Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Woo-Hoo! That's My Boy!

We've just returned from a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia (in western Canada, for my fellow geographically challenged friends). As you might guess, I am full of stories, but I'm only going to share one story tonight, one I've been just bursting to share....

Excerpt from Ethan's Journal - Saturday 7/24/09
This has been the most wonderful day. We're on our fourth day at the cabin on Green Lake, and our fifth day of vacation. [Green Lake is about a five-hour drive from the Vancouver area, where Bill's family lives.]

The very best moment came this morning. After breakfast, the water was as smooth as glass, so you, Kurtis, and Travis gobbled the rest of your bacon and cinnamon rolls and then hurried to the boat for a second attempt at wakeboarding.

You had come so close on Thursday, and I just knew you'd get it today, especially since you'd just watched an instructional video--twice. Of course, it couldn't be that easy.

Aunt Lisa got in the water with you and showed you how to hold your feet and arms, and Uncle Cory tried to ease you out of the water. Twice you let go of the rope almost immediately. The third time, you were actually out of the water when you let go. One more time, and you'd have it! We all praised you profusely and encouraged you to try again. On the fourth try, you let go immediately. It was clear you were exhausted.

You climbed back into the boat, shoulders slumped in defeat. I wanted to comfort you, but I didn't want to make you cry, so I gave you space.

Kurtis [10 years old, two years younger than Ethan] was up next, and just like the last time, he got up on the first try. It obviously had not been a fluke.

Kurtis on Wakeboard

Travis [8 years old, I think] got up on his third try and flew all around the lake. I was happy for your cousins, and I cheered for them, but my heart ached for you. I knew you must be crushed to be the oldest and the only one who didn't wakeboard. There were so many things I wanted to say to you--like how proud I was that you'd kept trying--but I felt you still needed your space.

Travis on Wakeboard

When we pulled back up to the dock, you murmured that you wanted to try again, but there was no enthusiasm. I told you it was fine to wait if you didn't feel up for it, but Aunt Lisa said we should never discourage a child from trying again.

So she climbed back into that frigid water, and I heard her speaking kind, encouraging words to you as she helped you rehearse the motions your body would make. Both of you were shivering visibly, but you wore a look of grim determination.

On the first try, you got out of the water but immediately fell backward. Amid cries of "Good job! So close! You'll get it!", you got ready one more time.

And then... you were up! "Woo-hoo!" I screamed, and unexpected tears filled my eyes. You see, I'd first been praying that God would help you wakeboard, give you some fun today. But as I watched you try and fail, try and fail, I began praying that He would teach you the lesson in this, that you would stop comparing yourself to others and learn what you were capable of. You'd done it! You didn't quit when it got hard, and you didn't let embarrassment and disappointment ruin your day. I'd never been prouder of my boy--no, my young man.

I captured your triumphant grin on camera and video as you effortlessly boarded around the lake. Just as I'd suspected, your prior experience in skateboarding and snowboarding made you a natural once you finally figured out how to get up.

Ethan's Turn, At Last

When you were ready to stop, we circled back to the dock, where you let go of the rope and glided to a smooth stop, slowly sinking into the water.

Back ashore, I impulsively planted a kiss on Aunt Lisa's cheek while she sat shivering in the sun. "Thank you," I choked out, still hugging her. "You were so good, so patient with Ethan."

Lisa had tears in her eyes, too. She reported that Uncle Trevor had gotten teary eyed over all of you as well. "And they're not even my kids," he'd marveled....

Now, I wouldn't change the experience for the world. I know it was good for Ethan to struggle for what he wanted, and that the struggle made the victory all the sweeter. He is becoming a man right before my eyes, yet he's still a boy, too. I feel like I did when he was a toddler and growing too fast: these are the best years, and I want to savor them.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Aidan is With Our God

A couple of days ago I asked you to pray for Aidan. Thank you for your prayers. Today I need to ask you to pray for Aidan's family. He passed away yesterday, and I can only imagine what his parents must be experiencing.

