Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Back in the Word again.

Funny title, right? Well, I'm done hiding. Pretending like it's all perfect and I know what I'm doing. I don't. I'm not perfect, I'm on a journey. And this journey for me included time out of God's Word. Sound crazy? Well, maybe it is a little, but it had become such a habit, a ritual, and almost a chore. No, exactly that, a chore for me. Always feeling condemned if I didn't grab my Bible, prayer list and spend an hour or so preparing myself for the battle each day. And what wife and mom of three has an office she can run to for an hour alone each day? I wish. And I got so far behind, so bogged down with guilt that I didn't want to have anything to do with it for a while. So, I told God I would pray to him, ask him to lead me and remind me of the verses I memorized through the years, the truths I've studied, and make what I knew already something real in my life.

Something real, please!

I didn't want to give up. It took a while. Really. I went for about a year without regularly opening the Scriptures for a daily Bible time. Occasionally, I'd grab my Bible and look up a verse for something or another, I'd carry it on Sundays and read along with sermons and classes, but I didn't want a "plan to follow". I'm not recommending this method, I'm just not hiding what I did. You see, I had become dependent on the fact that my rituals were completed that my heart suffered it's greatest need... fellowship with the Father through his Son, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Recently, I've been in the Word. It has a new light for me. Like a fresh book I've not yet seen. The truths seem different. The promises seem real. But I didn't know where to begin as far as studying goes. A friend of mine posted a link to a Bible study she is doing on 1 John, so I looked it up. It was just what I needed. A verse, maybe two a day to meditate on, write, study, discuss, pray over. Then, every Wednesday for those who wanted, we'd share our links on the blog, and glean from each other.

Last week, I didn't participate. What did I know? I have more questions than answers! But the verses wouldn't let me go this week. You see, in our study, we are to print out a booklet we can follow each day. On the daily sheet there's an "application" part on the page where we need to write what we can apply from these verses. Hm. Makes me grin. Apply it daily, just one thought. Who'd have thunk? :P What have I been missing all this time? Oh, but I won't go there.

I'll just say that these past few days after only the first 9 verses of 1 John, I am amazed at the transformation of my heart! Verse three says: "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." So my application is to declare to you what I've been finding, that we may find fellowship with each other, as our true fellowship is with the Father through his Son.

What has been heavy on my heart for some time (as I'm sure you've gathered from some of my previous posts!) is that we Christians in our "fellowship" at times seem so fake. But what I've learned this week from our few verses is that our fellowship with each other should be reflective of our true fellowship with God through Jesus Christ. I mean, seriously. We are to be known by our love, right? But how often in our "fellowship" have we been guilty of condemnation and backbiting each other? How many times have I?

And the next verse says "these things I write unto you that your joy may be full". What things? Just the first three verses. The fact that Jesus, who always was, came in the flesh, and is the Word in flesh, giving eternal life that we may have fellowship with God and in turn each other.

And our joy will be full?

Complete?

Did I miss this somewhere along the line? I mean, I've heard it a thousand times, probably, but did I ever really believe it? The fact that joy - my joy - can be full through fellowship not only with God but with those believers around me? I think I missed it. Truly.

Because it had been believers I was avoiding. The hurt, the lies, the judgmental comments, stares and assumptions. I was done. I kept my distance for a while, but I told you about that already. And I missed the fact that my fellowship with others is to reflect the true fellowship I have with God through Jesus. How many of us have missed it? How long to stay in our judgmental circle of approved people spouting the same thing we've heard over and over without just reaching a loving hand to speak of the God of light, in whom there is no darkness at all?

Oh, I am not guiltless. Verse 8 shows us that none of us are. But I guess what I enjoy most is the fact that it's no secret. We're not expected to cover up the fact that we're not perfect. God knows we aren't and he has provided a way for us to love and be loved in spite of ourselves.

Oh what a great love this is!

What a great truth!

What a great God!

Friday, September 23, 2011

My Story Part 16... "our" story begins

After the honeymoon, we were to report back to college for classes, but thankfully, the winter of '95-'96 slowed us down a bit. No rental truck to move our stuff into the apartment would even hire out trucks until the storm had passed. So, we got a couple extra days of solace before jumping right back into the school scene. When I think back, I wonder how in the world I even considered that to be a good idea! I mean, getting married in December between school semesters? Oh, but to be with my George as husband and wife a month, a week, a day, an hour, a minute, even a second sooner... that's all that was on my mind. And I'd choose it all again.

