Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lesson #1 from Wal-Mart

I was at Wal-Mart last night after LifeGroup and I was just irritated.

It had already been a really long day and I hadn't eaten in the last 6 hours! I was getting really testy. The place was packed! All I had was a bag of dog food and a frozen pizza. There were no express lanes open and the self-check out lane was eight people deep. So, I chose a line behind a family.

The family consisted of four. A father, a mother holding a baby and a young teenage son. They were Hispanic and huddled together and took up so much room! The son unloaded the cart and left the cart behind him so I couldn't place my stuff on the converyor belt. It just bugged me. The place was packed and I was holding dog food, (which was one end of the store, so by now was quite heavy) and frozen pizza that was freezing my arm. They didn't have a lot, so I was just aggravated that they wouldn't pass the cart through so the rest of us could have room. And then I saw what they were buying. Diapers and four jars of baby food. That's it!!! Seriously, we need four people to buy diapers and four jars of baby food. My teeth were grinding and I was about to heave a huge sigh. Then the father looked up.

It just stopped me dead in my tracks. In his eyes you could see tired, confusion, pride, and fear. He didn't talk to the checker, he just watched the prices. When the total came up, he pulled out a small wad of bills and peeled off as much as he could, then opened his hand to show coins. He paused. moved them around with his finger. His wife walked over, switched the baby to the other hip and helped him find the right coins. As she was picking them out, he was watching her and the total, and you could see him trying to put it all together. I felt horrible. Here I was angry at the space they were taking up and how inconsiderate I thought they were being, and it was nothing like that. It took me back to when I lived in Costa Rica and I'm sure I had that same look on my face. I didn't understand the money, I had to count out confusing coins and I also had people there to help me. It didn't matter how little they were buying, but the family had to take the trip to Wal-Mart together. The son helps them with translation, the mom helps with the money, and the father is there as the head of the house.

When they left, I felt so guilty for how I felt before. My heart broke. So, now I want to wish that family success in all their lives. And I promise to take a minute and not get aggravated at situations, but try to see the other side. Thank you God, for giving me patience, and helping know when to use it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Power of Prayer

I was driving to church on Sunday morning and a song came on the radio that made me think of prayers.

Ever since coming back to church, this is one area that I am struggling in. Prayer. I'm in awe of how gracefully people can pray at the drop of a hat. They say it so it flows freely and smooth with no interruptions. I love listening to my friends pray for us, over meals, after LifeGroup, before Switch. I love hearing my girls grow in their praying ability and the maturity of their paryer requests. I just haven't gotten it.

It made me think of how wonderful prayers can be. How putting a request or wish to words can move a soul, have a person devote their life to Christ. It made me think, just how powerful can a prayer be?

We all know that Jason Boland is going to get there with a 6-pack and one, Bon Jovi is still living on one, people ask for them, and my friend are wonderful tellers on one. But what about the prayer makes it so powerful?

I thought of many reasons. Saying a prayer out loud is getting it out there. Where it no longer becomes a single thought, it becomes a reality to strive for. Maybe it's because when you pray, you are asking for help. Like admitting you are stuck. Maybe it's just the meaning of the words. Maybe it's the ritual that means so much.

So, these thoughts are in the back of mind all morning. At the end of service, we saw a preview of what's coming next in our series of Elijah. Would you believe it? It's "The Power of Prayer". I just smiled. God heard me. He already knew I would have questions and He has already planned the answer. I am truly a blessed daughter of Christ.

So, it's not the saying of words, its not if you praying in a group or one-on-one, and it doesn't matter what words you use. It's asking something with all that we are. Letting our hearts talk for us. It's the sincerity and His loving answer that makes a prayer so powerful.

(p.s. If you are still curious about the songs I talked to, Jason Boland and the Stragglers "Somewhere Down in Texas" and Bon Jovi "Livin' on a Prayer". But, you already knew that, you smart cookie)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A few weeks ago at church, Anna told a story about a baker. This baker was a tremendously good baker and his shop was filled with wonderful pastries, bagels, cookies, and treats. He loved his job and his shop and spent every waking hour there. However, as the years passed, the man started to become thin and depressed. This illness soon started upsetting his work. After a few horrible months, the shop was closed. The baker was starving himself. He was around goodness all day long, but he didn't share in any of it. He just made it.

