Friday, April 29, 2016

Living Life Without God: Faith-(re)filled Friday

I've been living life without God.

I mean, I've been giving Him credit when it's due, and I've been reading scripture, attending church...yada yada yada.

But, when it comes to leaning into Him during weakness, worldliness, and times of want? I don't even know how.

I've forgotten my practice of turning to Him first. I've become obsessed with success and striving and fairness and using my own effort to gain what I want.

Do I even get it? Nope. Usually, all the attempts brings me to more problems, bigger heart wounds, and basically, a dark chasm that sucks me in.

I can't focus on the cross ahead...just the darkness below, promising me "If you just do this, say this, believe this'll get everything you want."

I am in the desert with the devil, being told to jump. And doing it.

Life without God is deceiving. It makes me think I am strong and able, but really, I am weak, like a fragile shell ready to snap at the next pressure I choose to tackle on my own.

Parenting has been my greatest microscope into my heart. Because, it's when I am talking with my children, dealing with their own dramas, that I find myself giving advice that sounds more like a secular counselor than a spirit-guided parent. My tongue very nearly gets tied when I try to apply God's truth to the situation.

But then, in the quiet of night, I am lured by a tiny flame. A muted hush of a whisper, an old memory that's been piled on by hardships and heartaches, a memory of this friend of mine who had offered me peace in the face of every little thing and every big thing and I used to tap into that and rest. That was when Life was with God.

I want that again. My children need that again. I am the only one that gives it to them around here. Destruction is just around the corner if I don't. I can see their character manipulated into selfishness, materialism, and entitlement. And I see the obstacles tripping them into that dark chasm of life without God...where nobody waits to catch them, and they are forced to scramble around on their own.

On this Faith-Filled Friday, I pray for a complete refilling of the faith I've left behind. My children need hope again. They need help. They need assurance in something or someOne greater than themselves. And me.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Plea for Our Super Hero: Cystic Fibrosis Needs A Cure

Ever known a super hero?
He always has a great attitude.
And wears his vest twice a day at least!

Ours is a little guy, with blonde curls, a bright smile and eyes that sparkle at the mention of his friends, his God, and his family. Also add ice cream and baseball to that list.

My family is close friends with his family. The second grade super hero has battled Cystic Fibrosis since he was days old. Yesterday, our super hero went in for his eighth surgery. 8 surgeries in 8 years? The kid is amazing. He is the life of the party and has enough energy and joy for two boys!

You would never tell that he is sick. That his lungs don't work properly, and that he spends his mornings and nights day strapped to a machine to keep his chances of health high. Nope, this kid is an amazing little guy and a great testimony to living life to the full e.v.e.r.y d.a.y.

My nine year old, T, loves hanging out with him. He recently hooked up our Wii at their house the night before the surgery so our super hero would have something fun to do while he recovered. 

T has come to me twice now in tears that he wants to cure his friend. That he just wants him to grow old and have kids. That the doctors need to work harder, and that he wants to give all his money to the CF foundation.
Dickens and our super hero!

"What if the doctors are missing something? What if it's simple?"

"I want to find a cure."

Maybe God is planting a calling in my child? Maybe he will be that doctor? Maybe he will cure his friend? One thing is for sure, he has a heart bigger than his nine year old body and feels things deeply. Especially for those he cares about deeply.

T and his super hero with lil bro. No touching water,  just pretending.
C.F. kids can't risk the bacteria in lake water. 

One day, God will use that for amazing things.

Maybe T will be C.F.'s worst enemy? Maybe my son will become a super hero with a cure. Only in the shadow of our super hero today.

A future super hero?
Right now though, I hope that everyone who crosses our super hero's path, feels the urgency to make that advancement in medicine, that need for scientific research, that chance for a super hero boy to grow into a super hero grandpa.

Today, the median survival age for a person with C.F. is close to 40. That's not acceptable. In a time as advanced as we are scientifically and medically, we need to fight harder.

Learn more about Cystic Fibrosis HERE 

Check out your area for the Great Strides walk near you. I know lots of people out there enjoy walking and it with a purpose! 