Here is the update that Aidan's grandfather sent out last night:
This is Regi’s Dad, I will proudly and forever be called “Poppy” as this is what Aidan named me. My sweet Regina asked me to get something on the website tonight for her and Josh. This will be short; I know they will be reaching out to you soon.

Aidan is with our God, healed and whole, at peace and happy. Aidan fought harder than anyone thought possible or would have ever asked of him. He did not suffer which cannot be said for those of us who love him deeply and were with him. When he breathed his last, he was in his Mommy and Daddy’s arms and surrounded by his family. In the end, it was the swine flu and not the leukemia that took our Aidan from us.

Regi and Josh would certainly want me to thank you all for the outpouring of support, encouragement and prayers. These have and will continue to sustain us all through this terrible nightmare. PLEASE continue to pray for Regi, Josh and Ava as well as for the rest of us as we have many difficult days ahead.

God Bless You all.

Love,

Poppy

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Holy Crap, It's a Green Bean!

Look at this (if you can see it despite my nonexistent photography skills):


Can you see it? It's a real-live green bean pod. Soon we will be eating this green bean. Hopefully there will be others.

And look at the size of this fruitless squash plant!


Nestled under the graceful green canopy are three tightly folded yellow blossoms. I never saw them in all their glory; the squash plant seems really secretive about its beauty for some reason. But maybe, just maybe I'll soon find some yellow squash concealed under the protective leaves. I'm not giving up yet!

Finally, here are our baby tomatoes and their older siblings.


On the left are two tomatoes that might be full grown and hopefully will ripen soon. On the right, just underneath the Topsy Turvy planter, are two tiny new tomatoes. The biggest is approaching the size of a nickel.

By the way, we've had the plucked Roma tomato in the window for nearly a week now, and it shows no sign of ripening. Well, most of the time it's been in the sun, but Allyson likes to "plant" it with the marigolds and put it in other more bizarre places. I think we'll just cut it open and see what it looks like inside; that was my original plan.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Aidan's Hope

Here is one more child who desperately needs your prayers. Five-year-old Aidan was recently diagnosed with leukemia, but the biggest danger right now is lung damage from a severe bout of swine flu.

Please pray for Aidan as soon as you see this post. His father said tonight, "Aidan's only chance is a miracle. Please pray that he gets just that. Jesus is the ultimate physician, and he can heal my son. Please pray that it's his will."

Aidan is a relative of my friend Michelle, who sent the following email earlier tonight. Note the video link at the bottom.

Hi Everyone,

I wanted to share a story with all of you as a way to illustrate the power of prayer and the amazing ways God works through all of us.

In sending updates each week you never know who really has or takes the time to pray in the midst of busy schedules or dealing with their own life issues that can be so consuming. I was so inspired last night to learn that Bobbie, one of the sweetest ladies in my bible study who has been praying for Aiden had shared the emails with her son in Portland, Or. He was so touched by Aiden's story that he put this Amazing video together and posted it on Aiden's blog. This video meant so much to Regi and Josh and has touched so many people's hearts that have seen it that I wanted to share it with all of you.

I know God has laid all of you on my heart to send these updates to for whatever reason. Whether you don't know God, have chosen not to believe in Him, are undecided, or maybe you have just lost your Faith please have comfort knowing that He loves you and will never give up on you. Aiden's story is just one way that He can reveal His love to all of you and to give you hope in whatever it is you might be going through in your own lives.

"Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." Romans 15:4

Here is the link for the video. It's awesome but you might need your Kleenex!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d57YNGZDaRk You can click on this and see the Video.

Love in Christ,
Michelle

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Take Courage!

Once again, I just have to post about what I learned at Bible study...

