Monday, June 15, 2009

Saying goodbye to a dear old friend...

This has been a very hard week for us. On Thursday evening, we found ourselves in the waiting room at our local veterinarian hospital waiting to hear about Tori's blood work. When the doctor finally came back into the room, she told us that Tori had kitty diabetes and that her liver was shutting down. She made it very clear that even if she did somehow pull through a long stint in the hospital, Tori's life would never be the same. Between multiple daily injections of insulin and blood draws, she would be on a strict feeding regiment. All of this could only take place after they tried to salvage her liver, which would require a feeding tube into her throat and heavy sedatives for an undetermined length of time. The expense would be astronomical, not to mention the pain and uncertainty that would accompany those days. The vet never pushed us to make a decision, but it was clear she felt it was more humane to let Tori go. And so, at 6:30 pm Thursday evening, all three of us gathered around our precious feline and hugged her close as she purred her way into a gentle slumber. Afterwords, we knew she was gone, but we also knew she would never be forgotten.

Tori was our oldest kitty. She has been with James and I since we found her at the Austin Humane Society in 1995. That's nearly 15 years. She was a very tiny kitten. Her little features and intricate colors were what drew me to her. I remember James pointing to the vivacious little tom cat in her same cage while I stared at Tori who sat right up against the glass with her paw reaching out towards us. "Why do you want that one?" he'd asked in his best "you-must-be-crazy" voice. It was at that moment that Tori looked up at him, tilted her head just so, and gave us the tiniest most enchanting mew. James melted right along with me and said, "Yep, she's the one!". We found out later that Tori had never really learned how to meow because her kennel had been kept right next to the dogs kennel. Even after 15 years, her meow sounded more like the 'yip' of a puppy. It was quite funny. Of course, most of our friends and family believed Tori did nothing but growl and hiss. She wasn't the most tolerant of cats to outsiders, but she was ours.

I remember that Tori used to sleep on the top of James forehead at night. It was quite a sight to see this tiny puff ball balancing atop his head. We never could really figure out why she did this, it was just her thing. Of course, James was rather thankful she outgrew this tradition as she began to gain weight. She turned out to be quite a plump cat, which made her even more adorable. I just remember her walking across the room and dropping to the floor and nearly rolling over as her belly finally settled. I also remember taking her to the vet who, after cowering in fear at Tori's ferocious growl and hiss declared "ah, she's just fine!! Oh, and, don't feel it necessary to bring her into us again unless you notice any change in her behavior." Nice. My cat scared the vet! LOL! Any time we needed to take her after that we had to get sleeping pills before he would even tough her! Of course, the vet wasn't the only one Tori could scare. I still remember my 6'5" brother expressing his pure terror at trying to feed Tori while we were away on our honeymoon. "Your cat is crazy!" he exclaimed as James and I rolled with laughter. She was most certainly convincing!

There are little things that used to drive me nuts about Tori, which now I find myself missing all the time. For instance, Tori used to lay under my desk as I checked email throughout the day and would nuzzle my toes. Eventually, the drool would come - YUCK! I would shriek and cry, "Ewwww... Tori!!" Then I would hear James snicker from the next room. Of course, she had a tendency to drool on the back of his neck whenever she sat on the back of the couch and wanted loving. Hey, at least she was an equal opportunity drooler!

Tori never really bonded much with Kayla until the last few weeks of her life... Early on, whenever the tornado that is Kayla would come into the room, Tori would always look at James and I and give us this what-were-you-thinking look as she growled and hissed at her. Towards the end however, she seemed to love the added attention as Kayla showered her with kisses and hugs. You would find Kayla nuzzling up against Tori's head and then hear her very loud purr all the way across the room. It was quite precious. Of course, this extra bonding has made losing Tori a bit harder, but we are pulling together. We've cried together as a family, and Kayla has prayed that Jesus would take extra good care of her in heaven.... and I am confident He will.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Heading into Month 4 - Things are going GREAT! PLUS, NEW MUSIC to share!!

James and I went to the doctors earlier this week... things were looking GREAT for the baby. Everything looked really good with my blood work, all my symptoms and measurements were within ideal range, and the baby's heartbeat is continuing strong in the 140s. All in all we are feeling really great about this pregnancy! I talked to the doctor about my migraines and she did say I could take my Imitrex if I really needed to... but the way she said that made me think I needed to use that as a last resort whenever possible. If it comes down to me dealing with a migraine or risking the baby's well being, I think I can suck it up and cope with a little pain. Hopefully it is a moot point though, aside from a few headaches, I haven't had any migraine episodes since the last one.

