Wednesday, September 26, 2012

SYATP

Today was SYATP, or "See You At The Pole."  It began in 1990. I wasn't around the flag pole today, but I was 20 years ago. (Okay, how old does that make me feel?!)

I was in middle school. We'd never had See You at the Pole at our school before but our youth group was attending a rally with several other churches and I was hyped. Several of my friends from church were also in my school so I gathered a small group who agreed to join me around the flag pole and pray. I grabbed some of the posters and hung them up around school. And then I got called to the office.

Now you must understand. I was a good student. More than that, I was a "goody-two-shoes." I didn't like to make waves. I didn't get in trouble. Getting called to the principal's office was a rare experience for me.

"Carrie," he started, "Someone said you hung up these posters," he passed me one of the familiar fliers. I simply nodded. He continued, "We don't want to cause any controversy. We're not going to have that flag pole event at our school." I never uttered a word. I was dismissed from his office. Humph.

Maybe I should go back. I didn't like to make waves - but I could.

We gathered around the flagpole as planned. I am fuzzy on the exact number (give me a break - it was 20 years ago) but I know it was less than 10. I admit I was nervous. I had been the ring leader up to this point, so it wasn't surprising when I got no volunteers when I asked if anyone wanted to pray. I prayed for each person there, our school, our teachers, the principal, our classmates. The pole was located in the front of the school - right by the loop where students were being dropped off. Perfectly positioned so our schoolmates could see our little circle with joined hands and bowed heads.

That was the first of many years of SYATP for me. A few years later around the flag pole in front of our high school, I remember having to yell and hope the people across the circle could hear me. The gathering was 60+ strong.

I pulled away from the carpool line this morning listening to the reports from schools all across our area. I beamed with pride at the students who were taking a stand around their flagpoles, standing up for their faith - many in public schools like I had been in - and praying for their schools and their classmates.

I recalled our morning. I sat cuddling my son once he woke up, probably the best part of any morning, and asked if we could pray about his day. We weren't gathered around the flagpole - we were sitting on my bed - but he asked if we could pray for one of his friends at school. He prayed to make good choices and have a good day. It made my own heart beyond happy to hear his tender hearted requests.

I pray there will come a day when my son will make a choice and ask to gather around the flagpole - whether or not he has the support of his principal, he'll have my support.

(P.S. A mom-friend just posted that the principal was the one LEADING prayer around the flag pole at the elementary school this morning! How awesome is that?!)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Stuf'd

It's no secret I have an obsession with Double Stuf'd Oreos. The posts on my Facebook page from friends and family alike indicate that everyone knows it - or maybe they're hinting at my need for Oreos Anonymous. Friends tell me of the latest Oreo creations - the newest flavor coming in candy corn, apparently. I stick to the original double stuf'd. But I always appreciate that my friends see Oreos and think of me.


This month my friends have shared in my desperate search for the seasonal Pumpkin Spice creamer. We've had a full-blown search party across the area in anticipation of the first sign of the stuff. We've scoured every super market in a 20 mile radius for the past few weeks. My desperation lead me to even post on Coffee Mate's Facebook page and ask when we would get the anticipated creamer. They responded it was coming soon. FINALLY! I found it today! And sure enough...there were posts all around to make sure our friends knew we had located the goods.

These posts have created quite a stir, but today I was reminded of the "stuff" that makes me stuf'd. I have a cabinet full of snacks and goodies (including Oreos) and a fridge stocked with whatever my stomach could possibly crave (and several large bottles of Pumpkin Spice creamer). Stuff. It's all just stuff. And while I love 4 double stuf'd Oreos dunked in milk nearly every night, or Pumpkin Spice creamer sweetening my morning coffee, I have to pause for a moment to remember what's important.

I remember the first time I went to the grocery store after returning from Brazil, after seeing a woman with 5 children tell us she had but a few potatoes to feed her family for the entire week. There I stood with rows and rows and rows of choices. Snacks and desserts and meals all ready and waiting for me to consume. I could pick nearly whatever I wanted - beyond my basic needs - and not worry about it. I could feed that woman and her 5 children, along with myself and my own child, for weeks to come from what's in my pantry, fridge and freezer. I doubt any of us would be worried about a meal, let alone hear our stomachs ever growl.

My pantry is stuf'd. My fridge is stuf'd. I'm ashamed to admit that even as I type, my stomach is also stuf'd (from the double stuf'd Oreos I recently indulged in).

