Drive Safely!

My favorite verse growing up was Matthew 5:16:
Therefore let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve thought of this verse. This morning, however, it came to mind in an unpredictable scenario for sure.

It’s December in North Dakota, and therefore it’s snowing and cold. This morning was no exception. I started the car to let it warm up a bit before making the drive to work. Here’s where I let you in on a little bit of a secret: I have been known to exercise road rage. It’s true. And it’s pathetic. But….I’m praying the Lord will heal me of that one day, because goodness knows other people won’t change how stupidly they drive. *Ahem*

This morning as the snow fell and gathered on vehicles and the roads, I took every extra precaution and safety measure to ensure my arrival to work in one piece. I brushed all the snow off my windows so I could have clear and uninhibited visibility. I brushed off my headlights and tail lights so others could see me. I turned my headlights on and drove slowly and safely, focusing on the road and on others around me.

It was gray, dark, and snowing outside. I was stopped at a stop sign, preparing to make a right-hand turn on to the main avenue that takes me to the interstate. That’s when I saw it. A white car ~ white car, in white snow, with gray sky ~ without its headlights on. Headlights are not to be used solely for the purpose of seeing where you’re going or what’s before you. Headlights are also to be used so other people can see YOU.

Normally, this sort of situation gets me quite riled up. I usually think things like, “Are you just ASKING to be hit?” or “Way to drive defensively. Turn your lights on, so people can see you…moron…” However, this morning, and I kid you not, the first thought that popped in to my head was, “Therefore, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

I laughed. Not a hearty belly laugh, but a notable chuckle nonetheless. A car with no headlights that completely blends in to the scenery, and could have very easily been hit ~ by me ~ made me think of a life-application verse. The rest of my drive to work, it was all I could think about. Turning on my car headlights are one thing, but to truly let Christ’s light shine through me, continually, and on a daily basis, is quite another. I know there are times I’ve gone without turning my headlights on. I know there are times I’ve only turned on my parking lights and felt visual enough to the rest of the driving world. But how many times have I become upset when other people don’t do either? How many times have I driven around talking to people who can’t hear me, even if I do raise my voice (okay, I might yell….) telling them to turn their lights on?

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

Therefore let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven.

I made it to work safely, though there was one close call. My focus for the day, however, is changed. I need Christ to see where I’m going and what’s before me. I also need Him, however, so others can SEE Him through me, and praise Him and give him glory.

Turn your headlights on. Others are in the dark.

Love Through Hate

This has been a fantastic holiday season. Above the stress, hustle, bustle, and more hustle, I have found a peace in my God that I haven’t experienced for a long time. Things have happened, and whether or not I remember to write in my prayer journal, I remember to talk to God. When I’m excited, when I’m beaten down, when I’m scared, I’m able to carry on those conversations with Him I recently thought I had forgotten how to orchestrate.

Allow me to be ultimately reflective. And long-winded.

I do not like birds. At all. Birds give me the heebie jeebies. They’re so fragile, yet so aggressive, and so …. complicated. Plus, they carry diseases. I know this, because my mother raised me to know that I should never touch a bird, because birds carry diseases. I tell a story of one day hitting a bird with my car and driving around (for about 70 miles) with it on my windshield, before finally going to my dad and asking him to remove said bird. It has always been a funny, entertaining story. Several years after it happened, I realized how relative it was to my spiritual walk. Here I go, around for ever and ever with this huge, disgusting obstacle in my life, and it doesn’t go away no matter what I do ~ until I take it to my Heavenly Father. God used a bird…a dead bird, to draw me nearer to Him. Something I can’t stand, God used for His glory and to show me His love and mercy. A dead stinking bird! I still tell the story, but it has a different ending now. A meaningful one. His love, shown through something I hated.