I have been having some of the strangest cravings lately. The other day I actually made James run to the store to buy me watermelon. I don't even remember the last time watermelon came to mind, but somehow that day I NEEDED it. LOL! Of course, like the awesome dad he is, he went without hesitation to pick some up for me. And let me tell you, that was the BEST watermelon I have ever had in my life! I can't say that all my cravings have been good for me though... yesterday I wanted chips and french onion dip. I can't even begin to fathom why, but that's what I had to have. And of course, I try to give into my cravings (at least in moderation) whenever possible. For one, if I ignore the cravings, I make everyone around me miserable. LOL! I try not to, but I can't help it - it makes me grouchy not to get what I want when I want it! LOL! For another, someone once told me the cravings are a natural part of pregnancy that tells you what your body needs at the time it needs it. I can't even begin to guess what my body needed from chips and dip, but hey, who am I to question Mother Nature?? ;-)

Last Wednesday was the last day for our Ladies Bible study at church. Boo! Lynda, Donna, and I have been doing the music for each week at that event. We have all had so much fun playing/singing with each other again!! In addition to an awesome "feast" at the last session, we were also delighted to receive roses and a recording of some of the music we performed for the ladies. It was such a sweet gift! And even though I don't necessarily like to hear myself sing, even I have to admit that this cd is actually really impressive. It includes a few of the best recordings of Lynda and I together, and as always, Donna plays the piano like a dream! It is really quite fun to listen to! I handed a couple of copies out to friends and family members with stellar feedback. I am posting a few on my blog (below) for others to hear too. Try to let them all load before playing or they will sound choppy. Also, keep in mind these are LIVE recordings, so you may hear a few musical flubs. :-) If these work, please let me know what you think. :-)

Song List:

1. You Are Still Holy. I am singing lead and that angel's voice backing me up is Lynda. :-)

2. Knees to the Earth - I am leading, Lynda backing me up

3. Holy Spirit Come - I am leading, Lynda backing

4. Breathe - Lynda is leading, I am singing backup

5. Pure and Holy Passion - I am singing lead, Lynda backup

6. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus - I am singing lead, Lynda backup

7. My Heart Your Home - I am singing lead, Lynda backup

8. Emmanuel - Lynda singing lead, me on backup

9. Captivate Us - Lynda singing lead, me on backup

10. One - Lynda singing lead, me on backup

11. Hungry - I am singing lead, Lynda backup

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Big News for the Higginbotham Family...

Hello everyone! Sorry, again, for the lapse in blogging... we have been super busy in the Higginbotham house with lots and lots of PTA stuff, school activities, work, etc. I just can't believe that summer is a mere weeks away - where has this year gone?? Kayla is doing FANTASTIC in school. She is beginning to read on her own and comes up with some of the most amazing things at times. Her strongest area is math and computer - definitely her daddy's girl!!

This past Mother's Day we spent the majority of the day in the ER with her.... she fell down at McDonalds and her ankle proceeded to swell up to three times the normal size!! UGH! We were afraid it was broken, but it appears to have been a minor sprain. After having a "splint" type device on, and keeping it elevated for a day, she seems to be back to her old self again. It was pretty obvious that she was on the path of recovery when I walked in on her dancing her little toosh off to the Wiggles cd. Yep, she is a trooper for sure!

We have some BIG news for our family.... WE ARE PREGNANT!!! James and I recently found out that we were expecting another baby some time in November!! YEAH!! We are super excited!! I have been feeling pretty good... morning sickness has been the biggest issue, but I know that is a good sign that things are going well. I have also been very tired and my brain doesn't always work at full capacity, but otherwise I'm fine. We went to our first sonogram a few weeks ago and found that the baby's heartbeat was strong at 130 beats/min. (Apparently anything between 120 and 135 is healthy.) We have decided that this little one is taking after his/her daddy already - over-achiever for sure! We have plans to find out the baby's sex as soon as we can next month. James and I will be thrilled regardless, but we are kind of hoping for a boy to finish out our family set. Kayla has placed an order for a girl. :-) I think she is going to be an awesome big sister!!

We would really appreciate your prayers as we progress through the pregnancy. We just want everything to go as smoothly as possible this time around and are excited to see who God has bless our family with! I promise to try to keep you posted on how things are going when I can.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Pushing Through to the Music

Hello everyone!! Sorry for my lapse in blogging duties these past couple of weeks. Life has just been crazy for me! One of the projects I am working on at Kayla's school, which I originally thought would be fun and exciting, has actually turned out to be a frustrating, exhausting, and stressful endeavor. I should be finishing it up in the next few days though, so hopefully things will be looking better soon. It is amazing to me how these types of activities can truly bring out the best and worst in me, I guess that is why God's grace is so abundant!

On an up note, there is one thing I find myself looking forward to all week long.... worship at Ladies Bible study at Calvary Chapel. My dear friend Liz asked me if I would agree to lead it every week, and I don't know if she even realizes what a blessing that has been for me. Once again I find myself so in awe of God's ability to bless us through those simple acts that bless Him.... He is so good! My friend Lynda Bartley is my partner in crime (again) and always manages to bring out the best in me as she sings by my side. And of course, our favorite pianist, Donna Burnett, has been eager to help us along. It has been just like old times for us since the three of us used to lead music at a couple of the CC ladies retreats.