In tonight's video, Beth Moore discussed Esther's transformation from fearful self-preservation to brave determination. When Mordecai asked her to go before the king and plead for her people, Esther initially replied that the penalty for approaching the king without being summoned was death. But when he suggested that she had come to her position for such a time as this, she realized that she had to fulfill her destiny. "If I perish, I perish," she said.

Here is how Esther came to that point of courage, and what this means to us:
  1. She made a choice. Esther had to overcome herself and her fears before she could take part in God's plan.

    -We can protect ourselves right out of our calling.
    -We are the biggest obstacle to fulfilling our purpose.
    -We may be one brave decision away from the most important turn in our path.
    -We have to look at our lives and ask, "Am I headed in the direction I want to end up?"

  2. Esther faced the fear. She did this by acknowledging the worst possible outcome ("if I perish") and deciding there was something else much more important at stake than her own life.

    -The enemy figures out what we fear most, and he threatens us over and over with our worst fears. If he can keep us paralyzed with fear, he'll succeed in making us suffer from something THAT WILL PROBABLY NEVER HAPPEN! He doesn't even have to bring calamity, just the fear of it.
    -The most frequent command in the Bible is, "Don't be afraid!"
    -We must stop trusting God to not let bad things happen to us! Instead, we must learn to simply trust God.
    -We cherish fear so closely that we can't shed it. And until we can learn to live without fear, we are hindered from following Jesus.
    -There is no denial in courage. We don't need to deny that we have cancer or have lost our job or ____. We just need to deny that these situations have authority over us.

  3. Esther took the courage she was offered. She asked the Jews in the city of Susa to fast and pray for her, and she trusted that God would take care of her.

    -God will always offer us the courage of his presence. He will never leave us or forsake us.
    -"Courage" comes from the Latin word "cor," which means "heart." A heart that knows it is loved does not fear, for "perfect love casts out fear." (1 John 4:18).
    -When Jesus came to the disciples on the water, he said, "Take courage. It is I." (Matthew 14:27) He wants us to take courage, also. The courage is there, because Jesus is there, but we have to take it.

The Fear of Death
As I have shared previously, God delivered me from my intense fear of death last year, but I was still thrilled by the truths that Beth shared about death. She told us that:
  • When Jesus embraced death and destroyed the Devil's power over death, he freed all of us who were in slavery to our fear of death (Hebrews 2:14).
  • Jesus has come to give us life, more abundantly (John 10:10). We can't really live if we're constantly in fear of death (or fear of anything).
  • We don't need to fear death because we've already been dead! We were dead in our sins, but now we are alive in Christ, and we have eternal life. (Colossians 2:13, Ephesians 2:6, Galatians 2:20)

The Revelation
The theme of tonight's session was: "It's tough being a woman in the tight fist of fear." For the third time, I felt the study could have been written specifically for me. I've been that woman! But as Beth said, I'm sick of being afraid. I'm tired of worrying that I might lose my job, lose the house, lose a child, lose my husband, lose my health. I'm tired of being afraid to take risks or even make new friends.

Tonight I have hope that I can be free of those fears, and I'm ecstatic about that. Here's the most important thing I learned tonight, something so simple and so profound...

Beth told us how she had been set free from a fear that her husband would fall in love with someone else. She said God told her to go ahead and think about the worst case scenario. What would happen? She invited us to think about the same thing:

If _________________ , then __________________ .

What came to Beth's mind when she thought through this was that she'd be devastated, crushed. She would lie on the floor with a Bible over her face. God kept asking, "Then what?" When she got to the end of all the terrible possibilities, she finally said, "I would go back into ministry. I would be mad, but I would go on." That's when she realized that no matter what might happen to her, God would be with her, and she would survive.

She told us to fill in that if/then sentence like this:

If __(your fear here)__________ , then God will take care of me.

If I can learn to believe that, I don't have to fear anything!

The Virtuous Woman
Just when I thought I knew everything there was to know about the "virtuous woman," or "the wife of noble character" as she is called in the NIV translation, Beth taught me something I didn't know about this beloved memory passage.

