Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Would you rather be perfect or broken?

Not long ago, I would have answered this with a "duh". Don't we all want to be perfect? There are million dollar industries all around us promising everything from perfect teeth to perfect toenails, and we are more than happy to pay. Those things are fairly easy to achieve without a lot of cost or discomfort.
The perfection I'm talking about isn't the kind that can be easily bought and veneered over. It's the kind that makes people say good things about you and wonder at your amazing strength and abilities. It's the kind that makes you feel proud when people come to you for advice, believing that you have it all together. Of course, you know there have been bumps along the way, but the outside still looks pretty doggone good.
But what do you do when that perfect image is shattered? Something in your world changes so drastically that eventually everyone who knows you, knows.
OK, so we all know that the image of perfection is only an image. No human being can be perfect. Churches aren't. Friends aren't. Parents aren't. Marriages aren't. Families aren't. Teeth aren't. Toenails aren't. Because all those things are made of or from human beings. But we're pretty content to let people enjoy that image, right?
I was (content). Until it was obvious that I wasn't (perfect). Not only was I imperfect, I was downright broken.
What did I do?
I retreated for a while. I learned to redefine myself a little more realistically. I was necessarily humbled.
What have I learned?
I've learned that I am not defined by my personal successes or failures.
I've learned that when I'm going through something hard, I look for others who have already been through the same thing, not the perfect people.
I've learned that I can help others who have just begun to walk down this road that I've already walked a few miles on. They won't be looking to the perfect people, either.
I've learned that it's ok to be real and people still love me even if I'm not perfect. In fact, they thank me for being real. They say it helps them to be real.
I've learned that it's incredibly freeing to not have to hold up some image that wasn't real.
I've learned the beauty of grace and mercy.
I've learned about God's infinite Love.
I've learned that the story isn't finished.
I choose broken. The cost is high and the discomfort is at times almost unbearable, but the beauty on the other side is so worth it.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks.

I'm thankful.
I'm thankful, after having my Excursion inspected today, and paying for the inspection, when Buster tried to crank it to back it out of the bay and it wouldn't start, that there was an auto repair shop across the street.
I'm rejoicing that I didn't have to call a tow truck. They just sent a 4-wheeler and pushed it on over.
I'm thankful that Buster let me use his cell phone to call my husband and daughter and leave a message on their cell phones telling them not to return my call because I wasn't taking Buster's phone with me, because I had left my phone at home.
I'm rejoicing that the lady at the repair shop was kind enough to give me a ride to the thrift store where I had dropped off my kids before the inspection, in her new shop car. It was a very nice car that smelled wonderful.
I'm thankful that the thrift store was still open for 2 more hours.
I'm rejoicing that I found a unique little wooden lighthouse to add to my collection, at the thrift store for $1.50.
I'm thankful that we have good friends who live close by who are happy to pick us up and give us a ride home.
I'm rejoicing that the husband in that family has a home based business and was able to drop everything to pick us up, because his wife had just left when I called.
I'm thankful that we have 3 vehicles which are paid for, so that we can save up for emergencies such as this one, and we have a spare which our daughter can use to meet her friend just as she had planned.
I'm rejoicing that my Excursion has served us well for the past 11 years and I'm certain this is just a small hiccup, and we will be back in business in no time.
I'm thankful for my Dave Ramsey envelopes!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Characteristics of Womanhood