Double Stuf'd Oreos, Pumpkin Spice creamer... these are but minor things that bring me pleasure in life. But it's just stuff. And it's NOT the stuff I'm made of. I'm thankful - truly thankful - for all the "stuff" I have. And I pray as I sip my coffee in the morning, perfectly flavored with that Pumpkin Spice creamer, that I'll continue to be reminded of all the "stuff" that I count as blessings!


Thursday, September 20, 2012

This is Me: Hairy Ankles

I know there is such a thing as "mean girls" in school, but I think there should be a movie about the "nasty boys" who also accompanied my school days... And tormented my life.

These were the boys who, looking back on it, probably didn't feel very good about themselves. Although at the time, all anyone could do was believe the teasing and tormenting they caused. They picked on everyone and everything. They pointed out the obvious - physical features, clothes, social status, academic standings, athletic abilities. It didn't matter what it was, they were going to find it and make fun of it in such a way that you wanted to crawl under your desk and die.

One such "nasty boy" decided I was his target one day in 5th grade. It was beginning to be warm and I had on shorts. And then it happened.

"Ah ha! Carrie doesn't shave her legs! Look everyone, Carrie has hairy legs. Hairy Carrie! HA HA HA" (the class erupts in laughter)

Now surely I don't need to point out that in 5th grade I was maybe 12 years old and I KNOW I wasn't the only girl who had yet to shave her legs. As we've previously discussed, my hair was "dirty dishwater" so it wasn't like I had black hair growing on my legs. It was natural looking. But evenso, I was devastated.

I went home that day and asked my mom if I could shave my legs. She said I was much too young to be concerned about such things and once I started it'd be something I had to keep up. I didn't care. I wanted to be rid of the nasty boys and their name calling. And I knew people would be looking tomorrow. It was either shave or wear pants.

I locked myself in my parents' bathroom and pulled the razor from the shower. I propped my leg up on the sink and began with easy strokes. It was rough and dry. I wasn't smart enough to know I should have water or shaving cream. That's right - a dry razor on my pre-teen legs. I did the best I could to get all the visible hairs below the line of the shorts I was still wearing.

It wasn't long after that when my hairless legs started to burn. Red bumps indicated a severe case of razor burn. No duh, Carrie! You shaved dry. I was obviously a beginner. I rubbed some lotion on my legs which caused the burning to initially intensify but later seemed to soothe.

It was bedtime and I was in my nightgown waiting on the side of the bed for mom to do devotions with us. And that's when she noticed.

"Carrie! What did you do to your legs?"

I was busted. But it wasn't the razor burned hairless legs she was looking at. She grabbed my feet and pulled my ankles closer to inspect them.

You see, not only was I still wearing my shorts but I was also wearing my socks when I shaved. And thus the title of this blog. I had shaved my legs alright, but I had neglected what was beneath my socks leaving me with hairy ankles.

You have to laugh at the thought of it. The sight was even funnier! And thus my solution to take matters into my own hands prompted an emergency lesson on proper shaving.

These are but just a few of the awkward moments of my growing up. I have plenty more to share. For any of those who don't believe me that I was a "gangly" child, stayed tuned for that post.

Now as an adult I'm prompted to laugh at myself and also try to find some life lesson in these childhood experiences. Today I can say that while I care about my appearance, I don't let what people think or say about me define me or how I look. I can also say that sometimes we only get what we can see. Meaning, we only pay attention to that which is right before us. Or we only work for that which seems attainable. But what about the unseen? What about the things beneath the surface that require just as much attention? What about the tendency that runs through much of my life to take matters into my own hands? How often is God having to come behind me and fix the mess I've made?!

I wish I could say I've learned my lesson, but I still take matters into my own hands and I still get caught up with what's before me while sometimes missing that which remains unseen. Oh, but I can report that I've not had hairy ankles since that day! At least that's one lesson learned!

Fragile


I was so excited about my Groupon purchase! The box had finally arrived. An oblong rectangle - at least 32" long. The outer cardboard box bore the address label and the word "FRAGILE." I began the process to open the package.

The cardboard box was sealed shut with heavy duty packing tape. I couldn't pry it apart myself so I had to use scissors to cut it open. Inside was yet another box. This was the product's packaging. It bore the clear plastic window to reveal what was inside just begging to be removed. Not before the end flaps had to be untaped and opened. Inside revealed a perfectly proportioned rectangle of stirofoam that had gained such friction when slid into its packaging that it seemed as if it was glued in place. This was going to require more effort than just a simple pull. This called for a wiggle, jiggle, pry and pull juggling act...until... FINALLY! The stirofoam was free and now the contents could be seen - almost touchable, but not quite. Yet another clear plastic covering, this one customized to fit snugly over the item, had to be removed.

