Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Is there such a thing as a boring testimony?

Each time there's a discussion about sharing your testimony there seems to be a discussion about someone's testimony not really being exciting. I hear "I wasn't an alcoholic or a drug abuser to all of a sudden wake up and follow Christ", or "I was brought up in a Christian home, so it was natural to repent my sins when the time came."

Perhaps to Hollywood script writers not every testimony is meant for the big screen, but to God every single testimony is a beautiful proclamation that we should rejoice in and praise Him for having His hands on you the entire way.

I came to know Christ late in life. I joke (sort of) that I grew up with the religion of Christmas and Hanukah. My parents never embedded God, Christ, the Bible, the Torah or anything into my upbringing. Actually at one point in my life I turned off completely to any type of religious influence, as I declared myself an atheist (yes, I know "gasp").

Thankfully today I can see how God never left my side as I pursued getting to know Him better. After my husband and I married, like many couples during the first years we struggled with a new baby, financial woes and questions about where our future was headed. Unanimously we went to church and while I feel today that was the lowest part of our marriage, God led us to Compass Bible Church on a break in the book of Romans, to do Part 1 of the 5 Part Marriage series. Through tears and hand holding, my husband and I left church that evening craving more of His Word. 

Burying myself in the bible, diving into bible study and talking with Christians, I learned the Gospel, repented my sins and took notice of every message, every person and every situation that God put in my path in an effort to grow me.

While everything in my life from that point on changed, I noticed that change the most when the doctor came in to tell us there was problem with Baby A (Jack) and that they believed from the most recent test that he might be Trisomy 18 and may be stillborn, or perhaps pass before he was born. We were provided with the CA mandatory genetic counseling (yep, there's our tax dollars at work), to tell us we can rule this out if we were simply to have an amnio. My husband and I didn't need to say a word, we just looked in each other's eyes, with complete comfort in Him, and blurted out "no."

We both knew that if God's plan was to take our baby, He would do it in His timing. If I was allowed to carry Jack to term and he passed away, it was simply to glorify God. I just knew and felt complete comfort that God had a plan, and we were simply in it. I enjoyed the next 6 months of feeling kicks and pushes from both babies and thanked God for giving me those simple pleasures. I didn't enjoy my first pregnancy the way I did this one. Then again, I was not saved with my first pregnancy.
Love this handsome reminder of God's grace!

On July 15, 2010 I heard Jack cry and what a beautiful cry it was. He was a healthy baby boy. Thank you God!! Thank you!! Bella's cry was just as beautiful, let's give the girl credit. Today she's the last one who cries. Love her ability to handle any situation.

So if you grew up in a Christian home, with God-fearing parents–the glory is His. If you knew Christ at an early age and never really “fell away” or had a period of doubt–the glory is still His. If you find your testimony boring because you never found yourself homeless, addicted to drugs, or in jail–the glory is still His! Love your testimony and share it often with others.

Friday, August 31, 2012

You may not have tomorrow to deliver God's word today

Driving home the other day I called my mom, it's the standard weekly call about how the kids are doing and what's going on in the family. This call was different, as it started with "your grandmother is in the hospital again." My heart sunk as I was trying to focus on the road around me. About four years ago my grandmother suffered from congestive heart failure, along with pneumonia. Today at 92, her fight for life is definitely a lot harder.

I've spent the hours praying for her, not necessarily to survive, but to find the Lord and how I could help her find this peace with 3,000 miles between us and her failed hearing. While she wears an earpiece, she refuses a phone as it has caused her nothing but frustration. She hasn't had a phone in her room in years, and I'll never forget the last time I called her and how she cried on the other end out of complete frustration of not being able to hear me. Additionally, her eye sight has failed her, only being able to see what she describes as 'shadows' of people so handing her a bible isn't really going to help her.

I spent the next few hours thinking, and then it dawned on me from my experiences in the hospital (thank you God for opportunities) there are usually prayer requests offered, some hospitals may not be as bold to tell you about them but would provide a card to fill out as to what your prayer might be or if you want someone to pray with you. Of course if she can't see the card to read it, that really won't work. So I pick up the phone and call the hospital. My first attempt to call the nurses station to ask if there was a pastor that could visit my grandmother went something like this: "we have a pastor, or a priest or maybe he's a reverend, oh yeah he's a reverand cause I call him reverand randy." Well, hmmm.

Next...I start Googling church's in the area of the hospital, finding quite a few, and only one who actually had the need to repent your sins in their mission statement. I call and leave an email (because it's 9:30pm on the east coast). I am saddened at all the church's that don't have a biblical mission statement, yet thankful for the church I attend for caring so much for my salvation to preach it even the times it hurts to hear it.