This is my plea as a mom of a kid who has a huge heart and love for his friend, and also, as a friend of a family who live with C.F. every moment and make the most of life every day.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Box of Works: Mama Drama Monday

We are a society based on works. We construct this box around us made up of a measure of success, a heap of entitlement, and a dash of prejudice to declare what life should be...While God loves from the outside, waiting. 

Many Christians and non-Christians hold to this construct as the WAY to live. And I, unfortunately, have wormed my way inside the box more than once.

Those whom we hold in highest regard have contributed the most to society. Even in church on Sunday we hear the preacher from the pulpit mention Prince, play a song, quote him. All about the works of a man--great works, no doubt--but a man who we didn't even know, yet we revere him just the same.

Sitting in youth baseball tournaments, I hear fathers yell at their kids from the stands, I see kids cry because of mistakes, I let the ump know that he's wrong in a passive aggressive, "Looked good to me!" call out...eek, did I say that out loud... We are raising our kids on the ballfields of works works works and beyond a simple leisurely pastime. Competition is fierce and we are training our kids up to get their worth in their works.

Last night, my son sat with me, broken with the disappointment of barely passing a class. He had missing work and hadn't worked hard enough to understand the material. He cried out, "What if I fail at life? What if I can't get into college?" What if my "work" isn't good enough? 

You know, I am about sick of work being the measurement of everything. 

On social media, I see people judging others based on their performance, deeds, ideas, lifestyles, all in the name of Christ. 

The thing that scares me the most is that I see a world constantly turn against the church. Yes, it's happened throughout history, but in such a period of enlightenment, understanding of Scripture, and opportunity to think outside the box, there are many reasons that seem valid to hate us. 

All we do as Christ's representative is point fingers, demand works, and spread fear among us. Does that even sound like Christ?

Does anyone recall Christ calling out the works of the people, or just asking them to drop the work and follow Him?

The one comfort I find, and I shared with my son last night, is that God's economy isn't about works--heck, it isn't even about WHO we believe we are--it's about LOVING Him with all ourselves, and LOVING others (.)

It's not about US! It's not about THEM! It's about HIM, and our works are dead if we don't grasp that first and foremost.

We are devaluing God's creation if we base our worth on our works. We are trying to be God by casting off love for preaching judgement on our neighbors. 

We are raising a generation based on performance and striving, who can't see the truth of character and love of God being nothing more than a pat on the back at failure time, instead of the foundation of success from the very beginning--through the wins, through the losses, through the interactions with people different than us.

On this Mama Drama Monday, I just pray for a shift in the Church. Authenticity to replace the high demands of a work-based society. The love of people instead of the love of success. The love of people instead of the love of a sports team, a lifestyle, political parties--ooh, I better stop. I want my children to cast off the weight of works and put on the cloak of character. To find their worth in something so much better than a win, a grade, or a false prejudice attributed to a way-bigger God than many preach from their news feeds.

Happy Mama Drama Monday. May we all walk this week outside the box but inside God's love and grace!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Glory Be: Faith-Filled Friday

The news is blaring with overdose and suicide...of ordinary people, and those who we hold as superstars and idols. But they are all human just the matter what status the world gives.

It is still perplexing though. Why do the men and women who bring us their amazing talents and reach peaks that most of us shall never see in our lifetimes, fall into dangerous addiction or self-deprecating circumstances?

They are on top of the world as far as the world is concerned. But they are human. And they run the same race as us...just with a thousand times more pressure and show.

I am no psychologist, but I do think that I've felt the slightest sense of what it must be like for all those beautiful contributors to our treasured pop culture. I mean, I think we all have felt the slightest sense of what it's like.

As an aspiring writer, I have hit milestones along my path. I used to find that the seconds of joy and contentment were quickly eclipsed by hours, days, months of striving to the next step. The "high" of recognition for my work was hardly sustaining. It wasn't enough to sit in the joy and be blessed to go past that.

I wanted more. My human nature told me that I could get more if I just... I could "refill" that
dissolved joy and contentment if I just... I could, I could...if I just kept striving.