In Proverbs 31:10, the word translated "virtuous" or "noble" is the same word used in Judges 6:12 to describe Gideon as a mighty man of valor. This means the virtuous woman is also the courageous woman! From now on, when I meditate on that passage, I am going to believe that that description applies to me. I don't have to be Sarah The Fearful any longer.

I'll conclude by repeating a question that Beth asked of us tonight:

CAN YOU IMAGINE LIVING WITHOUT FEAR?

I intend to find out what that's like.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Josh, Luke, and Kate

Here are three children I've been praying for:


Kate

Luke and Kate have malignant brain tumors. Joshua has brain damage from loss of oxygen due to an adverse reaction to medication.

This morning I read an update from Josh's grandmother, who requested that a letter she had previously circulated through email be sent out again. She's hoping to harness the power of the Internet so that thousands and thousands of people will be praying for Josh. The text of her letter is included at the bottom of this post in case you feel drawn to his plight and want to distribute it through your own blog, email, or Facebook page.

Following these stories has been quite an experience. On a good day, I quickly read the latest update and then call Allyson over to the computer. We look at a picture of the child and then hold hands and pray over the need. I usually have tears streaming, but Allyson is grinning from ear to ear. She prays with such jubilance and confidence. "God, please 'betect' him," she prays, or "Please help her mama and daddy be happy."

I'm so thankful Allyson is growing in her faith and learning to care about others. It reminds me of praying with my own mother when I was a preschooler. I was always in awe of Mom's prayers, and I fully expected God to answer her requests. (He did.) If I can be half as good an example as Mom has been, my children will be well equipped to face life's challenges.

And then there are the not so good days. To be honest, sometimes I don't have the energy to read the updates that periodically come via email. It's not that I mind spending a couple of minutes praying for these precious children, but that it's emotionally exhausting to face someone else's pain. It makes it impossible to keep believing that nothing like this could ever happen to me. It makes me feel hopelessly inadequate because there's nothing I can do to ease these strangers' pain.

This morning was one of those days when I felt too tired to think about Joshua's battle. When I saw the update in my Inbox, I thought, "I'll read it later. After I finish the laundry. Or maybe tomorrow." But then I remembered a friend's recent post about refusing to be numb any longer, and I knew that this was not the response that Jesus would have if I were the one in need. He wouldn't purposely make himself numb to my pain. He would bear my burden, just as he expects me to help others bear their burdens. He would be "at the right hand of God, interceding" for me (Romans 8:34).

Needless to say, Allyson and I prayed fervently for Joshua, and then Luke, and then Kate. Just as I knew I would, I'm now feeling utterly drained. Like my friend Melissa, I'm going to let myself feel the pain. And I'm going to let that pain push me toward Jesus.

Tears of Joy
Watching these families over the past weeks and months has been more rewarding than I could have known. I'm in awe of their courage, patience, and steadfast faith. You'll see what I mean if you watch this video of Kate's parents.

I'm thankful for the transparency of all of these parents and grandparents, and I'm rejoicing in the blessings that have unfolded in the midst of their painful situations--such as the outpouring of love from friends, family and strangers. No one but God can make something so beautiful out of something so terrifying!


Josh's Letter
Here is the letter that Luke's grandmother, Kathy, is asking us to distribute. Please do so if you feel so led...

Dear Friends,

On Nov. 1, 2007, our 13 year old grandson Josh Eberly went into a local clinic and had the last allergy shot in a series of 7. He'd been receiving this for a year. Josh has asthma also.

On this particular date they were running late and even asked the clerk at the desk if they were too late to get the shot. Oh how I wish they'd had the doors locked that day because while he was given that shot the person giving it to him was discussing trick or treating with him. Josh explained that they don't do trick or treating and the clerk gave him some candy.

The shot was given at 6:15 PM and within 2 minutes Josh had an allergic reaction. His last words to his mother as he was falling to the floor was "Help me!".