Our ladies have been working through the study of Esther by Beth Moore on Wednesday nights. I have to say, it has been really interesting, although the homework is pretty hefty! No complaints though! What is most exciting is the fire that seems to have reignited at our church! These women are amazing! It is super exciting! I just can't wait to see what God is going to do next! It is no secret that our church has had kind of a tough year with a few personal struggles, but we seem to be finally bouncing back to where God would have us. I suppose it is to be expected that we should hit a few road blocks along the way... I have often heard a church compared to a hospital full of sick people.... And, just like in a hospital, you will have a few patients who are in denial of their sickness, who don't like or agree with the treatment options, and even a few who threaten to sue for malpractice in reaction to the doctor's treatment. It is a sad reality I'm afraid. But, I am proud of the leaders at my church. They have had to make the hard decisions that come along with loving God's people and sometimes it is necessary to say the things that people don't want to hear. "Better is open rebuke than hidden love." (Proverbs 27:4-6) The truly sad reality of it all is that there have been many stones cast towards our church leaders of late for doing precisely as God has instructed them! Of course, our leaders have always responded in love and prayer to each attacker.... I don't know that I would have reacted that way if I were in the same position. It really amazes me! But, I am praying too and God's grace abounds!

Well, off I go to work on the school project and then later to practice for this week's worship. Should be fun! We have picked out an excellent selection of songs that we haven't done in a while!! I pray you all have a wonderful week!!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Awaiting Our Happily Ever After...

My husband is amazing! Yep, he really is! James and I met when I was only 18, but even after 15 years together, he still manages to take my breath away! Although things haven't always been perfect in our 11 year marriage, I have never once thought that we wouldn't always be together. He is truly my best friend, my biggest ally, and loudest cheerleader. He is the person who I need to have on my team, and he always makes it clear that he is right by my side in all things. He is my champion as well as my companion. I never feel lonely when James is in the room. And although there have been times when he hasn't always agreed with me on things, he has always respected my opinion and offered his loving support and guidance. We truly love being together, and as I get older, I am beginning to understand how rare that is. You see, I not only love this man, but I really LIKE him too!

When James and I first met, I was a very broken person. I was scared of being in love and my heart had been broken in so many pieces, I never thought they would fit back together. I had learned horrible relationship skills from my mother, and I certainly didn't make it easy for anyone to love me. Sure, I was pretty good at faking it, but James always managed to see beyond my plastic smile. There were many times when he would say, "Babe, I KNOW you. You don't have to pretend with me." I am so thankful that he never gave up on me. Our first year of marriage was very trying to say the least. We struggled through communication issues, as well as priority issues. It was hard and scary, but I knew we were meant to be together. And then one day, God intervened. James and I both received a wake up call. We suddenly realized that the only way we could be certain that we would be together forever, is if we made God the foundation of our home and marriage. Sure, there were days when things got tough, but we were always united in our goal. We were certain God had brought us together, and since He wrote the details of this romance, how could we ever consider giving up on the happy ending??

Now, I'm not claiming to be the perfect wife. I know I am a work in progress, and I pray every day that God will guide me in my journey to be all that He desires me to be in that role. However, over the years I have learned a lot about how (and how not) to be a partner to my hubby. Here are just a few tidbits I have picked up...

1. Let go of your selfishness and self-centeredness.

I have learned that if you want to have a successful marriage, you have to put your partner's needs before you own. Now, I'm not perfect at this, but I'm working at it. There are definitely times when my selfishness casts a dark shadow over our lives, but God is ever so faithful to shine a light on those areas. "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor." ~ Romans 12:10. I have realized that when I put James' happiness before my own, he inevitably does the same for me in return. So, we both end up happy and content in whatever life throws at us!

2. Learn to trust.

Another lesson I have learned about having a great marriage, is how to give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. I know James loves me. I know James has faith in me and wants what is best - so I need to trust in him. Trust is hard for me. I have been hurt by so many people in my life that I sometimes struggle with this act, but you know what? There is no reward for those who don't try. If I hadn't learned to take those first steps in trust, I would never have learned how to appreciate a trusting, loving relationship. And there is no greater reward that a great marriage!

3. Make time together a priority.

Like all couples, sometimes life seems to get away from us. Busyness sets in, and we find ourselves out of touch with one other. James and I have both noticed that when we don't take time to invest in "togetherness," tension seems to set in. In an effort to combat that, we have begun to set time apart for one another. At least once a week, we will have a "date" that includes good quality time together doing things we love to do. Since he and I are so much alike, this can be something as simple as going to our favorite coffee shop and reading, writing, or chatting about our week. Throughout the week we also try to spend time together in "mini-dates" which may include us sitting together to enjoy our favorite television show after Kayla goes to bed or just a nice chat about work/life. We have also learned to budget for our date nights. Sure, finances are sometimes tight, but being together is important to us, so we don't allow any excuses for not spending that time. We make it a priority, and that has really made a difference in our relationship. Now, I realize we are fortunate to have a grandma close at hand to cover babysitting duty, but even when that wasn't an option, we still found time together by obtaining a babysitter or including our daughter in whatever we wanted to do. Regardless of how it happens, spending ample time together makes a huge difference in our happy marriage.

