It is so important to think through what you believe in. If you don’t really know, and don’t really understand what drives you and what is important to you - your life can be marked with struggles. Without an exception the people I have observed going through life never standing up for a specific set of beliefs eventually feel dissatisfied about pretty much everything. Sometimes I think people are afraid to believe in anything because they don’t want to run the risk of upsetting other people. Sometimes I think people are afraid to express their beliefs because they don’t want to offend others or maybe they are embarrassed because they don’t really have solid support for their opinions and are at a loss to defend them if someone were to offer a challenge. And sometimes I think people just really don’t know what they think about things because they don’t spend much time contemplating life.
There are numerous examples in the Bible of people who knew what they believed in and pursued it wholeheartedly despite the opinions of those around them. Noah would be a prime example - he built the ark at a time when the people didn’t even know what rain was. They mocked him and his family for building such a monstrosity of a boat. But Noah knew what he believed and he believed - even though he had never seen rain - that God was going to make it rain - a lot.
Abraham left his family and security to move to a land he didn’t know much about - but he believed God’s promises to make a great nation through him. I could easily continue adding to this list. The point is these men did great things by pursuing wholeheartedly the things they believed in.
There are also many examples in our world of people who understood the importance of standing up for something. Martin Luther King, Jr believed in equality wholeheartedly and stood up to a society which would have preferred for him to go away. Mother Theresa is probably the greatest example of unconditional love our society has ever had. No matter what people thought or how they treated her she moved forward and loved and did what she could to help ease suffering and pain. She believed in unconditional love.
I like to imagine the founding fathers of the United States of America were dreamers. They came here with no idea what they were getting into - and I know mistakes were made, but they always will be in any new endeavor. They came expecting to live in a new land, but to continue to be ruled by the King of England - and they were for a long time. Then, when things were not working out well for the people living here, they dreamed up a new form of government and how to make it work. And they believed in it so much they were willing to fight for it and to die if necessary. But in the end they were successful and they created a Constitution which has endured the test of time and allowed the nation to grow beyond what I think the founding fathers ever dreamed it could be.
I love to dream about big things. I love to dream things which are so huge there is no way a plain old person like me could make them happen. I was thinking about all the different dreams I have had through the years. The reality is even though I might have dreamed something big it didn’t necessarily mean I was able to make it happen, no matter how much I believed in it. Because the funny thing is quite often I have dreamed huge ideas and set lofty goals, yet suddenly doors sometimes would shut or open in different directions than the way my dreams were taking me. But that has never stopped me from dreaming.
Several years ago I was heavily involved with Awana at my local church. I attended an amazing conference which challenged and inspired me to approach children and family ministries in new ways. I got a vision for a new direction for the Awana club I led. I returned to the church I was attending rejuvenated and filled with huge dreams for building upon everything I had learned. I started a small group for moms and incorporated much of the new information I had learned into the teaching I did with the children on Wednesday nights. I even ended up writing a thesis paper for my Bachelor’s Degree about everything I was doing.
When I was at the height of moving forward in faith and watching the dream unfold - God stepped in and brought to me the realization it was time to find a new church and start over. Through a series of supernatural events I was hired to become the children and family ministries’ director for a different church. I entered that phase of my life with gusto and no shortage of dreams for what could be. I already had a completely developed philosophy for children’s ministry which included a curriculum for children from 2 through 18 years old. I dreamed of designs for an innovative and exciting children’s wing and of developing and training a group of volunteer leaders who would be firmly grounded in their faith and ready to help parents navigate through spiritual issues during their child-rearing years.
Saturday, May 18, 2013 is Armed Forces Day. It is a day set aside when people are encouraged to show appreciation to members of the Armed Forces. I have been thinking a lot about what it takes to join one of our nation’s Armed Forces. There is a young man at the high school where I work who very much wants to be a soldier for the US Army someday. Whenever there is a career day or any kind of future-goals dress-up day you can be sure he will be proudly walking the halls in his army fatigues. It makes me feel patriotic just looking at him.
I have deep admiration for those who join any branch of the military. It takes courage to step completely into the unknown, leave family and friends behind, and sign up to become part of the greatest military force in the world, defending the greatest nation in the world.
As you may know by now, Sarah is an incredibly proud veteran of the United States Army. She and I used to work for a church. When we were on staff together, she was the youth director and I was the children’s ministries’ director. Drawing on her military training, one of the dreams she had was of someday offering a “boot camp” experience for the teens as a training and challenge period to help prepare them for spiritual warfare they would face as teens and even throughout life.