Ta-dah! There it was. The brand new item I had purchased. It was finally able to be touched and seen now that it was "free" from all the packaging. Or so I thought. But one very anxious little boy still couldn't manage to get it out of the stirofoam casing. Flipping over the stirofoam revealed half a dozen twist ties that were still holding the contents firmly in place. I was beginning to wonder if we'd ever get to enjoy my Groupon purchase. (Can you just picture this?! A 4 year old jumping up and down, squealing with excitement, growing all-the-more impatient as the adult grows all-the-more frustrated?!)

And then finally - beneath the layers of card board and packing tape, custom-fitting stirofoam, protective plastic and secure twist-ties - the remote controlled helicopter was finally in my hands. It wasn't but 6" long. The remote was twice the size of this spy-copter, complete with an SD card and camera to capture its flight.

Then I realized. The "FRAGILE" warning was in fact correct. This tiny "toy" was made of what appeared to be delicate plastic. Certainly it was not intended for 4 year olds (maybe more like 40 year olds...this was later proved true when my dad - much older than 40 - remarked that he had the exact same helicopter. Really?!). It was obvious that a hard landing on concrete would destroy this tiny flyer. But it was meant to fly and that's what it was going to do.

I dare tell you I bear the same warning label: FRAGILE, written across the packaging of my heart. I warn you, too, it's safely protected beneath layers and walls that surround and keep harm at bay. It fits snugly in its protective case - but despite the external elements it may face, its meant to be used. Its meant to love and be loved. It's meant to be held. It longs to pour out that which overflows from deep within. It's meant to be revealed - the pain, the hurt, the fears, the failures. They all bear testimony of a redeeming, merciful, loving and gracious God.

Too often I run the risk of keeping it locked away, safe inside where I know it won't be damaged or destroyed. Too often I put it on display but still keep it safe behind a protective wall that begs,  "You can look, but don't touch. Don't come too close, you may cause harm." I choose which parts to reveal and I don't let myself experience any part of giving or receiving. It's observation only. Still other times I hide it away not to be revealed at all. Off limits and out of commission. Running the risk of missing an opportunity to be blessed or be a blessing, but the safest way to ensure it won't get damaged.

Yet I know I was created for more. I know while I may be fragile, I wasn't meant to sit on a shelf. I run the risk of suffering hurt, heartache, damage, breaks, bruises, even being utterly destroyed and rendered useless. But I don't want to miss the journey. I want to capture that which He has created me for.

I come with the warning: FRAGILE. But I want to do what I was created to do. So today I'm taking the risk. I'm out of the box and ready for flight!









Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Negotiations

We've all done it. The alarm goes off. You look at the time as if it's a surprise, knowing full well you set it the night before. Maybe you're like me with two alarms set. The first is just a suggestion. I know this isn't when I need to get up but it's 15 minutes ahead - almost like a warning - of the second alarm that will buzz. That's the real one. Inevitably I snooze the first one into oblivion and wait for the real alarm to jolt me from my slumber.

The second alarm is when the negotiations begin.

"If I don't wash my hair, I can have 15 more minutes..."
Buzz...buzz...

"If I wear something I don't have to iron, I can have 5 more minutes..."
Buzz...buzz...

"If I don't pack my lunch, I can take another 10 minutes..."
Buzz...buzz...

Inevitably, no matter how many compromises I make, I still have to get up. The snooze only prolongs my sleep a few more minutes.

It's true of us in life, too. We see something and know it's wrong but something inside beckons us - and the negotiations begin.

"I can look, but I won't touch..."

"I can touch, but I won't partake..."

"I can partake, but I won't be consumed..."

"I can consume, but I won't be overwhelmed..."

"If I get overwhelmed, I can recover..."

It's called sin. And just like that blaring alarm, there are warnings going off in our conscience. We start to bargain and barter - don't we know we're dealing with the enemy?! And yet the buzzing isn't enough, sometimes, to keep us away.

I've been there. Pushing snooze on my conscience. Bargaining my way to the edge, as close as my toes can go without stepping over the line... Well, maybe it wouldn't hurt to put a to across... I mean, it's just one foot and the other foot is planted firmly on the other side... Sure, both feet have crossed, but I can jump right back over whenever I choose...

But before I even realize it, I'm neck-deep on the other side of good choices and solid decisions and wisdom and warnings have turned into what will surely turn out to be unavoidable consequences.

