Friday, May 23, 2008

On the road again...

At midnight tonight, I will embark on an adventure. It is one I've not dared to even think about for over 4 years. That

Spending about 12 hours in a large vehicle with people about 10 years younger than me.
READ: No sleeping allowed.

Really and truly, though, I'm excited. It should be fun. But pray I don't "accidentally" throw things or start yelling or cry for 4 hours. That would be great...thanks!

The purpose for the trip is to attend the New Attitude Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. I've been twice before and it is well worth the torture...I mean long drive. Anyhoo, I'm off to pack and try to get some sleep before we leave, but I'll be back hopefully with a testimony and a blog post or two to go along with it. :)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Things I’m thankful for: Good friends.

I’m not a good friend. I’m really not. I’m way too selfish and consumed with my own stuff to properly care for others. Let me clarify. It’s not that I don’t care. I do. I love my friends and am pretty loyal…so if something hurts them it hurts me. But, in relating to them, I am much more apt to talk about me and my feelings and my struggles and how they can pray for me than asking how they are and what they’re feeling or struggling with and how I can pray for them. It’s sad, but true. Very, painfully true. Consequently, I think many of my friendships tend to be lopsided. Even where there is genuine affection and enjoyment, I tend to take more than I give and so, when my friends need to lean on someone or just want to chillax in a comfortable place, it won’t be with me. Again, sad, but true.

All that to say, the friends I do have are worth commending and giving thanks to the Lord for! They bear with me and listen attentively and faithfully ask questions and give of their time and almost never seem like I’m an imposition. The Lord has blessed me with several women who love me despite my deficiencies and so, I’d like to bless them by paying tribute to them individually:

Charity: We met the summer before I met Jesus. I was painfully shy, an occultic atheist, and didn’t even bother to say hello to her as I moved into the suite we were to share that session. But she didn’t worry about all that foolishness. She came over to my side of the suite, plopped down on my bed and chatted away. I knew I’d made a friend for life that day. Almost 15 years later, I am even more grateful for her friendship. She’s family. And though we live a few hundred miles away from each other, every time we do talk or see each other, it’s like going home again. I love that. I love that I can be completely real with her and talk while on the potty and cry and laugh at the same time. I love that she actually believes the ancient Egyptians were aliens. I love how we can disagree on so much yet never waver in our affection for each other. And, I love how passionate she is about the Lord. It has been such a blessing to watch Him grow her and deepen her faith, how He saved her husband, how He has turned this career-minded woman into a submissive mother and home-schooler…who also raises chickens and wants to be Amish.

Charity, I love you my friend. You are a gift from the Lord to me. And I really, really miss you!

Kala: The day I met Kala, I had just finished schooling my English class on the evils of religion. She promptly met me after class and invited me to lunch. We’ve been talking about the Lord ever since. It is through this faithful friend that I came to know the Lord. I love her honesty. I love her willingness to do hard things for the Lord…even if she might mess up. I love how she is convinced that the floral wall paper in her kitchen actually looks good. I love how she always makes a pot of coffee when I come over. I love that she always seems to believe the best about me and for me. And, I love that we are still friends after all these years.

Kala, my friend, I love you. You are a gift from the Lord to me.

Mandy: I get choked up when I think about Mandy. Not only does she have an incredible testimony, but she has been an incredible friend to me going on two years now. It has been my privilege to live next door to her and crash at her house in the evenings and babysit her son. It has also been my privilege to see up-close and personal-like how God has, time and time again, shown faithfulness and favor upon her life. Her testimony and life give me hope. However, I think what I am most thankful for is the laughter we share. Whether we are talking about the serious or the silly, we are going to laugh…and mostly laugh hard. I love that we can do that. I love that she almost never looks annoyed to see me at the door…even when it’s been three days in a row. I love that she will stop and really listen to me…even if we’re talking about the same thing again. And I love that she is faithful to do all of that though I don’t return the favor near enough. I couldn’t have made it through this past year and a half without her, and that ain’t no lie!

Mandy, my friend, I love you. You are a gift from the Lord to me.

Wendy: The first time I met Wendy, I mispronounced her name. A year or so later, she traded one long, difficult to pronounce last name for another. I was privileged to get to see and hear about much of her courtship. The testimony of her meeting and marrying her husband gives me hope for my future. Every time I meet with Wendy, it’s like sitting in the back yard on a swing…just easy and real gentle-like. I love her honesty and openness about her walk and her struggles. I love how quick she is with the Word. I love her quick smile. I love how easily she invites people into her life. I love how she really cares about the details of my life and truly seems to bear my burdens. I hope I can learn to be that kind of friend to others…and return the favor more often than I do.

Wendy, my friend, I love you. You are a gift from the Lord to me.

