What in the World is Going On?

I have been so heartsick lately to read stories one after the other of men being caught in pornography, extra marital affairs, child molestation. What in the world is going on in our society? It feels like we live in a sex craved, depraved world. Oh wait, we do. I don’t pretend to understand the reasons these things happen or how to fix it. But, I am a mom of boys and I would like to suggest to you some things that I think make it tough for boys to keep their minds, eyes and hands to themselves. (I would love to sit down and talk to you about it over a cup of coffee because I am sure that you have some ideas about this subject too.) My boys are 19 and 16, and I am not under any illusion that they are perfect examples, but they are good boys and they do desire to treat women like they deserve, like ladies. This has been a life long journey for our family. I remember when they were small monitoring the TV like a basketball player guards his team goal. If something came on that we felt wasn’t appropriate, we would jump and run to stand in front of the TV or wave our arms to focus their attention somewhere else. (Go ahead, laugh, I did more than once at myself, but it worked and that’s what mattered.  I do wonder what the neighbors must of thought when they saw shadows through the windows of adults jumping and arms flailing! Never a dull moment at the Carlson’s for sure!)  It wasn’t the TV show they were watching that I was worried about, I knew the content, it was the commercials. When they came on you had to sit perched on the edge of your seat and hit the channel button and pray the delay on the TV didn’t take too long. That was 10 years ago, those commercials seem G rated compared to the ones now. (Why does Hardees think a scantily dressed woman will make me want to buy a hamburger? Seriously, when I see those commercials I lose my appetite.) I am just tired of all the sex driven propaganda and sex filled media. It seems that every primetime show on television these days has people half dressed, having sex, multiple sex partners, lying, cheating and no commitment to anything that is difficult. (Some evenings after I breeze through the channels I’m either shocked, offended, depressed, angry or all of the above.) Why are we surprised when boys/men act out on what has been filling the TV and movie screens for years? Is it okay? No, of course not. But, honestly, why is it okay on the silver screen? Double standard if you ask me. And a confusing message to send to our boys and young men. I remember walking in the mall when my oldest son was a young boy, probably 6 or 7, and literally covering his eyes when we passed a popular ladies intimates store. It was back when they first started putting those large, life sized posters in the windows that didn’t keep much of anything a “secret,” if you know what I mean. We were walking together my hand over the side of his face covering his eyes so he could see straight ahead but not on the side where the posters were. An older man was walking by us and he laughed at my attempt of protection, but was quick to wish me well in my endeavor. That was just the beginning. We had to watch videos more than regular television, read the reviews on every movie, monitor which books came home from the library and don’t even get me started on the magazines that lined the checkout aisle in our local supermarket. (I made it my personal mission to turn the magazines around in the rack when half-dressed girls or guys were on the front of them, it was my gift to the next mom with kids and teenagers that naively wandered up unsuspecting. All we want to do is pay for our groceries people!) Fast forward to today. Why does our society make it feel so wimpy or out of touch to desire a sex free relationship until marriage? Or to pass on a R rated movie? And, why did the book series about sex bondage have an audience? Seriously? Would you really want your daughter to act like that, be treated like that? I would have a cow if my boy ever thought it was okay to belittle a woman like that!! Our culture glorifies so many things in the movies or on TV that we would never approve of in real life. Our young will watch what they see us watching and what is filling our conversations will eventually fill theirs. My husband and I have spent our parenting days feeling like we are swimming upstream in an effort to help our boys maintain a level of purity of mind and heart. It has been a struggle. Some days we feel like champions, successful and wonderful. Other days, we feel like failures, like we’re done trying, like giving up. But, we know quitting is not an option so we gather our courage and keep going. I have noticed while on this journey of parenting boys that there seems to be a real desire in many of them to be gentlemen. Really. They love the idea of being Prince Charming or Superman or Captain America or maybe to be like their youth pastor, or big brother or dad. They want good role models. Most boys like it when a girl looks up to them.  (Male ego, ever heard of it?) And what is society offering them ?   A pitiful counterfeit for what a man ought to be. Just watch primetime TV tonight and you’ll see what I mean. We are not one of those families who kicked the TV out of the house, we allow our kids to read good, popular books, we don’t feel like the movie theatre is the root of all evil, and we send our kids to public school. (Although I totally understand why people feel they need to make drastic changes in their homes regarding these issues nowadays.)  We are a very average and normal family. (Well mostly normal, I mean, what is normal anyway?) We want to raise good boys that will marry your good daughters. We want them to bring a relatively healthy heart into the relationship. Not perfect or pretending to be, just genuine and transparent. We want them to turn their heads the opposite direction when they walk by those suggestive places in the mall, to respect the girl they are with and the one they will eventually marry. To watch TV shows that are clean and not to be on any internet site that they wouldn’t show your daughter or their mom. (Side note, I told my boys if they ever take a girl to a place where they wouldn’t be comfortable taking me, then it probably isn’t a good idea. That’s always a good standard.) But of all the things we did to avoid negative media, the one thing that was most important and has had the most impact was when we invited them into a relationship with Jesus. All the self-control in the world won’t keep a heart and mind pure, only Jesus can do that. He can reach the places in the heart of your son that you never will. Pray for him. Only the Lord knows how many nights I’ve laid awake praying for my boys, all my children. Then, I’ve gotten up and done my best to live what I said I believed, to act on my convictions. It has never been perfect and never will be, but it is authentic. (Authenticity hasn’t always been true for me, but the Lord has done a changing work in my heart as I’ve gotten older. And, I have also learned that kids can see through a person who is disingenuous. So, if you’re in need of a deeper change, don’t be discouraged, ask the Lord and he will do the work that needs to be done in you. Trust me, He is faithful.) Boys can see that, and even when they are momentarily swayed out into the dark waters of promiscuity, most will sooner or later return when they continue to see the lighthouse of love and hope offered to them in the form of a Savior that won’t give up on them, parents who will fight for them and lots and lots of and consistency. I really do believe this, I’ve watched it in my own life and in the life of my precious boys. Hang in there mommas and daddies! One day it will be worth all the effort. And, remember you are not alone in your upstream swim against the current of our culture, there are others out there swimming against it right along with you. Well, I’ve said my piece, now I think I’ll go see what’s on TV, gee, I wonder what’s on tonight? Sex, cheating, lying, tragedy, death? You know, I think maybe I’ll just go to bed.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.”   Psalm 119:37