Because the clinic had nothing there except the epi pen for such things Josh suffered cardiac arrest. The ambulance was busy in that community so they had to radio one from the nearby town. Valuable time was lost. Our daughter tried to administer CPR but began to hyperventilate.

We took the call around 6:23 from Josh's brother Jake (our oldest grandson). He was hysterical and it took me awhile to get out of him what had happened. We headed there not even knowing where he was. At first I thought maybe they had been riding their bicycles and something had happened to Josh. The words he said to me were "Grandma, you need to pray for my brother. It's BAD!" as he was screaming!

By the time we got there, Josh was being placed into the ambulace. The local hospital got him stable as he literally died. His eyes were fixed and dilated. He was life-flighted to Mott's Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor where he spent the next 102 days. They say he went without oxygen for 20 minutes. We think it wasn't that long but still too long.

After the first week an MRI was done. They had a meeting where we were told the worse of the worse. They said he'd never be able to gag, cough, walk, talk and that he would always be on life support. They told us we should let him go. Of course, our faith in God told us that as long as there was life, there is hope.

We were devastated! Josh's whole family held fast to our beliefs. We prayed and prayed. Our Pastor and his wife came up and prayed with all of us. The next day Josh started doing some of those things they had just told us he'd never be able to do. So they became "hopefully optimistic". So are we.

Josh now goes to Ann Arbor twice a week. He is making progress and we have faith in God and know that God is able. It's been difficult for the whole family because Josh's dad quit his job in order to take full time care of Josh. He's in a wheelchair and can not move or speak. He's in a minimal state of consciousness.

The reason I'm sending this email is because we are requesting prayer. Our prayer focus is that Josh will begin to move his arms or legs, fingers, toes...That he would speak...a word, anything...now he moans or groans and yells. We believe he's trying very hard to come back to us. He is making progress, be it ever so slow.

Even though he suffered from a lack of oxygen we believe that God can restore anything that was lost. His memories, cognitive abilities, neurons, transmitters and all the other things that go along with an anoxic brain injury. (lack of oxygen)

When you receive this please say a prayer for Josh and pass this email on to everyone in your email list. I can't promise as other emails do, that if you send this to 12 people within 12 minutes something good will happen to you ... or if you don't that something terrible will happen to you. We just want to bombard heaven, as we've been doing for the past several months, but sometimes people forget to fervently pray. Josh stays home for the most part in order to keep him away from infections, etc. He's very vulnerable right now. So out of sight, out of mind maybe? Many are praying faithfully for Josh to be restored and we do SO appreciate that.

Please say a prayer specifically for the things mentioned and pass this email on to as many other people who you know will pray for Josh.

In the meantime we've set up a carepage for Josh where you can get all the information and more recently a caringbridge site. The address for carepage is www.carepages.com and put joshuaourwarrior in for the title. The CaringBridge site is www.caringbridge.org/visit/joshuaeberly THERE ARE PHOTOS POSTED ON BOTH OF THESE SITES

Kathy Giles
Josh's Grandma
kggma@yahoo.com

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Evidence Against Allyson is Mounting

Remember Saturday's Missing Tomato Mystery? Well, Allyson is looking more and more like a prime suspect....

While I was weeding this evening, Allyson was standing on the other side of the tiny fence that is supposed to keep Lola out (it doesn't). Allyson mumbled something like, "I wonder if I could pick this tomato."

I was so intent on delicately excising a weed that was dangerously close to a clump of lettuce that it took a fraction of a second too long for her words to register. I cried, "No, don't..." as I turned toward her, just in time to see the two-inch Roma tomato plunk onto the dirt.

"Allyson!" I wailed. "Why did you DO that??"

"I'm sorry, Mama," she said automatically.

"I'm so disappointed! I've been waiting and waiting for that tomato to turn red so we could eat it."

"Maybe it will still turn red, Mama."

