Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Breakthrough

We've been visiting church's around Starkville each Sunday since we've moved here, but just haven't like we've found what we're looking for yet. We had decided to check out a church in Columbus, so we headed to bed a little early. However once we got in bed we started talking. Lately I haven't been feeling great. I had tried to figure out what was going on with the help of Google, a.k.a. diagnose myself, but all of the searching had only left me unsettled and wondering if I had some dreadful disease. As we were laying there talking about it, Andrew brought up my past battle with anxiety. I laid there thinking, I don't have anything to be anxious about... But as we talked, I found many things that I hadn't been able to really admit or hadn't even realized I was worrying about, were definitely each adding to the load that was slowly overwhelming me. I've been worried about the health of my grandfathers, I just left an amazing church and some terrific friends, and probably the most surprising that came up, was my eternal battle with confidence. I'm very outgoing; I love people! But at the same time, it takes a toll on me to meet new people and to put myself out there. I never really fit in growing up. Especially in grade school and middle school. I always felt like the odd duckling. Some of that has stuck with me and I find myself overanalyzing situations, especially new situations, and worrying about what people are thinking about me. Andrew was very encouraging and after talking to him, I felt better. So we fell asleep.

Then about 4 a.m. I woke up... I prayed for awhile. Praying about the things Andrew and I had talked about. I prayed about our families. I prayed for Albany and Andrew. I prayed about my future. I prayed until I couldn't think of anything. Then I tried to go back to sleep, but at 5, I knew it wasn't going to happen, so I got up and went to check my email. The computer was off and I felt amazingly awake, so I went to the living room and picked up a book that my mom lent me, Nice Girls Don't Change the World by Lynn Hybels. It's a short little book, so I finished it in about 30 minutes. I was blown away as I turned the pages.

So much of it dealt with what I had just been talking to Andrew about. She talks about having confidence to do what God had called for her. She also hit on another subject that I've been thinking about since this summer. When we took our kids to camp this summer, we had Chad Norris as our speaker. He spent time talking about how often we view God as an angry, spiteful God. Whether from childhood teachers, or from Old Testament stories, so often we have a hard time getting past this image of God. I remember a Sunday School teacher telling us when we were little, that we had to be very careful how we prayed. And we had to be very specific. She told a story of some person who prayed for money and shortly after his mother died and left him a lot of money. I think what this taught me as a child, was that God was looking for some kind of loophole to get you! I have to admit that even as an adult, I've had a hard time seeing God as someone who really cared for me. I knew Jesus did, but I guess I always imagined kind of a good cop, bad cop scenario. Anyway, Chad Norris talked about how much God loves us. He broke John 3:16 down in a way that I had never seen it. God used Chad to speak to me and show me that God didn't just create us so that we could live with Him in heaven, but that He loves us so much, that He wants to have a relationship-an intimate relationship-with us now. Lynn Hybels also touches on a similar situation in her journey. She says she realized that the God she had been following didn't really exist, that God was totally different from how she had imagined Him. It was cathartic to see someone express so much of what I had been feeling. I do have to add that as a children's pastor, I never taught these views. I guess what is so odd for me, is that I've always known in my head that God loves us tremendously, but I don't think it ever fully got through to my heart.

So after I finished the book, I sat on the couch for awhile, pretty much in awe. It was about 6 and I was beginning to wonder if I was going to be able to get up in time to get ready and make the 30 minute drive to Columbus. I really wasn't even feeling tired. I checked my email and looked up the start times for a couple of local churches. But before I logged off, I went to the website of the Real Life Church, the one we had planned to visit in Columbus. I checked out the site again and decided that if I could fall back asleep and get myself moving in the morning that this is really where I wanted to be. I had no idea that it was where God wanted me to be...

Surprisingly I fell back asleep easily. And I woke up pretty easily. We made it to the church in plenty of time and got Albany settled in her class. We visited with a very friendly member for a little bit before the worship started. A couple of songs into the worship, I could honestly feel the presence of God there. I prayed that God would speak to me. And that I would listen.

The pastor talked about how much God loves us. He said, "If God has a refrigerator, your picture would be on it." He talked about God genuinely caring for us. He talked about self esteem. And I sat there wondering if this was some huge cosmic joke. The pastor mentioned part way through his sermon that it was taking a different turn than the first service, but that he thought someone needed to hear it. I wanted to yell, "I do!!!"