I'm going to keep setting the "warning" alarm, even though I know I have 15 more minutes. I'm willing to set as many alarms as necessary to make sure they get my attention. Snooze isn't an option here. No more negotiations. No more bartering. It's time to get up!

Monday, September 17, 2012

This Is Me: Dirty Dishwater

I had an elementary school teacher who would line us up for lunch each day in a different order. Sometimes we had to organize ourselves shortest to tallest, or by birthdays on the calendar year.

One particular day she gave us our orders, "Line up by hair color - lightest to darkest," she said.

A toe-head blonde knowingly marched to the front of the line. Another classmate with jet black hair made his way to the back. The rest of us were to assemble between the two. I wasn't blonde and I certainly didn't have dark hair, so I struggled a bit to find my place in line.

"Carrie," the teacher called me out. "Find your spot, please."

I was starting to get stressed. I went toward the blondes and was told my hair was too dark to stand there. I started toward the middle and the brown-heads knew to shrug me off as I didn't belong there either.

I was standing awkwardly by myself while the rest of my classmates were assembled and waiting on me before we could head to lunch.

I went to the teacher to ask her where I should stand. She looked down at me, looked at the rest of her students obediently in line, grabbed a handful of my hair and said, "Well, your haircolor isn't blonde or brown. It looks like dirty dishwater."

The class laughed at my plight. I didn't seem to belong. I got shoved between two students who made it obvious they didn't want me near them. The one in front of me had light brown hair with sun-kissed highlights. The boy behind me didn't seem to care that his brown hair was messy and unkempt. He still made fun of my "dirty dishwater" hair.

I look forward to my hair appointments with great anticipation. I plan my outfit, my makeup, and usually I have absolutely nowhere to go but home to a 4 year old afterwards, but I walk out of the salon feeling like a million bucks. That elementary experience may be why I now have an obsession with getting my hair "did." My stylist is the only person who knows the real color of my hair - and she's sworn to secrecy! I have fun with highlighting and lowlighting depending on the changing seasons, but mostly because I am attempting. My hair color no longer looks like dirty dishwater but rather boasts sometimes trendy and other times "natural" colors that would NEVER reveal the true hue of my strands. (I tell my stylist all the time if I'd had her assistance years ago, middle school could have been a much better experience for me!)

The dirty dishwater experience shaped me. And here I am today complete with balayage highlights, lowlights, break-the-base, foils and all. My hair doesn't define me. It's not my identity. Although it has been a point of insecurity.

There are many more of these stories, a young girl trying to find where she belongs. Stayed tuned for more episodes of "This is Me."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Friend of a Wounded Heart

Smile, make them think you're happy
Lie and say that things are fine
And hide that empty longing that you feel
Don't ever show it
Just keep your heart concealed

It's true of most of us, isn't it? We paint on a smile, paste on a happy face, and we lie through grinning teeth about the heartache we're hiding deep inside.

It's safer this way. MUCH safer. Too many times we've turned to the wrong person or the wrong thing. And the result? Typically more devastation and brokenness. More "stuff" to muddle through and more "junk" to sweep away in the recesses of our minds. Just another place of our hearts we close off and hope to never have to deal with again.

It's true of me. The places I try to hide are the very places God needs to do business. The stuff I want to forget and never revisit is the stuff He needs to deal with. The parts I try to lock away are the parts where He shows up and forces me to reveal.

Anyone else looking for a friend for your wounded heart? Anyone seeking a place to turn with the shattered pieces of your life? Anyone searching for someone to trust with the emptiness and loneliness you feel? Anyone trying to find strength to move from the place you stand paralyzed?

The chorus of that song continues:

Jesus, He meets you where you are
Jesus, He heals your secret scars
All the love you're longing for is Jesus
The friend of a wounded heart

It's a good and loving God who refuses to leave me as I am. He knows you're broken. He knows you're hurting. He knows every piece. He sees the pile of rubble. He understands the mess - and He's willing to wade through it to get to you and the most concealed places of your life so He can begin His work.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

I know so many struggling, so many hurting, so many wounded hearts who are searching for a place to turn. Today, I implore you - along with me - to turn to Him, the Friend of your wounded heart.










Wednesday, September 12, 2012

One of Those Days

It has become "one of those days." It started out divine - a crisp, bright morning was a gentle reminder that fall is quickly approaching. The glaring sun was rising majesticly to take its rightful place and begin warming up the chilly start to the day. But as the day has progressed, it has become apparent that this is "one of those days"... One of those days where Satan is determined to attack. One of those days when little things out of the blue pop up and creep in to steal my peace and joy. One of those days where it seems to keep mounting - one thing after another that each carry their own burdens but when compounded with one another, the weight seems unbearable. Devastation seems inevitable...

