Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Love is patient, love is kind, It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud...

Awakening Greatness - 10/7/2014

Love is patient, love is kind, It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud...

Wow – these five characteristics say it all. There is so much more to say about love, but today as I am sharing about the love I have for my husband these say it all – especially the bold faced word proud.

If you want to know the truth – I have been struggling. Struggling fiercely. Struggling with obedience, mainly to God…but it seems to trickle down into earthly areas too. You see, there is stuff I can’t do right now – stuff I was told not to do, stuff people would appreciate if I didn’t do, stuff I should do…and stuff I shouldn’t do. (Super clear I know!)

Two weeks ago (to the day) we were faced with something huge. Something life changing. Something tear and fear evoking. It has been a roller coaster. We knew it was possible we may be called to board, but we were kinda standing in the back of the line hoping the cars would be full (at least I was). But God, (yes Just like the Bible says over and over) But God, felt we could handle this – God protected us – and God will use this.

Human nature wants to know – and I hate writing a blog post with such vague ideals, but rest assured when I can say more I will. But, this isn’t about knowing what happened and why, it is seeing how God has molded my heart into one of obedience even when I didn't understand and didn't want to do what I was being asked to do. I was told to act - It needed to be done and there wasn't time for soul searching and wondering. If you are reading this, you just have to walk this line with me.  It is so hard, but so worth it.

My first act of obedience came in a suggestion regarding my FB account. Jeff was on board, and deactivated his right away. Then the suggestion came to me that I remove my married name. Excuse me – that is who I am. Honestly, that is who I longed to be since I was 15 years old. Then it was just kid, stuff – but we have stayed with it and grown our marriage and life into something we could be proud of. That’s the good kind of pride right?!? – I tell myself that sometimes. I actually wrestle with it – what kind of pride is good, or ok, or does good pride even exist?

Well I did it! Jeff sat at the table with me, and I said, “Can’t I come up with some sort of alternative last name, or remove my maiden name too.” Have you seen Father of the Bride 2? We revert everything back to some type of movie line, and for 30 seconds, I even thought of changing my last name to Zankman J. I didn’t though…I just hit the delete button 6 times…each time erasing a bit of who I was just like the photo in Back to the Future… With each click of the delete button, I hesitated. I did not want to do this, but knew I should. I did not want to deny my husband, but knew I was actually honoring him. I knew the world may not understand, but at this point they needn’t be my concern.

For the last two weeks, I have prayed for a resolution in my heart. I was obedient, I was being safe, but I still didn’t like it. Finally in reading about love, this one simple line that I have read over – and over – and over – and over…(you get the picture) had new meaning.

I always thought about love not being prideful when it came to friends or strangers, or God…or maybe in relation to my husband being the first to apologize, forgive or something along those lines. I wrestled with the worry that people would feel I no longer loved my husband, or worse, he no longer loved me, with a simple name change on Facebook – Stupid maybe – childish certainly – but that’s what I do. Hi, I’m Sarah, I’m a people pleaser, and I worry what others think.

Thankfully, that is not where the story ends. I don’t want to be a people pleaser, I desire to be a God pleaser. I don’t need this world to understand me, because we weren’t meant to live in this broken world. It doesn’t come easy though…after two weeks of worry, and telling myself, “Do not worry about anything…..” Two weeks of praying, and two weeks of searching God my answer came in a verse I had read a thousand times.
  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud1 Corinthians 13:4

A name does not define me, but I was worried as to what it may look like to not be associated with my married name. I didn’t want to deny my husband when he needed me most, but that is exactly what it felt like. Just a simple act, that I feared would be misunderstood and gossiped about. I really don’t know why I cared – I knew the truth and what was really going on, and that it had nothing to do with our love. In denying my own feelings of pride about my marriage, I was actually showing my husband in the best way possible just how much I loved him. I wasn’t denying him, I was honoring him just like I promised to do in every situation almost 17 years ago. To love him in this way meant showing him, myself, and God that love is in fact not proud.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

...to lay down one's life for friends

Awakening Greatness... 9/11/2014

I am sure that I am just one of a million people reflecting on today. That one day 13 years ago, that changed the America we knew. The day that drew a line and separated a generation - for there would quickly be an entire generation of people where this event was just history.  