My teenage years were brutal. I was morbidly depressed, miserable, involved in harmful relationships, easily misled….as a whole, I cannot look back on my teenage years with any sense of pride or dignity. I despised my life as a teenager, and no amount of money or persuasion could convince me to give those years another go. As a result, I harbored a lot of ill-will toward teenagers in general. I knew what they were up to, what they were trying to pull, what they wanted to get away with, and I had nothing but contempt for teenagers in my heart. My best friend asked me to serve on team at Chrysalis. (If you’re not familiar with Chrysalis, check it out here) First, I sat in disbelief that she would even consider asking me. She knew how I felt about teenagers. She knew my disdain, and she knew the pain it rendered within me to think about having to relate to people from such a sore spot in my past. I bawled at her dining table. I sat, head in hands, and cried for almost an hour. That night, God used my best friend to reach me in a way I’ll never forget. She looked me square in the eye, and rather matter-of-factly asked me, “Did you stop to think that because of your past, and because of how you are intuitively aware of what teens are thinking, God wants to use you specifically for this purpose?” I couldn’t play a woe-is-me card that would have debunked her words. She wasn’t sympathetic, no matter how much snot, sniffle, or salty tears I tried to decorate her table with. She was right. I had to own up. I had to reconcile with evils I never wanted to face again…and not for my benefit, or necessarily for the benefit of these teens, but for His glory. I fought it…right up until the day those teens walked through the doors to start their weekend retreat, I fought it. I don’t know if I had any influence or impact on those teens that weekend, but I will tell you that God softened my heart. God broke down walls and I was given a new purpose that weekend ~ to love teens like I never thought possible. The girls who were at my table have left lasting footprints on my heart, and I still pray over them. The teens I met who served on the leadership team that weekend were incredible, and I still keep in touch with some of them. God used the most painful, hated era of my life, to once again show me his grace and mercy. That weekend at Chrysalis changed my life. God healed me of my contempt and disdain, and those blessed teenagers were His choice vessels. Smelly, hyper, mouthy teenagers! I love those teens.

I don’t know what God has in store for me next. I don’t know if my next “aha!” moment will come from someone pulling out in front of me, or over anything involving raw fish….but I’m on to Him now. I’ve seen how He uses things I hate, or can’t stand, or have a real problem with, to draw me nearer to Him. The unfortunate thing, is He has such a long list to draw from. Or maybe it isn’t so unfortunate. The fact that my God delivers me from bondage, and actively pursues me, using whatever methods possible ~ that says more to me than anything.

Believe me when I say this ~ there is nothing in your life that can’t work for the greater good. He’s with you now. Regardless of how good, bad, or indifferent things are, He’s there. “Enjoy the quiet moments, for that is when God whispers when the world is loud.”

Frustrated

F…futile
R…ridiculous
U…useless
S…struggle
T…trivial
R…rawr!
A…absurd
T…this is getting harder…
I…irrational
O…oh give me a home, where the buffalo roam…
N…negative

I had so much I was going to spew about as far as what frustrates me (recently, presently) in life, but after doing that letter/word association poem, I am not all that frustrated anymore.

Here’s the deal, I don’t know how to deal properly with frustration. This is very unfortunate considering how often I find myself frustrated. As a Christian, how am I to respond when things frustrate me?

1) Am I to pretend all is well with the world regardless and go on about my business, forcing myself never to feel frustrated?

Answer: Nice try. No way.

2) Am I to let frustration get to me to the point where I issue black eyes to unsuspecting individuals as a form of personal therapy and release and work out my frustrations as such?

Answer: Though incredibly tempting, NAY.

Well then what? Either I let it get to me or I don’t, right?

Maybe.

In one of my talks with God earlier (about five minutes before I started typing this) I asked him, “God, what am I supposed to do when I get frustrated?”

What am I supposed to do when my washing machine breaks? When I struggle with how to allocate our finances? When I step in something wet with my socked feet? When my heater at work breaks and my legs go numb because I’m so cold? When people expect me to help them in ways I can’t? When the florist makes me repeat – three times – information I’ve already given her? When I get tired because people just don’t get it? When I want to be left alone and people won’t leave me be? When I want to be around people, and everyone lets me be? What am I supposed to do?

I heard nothing.

“God, what am I supposed to do when I ask you something but become frustrated because you just sit there to let me figure it out? Hello! Answer me!”

I heard it. A smile. Have you ever heard a smile? I don’t believe I ever had, but that’s the only way to explain it. I heard a smile.

1 Peter 5:7. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Okay, fine. I have no problem giving my problems away. But then what? Do I just sit here and wonder what will happen next?

I heard a smile.

Proverbs 16:3. Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.

So wait. You mean to tell me you’re going to take my problems ~ if I hand them over to you ~ and then working as if for you, things will work out? What if something happens? What if something goes wrong? And why are you smiling at me?