Thankfully, my community of writers and my realigned focus on Truth brought me to a much healthier perspective of this road to my dream. Because I've realized, I am WALKING the dream, not trying to attain the ultimate high of being accomplished. Not wanting to bottle that feeling of accomplishment so I can never feel less again. I'll never "arrive", but I'll always take steps on a purpose-filled path. And as I walk, the only way to enjoy the journey is giving Glory where it's due, and true Glory is certainly not mine, but belongs to the One who blessed me with a calling to write. I think, for our own protection, we are told in Romans:

"For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God."

Time and again in the Bible, we see men and women fall because of their need to find Glory for themselves. Time and again in real life we see that...we might even live that.

Before, I was hungry for my own glory. For that final boost to fill me up and complete me once and for all. The little blessings along the way weren't cutting it...the big blessings weren't enough.

There is no certain glory attained that will complete me.
Only when I looked past myself and gave the glory to my Creator, 
then I found true contentment 
during the journey.

 Each milestone passed is just affirmation for the next step, not a drug that made me feel good at the moment, and sent me barreling ahead to find the next boost.

It's futile to strive for our own, isn't it? We'll never get enough if we do. The pressure might break us. And there's no life in that.

Have a faith-filled Friday.

Monday, April 18, 2016

A Backstage Observer: Aspiring Author/Reader

This is how I feel most days when I pick up a book: sitting backstage longing to be the one upon it.

I don't feel like the audience, like I used to before I took up my pen.

I feel like a stage hand, wanting to be on stage but having to take a seat behind the curtains. I've felt that way before...when I was Props head on the stage of Our Town. It was excruciating at times. Trying to embrace my second best job. I so wanted to be the one in the spotlight.
But something is different now.

Back then, I didn't spot all the flaws of the acting. Actually, I aspired to it. Now, with a book in my hand, all I can see are the flaws glaring at me...and the voice inside my head saying, "Why this? And not mine?"

I am such a bad book club member...while I want to gush over a NYT bestseller, I just can't when there are flaws. And, it's my own issue...because one day, I hope that someone will read my books regardless of the flaws. Which, I am sure there will be many!

I am at the Alley today, sharing about this very topic. Please stop by!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Where I'm at: Faith-filled Friday

I am not where I want to be.

As I procrastinated my Faith-Filled Friday post today (seriously, 30 mins until Saturday here), I realize that I could easily get caught up in all the things I haven't done, all the feelings I don't feel in my walk with God, and all the things that push me further away from having a chance at hearing Him.

But, if there is something I've learned this year, and last year, and the year before, it's that no matter how much I spiral into the pit that is humanity, I can't fall so far that God's out of reach. And in that, I am secure.

I am not where I want to be, but He's with me just the same.

And that is pretty much all I need...all I need to know...and all that can possibly bring me hope in tomorrow.

My reading this week has left me in awe of the book of Ruth. I see God-the-Savior's fingerprints all over this Old Testament book, and the obedience of just doing what I can to take that next step and live out faith. And really, it's only worth while with a redeemer waiting to provide.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Mothering is Hard.

When they were little, I was a model mother. I never raised my voice or said a curse word out loud. They knew that Mama was their steady, gentle place.

The years go by and peel away my cool facade, and my nerves are chipped, my tongue is careless, and I fall short of being the role model I had hoped.

And then, when they creep up to my height, and no doubt have surpassed my own intelligence, their journeys takes a turn that is too reminiscent of my own growing up--and I remember thinking as a younger mother--it would never happen to us. It's the moment when my game is up, my mask is shredded, and I am called out to be the imperfect them.

It's the moment when the flaws I've tried to escape are held against me by the children I tried to protect.

No matter how many times I share the old saying with my children:

"Sticks and stones may break my bones 
but words will never hurt me,"

 I prove to be a hypocrite to my own advice. Because words DO hurt. They dig deep, and they unearth all the insecurity that a good mother should not have. Or at least, the insecurity I THINK a good mother should not have.

It doesn't take long for my kids to find the chance to remind me that, "You talk to Dad that way, so why can't I?" or "You care more about writing than about us," or "You are a liar. You went back on your word," or... the list goes on and on.