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Ten Months Today

I don’t know what happens at a nine to ten month milestone when someone you love with all of your heart dies, but something does. It has been a difficult month, I feel like I have taken steps backwards. There is a heaviness that lingers all the time. I’ve been told repeatedly that it is a year of “firsts,” and that has been an accurate description. First Thanksgiving, first Christmas, first New Year, first birthday, anniversary, and the first school year just recently started without her and we shared back to school photos that she will never see. I missed calling her constantly while I was trying to get Christian back to college and dealing with car issues and just everyday “stuff.” Nothing important. Just sharing the everyday, mundane happenings of life that pass all too quickly. I still have her number on speed dial in my cell phone, even though I will never be able to dial it again. I would give almost anything to look down at my ringing phone and see her picture and name pop up. I miss our lunch dates where we talked of work, grandkids and the house she and daddy were working on in the country. She never owned a home in the over thirty years they were in ministry, they always lived in parsonages, until they bought a little house on some land in Florida. She was so happy about it and only she could see the beauty in it past all the work it most definitely needed. (I personally would’ve run for the hills before I would’ve bought that fixer upper. But, she loved it and loved spending her days off working on it.)  I just miss her. I am going on, life is moving forward, but it is through eyes blinded with tears that I walk many days. I take after her when it comes to plants, so when I see one of mine looking like a brown stick rather than green and healthy, I think of all the conversations about how terrible we were with them, and I smile. I miss going into the office, where we worked together, and having a cup of coffee while we talked about the tasks that needed to be finished. I get so caught up in my own grief that I forget that others are grieving her loss as well. Sometimes at work I will see her handwriting on something and I’ll get a lump in my throat, only to look up and see my dear friend, who worked with mom as well, with tears in her eyes. She loved her too. It touches me deeply. I am very aware of my dad’s depth of loss, and my sister’s, but sometimes I wonder how my kids are feeling. This morning Jeff shared with me that Travis has a picture locked on his phone of my entire church family up around the alter praying for my mom. It was last February and she had been going through chemo for a year. She was so sick. He was sitting up in the sound booth to operate the computer for our song slides and he had the presence of mind to take a picture of the beautiful sight. I had no idea. He simply put “praying for you grandma,” and texted the picture to her. Then he locked it up on his phone so it couldn’t be erased, ever. How precious. I am still crying about it as I type this. Life is messy, isn’t it? Just painful and messy. I keep looking for the breakthrough that I’ve been told is going to come as a relief from all of this grief, but none has. I keep waiting for a day to pass where I don’t want to cry at least once, but they are few and far between. I long to see her face and to hear her voice, but all I hear is silence. I work hard to keep her image in my mind. I never want to forget. I want to hang on to every single memory I have. Like begging her to take a drive with me for no good reason, just to spend time with her. I make that drive by myself more these days. Or the time when we were living in a different town and Jeff was going through flight training, I asked her to come down and spend a month with me  to help me start a new job. She said yes, and we had the best time  together. We would get the kids to school and then later eat lunch at Sonny’s. We’d order pork sandwiches and tea and talk about everything and nothing. I will cherish those memories for the rest of my life. She wasn’t just my mom, she was my best friend, confidant and spiritual mentor. She left behind a huge hole, a gap that can never be filled. Folks over that last several months have told me that I’ll get used to it, I doubt it. I am learning to cope, but it is a long bumpy road to healing. Thank you to all of you who have prayed, I would literally not be able to stand up under this if it were not for you. And to those of you who loved her and miss her too, bless you, bless you for bearing some of this pain with us. She really was a great lady, not a perfect lady, but a really great one. I will spend my life blessing her name, and reminding everyone close to me to “make grandma proud.”

