Thursday, May 31, 2012

Birthdays are a special day

It's a few days after my birthday, but it still feels like I am special.

Growing up, my mom made birthdays a big deal. We woke up to a decorated room - from a couple balloons to streamers in our doorway to a light up sign complete with faux flowers (that was for me, I don't think my brother probably would have appreciated the flowers).

We also got to use a special birthday set of dishes, a red goblet and a red plastic plate with gold stars on it. They were set away all of the year except for our birthdays.

My parents also wrote happy birthday on the refrigerator in magnetic letters (and now they send us a text with a picture of the refrigerator when we're not at home :) )

We had cake and ice cream, and we even had parties. Although most years I chose to forego the party and we went to a theme park to celebrate instead.

When my brother was away at college, my mom sent his friend some special birthday decorations to surprise him on his big day. This last weekend, when my parents visited, my parents decorated my bedroom with a pink floral streamer. It's simple, but looking at it now still makes me feel loved.

I know birthday's aren't a big deal. Woohoo, I naturally grew a year older without really accomplishing anything. However, it's one day a year that we get to celebrate something for just ourselves. It's not about anybody else. For instance, it was the one day a year that my parents got German chocolate cake, and they didn't even have to share it with us kids - neither my brother or I like coconut.

When it's Nate's birthday, I like to make him some signs or decorate too. I know that he doesn't think it's a big deal, but I still want him to feel special.

I look forward to the day that I can spoil my own children on their birthdays and make them feel truly special and loved. It's little things like that which make lasting memories.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Detailed design

When my Olde English Bulldogge puppy was sleeping next to me the other morning, I was looking at her cute, smushy face.

Look closely at her. She has white hair all around her eyes, and her eyelashes are the exact same color. However, there is a distinct difference between her hair and her eyelashes even though they look the same. Her hair goes in directions opposite of her hair. The small line of eyelashes on her upper eyelid goes the opposite way and grow straight out to catch debris that would fall in her eyes.

I was just amazed looking at her, how perfect her design is and how much thought God had to have put into all those little details.

It's times like this that I am amazed that people can believe that there is no intelligent design in the world. Last night at premarital counseling our pastor said that even though we can't see God, we can see his fingerprints all around.

I think one of his fingerprints looks just like Novie's eyelashes.

Friday, May 25, 2012

24 and old growed up

My birthday is next Tuesday, and it's interesting to think about where I am in life and where all my friends are.

I was talking to a friend from high school on Monday, just catching up as I came home from work. We talked about wedding plans, my dog, my job, my new car.

"What else is going on?" she said. "You're getting married; you have a dog, a new car. You have such a grown-up life."

"Yeah, I do. I'm all grown up," I said.

I really am. When did it happen? One day you're a kid, the next day you're trying to grow up but you're still a kid at heart. Then it's like it's done. You're an adult. You're all on your own.

Even my parents aren't really buying me things anymore. (Which Nate laughed at when I said it, because he said his parents stopped that years ago.) I told Nate that they have made me his problem now!

My friends also are grown up. I have two friends who just bought houses with their husbands. I have other friends getting married; others have left the state to find new jobs.

Life sure is interesting. It crawls by slowly until you start to think back and realize just how far you've come in such a short time.

But when I think back, you know the times that really stick out? It's not really the grown-up things of paying bills and going to work but the grown-up blessings of close friendships, fun vacations, playing with my own puppy, planning the flowers and cake topper for our wedding. It's the little things that make up a life.

At work, someone mentioned that a local business owner said he didn't have a story to tell. Again, I completely disagree with that. We all have a story to tell of where we came from and dreams for where we're going. It may be little items that make up our life, but it is a story nonetheless.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

No bell, no bark

Why oh why?

I just can't figure out why Novie continues to potty inside.

She didn't take so well to us training her to ring a bell to let us know that she has to go outside. However she did decide that she would tell us by barking.

That was fine with us, because we just wanted to know when she needed to be let out. We didn't care how. Yet, she still potties inside about once a week on average, sometimes a little more.

We can't figure out why she does it. It's not that we're ignoring her barking. Sometimes she potties inside a long time after she has been let out, but we figure that she'll tell us when she needs to go.