Every person I have known who served in the armed forces at some point in his/her life always carried lessons that could be applied to the civilian world. I can’t t think of any other group of people I know who share a common career and bring away as many life applications such as those of the people who served in the military.
I love to read my Bible and pray and sip my tea with the sliding door open on sunny, warm mornings. It fills me with peace and sets the pace for the day. And usually it lasts at least until I get to school. Sometimes, no matter what I do, as soon as I get to work a frenzy begins. Right now it’s like that because Seniors only have a few days of school left, but many have several missing assignments. Or they have tests to make up. Or they are failing a class and need a last desperate push to cross the threshold from “E” to “D”. Or they are cramming for finals because a good grade on that final exam is a must.
I try not to let other people’s stress and negativity affect and drag me down, but sometimes it’s difficult. I was feeling so relaxed and cheerful the other day when I arrived at work. My status on Facebook said something like, “Suck every moment of joy out of this day!” What I meant by that was - look for the joy in everything and relish it as much as you can! And as I drove to work I found great joy in the sunshine, the birds, the trees, the flowers, all of it - because that was what I had put my mind and attitude to. Then I got to school and within the first hour of the day students were angrily telling me how much they hate math. On one level, I do understand that, but in reality, it doesn’t matter how much they hate it, they still have to do it. Math is a necessary evil and my job is to try to make it easier for them as much as I can. It is the end of the year and we have been through it all before and I realized I am tired of arguing with them to get them to complete their assignments. I had to walk to the window for a few moments of gazing to recharge my joy-seeker.
I recently special ordered a t-shirt from a website and couldn’t wait for it to arrive. Unlike the old days when all you could do was check the mailbox daily, I was able to track my package online and watch it travel from California through Iowa and Illinois until it was due to be delivered. Sure enough, it arrived as promised and I tore the envelope open in wild anticipation. Unfortunately, what tumbled out was not at all what I expected and my excitement spiraled into disappointment as I groaned, “This isn’t what I ordered!” As I plopped on the couch, utterly disgusted at myself and the useless t-shirt in my lap, I thought about other times in life I didn’t get what I ordered.
I didn’t get what I ordered when my first child died from a birth defect. I didn’t get what I ordered when my marriage ended. I didn’t get what I ordered when the church I loved fell apart. I didn’t get what I ordered when my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I didn’t get what I ordered a thousand other times when life dealt me disappointments. All of these situations left me, at least briefly, crying out to God – “This isn’t what I ordered!”
Maybe you’ve found yourself in a similar situation and life handed you something you didn’t want. Just like my internet purchase, there is no option to return it. The only control we have is in how we react and what we do moving forward. So after that initial reaction of “This isn’t what I ordered!” what should we do?
First and foremost, touch base with God. We can debate whether or not He had a direct hand in bringing about the unwanted situation or if it’s a natural consequence of living in a sinful world, but either way the response should be to seek His counsel and comfort. He can handle our reaction of “This isn’t what I ordered!” and will provide the strength and courage for us to persevere.
Second, I truly believe in all situations, God wants us to live out the adage “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. No matter how dire or how awful the circumstances, I believe we have a responsibility as Christians to remain salt and light to the world no matter what life throws at us.
Lastly, examine our hearts – are we asking for the proper things? The Bible tells us we don’t have what we want because we don’t ask for it. We need to lay out the appropriate plans and make sure we’re putting our order in correctly.
I was more careful when I reordered my t-shirt. I double checked the measurements on the sizes because evidently one large is not the same as the next. As for the first shirt I received, it will find its way to either the donation box or the rag bag. Even though it wasn’t what I ordered, it will serve a purpose in spite of what I originally expected. The lesson is, we can never truly anticipate what life will throw at us. We should still be thankful for all life affords us and I’m grateful that most of the time I can joyfully exclaim, “Thank you! It’s exactly what I asked for!”
I enjoy reading Erma Bombeck quotes. My mom used to read Erma's articles all the time when I was a child and I never understood why she thought they were so funny. Now, I get it. She was funny in an ironic way quite often and I relate to that. I saw this one today: “Graduation day is tough for adults. They go to the ceremony as parents. They come home as contemporaries. After twenty-two years of child-raising, they are unemployed.”