Matthew 6:33,34. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

And there I have it. Give, Do, Trust.

If someone came to me asking how to deal with frustration, and all the while I had been frustrated with them because they weren’t listening to me trying to tell them how to deal with frustration….I would smile too.

I’m Losing

….or at least I hope to lose.

Brittany and I have been friends for about four years. We waited tables together in Cody, WY. (Shout out to the Sunest House!) She was a senior in high school when she started working there, and I was a married old biddy. We hit it off because she was fun, funny, and down-to-earth. The last quality was one that was lacking in the other youngsters working there, so I was drawn to Britt, and thankful she had a good head on her shoulders.

Last year Brittany moved here to go to school. I was thrilled to have a little piece of home here, and thrilled that my little piece of home was Brittany! We even waited tables together again for a few weeks after her arrival, before I got a different job and decided I couldn’t stand waiting tables anymore. (Five years of food service is enough for this married old biddy.)

Last night I got a call from Brittany. She had been “Martha Stewarting it” all day (her words) and had something for us. I told her to stop on by when it was ready. She showed up with this marvelous, decadent pumpkin cheesecake. People ~ not only did it look amazing, but you should have tasted it. She did a fantastic job, and she made it from scratch!! But it’s cheesecake……and I have a severe allergy to most foods that taste good.

You see, when I eat cheesecake, ice cream, donuts, brownies, etc., my body goes into this wierd allergic reaction mode, and my butt swells. Larger and larger and larger. It’s been happening for years and I keep trying to tell people I’m allergic, but since they don’t see a rash or since I don’t stop breathing, they don’t believe me. It has to be an allergy, though, because my butt has been swelling for the last five years.

Brittany and I got to talking about our weight, our bodies, and our dissatisfaction with ourselves. I told her about my chiropractor and how he is always sneaking stories in of obese people he’s seen recently. My chiropractor is all about total health (as we all should be) but wow is he ever intense on this health thing….

Chiropractor: You know, Val, yesterday I was at the store and I saw this huge couple. Huge. They each had a caribou coffee in their hand, and Val, you should have seen the stuff in their cart. They are loading themselves up with toxins. I don’t get it. How can people do that to themselves?

Me: (sucking in my tummy) Yeah really….who doesn’t want to eat vegetables all the time?

Chiropractor: There are so many foods that are good for you and taste good, and don’t result in obesity.

Me: (wincing from sucking in my tummy) I hear ya…..those crazy big people…..

So I got to thinking yesterday after my spinal adjustment, Oh-my-gosh. My chiropractor thinks I’m FAT! Now, granted, if you had told me five years ago I would ever be wearing double-digit-sized pants, I wouldn’t have believed you. But it’s the allergy, I’m telling you. My butt won’t squeeze into the good ol’ size 8 or size 6 anymore becuase it’s so swollen from my allergic reaction to food! Okay, so I’ve grown some. But enough with the obesity stories, doc! I told this chiropractor story to Brittany. I didn’t get a, “Val, you’re not fat!” response. Oh-my-gosh. I might not be fat, but you won’t find “slender” or “skinny” in the “descriptive terms about Val” section of the vocabulary of those close to me.

So Brittany and I got to talking and we challenged each other. We are turning a new leaf. Whoever loses the most percentage of body weight by December 15th (6 weeks from now) will be treated to a pedicure and a manicure by the other. We wrote a contract, we have a weigh-in schedule, and we are committed. Baby steps and short-term goals are the way to do it. After these 6 weeks, we’ll come up with another reward for the next 6 weeks, and we won’t stop until we’re satisfied with our energy levels, our physique, and our health.

Last night I bounced on my exercise ball and moved around on that unstable thing for a good hour or more. I bet I burned off a good solid bite of that cheesecake Brittany brought…..and I think it helped my food allergy.

This morning I had fresh pineapple, strawberries, kiwi, and raspberries for breakfast. I have to admit, though it was no jumbo blueberry muffin, it was quite tasty. Instead of a vanilla latte, I’m drinking green tea with honey. It’s no latte, but it’s warm and cozy for my morning.

I’m gonna lose, I tell you, and I’m gonna be happy about losing! Food allergy – BE GONE! (Lord, help me….)

Blah.

