Being Thankful

As many of you are aware, South Carolina midlands and coastal areas experienced flooding unlike anything that’s ever been seen in our state.   The Upstate, where I live with my family, was originally predicted to see more flooding than what it received.  Fortunately for us, but not so fortunate for the rest of the state, we dodged a bullet.

For days our television has been inundated with images of flood waters, cars submerged, people attempting to drive through the floods, rescuers saving people by boat and air, and total devastation of major roadways.   While we don’t let our boys watch much along the lines of normal television (they get PBS and kids movies), it’s been near impossible for us to keep them away from the news, and truthfully I haven’t wanted to hide it.   I’ve actually encouraged it.

This morning, I sat Davey down alongside me as we watched news reports of the devastation.   I suppose I expected him to ask more questions, but mostly he just thought it was “cool”.   I suppose that’s the normal response for a four year old, and I don’t fault him too much for it.  He’s a kid, but he’s also a fortunate kid, one who is blessed beyond measure.

I should have just let it go.  I should have allowed him to just say, “that’s cool, mom.” but I didn’t.   I wanted him to see what was going on in our state, in some places less than an hour away.   I wanted him to know that there are people who are suffering.  I wanted him to know that there are people who’ve lost everything.   I wanted him to be thankful for what he had.   I guess that’s asking a little too much, but I didn’t just let it go.  I took the opportunity, as heart breaking as it is, to teach my son.

We talked about the weather and how the flood waters came about.   He asked if it was like with Noah, and I said “no”, although some people may have felt differently.   We talked about how it’s our responsibility not just as Christians, but as South Carolinians, to help our neighbors.   I encouraged him to look around and tell me what he should be thankful for.  He said his toys, naturally, but then I implored him to look further.   I asked him if he’s blessed to have a house.  His response, doesn’t everyone have a house?   No, sweetheart, everyone does NOT have a house.   I told him we have food, and once again he was confused, because doesn’t everyone have food?

I’m not ashamed of what we have.   I don’t feel guilty for our blessings, I’m thankful for them.   I’m grateful that the Lord has provided for us, but now it’s our turn to help provide for others.   So, I told Davey that we were going to do a donation drive in our neighborhood.   He didn’t understand, so once again I got down to the level of a four year old and explained that we’re going to collect bottled water, diapers, formula, and individually packaged snacks for the Red Cross.

We posted our donation drive on our neighborhood Facebook page and what a blessing to already have neighbors respond, less than six hours after we posted it.   When our first donation came in, the excitement in Davey’s eyes was wonderfully magical.  He’s genuinely excited to help and while he may not understand completely the ramifications of this horrible storm, he knows he, like so many of us, plays a crucial role in helping our state to rebuild.

If you’re interested in helping out those hit by the floods in South Carolina, then please visit the Red Cross and make a donation.   If you’re interested in contributing to our neighborhood donation drive, then contact me.

We are all God’s children and we all have a responsibility to come to the aid of our neighbors.   Be thankful for what you have in life and give to those who may have lost it all.

We are #scstrong.

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Allowing My Love to Permeate

We had a wonderful lesson in Sunday School today.  It resonated not only with me, but with the other members in my class.   My husband and I had nursery duty today, so we were unable to attend our Pastor’s sermon, but my understanding is that it followed along with our lesson.   The lesson was about returning to your first love…Jesus Christ.   As Christians, we are taught to always return to a love for Christ that permeates everything we do.   At times, we find ourselves straying.  Perhaps, day-to-day life gets in the way.   Other times, we get settled into our routines and sometimes those routines are not allowing room for Jesus.   I’m definitely guilty of this.

Once upon a time, when I would get frustrated with my boys or life, I would retreat to a chair in another room, whip out my Bible and start reading.   Davey used to say to me, “Mommy, do you need Jesus?” when I would start counting to 10 in order to calm myself down before berating him or his brother for flushing legos down the toilet.   These days I’m afraid that I’ve allowed my relationship with God to start sliding.   One thing I was most proud of was that my boys would see me taking time to read the Bible.  They would see me in quiet prayer or reflection with God.  I hang my head low now as I admit that they haven’t seen that in a while.

So, tonight I made sure to carve out some time, any time I could to read a Bible study and a couple of passages in the Bible.  It’s funny how God always know when you need Him most.  He knows that today is the best day to start back over with me.   He forgives me for my laziness and my sinful nature.  He loves me and He encourages me and today’s Bible study reminded me of that.

It starts with the commandment to Honor Thy Mother and Father and takes me into Ephesians, Chapter 6, verses 1-4.  I want to take this time to share verse 4 with you, more specifically my fellow parents out there who find themselves overwhelmed.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord.”  Ephesians 6:4

I reflected on this passage for quite some time and I’ve looked back over the past few weeks as Henry has become more strong-willed and Davey more head strong.   I’ve started developing a lot of gray hair (my stylists calls it glitter) thanks to these two and I feel that lately I’ve been quick to anger and raise my voice.  This isn’t the way the Lord wants me to discipline my children.  I know this, but I haven’t exactly heeded His words or commands.  I haven’t been allowing God’s Love to permeate and I definitely don’t think I’ve been allowing my love to permeate as well.

Being a parent is a hard job.  It’s the toughest, most stressful, and yet most rewarding job you’ll ever have.   If you mess up with your kids, then there’s not really a do-over.   You can’t take a “pay cut” or find another job.   This is it.   But when you get it right, man does it feel like you’ve hit a grand slam in your final ever at bat.

I’ve allowed too many other things to “interfere” with my life and my boys’ lives.   My backsliding from God has hurt us all, but I want to remember what it was like when I first became a Christian and committed my life to God.  I felt relieved.  I was happy.   My stress level plummeted and I felt like for the first time ever things were going right in my life.   It’s time to get that back again and to start letting that permeate through to my boys.

I encourage you all to take that closer look.   To ask yourself how it felt being a Christian for the first time.   Find a way to let the love permeate.

So This is Christmas

I awoke this morning to the news of so many children losing their lives at the hands of armed gunman. It’s not an unusual story to hear about on the news. Two years ago, a deranged young man took the life of his mother along with numerous elementary aged children in Newtown, CT before eventually ending his own life. Hearing these stories at a time when we, as Christians, celebrate the birth of the greatest child to be born, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is extremely heart breaking.

We are exactly nine days away from celebrating the birthday of Jesus, a child born unto this world who would ultimately die for our sins. This is a time of love, happiness, and joy, but yet it’s hard to maintain that level of enthusiasm when we’re inundated with so much evil and hatred.

As I continued to listen to the news reports throughout the morning of the children who died at the hands of Taliban terrorists, I evolved from a state of anger to a state of sadness. As a mother, my perspective on life and society is much different than what it once was. I find that I put myself into the shoes of other parents, that I find a way to empathize with them, and I pray. I pray that the Lord guides these parents. I pray that He helps them to heal and forgive. I pray that they never feel His absence.

And then, when I can no longer stay in the shoes of other parents, I look at my children and think back to my childhood.

Christmas was always a magical time. The days seemed infinite. The minutes ticked by slowly on Christmas Eve as we sat alongside the fireplace and watched television, listened to music, and told stories. I always worried we wouldn’t make it home in time for bed and that Santa would bypass our house. After all, he did have a lot of packages to deliver and he needed to get a head start.

When I was the age of many of these children killed in Pakistan today, the worst thing I’d ever seen happen was the Challenger explosion. It made me cry because it had been such a huge thing to have an average American, a teacher, going up in space. It was mechanical failure, not failure of society or the human heart like the majority of the tragedies are these days.

When I was the age of many of these children, I didn’t worry about my education. I didn’t worry about my safety at school, or that someone would try to deny me of it. I didn’t fear that at any point my city or town would be bombed. I was a child, living a carefree life. I was a child doing exactly what a child should be doing…not fretting about the insensitivities and violence knocking on my door.

When the shooting of Newtown happened, Davey was just over a year old. I cried for the longest time as I watched parents with children who would never open presents on Christmas morning. I sobbed uncontrollably at the thought that these parents would wake up the next morning and not see the smiles of their children, their laughs, and inquisitive natures. I thanked the Lord right then for my blessings and I hugged Davey harder.

This morning, I found myself doing the same thing once again with both Davey and Henry. What a gift these boys are to me. How wonderfully blessed I am to have them in my life. I can’t imagine waking up one day to the realization that their little lives were snuffed out at the hands of selfish, inhumane monsters. I can’t imagine how or why anyone would want to hurt children, the most innocent and pure of society. A child shouldn’t have to carry the burdens of this world. Jesus Christ did that for us. He suffered for our sins and yet we are still a horribly sinful world when things like the murders of innocent children is occurring.

On days like today, I find myself playing John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” in my head. How many of you have actually listened to the words? I’m not a huge fan of John Lennon, but what a wonderful song he wrote. He asks, “So this is Christmas. What have you done? Another year over and a new one just begun”. What have we done, as God’s children, this year? And then the tears start to fall when I hear him sing, “Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.”

As a Christian, I implore all of you to please think beyond yourselves. Think about, “the weak and the strong, the rich and the poor, for the road is so long.”

Don’t take a day for granted, don’t miss a moment. Hug your children, love them, and set an example for them. Think about those children who won’t get a Christmas this year, or for those who won’t breathe life again. Think about your childhood, be it good or bad, and want more for those who’ve come after you. Let the true spirit of the season overwhelm you and fill your heart with more love than you ever thought imaginable.