I had only two semesters of college to complete. I wanted to finish up and leave with my sweet George as soon as possible, so I crammed my 4 years into three and half taking as many credits as I was allowed. Those days were days of little sleep, rushing to classes, work, home, and back again; but I remember them fondly. I wouldn't recommend this choice to anyone else of 20, but at the same time, I wouldn't change my decision even if I could. Strange now that I think about it this way. There are a few things I'd change along the way, but marrying at such a young age certainly wouldn't be one of them. Oh, I didn't always think that. There were times in my life when I wondered if I did the right thing, but now I am certain I did.

Our plans were coming together. I finished my first semester, and had one more to go. Summer of '96 came along with my 21st birthday. George and I went into Chicago and
had a lovely night out on the town! Just the two of us. We always have such fun together, just a couple of goobers, enjoying each other's silliness. That's us.

I took a summer school class or two and then the fall semester began. One more, and I was DONE! I remember the excitement and the feeling of accomplishment as if it was yesterday. September - October - November came and we were looking forward to celebrating our first year of marriage. But that November our lives were changed forever. I had three months of college left - finals, reports, assignments - you know the drill. But those last three months of college were the first three months of pregnancy.

Plans?

Out the window.

We were expecting and I was terrified, and excited at the same time. Talk about challenging! My first trimester was true to common form and I was queasy all the time. Losing my breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner at the drop of a hat became just the norm. I lost weight the first two months, but I made up for it, trust me! Finals finally came and I was elated. Finished forever! We moved back to Missouri just two weeks after my last final, with plans to return in May for our graduation ceremony, when I'd be nearly 8 months pregnant. Oy, and pregnant I was!


We decided to move near my parents until the birth of the baby, and help my dad in the little church in the country. They ended up helping us more than we did them, I think. ;) A little house one of the members owned was available for rent, so we were able to secure that, and we finally settled in until our little one was born. We traveled at times sharing our vision and our ministry plans, but for the most part, those months were spent at home, growing increasingly more uncomfortable. 50 pounds later, I was ready to burst! An ultrasound at 8 and a half months showed that our bundle-of-joy was breech, and had the umbilical cord around her neck. A c-section was scheduled.

One more challenge for this young mother of 22, but whatever was best for baby, was best for me. She apparently didn't like schedules even then, though. Because late in the evening July 16th, 1997 after hours of back pain and massages (hey, I had never been in labor before, how was I to know that's what it felt like!?) my water broke. I called the hospital and asked what I should do, and if I had time to get a shower, to which the nurse quickly responded "No! Come in right now!" George grabbed the camera and snapped a picture as I was getting things ready to go.

So, off we rushed to the hospital ahead of schedule, but only by a few hours. Our little girl was to come at an 8 AM c-section, July 17th. But she would have none of it. I got to the hospital around 11 PM on the 16th, and by the time midnight rolled around, they were concerned. Things couldn't progress too much or our baby would be in danger. My doctor was called and I was taken into the operating room. I won't scare you with my crazy birth story, I'll just say that finally, at 2:51 AM, July 17th, 1997, the most beautiful baby girl I've ever seen came into this world.

We were parents - a family of three.

Our hearts and lives were forever altered.



We brought our precious baby girl home from the hospital on the following Sunday.

We dressed her up in a frilly dress that my dad had bought, and headed to church that evening. Dad blessed her in prayer, and we all had a special time of welcoming this wonderful treasure into our lives.

I cherish those moments and memories now more than ever. She has brought more light into our lives than I could have ever imagined possible.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Love

Love is patient, love is kind, does not envy, is not proud, thinks no evil.. etc. You get the picture. We've all seen little posters, bookmarks,stickers and things to remind us what I Corinthians 13 says about love. There's faith, hope and love, but the greatest is love. We say it all the time, we write it on our frilly pictures and inscribe it on things precious to us. Yet, I wonder how often we practice it. Or should I say, I wonder how often I practice it.

I had lunch with a friend yesterday. She's a sweet, pretty, smart girl and a wonderful person. I love her. But as I considered this feeling of love I have for my friend I was faced with a thought on which I ponder even now. When I hugged her goodbye, I said "I love you". Now, if you know me, you probably know that I say that very seldom outside of my own family members. Unless you are just one of those friends to whom I feel close enough to say "I love you". I have to admit, that list is growing, and fast. Because what I considered before as awkward and strange has suddenly slapped me across the face in a feeling of "shouldn't I be sharing love more and MORE?"

And so I ponder.

Love.

"Charity" as it was called of old. Love in action. I am overwhelmed by the thought that love is the one thing we should be KNOWN by, yet the one thing that lacks most. At least, as I see it. Have we truly read and applied the things we claim to know? Are we but sounding brass and clanging cymbals? I speak more to myself than anyone today, honestly.

