Tuesday, July 26, 2011

“Ah Wan BaBa”

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30
My youngest daughter, Olivia, is just shy of two years old.  Her way of speaking is like most little girls her age, absolutely adorable.  Her first word was, of course, “mama”.  Followed shortly by “mine”.  Having two older sisters has definitely caused her to learn to stand up for herself.  But my favorite word of all is what she calls my husband - BaBa.  That’s right, you read that correctly.  It sounds like what you would hear coming from a pasture of sheep.  BaBa.
Olivia started out a definite mama’s girl.  That has slowly been changing over the last few months.  She has been looking to her BaBa for more and more of her comfort and reassurance.  The transformation was solidified this past weekend.
I had the amazing opportunity to attend the She Speaks Conference hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries, leaving my girls to spend the weekend with their daddy.  While the conference was phenomenal, all I could think of while driving home was how much I was looking forward to seeing those three little girls.  I couldn’t wait for Olivia to come running to me with arms outstretched yelling, “mama!”.
As I pulled into the driveway and saw all four of them standing there, my heart leapt.  I jumped out of my car and two little girls came running and wrapped their arms around me.  My little Olivia, clung closely to her BaBa.  Peering at me shyly from behind his leg.  It was official.  She had become a daddy’s girl.
My husband explained that the two of them had been inseparable over the weekend.  They swam, read books, colored and played Barbies.  Yes, my husband is man enough to play Barbies with his daughters.  Each night, he sang her to sleep while rocking her in his arms.  It was an all-around Olivia and BaBa love fest.  So much so, that she wants nothing else now.  She wants to be with her daddy all the time.  To be in his arms, to play with him, to be loved on by him.  All I hear from her is, “Ah Wan BaBa”.
My experience at She Speaks was much like Olivia’s weekend.  I was loved on by my Heavenly Father in ways that I just don’t even have the words to express.  He showed me His grace, His love, His plan for me.  He helped me to let go of a rejection that I have been carrying around for the past ten years.  I can now honestly say that I praise Him for the experience.  He confirmed my gifts and gave me a vision for my calling.  
And now, like Olivia, I want more and more of Him.  I want to be with Him all of the time.  To hear Him speak to me.  To read His word.  To feel His love for me.   
And so, it is official for me, as well.  I have become a Daddy’s girl.

How about you?  Are you a Daddy's girl?  How has He been loving on you lately?  Leave a comment to let me know.

Resting in "BaBa's" arms

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Bad Day at the Goodwill

I decided to take my three young daughters, whom I loving refer to as my "three ring circus", on a little outing this morning to the Goodwill.  None of my dress pants fit right now, which I attribute to too many trips to Chick-fil-a since giving birth to said "three ring circus".

The adventure started bad from the beginning.  As I was loading my five year old daughter, Abigail, in to the car, she told me that she had finished her cheese stick.  The cheese stick that she had in her hand 5 seconds ago.  The one that had two bites taken out of it when she showed it to me claiming she was finished and didn't want anymore of it.  The conversation proceeded like this . . . 

Mama, "Abigail, did you really eat that or are you lying to me?"

Abigail, "I ate it."

Mama, "If I look through this car, am I going to find a cheese stick hidden somewhere?"

Abigail, "I don't know what you mean."

Mama, "Is the cheese stick in your stomach or in this car?"

Abigail, "It's under the car seat."

Abigail has been having issues with lying lately, so even though I don't want to, I have to punish her for this.  So I tell her that she is not allowed to watch any TV the rest of the day.  Cue wailing and nashing of teeth.  She actually said, "but Mama, I didn't want that to be my punishment."  Bingo - we have a winner.

While I am looking through the racks of clothing, my daughters decided to reenact a scene from 27 Dresses among the thrown off prom gowns and bridesmaid dresses.  I am okay with this because at least they are occupied.  Then my oldest decides that she wants to dance with the mannequin in the corner, which I am not okay with and I promptly tell her to stop.  She apologizes and promises to never do it again.  Now, five year olds must not understand what never means, because not two minutes later she is doing it again.  I proceed to tell her to stop, again, but more forcefully, which elicits a more dramatic apology and a promise to "never, never do it again."  I think you can tell where this is going . . . This scenario plays out a third time, but this time it ends with me telling her she is being taken home for disobedience and is going to be immediately sent to her room upon arrival.