Ever have one of those days?!

The set of circumstances that utterly destroys your demeanor; the ordeal that leaves your emotions shattered; the devastating news that rocks you to your core; the compounded questions that alter your way of thinking; the kind of day that leaves you in ruins.

The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley;
it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel 37:1-3

You're left to pick up the pieces, find peace and strength, and press on, despite the valley of dry, dead bones that surrouds you. What once stood as a solid foundation of faith now rests as what appears to be a mountainous pile of lifeless ruins. Anyone from the outside would call this heap of rubble a complete and utter mess. Something surely beyond the point of repair and certainly not worth trying to revive. And even as I stare at the massive destruction, I find myself asking how my own flesh & bone will survive.

‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.  I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord. Ezekiel 37:4-6

The dry bones are not just left to rot and return to dust. No, these bones will be revived; these ruins will be restored. Anyone else need to know that when you're destroyed, dry and dead the very God of the universe who spoke and created the heavens and the earth will Himself breathe His breath of life in you?! Oh shout hallelujah!!!

Today has been "one of those days" and despite the devastation, I'm thankful for it because it is a reminder that when I'm left down and defeated, dry and dead, my Sovereign Lord will bring me back to life. Glory!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Turning to God

I've spent so much of my life seeking God's direction. "Lord, give me guidance; show me the way." I've asked repeatedly for His will to be revealed to me or to know and understand His plan.

You see, I've wanted to do what's "right," good, His will, His plan - yet unfortunately, too often in my Christian walk, I've gotten so side-tracked by asking for guidance that I've lost sight of His main and original plan for me.

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord... Exodus 34:29
After Moses had spent time with the Lord, receiving His direction, getting the 10 Commandments and God's instructions, his face was radiant. His face reflected the time he'd spent with the Lord - he was mirroring God's glory - and it was evident to the people.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18


So can the same be true for me? The more I spend time in His presence, the more I seek Him, the more I am being transformed into His likeness, reflecting His glory, filled with the Spirit, and knowing more of Him.

What happens during this process is I no longer become obsessed with asking for guidance. I don't keep going back to God to ask Him for directions; instead I keep going back to God to get more of God. Instead I find myself in His presence, not asking to know His will, but wanting to know HIM.

For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end. Psalm 48:14

Sometimes, like Abraham, I am just asked to "Go" with no indication of where we're going or how we'll get there. In those moments, I have to decide - is knowing and being with Jesus enough? Or is my human need to "know" going to demand the directions and final destination? Oh, I can demand it all I want. But it doesn't mean He'll give me what I want. But when I follow the Guide, I'm not concerned about where I'm going. When I turn to Him, He's all I need. When I seek His face, I also find His heart and that is the place I rest, basking in His presence and seeking to be transformed into His likeness. When I turn my eyes on Him, my surroundings grow dim and all I seek is more of Him.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

When I seek Him, I find Him. When I look full in His face, everything else fades. When I stay long enough in His presence, His transforming grace begins a new work in my life. When I experience His transformation in my life, I begin to see, experience and reflect His glory. Over and over I must remind myself to turn to God - seek the Guide.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

One Thing Remains

Lord God Almighty, who is like you?
You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you.
You rule over the surging sea;
when its waves mount up, you still them.
Psalm 89:8-9

Someone needs to know there is no one like God.

Someone needs to know He is faithful.

Someone needs to know that the surging sea will not cause your ship to wreck.

Someone needs to know the crashing waves will not overtake you.

Someone needs to know that with one word He speaks and the wind and waves obey Him.

Someone needs to know He stills the storm, and He will still you too.
For who in the skies above can compare with the Lord?
Who is like the Lord among the heavenly beings?
Psalm 89:6

When circumstances are too overwhelming...
When life is too difficult to face...
When the burden is too much to bear...
When the pit is too deep to climb out of...

...One thing remains...

His love. His neverending, unconditional, matchless love. It is the very essence of His being. It reaches to the depths of the pit you find yourself in and stretches across the expanse of every place you may try to hide.

I will sing of the Lord's great love forever;
with my mouth I will make Your faithfulness known through all generations.
I will declare that Your love stands firm forever,
that You established Your faithfulness in heaven itself.
Psalm 89:1-2

His love never fails.
It never gives up.
It never runs out on you.