I’m having one of those days. One of those days where it feels like there was absolutely no good reason to get out of bed. Really, I’m still reeling from yesterday. Yesterday was a day I wish I could re-do from start to finish. Satan got a grip on me yesterday, swung me around a few times, threw me up against a wall a time or two, danced a little jig, and left me for dead. I wished for death by the time 11:00 p.m. rolled around last night. I didn’t want to deal with the day anymore. All I could think about was what had gone wrong and what I wish I could have done over. All I could think about was what I didn’t have any control over.

I need it. I can’t operate without it. Control.

Today I’ve been rather weepy. Thinking thoughts of how I’m not the person I want to be, how no one in their right mind should want to be around the person I am, and wondering what happened to the person I strove so hard to become.

These are all nasty thoughts. Yet my thoughts seem to be the only thing I can control. Therefore, I think them.

What is it about control? Why is it so desirable for me? Why do I feel that unless my hand is involved in every situation, every situation will go wrong? Why do I feel that when I’m left out of a loop, the loop has to have a short circuit and everything will crumble around me unless I can find a way – any way – in to that loop?

Why, when I know there is so much out of my control, I feel like I’ve failed when there was something I couldn’t control? I convince myself that if I had done something differently, I could have controlled the outcome. If I had done this opposed to that. That opposed to this. If I could…..just……control.

Why, if I am not supposed to maintain control….why, if there are things that are out of my control, do I have the purebred desire to control? Why, if I am supposed to live and let live, be and let be, go with the flow, roll with the punches….do I have the tendency to go nuts when something is “out” of my hands? How can this trait that has helped me to succeed in so many areas so many times before, be the absolute death of my spirit, and cause such rage, despair, and sense of failure?

I am wrestling. I am really wrestling. Why did I fall flat on my face (figuratively, of course, I have no scratches…) yesterday? Why, when I’ve worked so hard to focus on who God is and who He’s made me to be, did all of that fly straight out the window yesterday? Should I not have control over my reactions, actions, words, and deeds? Did I have control yesterday when I did the things I did and said the things I said? If words and deeds are actions of the heart, then why can’t I at least control what I feel, and how I feel about what I feel? Can I say the word “feel” one more time in a sentence? :o)

Blah.

I just want to go back to bed. This wrestling is exhausting me. Control. It’s meaningless. But yet I so desire to have it.

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11

1 The words of the Teacher, [a] son of David, king in Jerusalem:
2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”

3 What does man gain from all his labor
at which he toils under the sun?

4 Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.

5 The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.

6 The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course.

7 All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.

8 All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.

9 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

10 Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.

11 There is no remembrance of men of old,
and even those who are yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow.

Don’t Get Even ~ Get Mad.

Last night I was mad. I was downright furious. I had allowed the words, thoughts, and opinions, of other people get to me on a personal level, and I became incredibly upset. My husband was trying to figure out why I was crying, but when I would try to tell him, he would interrupt me to tell me he didn’t understand. It was over an issue that is very personal for me; an issue that scares me to death, and I have always felt that others don’t just try to tell me how they feel about it, but try to force me to adopt their point of view. I’m sure that’s not always the case, but that’s how I felt last night.

I dug up my prayer journal and I started to write. I was using big letters spread widely apart – not my usual precise handwriting. Three pages later I had to stop. My hand was hurting, I needed to blow my nose, and I didn’t want to think about it anymore.

During my prayer journaling time, Brent had come upstairs to check on me. He sat quietly next to me and let me pour my thoughts and feelings out to God. I started to calm down.

Whether or not it was warranted, I was furious. I don’t know how you pray when you’re furious, but I just let it all out. I didn’t ask for understanding, or for insight on how to deal with people who frustrate me. I didn’t ask for a new outlook on the situation, or for a gentle spirit. I don’t really remember asking for anything. I told God exactly what I thought and how the actions and words of others made me feel. I told Him He was the only one I sought counsel from on these sensitive issues, and that everyone else needed to zip their lips. I told him when I got angry about one issue, suddenly a plethora of other issues flooded my mind and I became angry about those as well – either for the first time or all over again!

I calmed down. I said Amen. My husband and I had a long chat. I slept peacefully. I’m not angry this morning. I am comforted though, that even when I have absolutely nothing encouraging to say, nothing wholesome or gracious, my God still lets me come to Him. He lets me pound on his chest and scream the “WHY?!” questions and He lets me complain, and He lets me weep, and He lets me vent about my disappointments and my feelings of contempt.