Often it seems like she potties inside when she is sleepy or when lazy, and we're guessing she just doesn't want to extend the energy to go outside.

It's frustrating when you don't know how to fix a problem.

I know that I extend God metaphors to a lot of different things, and I've done it with Novie before, but I think that God probably feels the same way with us. We keep messing up, even when we know it's wrong like Novie does, but we don't fix it. It's like we're too lazy to try to change.

I bet God just shakes his head and gets frustrated the same way that I do with Novie.

Thank God for second, third and thousandth chances. Thank God for his forgiveness!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fences can be good

My friend once told me about a pasture theory of Christianity.

We have a fence to stay within, guidelines to follow and a plan for our lives. However, it's not all or nothing. We have room to move and room to be ourselves. We can choose where to go, just within certain boundaries.

Many people see Christianity as a path, where one step can lead you off into the darkness. I like the pasture way of looking at things much more.

However, human nature makes us not want to stay within even a pasture. Actually, it's more than human nature; it's earthly nature.

On my way to work yesterday, I saw a trio of cows that had gotten out of the field they were supposed to be scavenging in. Another was pushing its head against the fence, trying to figure out how those cows got out.

The space outside the fence looked good to the cows. However, outside the fence the cows were in danger of getting hit by a car or never finding their way home. Even if they didn't get hurt, those cows definitely could have hurt someone else, because a car that hits a cow gets major damage and a driver can be seriously injured. It's a lot like when we leave the pasture we're supposed to be in, getting outside of God's will for our lives.

Even when an animal doesn't quite get out of its pasture, their life still isn't as good as it could be. Sometimes horses stick their heads through fence slats to grab some grass outside their home, but they can get a nasty crick in their neck doing it. A cow or a horse could even get half its body out of the fence and decide that it was far enough. It might seem freeing to be outside the fence a little bit, but they will get stuck there and not be able to move about at all.

The grass may always seem greener on the other side of the fence, but the farmer who put up the fence did it for the good of his animals.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cluttered sounds

I haven't really been praying lately.

I gave up on my chronological Bible reading when Nate and I were assigned to read the Bible together, because I figured I didn't have to read it twice. However, we haven't been very good about fulfilling that part of our assignment.

I guess I have kinda put my "growing in faith" on hold for a little while. It was purposeful though.

When I was going to a nearby town for an interview this afternoon, I couldn't really find anything to listen to the radio, but I kept flipping channels anyway. It was just clutter, but I liked to have the noise.

Then I started to think about how that clutter is probably one of the reasons that I don't pray very often. When there is always background noise, I don't really sit and think. That means that I don't pray either, because I don't have the quiet time to remind me to do it.

In today's times, I don't think that we Christians often ignore God purposefully. It's just that our lives get so full, we don't realize that we're pushing God out.

I think I need a little more silence.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Poop doesn't disappear

OK, I maybe shouldn't admit this. But this afternoon, I took Novie on a walk after work. I figured it would be about the time that she needed to do her business, so I encouraged her to do it before we left. She didn't, and I didn't grab a plastic bag before we set off, so I hoped for the best.

Of course, she stopped to poo right on the sidewalk, not even anywhere where I could shoo it into the grass. So I looked around, saw no one was looking and quickly trotted away with her.

People do that a lot too. No, I don't mean we do our business on the sidewalk. I mean that we do something we're not supposed to, look around just to make sure no one saw and act like we didn't do it.

However, on the way back home, I saw that little pile still sitting on the sidewalk. It hadn't disappeared just because I ignored it. And unless it rains soon, someone with the city will probably stop to clean it up.

Yet again, it's like sin. It doesn't go away just because we act like we didn't do it. And eventually someone will probably have to clean up the mess, either us or the people we've affected or God. It doesn't just disappear.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Too open

Whew, life has been busy lately. I have fallen a bit behind in the whole blogging thing.

For premarital counseling, I've been reading a book by Joshua Harris. He is super honest in it, talking about situations in his life that I don't think I would ever say.

While reading it, I kind of wonder if he ever wrote down sections and then stared at them, deciding if it was too risky to admit all of that. I wonder if he ever felt like people would judge him for his confessions.