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

I think a huge factor in our marriage has been our ability to really talk to one another. James and I realized early on that this was the main issue in both our parent's broken relationships. If we wanted to learn from their mistakes, we needed to make a change in how we related to one another. I can honestly say that this continues to be an area I struggle with. From a very young age, I was taught that showing emotion was a sign of weakness. If someone upset you, and you admitted to being hurt, you were giving away your power or just drawing attention to yourself. Neither of those things was looked upon kindly. So, instead of confronting an issue at the time it occurred, I would inevitably stuff my feelings down and allowed them to fester like an ugly mold. And the end result was always me becoming overwhelmed with the emotion and then completely exploding. This was not beneficial to anyone... and would really confuse James.

Instead of waiting for those emotions to explode out of proportion, James has helped me to work at communicating my feelings as they come. Because we have become so great at talking through our struggles, fighting becomes unnecessary. Sure, there are times when we disagree, but because we are willing to share and listen to one another's viewpoint on issues, we usually can end up laughing about our differences of opinion. And as much as we are alike, we are also very different people...and that is a great thing! He will never fully appreciate Josh Groban and I will never understand why he listens to talk radio and Brazilian Jazz, but we appreciate that together we make a pretty awesome team!

5. Build up one another.

I remember watching my mother tear down my father on a daily basis. Now, she usually did this in a teasing spirit, but you know what?? My father began to resent her for it. He became bitter and cold over time... Now, I'm not blaming my mother completely for his transformation, but her constant teasing did not help my father either. Instead of allowing that pattern to continue in our family, James and I are always encouraging one another. We are honest about each others strengths and even have fun bragging about each other. I am proud of my husband! He is a terrific husband, an amazing father, and fantastic friend! He is smart and witty, and he's very sweet. He takes care of me, he supports me, and he is always the encourager. I no longer hesitate to tell him how proud I am of him. I need him to know that I think he is my perfect match! He doesn't need me to point out his flaws, the world does that without any help from me. What he needs is to know that there is one person on this planet who thinks he is pretty amazing, and so I strive to make it my daily mission to do just that. And you know what? As we build up one another, our marriage becomes even stronger!

Now, I'm not saying that our marriage is absolutely perfect, I know we are all works in progress. I also know I can not allow myself to become complacent in my marriage. It takes dedication and hard work to sustain and protect something so precious! The enemy has it out for us, but God's grace is sufficient! God has blessed us with a harmony of spirit, and a desire to invest in each other. James and I are on a mission to have a strong marriage, and that united front won't be easy to overcome. I love my hubby! I am so thankful for him! I know that together we are stronger than we would ever be apart, and I am confident that God will grant us our happily-ever-after!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Precious Gifts

As I was walking my daughter into school this past week, I overheard one of the kindergarten teachers chastising a student for his poor behavior in the classroom. "Little Billy, you know we don't treat our classroom friends that way!" You see, in Kindergarten, they call each student a "friend" instead of a "classmate" or "kid". After hearing the exchange, my precious observant child looked up at me and smiled her special "I want to ask you something" smile. Later, before I led her into her own classroom, Kayla whispered to me, "Mama? Do I have to be friends with him?? He's not very nice to me." I couldn't help but smile at her question. It was a valid point. How many times have I asked myself the same question when faced with someone who is completely self absorbed and more focused on what's wrong with everyone else than self reflection?? So, like any good mother, I skipped right over that question and gave her the stock reply of, "Just be try to be kind and considerate to all of the children, Honey." But in truth, I wanted to say, "Heck NO! Don't be his friend! Pick your friends wisely and be thankful when you get it right!" But that's not how it is in Kindergarten. You see, at that stage of life, the choice regarding who your friends will, or will not be, is not really up to you. The ability to embrace or walk away from another individual is not given or encouraged. So how will kids ever learn how to choose just who to let into their special circle?? Perhaps we should just leave God up to the match making...

I have never been one to have an abundance of friends in my life. Now, don't think I'm complaining or anything, because this is not a bad or sad thing for me. Being someone who has a hard time opening up to new people, I prefer to reserve the label of "friend" for those precious few who learn to know me beyond the quiet, subdued, exterior I portray to the world. I tend to guard my friends closely, and treat them as I would a precious stone or diamond. You see, a diamond is one of the strongest, yet most beautiful, of all materials. They are rare, priceless, and are appreciated and admired.... just like a true friend should be. It's too bad that often times we forget just how valuable those gems are, just as we forget how precious a true friend can be.

I remember that fateful day when I first met my friend Catherine in the 7th grade. I walked into that large cold Biology room and, after meeting our overly excited, super geeky teacher, Mr. Mackey, I felt my insides trembling. Catherine and I were placed at the same lab table simply because we were seated in ABC order and her last name started with an M and mine an N. As luck (or rather God) would have it, I pushed my mother relentlessly to register me in school under my stepfather's last name (even though it wasn't legally mine yet) when I really had no reason to do so. If I hadn't been registered in that way, Catherine and I might never have become the friends we did! She and I made it through that horrid Biology class, and even stuck together as best friends through all of high school. She was the person I confided in about every crush, every homework assignment, or any problem. She was the first person I told when I met my future hubby, and her opinion of him meant the most. She was my maid of honor at my wedding, and remains to be someone I care a great deal about. Although we don't get to see each other as often as we once did, we remain in close contact and I know she is only a phone call away should I need her help. She is very precious to me! I will always remember Catty as the one person in my childhood who had a glimpse at how awful my life could sometimes be, but who never judged me for it. She never pressed for information, she never pried, she just loved me.... warts and all.