That describes how I am starting to feel.
I have been a mom for thirty years. For much of that time motherhood is what defined me. Largely, the decisions I made during the past thirty years were influenced most significantly by how one or more of my children would be affected. I made sacrifices and worked hard to try to make sure they were all going to be okay in the world. I prayed daily for health, safety, future spouses, careers, goals and everything else that would help them be Godly adults in a society which doesn’t always respect Godly individuals.
One of the most difficult parts of being a mom is letting go. That is my struggle right now. My son just graduated from Michigan State University as a doctor. It was exciting and inspiring to be part of that ceremony and watch the culmination of many years of hard work, prayer, dedication, more prayer and studies. The joy on his face as he received that degree speaks deeply to this mother’s heart. He will be moving to Boston in just a few short weeks.
Next weekend my daughter will be graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I cannot believe she has finished high school and four years of college and is so grown up so very quickly. It seems like only yesterday I was freezing through her softball games while marveling at her athletic skill. She has accepted a position as a children’s ministries intern at a church in Indiana and will be moving there about the same time her brother heads off to Boston.
My baby follows the college graduations in June with her high school graduation. She already completed and graduated from Cosmetology school. She is a seventeen year old licensed cosmetologist and I’m telling you - she is GOOD at what she does. More importantly to me, she is happy and thoroughly enjoys all the aspects of her role as a cosmetologist. I have prayed faithfully for her and listened to her cry and struggle as she contemplated giving up this past year under the pressures of the grueling schedule. But she persevered and has accomplished so much at such a young age. She will be moving to Ypsilanti soon to live with friends who attend college in Ann Arbor.
And so my struggle to let go has begun in earnest. For thirty years I ate, drank, breathed, and slept as MOM. I cannot imagine it will be easy to step back and just let them all go when the moment arrives. Believe me, I am praying and praying for peace through that time which is coming way too soon.
In the summertime when I was a girl the local theater offered $.25 matinees on weekday afternoons. My sister and I were the oldest kids in the neighborhood and we would round up all the younger ones and head out to the theater on a regular basis. We walked, of course. Everyone would hang on tightly to their quarters and whatever other money they brought for treats. I loved to buy myself a box of Red Vines. The candy was one of my favorites, and, even better, for $.30 I got a whole box filled with those chewy, delicious vines. That was enough candy to last me through the entire matinee - even when it was a double-feature! I felt like it was an incredible value as well, and I would always try to persuade everyone else to spend their money just as wisely. It never worked, though, I was always the loner in the group who shunned popcorn and chocolate for Red Vines.
We spent countless summer afternoons at that theater. Usually our group was the largest group in attendance, and sometimes we were the only kids there. It is surprising the owners kept offering those matinees summer after summer - but I like to think they were more interested in contributing to a sense of community than in lining their pockets. My hometown was not particularly small - around 60,000 people. We lived in Los Angeles County, but events like free movies at our little theater made it feel like small-town America sometimes.
I didn’t fully grasp the idea of small town living until I moved to Pinckney in 1989. I quickly learned what it was like to be part of a small community when I got involved at a local church and met quite a few people there. Between the church and having two kids in school, I was soon acquainted with a lot of Pinckney folks. Whenever I went anywhere in town I was sure to run into someone I knew. It was not an entirely comfortable situation for me - and required a lot of adjustment and adaptation to the culture shock. What a difference a couple thousand miles and 57,000 fewer people can make! The decision to move across this great nation changed my perspective and my life forever.
It’s kindof like the decision I made to follow God. It took some serious commitment to uproot a family and move across country to a place where I had zero connections or experience living. I had no clue about snow or how to drive in it or how to make sure my kids were dressed warmly enough for school. I had to learn it all. In a similar manner, it took serious commitment to trust God enough to place my life in His control.
Did you ever think about what God sees when He looks down at all of us here on Earth? I know how it feels to love my children and from what I gather when I read the Bible about God’s love - His love for all of us is infinitely deeper, stronger, truer than anything we could fathom or experience. It’s impossible to wrap my mind around that. As much as I love my kids, God loves me far more. He values me far more. And He values you too.
I have made so many mistakes in my lifetime. Sometimes when I wake up at 3:00 in the morning, they begin to replay in my mind, and I feel so worthless and ashamed. Then God reminds me about Who He is and how He has forgiven me and renewed me, and peace fills my heart and calms my soul. I think when God looks down He sees the potential we all possess.
