Monday, August 23, 2010

To Scrapbook, or Stroke Out..... That is the Question.

For whatever reason, God has chosen my son specifically to inspire my next 3 blog entries. Here is the first of the three. I hope you will enjoy them all.

A couple of months ago I was thrilled to not only join a group of wonderful ladies from my church family for an evening out, but also, to be the group leader. The event was our annual Wabash Valley Ladies Unity Night. As always it was wonderful, and the best part: It's always FREE! (The ladies that put on the event go to a lot of hard work, and put in a lot of prayers to make this happen. Kudos to them!) This year's special guest speaker was author, speaker, actress, wife and mommy: Lisa Whelchel. Lisa did a great job. She spoke about many things from growing up as a child actress on "Facts of Life" to surviving in healthy adult friendships. That night she shared a very sweet story that stuck with me...That story will define this blog entry.

Well, as hard as we try, us self-declared Super Mom's can't do it all. We can't get everything done, we can't always make everyone happy, and we can't be everywhere at once. That last one can be frightening sometimes. Sure, in all sorts of serious, "Mommy needs to protect her babies" ways, but also in other ways.... Like when you have a "budding artist" for a son.

I will recount the event for you. It was a Saturday. My husband Kamran was out picking up the childrens' new playhouse/swing set. (Yea Craigslist deal!) I was in our home office playing Princesses and Strawberry Shortcakes with Addison while Grant was planted in front of the television watching Saturday morning cartoons. (We don't have cable, so this is a big deal.) I noticed that he was being sort of quiet. I had just checked on him about 5 minutes earlier and we had "thoroughly discussed" how he should not play with the automatic water dispenser on the refrigerator door. My suspicions of him playing in the water sent me to check in. Well, my suspicions and also a pleasant smell that was filling the air....

He had listened to me. He hadn't touched the water at all. Not one drop. Instead, he decided to spend his time more creatively. What I walked into next was... One of those times when a mama must decide if she will grab her camera or have a stroke. Grant had gotten a hold of a full container of baby powder. I'm impressed at all he accomplished in less than 5 minutes.

Here is where the Lisa Whelchel story comes in. During her talk, Lisa shared this story about her two, then quite young, daughters. She set up and easel outside in the backyard and put out several shades of paint. She could see them through her window one minute, but not the next, so she went to investigate. She found her two daughters buck naked out behind the shed and they were painting one another. She grabbed her camera and snapped the memory on film forever. In this moment, God taught her a priceless lesson. He instantly took me to Lisa's story as He taught me the lesson firsthand, (although I'm thinking, "Hey Lord, Lisa's example would have done". ha ha)

When we misbehave, God isn't just some stern parent waiting to punish us. How many times is He tickled with us? How many times does our Father shake His head while laughing to Himself, "Oh, Brandi, my sweet and silly girl"? And then He does what Lisa did, and what I did. He takes us out of the mess and cleans us up. How comforting is it to think of Him in this way? I truly believe that God made us parents for this reason alone: So that we can have the best idea possible of how He loves us. Obviously, our minds can never grasp His love in its entirety, but being a mother has given me the closest and deepest coloration that I think I can experience.

I'm not saying that our consequences don't have actions, and I'm not saying that God likes it when we misbehave. What I am saying is that there is a difference between being childish and misbehaving. In this instance I think that Grant's actions were a sort of mix of the two. I believe that God knows our hearts, and our intentions. Imagine being 3. The texture of baby powder along with the fact that it's it makes smoke in the air and sort of drifts its way around would make it worth exploring. However, being 3 you would probably recall something about not touching the baby powder too. 

So, what did I do? I didn't raise my voice, but I didn't let him see my enjoyment either. (No need to let him think that this is how we please Mommy!) I simply picked him up and told him on the way to his nap, (a full 5 minutes early. I'm so mean) as I undressed him from his powdery clothes that he should not have touched the baby powder and that he made a mess that mommy would now have to clean up. I told him that I loved him and to have a good nap. Then I left him to go clean up the mess. He was screaming from the other room, "Mommy, I want to clean up the mess! I want to help clean up the baby powder!" Now I know that some of you have tilted your heads and let out an "awww". Not so fast. Let me translate for you, "Mommy, I wasn't done playing in that yet!". The little stinker LOVES to sweep. We got him a play broom for Christmas that sings while he uses it.