10 Months today08.27.2015

To my mom: I will see you in heaven, save me a seat or walk slowly and I’ll catch up, whichever applies.   I will be looking for you first when I get there, I can hardly wait to see your face. I love you so much and I miss you every day. I will never be the same, but I won’t let all this loss be without hope and purpose. I will keep passing on the legacy that you left in me and I will love my kids the way you loved me. Unconditionally. Fully. Till the day the Lord took you home.  Miss you…see  you again someday.

Proverbs 10: 7a  “we have happy memories of the godly.”

Psalm 61:7-8 “Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.  My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”

Family Camp, famous for its tabernacles with no walls and NO air-conditioning in the dorms….

Sitting on the porch this morning enjoying the beautiful sunshine and the birds singing. I was feeling a little sorrowful, missing my sweet mama. I closed my eyes to think and pray. In the silence, with the birds and the bugs as background music, I could hear the humming of the ceiling fan. My mind was taken back to earlier days, a memory from many years ago. Back to simpler times; family camp. Famous for its tabernacles with no walls and NO  air-conditioning in the dorms.  Where you sleep on beds that are as old as your grandma and fight off flying insects the size of small birds. (Thank goodness for Lysol and Off bug spray, two staples for any family camper.) An event that  always takes place in the middle of the scorching hot summer and usually in the midst of a drought. (Did I mention there was no air-conditioning?) Some of you will have no idea what I’m talking about, but if you’ve ever been, it’s burned into your  heart and mind forever. Families from near and far gather to hear the word of God and spend time together, encouraging one another for several days before heading back home to face reality.  And when I say time together, I mean it.  Morning chapel, meal time, swim time (Boys and girls separately, of course. Although, I am not sure why, we all knew the boys were hiding right around the corner.), snack time and evening church.  I can remember as a little girl sitting on those hard wooden pews, sawdust or dirt on the tabernacle floor, (concrete if you were lucky) hotter than hades. Listening to the preacher as he spoke passionately about salvation (and hades). You know, I was too young to understand most of what he said, but I remember feeling like it must be important. Those are sweet memories, and I realized this morning that they’re more than just memories, it’s where my faith journey began. Sitting on that bench, fanning myself desperately with a paper fan (no doubt donated by a local funeral home), sweat dripping down my back and scalp, desperately wanting the preacher to be done.  It’s where this faith I cling to was planted and began to grow. I never would have believed that until these middle years of my life (40’s is the middle, right?).  I see now how it all fits together. I understand how the small things, things that made up everyday life, that didn’t really stand out then, can be defining factors now. They have become milestones, my history. I can see how the Lord used it all to bring me to this exact place, sitting here on my back porch listening to the fan hum and talking to the One who has sustained me and made all the difference.  So, (and I speak as one with experience of this less and less heard of tradition)  if you’re wrestling little kids on a church pew, fighting them into Sunday School class, or watching them perch on a hard bench fanning profusely at family camp, don’t lose heart.  Church, no matter what form it takes is important.  It will pay off.   They’re getting it, sooner or later the seed that’s being planted will grow.  God is faithful.