At the end of his sermon he had us all stand. He asked if anyone was dealing with self esteem issues to raise their hand. Since I had just had it brought to my attention 3 times in less than 12 hours, I lifted my hand. Then he had everyone look around the room and find someone lifting their hand to pray over them. He said, I want this to be a break through for you. As several people gathered around me, all I could do was cry. I walked out of the church and I was convinced God was trying to tell me something. He wants me to see Him the way He truly is. He wants me to know that He cares for me so much. He wants me to know that because He loves me and adores me, who cares what anyone else is thinking.

I was sharing this with my mom last night and she brought up a great point. She asked me how incredible it is to know that the God who created the universe had something He wanted me to hear something so much, that He brought it to my attention through a conversation, a book, and a sermon. I think it has finally sunk in. I'm not saying that I will never ever be self conscious. That all of my life will be hunky dory. But I do know that beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves me deeply. That He has great plans for me. And I can't even begin to describe the peace that this gives me.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Growing Up Southern

I wrote most of this a few years ago on my xanga, and with us moving to Mississippi at the end of the summer, I thought it was a good time to post it. It is my hope that Albany will also get to grow up Southern... :-)

I was born in Louisiana and lived there until Andrew and I got married about six and a half years ago. While Oklahoma is definitely not a Southern state, it does have a little flavor from home. Depending where you are in Oklahoma, its personality tends to represent whatever region it is closest to. With quite a few universities here, people are from all over the place. Adjusting to living here has not been too bad, although it has it’s moments of confusion. I get tickled when I hear someone use the word pop. Before moving to Norman, I’ve actually known only two people who use this word. My Mammaw who grew up in Iowa and a roommate I had from Kansas. Where I grew up, we always used the word coke instead of soda or pop. We were specific when we needed to be. When I was going to OBU in Shawnee, I was also waitressing at Goldie’s Patio Grill. It hadn’t been long since I had moved there and I hadn’t realized that I spoke a foreign language. I asked one table if they would like a coke. They replied that that sounded good. So I proceeded, what kind of coke would you like? Confusion clouded their faces and they asked me what I meant, what kind of coke do you have? I replied, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Root beer, Dr. Pepper, and Fruit Punch. “But you said coke,” the man reminded me. I had no idea what he was talking about, “yes, and we have several different kinds.” He smiled and asked me, “You’re not from around here, are you?”

I was asked that question frequently in Shawnee. My first floor meeting was a headache. The girls were so taken aback by my Southern accent, that I had to repeat everything at least once, and then they would try to say it like me. It wasn’t long before I smothered my speech to one with little accent. Although, it always seems to slip out, just when I least expect it; especially after talking to my Momma or visiting home. My Momma always talks about how when I was learning to count, she could tell I was a Southern child. My I’s have always been a bit exaggerated. I would count one, two, three, four, fiiiive, six, seven, eight, niiiine… I often slip up when giving someone directions and tell them to turn riiiight.

My friends had finally gotten used to me, but my mother was another story. My roommate’s name was Cameron and she was from Kansas and I was fascinated by her total lack of an accent. After getting home from work one night, she informed me that my mom had called and that she might have made my mom mad. When I asked her why, she explained that she didn’t understand my mom. Cameron said, “She kept saying Ha-lure. And I kept asking, ‘what?’” She said it took a few tries before she realized my mom was saying Hello. I laughed so hard and told Cameron that Momma did not have a Southern accent. She was a military kid and traveled all over the US and to Taiwan. It wasn’t until I heard her voice on my answering machine, that I realized Cameron was right. She had it bad!

What I learned, was that you can drop the accent, but sometimes that doesn’t solve all of your problems. We were cleaning and closing at Goldie’s one night and the television started blinking that we had a tornado warning. I ran to the screen and shouted back to the cook, “What parish are we in?” Everyone just stopped and looked at me like I was crazy. Thinking they may have not heard me I shouted again, “What parish are we in?” Mike started laughing and I had to rack my brain to figure out why they didn’t understand me. Oh yeah, Oklahoma has counties! So after finding out that I was in Pottawatomie County, they asked me if I was Catholic. Nope, just Louisianan.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New Beginnings

I guess with making a fresh start in blogging, it is only fitting to write about another new start Andrew and I are facing. But not without a little history...