As a post 9/11 mom to still fairly young kids, it will be my responsibility to share with them the meaning of this day. My prayer is that love wins out. On the night of 9/10 a thief came and robbed every American from everything they have ever known. Safety - Security - Trust. To live in the post 9/11 world, much less raise kids is something I need to pray about every day. For a while, before the blame, before the labeling, before the wars we came together as a nation. When we were sucker punched, I am not saying we didn't want answers or rise up and take a prominent global stance. We did!

My husband was deployed immediately off the coast of San Diego that day to secure the borders of the pacific. His 6 month deployment that was supposed to start in January, was moved up to November. Until then he was gone most of the time as the ship prepared to leave to the middle east. It went straight there - no real port stops like the last time, but a hurried destination. He remained there until the last week of May. A six month cruise became an 8 month cruise.  He was happy to do it, and it was just one of the MANY times I was proud to call him my husband.  

While I was glued the the TV that morning - Jeff sprung out of Bed and said you need to get me to the base. He got a call that it was taking hours to get through the gate, and he and other men and women had a job to do. Our Military - Our Firefighters - Our Paramedics - Our Police. They went to work that day. They started a shift and they didn't know when it would end. As a nation, we were changed forever. 

As I raise my precious kids, I hope they will hear the stories of love, courage, and hope. The bible says:
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10

I think most, if not all of us that lived through that day, can agree something was stolen. Something so important. Something too big to even put a name on. It is the day where people became Republican or Democrat, and defended their choice vehemently. It is the day that a renewed intolerance of people's religious differences divided a country and people. This didn't happen immediately but it happened just the same. Because it is also the day that God Bless America was an anthem that everyone sang. In my opinion, after the dust settled both in our hearts and on the ground love gave way to hate, instead of the opposite. America had a choice - Christians had a choice. A choice to obsess on what had been stolen, or a choice to love. A choice to support and pray for our elected officials despite personal beliefs.  It is not our duty to create division in the name of Christ, but to foster love. To give this world love not hate. This is what I want to pass on to my children. A love and hope of this great nation. Prayer for this great nation. Unity for this great nation. Just as the above verse says, I want them to have abundant life. 

I want them to be truly great. Author and Speaker - Tim Kimmel says it best...,
But in the midst of this crisis, there were magnificent people who responded to the urgency of the moment and gave everything they had for the sake of others. As the successful rushed down the stairs of the World Trade Center, the truly great ran up. As the well-heeled and comfortable ran for their lives, the truly great slipped inside the nightmare to see what they could do to help those who were left behind.
And after the smoke cleared, thousands of truly great people stepped out from their quiet positions within the ranks of successful Americans and opened their hearts and their wallets to those whose lives had been shattered by this cataclysmic event.
I do not know what my children will decide to do with their lives - it actually doesn't matter. They can do anything they want. But whatever it is, I hope they are full of love, full of service, full of sacrifice, and full of greatness. No matter their profession they can choose to be great. That they walk around this world asking what they can do for others rather than what others can do for them.  I didn't mean to go all JFK....But as we vow to "Never Forget" may we never forget the sacrifice shown during that time, may we never forget the love that Americans showed to each other, may we never forget the lost lives of every single person, may we never forget how proudly we flew the American flag, may we never forget how we prayed together as a nation, may we never forget the 1000s of lives lost because of hate, and may we never forget how we came together because of such a tragic event. May hate permeating in our society give way to love. For the bible says:
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13

To this day, my awesome husband always puts others first. He did it prior to 9/11, he did it on 9/11, and he does it sill today. I am humbled that I get to do life next to this man. 

Thank-you to those both in and out of uniform who live your life by this verse. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

There is no condemnation...

Awakening Greatness...3/3/2014

The verb: condemn means to 
express complete disapproval of, typically in public; censure. To criticize, denounce, revile, blame, chastise, berate, reprimand, rebuke, reprove, take to task, find fault with; to blast or lay into….

You are nine years old, perhaps you have played sports for several years, perhaps you are trying something new that seems fun. Whatever the reason they choose to PLAY, I think at this point in a child’s life, we can all agree it is to gain (rudimentary) skills, develop a love for a game, or see what it is truly like to be on a team. Hopefully this experience will encourage a life long love of athleticism.