I've been meeting with a few women on Wednesday mornings recently to study the book, True Woman 101, Divine Design. Last week, we studied chapter 2, Snips and Snails, and learned all about men. (yeah, right) Well, we talked about what God has to say about men, how our culture and hollywood portray men, and how we women see and relate to men. This week, we studied women, namely the various characteristics of women which are different than men. One of the questions at the end of the chapter asks, "Which of these (elements that are at the heart of what it means to be a woman) do you find the most challenging or difficult?"
Forming deep relational bonds
Having a welcoming responsive spirit
Creating a place to beget and nurture life
Being a helper
Before I talk about which of these is/are challenging for me, I want to talk about the one that jumped out at me that is not difficult for me at all. Each woman in the room took turns admitting her most challenging one. One woman said she has a hard time with "softness", because she sees it as being out of control. Another woman said she has a very hard time forming deep relational bonds, and she explained why. I was surprised to hear her say that. I have heard other women say the same thing. I can't relate. I think I form deep relational bonds sometimes with the first conversation I have with someone. We click and we are instant heart friends. Sometimes, I haven't even met a person and I feel a connection with them, just from reading their blog or following comments on Facebook. I may not yet have a deep relational bond with them, but if it's possible, I reach out to them and a friendship is formed. I sat and thought about all of my friendships and the deep bonds we share and I felt so grateful. Growing up, I didn't have a ton of friends. I had a few good friends, but I wouldn't say I had a "best friend". I never was one to talk on the phone for hours, shop til you drop, or lots of the things girlfriends do. I have memories of riding horses together, riding 4 wheelers, fishing, and mostly sitting on the bed, or on the front porch, or on the dock at the pond, and talking for hours. I hate small talk. I think this is why I don't like being in big crowds. I am more interested in what's going on in your heart, than who did your nails, even though I might comment that I like the color. I like one on one, or very small group settings. That same woman said she loves housekeeping, every little thing about it, down to making her bed in the morning. Again, I can't relate.
The night of the chapter 3 study, I was talking to Mike about it and I showed him the list and asked him what he thought my answer would be. He knows me. First he told me which one I have no trouble with. Then he picked out the two that I have battled our entire marriage. He said what I said in the meeting, almost to the word. 1. Softness. People who don't know me really well might be surprised by this. Often, someone will say to me, "I can't imagine you ever raising your voice." This always puzzles me and makes me wonder if I'm putting forth an image that isn't really me. No. I can be soft. But catch me at the right (or wrong) time, and there's nothing soft about me. I don't like that side of me. 2. Creating a place to beget and nurture life. I wouldn't say I have trouble creating that place. I have tremendous trouble maintaining it. In fact, I lost track of it for years. I love having a clean house. I love having people over. I don't love cleaning. I just hosted a gathering of 17 women in my home. I had a great time, and they all said they did, too. I got several comments about how warm and welcoming my home is. This has not always been the case. This is so encouraging to me. I'm ashamed that I can work for hours and think up creative ways to nurture relationships outside my family, and I haven't put that same effort into creating a warm and welcoming space for my family. I am resolved to make this a priority.
I am really enjoying this study. I encourage you to check out the website,  You can buy the book and do the study on your own, or with a group. I like the group setting. For me, hearing the women talk about the men in their lives, it reminds me that male behavior, whether Godly or sinful, is pretty typical and female behavior is, too. One lady talked about a certain (good) characteristic of her grandfather. She could have been talking about my daddy. Another lady talked about a (bad) characteristic of her ex-husband. She could have been talking about someone else I know. Men were created with certain characteristics and propensities, and when they try to fight them, sin enters the picture, and in many cases, their lives are destroyed, simply because they didn't want to be the man they should be. The same is true for women. God made us. He designed us to look and function according to a pattern. This isn't about who cooks and who mows the lawn. My husband likes to cook. I like to mow. It's not so much about roles, although some are better carried out by one or the other. It's about the programming within us designed by the Creator. We live in a culture that tries to tell us the only differences between men and women are physiological. Basically, for the most part, we are inter-changable. At the same time, there's the underlying theme of strong, intelligent women, and weak, not so intelligent men. And the gay agenda, oh my! Not so, according to the One who created us! It seems to me that those who fight against God's design do so because they have been sinned against and wounded in some way, and living according to it would make them vulnerable to that pain again. If the world really understood God's plan and design for our lives, they would not be able to resist the blessings of embracing it!
Action items: 1. Practice softness. 2. Create a place to nurture the lives I have begotten.

What about you?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Write as if your life depends on it...