Long-suffering, kind, not proud, not boastful, not envious, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily provoked, thinks no evil, rejoices in truth and not in iniquity, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things.

That - plus more - is love.

GOD IS LOVE. And I am one of his own, proclaiming his goodness and work in my life.

So what do I do about love? How much of that stuff can be said about me personally? I don't know, honestly. While I sat at lunch with my friend, she grinned at me across the table and said sweetly "You know, I used to think that you're unapproachable". It was the second time in TWO DAYS... um, folks that's 2 for 2, so it sent my head spinning... that someone had said something to me about being more of an unapproachable example than a person they'd expect to be close to. In all fairness, I'm close to both of them and feel free to be myself when around them, so they know better now. But what about before?

I have been cumbered by the thought these last 48 hours of how to express love - approachable, open, honest love rather than a cold representation of what people think I should be or am. I know it's not solely my job. We should all take part. Can we band together to believe all things? Hope all things? Rejoice in truth? Be patient and kind?

I weep as I consider the fact that I don't know how to do it - well, not alone anyway. How do I break down the proverbial wall that stands between you, me, and your preconceived ideas of what you think the church rules say you have to do to approach the love of God? No, the love of Shelly. Because that's what I can give you here. You will have to meet him for his infinite measure of love, but what I can give is the measure of God's love I have in my heart. That's all I can offer, honestly. And how do I give it if you fret to come near?

In the name of full disclosure, because of lies about me and rumors that eventually came my way, and even in-my-face-confrontations, I have been happy in my pew for a few years now. Withdrawn and content to let people have their space, since that's what I thought they wanted anyway. I will shake a hand, smile, and ask how they are doing, sometimes say that I'm praying for them, and always mean it. But rarely have I really tried to reach out like before. The wounds too deep. I got tired of being the one who always made the first step. And the second. And trying to pull for a third or fourth.

But love bears all things. That's been a hard pill for me to swallow, to be honest. I can truly say that I am not holding grudges now. But I fearfully step into this opening of my heart and soul again with those around me. Loving.

And may love abide in me always. I extend it to you, really I do. It's yours for the taking.

And in case you're wondering, there's no wall on my side. No rules, no expectations. Just love, hoping all things for you.

Welcome, friend.

Monday, September 5, 2011

My Story Part 15... weddings, marriage, and plans

The year was 1995.

Big hair was destined to go out of style and we all had things like email, laptops, and cell phones. Well, some of us did. Things seemed to be moving in a pace much faster than the average person could keep up with, and everyone appeared to be enjoying the ride. We were no different. Our lives were changing quickly - it was as if the whole world was ours for the taking. But that didn't matter - we had each other, and that was enough for us.

It's funny how you view things as a 20-year-old. Have I said that before?! Sometimes I wish I had some of that faith, or maybe just some of the naivety I had then. Ah, to truly think that anything I wanted to do was possible. Then again, maybe that's what the late 30's are for... refocusing on that in which you once believed. Bring on the 40's! But I digress....

Wedding plans took place between classes, work, phone calls and faxes.
Those days seem like somewhat of a blur. Waiting for the moment I'd be forever linked to my true love, planning, working, and studying all somehow weaved together in a tapestry that was my life. I remember those days fondly, and not-so-fondly at the same time...
At last, our wedding day came. It was right around Christmas time, so the hustle and bustle of a world gone topsy-turvy was not all attributed to us, but it sure did add to the chaos!
Plans finally came together and our wedding took place in a way in which I could have only dreamt. Looking back, I'm very different now than I was then, but strangely, I wouldn't change a thing. Oh, if I were to redo it now it'd be strikingly opposite - but knowing that it was OUR day, the way we wanted it then, 90's style and all, I am content with our choices and cherish the memories of each and every moment of that special day!
The vows mean more than the pictures - okay, THAT I would change! Have you seen the pictures from weddings these days? But at least we have pictures that recorded our moments! ;) But the vows don't change. Maybe they do... they mean more to me now than ever. The depth of their meaning couldn't possibly have been fathomed by a mind so young, I suppose, but today... I may only be at the precipice about to dive into their true meaning, even after nearly 16 years. Who knows? Maybe I'll be able to elaborate even more in another 16.

And so, plans became a wedding and a wedding became a marriage. And all I had to do was finish my degree within a year's time. Our plans were to finish college, raise money to go overseas as missionaries, and start our life and family abroad.

Plans changed.

Kind of...