Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Confessions of an Imperfect Mom

I am not June Cleaver.

I am not Carol Brady.

I am not Claire Huxtable.

I am not Caroline Ingalls or Olivia Walton.

I am not a perfect mother. Much to my own disappointment, I never will be.

So often I compare myself to other moms, and feel like a failure.

I think about my friends who make all their meals from scratch, only serve only healthy foods, and allow sweets only on special occasions. I feel like a failure in comparison because I pass out cookies left and right, and we consider it a healthy meal if I have a veggie on their plates. I have quit trying to read the "here's what I'm cooking for supper" status updates on Facebook because when I read things such as "Tonight's supper is Mahi Mahi with mango chutney" my heart sinks. I wouldn't even know how to begin to make mango chutney and the only time I have ever eaten Mahi Mahi was when I went out to fancy restaurant without my children. To loosely quote my friend Lisa Koleszar, in my house "we are quite familiar with Chef Boyardee. Perhaps you know him too. He mostly makes Italian dishes."

I think about my friends who have taught their children to do amazing things by the age of 10. Their kids are unloading the dishwasher at age 4 and cooking lunches for the family at age 8. Before their teen years, the kids are pretty much self-sufficient people who can do laundry, manage their money and run the house without any adult assistance. My 9 year old still struggles to make his own peanut butter sandwich and tie his shoes. My kids fold the towels, but it looks really sloppy so if I am having guests come over I go back and refold them so it looks a little more presentable. My children are far from being self-sufficient. I figure I'll be lucky if they are able to move out and survive on their own when it is time for them to go to college.

I have other friends who run their households like little army units. Schedules are amazingly tight and precise. The house is always immaculate. The children always look like they are dressed for a magazine photo shoot ... not a trace of dirt under their fingernails, every hair combed to perfection. My kids usually have traces of food on their faces and I feel good if they are wearing clothing without stains and socks that match. And mostly, I just hope that if someone pops in for an unexpected visit, that the bathroom looks halfway decent and that the last one in remembered to flush the toilet.

Then I have these mom friends who give their children amazing opportunities. Their children play 2 musical instruments, take dance or drama or voice lessons ... or maybe all three! They play baseball in the spring and soccer in the fall. The family goes on amazing trips and vacations, tying in fun with learning. I try to involve my children in one extra-curricular activity, but it is often hard for me to juggle too many different schedules so I'll put all of my kids into the same activity and request that they all play on the same team. And while we love to travel, it's not something we can afford to do very often. The last real vacation we took was two years ago this month. I'm not sure that Julia can even remember it. Maybe next summer ...

Yes, when I compare myself to my friends, I feel like perhaps I'm the worst mother ever.

My friend Barb Cash is known for often stating that "Comparison is the death of contentment." How true it is! I compare myself to others until I've convinced myself that I'm not a worthy mother. And what a lie! No, I'm not perfect. I have many flaws and makes a multitude of mistakes. But I'm not a bad mom either. You see ...

I'm the kind of mom who will stop and smell the roses.

I'll stop to take my kids on a scarecrow walk around the town just because everyone is enjoying seeing the scarecrows scenes as we were driving home. It won't matter that there are groceries in the car or that it was already past lunch time. We will still stop to enjoy the moment. We'll take lots of walks around the block and stop every few feet to examine ants or watch a bird or try to catch a cricket. Life's not a race, but rather something we like to savor together.

I'm the kind of mom who loves to say YES.

My children know that if they ask politely, I'm likely to say yes to buying ICEES at Walmart or to dessert after supper, though it will probably just be ice cream without the homemade apple pie. I love to say yes to movie nights and game nights and requests for fish sticks for dinner.

I'm the kind of mom who loves to break routine and schedule from time to time.

I love to read my children just one more chapter when they beg me to keep on reading, even though it is already 5 minutes past bedtime. Heck, I'm the kind of mom that puts the kids in bed, only to get them back up 10 minutes later so that I can take them out for ice cream at Sonic in their PJ's! Don't get me wrong ... I have a schedule that I try my best to keep, but sometimes life is more fun when you throw schedules to the wind!