The rational part of me knows that it's normal, not okay, but normal for adolescents to throw around opinions and possibly manipulate a situation to take the heat off of themselves. I know that. But there are moments when the weight of defeat is so heavy on my shoulders that by the time my husband walks in the door, I can barely speak. The regret of all my mistakes, my disappointment, and my  hopelessness that our relationship will ever heal are crippling tragedies beneath a roof where I, in all my other flaws, used to at least be a good mother.

But then there are times, sweet, redeeming times when the children who I've given an obvious ability to speak their minds, also have discerning insight to fess up when they're wrong and ask for forgiveness. And I am usually ready for that peace. It's an unusual dance between a mother and a child--a tug o' war of discord and harmony in this strange phase of growing up. It's more intellectual, and heart-deep than when I'd once coached little tots and said, "that isn't nice, you need to apologize for your actions."

Lashing tongues might inflict scars, but I'm still awed by their willingness to make things right by their own prompting.

While all the mothering I attempted more often than not appears to fall flat on judgmental ears, these heartfelt apologies give me a peek at the man trying to outgrow the child of each of my boys.

And that's when mothering finds a bit of reward. Or at least, some relief from all the mess, all the proof that mothering is not just a sweet duty to infants and toddlers, but its an excruciating commitment to growing people. If there is anything I've learned from raising adolescents and teens, it's the very real, very humbling fact that, mothering is hard.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Best Advice To Your Youth Athlete: Mama Drama

I drove away fuming from a game last week.

If I was a sportscaster, man, I could have blown the ears off of my listeners.

I had to take a few deep breaths and seriously give myself a pep talk. And shamefully, I'll admit, the game I am speaking of is in the realm of youth sports. YIKES.

 Talk about mama bear, one of those parents, and the very attitude that gives youth sports a bad name.

C'est moi.

Yep, I often find myself running to the sidelines and stumbling into the big pot hole of "that's not fair". And it takes a good talking to self to stop my angry mind from spinning.

Ok. I admitted it. Judge me. But...let me try and redeem myself for a moment.

Because, while my head was reeling and my heart was pounding, and I was grumbling inwardly about all that occurred on the field, my voice of reason suddenly became loud enough to drown out the crapola going through my mind.

"FOCUS, Ang."

"What's the most important thing?"

"Why are we even committing life to this ridiculously time-consuming arena of youth athletics?"

Ok, and finally, the usual last resort, but pretty much the best place to start, "What would Jesus do?"

And you know what?

I found myself taking my son by the shoulders and imparting something that goes against every competitive bone in my body...something that might seem a foolish cop out, something that is very difficult to do, but probably the best way to quench the fire of "unfairness" in any avenue of life. That night, I gave my son a three part motto, and he seemed happy to receive it:


AAAH! This is not natural to all. When the game goes south, all I want to do is go and complain to everyone in sight. And I'm not even playing! But you know, the squeaky wheel doesn't always get the grease. Actually, it might be sent straight to the junkyard. Everyone has a part, everyone looks at things differently. And everyone gets chances AND loses opportunities.

It's all about attitude.

Especially with youth sports. What do I really want out of my child's experience? A shelf piled with trophies, or a young man of character and ability?

If he's going to put forth effort, let it be his best so he doesn't regret a thing.

If he's going to be part of a team, let him not appear that he's in it for himself, but let him lead the team in encouragement.

If he's going to encourage teammates, let him not complain when things don't go his way and the game appears to be full of disappointment, but let him realize that there's so much more than a trophy at stake.

It's time that youth sports become more about the men and women we are developing, and less about the win. If we should yell at our children from the bleachers, let it be an encouragement. If we should wonder why the heck the coach chose that play, let us remember that it really is just a game, and the most important question is "how did my child react, and what does it say about his character?"

I am tired of youth sports getting a bad name because of the lost focus on what it should be about. Let's try and make a difference, not in the scoreboard, but in our kids.

And it starts with me. How about you?

Are you with me?

Happy Mama Drama Monday!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Not so Crazy about Change: Faith-filled Friday

I think one of my greatest instincts is to resist change.  Change is a scary frontier.

It's that flip-flop in my stomach the day before school starts and my child is entering a whole new building, when it was just yesterday that we slept in and had whole semesters of holding hands, singing songs, and scheduling playdates.