When I got older, my husband and I started visiting a new church about a year into our marriage. One special day, I recommitted my life to Christ, and my husband was saved. It was a very memorable moment in time for me! Not only were my husband and I united in an extremely deep and meaningful way, but God also blessed me abundantly by orchestrating a meeting with someone who would come to know me better than I knew myself. On that day, I met my dear friend Lizbeth! She and her husband were on call that weekend in the prayer room and, as God's plan would have it, had been praying for a couple to disciple... and of course, we were right on time! Over the course of the next 11 years, our friendship has flourished into something a kin to sisterhood. Although I have never known what it meant to have a blood sister, I do know how it feels to have a Liz... She is one of the first people I not only want to call, but need to call, when things go right or things go wrong. She helps to celebrate my victories, and is always there with a tissue, hug, and Coke during times of defeat. And the most amazing part of this relationship, is my desperate desire to be there for her whenever she needs me too. We need each other, just as close sisters do. I am so thankful that God had this relationship in His plan for my life. I don't think I would be where I am today without my dear friend's love and guidance, and I believe this is how God intended us to be with one another.

And yet, throughout my life, I have noticed how very little stock some women put in those special friendships. I have personally witnessed grown women treat the person they claimed to be their "best friend" with little or no appreciation at all. I have seen how women will twist words of love and encouragement into something foul and meaningless in an attempt to gain favor from people they believe to be in positions of authority. I have also watched women blatantly lie about the actions of their "friend" in an attempt to hide behind their own pride and sinful nature. It is so sickening. But mostly, it's just super sad. Friendship is not a gift that every person has, so it should be cherished! Just as that precious stone is housed safely in your velvet lined jewelry box, our special friends should be housed securely in our hearts. We should give them the benefit of the doubt when things come up that are out of character. We should immediately apologize when we mess around or mess up. I'm not saying we always have to agree with them, but we should treat them with the love and respect they deserve! Let's face it, we're only human! We all fall down, get dirty, mess up, and need help! Why do we feel it necessary to use our friends as a punching bag?! Why is it so easy to cast the blame their way, instead of accepting responsibility for our own selfish behavior?

When Jesus came down to the earth, He picked twelve special individuals to enter into His sacred circle of friends. He knew they weren't perfect, and yet He loved them any how. He knew they could and would fail Him, and yet, He forgave. He saw beyond what they were, and believed in who they could be. He even watched them walk away in His time of greatest need, and still ran to them when they were lost in the woods. That is what friendship should look like. That is the kind of friend I want to be. That is the kind of friend I want to teach my daughter to be! So how is your friend doing today?? Have you talked to her of late? What has she been celebrating? What has she been mourning? Don't just claim the title "friend", but do everything in your power to BE the FRIEND! And the next time you find yourself in need of it, I guarantee your friend will be there for you too!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Being Thankful for the Small Stuff

My sweet daughter just lost her first front tooth. Although she has lost a couple on the bottom, that top front tooth was a nightmare for her to get out. It was wiggly and giggly for a couple of months before it finally let go. It hung on so long it actually turned black before falling out! I really hated seeing that happen as well as hearing her worries that someone might make fun of her, but thankfully no one seemed to notice and the little bugger let loose and finally it was done! YEA!

While we were talking about her newly lost tooth, and looking at the buds of her permanent tooth already poking through the gum, she asked me, "Momma, where do those new teeth come from?" I explained to her what little I know about baby teeth... We get baby teeth because our mouths are not big enough as a baby to hold a full set of teeth. Later, when we grow big enough to house bigger teeth, God designed our bodies to allow the little ones fall out to make room for the new big ones. I also told her what I had come to believe about baby teeth... they are God's way of giving you practice. No child can be perfect at brushing and flossing while trying to learn to potty train!! And what kid could pass up a chocolate cookie or ice cream right before bed?? And do you really think they can remember to brush after?? So, it's my belief that God gives us a few extra years to get that other stuff down so that when we are big enough to start mastering good oral hygiene for real, those new teeth are coming in to reap the rewards! I know, it's not exactly a scientific theory or anything, but can you argue the logic?? LOL!

It was this conversation that left my daughter looking at me in awe. "Wow! Momma, God sure does a lot for us!" That nearly made me tear up! She got it! Something as simple as knowing God already had a plan for another tooth helped my daughter see how amazing our Father is at taking care of us! So why is it that I can't trust in Him to take care of my big things?? Jesus said in Matthew 18:3, ""Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." This is what he was taling about! Unless we are able to think like babes and trust in Him with every aspect of our lives, we will never understand what it means to be free from our sins. We must believe He has a plan, and walk knowing we are not alone. He is there for us in our every breath, our every hope, and even our every tooth! God is so awesome!