I won't go into great detail about the clean up. I will sum it up instead. Headache from fumes and breathing in powder while sweeping. It took 3 complete times with a broom and a bandanna on my face. Um, yeah. I was the Johnson and Johnsons bandit.

After his nap, Grant and I had a little bit more of a talk about things and I suggested that he sweep a little to "help me" clean up ;) Kam came home and added a hefty mopping to finalize the duty.

My hope for you today is that you see our Heavenly Father as the loving parent that He is. He is ready to kiss your boo-boos and brush you off if you let Him. He designed you to be you, and He simply delights in your silliness sometimes. God DOES NOT MAKE MISTAKES, He makes MASTERPIECES. You are one. A work in progress. Trust the refiner's fire continue to smooth out your edges, but just know that He chooses to enjoy the process each step of the way.

Today's blog is a treat. You will also get to experience the entry through photo. No clever words that I could ever come up with would come close to describing this properly. In fact, without the pictures I'll bet that you might accuse me of exaggerating a bit.... Enjoy the art show and make sure to read the captions beneath each photo. (Thanks Lisa for mentioning the camera, I'm so glad I took pictures!)

The Artist's "Signature"

His medium of choice. Tantalizing to the senses from sight, to touch to smell (I can not testify to the taste, however)

As you can see, a spoon was a tool he used

A lifelike snowy scene
 It takes most artists years to come up with this 
kind of depth to their work

 I'm not really sure what the artist was
trying to express with this one

This piece personifies how Woody felt during the
first half of Toy Story 2  

 Here we see the,
"I'd better try to clean this up" section

 I feel a sort of chaos being expressed here
Kind of similar to a crime scene don't you think?


 From chaos to serenity, this piece is like a 
peaceful labyrinth or rock garden

I doubt that Buzz's years at the
Academy prepared him for this.
(I like how he is covering his mouth as if coughing on the particles. If only his helmet was down. Poor guy.)

  I don't particularly like this entry. Our dishwasher is broken, and we just use the rack for drying. What I'm feeling here is that dishes must be rewashed by hand... Not my favorite theme, by far.

 And the pièce de résistance:
I was actually speechless

Maybe my having this photo of him
will be punishment enough 
(sorry about the blur, I grabbed my cellphone to snap this shot)

And God loves us both. That is what it GRACEFULLY comes
down to in the end <3

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Stubborn Biker

A couple of weeks ago I was on my way to our monthly jeweler training, one of the few times that I am ever in the car alone, enjoying the drive when this happened.

I was admiring a new bike trail that our city has put in. There have been several efforts in the last few years to make our area more biker friendly, and I for one am quite pleased with this. This newest path extends along side a sort of narrow and slightly curvy and hilly road. Before the bike path the road was surly less biker friendly and maybe even dangerous at some points. It will be well used also, because it connects with a State Highway at one end. To add to the appeal the path turns at the other end and heads into one our city's most loved and well known parks. Why yes, that is one nice bike path. I have been watching it's progress. The path is wide and well paved. I like the several points of entry and exit along the way where it crosses the driveways of many homes. In fact, when I borrow the bike that Alex is going to lend me, I may have to go take a ride on that paSCREEEEEEEECH!!!!!!!!!!! (Like the sound of a record player being abruptly stopped.) What?! ......What is that in front of me?.... What does that guy think he's doing?! Why, the nerve of him!

Yes, you guessed it: My happy fuzzy dreams of enjoyment on the bike path were interrupted by.... A MAN ON A BICYCLE. :/ He wasn't enjoying the path. He was on the road in front of me. I was behind him for the entire remainder of the road. He made no efforts to more or even get over so that I might pass.(And I know that he saw me in his fancy mirror!) He peddled as quickly as he could to get up the road's most prominant hill. All the while I am sitting behind my steering wheel looking back and forth between him and the empty bike path thinking, ".....really?!?".