Cue more wailing and nashing of teeth.  As I am trying to exit the store as quickly as possible, every eye is on me and my wayward child.  With every cry that erupts, I feel that they are judging me as a mother.  I walk past a group of seniors who look at me and say, "Enjoy it.  It goes by so fast."  And I just smile while I think to myself, "Not fast enough."

As I tucked Abigail into bed and told her I loved her, she said, "Then why are you punishing me?"  I explained to her that it was because of my love for her that I was disciplining her so she could become a better person.

I had to ask myself, though, how many times have I been guilty of the exact same thing.  How many times has God told me, "no", either through His word or a sermon or a natural consequence?  And how many times have I said, "I promise God.  I will never, never do it again."  Only to break that promise. 

God forgives.  There is grace.  In 1 John 1:9 it says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

But God is also a loving father who wants us to grow and to learn to be more like Him.  The author of Hebrews quoted Proverbs when he wrote, "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." (verses 5-6)

He goes on to promise that, "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." (verse 11)

Lord, may I learn this lesson.  Help me to obey You in all Your commands, because they are there to protect me, keep me safe and make me more like you.  Help me to accept your loving discipline when I mess up and to keep my promise when I say I will "never, never do it again".

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My She Speaks Scholarship Entry

Below is the essay that I submitted to the Karen Ehman speaker scholarship contest that I wrote about in my previous posting.  Thank you so much to Cecil Murphey for sponsoring my registration fee to attend this amazing conference.  

“He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4, ESV

As a seventeen year-old girl standing by the bedside of her dying father, this verse was the last thought on my mind. I had no idea of the much bigger plan that God was weaving together at that very moment. A plan that would allow me to use the pain and grief of my entire girlhood to bring God’s comfort to people who are experiencing the same pain.

I am the daughter of an incredibly handsome, charming and talented man, who also happened to be addicted to drugs and alcohol. His addiction led him to abandon his family, to bury his talents and ultimately to lose his life in a drunk driving crash that he caused. My childhood memories are filled with pain because of the absence of my earthly father. My grief did not begin that cool October day in 1994 when my dad died. I had grieved for my father my entire life. That day was the day that my healing began.

Six months later, I was asked to speak to a group of high school students about my father’s life and death. I said, “no”. My heart was hard and frozen. I did not want to let anyone in or any of the pain out. This teacher would not take no for answer, though and I found myself standing on stage in front of 2,000 teenagers. As I shared our story, the ice began to melt from my heart. After my presentation, as I stood and spoke with over 50 young women about their own experiences with absent fathers, I realized that my message was not just one of sobriety, but of the healing that comes from crying out to our Abba Father. “A Father to the fatherless . . . is God in his holy dwelling.” Psalm 68:5.

As women, we so easily view God through the glasses of our earthly fathers and for many of us those glasses are scratched, bent and damaged. My desire is to help women put on new glasses. Ones which allow them to see God for who He truly is. A Father who will never leave them or forsake them, One who loves them unconditionally and who sent His son to die on the cross so that they might live.

My life’s calling was realized on that stage that day. Not only had God given me a message, but He had also given me the talent to share that message effectively. For the decade following my father’s death, I traveled the mid-atlantic region speaking to young people, using my affliction to comfort others the way that God comforted me. When my first daughter was born in 2006, that calling got put on hold, but the dream and desire to share God’s message still swells in my heart.

During the decade that I spent speaking, opportunities to speak came through word of mouth. I have always struggled with the aspect of self-promotion that seems inherent in the profession of public speaking. When it comes to the logistics of obtaining bookings, you are selling yourself and I have a difficult time reconciling that with Christ’s call for us to be humble. One of the things that I hope to learn at this year’s She Speaks Conference is how to effectively market myself, while still retaining a sense of humility. More importantly, I wish to develop relationships with other women who share the same dream.