Ashley: What can I say about Ashley. For a long time, she was my only friend at church. Consequently, she was on the receiving end of endless phone calls, endless conversations about my transition and sin and depression and boys and my evil cat and family drama and so on and so on. I owe her a huge debt of gratitude for countless hours of putting up with me and my foolishness and yet always being up for more.

Ashley, my friend, I love you. You are a gift from the Lord to me.

Julie: I saved the youngest for last. Julie was born when I was in high school. Yes, she is about half my age, but oh how I treasure her friendship! She is wise beyond her years and as gentle and quiet as I am brassy and talkative. I love how quietly confident she is in her gifting. I love how willing she is to serve. I love that she seems to enjoy my rambling stories. I love how she plays “As the Deer” and when she plays the Cello and Organ on keyboard! It makes me smile! I love singing with her on Worship Team. And, I love that I get to see God grow her into a woman after His own heart!

Julie, my friend, I love you. You are a gift from the Lord to me.

FYI…I’ve been on the verge of tears through this whole thing and am really trying to keep it together. Each of these ladies have played an important part in my life and my walk…and invaluable part. I pray that I can show in friendship to them what they have shown to me. I know I will never been deserving of their friendship, or pay back what they’ve already given…but I sure do want to try!

I love you each, so much! May God bless you richly and may you reap a rich harvest for what you have sown into my life!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Things I'm Thankful for: The Promises of God.

Hi. My name is Tina and I’m afraid of spiders, bats and life.

That is what I felt like I should stand and say during the testimony time following our weekend Ladies Retreat. I didn’t, mostly because I felt like anything I said beyond that would just be a grouping of unintelligible sobs, stutters and sniffling broken only by deep, staggering breaths.
Earlier in the day, I had a moment when I just broke. I mean, broke. There was no holding anything back, no being discreet. I was shaking, I was audibly sobbing, if I didn’t have on waterproof mascara, my face would have been streaked black. (By the way, Thank you Lord for waterproof mascara. Amen)

The hows and the whys of my break really aren’t important to anyone but me, but the gist of what I felt God communicating to me was this:

I’m not living out my calling because I’m afraid. I hold back. I avoid. I resist. I disobey because I fear the outcome. I am convinced that if I step out in such and such or continue in this or that things will be (or stay) dissatisfying, uncomfortable, lonely, bad, difficult or (insert your unpleasant word here). While there is no guarantee that every risk or act of obedience will result in sunshine and butterflies, what is more true is that God works all things together for our good and His glory.

What God communicated to me in that moment of breaking, aside from just His goodness and bigness and steadfast love and specific, continual personal care for me is that regardless, what is guaranteed on the other side of a step of faith, of obedience, of laying down my life is the promises of God.

It is written that all the promises of God find their Yes in Christ (1 Cor 1:20). It is also written that we know Him, experience Him, abide in Him is to keep His commandments. So we know Him and experience the promises of God as we step out in faith, obey, and lay down our lives as He laid down His.

So what does this mean to someone who is not me? It means that, whatever your thing is...whatever area you have quit or not started or avoided or ignored...stop! The outcome you fear may or may not happen. There are no guarantees in that, but we are guaranteed the promises of God...the one true God...the God who changes not...the God who's steadfast love surrounds us all the days of our lives.

No one yet has ever set out to test God's promises fairly, thoroughly, and humbly, and had to report that God's promises don't work. On the contrary, given a fair opportunity, God always surprises and overwhelms those who truly seek, with His bounty and His power. (Peter Marshall)

I don't know about you...but I want to test, I want to give fair opportunity to God to surprise and overwhelm me with His bounty and His power!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Things I'm thankful for: Surpising Gentlemen

I went to Wal-mart today.

I went in for one thing and wound up spending $60. Nothing unusual there. But as I was leaving, I saw something very unusual. Three ladies were struggling with 6 baskets filled with bags of groceries. As they were crossing the walkway into the parking lot, a box of drinks fell and got stuck under the cart. Out of nowhere, a young man walked over, un-stuck the box, smiled and walked away.

This young man looked like any other urban kid: oversized white tee shirt, hobit-style jeans, sideways baseball cap...but he was a gentleman, stopping his stride to help a damsel in distress. More than that, he was actually wearing a belt, and that belt was actually on his waist, not below his buttocks. So when he stooped down to retrieve the wayward box of drinks, I was not forced to see his underwear.

As our parking lot hero walked away, not holding his pants up or stradding his legs in an unnatural way to keep them from falling down, I rolled down my window and said:

"Hey, thank you for that! Thanks also for not making me look at your butt! Tell your momma she done good!"

He flashed a big smile and walked away.

Thank you, Lord for that kid and his momma and that some people in this world still think underwear should be worn under their clothes.

Things I'm thankful for: The Princess.

Meet K. We'll just call her "the Princess" because she would prefer it. In fact, sometime she insists upon it.

She is my oldest, and first niece.