David called upon God quite frequently in all sorts of emotional states.
Psalm 22:19: But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.
Psalm 142:2: I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.

But isn’t it wrong to let your feelings, especially your angry feelings, come to surface? Ephesians 4:26 (from Psalm 4:4) In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger…..

It doesn’t say “DON’T get angry – ever! Don’t do it! Getting upset, angry, or mad is wrong!” No….not hardly.

It’s okay to get angry. It’s okay to feel troubled. You’re allowed to be upset. It’s natural. So long as the end result is you casting your cares upon Him, and turning to Him for refuge and solace ~ it’s okay! He can take it. I promise. I thank God that He is able to take it – because most of the time I can’t.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do.

Ephesians 5:33. There’s a book written on this verse, by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. Love And Respect. An entire book. The wife must respect her husband. I am a huge fan of this book, and have recommended it to many friends, family members, and strangers. I have been to the video series, I have done the small group study, and I love, love, love this book.

For whatever reason, however, I have a hard time always following through. The wife must respect her husband.

Before I continue with my story, read the following instant message conversation. To give you a little bit of background, my boss has been playing up the office to buy him something big and expensive for his birthday, which is October 22nd. This conversation between the two of us took place one Friday, when he was “working from home”.

Mathew [10:15 AM]:
good morning
have you gotten my birthday gift yet?

Val [10:15 AM]:
I have a week and a half yet.
Greedy Pants.

Val [10:17 AM]:
You, on the other hand, have about until Monday morning to get mine.

Mathew [10:18 AM]:
what do you want?

Val [10:18 AM]:
Um……a company car….?

Mathew [10:19 AM]:
hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
hahahahaahahahhaahahahhahahahahahahahahahaha
hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
hahahahaahahahhaahahahhahahahahahahahahahaha
hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
hahahahaahahahhaahahahhahahahahahahahahahaha
hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
hahahahaahahahhaahahahhahahahahahahahahahaha
hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
hahahahaahahahhaahahahhahahahahahahahahahaha
hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
hahahahaahahahhaahahahhahahahahahahahahahaha
hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
hahahahaahahahhaahahahhahahahahahahahahahaha
hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
hahahahaahahahhaahahahhahahahahahahahahahaha
hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
hahahahaahahahhaahahahhahahahahahahahahahaha
hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
hahahahaahahahhaahahahhahahahahahahahahahaha

ok, I am good now

Val [10:19 AM]:
LOL

Mathew [10:23 AM]:
i will do my best

Val [10:24 AM]:
k. I appreciate it.

So Monday morning, he (my boss) asked how my birthday was (on Sunday) and I told him it was nice, I enjoyed myself at the retreat, blahblahblah. Then I asked, “Where’s my company car?” He answered, “The dealership still has it, but I’m going to pick it up after lunch.” Oh….okay…..whatever.

He came in after lunch and launched in to this whole long schpiel about how he had to save the company money so he got an “experimental” model of vehicle that’s not on the market yet. He whipped this toy car out of his pocket and told me it would grow in rain, so I can only drive it on rainy days, otherwise I won’t fit, etc. Haha, we all do the cheesy laugh thing, and I had to take the car away because all the guys in the office wanted to make it roll on my desk over and over and over and over again. (Must be a guy thing.)

Brent called me while I was still at work and I decided to tell him about Matt’s funny joke. “Hey Brent, I got a company car.”
“What?”
“I got a company car.”
“Wait. I need to understand. How?”
“I just asked for one, and Matt brought it to me this afternoon. He asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I told him I wanted a company car, and now I have one.”
“Omigosh! You don’t sound as excited as you should be.”
(Note….at this point, I thought I would see how far I could ride with Brent’s unsuspecting enthusiasm over my “company car”)
“Well I’m still at my desk, and it’s not like I can just freak out at work.”
“So you can just keep it forever, or until you leave the company?”
“Yeah, I can keep it as long as I want.”
“So will I get to see it tonight?”
“Yes, I’m taking it home with me.”
“This is so cool!”
“I know! Okay I have to go, I love you, bye.”
“I love you too! Bye.”