This year, Beth decided she wanted to play basketball.  The season started out great; just what Jeff and I wanted for our oldest daughter. It was low key, there was a focus on teamwork, she was making new friends in a new community, and Jeff and were making friends with some parents...It was all we could hope for. Then something twisted happened.  As we progressed through the season, some parents forgot that we were watching nine year olds. I have never in my life experienced the verbal bashing that parents started spewing. To be honest, I have no idea where it come from….just that it is now a part of every single game.  It became twisted….twisted like so many things do in our society. I think this happens alot. We mean for things to be good, but the results we yield are not what we expected. This happens daily (with me), I wake up with the best of intentions, but even just one hour in this world by myself and I fail miserably. I don't need anyone pointing out my failures, or mis-steps (I am perfectly good at that). But, what if I did have someone yelling at me when I did make a mistake, what would that look like....

The sidelines, of the (Nine-Year-Olds) basketball game, became a breeding ground for condemnation. It didn't matter if these girls played offense or defense the public ridicule started. Straight-up YELLING...”Don’t let her have it.”  “What are you doing” “Are you kidding me?” “Are you just giving them the ball?” …and ON and ON and ON. There was no end…This was loud chastisement, and it usually had a name of a CHILD associated with it…sometimes their daughter, sometimes someone else's daughter.  My low point was when a mom actually stood up and shouted, “YES” when a NINE year old (on the other team) missed a shot. On the other bleachers, some mom was so proud her daughter even had the chance to take a shot - perspective... Well, we went from bad to worse…The public blame being spewed when a shot or rebound was missed…a girl forgot to call a play….a screen wasn’t set up in a timely manner, a girl traveled, or double dribbled….did I mention the are nine?  The sidelines became an uncomfortable place…and when the game was over it was even sadder….the pointed statement, “why didn’t you __________________?” started. 

I couldn’t get over this. I had a nagging feeling about the message we were sending our children. We want our  precious girl to know that we are proud of her for simply playing, trying, and having fun….It is not based upon her performance. We love her if she wins, if she loses, if she makes a shot, and if she misses. Our one requirement, that she doesn’t quit. After each game, I choose to only say….”I love to watch you play.” I do. I take great delight in all of it..just as the Lord delights in me when I am doing something. 

The Lord your God is with you,
 the Mighty Warrior who saves.
 He will take great delight in you;
 in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
 but will rejoice over you with singing.                                                         Zephaniah 3:17

There are times I [have to] bite my tongue because I feel I could give “constructive criticism.” I have resigned myself, that this is the role of her coach at this point. I am there to be her cheerleader whether she sits on the bench or is the leading point guard. 

As life often does, this got me to thinking about my relationship with God. One of the beauties is, as it says in Romans 8:9,  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Not only does He delight, in me, but there is no condemnation. He is not a God of ridicule, blame, or chastisement. I cannot imagine they way I would feel if when I set out to do something, I heard voices from the sidelines yelling at me during the times I messed up. Let me tell you the yelling would not stop. There are times when I am on my game, but there are also times...well it is not pretty. I don't need someone to point out each time I mess up….as soon as it happens. I have my own voice to tell me I messed up.  The result of someone pointing out all my mistakes would lead to me wanting to quit, and ultimately hate the game I was playing.

Are you worn? Do you feel like giving up? Are the harsh realities of your life too much to bear, is there a nagging voice that won't let up? Today, let it go......LET IT GO! You Tube Disney's Frozen, Let it Go, and sing at the top of your lungs! Learn to play again, without the voice on the sidelines. Do this for your children as well....Learn. To. Let. It. Go! It will benefit your family. In our world, too many of us feel like we aren’t good enough. What if raised our kids in a way in which they are confident. What if we really provided them with a soft place to fall when the messed up. What if we showed them the game was fun and worth playing when we won as well as lost....

Today, Rest in God's love for you. He delights in you, and is singing over you. What a beautiful picture of unconditional love. He does this for you so that you may be able to do it for others. Be love!