"No, it won't. Now it's dead. I'm so disappointed," I repeated.

"Maybe we can put it back on," Allyson suggested hopefully.

"No, we can't."

"When it rains again, another tomato will grow," she soothed.

"Maybe, but I kind of doubt it. That was the only tomato on this giant plant."

"Can I hold it?" she asked sweetly.

"I guess, but don't smash it. And don't give it to Lola," I warned as she started to run to Daddy, who was mowing in the front yard. "No, wait. Let's take a picture."

Allyson Attempting to Look Remorseful

Her True Feelings on the Matter


Allyson Redeems Herself
After she posed for her picture, Allyson spotted two new-born tomatoes on the Topsy Turvy plant, each smaller than the tip of my pinkie. I'm not giving up on my marinara sauce yet!

Her perfunctory apology notwithstanding, she couldn't conceal her excitement as she raced to show Bill the tomato.

"Where did you get that tomato?" Bill asked, his eyebrows raised. "Did you pick it?"

She pressed her lips together in a sheepish grin. "I picked it and Mama was real disappointed and she took a picture while I said I'm sorry," she explained.

I confirmed that that was the way it happened. Bill instructed her to set it in the window sill next to the marigolds that she got from the library. Maybe the tomato will ripen in the sun?

I couldn't stay mad at my little tomato thief even if I wanted to. She snuggled up in my lap while she watched her daily 30 minutes of TV, and I delighted in the deliciousness of her--such a sweet little imp!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Carrots Died!

Before we left for our road trip to Indiana about three weeks ago, the carrots seemed to be thriving. It was so fun to watch the sprouts develop the unmistakable look of carrot tops. I was tempted to dig one up; would it be a baby carrot?

On the phone each night while I was gone, Bill assured me that nothing had changed with the garden. He reported that he was faithfully watering it (he's always the one who waters, actually), but he didn't mention that he had allowed a few weeds to take up residence.

We Have Tomatoes!
Imagine my surprise when I stepped out into the backyard after our nine-hour drive and found that there were THREE little green tomatoes on the Topsy Turvy plant... and one tiny Roma tomato on the vine in the garden.


"Nothing new," he says! I had to wait a couple of hours to ask him about the tomatoes; he was in California on a business trip. When I finally talked to him, he said he had kept quiet because he didn't want to get my hopes up. He figured they wouldn't amount to anything.

My second discovery was not so wonderful. My green, robust carrot tops were now stubbly brown wisps of hay. "What happened??" I wailed to Bill over the phone. He said they had gradually shriveled up once the temperature exceeded 100. "Maybe they'll come back," he suggested feebly.

Half of the green bean plants had suffered the same fate as the carrots, but the other plants were leafy and green and had little white nubs that, to my untrained eye, resembled buds.


Since about the only real work I do with the garden is obsessive weeding, I couldn't exactly blame Bill for the demise of my two favorite vegetables. Still, I'm glad it happened on his watch.

Poor Lola
Of course, I did something worse on my own watch. I almost killed the dog. I promised Bill that I'd remember to give her food and water each morning and evening, but maybe I was too distracted by the dead carrots. I remembered to feed her the first evening, but the next morning I forgot to give her fresh water. I was just about to climb into bed at 11:00 that evening when I remembered that I needed to feed Lola before bed. I ran downstairs to find her staring forlornly through the back door.

"Oh no!" I said. "I forgot to feed you this morning."

Lola didn't say anything, just kept looking from me to her bone-dry water bowl and back again. After I'd filled the bowl, she eagerly bumped against me as I set it down, and the water sloshed on the ground. She lapped up the water greedily, and I apologized over and over as I listened to her endless gulping. Finally, she stopped to take a breath... and then she threw up water all over the slate tiles. I didn't even step back. She turned back to the bowl and took several more gulps.