So my friend Amy says. "When emotions run so deep, they need a place to go outside of you." I should write more. Maybe I wouldn't yell as much if I wrote more. Maybe I wouldn't have the rare occasion when I completely lose it. Tonight was one of those occasions.
Having a 13 year old boy is not new to me. I've done it three times before. I'm still no good at it. My current 13 year old boy is no different than the others, in that, he is trying hard to work out in his mind whether he should be playing with the matchbox cars or driving a real one. One, he really feels too old for, and the other, well, he is still too young. He did, just the other day, get to sit in the drivers seat with the engine running and his foot on the brake, ease off the brake, and move backwards a few feet. He was happy to announce to anyone who would listen that he had driven a car. I'm not sure his hand ever even touched the steering wheel, but we let him believe he drove. He is in that place that all boys have to get through. Too old for matchbox and too young for the real thing. Too old for mommy kisses and too young to not need mom at all any more. Mom needs wisdom to know that this is just as difficult a time for him as it is for her and to not take his distance personally.
Today was a good day. Everyone seemed to be in a pleasant mood most of the day, more so than usual.  The two littles had oatmeal for breakfast, one of their regular favorites. We can't call him a "little" any more. He's taller than I am. He usually passes on oatmeal, but when I asked if he wanted some, he said yes. I took a moment to enjoy the agreeable-ness (I need a better word). After breakfast, I gave him instructions for two chores. He did one. I asked if he did the other one and he quickly went and did it and upon completion, said, "Yes." I took another moment to enjoy the willing-ness. I gave him his school instructions. He took them and went to work. He brought me the completed work to check. I checked it, returned it to him for correction. He corrected it and brought it back. I thought, "Something is different today." Sarah wanted to go to the store to get some things for a recipe she had seen on Pinterest. He went with her. I gave him his "free money" portion of his allowance and instructed him to only spend $1 on candy related items. He came back with no candy related items. hmm. We ate dinner. Dad came home and we all went to the park. We did one lap around the pond. Sarah and I stopped to rest while the guys went to the playground. The 13 year old came back in a few minutes and plopped down right on my lap! I thought, "Something is very different. This is very unusual." I soaked it up, until my legs could no longer stand it. He moved to the spot next to me and leaned into me, sweaty and smelly, but I didn't care. I soaked up some more. hmm. We came home. Sarah and I cleaned up the dishes and dad read to the boys and put them to bed. He came into the kitchen and hugged me and said, "Night." I looked him in the eye and said, "I love you." He came back with, "luhya." or some similar mumble, and went to bed. Sarah said good night and went to bed. I was switching between Facebook and email, when the littles came in arguing about whatever conflict they were having since they went to bed. I sent one back to bed and the other to sit by the wall for a while. Not long after, the one little who I sent to bed and the 13 year old came in arguing about their conflict. By this time, I was almost completely frustrated. Why can't "Go to bed" mean "Go to bed, don't talk or play or fight. Just go to sleep."?? I said to them, "Go to bed. Don't talk or play or touch each other or do ANYTHING else. Just go to bed and go to sleep." When they'd had time to get to their room, I heard a thud hit the wall. The younger one came in crying and explaining what the thud was. That was it. I lost it. I was mad. I won't say that he didn't need what he got, but he didn't need it while I was angry. He ran into the bathroom. I followed him. I explained that I did not enjoy having to correct him in such a way and asked if he had a suggestion for how I should have handled it, still speaking in a loud voice with a tone of justification. He didn't. He didn't say anything else. I told him one more time to go to bed. He went. I tried to read, but couldn't focus. I thought about what a good day we had had, a day that seemed to be a turning point for me and this boy, and the moment that probably set us back considerably. I went to his room and stood at the door. He pulled the comforter over his head. I sat down on the bed. I was quiet for a few minutes. I didn't know if I could even get any words out, but I knew I had to say something. I knew he was awake. I said, "I should not have corrected you while I was angry. It sure didn't make me feel better. I feel a little sick. I hope you can forgive me." I got up and left the room. I came into the living room and sat down and cried for a while. When I am sad about one thing, I can think of a million other things to be sad about, too. I cried for all of them. I so want to be in touch with the hearts of my children. I have failed in that in so many ways. I need God's grace and mercy and I need to extend it to others as freely as He has to me. This makes me hate Satan more, if it's possible, because I know that he saw what a good day we were having and he schemed to ruin it, and I let him win, because I didn't recognize him at work. Whatever our weakness is, he knows just where to get us. I have to remember that God's strength is made perfect in my weakness, not my own, and not Satan's. When I am weak (angry), I need to step out of the way, push Satan back, and let God be in control. Why is humility so hard? It's one of the most admirable qualities a person can possess, yet so hard for me to take hold of. I seem to be getting lots of opportunities to practice it lately, so maybe practice will make perfect! Or maybe I need to write more... Pray for me, please.