She told us this story as a warning for us not to become starving bakers. We are so lucky to volunteer and lead students to become fully devoted followers of Christ, but sometimes we let our relationship with God suffer. We are so busy teaching and leading that we forget to give ourselves lessons. This story really struck a chord in me. I don't want to be a false leader. I want to be absorbed in God's Word and learn His way of life. So, I have been trying to really reach my students and I wanted to let them know that if they needed anything they could come to me.

Well, last night I was starting to see what kind of progress I was making with them. I had one girl, who hasn't really been communicating alot, come up to me with one of her new friends that she brought to church just so she could be in our group. When I told them that we weren't doing small groups, you could see the disappointment on her face. I was quick to tell them that we would next week, but that this week, it's just BIG SWITCH. She perked up and said good, because she's been telling her friend all about it. Her friend smiled really big at me and said she was already planning on coming back.

That night, during the experience, the friend raised her hand and committed her life to Christ. I was so proud of those girls. They are getting the Word of God out to their friends. And they are responding. I gave the friend a hug and walked her up to the front to talk about her decision. It was amazing and I'm so grateful God let me a part of this girl's decision!

So, as scared as I am about being a starving baker, I think my girls are going to continually show me God's love. And I'm not scared to make more and more delicious pastries, just as long as I can share the experience. And God gave me a great group of girls to share it with.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

End of the Year Blues

It must be towards the end of the year. I see so many students and teachers that are giving up on things. I'm very tired of one of my classes and they get under my skin so quickly. The weather is nice, everyone is tired of school, but I think students are responding to the teachers. I get stopped everyday my teachers who are tired of testing, tired of the students, tired of putting up with things. I walked into a honors class today and they were watching a movie. A HONORS class!! How am I going to teach my kids still important things, if other teachers are letting them watch movies!?! Its so frustrating. I'm having a hard time in my profession as it is right now, I don't need to listen to other teachers tell me how horrible of a time they are having. It just gets me thinking, "Oh, only one more year of teaching hopefully, and I'll be done" I'm just so tired of hearing people complain. I'm fixing my job situation, and I'm sorry if you aren't and/or have no desire to, but STOP bitching at me about it. I have no sympathy for you. If you are trying to change jobs and are being proactive about it, I'm all ears. But don't gripe to me, just to gripe. Next time. I'll slap you.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Kudos for me

So, I had a major weekend with my God last weekend. In fact, He is still amazing me today with all that He is showing me in my life. The weekend didn't start out well. I was facing a mini-spiritual battle. I was about to leave on a retreat to learn how to be a small group leader for students when I was doubting my ability to do my job, as a teacher! I was just down and didn't know how I would make it through.

Well, when we got to the camp, I was already in a better mood because of the people. They are always ready to talk and are smiling and just so happy to be there that its contagious! I love being a part of Switch. When we walked into the center for all our meetings, there was butcher paper placed up with sins written at the top then tons of empty space. My heart dropped. I just knew we were going to have write our names under the sins that we had/currently suffered from. Those words just jumped out at me. I was literally going to have to face my sins. Admit them in front of people that I wanted to keep as my friends. People that I don't want to lose because of my past mistakes. I was terrified that my name would jump out of that sheet, point a finger at me, and laugh. I couldn't do it. I wouldn't.

We all gathered around the stage and had amazing worship. I felt completely connected with the group. I wasn't afraid to lift my hand and move my hips with the music. It felt natural. It felt amazing! After a couple of songs, sure enough, we were given the instructions to write our names and names of students or friends that we know that had suffered or currently battling right now. My sins, the actual spelling of them, were looming in front of my face. I thought about them. Thought about how much I have hidden in the past. I realized I had to confess. This would be my first step in changing. Admitting my mistakes to the world so I can be healed and live my life like God wants.

The group broke apart and many were so comfortable in their journeys they could freely write their names under their past. My past wasn't that long ago. One person was able to write her name under addictions and give date of her last cigarette and drink. It was over three years ago. My sin happened two months ago! I tapped the tip of my sharpie against my palm as I slowly walked to my sin. I kept watching these wonderful people write their names, their stories, their students under these words: Eating Disorders, Addictions, Drugs, Low Self-Esteem, Absent Father, Alcohol, Pride....Divorce/Broken Home. They gave me courage and hope to complete this task.