I have to say sometimes I think that I am an introvert, because I don't feel comfortable with people knowing everything about me. I guess I'm a private person and afraid of what people will think of me. I have written a paragraph before and deleted it, my cheeks flaming red, before I could let such a big part of myself out into the world.

Maybe that's what has made Harris famous. People can connect to them, because they see that he is open and honest.

However, when I blog, I know pretty much who is going to read it. It's all people that are close to me. I think I might be able to be more open with my flaws with people I didn't know and might never meet. That may seem opposite though. Shouldn't I let the people closest to me know the real me? I worry about what those people think though, not about what people I don't know think about me.

Maybe I'm too self-conscious. I think I've always been that way though. I like to keep stuff inside instead of worrying about judgement.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Runaway dog

Novie is asleep in her kennel right now.

She's in her kennel, because I took her with me to park the car, and I didn't put her on a leash.

When she got out of the car, I saw the look in her eyes as she stared at the road, on the opposite side of me. I tried to get her attention before she started trotting away. But by then, she had it in her mind that she wanted to play, and she wanted to play by making me chase her.

It gets my heart beating in fear as she starts to trot down the sidewalk and I run after her, yelling for her to stop. But when she looks back and slows down, I see the gleam of fun in her brown eyes, and she picks up speed.

I finally caught up with her and grabbed her collar, spanking her on the butt and dragging her back home with me.

She has no idea that when she runs, it's not all fun and games. In fact, she could very easily be killed if she ran out into the street. She has no idea that not everyone is looking out for her.

I wonder if that's the way that God thinks when we run away. We think it's all fun and games, but we don't see just how much trouble we can get into.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Do people still read?

In our newspaper this week, a columnist wrote about reading - an interesting combination.

Many people think that reading isn’t important anymore. No one wants to sit down with a good old book and flip through the pages. Instead, they like to watch TV or play on the Internet.

I don’t know about this. I think reading may be just as prevalent, although done in different forms. People might not read newspapers as much anymore, because they read the news online. They might not flip through a book or check one out from the library, because they are reading on their Kindle, their iPhone or their iPad. Kids are constantly reading Facebook, and even articles that are posted on Facebook.

People still read, even though it’s in different formats.

I also have to say, that when something interesting comes out, people will read it. How many people have read the Harry Potter series? Twilight? Hunger Games? The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? Even if it took the movie coming out to inspire them to read the source material, these interesting stories are encouraging people to read.

I know too that so much material is coming out these days, that is harder to be successful as a writer. It doesn’t mean that people have stopped reading but that they have so much to choose from, the reading is spread out more. Even iBooks allows writers to publish material easily on the web. It doesn’t mean a lot of people are going to read it, but a lot of people are reading a lot of different pieces.

I have to say, I don’t read all the much for fun. However, I do read a lot. I read for work while editing. I read the news. I read sermons. I try to read the Bible, although I should more often than I do. I read for premarital counseling. After that, I feel like giving my eyes a rest. Sometimes I am reading so much that my eyes actually have get blurry and have double vision.

However, when something interesting comes up, I’ll read it. I took the time to read “Under and Alone,” because the subject matter interested me. If we give people something interesting to check out, they’ll take the time to do it.

I think the thing about reading is people are super busy today. They aren’t going to sit down with a paperback book unless that book offers them something important, something worth their valuable extra moments.

My encouragement to other writers, make your stories interesting.

And thanks for taking the time to read my page.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"Power Thoughts"

Joyce Meyer talks a lot about the importance of our thought lives.

The first book I read by her was "Battlefield of the Mind." I read it during a time when I was having a difficult time getting over my thoughts. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but I went through a period of time when I could not throw anything away. Even if it was a used Hardee's cup, I got a sick feeling in my stomach when it went into the garbage, and I would try to keep it.

I didn't read the book right at that point, but I continued to struggle with going by feelings and dwelling on bad thoughts. "Battlefield of the Mind" really helped me to see that I didn't have to listen to what Satan put in my mind.

I haven't read her new book "Power Thoughts," because I kind of thought that I had improved enough in that area. However, today I watched a sermon she had introducing a new series talking about thoughts. I realized that I still have plenty of room to grow in this area.