After hanging up, I said out loud, “Wow, he really needs to ask more questions.” He bought it! He is usually very skeptical of me anyway, but when it came to this, he didn’t ask me a single detail! I took a little file folder label and I trimmed it down to size and make a company logo for the car door.

Brent was confused as to why I drove my regular car to my chiropractor appointment after work. He had to meet me there as the chiropractor was giving a new patient orientation, complete with free sandwiches for patients and their significant other. I pulled the company car out of my purse. I smiled. A great big smile. I opened the door and instructed him to “check out the interior on this baby.” Brent wasn’t smiling. At all. In fact, I thought he was going to crush my skull.

I was immediately humbled when he told me under his breath, in the lobby of the chiropractor’s office, “It would’ve been nice to know you were joking before I offered to sell my car to a guy at work.”

I feel bad that I broke my husband’s heart and got his hopes up and all that schmooz, but seriously?! I mean, really?!

The wife must respect her husband. I’m sorry, honey. I do respect you and I do admire and appreciate you. Even if my company car is only three inches long and one inch tall.

Wives….respect your husbands. Do as I say, not as I did…..

Oooooh, the new car smell……

Physically Fit

There is a scriptural reference about running (and finishing) the race. I have never been fond of running. In fact it is the physical activity I like the very, very least. Exercise of all tpyes has lost its appeal to me, though I know it is necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle and a desireable physique.

My brother-in-law is in the Army. He has served in Afghanistan, Iraq, and state-side, and is one humble dude. We appreciate and admire him for a lot of reasons. This past weekend, he went to Montana for his drill-duty. This was his PT weekend – where they tested physical ability and strength.

My sister just had a baby a month ago. I have yet to meet my nephew, but I will have that opportunity in just over two weeks. We talk on the phone all the time to stay connected, and I especially try to keep her occupied while her husband is away. One thing I have loved about talking to my sister on the phone is hearing baby Travis “honk” and make other various noises while my sister and I chat away.

During our most recent phone conversation, Veronica (sister) informed me she had asked Kalen what the females had to do to pass their PT exams. For push-ups, a female had to do 17 in two (2) minutes. For sit-ups, a female had to do 50 in two (2) minutes. We didn’t talk about the two mile run. (see above on how much I love running)

Mind you, my sister informed me of this at 11:00 p.m. Central time on Saturday night. I may have been slightly delusional.

“Fifty? That’s it? I can do fifty.” I said.

“Are you sure? I could only do 24.” says my sister, who JUST HAD A BABY A MONTH AGO!

I put the phone on speaker. I laid down on my living room rug in front of my picture window thinking to myself, “please don’t let the neighbors see me doing sit-ups at 11 at night, in my living room…..” I stuck my feet under the sofa and crossed my arms over my chest, turning to talk at the phone.

“Wait…..do I have to sit all the way up? Or are we talking crunch-style?”

“You have to have your hands intertwined behind your neck, and your chin has to go beyond your pelvis, so essentially, yes, sit all the way up.”

“Oh…….crap. I’m hosed.” It was the realization that I had to do this the old-school way, and crunches apparently were not acceptable in the military. “Okay…..time me.”

She told me when to begin and I counted out loud. I have to admit, I was off to a really good start, and when I hit 24 in under 30 seconds, I thought for sure I would make it to 50.

“Twenty……*huff puff huff puff*……five…..”

I slammed back down on the rug. “Omigosh, Veronica, this is getting painful.”

She laughed.

“Twenty……*huff puff huff puff screech*…….six…..”

I had to take a break.

Each one was harder and harder but I had to see how many I could do. I hear her say, “One minute warning, Valerie.”

Are you serious? It took me 30 seconds to do TWO sit ups?

I did three more sit ups. I got to 30. On the last sit up, it took every ounce of strength I had to get myself up. I was pulling so hard with my lower body that I moved my entire sofa forward with my feet. I collapsed. My abdominal muscles had failed. I could not even sit myself up to get off the floor. I had to roll over on to my stomach and push myself up off the floor.

She was proud of me….my sister who just had a baby a month ago and did 24.

I broke out in a sweat and was parched from my “intense” work out. I had to go to the kitchen and get a glass of ice water. Veronica told me again she was proud of me. Did I mention she just had a baby a month ago?