Friday, January 13, 2012

I miss every little thing about her...

A long time neighbor and friend of Lisa's posted this today. It describes her so well. I will be reading these books.

I just finished writing my second book, Mountain Girl, and I wanted to share the dedication with all of you who loved Lisa.


In loving memory of my dear friend Lisa Ashlock Turner, a genuine mountain girl from the hills of Tennessee and the real-life inspiration for the character of Clare, who appears in all three books of the Heaven’s Mountain trilogy.

In the first book, when Clare Morgan became a literary persona, it was Lisa’s voice I heard in my head as I wrote Clare’s dialogue and it was her personality that was the starting point for Clare’s character. I never imagined that within a few years I would no longer get to hear that merry voice speak of “packing” (carrying) something, or laughing with me over something silly. 
Lisa found joy and laughter in all the little things in life, and she was generous in sharing that joy with every person she passed along the way, no exceptions. That girl had an amazing gift -the ability to make every person she met feel like they were special and they were worth something.
Sometimes when you saw Lisa, she would have on her “work clothes”, just anything she could find, which might or might not match, and then other times, she absolutely sparkled on the outside and glowed from the inside, she would be just that radiant with beauty and joy.
She loved to make her home shine with beauty and warmth, too, with homey touches and flowers everywhere. She made everyone who came in the yard or walked through the door feel welcome, and as if they were coming home. 
Her faith was simple and absolute. It was always there and she spoke of it in the most natural way, never condescending or self-righteous or preachy, but real and genuine and down to earth. She lived her faith, too, by being kind and generous and hospitable not just to the more appealing people, but to the unappealing, the poor, the misfits that most of us tend to ignore. Without meaning to, she frequently made me feel ashamed of myself, for not treating people as generously and lovingly as she did. 
I heard her say many times, “If you want to have a friend, you need to be a friend”. Lisa truly knew how to do that. She was a wonderful friend to me and to many others. 
Whenever it was time to leave, Lisa always gave a hug and said “I love you”, as if she wanted to be sure, no matter what happened between the times we were together, we would always know that she loved us.

Until I see you again in heaven, dear friend….

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A loss from my perspective...

Warning: If you have not experienced the death of a close family member and you are uncomfortable with talk of bodies and funeral homes, you might not want to read this. Writing it has been healing for me.