Especially, she talked about how whatever we dwell on is how we end up acting. She did an example of how she used to sit and say, "I have to do everything at home. Dave (her husband) goes out golfing. The kids go play. I clean. They come in and mess it up. I clean the house again."

I have to say, I've fallen into this trap already, and Nate and I aren't even married. When we eat dinner together, I end up cooking and doing the dishes. Nate goes and plays video games when I want him to spend time with me. The more I dwell on upset thoughts, the crabbier I get and then Nate doesn't even want to talk with me. Who wants to be around a crabpot.

Meyer said she used to get really upset that her husband would play golf all the time. Now, she said she is happy that he has a hobby that he enjoys. I also am happy that Nate can play video games to relax and that he can connect with his friends in this way. That's awesome that technology affords him an easy way to have fun with his friends over a distance.

I need to remember that when I wake up thinking it's going to be a bad day, I can immediately realize that Satan is giving me a bad thought. If I decide it will be a good day, it will be a good day. What I think about is what will happen. Because even if plans don't go as planned, then I can still think that I can deal with it by the grace of God and still have a wonderful day.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Under and Alone"

I just finished reading "Under and Alone," the story of an ATF agent that infiltrated the Mongol outlaw motorcycle gang.

I have read the story of another agent that went undercover with the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang, and both stories were kind of similar.

They tell the story of brave men who gave up their lives for a period of time to take on groups of men and women that kill, rape, steal and deal drugs.

Some of the passages made me almost sick to my stomach, about women throwing themselves at these lawless men and men talking about killing family members.

But I found it interesting, because at the end of the book, when the ATF agent had to testify against his fellow Mongols, he had a hard time doing it.

When his mother died during his time undercover, the ATF agents didn't say a word to him about it. However, the Mongols all hugged him and grieved with him. They had his back during fights and truly loved him, at least his outlaw persona.

Everyone has a good side and a bad side. The ATF agents may have been on the right side of the law, but they didn't always have the heart they needed to. The Mongols led horrible lives but sometimes had good hearts.

I wonder what made most of these Mongol members who they were. What were their home lives like growing up? Did they not know any better than to lie, steal and kill?

Sometimes life is black and white. Sometimes it is gray. Sometimes it is a pool of red - hurt, despair, depression, pain - that pools together that it gets so dark it turns black.

I talked to a man the other day that noted how awful the Ku Klux Klan was. He said told a story of murder, and he said that he hoped those murderers were rotting in Hell.

I was a little surprised that my inner reaction was that I didn't hope they were burning in Hell. In fact, I hoped that they realized how wrong they were and found God before they died.

I hope that the Mongols also somehow have found God, because his grace can cover even the dirtiest of sins. He can take even the deepest black and red colors and turn them white and pure.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Premarital counseling

I think premarital counseling has really been helping.

It's not really what I thought it would be. When we went, I assumed it would be a lot of discussion about what's wrong in our relationship, dragging out problems and getting into arguments. Honestly, the whole experience has been very positive.

Even when we come up with something that we need to work on, instead of the pastor giving advice of how to fix it, he instead uses an example from his own life to show how he and his wife got through and to encourage us. It's an interesting way of going about counseling, and it seems to be working.

I didn't really think Nate and I needed too much premarital counseling, because we know each other so well. After dating for eight years, I think that we know what we are getting into.

However, I have seen our relationship start to change little by little in the past couple weeks. I can see us starting to serve each other and putting the other one first. We have talked well and my hope and excitement for our marriage has increased as we learn how to have a strong relationship.

I feel bad for people who don't have the chance to go through premarital counseling. It wouldn't be the same for everyone, but it gives us a chance to really focus on who we are as a couple. That hasn't been something we've really done before.

Although I have read books on relationships and interviewed successful couples, I like that Nate and I are doing the same assignments and are on the same page.

Even if your church doesn't have mandatory premarital counseling, I would really encourage anyone preparing for marriage to take some time and talk to an experienced spouse together.

Marriage is hard. We all need a little encouragement to build a solid foundation as we build from the ground up.