I'm the kind of mom who isn't worried about a little dirt and thinks that nature is pretty cool.

Not only is it okay for my children to play in the rain, but it is fine for them to go stomping through the mud puddles as well. My children and I stop to rescue turtles from the middle of the road, keep the frogs and toads that we find as pets and eat our PB&J sandwiches on quilts in the yard on pretty spring afternoons while we listen to the birds sweetly sing about summer.

I'm the kind of mom who doesn't freak out easily.

Perhaps one of the biggest compliments my children ever gave me was when Joel got red marker all over his white school uniform shirt. His teacher was worried, but Joel said, "It's okay, Mrs. Roberts. My mom is pretty cool about stuff like this because she knows I'm a kid. She'll just tell me to be more careful next time."

I'm the kind of mom who cherishes creativity and loves to learn.

Glue and scissors and crayons and paints are not just welcome in our home ... we use them often! My kids and I work together to make things like superhero masks out of felt which we glue together with the help of a hot glue gun. I let my children decorate birthday cakes, create new recipes, and try out amazing science experiments. I love it when my kids ask a questions and I don't know the answer, because that means that we will discover it together! The library and the internet are our friends, and one of my hopes is that my children will grow up to be life long learners.

I'm the kind of mom who thinks childhood is a pretty special time and it passes by far too quickly.

The truest parenting truth that I've ever heard is this: the days are long but the years are short. I've been determined to not rush my children through childhood, but rather let them enjoy these precious years to the fullest. If anything, I'm probably guilty of babying my children far too long.

I am definitely not a perfect mom. I will never be. And oddly enough, when I truly stop to think about it, I'm actually thankful that I'm not perfect and that I make plenty of parenting mistakes. It is those mistakes that make me depend all the more on God's grace. I read a quote this week that I just love: "God spreads grace like a 4 year old spreads peanut butter. He gets it all over everything!" OH, how I need that kind of grace, especially when it comes to parenting.

Father God, my prayer for today and for tomorrow and for all the tomorrows yet to come is that You will supply enough grace to cover up each of my short-comings as a mother, and that through You all of my weaknesses will be made strong. Amen.

PS: If any of my friends see themselves in the "perfect moms," please know how much I love you and how much I respect your mothering! You keep right on doing what you are doing because you do it so well! It's what makes you a great mom, too. :)

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Most Splendiforous Birthday Ever!

Today marks the start of another year of my life. This past year was a year of healing. God has been doing some interesting work in my heart and in my life ... showing me who I am in Him and allowing me to see myself in a different way.

Part of that growth has been learning how to mesh all these feminine desires in my heart with the truth the God is, in fact, the ultimate Lover of my soul. No one, no single friend, and certainly not one man on this earth, is capable of knowing me as intimately or loving me as deeply as my Savior. Today, God showed me just how much He loves me and knows my heart.

It started with my precious children decorating me a beautiful cake, giving me cards with sweet sentiments and giving me a beautiful heart-shaped necklace.

After I got to work, the secretary in my office revealed that she had made me a Mississippi Mud cake ... one of my very favorite kinds of cakes. Let me tell you ... it was delicious, too! YUMMY!

Before long, my dad came walking in my office with a card and a nice box of chocolates. Oh, my goodness! It was so unexpected! My dad hadn't been gone long when a beautiful bouquet of flowers was delivered to the office for me. It was a pretty white basket filled with pink and purple and white flowers. So cheery and happy. It made my day. I know this is unusual, but I've never gotten flowers before, so I was simply stunned to get some today. I wasn't expecting flowers, but my sweet sister sent them to me and I can't possibly think of a better gift!

So there it was before lunch time and I had already gotten jewelry, chocolates and flowers ... I felt like God was out to meet every feminine desire of my heart! I couldn't imagine the day getting any better.

However, there was a co-worker who bought me lunch, a couple of phone calls from sweet friends, an e-card and a few messages on facebook during the afternoon.