What are the little things you have neglected to be thankful for? How about that hot shower in the morning? the warm coffee in your mug? the ability to have that Bible sitting across your lap during your quiet times? And what are those big worries that have you down? Rent? Taxes? Relationships? Be thankful and trust that God has it all under control! After all, if He has a plan for your teeth, He will also have a plan for your life!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Drowning in a Sea of Life Jackets

I remember going through a pretty intense time about 16 years... I was 16 and still living at home with my folks at that time. As I have said in the past, every night was a "let's get drunk and point out Tilly's flaws" night, so you can imagine how much I tried to avoid being home at all costs. But I couldn't stay away forever, so I always found myself at home each evening getting my daily dose of degradation. It got to be pretty bad. One night, I don't know why or how I worked up the courage, but I shouted at my father, "Why can't you just STOP DRINKING?!" And you know what he said? "I will STOP DRINKING as soon as YOU stop your FAT MOUTH from EATING!" Yep, that pretty much sums up my self esteem vault. But you know what? A little part of me believed my father would stop drinking if I weren't fat. A little part of me prayed that what he was saying was true.

That was about the time I began my first serious diet. No, not just calorie counting mind you, I mean the big D-I-E-it. (I call it that because there is no way I would have been able to keep up what I was doing to myself for any greater length of time without dying!) I wouldn't eat more than 400 calories in any given day. I would take laxatives, about 9 a day, to move food through my system more quickly. I began popping diet pills like they were another food group and I watched my bones start to pop up against my skin. I remember thinking how much I wanted to be a size 2... it was all about that number. Of course, now I realize that with my bone structure I would have been dead long before reaching my goal size, but I think a part of me didn't really care. I think a part of me wanted it all to fall away, for me to be an invisible face in the crowd melting into nothingness.... but that's not what happens when you become thin.

When I began to see the physical effects of my diet, I felt pretty good about myself. I was finally in control of something! It was all up to me! No one could take the power away! I ruled over my own body! In time, however, I realized that I didn't much like the effect it was having on those around me. I started to notice guys looking at me who never paid me much attention before. It wasn't genuine attention though, I suddenly had become a conquest to them. It didn't mean anything to them - not really! That made me feel sick inside. I placed a fake smile on my face wherever I went. People thought I was a really happy person, but I wasn't. I was a great actress and I stared in a magnificent play every single day. No one suspected how miserable I had become.

One day, while working at one of my jobs, one person began to reach out to me. He was older than I was (about 43), and really seemed to like me for who I was. He worked at the same store I worked at and, at first, showered me with attention I didn't know I craved. We began seeing each other outside of work.... a movie here, a dinner there. How could this have been wrong when he made me feel so great about myself?! We were "dating" for about three months when I found out that he was actually married. Yep! I felt horribly crushed! I couldn't believe that this person who made me feel so great could be wrong for me! We discussed his marriage and, of course, he promised me he was planning on leaving his current wife really soon and then we could be together. I wish I could say that I slapped his face and ran away from him that very instant, but I didn't. I stayed. I believed him. I WANTED him to be mine. We continued dating for about three more months. I started to feel so disgusted with myself for constantly sneaking around with him... but those few stolen kisses made me forget... for a while. I think part of me knew it was all wrong. I KNEW all the wonderful attention that I basked in for all those months was never truly meant to be mine. Deep down, I knew it... I just didn't want to face up to it.

One day, after feeling too overwhelmed with my emotions regarding this person, I reached out to a friend for advice. I told her how he made me feel. How I wanted, no needed, to be with him. Do you know what she said to me? "Tilly, you have to end this. He is NOT good for you!! He is married and he can't be yours!" I wish I could say that I took her sound advice, but I didn't. I knew she was trying to help me, but that wasn't the help I wanted. I wanted someone to say, "hang in there Tilly! He'll be yours soon enough! Surely he'll be leaving his wife for you soon, right?!" But my friend, who loved me more than I deserved to be loved, couldn't say that to me.... she told me the truth and I ran away from her. I was drowning, she threw me her life jacket, and I threw it back at her. I would rather have continued flailing wildly in the sea of my own downfall than to accept the help she was offering. So stupid! To this day, it is one of my greatest regrets.

After my friend gave me her advice on running away from this man who was basically preying on my weakness, I began to look for advice from other people in my circles. It didn't take long before I found someone who gave me the advice I wanted to hear. I shook my head agreeing with a second friend's thought process on how this man would be mine some day. I swore to her that I cared about him enough to wait. And wait I did.... I waited for another three months. That's when I found him kissing another girl, who was younger than I was (14 years old), in the parking lot after work one day. I was devastated. Once again the man in my life that meant the most to me had thrown a dagger at my heart. It wasn't too long after this happened that this person moved on to another store. I cried when he left. I knew he didn't love me, but I sure did miss that attention...

I have learned so much from that experience. Sure, I messed up. I committed a horrible sin and to this day wish I could have done things differently. Sure, I could blame it on a pedophile of a man who worked with me, preyed on my weaknesses, and took advantage of me. I could blame it on my father, who pushed me to "better" myself to the point that I was desirable for this type of person. Or, I could even blame it on the second friend who encouraged me to pursue this relationship... but I can't. It's not their fault. It was all me. I am the one who made that choice. I am the one who, after seeing the truth, did nothing to fix things. I was in sin, and I loved it. Sin is nice. Sin is comfy. Sin gives you exactly what you think you need. But you know what, sin never made me truly happy. I was thin, desired, pursued, pleasured... but I was NEVER happy. Even WITH that man, I still felt completely alone.