My word was at the farthest end. Other people had already written things under it. This word has defined me for so much of my life, I hated it. What in the world was I going to write under.... Promiscuity? How can I put into the words the shame I feel when I think about how many people I had been with? How do I write the heartbreak that I felt after every time? How do I describe the depression of thinking this is how to get him to love me and then watch him change his mind so fast? How do I write the guilt of this act, and doing it again to get over the last time? I finally was right in front of my spot on the paper. Placing my marker on the paper, I wrote the only thing that was running through my mind, "I kept losing pieces of myself every time I thought I was finding the piece that would make me whole. Mary." Placing the cap back on my marker and taking a step back, I finally let go of what was holding me back from growing in my relationship with God.

People have so many different reasons why girls can be promiscuous. I have been told that its because I came from a broken home and I was searching for love that my dad didn't give me. Umm, no. Yes, my parents are divorced, but me and my sisters were always loved. Some say it's because of peer pressure. I can see this, but sadly, I would say that I was pressured more by girls than by guys. Girls talk just as much as guys do and my best friends from high school had tons of stories. I don't what the reason for it is, I just know that I did it. A lot. And I don't have a reason for it, but I do have a cure and I have stopped this behavior. It may only be two months, but I haven't never felt better about myself.

This is just one snippet of my weekend. But this is the major event that changed not only my life, but how I am now viewing my relationship with God also. He knew that I wasn't ready for a relationship because I wasn't letting go of my past. He knew I would appreciate a good relationship because I wasn't strong enough for one. I am so amazed at the plans He has for my life, so now I am learning how to see him and hear Him in everything I do.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mad and Heartbroken

My grandpa has been talking about dying for the past four years. He's out-lived siblings, wives, friends, careers, and he keeps saying he's done.
We used to joke about it within the family. "Hey, I talked to Grandpa today." "Oh yeah, how was it?" "Not too bad. He didn't talk about dying for the first ten minutes." *sigh with the optional eye roll*
We all understood where he was coming from. He was tired. He's 89. He's seen segregation, color tv, internet, cell phones, wars, indoor plumbing. He fell in love with a wonderful woman and had to watch her being taken away from him. He raised 9 children and has met multiple great-grandchildren. But, he was in great shape. He's healthy. We couldn't get him to see that.
He moved out to Albequerque with my uncle. He hates it there. My mom has only heard one nice thing he's said about the place. He doesn't want to be here. He told my uncle that God told him he was going to die on Easter. When he didn't, we joked and said he just has to die next Easter. We love him so much. I can't understand why he wants to leave. I see it, but I don't understand it.
Grandpa went to the doctor Monday. He's dying. Quickly. He has prostate cancer that metastasized to his spine, kidneys, and liver. My mom is flying out to be with him. He finally got his wish.

Now, I'm mad. When he goes, I will have only my mom. All the other adults have passed. Both my grandmothers, my dad's dad, my dad. I'm not ready to say good-bye. I'm mad at him for wanting to die so much that it came true. And I'm mad that I didn't take him serious. That it became the family joke. That it is happening at the same time that Dad died. Can God not give me a break? I'm not ready to admit that he is dying. I know he is. I know it's going to be quick. But, I'm mad about it before I can be sad about it.

And then I realized, I'm not through grieving.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My big plans!

I have so many plans for this summer, I can't wait!
I'm so lucky to be able to coach this summer at the country club, and I will also be learning the ropes at the Chesapeake Swim Club. I love it. I'm looking forward to staying in the sun, working with kids and teaching a sport I love. I'm so excited to be working in the northern part of the city. I spend so much time up there already, I should move! But, I love my apartment and I will aslo be coaching on the southside. All that's missing is a convertible for me to throw the top down and buzz around town in. Oooh. That's a pretty sight!
Also, I'm finally getting my act together on this whole should I go back to school or not thing. I was looking over all of my past grades. I had to shake my head. I screwed around so much in college that now I have to practically retake all the courses again in hopes of a better grade. So, I'll be paying for some courses twice. And I'm just aggravated at myself for that. But, I'm not going to let it get me down. I'm moving on.
And, I'm also moving on in my relationship with God. I am having so much trouble putting him first. I get distracted so easily by other things. Wanting to make friends, and starting to become attracted to other boys. It's horrible. So, Saturday I prayed for God to help me. To help me focus on just my relationship with him and to let all others disappear for awhile until we were comfortable with each other to trust me in another relationship. Well, I think He heard me, but I don't know if He believed me. Because the next day, He had two past relationships come back into my life. Phone call and text messages. I ignored both. It was hard and very tempting to call them back, but I didn't. I just let it ring and deleted the messages. Hopefully, it was just a simple test to show God that I am serious. I will put Him first so together we can make me a better person for my #2.

Okay, that's all for now.