Perhaps the most touching gift was a card I got in the mail today. A friend of mine sent me a card that she had "recycled." It was originally a birthday card sent to her by my grandmother several years ago, so it had my grandmother's signature on it underneath the verse on the card. Can I just say it was like this amazing hug from my beloved grandmother?! I miss her so much and that gesture just brought tears to my eyes this evening. (Mrs. Jean E wrote a nice little birthday message to me on the other side.)

I had several other birthday cards in the mail ... two in particular had meaningful Bible verses written out for me. And there was a small package in my mailbox containing the sweetest bracelet. It was from Josephine, and it matched the earrings she gave me for my last birthday.

What a wonderful birthday! I feel so celebrated and loved tonight. But mostly, I'm just in awe that even though I'm a single mom of three kids, I've got the most amazing Lover, who knows my soul inside and out and cherishes me in ways that make me feel incredible!

I'm an extremely blessed woman. And today was the absolutely the most splendiforous birthday I have ever had! (Thanks, Amanda, for the inspiring adjective to describe this one-of-a-kind birthday.) I think 37 is going to be incredible!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Eight Years Ago ...

I'm remembering today ...

Remembering what my children cannot recall.

Remembering what I sometimes wish I could forget.

Remembering the innocent lives lost.

Remembering the bravery shown.

Remembering how life was before 9/11/01.

It's hard to believe it has been eight years now ... eight years since the terrorist attack on our nation that brought down the Twin Towers, four airplanes filled with innocent people, damaged the Pentegon and caused our nation to fall to its knees.

Memories are a good thing … a treasure and a gift from God. Throughout the Bible, God instructs His people to remember. He told them to build monuments in memory of an event and to pass on the memories to the younger generations. So pausing on days like today and thinking about what happened is good for our souls, even though ...

Sometimes memories are painful. We think about what has happened and realize that our hearts are still a little raw and sore … that there are places in our soul that need still need a little healing. We are perhaps taken back by the sting of remembering ... caught unaware by the flood of emotions that comes tumbling out once again.

As painful as remembering might be, I have also found it to be true that the more we remember, the easier it is to see how the blessings have flowed out of what was so terrible. And somehow, when we see and acknowledge the blessings that came about as a result of the awful and unimaginable, those raw and tender places begin to heal. Out of that healing comes peace with the past and fear is put to rest.

It's hard to believe it has been eight years now ...

I'm remembering today ... for as painful as it sometimes is to remember, it would be more painful to forget.

How many songs can I sing to proclaim your wondrous love and beauty so great?
What would I say if you brought down the rain and everyday
I walk through the pain my heart would still say…
Your name is Jesus. Your name is Jesus.
You’re the Wonderful, Counselor, my Friend.
You’re what I hold on to; I know that you brought me through
All the days of loss, to the cross
you knew ... I’d need a Savior.

lyrics to "I'd Need a Savior" by Among the Thirsty

A Dinner-time Conversation

Tonight at supper, I asked the kids to tell me about school.

Julia said, "I'm the prayer this week." This means she gets to pray at the start of school each morning and again at lunch time. She told me that today she prayed that KayTee and Poppa (my parents) would come visit us soon. I'm sure that all of first grade was grateful for her prayer.

Nathan shared next, saying that Mrs. Roberts had to spend "at least 20 minutes every single day fussing at the same people for the same things." I told him that I was well aware of how poor Mrs. Roberts must feel. Knowing Nathan the way I do, I'm very sure he is part of the "same people" that are doing the "same things" every day. Poor Mrs. Roberts! I feel for her. I really do.

Then it was Joel's turn. He announced, "Momma, there is this girl in my class and I'm scared of saying her last name. I just can't say it. It's too close to a really bad word! So I just call her Megan. I hope she doesn't mind that I never say her last name."

I was reassuring him that I'm sure Megan didn't mind if he only called her Megan, when Nathan piped in and said, "Aren't you curious as to what her last name is, Momma? I know you are! I can tell you her last name without saying the bad word. Her name starts with a B, but if you took the B away it would the same word that means a donkey or a butt."

I said, "Oh, her last name is Bass?"

Joel yelled, "Shhhhh! Momma! It's just too close to saying something ugly! You might accidently say it wrong and then you would have cussed!"

Nathan said, "Yep. That's why we just all call her 'Catfish.' "

Joel added, "Do you get it? Catfish and her last name are both kinds of fish. We all call her 'Catfish' so we don't accidently leave off the B in her last name."

I told them that I was really sort of confused as to how one could accidently leave off the B in a person's last name. It just seemed highly unlikely to me and that I didn't think they should be scared of saying her last name.

Meanwhile, Julia (who has been off in her own little 6 year old world of carrot sticks and ranch dressing) suddenly asks, "Wait! Megan means donkey?! I didn't know that! I didn't know Megan was a bad word. How come some little girls are named bad words?!"

And so, round two of really insane dinner-time conversations begins ...

After a few more minutes of this rather ridiculous topic, I announced, "This conversation is over! I think it is best for all of you to just call Megan by her first name. I seriously doubt she minds. I also advice you all not to call her 'Catfish' anymore, as that isn't really a compliment and I'm sure most little girls would rather not be nicknamed after such an ugly fish. I'm sure she'd just rather you call her Megan and leave it at that."

Next time, I will definitely think twice before I ask my children what is going on at school!

God Is ...

I spent several weeks in August defining myself. Those essays were a response to an assignment given to me by my counselor. Coming up with ten definitions for myself was challenging and hard. I had to dig deep. I spent a lot of time in prayer, asking God to show me things about myself. And it was worth the effort.

However, that assignment had two parts, the second of which was to come up with ten things that I knew personally to be true about God. In other words, I am to make my top ten “God is …” list. This past week, I’ve been seeking and searching out for the truths I know about God. It’s so much easier to tell what I know to be true about God … He is faithful, He is good, He is merciful, He is forgiving, etc. That list could go on and on and on. There are so many, many truths about God … far beyond ten!

I’ve been praying that God would give me some deep and personal truths about Himself. The list that follows is the result of that prayer. Over the past week, God’s spoken to my heart and allowed me to discover some various parts of who He is … some of which are things I have known but forgotten and some are things that I have long believed but perhaps need to acknowledge more in my life.

With that said, here is my list:

Ten Things That Paige Terry Knows To Be True About God:

1. God is not human. (Isaiah 55:8)

I sometimes think about God as having human attributes. I say that God is good or faithful. And those things are true, but yet it isn’t. I’m thinking of good as in a human is good. I’m thinking of faithful as in the way that I’m faithful. God is far beyond that for His goodness, faithfulness, kindness, love, etc is not anything like that of a human. He is God and His ways are not my ways. I will never begin to fathom or grasp an understanding of all God is for He is much greater than my small insignificant human self can possibly imagine. And yet …

2. God longs for me to know Him. (Matthew 7:7)

God reveals Himself to us through His creation, His Son and His word, among other things. If we seek Him, we will find Him. We can know that God wants us to know Him because …

3. God knows me more intimately than I even know myself. (Psalm 139:13; Luke 12:7)

Not only does God want for me to know Him, but He knows me intimately. The Bible tells me that He knows the number of hairs on my head! Truly, God knows me better than I know myself, and there is a security in that. I’ve seen this quote before but it fit perfectly with this thought: “Jesus loves me, this I know ... Jesus KNOWS me, this I love!” And because God knows us intimately …

4. God wants to give me the desires of my heart. (Psalm 37:4)

God knows me so well that He knows the burning desires I have … the secret longings and dreams, my hopes and plans. And not only does He know those things, but He longs to bless me with them. I can lay those things before Him as an offering, and trust that my desires are safe in His care because I also know that …

5. God has good plans for my future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

As I think ahead to the rest of my life, I can know that God has plans for me. He isn’t through with me yet and He wants me to know that He has my best interest at heart. Sometimes I don’t get the desires of my heart. But even then, I can trust that God has something far better than my selfish wants in mind for me. And when the hard times come (because hard times are going to come in this earthly life), I know that …

6. God blesses me, especially in the midst of trials and troubles. (Psalm 23: 5)

Two years ago, on a bright fall day in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, I sat with my sweet friend Josephine. My husband had just declared he no longer wanted to be married to me, and that furthermore marrying me was a mistake from the start. He claimed to have never loved me. My heart was shattered. I felt numb … as if I were just moving through the motions of living. As far as I was concerned, my life was over. I recall thinking that it was so ironic that my life began in North Carolina in the fall, and that it was ending in North Carolina in the fall. I was more heartbroken that day than I have ever been. My soul was downcast and beaten. I saw absolutely no hope for my future, and nothing good in my life at all.

That afternoon, as the evening sun shone down on us creating a warmth like I’ve never felt before, Josephine put her arm around me and said, “Paige, God has promised to prepare a table before you in the midst of your enemy. I know things are so hard right now, but let’s just take a minute to look at the table God has spread before you.” And then she began to name the blessings in my life … things that even in my great grief I knew were gifts from God.

The lesson I learned that day and in the months that followed is that God is generous and He loves to bless us, especially when we are hurting. He longs to do this for us because …

7. God is caring toward me. (Isaiah 40:11)

One of my favorite names for God is Abba, or Father. He loves us like a good father loves his children. This means He longs to see us come to Him with our troubles, to seek His advice, to rest in His loving arms. As our Heavenly Father, He must discipline us. He wants our full obedience. He always cares about us because of His great love for us. And perhaps the most amazing thing about the love of my Heavenly Father is that …

8. Nothing can separate me from the love of God. (Romans 8:33-39)

He knows me, with all my faults, and still loves me better than anyone else ever has or ever will. And that’s what amazes me!

(Sadly, I cannot make these last two truths about God fit into a nice little segue, as I have for the previous eight truths. I suppose they will have to stand alone, as much as it bugs me.)

9. There is only one true God, yet He exists in three parts … the Holy Trinity.
(Genesis 1:26; John 10:30)

This is a mystery to me. I’m not sure how one God can be God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit all at the same time. I cannot begin to explain it, and yet I know and trust that this is the way God exists.

10. God is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. (2 Peter 3:8; Revelation 19:6)

God is everywhere, at all times. He is all powerful. These traits, which belong solely to God, are hard for me to fully grasp and imagine. I simply have to trust that God is these things because He has said so. I don’t understand because I am human and God is God, which means that I’ve gone full circle.

This past week God has been revealing Himself to me. Some of it was shown to me in new ways, but nothing that God revealed was earth shattering news to me. These were things I already knew, for the most part. However, what God did do was to show me that if I truly believe all of these things, then the way I live my life should reflect it.

One of my very favorite songs is called “You are the Sun” and is sung by Sara Groves. As I’ve typed this out, I’ve thought of the words to the chorus over and over:

You are the sun shining down on everyone
Light of the world giving light to everything I see
Beauty so brilliant I can hardly take it in
And everywhere you are is warmth and light

And I am the moon with no light of my own
Still you have made me to shine
And as I glow in this cold dark night
I know I cannot be a light unless I turn my face to you

The cry of my heart is this: “Oh, Precious Jesus … let me be the moon so that I reflect nothing but You!”

The Definition of Me (Part 10/10)

I am fascinated with Facebook. I love connecting with friends from high school and college. I enjoy reading what other people have to say about their life. And, even though I hate to admit it, I really like to take the facebook personality quizzes.

I waste far too much time taking tests that tell me which soft drink I am most like (Dr. Pepper), which Little House character I am closest to (Caroline “Ma” Ingalls), which Gone With the Wind character I most resemble (Melanie Hamilton), which Pooh character (Pooh himself), and on and on.

These quizzes are so totally bogus, and yet I’m always so curious to see what result I will get. Sometimes I am pleased with the result that I post it so that everyone can see my fantastic result. There have been times that I am so disappointed in the results that I actually take the test again to see if I can get a different result. For some reason, I am obsessed with having myself defined by someone or something else.

I’ve taken a variety of personality type indicator tests for my jobs in the past. One popular personality indicator uses colors to describe people: blues, greens, reds and yellows. I nearly always turn out to be a yellow.

There is another personality test that relates people to animals: beavers, lions, golden retrievers and otters . I tend to get a strong golden retriever result.

Then there are sanguines, melancholies, cholerics and phlegmatics. I usually test out to be a phlegmatic.

I couldn't possibly leave out the exhaustive Myers-Briggs personality indicator. You can be an E or an I (extrovert/introvert), an S or an N (sensing/iNtuition), an F or a T (feeling/thinking), and a P or a J (perceiving/judging). With sixteen different personality types to pick and choose from, I figured it would be very definitive in describing my personality. Wrong ... I’ve yet to get a consistent result on the Myers-Briggs. Trust me when I say I have taken it multiple times, and each time I get a different result

There are other ways in which people describe who or what they are in order to give themselves a label.

Night owl or early bird?

Introvert or extrovert?

Saver or a spender?

Chatty or the silent type?

Sweet or sassy?

I’m not definitively any of these things. And I’m like this is so much of my life ... sitting on the fence, living life in the middle of the road, not given to extremes.

Sometimes I wonder exactly how my personality can be described ... what is it that makes me unique and how am I different from the rest of the world. Quite often I feel undefinable. Even though tests say I’m a yellow, phlegmatic, golden retriever with tendencies toward being an introverted saver at times and an extroverted spender at others, none of that really gets to the heart of who I am.

That’s because the only way I can be defined in through Christ Jesus, my Lord. He’s my Creator and made me to be uniquely me. I’m made in His image and I’m designed to be who He created me to be, whether or not it fits any particular personality indicator quiz or not. Furthermore, the only definition of me that matters is God’s definition!

This entire series of notes has been an outcome of 2 years of searching for who I am and discovering that it really doesn’t matter all that much who I think I am or how the rest of the world defines me. There is only one definition of me that truly matters. I’m learning to seek the definition of who I am in the One who lives in me ... the One who loves me most of all and who is holding me (with all of my dreams and hopes and desires) in the palm of His hand as He sings over me with the most amazing love songs.

Therefore the tenth important thing that you should know about me is that I am only defined through Christ, my Savior.

I’m good, I’m bad
I’m everything in between
I’m this, I’m that
But ...
It is Your love that defines me.
~Definition of Me by Stephen Curtis Chapman

When it comes to my identity
I want the love
I want the light
I want the beauty
On the inside
I want the one that you can't see
To be the definition of me
~The Definition of Me by Mandisa

The Definition of Me (Part 9/10)

Twenty miles out in the hills of rural Louisiana stands a small white church. It’s been standing there for well over 100 years now ... a small white church with a tiny graveyard surrounding it. Chances are quite good that you’d never just happen upon it for it stands just off a dirt road with nothing else nearby for miles and miles. Yet this small white church is near and dear to my heart.

Spring Ridge Baptist Church was built in 1892, and in 1893 the church records indicate that there were 93 members. In those long ago days, church members would travel many miles by horse-drawn buggy or wagon to services. We are told that these services began on Saturday evening, and that it was concluded with a noon-time meal on Sunday. The congregation always departed by singing the old hymn “God Be With Us ‘Til We Meet Again.” It’s said that at the start of this hymn, the horses would begin to neigh for they knew it was time to head home once again.

The congregation disbanded over 60 years ago, after most people had left the hills and moved into towns. But to this day, the descendants of those original church members gather to pay homage to those who walked in the faith before us and left us a legacy of faith in Christ. The first Sunday of every May is Spring Ridge Sunday, and we gather to worship our loving Heavenly Father, as well as to remember and honor those who came before and left behind a legacy of loving the Lord Jesus Christ. Today, the congregation is so large that it fills the church to over-flowing, the wooden benches crowded with young and old. Some stand in the doorways or sit on the steps at the entrances, while others gather around the windows to listen in and be a part of the worship experience.

Perhaps my favorite part of Spring Ridge Sundays are when we take roll. The names of the founding church members are read. In response, those in the congregation that morning who descend from those names rise to their feet. In the Old Testament there is reference to the Israelites standing together by clans to be accounted for, so I think it is extremely neat that this is a part of our worship experience on Spring Ridge Sunday.

The list starts out ...

Kate Allbritton and Gus Zeagler
Mary Allbritton and Butler Lutrick
Henry Allbritton and Launa Dunlap
Ben Allbritton and Minnie Myers

A few rise to there feet here and there ...

The roll call continues ...

Nola Allbritton and Bergie Beasley
Tom Allbritton and Nettie Tidwell

And finally ... Minnie Bell Allbritton and Jim McGuffee.

It is then that I rise to my feet, for this is the pair of names for which I’ve been carefully listening. I don’t stand alone, as at least half of the packed one room church is standing up as well. We stand shoulder to shoulder, a testament to the lives of Jim and Minnie Bell McGuffee. The list of names continues to be read after that, but by far the largest number of descendants in attendance comes from this particular family line.

Why is it that Jim and Minnie Bell have so many descendants gathering on Spring Ridge Sundays? Perhaps they just had a lot of children, who in turn parented many children ... a logical answer. Maybe their descendants haven't scattered quite as far from the old homeplace ... another likely reason. However, I like to think it is more due to their legacy.

Jim and Minnie Bell were my great-great-grandparents. They were married in 1892. They had 7 children. My great-grandmother, Rita Mae McGuffee, was their 6th child. My children are the 6th generation to descend from this long-ago generation of believers. How wonderful it is that I can truly claim this scripture: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations! Psalm 90:1”

Jim and Minnie Bell left a legacy of faith in God. I never knew them, but I loved their daughter and spent many an hour with her during my childhood. Ma told me often about her parents, and how they raised her to love the Lord. I used to go and spend nights with Mat when my grandparents were out of town. When I was younger she would read the Bible to me, but later on as I grew older and her eyes grew weaker I read the Bible aloud to her. Sometimes I’d read for an hour or more. She loved to hear God’s word. Ma often prayed over me. I recall sitting next to her in church, my hand in her old, wrinkled one. Ma lived to be 91 years old. I was 21 years old when she went on to live in her eternal home, and never once did I know her to waiver in her faith in God.

My grandfather was her only child. I’ve never known a man who loved God and family quite like my Papaw. He gathers his family, which now numbers 50 and is still growing, in his home. As we eat, he often turns the topics of conversation to something regarding God and the Bible.

And then there is my father ... a faithful son, husband and dad. He’s gentle, kind and good. My father is a peace-maker and works hard to keep everyone at peace with each other. His life exhibits the fruits of the spirit in a way I don’t often see in other men. I’

Each generation has been faithful to love God and live their life in such a way that other’s notice the difference. My family is full of people who are living a victorious life in Christ, and are leaving a legacy of true faith and fellowship with Christ. This does not save me, but it rather gives me such a precious picture and guide for my own walk of faith. It has made it easier for me to see God for who He is and to come to Him on my own.

I know that I’m bless to have received the legacy and heritage of faith in Christ. I’ve had several conversations lately, with friends who either didn’t grow up with family who trusted in God or didn’t have a deep relationship with the Heavenly Father. It has opened my eyes to what a sweet gift this is .... this blessing of having grown up in a home in which the Lord was honored and revered. I’m familiar with His ways. I know the stories of faith. I was taught the importance of living out what I say I believe.

You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name. Psalm 61:5

Part of my personal definition includes this heritage with which I’ve been blessed. A very large part of who I am comes directly from my upbringing and my childhood and from the incredible people who have helped to shape me into the woman I am today. So the ninth truth in my life is that I have been given a heritage of faith in Christ that has shaped my own relationship with my Savior, and that legacy inspires me to live my life in such a way that I’ll leave behind a legacy of faithfulness to God as well.

I want to leave a legacy How will they remember me? Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough To make a mark on things? I want to leave an offering A child of mercy and grace whoblessed your name unapologetically And leave that kind of legacy
~chorus "Legacy" by Nicole Nordeman

I won’t bend and I won’t break
I won’t water down my faith
I won’t compromise in a world of desperation
What has been I cannot change
But for tomorrow and today
I must be a light for future generations
~ chorus "For Future Generations" by 4-Him

The Definition of Me (Part 8/10)

This past week it has felt like God has been somewhat silent in my life. I have spent time wondering when He was planning to show up in a couple of areas of my life. Through some interesting conversations and a book I’m reading, I’ve been reminded about hearing the voice of God.

I’ve been reminded of 3 common reasons that I don’t hear God speaking to me:

The first reason is that I am stubborn and selfish. I want to do things my way. I have my own agenda and if God’s agenda doesn’t match mine then I get pouty and petulant. I’ll turn a deaf ear to Almighty God. Like a child who covers her ears to show she isn’t listening, so am I to the voice of God if He isn’t saying something I want to hear. It isn’t that God is not speaking. It is that I don’t want to hear what He has to say and so I choose not to listen.

At other times I’m unable to hear the voice of God because I’ve chosen to fill my mind and my life with the clattering and clanging of life at a frantic pace. I’m a single mom of 3 active kids. My house is rarely still. My house is rarely quiet. The voice of God is rarely loud and booming. In my life it typically comes as a soft whisper. If I’m not intentional about rising early to meet with God, or using my alone time to purposefully seek him (as I’m driving to work and home again, when the kids are outside playing while I cook supper, etc), then I’m probably not going to hear the still, small voice of God. So often, I’m guilty of choosing to sleep in a few extra minutes or of calling a friend in a quiet moments instead of choosing to spend those minutes with God. You see, it isn’t that God isn’t speaking. It is that I’m not choosing to spend time listening.

Perhaps most disturbing are the times that I choose to listen to the other voices around me. Sadly, sometimes I truly can’t discern the voice of God from the voices of the world. In fact, far too often, this is the way of it. I’m simply not familiar enough with my Saviour and His ways to be able to pick out the definitive voice of God.

When I was a kid, my parents made my siblings and me raise 4-H lambs. This is one of those things that I look back upon with much more fondness than I had for it as a child. I could tell many funny stories about raising 4-H sheep ... maybe someday I will write those stories down. But for today, I want to share one fact about sheep that I still find sort of fascinating.

My sister Brooke was the true animal lover in our family. She probably spent more time with our sheep than any of the rest of us. She would go into the pen and walk around among the sheep, stroking their wooly heads and talking to them. I have no clue what she said to them, but she spent a lot of time out there with them. Before long, Brooke could lead those sheep around anywhere just by talking to them. The lambs were quite willing to walk along next to Brooke as she talked softly. Sheep are followers and they followed the voice of the one they knew and trusted.

The Bible compares us to sheep. Jesus is our Good Shepherd. He is always there for us, ready to spend precious moments with us. The more time I choose to spend in HIs presence (reading my Bible, praying, singing worship songs, actively listening) the better I will recognize the voice of my Saviour as I’m living my daily life ... the life that comes at that frantic pace.

Interestingly enough, God’s voice hasn’t changed since the beginning of time ... He declares to us in His word that there is no shadow of turning in Him, so His messages won’t change to reflect the changing views of society and culture.

I have been guilty of thinking that God is the “strong, silent” type. Wrong. God speaks. He just never forces me or anyone else to listen. He wants us to want to listen and follow.

Quite often, I fail in this area. Either I don’t want to hear and so I shut out His voice, or I’m too busy to pause and spend time listening, or I’m unable to pick out God’s voice from all the messages being sent to me. In my life, I’m desiring to learn to listen to God, and to follow His voice wherever it may lead ... and that’s the eighth thing I know to be true about me.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. John 10:27