When Andrew and I got married a little over 6 years ago, he had just begun working on his Masters in Meteorology. We figured he would finish it in about 3 years and then we would try to move closer to my family. You see, as excited as I was to finally get married, I was not excited about moving to Oklahoma. Moving here I knew 1 person other than Andrew and spent most of the 7 1/2 hour drive in tears. It was only a month after arriving here that I got a call from a church needing some help in their children's ministry. Within in the next few months Andrew and I fell in love with the church family at Grace Fellowship, joined the church, and got involved. We've been so thankful for an amazing church family and for an opportunity to serve. It has been a place where I have felt my calling confirmed and affirmed.

As Andrew graduated with his master's, I realized that I had changed. The girl who was so unhappy after first moving here, did NOT want to leave Oklahoma. Though it wasn't really an issue since Andrew had a job and shortly after he got an incredible offer to begin his PhD. that was just too good to pass up. However, as he finished his doctorate the possibility of moving became more and more real. Andrew sent resumes all over the country and a bunch right here in Norman. What he has always wanted is to teach and do research at a university. However, with the economy in the state it is, and the school's having to cut funding and staff we realized it was unlikely he would find this position for his first job, much less in Norman. It took a lot of prayers and a lot of tears before I think I was actually open enough to be willing to go wherever God was leading us.

Things became super intense as Andrew faced rejection after rejection from the dozens of schools and companies he had applied at. When finally someone seemed genuinely interested, however they were located in the middle of the stinkin' desert in New Mexico! I did not want to go!!! As we talked about it, Andrew shared that it was not really the job he had hoped for and that it wasn't really an area he had wanted to go to. But he felt really torn between wanting us to be happy and providing for us. He seemed to move quickly through 4 interviews. More tears, lots of more prayers! Then one night I made up my mind that I was going to quit being upset about it and that if this where God was leading us, then I was going to be obedient and that I was going to be open. I shared this with Andrew, which I think took a lot of pressure off of him. We resigned ourselves to the fact that this is probably where we were going to end up, far from all of all of our family, in the middle of the desert, not really the job he wanted, with no Tex-Mex anywhere in sight-and we had decided to do it without complaining.

I'll be darned if within in that week Andrew didn't receive a call from Mississippi State asking for him to come in for an interview! Andrew went by himself and called so excited to have met a faculty close to his age, that all seemed to get a long, and all seemed so friendly, not to mention that it was what he wanted to do. He left totally encouraged and told me that if given the opportunity, he would like to take it. Of course I was excited that it was in the South and closer to my family. The next two weeks seemed to drag by as we waited to hear...

Last Tuesday I had started running a fever off and on, had chills, aches, a hacking cough that wouldn't quit. Wednesday night I felt like death warmed over. I had just taken my temperature and it was 102.5 as the phone rang. I showed Andrew the thermometer who didn't seem at all interested and mouthed to me that "this is it!" They offered him the job! We feel incredibly blessed, overwhelmingly excited, yet a little reluctant and very sad to be leaving Norman. It just depends on whether we're thinking of arriving in Mississippi or whether we're thinking of leaving Norman. We have an amazing church family here and I don't know if we'll ever find something similar.

We'll be here through the end of July, so I'll get to take my kids to camp and do VBS before we move. My prayer has become that I never become so comfortable or closed off that I fail to let God use me the way he wants. I'm praying for good friends for Andrew and I when we move. And for a church family that really is a family. And for Grace, that someone will step up that will take the children's ministry to the next level. I think most new beginnings are bittersweet. This one definitely is!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ta-Da! My First Post

This isn't my first time blogging. When I was first married and had just moved to Oklahoma, I created a blog on xanga to keep in touch with my sister and some friends. Over the years, quite a few people subscribed to my site and I subscribed to their's. It became almost a chore to keep up with everyone and I eventually quit because for the 30 minutes or so I would spend writing on my blog, it took me hours to read everyone else's and write comments. So the other morning I woke up and had so many thoughts going through my head that I thought, "I should blog." As I logged into my xanga, I noticed that the last time I had updated was almost a year ago. I read back through a couple of pages and decided it was time for a new blog, a fresh start. So here I am!

There's a lot going on in our lives right now which I'll be writing about shortly. I'll also probably move a couple of my favorite old blogs over or maybe I'll just rewrite them. Only time will tell...