I once had the opportunity to present a workshop entitled “God, the Father” at a church convention. I expected a few women to choose my breakout session, but was completely overwhelmed by the response. Over one hundred women walked into that room wearing the scars of their relationships with their earthly fathers. I was so humbled that God allowed me to walk with them on their journey of healing. I also know that there are many other women out there who need to hear the same message. These women are daughters of absent fathers, abusive fathers, work-a-holic fathers, fathers who have died, and emotionally distant fathers. But more importantly, they are daughters of the Almighty God in heaven. Because we are a one income family, we are not in a position to pay the registration fee to this year’s conference. Being given this scholarship and the opportunity to attend the She Speaks Conference would provide me with the tools that I need to be able to share God’s great love with His daughters all around the world.

On Stepping Out and Trusting God

Then Gideon said to God, "If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor.  If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.  And it was so.  When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water."  Judges 6:36-40

This past winter was difficult.  It was difficult, not just because of the massive amounts of snow that blanketed our little abode in the woods, but because I had lost my way.  You see, I am your typical over-achieving type A personality.  Since high school, I have always had many irons in the fire at one time.  From work, to school, to church, public speaking and volunteerism, to exercise and crafts, to friendship, family and my relationship with God, I did it all and did it all at one time.  I was able to keep up with the flurry of activity as a young single person.  I was even able to keep up with it as a newly married wife, but that all changed when my children were born.

I attempted to continue doing it all when my first daughter, Abigail, was born and was mildly successful at juggling all of my commitments.  It wasn't until my daughter Bethany was born that I realized something had to change.  God led me to gradually pull away from my outside commitments.  There is definitely truth to the saying, "As women, we can have it all, just not all at once."  I was no longer able to give my best self to all of the different areas of my life.  Something had to change.

That change came in the form of a move to Fredericksburg, VA.  Moving from my small townhouse in a crowded DC suburb, to a secluded wooded home in a rural community helped me to slow down and just be a mother to my three children (my third daughter, Olivia, was born shortly after our move).

Things went well for sometime.  But because I am wired to thrive on a flurry of activity and to strive for perfectionism, I soon became obsessed with being super mom and super house wife.  I sought my self-worth in my ability to take care of my house and my children.  There was just one problem?  Have you ever lived with three children under the age of five years old?  There really is no such thing as a clean house.  And so I began to feel completely defeated.  I found myself thinking that there had to be more to accomplish at the end of the day than just getting the dishes clean.

The Lord began to open my eyes to the fact that I had made my home my idol and that He was no longer sitting on the throne of my life.  It was at this point that I received an email announcing that registration had opened for the Proverbs 31 Ministries She Speaks Conference.  Maybe this was it?  Maybe my "more" was stepping back out into the world of public speaking, but this time focusing on helping women to see their Father in heaven for who He truly is.  Unfortunately, we did not have the funds to cover the registration fee.

Then the email came about the scholarship opportunity.  Write a blog post about why you want to attend the conference and submit it to the Proverbs 31 ministry team.  This was it, my chance.  Like Gideon, I laid out my fleece.  "God, if you want me to move forward with this ministry, if you want me to attend this conference, let me win this scholarship.  If I do not win, I know that it is not your will at this time."  I  submitted my entry and eagerly awaited the announcement of the winner.  I just knew it was going to be me.  As I scrolled down to the bottom of the blog post announcing the scholarship recipient, my heart broke when I saw someone else's name where I thought mine was going to be.

I literally railed against God.  My heart was broken, not because I didn't feel that I was good enough, but because God had clearly said "no", or so I thought.  Several days later it was announced that there were more scholarships to be given away and this time one of them was specifically for speakers.  I submitted my entry, laid out my fleece once again and waited.  Imagine my disbelief when I scrolled to the bottom of the blog post announcing the winner and saw my name!  God had not said "no".  He just said "wait"

And so my journey begins.  I don't know where God is going to take me or what He has in store, but I am so thankful that I have the confirmation that this is where He wants me to be right now.  I will be attending the She Speaks Conference in just a few weeks.  Will you please pray for me as I prepare my talks for my speaker evaluation group and for my time while at the conference?

Looking forward to all that He has in store . . .
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