I know when I look at my kids I often marvel at all the wide open doors of possibility which lie before them. I don’t know how many lives social worker Misty has changed in the many years she has done that sacrificial work, but I am betting it’s a large number - and I look at how gifted and talented she is and I imagine the most amazing future for her. My son Markie is going to graduate from medical school soon. He will be a doctor (hence, medical school). I always knew he was going to impact the world in some amazing way and he has proved me right so far. Melodie has the most beautiful heart for children. She is a blessing every time she volunteers to work with them in any setting. She will be graduating from college in a few weeks and I see a bright future ahead of her filled with children and families who love her deeply. My youngest, Madison, will graduate from high school in June -as a licensed cosmetologist. She is going to beautify the world and use her skills to help people gain confidence in their looks. And someday she will own a world-famous salon and people will travel hundreds or thousands of miles to have her style their hair.
I see so much potential in those four kids. And I am not God. I imagine He looks at all of us and sees potential we don’t even know is within us. The really great thing about God-given potential is it is supernatural and ANYTHING can happen because NOTHING is impossible for God. YOU have so much potential to do something amazing and magnificent with your life. No matter what you have done up to this point, it is not too late to stop and change gears. I am quick to tell my kids about all the potential I see in them. If you start asking God to show you yours, He will. I am positive.
I was a “picker” before I knew what one was. A self-described junk lover, I have had a passion for all things vintage as long as I can remember. My fascination with the past and all the cool stuff from it eventually led me to start a business to indulge my craziness. Over the years I’ve acquired quite a collection of unique items and as a result – or perhaps in an effort to justify my continued collecting, I established a rental company so others could enjoy them too. With my business providing the excuse, I’m always on the lookout for items to add to my inventory. That generally means if there’s a flea market, auction, estate sale or rummage sale within a 50 miles radius, I’m there.
I’ve learned a little bit about a lot of things over the years. Some say just enough to be dangerous, but it has paid off. I once bought a watercolor at a thrift store because I knew the author’s work could be valuable. I spent $5.99 and later learned the work was original and worth almost $1800.
Yesterday found me in a similar situation. I stopped at a garage sale and was immediately drawn to a vintage suitcase covered with dust. When I picked it up to exam it more closely I discovered it was heavy and therefore must be full of something. I popped open the latches and peered inside. I saw stacks and stacks of newspaper and recognized famous headlines. The War had ended, Kennedy was killed, man landed on the moon, etc. Buried in the folds of the paper, however, I got a glimpse of a miniature black and white striped bathing suit that I knew (or thought) was just as famous.
As far back as I can remember – I have been extremely patriotic. I remember being a little child and staying up all hours of the night watching the Olympics – even watching the “sports” which most people do not even consider sports and have little, to no, interest in. I would even watch the replays of the track races and basketball games and trash talk the TV. I remember just sitting there with pride, thinking, “Nice try Russia, or China, or Canada – but we (America) just beat you. Sorry about your loss…but not really!” I then remember standing up off the couch every time the National Anthem was played, hand over heart, and welling up with pride and emotion as our country’s flag was raised. On a few rare occasions, the USA has even managed to sweep the entire competition and then all three of the people on the podium are wearing the red, white and blue. Moments like that are unforgettable and magic to me.
So, when we started The Torch we knew there were certain groups of people we wanted to help and honor; children, teens, elderly, our public servants (Police and Firemen) and our military. Our military is one of the most under-appreciated, under-served populations and we want to do our small part to help bring attention, recognition, and support to the brave men and women who served our country.
Our military are the very reason I could, and do, watch the Olympics with pride. Our military is the reason we can live day to day, free from fears and rest peacefully at night, knowing there are countless people out on the battlegrounds – abroad and locally – who are defending and protecting us. Our military is no longer drafted, is not ordered to enlist, and yet day after day, people from all over America step up to the plate and sign up to be a part of the greatest military force there is. Day in and day out our military lace up their boots, say good bye to loved ones, and fight for millions of faces they have never even met. Our military are point blank- heroes.