But you know what?! God is so MARVELOUS! After my weakened heart began to heal from that first "relationship", He brought another man into my life. This man was smart, charming, funny, witty, and to this day remains one of my all time best friends! My hubby loves me just as I am. He even tells me how much he loves my chubby cheeks!! And no, I am not anywhere near a size 2... but you know what, I am happy to be the size I am! I am finally comfortable in my own skin! Not because of the man in my life or the church I go to or the job I work at.... but simply because I wake up each day knowing I don't deserve God's love and grace, but He gives it to me any how! If He can love me enough to see through my many faults, than I must be a pretty okay person! And no matter what happens in my life, I can always take comfort in the knowledge that I will never be alone again!

What sea are you drowning in today? Do you feel the weight of the world pressing you down? Stop and look around. You may be surprised to see quite a few life jackets just waiting to pull you free. Don't allow your pride to look beyond the help that loving friends can be offering. Don't allow the superficial pleasure of sin to blind you from those lifelines! Grab hold! Hang in there! God loves you where you are, but He refuses to leave you there!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Stop Placing Your Order and Start Taking Inventory!!

I'm having a bad day. I woke up not feeling well at all! I didn't have much energy, felt nauseous on and off, ran a slight fever, had a horrible headache, I was coughing, had a sore throat, and my arms and legs felt achy. I began coughing up disgusting stuff that I won't even begin to describe, and I pretty much curled up on the couch wishing I could fall asleep and not wake up for a solid week. I don't do 'sick' well. I guess part of the problem is that every time I was sick as a kid, someone would suggest that I was faking it and would encourage me to "stop being a baby". I don't ever remember having that mom that brought me chicken soup and fluffed my pillows. Did anyone have that?? Anyway, when I DO get sick, I usually try not to admit that I don't feel well. Of course, this usually results in getting even sicker and extending the length of my recovery time! UGH! I have a friend who is a pro at being sick. She usually pushes right through, takes whatever meds she needs and faces her day in spite of it all. She makes me feel like a bit of a weeny! LOL!

Have you ever noticed that when things get really rough in life, you start "making a list" of what God could do to fix it all. I found myself imagining what that must be like for Him.... He looks down at this precious child that He gave up His one and only Son to save and all He hears is gripe gripe gripe or moan moan moan about all the things they do/don't have. We go on and on about how miserable life is and how it would be so much better IF He could only give us this or this or that. Sometimes I wonder if He ever regrets that sacrifice simply because he is so fed up with our constant whining and complaining! Of course I know our God in Heaven would never think such a thing, but still.... it certainly proves to me that I could never come close to doing His job!

I admit it! I'm guilty! Sometimes I get so caught up with the things I need or am lacking that I forget the many blessings I have been given. Even on a day like today when I felt like yuck, I was blessed. My daughter was in great spirits and played by herself or watched her videos, my hubby works from home so I never truly felt alone in my yuck, and I had access to meds/water/food that I needed to make myself feel better. I even was blessed with a comfy robe and slippers (which I didn't remove all day) and a television to keep me company. Maybe we would all feel so much better in those hard times if we could only stop ourselves from seeing the problems long enough to take inventory of the blessings! When things are hard though, it seems like I place my orders with God about what I need fixed without being thankful for what I have. It's truly sad!

Did you wake up this morning able to walk across the room without feeling winded?? I know someone who didn't! Did you wake up with the ability to listen to your favorite song or watch your favorite show?? I know several who can't! Did you wake up this morning with a small child (or large one!) that gave hugs and kisses? A child who might have told you about their plans for the day or their hopes for the future? There are several people around the world who would give their very last dime for a chance to do just that! You have so many things to be grateful for! Even things that you do have that aren't so much fun - give thanks!!

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." EVERYTHING! Not just some things! EVERYTHING! Did you have a hard childhood like I did? Give thanks!! Do you have a handicap that makes your life hard at times? GIVE THANKS!! No, it ain't always easy, but neither was Jesus' payment for your life! He has done all of this for you! He has written the book of your life in such a way that you will be strong! So, BE STRONG! BE THANKFUL! BE HIS!

So in those times when you feel your life would be better if you had something else, STOP, THINK, and TAKE INVENTORY! Stop placing that order with God for a new life, a new situation, and new world, different friends, a new church, a new school!! Instead, START by taking inventory of the many blessings He has already given you - I promise it will make whatever situation you are currently in look and feel so much more blessed!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Me? I choose NOT to be a Victim!

Hello all! Sorry for the HUGE break in my blogging duties - 2009 is shaping up to be just as busy as 2008! UGH! I'm trying to get myself into a rhythm, but it is always easier said than actually done.