I took a quick peek out the window to make sure there were no neighbors standing in their windows with the quizzical “What is she doing?” look that I am all too familiar with…..the coast was clear.

Here I am two days later experiencing what my college fitness instructor labled as DOMS. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. It hurts to laugh. It hurts to sit. It hurts to sit up.

I may not be fit to be a soldier in the army that defends my country, but I am fit to be a soldier for Christ. He doesn’t require me to do X amount of sit ups in X amount of time, but He does require discipline and strength in ways only He is capable of providing.

I’m so glad I found my prayer journal last week…..and I’m so glad I did more sit ups than my sister…..

Giving Thanks

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

This morning when I woke up, after being able to sleep in for the first time in a long time, the first thing I noticed was how my back and neck ached. A few days ago I wrenched myself and haven’t recovered since. I go back to the chiropractor on Monday.

I started my day with a bowl of cereal and noticing the sun was shining – always a good thing for a Saturday. As I enjoyed my serving of fruit……y pebbles, I remembered I needed to take my paycheck to the bank for a deposit. Lately I’ve been pretty solemn when it comes to money. After starting a new job and being placed on a new pay schedule, I can’t quite figure out when the money comes in versus when it needs to go out. It’s a rough balance, and something I’m pretty “sore” about. My check was already spent and I was thinking of all the things I’d rather do with the money, and how bitter I am about the debt we’ve found ourselves in.

I threw on my slippers, pulled my hair back, and headed to the bank. There weren’t many cautious or defensive drivers on the road this morning. I’m only a few blocks from my bank, but I was wondering a lot of the way there and back, where these people learned to drive. I then made a mental note to myself that since most accidents occur within three miles of home, in case someone hits me, I might want to put on a bra and some actual shoes next time. You know, so the fireman aren’t flashing various parts of me if they have to extract me from my vehicle…..

I came home and was disappointed to see the tremendous amount of leaves in our yard. That’s a lot of raking, and raking is tough work, and tough work is not usually something I enjoy partaking in. Besides, half of these leaves are from the neighbors’ tree, and I doubt they would ever offer to come help us clear our lawn.

It was time to get in the shower. That was when it hit me. I’ve struggled with a negative attitude for a long time. My whole life. It’s my default. No matter the situation or circumstance, I could very well be the first to tell you what’s wrong with it, why it won’t work, or why it’s bothersome and annoying to me. I have a problem.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

In my prayer journal I read a lot of prayers I had written asking God to give me an attitude adjustment. Looking back I see how he gave me new perspective and insight in situations where I would otherwise be a Debbie Downer. It is still a prayer I need to pray, however, and one I most likely will never be able to stop.

I tried to recount my day. I’m glad I have sensation and the ability to walk and twist and turn, even if it might be a little achy today. I’m glad we have trees in our neighborhood and a beautiful house with a lawn that my husband loves to take care of. I’m glad we have jobs where we’re able to make an income and provide for the things we need, and that we have a mindset to work towards paying down our debt.

Is it more true than cliche, that every cloud has it’s silver lining? I’m going to make it my goal to prove it so.

As I was in the shower, I was glad Brent was out doing his recreational football reffing….and I started to sing. I don’t sing in the shower. Ever. I never know who’s listening. Today I didn’t care. I sang hymns….old hymns…..and belted them out at the top of my lungs. The bathroom has pretty good acoustics when it’s filled with steam and you can hardly hear yourself over the whining of the shower head.

I am thankful for a lot of things. Most especially for forgiveness, mercy, and grace. Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidst me come to Thee, o Lamb of God I come…..I come.

I came across this video on Youtube. Nicol Sponberg was an original member of the group Selah, one of my favorite Christian groups. This woman has some pipes. She absolutely puts me in awe and amazement every time I hear her voice. This song is a pretty accurate account of what my plea was several days ago. I hope it speaks to you as it does me.

The Journal

There used to be a time when I felt so connected, so in tune with God and the plans He had for me. I was an intercessor. In prayer, I was a warrior for others. In talking with others, I had answers to their questions I had no way of knowing myself. The gifts He shared with me were so numerable. There used to be a time when my relationship was so obvious, and my focus was so sincere. Where did the time go?