She also owns a huge chunk of my heart.

I haven't seen her in two weeks, so even typing that makes me tear up a bit.

Excuse me while I take a moment...

Ok...I'm back.

The Princess called me last night. She's discovered the phone and really likes to call people. The calling is the most important thing...figuring out what she has to say comes later. Even if she has to make it up. Like last night for example:

(Phone rings. My ringtone is sort of oriental and goes something like this: bada bada bum bum ba ba ba. Yeah...I know you're hearing it now.)

Me: Hello.
K: Hi TiTi!
Me: Hi K***!
K: Um...can you come over for dinner? Or do you have a meeting?
Me: No, I don't have a meeting. Did someone tell you to call me and invite me to dinner?
K: No. I'm inviting you to dinner. Oh, and you have to wear a dress.
Me: (laughing) A dress, huh? Is it a fancy dinner?
K: Yessss!
Me: Um...ok. What's for dinner?
K: Pancakes.

Turns out, the Princess and the rest of the family had already eaten their dinner of, yes, seriously...pancakes. She just wanted to talk to me and see me.
I remember just after she was born, I think for the first three months of her life, I saw her every day. I had to see her every day. If I didn't, I would cry. Sure, I cry a lot anyway...but still...I would. If I had to go over at 9pm at night just to look at her and sing "Dorothy" for her, I would.

Um...I have to take another moment again. Excuse me.

Enjoy another picture of the Princess in the meantime.

Make that two pictures...

Ok...I'm better now.

So the Princess likes the phone. She likes the phone almost as much as she likes Pink. She also likes to draw and write. Give that girl a pad of paper and a pen and she is good for about 6 hours. I'm not kidding. I've timed her. It's amazing! One time, she filled a whole notebook with a series of sketches I like to call CD-head people. She traced a CD and made them into people...all sorts of people...over and over again.

Along with the phone and pink, of course, and drawing and playing dress up, the Princess also likes spending the night at my house and coming to church with me. She likes it even though we have to go to bed early like on a school night and get up really early for me to rehearse with our worship team. Alls I can figure is she doesn't mind the sacrifice because on those mornings she also gets donuts. Regardless, she asks to sleep over every single weekend and every single time I take her to church with me, I need nothing more than paper (she is open to various mediums: plain paper, notebook paper, construction paper, the backs of bulletins and song sheets, tithing envelopes...whatever's handy) and some sort of writing implement to keep her entertained through rehearsal, prayer and church service. Oh...and at some point in the middle of all of that, I have to be willing to let her nap on me. And sometimes drool on me. And not shake her too much when she starts snoring. But, like early mornings with donuts, it is a small sacrifice. And the other people on the worship team, in the seats around us, that we stop to talk to all get to walk away with an official piece of Princess artwork.

Thinking about how thankful I am for her, well, SURPRISE, I'm all vehklempt. But I won't take a moment this time. I'll just push through because that's the kind of trooper I am. Also because I need to finish this up and get ready to go see the Princess and her brother (the Dudler) and sister (the Diva).

The day she was born was bittersweet for us. She wasn't born of or into the best of circumstances, and the moment I locked eyes with her I knew two things: I completely, with every fiber of my being, loved this kid. The kind of love that makes you drive out of your way, past your bedtime to see and get choked up in the middle of a sentence and post pictures so you can grab a hanky and...well, you get the idea. I also knew that she'd one day break my heart. So far, though, she has been a pure and simple gift from God. She is a blessing when I deserve no such thing. She is a smile that makes it all better. She is so much like me and so many things I want to be. She was also the first person in the world that I completely loved and that I know completely loves me. Before her, I thought the only creature on God's green earth that would ever be ecstatic to see me was my golden retriever, Samantha. When she died, that died too. Then came the Princess. God is too good to me.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Picture Post

Things have been tough...on pretty much every front. At approximately 2:30pm yesterday, I realized I hadn't really laughed all week. That's not normal...or acceptable. So I took a moment to count my blessings from the day...and then God gave me a few moments of laughter. Then later, he gave me an evening with a dear friend...and many more moments of laughter. Real belly laughter, sparked by things such as a Soul Train style walk down the aisle at a wedding, men who look like monkeys (and might throw poo) and "hardcore" fashion.
Yeah, it doesn't really make sense to me either right now...but it sure was funny then. Anyhow, here are a few things that brought a smile to my face and were a balm to my soul yesterday:

Reading this...

Seeing this...

And this...

Getting a very short-fuse package out for delivery on-time...

Answered prayer for favor at work...more about that later.

And finally...watching American Idol with my dear friend Mandy, with whom I share so many belly laughs.

Monday, May 12, 2008

This is our God...

Are you feeling discouraged, doubtful, less-than-hopeful? Do you need encouragement or refreshment or fresh zeal to be about what God has called you to in this season? Then read this post by my friend Andrea: