Ezra and The ROG

Hello Blog! Remember me? Yes, it’s been several days but in those days, so much has been accomplished and so much has been planned. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating ~ I work alongside some of the most talented and committed people in the world. It was a week chock full of bringing people closer to God. Prior to 5 years ago, I would never have believed what vocation God would set before me ~ it would have been unfathomable….but God knew it all along. And now He has given me yet another opportunity to do something really cool.

Those of you who have read my blog from time to time will definitely remember Ezra Matthews and his battle with neuroblastoma. Ezra fought hard against a perverse childhood cancer for most of his 800 days on earth. I want you to really think about that number. Ezra lived a total of 800 days before joining his heavenly Father and his infant brother Price. As a reader of this blog, I want you to know that Ezra and his very short life here had a worldwide impact. Please take the time to visit this site…you will be forever changed.  BecauseOfEzra.com

Around the same time that Ezra lost his battle, my husband organized and kicked off a small group at our church comprised of motorcycle riders.  This is just one of the reasons I love my church ~ there is something for everyone! Our Sr. Pastor embraced the idea (in fact, he rallied BIG time for the idea) and W dove in head first just as I knew he would. He has gathered roughly 100 riders on his roster for Riders of Grace (ROG) in a very short amount of time and these riders are ready to make a change. They are ready to make a difference in their community and in lives….thus, we are teaming up with Kyle and Robyn Matthews to raise money in the fight against this hideous pediatric cancer.

Last night, the four of us discussed the preliminary details of a motorcycle fundraiser to take place in late spring! I thought W and I were excitable until I watched Robyn, a 25 year old mommy, talk about how BecauseOfEzra is going to change the lives of future babies and toddlers. This couple’s life is dedicated to sparing the sorrow they have gone through from happening to others.

W and I are all in. Let’s do it. Let’s battle.

As details become clearer…and they will very quickly…you can stay updated through the foundation page, through this blog and through the “GFC Riders of Grace” facebook page.

We are excited to make a difference! If you’d like to be involved, too, you can find contact info at BecauseofEzra.com, by liking the ROG Facebook page .facebook.com/pages/GFC-Riders-of-Grace OR by emailing RidersofGrace@gmail.com

My Old Man

One of my favorite things cost me about $9.99 and I was really irked that I had to buy it…at the time.

So you see what I mean? Pretty ugly, right?  This is a refrigerator magnet of an old man sunbathing and I bought it in St. Thomas about 15 years ago. The artist had all kinds of these little clay figures hanging on a display and for some unexplainable reason, I chose to take a closer look at this particular aging dude.

I promptly dropped him on the floor of this tourist trap store and his legs broke off at the knee (please note the glue). Naturally, I immediately scanned the store to see if the manager was in view and, as luck would have it, she definitely was. She muttered some “Break it, you buy it” comment and I found myself dishing out a ten spot for a broken, ugly old man souvenir.

Now, over the years, this old man has traveled from house to house with our family. Refrigerator to refrigerator. He’s been dropped a few more times ~ the last one was right at the neck! ~ but he survives still. I can’t imagine anyone else in the entire world really liking him, much less buying him. I can imagine that people who have visited our home probably gaze at this thing, among family photos proudly displayed, and wonder why….

but he has a story. Every time I look at him, which isn’t often now that he’s been relocated to the side of the refrigerator for his own protection, I am reminded of St. Thomas and of W laughing at me when I got busted breaking the little guy.

He’s not perfect and he’s a little fragile and he has a story. He reminds me of me.

Potholes

I need to take a moment to complain about the conditions of the roads around here. Around here meaning Hillsborough County, specifically.

It’s always been fairly obvious that our county widens and improves roads in a pretty untimely fashion. They wait years to improve and widen roads that are inadequate. For instance, let’s take Bruce B Downs Blvd. When is the last time someone told you to jump on BBD to make your commute quicker?   Racetrack Road? Well, there’s a lovely little road project. Maybe that road could have been widened prior to the population explosion in that area?

Trust me, when you’re on a motorcycle, it’s even worse. This county is riddled with potholes and soft shoulders and uneven pavement. Now my commute to work is going to be different because the road conditions are so terrible. Yesterday, driving home from work, I plummeted into a hole on County Line Road that had never been there before ~ and I know. Dodging the holes and horrific patch jobs on that road for 4 years has made me an expert. This hole is a result of the heavy rain on Monday, I suppose. Or maybe the pipeline construction and all of the heavy machinery that is requiring is to blame…

Traffic navigates a pothole-pocked section of Forest Lakes Boulevard west of Race Track Road on Wednesday in Oldsmar.Seriously, this is our tax dollars at work? This is the best we can do?

Yesterday, I apparently damaged my low profile tire to the extent that I need a new one…immediately. So, thank you, Public Works, for costing me money because of your failure to even keep our roads safe.

Yes, I’m pretty frustrated today.   OH…and while you’re at it, could you tell me why Malfunction Junction exists?

How’s your group?

I know some people who haven’t set foot in a church in years….maybe on their wedding day? Maybe when they felt obligated to attend someone else’s wedding?

I also know some people who attend church semi-regularly who devote just over an hour on Sunday at church trying to undo how they’ve spent the other 167 hours of the week.

Still others are those who volunteer at their church, attend regularly and remain void of any substantial relationship with their Lord and Savior.

I have been in all 3 of these groups at one point or another.

All 3 groups have “good” people; well meaning people who are going to work, raising their children and paying their taxes.  I know and love people from all of these groups. I don’t sit in judgment and I don’t know your story and reasons…

But this morning, I just want to ask you if you’re really okay with your group?

I’m Sorry

Just in casual conversation Saturday night after church, someone remarked that hearing “I’m sorry” followed by a “BUT” is one of the saddest things in the world.  I would have to agree with that but not hearing  “I’m sorry” at all is far worse.

Being a direct descendent from the never-say-you-are-sorry clan, those words were something other people said. Other families said.    When you grow up not ever hearing words of apology or having that type of humility modeled, it’s a bit of a challenge to work those admissions into your vernacular.

Personally, I spent many years not feeling the need for forgiveness or feeling the need to apologize to anyone for much ~ it was very much an “every man for himself” life and if you happened to be trampled along my way; well, that’s life. I trample you; you trample me. Looking back, there is certainly no gray area or confusion regarding the results that I garnered. Galatians 6:7 had not yet been introduced into my life:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

His promise was fulfilled; I sowed and I reaped accordingly. On the surface, I appeared to be extremely happy but it was a tidal motion underneath the contrived calm.

One of the most difficult things to absorb as a Christian is that God is so merciful; so full of grace; so eager to be in a relationship with us that He forgives when we apologize. Unlike us, He doesn’t harbor resentment or bitterness. He forgives fully and without reservation. I could not comprehend of anything like that. Sometimes, even now, I have to remind myself that the minute I sincerely apologize, He has forgiven me. No words are sweeter to Him than “I’m sorry and I love you”. Simply amazing.

Now I try to apologize whenever I even sense that I’ve offended.

I offend often; I apologize often.

Marital Nakedness

No, no, everyone has their clothes on…read on.

For the last several years, I’ve subscribed to daily or weekly updates from some of my favorite speakers, pastors and/or authors. They range from inspirational one liners to several paragraphs and many days, especially of late, I send them to the trash unread due to lack of time. Invariably, whenever I do that, I am plagued with the feeling that I’ve eliminated my daily opportunity to be lifted up. I’ve now decided that they will remain in my inbox waiting for my undivided attention.

One such newsletter email that I get is from MarriageToday.org by Jimmy and Karen Evans. These particular emails are never eliminated before being read because they contain some of the most solid advice and biblical guidance regarding marriage that I’ve seen. For several days, this unread email has waited for me to make time and tonight was the night. Coincidentally, it’s very similar to the message I heard delivered this morning by Creflo Dollar. Clearly, this is a message I needed to hear twice. If I needed to hear it, maybe you do as well.

Marital nakedness. I don’t know about you, but the word naked conjures up a few words for me; exposed, vulnerable and bare to name a few. Now move away from thinking “physically” naked and closer to the idea of true intimacy. Mentally vulnerable to my spouse? Emotionally vulnerable? Spiritually naked?  That’s a lot scarier for me than disrobing physically.

Consider this excerpt.

But if we can’t expose ourselves completely before our spouses, it means we are hiding something. This hidden thing is dangerous. It needs to be exposed, because God created us with a need for nakedness.

If we’re already thinking of that one thing that our spouse could never know about us, there’s the danger. We are clothed in danger instead of being in marital nakedness.  The question then becomes…is my marriage a safe place where all of my “stuff” can be laid out in an ugly pile? Where I will not be judged but embraced?

Is GOD at the center?

If not, it’s not too late. Dare to be exposed.

Good hair day= Good day

So I’ve been back in town several years now and have gone through a fair amount of hairdressers during that time. I really don’t find that I am “ultra picky” but it really is perplexing how so many obtain a license and a job without really knowing much about their trade at all. My hair isn’t difficult to cut; it’s not curly, it’s not coarse, not stick straight, and not baby fine. By all appearances, it’s probably fairly manageable but I’ve had my share of disasters…the stylists who are really quite good but getting an appointment is comparable to scheduling a vacation.. .the average stylists who compensate with chatter and the entire time they are chattering, I am wondering why they aren’t paying closer attention to the scissors…the catastrophic perms….the scissor-happy people….the coloring fiasco’s….

Oh, to be bald must be blissful on some level.

This is why I’m so happy to have finally found “the one”. He talks the right amount, he leaves me be the right amount, he’s funny without really trying and he cuts hair effortlessly. More importantly, he can blowdry. Girls, you know what I mean about the stylists who give you a cut that is amazing but you can’t wait to get home, wet your hair and blow it out the right way?

We do like our hair to be the best it can be. I’m not opposed to paying a little more for better salon products and more knowledgable stylists. At most, I see the hairdresser about once every three months (yes, I stretch that last month way out) but I watched Chris Rock’s movie “Good Hair” sometime over the holidays with my son and suffice it to say that we were blown away ~ I had absolutely no idea what African American women are willing to do for a look that suits them. I claim complete and utter ignorance.  Caucasian women, we need to stop whining.  Enough said.

Until I watched that movie, I thought sitting through a highlighting appointment was a sacrifice of time! Anyway, as Michael, my stylists assistant said last night, “Just a simple change in a woman’s hair is enough to change their whole attitude on life.” Amen to that. Bad hair day? Bad day. Good hair day? I can pretty much deal with anything.  🙂

So if you haven’t found THE person who is going to make you feel like a million bucks, keep searching…and that goes for men, too. Our hair is our crowning glory, they say. I don’t know who “they” are but I do think they’re on to something.

Just for fun, here’s a little hair trivia for you…

  • Palms and soles are the only two parts in the body which do not have hair.
  • Number of hair follicles are formed in the third month from inception and are the same till of death.
  • Cumin, turmeric and black pepper are some hair friendly spices.

Now that you are armed with this vastly important knowledge, go and make it a great hair day!

Before daybreak

I was going to write this morning about how sleep cures everything.

For those of you who have missed sleep~ and who hasn’t~ you know what I mean. The time that your body literally needs to refresh and renew is underrated, in my opinion. I fell asleep during the 3rd quarter of BCS National Championship game last night but I can assure you that every big play resulted in a verbal outburst from my husband so I do feel as though I watched the important parts. Once I made the move from the sofa to the bed, there was a little fear that I’d lose my sleeping momentum but, mercifully, I didn’t.

I slept soundly until 4am. It was then that I felt the need to do two things. I needed to text my son to make sure he was safe and sound at the end of his shift which is always around 4am (he was) and I needed to pray. This time, I wasn’t really praying for anyone else but me. I was praying for strength and for the peace-filled Holy Spirit to just envelope me. Left to my own devices, I have little strength.

So a pretty amazing thing happened when I finished praying and I knew that what I had prayed for had been done.

As Jesus said in Matthew 21:22, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

I didn’t really sleep soundly after that; there were random dreams of someones wedding and Devon leaving me stranded at a mall (I have no idea where that came from), but I’ve woken up refreshed. I’ve woken up knowing that He is going to see me through. I’ve woken up knowing that I’m forgiven…again…and that He is well pleased with me.

Sleep does cure a great deal, in fact.

But this morning around 4:45am while wide awake, much was cured. Much was accomplished.

Rainshowers

I woke up around 3:00 this morning ~ that’s pretty typical for me when there is a lot brewing in the back of my mind. Apparently, my subconscious is under the false illusion that problems and issues can be worked out in the wee hours of the night. Conversely, I solve nothing when I am sleep deprived. Insomnia does little for me outside of creating havoc upon a layer of havoc.

Still….it’s just part of how it’s been for many years. It’s part of who I am. Issues keep me awake. Had I not been awake this morning around 4:30, though, I may have missed the rain softly falling outside. The rain shower began quietly and there was lightning far off in the distance ~ the kind followed by rumbling thunder that takes up to 5 or 6 seconds to be heard. Our beagle started becoming a little restless at that point because he has a fear of thunder and lightning. Me? I prefer to stand on the lanai right in the middle of a storm. There is great peace to be found in a good rain.

Eventually, over the next 30 minutes or so, the heavy drizzle developed into a full fledged soaking and the lighting was more quickly followed by thunder. I am rarely thankful for lying wide eyed in bed when I should be deeply involved in REM, but this morning proved to be different. On this day, it was a beautiful distraction and I will happily be in a sleep deprived state of mind all day.

I trust You

I reached for my devotional book this morning and realized that I needed to return back to the beginning to start January all over again! Wow. Yet another reminder of how swiftly time moves.

The foundation of todays reading was resolving to do this one spiritual thing in response to your day.

  • When something sad happens, respond with “I trust You.”
  • When something that seems unfair happens, respond with “I trust You.”
  • When something extraordinarily nice happens, again respond with “I trust You.”

If we look at every situation as God’s plan, then it’s easier to accept the unpleasant things in life and we’re acknowledging His involvement in the good things, too.

I spend a great deal of time trying to discern what it is God wants me to do in situations and although that’s not a BAD thing, I think maybe I need to spend less time discerning and more time just trusting.