Friday, February 14, 2014

...because the one who is in you, is greater than the one who is in the world

Awakening Greatness…2/14/2014

Last year I started a journey…. a journey to find my mission. I took a class that after much examining, pondering, searching, reviewing, asking, and reevaluating I determined that my mission was to Awaken Greatness…this fit me.  I EXIST TO SERVE BY AWAKENING GREATNESS FOR THE GLORY OF GOD. I am a cheerleader, a proponent, and an encourager. I have spent my entire life doing this. The puzzle pieces were fitting together, and wherever I went I looked for opportunities to Awaken Greatness. My life verse is Psalm 100:1-4:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; 
 come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he, who made us, and we are his; 
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

It’s not about me, but about Him. We are his people, I am just His vessel sent to awaken and encourage your journey. A light in this world that can be dark. I became energized helping <mostly moms> feel good about what they were doing. Moms have a life-changing job to do for someone. They give their all and expect nothing in return. While it is one of the most important jobs of our time, it is a job that is isolating, lonely, and scary. We live for our kids, am I right? BUT… who do we call upon when we have had no significant amount of sleep in days, or we have a question that we feel so stupid even asking…I mean, we are the mom, we are supposed to know. Who do you have to commiserate with? If you have support that is awesome, but so many moms don’t. I have a heart for them. Those lonely women who are wondering how to do it, why they do it, and who they can call when life is overwhelming.  I want to Awaken Greatness in them. Grab them by their shoulders and let them know they are loved, and more importantly they are not alone. This excites me; it has for the past year. My cry was use me God.  USE ME!

I have wanted to start this blog for a year, but never had the time. Well, that is one reason – the safe one. Other reasons I believe are lies, and will leave it at that.  I have thought and prayed about my first post for months. I have wondered, what will make a difference, how can my gift be used for his glory…then at the kitchen sink…IT.HIT.ME…Humble yourself. 

My blog: Making Greatness.  It starts with me. I am a work in progress. Yes, he wants to awaken your greatness, but He also wants to continue awakening mine.  I wouldn’t say I am at rock bottom, but it has been a hard few months. It has been glorious, but it has been hard. Did you ever think God has a magic wand – he could wave it and all your troubles would vanish? He is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, the almighty God. He definitely has this power, but would you want him to do this if he could? At first, I would say yes, but experiencing life with its ups and downs is truly what it is all about. A sermon given by a great friend's husband, said if we never experience life in the valleys, the peaks wouldn't be so awesome (paraphrased).

We gave up a lot in our move. If I can be transparent, I thought that would be the price. Once we were settled, “all our dreams would come true.” Na├»ve, yes. Many have, but many haven’t. My one constant. God Loves Me, and he is working all things together for my good. PERIOD. I can say this, because I have had a few hard months, not because he “Fixed” everything according to my wishes. We paid our rent with our last paycheck, and our mortgage with this one. We have eaten top ramen, peanut butter sandwiches, and eggs for the past two weeks, and that is on the menu for the next two as well. Our choice of beverage, well that’s water. It's a season. (Another great friend taught me this) Praise God we had the money for this and our shelter. Is this how I want (and plan) to spend the rest of 2014? (Well it’s not my will, but His.) In my plan the answer is no, but we will see how his unfolds. I do know it will better our family. We are not destitute, just making tough choices. I am doing it with someone I love dearly, which helps, and adds humor. My husband is great for that!

My prayer is that this experience will awaken HIS greatness in me. It will give me compassion, humility, and most importantly love. The plus side is I can now say I have fed my family of 5 for ONE BUCK…. 5 packs of top ramen, at .20 a piece. You would have thought it was steak the way my kids hooted when I put it on the table. There has to be a brightside, because it is important to me that anyone who reads this knows I am not grumbling….when the Israelites were in the wilderness for 40 years…it was documented over and over that they grumbled. I don’t want to grumble. I want to be thankful for his provision, and right now it is what it is.

I will leave you with this. We have gotten into Little House on The Prairie. We all love the Ingalls family, and most Americans think they are just the salt of this earth.  Well in the movie premier, they moved and set up a new homestead. Jeff and I looked and laughed, and praised God that after three days of DRIVING to Oregon in a CAR we had an apartment to go to. The Ingalls traveled by wagon, and once they arrived, had to cut down trees and build their house. This mama would not have been up for that. Just sayin'. Then for Christmas that year, she got sweet potatoes….SWEET POTATOES! And she rejoiced. She said it has been a long time since her family had had a treat like that. Sometimes life calls you to scale back. While some people may think we are poor right now (by American standards that is), I am here to say I have never felt richer. The only one that can awaken that feeling is Jesus.