Now, this blog could go in the obvious direction of PATIENCE, but it won't. (You can all thank me for that later since we all know that reading anything insightful about patience usually means that you will be going through a trial with it.) Instead I'm going in this direction:  
The Paths We Choose. In the scenario that I'm presenting I want us to be the biker instead of the  frustrated driver in the car behind the biker. We are "The Stubborn Biker". God paves the way for us. He uses His Spirit and His Word, and encouragement and healthy examples through the lives of others. He does not send us out there blindly. Don't get me wrong, I'm not under the impression that God's path is always sunshine lollipops and rainbows, (ok. That song is in my head now too, so here's the link:) 
God never promised that our paths would be that. In fact, quite the opposite. We will be persecuted because of Him and our love for Him at times. Someone will stumble on this very blog someday and think that I'm a nut job just because I have faith in a God that I can't see in His own living flesh. Regardless.... I choose this path. Possible persecution won't scare me away from my Father's plan.

So, what does God say about our paths then? Well, this subject is mentioned so many times in God's Word that I'm not even going to count them. Before I continue, I will list a few examples though.~

Numbers 22:32 NIV

The angel of the LORD asked him, "Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me."

2 Samuel 22:37 NIV 

(also Psalm 18:36)

You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn.

Nehemiah 9:19 NIV

"Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert. By day the pillar of cloud did not cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take.
I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.  
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Notice that He only lights enough to get us from day to day on our path rather than lighting the whole thing. If He did that we wouldn't need faith. What kind of character would we have then?

Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path.
And this last one is my favorite <3 :

Proverbs 3:6 NIV

in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

There are a lot more, but you get the point. 
Today, I want you to know why that that bike rider drove me crazy. It wasn't because he was more fit, it wasn't because he was going to make me late to my meeting, and it wasn't because the sun blinded me reflecting off of the fancy mirror that I mentioned before. It was because he was missing the point! In fact, I think it's safe to say that he was missing out, all together. This isn't me being judgmental either. Remember, in this scenario we are the bike rider. Keep following me here. How many times do we peddle our hearts out and end up completely exhausted trying to keep up with "traffic" when there is a perfectly serene and well paved path that we could have taken instead? How many times do we ignore the several chances that we are given to reenter the right path? And how many times in this life do we continue to fight to prove that we can make it on that wrong path? It seems to me that we too often fight for the wrong path and find that it isn't something that we needed or even wanted when all is said and done. Just think about that nice bike path that we could have been riding on instead. It promises to meet all of our needs. I hope this has gotten you thinking a little. But I'm not done! I have one more very important point to make.
If you have read this blog and you might agree that what I'm saying is true, but you, well.... don't really care, then this is for you: There was one more factor greatly affected by the bike rider's poor decision. That factor was me. Not to mention every other car behind me. When we blatantly choose our own path over God's not only are we thumbing our noses in insult to Him, but we are also hurting those around us. It's selfish of us. We grossly underestimate the effect that we have on others. Think about Random Acts of Kindness. Think about The idea of "Overflow"ing to our families, our community and our world, (which is our church's theme this year.) Think about the young people that are looking up to you whether you like it or not. God wants to use us to bless others. He could just do everything for Himself, but then we would never understand a thing and would end up terribly spoiled. And, if we do it right, He does get the glory. In that same way of thinking though, when we don't make efforts to live lives that are pleasing to Him, we hinder others. We don't overflow to them and at some point, everything dries up. I remember many years ago I was living a life that I knew could have been more Godly. It wasn't until I realized that my actions could influence others in a bad way that I cared enough to make some changes in my life. I am claiming in NO WAY to be perfect, better than. I'm simply making efforts on a daily basis to take God's path for me and am trusting that the God who created the Universe may know what He's doing in my tiny little life.
Taking the "Bike Path" is also a treat. They aren't  available on many roads around here. Just imagine how much more peace and rest that our rider's journey would have had if he would have taken part in the oasis while it was there to enjoy. I'm thankful that God's path always is.

*Oh, and here's a bonus for you: Always wear your "Helmet of Salvation". ;) 
(I can just hear my husband's groan when he reads that.)