 It's that twist in my throat and the burn in my eyes when I look back through a baby book and then across the room at my now thirteen year old baby.

It's that hollow surprise when a coveted memory-filled place no longer exists and I struggle with how to capture my memories made there, not realizing until that moment of loss that I didn't hold them precious at the time of making them.

But those memories become threatened treasures now.

It's an unwelcomed venture when my marriage snags, my child hurts, my life is disrupted from a steady, comfortable pace.

Nope. I am not so crazy about change.

Something triggered my emotions on this pesky word, change, lately. Perhaps it's because the school year is dangerously close to an end, and change is rising on the horizon. Or perhaps, it's realizing that I've neglected the moments that are slowly slipping into memories--because we are making sooo many memories, and are reckless with preserving them. Some are fading to a distant thought, a possible dream, a wonder of time.

Not to say that I don't try and live in the moment. Actually, sometimes the moment is a safe haven for another scary word out there, the Future. And we're at the beginning again, where the future is a scary frontier. Yet, I plan for it, I fret over it, and I focus so much on the "around the corner" that the change happens with my back turned on the here and now.

Perhaps, that's why I am not so crazy about change. It happens when I am distracted.

Christ's words dig deeper into my heart and they plant themselves in a whole new way.

Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. - Matthew 6:34

Maybe this is not just for the faithful to grow trust in the Creator and Provider of the universe, but maybe Christ is cultivating our hearts to live in the moment. Because the moments will flee soon enough. And this life is meant to be abundant, and full, and bursting with love. How can I appreciate that, if I am just dipping my toe in the only day I've got?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Book Baby Nesting

Feeling like I've been nesting lately. When I was pregnant and nearing the due date, those last couple of months were filled with things to do, projects to complete, and heaping my plate with productivity. I know it was nesting because I am typically not a "do-er" as much as I am a "do-er wannabe". But during my nesting period, I thrived on the doing.

These past couple of weeks have me preparing for a different kind of baby...a book proposal. I'm not under contract [YET...a girl can dream], but opportunities arise to get my stories in front of editors on occasion, and this spring has been exceptionally busy [woot woot].  And as I have been energized by writing, I have that strange feeling of a do-er who actually does.

So, while I seem to fall short on blogging on a regular basis lately, it's not because I am slacking, it's because I am writing toward a dream of publication in my sixth year of doing so.

Praying for favor, and word count, and continued momentum. It's so much fun to "nest" for  my book babies.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Faith Like That: Faith-Filled Friday

My five year old daughter and her friends often play make-believe around the house. Many times, I have accidentally answered to her call, "Mom!" when she is actually talking to her friend who is pretending to be the mom.

It's pretty stinking cute to listen to their chatter. The, "And pretend that...", "And I will pretend this",  "You be so and so..."

Something that I've noticed also, with these conversations going at full speed amidst toy kitchens, toy furniture, toys EVERYWHERE, is that many times, God comes up too. And there is no, "Who's that?" or "Do you mind if I share?" But, I get to hear the beautiful ideas about our Creator from the mouths of babes.

Not that my daughter even knows her friends believe or don't. Not that she even really cares. It's just a part of her language, a part of her growing heart that there is God, and He is good, and He loves her no matter what.

To have faith like that. Sometimes she'll squeeze herself tight and say, "I am giving God a hug, because He's in my heart." And sometimes, out of the blue, around people who might or might not enjoy such a declaration, she exclaims, "I love Jesus so much!"

Sure, you might think that she's learned it all and it means nothing deep down. But if you were a fly on our wall, I can shamefully say that there have been many months where God was an unspoken name, where I feared the fight that might spring from mentioning Him. And so, somehow, the few and far between whispers mingled in my daughter's mind, and the breath of God has begun to blow in to her Spirit. And she knows.

She is His. That's something pretty special.

To have Faith like that.

The Kingdom of Heaven is theirs, Christ says. 

If Heaven is as joy-filled and abounding in love as my little girl shows...I just have to say, I want a Faith like that.

Have a faith-filled Friday...because Jesus loves you so much!