Isaiah 55:11  “my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

If you’ve ever been to family camp, I would love to hear from you!  Best memory or what it meant to  you?  Did it make a difference?

The Need to Please


Okay, friends, grab a cup of coffee and hang on. This one was a tough one to write and I pray you are able to receive from it. I have such a long way to go and so much to learn. Life is such a journey.  I would love to hear any of your comments or know if any of you can relate to what I’m trying to say here.

Ever had something so heavy on your mind and heart that it seemed to consume your every thought? Like the uncomfortable conversation you had with a co worker, or a heated discussion with your teenager, the disagreement with a child’s teacher  that  resulted in leaving a parent conference on unpleasant terms.  The unguarded mouthing off at the cashier in Wal Mart, or (the more common) yelling at someone in traffic, an argument you had with your husband before  work, or finding out someone you trusted betrayed you, the list could go on and on. The misunderstanding, or frustration, the gripping fear, whatever the circumstance, it consumes your thought life. Your mind is stuck on “repeat.” It just keeps replaying (in living color) the circumstances, the words spoken, or the harsh verdict of a situation in hopes to see something different this time. But, all repeat seems to do is keep on replaying the same scenario and causing the same feelings to be more and more embedded into your heart. I tend to be a “pleaser.” And this is how my mind works a lot of the time – on repeat. So when this (a difficult person, situation etc.) happens, it steals my peace. I want everyone in my life to be happy. I want everyone in my life to be happy with me. I just want happiness for the world, okay?!  This could be a beautiful trait if it were completely surrendered to the Lord. But, left to its own devices it can (and has) become my worst enemy. A pleaser wakes up and looks for ways to try and satisfy the needs of those around them. Sadly, this is almost an impossible task, as one cannot and does not have the power to sustain another’s needs, not for long. (I was telling Jeff yesterday, that I just want to make him completely happy, and it was an eye opening moment when I realized that I have no power to do that.  None.  Maybe you can’t relate to this, but there are a lot of “us” out there who can.)  Not being able to bring happiness or resolve  a difficult situation amicably results in pleasers like me feeling a sense of failure and rejection, then because apparently we like a challenge, we try harder. That only results in more disappointment, and the poor subject whom we are trying so hard to  “please” becoming slightly annoyed at us. And then they flee for cover if we come at them a third time. It’s hard to thwart a pleaser when we think acceptance or resolution is on the line.  Because acceptance and peace, even if it’s only a false peace, is what we are  constantly striving for.  Once we feel we have exhausted all our efforts on subject A, subject B comes along, poor soul. You get the idea. It’s a vicious cycle. One that no one wins. We simply cannot please everyone or live to please anyone.  (Can I get an “amen” to that?) That’s a tough sentence to write for someone like me. It’s not like I can turn these feelings off like a light switch, it’s much more complex than that. Much more. Yet, I know with all my heart that trying to make everyone around me happy or constantly trying to meet their needs only makes them want to run from me.  I know I don’t want to be the opposite of this, where no one else’s feelings matter, where it’s my way or the highway – that would be just as miserable and unfulfilling. (I think we’ve all met a few people like this and we do choose the highway!)  How empty to always have your own best interest at heart, to see the world through shades of deep selfishness. But, wait a minute, isn’t that kind of what I’m doing as a pleaser? (Eyes opening slightly wider here as I realize this.)  Trying to meet some insatiable need in me to be liked, accepted, and approved of, needed?  Maybe I’m over thinking this, but I don’t think so. Pleasing keeps my mind on “me and my”, it limits my world-view to what will make me happy.  Even though it might seem a little bit more noble, it really is just as selfish. It’s self-centered to always need others to validate me so I can love and accept myself, and so I can be okay with me. I’m still always thinking about me.  (Notice how many times I’ve said “me” so far? I’m actually kind of getting sick of me as I write this, or at least sick of hearing about me.)  So, maybe pleasing is just as negative as not caring at all.  Living at one extreme or the other is exhausting and imprisoning. As I’ve gotten older, the Lord has been able to point out these deeper cracks inside of me and has helped me to understand why it is so important to acknowledge them. He’s had to break my heart open and expose it so He can begin the healing work it needs. He wants wholeness and happiness for me; He has my best interest at heart in the perfect sense of the term.  So, what’s to be done about this?   Am I forever to be trapped in this cycle?  A prisoner of unhealthy thinking?  Praise God, no!   He came to rescue me from myself, from my tendency to veer toward unhealthiness.  Freedom is mine for the asking and can be obtained by retraining my mind. For me personally, I will be praying the verse below often, very often.  And I am going to ask the Lord to show me how to “think” better.  He promises that He will be faithful to complete the good work He started in me.  (Phil 1:6)  I think this one is going to take some time, I’m going to need another cup of coffee to really get my mind wrapped around it and to gather my courage as the Lord continues to set me free from the need to please. One day at a time, thank goodness.

