky moments.

Well, there you have it..look forward to the first installments of The X Files and My Journey as a Disciple coming this week! 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Beginnings..

Happy New Year, everyone!!

I hope the first week of 2012 has greeted you all with blessings. It's hard to believe that another year has gone by, and of course 2011 had it's fair share of events for us. A quick run down: We found out we were expecting on New Years Eve of 2010: what a great way to ring in a new year. January brought Robert's second deployment & our move home to Ohio. March brought our 3rd wedding anniversary & my graduation with my AA degree in Psych. In April, we found out we were having another son. In June, our precious Goober turned two. July brought us back from Ohio and into a new apartment in VA & I welcomed my love back home. In September, I brought a beautiful baby boy into this world and our family went from 3 to 4. In October I turned 24. In November, a loved one went to meet the Lord; my mom's boyfriend passed away. December came..and we got to spend Christmas with our families for the first time in three years.
What a whirlwind..mostly wonderful..partly sad, definitely trying. But we've made it to 2012. And this year, well the world is supposed to end, right? Lol. So I guess we better make it a good one.

Resolutions. Most everyone makes them, but very little people keep them. This year I've made six. And they aren't my typical "lose weight" kind of resolutions..(although, yes, that is one) lol. But this year, I want to make some important changes, not just set goals I'm not really sure I can or even really want to meet.

1. Get Closer. 
To everyone. I want to make my relationship with God better. I want to make church a priority, pray more often, talk about God with friends and family. I want to make Him a bigger part of my life. I want to get closer with my husband & my boys. I want to be a better wife, mom, sister, daughter, niece, cousin, friend. I'm not saying I'm a bad one now. But I could make more of an effort in every relationship.

2. Get Healthier.
I don't want to say "lose ___ pounds by ___". Because honestly, how often does that work? I don't want to set myself up for failure. I'd love to lose some weight. But right now, focusing on myself is pretty difficult. I can't make that commitment. But I can commitment to try to make better decisions and try to become more active. I want to cut down on fast food..meal plan & cook healthier at home. Model good eating habits for my boys. Spend more time outside. Chase after Xander. Take more walks. And choose working out in my spare hour rather than catching up on Teen Mom.

3. Unplug.
Spend more time away from the things that distract me. Nothing wrong with catching up on Plurk or Facebook. Nothing wrong with blogging (obviously lol). But sometimes, I feel I get sucked in. I start to cruise the web for a few minutes and a few minutes turns into an hour. That hour could be spent much more productively. 

4. Be More Financially Savvy
I want to not only make ends meet, but to save as well. I want to coupon meal make a budget & stick with it. I want to pay off some debt..and make cuts where possible. At the end of 2012, I want to look back and know where our money went and be content with it.

5. Be Creative
I don't have a lot of time to do extras..but I really want to start when I can. I want to be more organized. I want to be more crafty. I want to spend time on my scrapbooking & my writing. If I can just cut out a couple hours a week to do these things, I feel like I can get things around here in better shape while at the same time, exercising my brain & focusing on things that I really love.

6. Live In The Now
I want to be more appreciative for  the things I have right this moment. I want to quit beating myself up because I'm not living up to some silent standard I set for myself at 16. I'm beyond blessed & beyond happy with my life. At 24, I have all the things that I've always said were the most important things in life. I'm 24..and already there. So why be upset about anything? Sometimes I get so down on myself. I compare myself to others, and I find myself being jealous. I find myself being jealous of even my own husband. I think He gets to have it all. Our happy family AND a career. The ability to further his education whenever, where ever, and however he pleases. Don't get me wrong, I am MORE than happy that he takes care of us & that he goes out and works so that I don't have to. But sometimes I feel like I'm in a competition that I'm losing. I'm the person who, in high school, had so much potential. I was supposed to go to OSU and get not only my Bachelor's, but my Master's and possibly my PhD. By now, I should be beginning a great career. And when I made those plans, I always knew that first and foremost I wanted to be a wife & a mother. And I also knew that choosing one meant holding off on the other. I made my choice and I wouldn't change it for the world. But, I often feel like I've let people down, including myself. So maybe I haven't worked in three years. Maybe I only have my Associate's degree. Maybe I got that degree online..and maybe the school I got it from is a joke to some people. But, I do work hard every day. I do have a purpose. I do have a degree that I worked my butt of for. And no matter what others may think about where/how I got that degree, I know it wasn't a breeze. I know that degree means something. And it's a step toward the education I want.
I may not have the education or career I thought I would at this point. I may be just a stay-at-home mom. But I have the best from my husband and two precious boys. Gifts that will last a lifetime. Gifts people would die for. When my kids are bigger, and I'm back to work, I'm going to wish they were little and I was back home with them. So I'm resolving to quit living in the past or the future..and start living completely in the now. One day I'll have that degree and that good-paying job, and when I do, my most important purpose will still be being everything & anything my family needs me to be.

And there you have it. My resolutions for 2012. I hope that when the door to 2013 opens, I can look back on 2012 and know that I made it the best it could be..I can close that door and walk into 2013 with my head held high and a smile on my face. And isn't that what it's really all about? Resolutions or not, make it a good one!