When I think back to a more spiritual, happier time, I think back to when Brent (husband) and I lived in Cody, Wyoming. If you’ve never been, I will tell you that you are doing yourself a horrible injustice. For what it’s worth, Yellowstone National Park is my most favorite place in the universe. (Out of the many places I’ve been in the universe, which consist of 25 states and Victoria, Canada, Yellowstone National Park is my most favorite.)

We lived 54 miles from the east entrance to the park. The drive there is so majestic – the scenery so picturesque. Raw, rustic, in-your-face nature is all you see. I drove that route a thousand times, and never grew tired of it. To be surrounded by a beauty unobtainable in our own rights, and to know that I had the privilege of seeing it from my kitchen window every day – that was my happy place. That was my heaven on earth. Never did I feel so connected to God, so able to worship Him, than when I would look out to the mountains and see His handiwork.

I used to write in a prayer journal almost every night. In trying to pray aloud, I would find myself becoming so easily distracted and praying would take hours for how my thoughts would stray. I started writing in this prayer journal to keep myself more focused and committed to the specific prayers I needed to communicate for the day. There were prayers of praise, of concern, of anger, and of sorrow. It was my open book – literally – my letters to God every night.

January 1st, 2006, Brent and I moved to Fargo, North Dakota. Everything we could fit into a trailer, two cars, and my parents’ pick up came with us. We moved in the dead middle of winter. All I saw for weeks was white (snow) and gray (clouds). I drove on ice until April, that had resulted from a storm the previous November. Yet we moved here as we believed we were told to do so by God. For what purpose, we still don’t know. But we knew, without a doubt, Fargo was in His will for us. There are no mountains here. There is no Yellowstone. One day while driving to work, I was excited to see the huge land mass that appeared to be some sort of hill. I found out later that was the dump.

The prayer journal stayed packed for a long time. I remember seeing it in it’s box. I remember thinking, “Oh….there it is…..I should……” and going off with another task, another distraction, another deed. At some point it got put in another box, and on to a shelf, before being packed up to move from our apartment to our house.

Since moving to Fargo I have wrestled. I have wrestled with being away from family, away from friends, and away from my happy place. I know moving to Fargo was God’s will and I know He spoke to me directly and told me we were to move here. I think, however, on some unknown and mysterious level of my being, I resent Him for bringing me here.

My prayers since moving here have been generic. Rehearsed. Mostly forced. I pray because I know I should, not because I have the desire to do so. I know my relationship with God has suffered, and I know I have lost my spiritual intuitions. I know I have faulted, re-faulted, and faulted again. If “faulted” isn’t a word, it is today. I know how it could be, yet still I struggle with making any effort.

This past weekend while steam-cleaning our house, (*note: “steam-clean” is the term I use when I am in fast forward, full steam ahead, cleaning like a crazy lady) I came across the prayer journal. I have to admit, when I first saw it, I looked away. I immediately felt shame when I saw it. A wire-bound notebook was convicting me of my priority structure.

“Oh. There it is. Okay……Look, God….I know I’ve -……I know I’ve been neglecting you……”

Seriously? Was I seriously trying to talk my way around leaving a journal on a shelf? I remembered, instantly upon seeing it, that was more than a journal. That was my open book – my venue of one-on-one time with my Maker….with my Savior.

I picked it up. I started to read. March, 2005. Wow…..all these prayers, all these petitions that I had seen answered. Some I had forgotten about. I slowly read and browsed through the pages, trying to remember what I was feeling those days, what had happened, what I might have experienced to prompt me to request something specific. April, May, – all up until the move in December of 2005. Three entries – three – from 2006. Then…..forgotten. In a box, on a shelf, away.

What struck me most was how evident my love for God was in these prayers. Every prayer started with a praise. (Except for the one I wrote apparently immediately after Brent and I had a fight….) The shame grew inside of me.

To look upon what He had done, how He had guided during those times, and how I had responded by going my own way…I can’t even tell you how I felt, how I feel about that….

Last night I picked up a pen. I hesitated to date the page. 2008. I confessed, I wrote, about how I had left. I wrote out my prayer. I prayed a real, genuine, intimate prayer. I thought about crying. I was sorry….I am sorry…..but I am healing. Looking back I see the single set of Footprints. It took me finding a journal to realize and to remember, that all this time, He has carried me.

I hope now to make more prayer pages, and leave fewer blank ones. My life can’t sit on a shelf, nor can my relationship with Him.