Did you ever know somebody who absolutely could not live in the moment? No matter how much time they devoted to planning a special event, like a birthday or graduation party, no sooner had it begun than they started thinking and talking about the next thing they had going on. I always find it frustrating to be with people like that. I was at a wedding once and one of the planners was practically taking people’s plates to throw them away before they were finished eating. I tried to talk to her about it and she just brushed me off and told me she couldn’t help it - her mind was preoccupied with cleaning up and getting on to the next thing she had going on. Not only did she come across as being incredibly rude and impatient, it occurred to me how hard it must be to live life that way.
How can you ever enjoy anything in life if you are never fully present in the moment as it happens? What if the thing you are doing right now is actually fun or beneficial, and whatever is coming next is horrible -but that's where you are living? Or what happens when life slows down and there are no more events anytime soon to look forward to? In the past, I have only known a few people who were that way.
I realized at the high school today, I know a lot of people who are like that now. The majority of teens I work with seem to be glued to their cell phones constantly. It is not uncommon to ask them several times to stop texting and pay attention when I speak - even if we are sitting side by side working on something together. The phones only get put away for a few minutes when I ask and the students don’t become present even then. Their minds remain clearly focused on whatever texts they were sending and receiving.
When I approach a student about a cell phone it is not uncommon for him or her to immediately tell me he or she is texting his/her mom or dad or grandma or dog or someone equally important who has authority over them and will apparently become angry if I stop them from responding. I’m betting if I actually grabbed a cell phone or two to see Mom or Dad’s text I would find out it is actually Suzi or Tommy on the other end. But I don’t bother.
I just ask them to put the phone away and pay attention to what I am saying. Sometimes it starts to feel like the most annoying game in the world, because usually I am trying to help more than one student at a time. You would think I could get someone started and then turn to the next one - and get him/her going and so on until I come full circle to the first one. That isn’t what happens. I get one started and then turn to the next and the first one pulls his/her phone out while I am distracted and starts texting again. So I try to help while policing the phones at the same time - and it gets very frustrating.
I don’t know how to impress upon students how rude and impatient they appear to be - and we as a society have created this monster. We have allowed ourselves to be lost to the moment we are in. Heaven forbid I feel even one second of boredom - or have a single minute of idle time. We have lost the ability to bring ourselves fully into the present and the events happening around us at that time. Instead, we are partially there, but at the same time we are in someone else’s world wherever he or she might be. Or even in several people’s worlds.
I think this causes us to lose many great opportunities to engulf ourselves in beauty or to learn new things. I understand school can seem boring and pointless at times, especially when concepts are hard to grasp and learn. I remember those days.
But sometimes I think part of the problem is in order to learn students need to be fully present and engaged in the discussion or the lecture or the movie or the worksheet. Even though they think they can multi-task - and I do believe in some ways they are capable multi-taskers - depending on the situation - I have yet to meet a student who could learn while his/her mind was focused on texts or social media or whatever the distraction was. Even the brightest learner cannot do it. How can you apply or remember something you have not even heard?
A few years ago I endured a very painful parting of ways with a church. At the time I left, I felt judged, betrayed, used and completely burned out. I was at a point where I did not want anything to do with any church as an organization. There was no way I was going to put any of my gifts and talents out there to be used and abused again. I had a rather bitter attitude toward organized religion - a sentiment I have found many people share.
I did, however, realize the value of participating in worship with other believers. It matters for me spiritually and is a significant contributor to my spiritual growth and continued strength. And I am admonished in Hebrews not to neglect meeting together with other believers. We are not made to go it alone, no matter how hurt or angry we are with a particular church. I decided to try one of the biggest churches around - Northridge ( which, fyi, has three campus locations - Brighton/Howell, Ann Arbor/Saline and the main campus located in Plymouth). I chose the Brighton/Howell campus because it was the closest.
My goal was to attend Northridge - and because it was so big - I would be invisible and could simply attend, worship God with other believers and leave, without being used or abused or overworked. The very first day I attended I was captured by the uplifting worship and just being among such a large group of fellow believers. God was present as we sang and worshiped and I spent some time just allowing His presence to wash over me and fill me as I listened to hundreds of voices joining together in praise.
What an amazing and healing experience that was! Pastor Brad Powell delivered a challenging message and I was very happy and blessed I had gone. Over the course of the next several months I attended Northridge in anonymity, although I did join a small group. That was yet another healing step because the leaders and members of that group accepted me and cared for me and prayed for me and loved me at such a low point in my life. The amazing worship, powerful teaching by Pastor Brad and encouraging small group study helped me turn a corner and melted away my bitterness and pain.