When she'd had her fill, I knelt beside her and petted her--something I very rarely do because she's an outside dog, and she sheds, and she's very stinky. But at this point it didn't matter. "I really do love you!" I told her tenderly and remorsefully. Mentally, I reassured myself that this was not some subconscious attempt to solve my dog problems.

I shudder to think what might have happened if I hadn't given Lola water that evening. With this unbearable heat, I don't think it would take long to die of thirst. For the last two days that she was in my care, I fed her right on time each morning and evening, and I even gave her some extra Milk Bones. Each time I served her meals, I dutifully petted her and then raced inside to wash my hands.

Lola's Revenge
Since then, the carrots have NOT come back, though we discovered one living plant in the shade of the marigolds. Apparently we should not have planted the poor carrots in direct sun, or maybe we should have planted them earlier in the season. But I'm holding out hope that we may get to eat ONE home-grown carrot by the end of the summer.

The green beans still have lots of white nubs on them, but I haven't noticed any full-fledged flowers, nor any little bean pods. The seed packet said 75 days, which would be around the first of August. I'm crossing my fingers.

The tomatoes have been slowly plumping up, though they're still small. But now there are only three of them. When I did my daily rounds this past Saturday, I abruptly turned on my heel when I passed the Topsy Turvy plant. Something was not right.... "HEY!" I shouted. "Where's the other tomato?"

"Huh?" Bill said.

"There were three. But now there are two. Where's the other one?"

"What's Lola eating over there?" Bill asked.

She wouldn't... Oh yes, she did. She had a green, pulpy mush between her paws, and she was eating greedily. I didn't think dogs even liked tomatoes, but then she's always had it in for my tomato plants. "How did she get it down?" I wondered.

We looked at the pristine plant and decided there was no way this was the work of Lola. The shorn stem had been precisely cut, almost as if with scissors. And this was the highest tomato on the plant. If Lola had leapt up and snagged it, surely there would have been some damage to the rest of the plant.

Ethan noticed that Allyson's little plastic table was suspiciously close to the tomatoes. He was convinced that she had picked the tomato and fed it to Lola, who will eat anything you give her, even rocks. But Bill didn't think Allyson could have reached it, and she denied all knowledge.

Bill thinks it was a bird, but I don't know. Wouldn't a bird EAT the tomato if it took the trouble to steal it?

I guess we'll never know. But I sure hope I get to eat my three tomatoes. Maybe I can make them into a tiny bowl of sauce for dipping garlic bread.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Maybe You're Not the Only One

What I'm loving most about this Esther Bible study is how I can relate to so many of the emotions these characters experienced centuries ago. An even bigger surprise is that I'm not the only one who feels that way. There are about 250 women in this study, 12 at my table, and it seems that this study is hitting home with nearly everyone.

The History
Yesterday's theme was: "It's tough being a woman in a mean world." Beth explained the history of the rivalry between Mordecai the Jew and Haman the Agagite--the villain of the story. We learned that generations earlier, King Saul had disobeyed God's order to annihilate the Amalekites. He had spared King Agag, and Haman was a descendant of that king. (1 Samuel 15:10-23, 30). The Amalekites were fierce enemies of the Jews who had attacked them when they were defenseless in the wilderness--picking off the stragglers at the back of the line, most likely the elderly and the sick. (Deuteronomy 25:15-17, Exodus 17:8-16). This is why God vowed to destroy them completely.

Haman, therefore, had come from a long line of wrathful, violent people, and he utterly hated the Jews. When Mordecai refused to bow to him, he became enraged and ultimately plotted the annihilation of all the Jews in Persia.

The Reasons
This was all very fascinating, but I really took notice when Beth started talking about the mean people in our world today, specifically the mean girls. About mean girls, she said:
  • Meanness always has a history. When you come up against a mean girl, consider that there is a reason behind her hatefulness.

  • Meanness occurs when we perceive a threat. Women measure themselves against other women who feel like a threat.

    When you catch yourself being mean, identify why you feel threatened. Talk to God about it.