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in YOUR sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”  Psalm 19:14 (emphasis mine)

Singing in the rain, well, sort of…

I would classify myself as “expressive.” I think anyone who knows me would agree with that. One of my favorite things is praise and worship, I love expression during worship. I am a fan of raising my hand when a song makes me feel humbled or joyful or if I am showing praise. I know that this type of worship is not for everyone, I have a deep love and respect for a quieter more rote type of worship. I have attended many services like that over the years, they are beautiful and I enjoyed them. But, I still find myself wandering back to the more expressive praise and worship. I relate to it better. I was thinking about this tonight when I was out for a walk. I had my ear buds in, had Pandora set on contemporary Christian radio and I was enjoying the beautiful evening. A song came on that was particularly meaningful to me and I am sure I was singing out loud, although I really don’t remember.  I needed the music and the lyrics, they were like refreshment to my soul.  I was so caught up in that moment that I nearly raised my hand to worship right there in the middle of the street. Probably wouldn’t have been a big deal if I hadn’t already been singing. The combo of singing to music no one else could hear and raising my hand while doing it might not have set well with the neighbors. And then, while I was totally caught up in the moment, I felt it. What, you ask? A rain drop. No big deal, I’m thinking, I can beat the rain back to my car. So I tried to pick up my pace, but, sadly, I am nursing an ankle injury so I could only walk slightly faster and with a limp. Feeling fabulous at this point, singing, almost raising my hand to this wonderful song, limping along kind of awkwardly trying to beat the rain, I was still hopeful that I could make it back to my car before it got too bad. I decided to pray, feeling like the Lord might just answer any prayer I prayed right then. “Lord, please let the rain be slight so I can get back to my car, okay? You are so good to me. Amen.” The rain starts to fall harder. Well, maybe the Lord wants me to walk in the rain, I tell myself. My fabulous song ends and my ankle is starting to bother me more, and now I am starting to get genuinely wet, so I pick up the pace. (You have no idea how much hair spray I have on my hair, so it was starting to be a big deal.) I look around me and there were no other walkers or runners out, how did this happen? How could I be the only one who did not see the signs of rain? This walk had started out so pleasant. Well, when I thought about it, there was that dark place in the sky and, I guess, the wind had come up suddenly out of nowhere, I just thought that was a blessing from the Lord to cool things down. (I should’ve known better, sudden wind like that is a sign to any lower Alabamian that rain is on the way.) In retrospect, I guess I could’ve seen the signs if I had looked.   I even have radar on my phone to avoid this very thing from happening. Why didn’t I look? But, I just took off haphazardly assuming everything was gonna be okay, praising God and being naive. This is exactly how I live my life sometimes, I just head off in whatever direction, not preparing myself or looking around to see if it’s safe, not praying or asking God, I just barrel off in the direction I want to go and hope for the best, singing all the while. Then I get upset with God if it starts to “rain,” oh, at first it’s okay, because it’s not really enough to dampen my spirit, but when life’s storms come for real, and the rain messes up my hair, I get bothered. I mean, why would he let it rain on my perfectly good day (decision)? He could stop it if he wanted to. Looking back I think, if only I had been more attentive, it all could have probably been avoided. Now, I know there are storms of life that are unavoidable and cannot possibly be planned for, but some of the storms that I find myself in are because I wasn’t really watching the warning signs. That direction, decision, person (insert whatever fits best for you here) just looked good to me, so I headed in that direction. Such a life lesson for me. Be prayerful not only during the walk, but before. Anyway, I ended up getting pretty wet (soaked) and took cover under the porch of a vacant house. Thankfully, I have some friends who watch out for me and who saw me walking off carelessly in spite of the apparently obvious pending rain and came looking for me. (Seriously, we all need these types of friends, the ones who have our back, but that’s another story.) So, I was rescued and spared any further embarrassment, pain, and humiliation, whatever… I drove home wet and contemplative. I promised myself that next time I would look for the signs. And maybe check the radar too.

 

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans  I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to  harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”