Tomorrow morning will mark four weeks since I got the December 10th, 6 a.m. (Texas time) call, which in itself says, 'Something is terribly wrong.'
It's my mother. "Jennifer. Lisa died last night." "What?" As I'm waking up, and as I often do when having a nightmare, trying to wake myself up, she keeps talking. I wake from sleep, but not from the nightmare. "Heart attack." "What?" She tells me the events of the day and I say, "We'll be there soon." I don't want to pack. I don't want to take the car in for a long overdue oil change. I don't want to drive. I just want to be there. Really, I just want to go back to sleep and wake up from the nightmare. Or just wake up. I call my brother. I don't understand most of what he says through sobs, but I do hear, "Remember what we talked about last summer? The last six weeks have been real good."and "thankful" and "I can never be what she was to him." I say, "You can be his Daddy." We decide we will prepare for the trip today and leave first thing in the morning. I go on Facebook and post the news. I check several times throughout the day. Lots of friends comment with love and sympathy. I check my newsfeed. I can't help thinking, "How can they just go on with life? Don't they know mine has stopped in its tracks? Can't they just stop for a minute, too?" I throw a bunch of mismatched clothes into a suitcase for me and two little boys. I think, "Lisa will like this sweater...Oh." and then I remember why I'm packing. The boys need haircuts, but there is no time. The boys need funeral clothes. He does the shopping and necessary oil changes. We sleep, sort of. We wake up. It's Sunday morning. We have a sweet family worship time and finally get on the road. We have decided to take two cars in case I decide to stay longer. Two will come back home and go back to work after the funeral. Funeral? What?  We drive. I'm pretty sure the road gets a little longer with every trip we take home. We stop in Mississippi to have dinner with friends. Heart Friends. We get back on the road for a few more hours. We only make it to Tuscaloosa, but we are glad to be off the road. Exhausted. We sleep better this night. We wake up, eat the complimentary hotel breakfast, and get back on the road. It's Monday, autopsy day. They don't do them on the weekend. A few hours into the trip, the van is making a strange noise. We stop at Walmart and add a little transmission fluid. Back on the road. I just want to be there. At about 5 p.m., we pull into the Georgia sand driveway. The wraparound porch is full of people. I get out of the car, crying. My 14 year old nephew meets me halfway with a hug and says, "Don't cry. She wouldn't want you crying." He's talking about his mother. What? I say, "She'd be crying with me." That doesn't even make sense. None of it makes sense. I walk up onto the porch. I don't know half of these people. I search the faces for the one I know I will not see. My head knows. My heart hopes. My brother walks out of the house. We hug. I cry. They have already cried all their tears for the day. I'm just getting started. I look over and see her daddy sitting on the swing. I lean down and hug him. He hugs me really hard and doesn't let go for a long time. I don't know what it feels like to lose a child. The last time I saw him was at his wife's funeral 13 years before. She was 54. Funerals are big reunions. Lisa is 48, was 48. What? They are passing around a piece of paper. At the top are the words Ischemic Heart Disease. I go in the house. There are the twins, her sisters. I still don't know who's who. They were 19 the last time I saw them, 13 years ago, at their mother's funeral. One of them has a darling little girl. Their brother is there, too. We all hug. We eat. There is so much food. In the South, when someone dies, people bring food. Comfort food. Lots of it. And cake. Lots of cake. So many people in this little house. Slowly, they leave and it's just us. The family. My mother offers for some to go sleep at her house, but they all want to stay here. I knew they would. I have no idea where they will sleep. They won't sleep, really. I take my little family to my mother's and we sleep, sort of. We wake up. It's Tuesday. The body is ready for viewing. I think I'll be okay. Some want to go. Some don't. This is just the initial viewing to see if the family is satisfied with the way she looks. My parents, the Twins, Little Darling and her daddy, two close family friends, and me. We walk in. I'm okay. Others are in front of me blocking my view for a bit. I see her. It's really her. This is really happening. I fall apart. I have to walk away. Little Darling brings me some tissues. I compose myself and go again. I fall apart again. Little Darling brings more tissues. I finally am able to look at her. Sister says she needs more makeup and her hair is all wrong. They bring a brush and makeup. She fixes her up. Lisa always liked for Sister to do her hair and makeup. We agree she needs nail polish. They bring nail polish. This is a little difficult but she polishes her nails. Now, that looks more like her, but only a little. She's not smiling. She was always smiling. She's wearing the bracelet Sister mailed to her on Wednesday. She never saw it. Sister asks, "Do you think she's in Heaven?" I say, "I believe she's with the Lord. I don't know if Heaven is ready yet. Jesus said he would go and prepare a place and come back and take us there and He hasn't come back yet." We talk about the book, Heaven is For Real, and we all agree to read it. We go back to the house for a little while. Another sister has arrived with her three kids and her daddy's "friend" he's been seeing for several years. They say they'll never marry. Too many differences. This makes me smile. I didn't know I could smile. The visitation will be at 6 tonight.
More later.

Friday, September 2, 2011

I really should come here more often. Let me tell you about my day. Well, the past two days really. A new member of our homeschool group posted a question on our Facebook page asking about a good place to get laminating done. After all was said and done, 4 of us had planned a trip to a town half an hour away for shopping, laminating, and eating, but the main reason for the trip was to get some laminating done. We decided we would meet at Home Depot and all ride together. After a couple small morning setbacks, we finally met up, only to realize we had ALL left our laminating stuff at home! Wait, what was the purpose of this trip again? What did we do? We all piled in my car and drove across the street to Olive Garden and ate and talked for 4 1/2 hours. THAT was the real purpose of the trip. Laminating was just a lofty sounding excuse. Fun times!