I was reading the blog of an acquaintance the other day, not a close personal friend or anything, just someone I know in passing... Out of idle curiosity, I checked to see how her life was faring, how her family was, what she was up to in 2009... To be honest, I was a bit annoyed at her take on "the woes of life." Frankly, the majority of the blog was a report on how many people in her life have wronged her in some way, shape, or form. She went on and on about those people who let her down and treated her like rubbish. This blog post read a bit like an obituary for her killed self esteem and the people who drove her to make mistakes of mass proportions. It was not HER fault, but their fault! "I wound NEVER have done THAT IF so and so wouldn't have".... blah blah blah. Those of you who know me can probably guess my first reaction... PITY. Yep, I admit that for a few minutes there, she had me. I felt her pain, her frustration, her fear... but then, I stopped and really read what she was saying. She complained. She whined. She fussed. She screamed and shouted "Not fair!" at every turn. Mostly, she played the victim. Oh, sure, occasionally she would throw in a "I'm so thankful for blah blah blah...BUT...". I'm telling you, this woman wasn't going to own up and take responsibility for anything she had said or done without the Good Lord walking into her kitchen and posting a sign to her forehead. She was NOT to blame! She had been wronged! UNFAIR!

Let me just say, in my personal and professional experience, life sometimes sucks! Sure, people mistreat you, sometimes they make massive mistakes that you have to live with, sometimes you fall down, other times you have to work to get up - it's hard! But it's not just hard for YOU! As REM so eloquently put it, EVERYBODY HURTS! Life is hard for EVERYONE!! Everyone feels pain! EVERYONE wants to scream and shout UNFAIR at some point in time! But what is the difference between those who do and those who don't? A simple choice really - will you be a victim or a victor?

My life has not always been so wonderful. Sure, you might look at me now with my adorable baby girl, my wonderful and caring husband who (I might add) cleans dishes for me on a regular basis, and you might think - "That Tilly, she just has always had it soooo easy." Okay, maybe you might not say that, but you might think it IF you didn't know me. I won't bore you with the endless details of my horrid childhood because frankly it is pretty personal AND it serves no purpose to rehash. But, to make my point, I will give you a glimpse at what I have lived...

My first memory was from about the age of five. (I know most people have memories from as early as three, but I truly believe that God has blessed me with a lack of memory from earlier days in order to protect me from what I have lived through.) One night, age approximately 5, at about two or three in the morning, I awoke from my bed to the sound of a horrid piercing scream. From a dead sleep, I jumped up out of my bed, sprinted down the hall and headed towards the bright lights in the kitchen. There, pushed up against the kitchen wall, was my mother. Her eyes were blood shot red and wild with fear. My father, whose face I couldn't see, had a long butcher knife pushed up against her throat. I screamed. Suddenly they both twisted around to glare at me. In that moment, I realized that both of my parents were completely drunk and both were mad AT ME for interrupting them. My mother (with a knife still at her throat mind you) screamed at me "What do you think you're doing out of bed?!" I remember sobbing loudly, turning around and running the full length of the hallway, slamming my bedroom door, crawling into the very back part of my closet, and curling up into a tight ball and sobbing. I began pretending that I was any where but there, and before I even knew who God was, I prayed that I could disappear. No one ever came in to talk to me. No one ever checked on me. No one came. That became the first of many nights that I would choose to escape to my closet in order to sleep. Want to know what is really strange?? The next morning, my mother and father acted as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened that night. I remember asking her what they were fighting about, but my mother just laughed, rolled her eyes and said, "You know how your dad gets sometimes." Yep, that was the first instance I can remember from my childhood.

I wish I could say that that was the worst thing that ever happened to me, but that wouldn't be true. What I can say is that my entire childhood was scattered with ridicule, anger, tears, and lots of pain (most emotional, but some physical). I can also tell you that my mother and father still act as though none of that ever happened. Basically, I am still alone in those memories. No one carries the burden of those memories but me. I'm still alone in that closet.

Sure, I could sit around and scream UNFAIR. I could stomp my feet and kick and most people would say I have just cause to do so. I could play the victim... but you know what? I don't want to. God has truly blessed me. Not just now, but back then as well. And no, I'm not just saying that! Out of that tumultuous past came the person I am today.... and I kind of like me! :-) I have learned so many valuable lessons from my life. I have learned to forgive others, even when they don't know/admit they need forgiveness. I have learned to tell my daughter every single day how beautiful, gifted, and precious she is to me. I have learned to LOVE and BELIEVE that my hubby thinks I'm pretty beautiful even when my hair is dirty and my shirt smells of baby poop. Sure, I still fight against some things, like trying to disappear into the crowd or shying away from the unknown (once again retreating to my closet), but I also know that I to try my hardest to see the best in those around me. I appreciate honesty and straight forwardness so very much because I never saw that growing up. And, more than anything else, I know that God BLESSED me with my past because He knew I was strong enough to carry through. That's a pretty amazing thought - how could I ever be a victim with that knowledge?!

So today, you get to make a choice. Will you look back on your life and dwell on how poorly you were treated? OR, will you look back on your life and be thankful for who you turned out to be? The sharpest sword is crafted in the hottest flame - be sharp. Be strong! Be a victor for God! It is your choice!