  • Meanness catches like a virus. Proverbs 22:24-25 warns that if you hang around with angry people, you may learn their ways. (I've seen this over and over at work. One person gets riled up about something, and suddenly an entire team is whipped into a frenzy of righteous indignation.)

    Coming into contact with a mean girl raises up your own mean girl. This is especially true when mean girls mess with one of your daughters. (I dread experiencing this when Allyson starts school.)

  • Insecurity is at the heart of every rivalry. Anger feels like a source of power for those who feel helpless.
The Cure
The good news is that "meanness is curable." Romans 12:17-21 admonishes us not to repay evil for evil, but to live at peace with everyone. We are not to take revenge when we are wronged, but leave the revenge to God. We can overcome evil with good.

Beth challenged us to love the mean girl--even that girl who wears provocative clothing and tries to get our man's attention. If we consistently love her with Christ's love (which is probably the only way we could love someone like that), either it will just drive her crazy, or it might prick her conscience. I've experienced this scenario numerous times, and I've always failed the test miserably. I pray the next time I feel threatened by a mean girl who seems to be after my husband, I can put this lesson into practice.

When Beth talked about women comparing themselves with other women, my mouth dropped open. You see, only a couple of hours earlier, I'd been talking to God about that very thing in the shower, asking him why I can't stop comparing myself with other women. I was feeling down because I'd spent some time with a few acquaintances that day, and as always I felt like an outsider--by my own choosing.

My Struggle
Lately I've been trying to develop new friendships, but it is a constant struggle. I find myself comparing everything and finding that I am different for some reason: maybe she has more money or less money, maybe she's thinner or heavier, maybe she's a perfect mom and I am not, maybe she seems more or less spiritual than me, maybe her hair is always absolutely perfect, probably she's younger. Whatever the reason, I conclude that I just don't have anything in common with this woman, and I find it very uncomfortable to make conversation. I'm fine in a group setting, but when I try to take the next step and get to know someone, it feels like a blind date, and I just can't relax.

I've been pushing past this awkwardness because I really do want to make new friends, yet I find it discouraging that I can't seem to overcome this struggle and just ENJOY being with some very nice, very interesting people.

This morning I cried during my quiet time and admitted that I can't change this about myself. I acknowledged that I am weak, and I asked God to teach me to love as he loves, to see the women around me through his eyes. I asked him to help me not just tolerate my time with acquaintances, but to actually enjoy the beauty of all the diversity around me.

The Revelation
Later in the morning, my friend Gentle asked me about my thoughts on the study. As we talked over the shouting children in the McDonald's play area, I confessed to her that it took me a very, very long time to really feel comfortable with her. I told her that when we first started taking walks together a couple of years ago--has it been that long?--I had to force myself to go. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy talking with her once I got there, it was just that I felt safer and more comfortable at home. I wondered if she liked me, and I wondered if I was going to like her. I wondered if I was going to let myself love her, and then she would let me down.

Gentle told me something that absolutely shocked me: she said she had felt exactly the same way! Her husband Sean had had to push her to make the effort. "She's a nice lady!" he'd told her. "Get to know her better."

We're both so glad that we pushed past that "blind date" phase because we are dear friends now. Hanging out with Gentle is like putting on my faded, frayed comfy jeans. More importantly, I know I can go to her when I need prayer or advice, or simply when I need a hug. (I drove over there a couple of months ago just for that reason.) And I hope she feels the same way.

Gentle said, "Now that you know that we both had a hard time at first, yet it turned out so well, try to remember that the next time you're struggling with a new friendship."

How About You?
Do you ever watch other women talking and laughing, and think, "Why is it so easy for them and so hard for me?" Do you ever feel like you're just different from everyone else, or that there's something wrong with you?

Guess what? I'm beginning to think that most of us feel that way. But we don't have to let that stop us from loving each other--indeed, Jesus has commanded us to love one another. And that is the key to everything.
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