The next morning I call the nurse's desk again and speak to someone else. Again explaining who I am and why I want someone to share the gospel with my grandmother. She says "I actually right now have a pastor on the floor and I will send him right in." Wow. Thank you God. How that visit went, I have no idea....I just have to trust she heard something.

The next day, I got a call back from Pastor Andy, a pastor at the church I wrote to and I explained everything including our families religious upbringing which was "we celebrated Hanukah and Christmas." I didn't even know if it was acceptable really to send a total stranger to share a message that I know in her life she has never heard before. He suggested I write a letter to her directly. Then the tears really flooded. The one thing my grandmother to this day will still tell people is "Stacey is the only one who always wrote me letters." I knew that this letter is one she may not be expecting, but no doubt the most important letter I could write to her.

I asked my husband what his thoughts are, am I doing the right thing? She's not religious. She's alone. She's really actually miserable. He said 6 years ago he may have thought differently but today it's the only thing that's right. "You can send her a bouquet of flowers and they'll die next week, but you can send someone to share the gospel with her and prayfully save her soul," he continued. "I don't think there's a better gift."

While I don't know whether or not my letter or Pastor Andy's talk with her about her salvation will get her to understand and eventually repent, we do what we can. Realistically we can never walk into anyone's life and get them to repent with our actions, it is truly their choice and all within God's plan, we simply put it in front of them with our love for them and Him.

I am hopeful, but I know there's a lesson here. None of us could wait till the end to tell someone you love about God's love for them and that they have a choice to make. We must be bold and we must deliver. It's what we're called upon to do. I have an entire family to deliver this message to and God provided me the opportunity of this situation to learn it starts now.

At 6:30 PM EST (3:30 PM PST), Pastor Andy will visit my grandmother in her hospital room and prayfully will have the opportunity to read this letter to her.

The picture was taken at our wedding in 2006. You can't tell from this how sick she was that weekend, actually in true form she wouldn't let me know:

Dear Grandma,

Some of the best memories I have was writing letters to you. I always had so much to tell you. No different today. I can tell you that Tessa was definitely named after the right person. At 5 years of age she is strong, confident and beautiful. The twins are growing so fast. Two years has flown by. Jack is all boy playing with cars and Bella is all girl always hugging dolls and singing songs. They keep us busy but are such blessings.

My husband Patrick is such a wonderful gift from God. I couldn't have dreamed up a better man to love me and lead our family. God knew what I needed and provided with abundance.
Grandma I need you to know that I love you so much and wish that I could be there to share with you face to face the world that I have found and the world that is waiting for you, if you are right with God.

I know religion was never a big thing in our family and I felt that loss throughout much of my life. I only realized that years ago that God never let me out of His sight even when I turned my back on Him. He has guided me all the way, loving me through all the ups and downs. The best day of my life was the day I repented of my sins and turned my life to Him.

I know that when He needs me, I will be with Him in His kingdom and I want nothing more than for the people I love to know the love that God has for each of us.
Grandma I want to see you again. If not in this world, the next world. I just pray that these words give you something to consider. You have an opportunity today to repent your sins and follow Christ. At the very least, consider it and the alternative.

With all my heart, I love you so much. You were one of the biggest influencers in my life and I can only pray that I can provide you one ounce of influence that will save your soul. 

For His Glory Alone,

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Neener, neener. Can you really be spiritually superior?

I have always had a hard time in conversations that somehow turned to a person's opinion of themself. Job interviews that resulted in the interviewer telling me how they single-handedly changed the entire company rather than getting to know what I bring to the table, or the date (pre-hubby of course) that was all about how it wasn't their fault that the relationship ended, they brought so much to it while the other person just didn't step up.'

While I have usually been rolling my eyes fairly reserved in these conversations, I find it harder to stand by and listen to people talk about their church, their faith, their walk as if it is greater than someone else's journey. Can you honestly imagine Jesus Christ saying to anyone "Neener, neener," and of all people, he really held the 'Neener neener trump card'. So how do some believers go as far to proclaim themselves spiritually superior (if you are saying "but I never called myself spiritually superior," than you're missing the point already).

The endless game of, "I am more approved in the Lord's eyes than you," divides the Body of Christ and worse gives non-believers a negative opinion of the Christian faith. Look at the world as a non-believer, how are they supposed to understand your love for every one when you can't even show love for each other? Fighting, choosing sides, instigating conflict is what is spread in public forums and this is what is seen by all and you need to ask yourself, if Jesus read this would he be happy with me. We already know God knows your intent, so are YOU happy with yourself for your actions.

When someone starts spreading the gospel based on their personal viewpoint and frame of reference, they can be creating a harmful message. The Bible repeatedly warns against trusting in the flesh for wisdom. Anyone who strays from the Word of God to rely on his own understanding is making a terrible mistake.

 "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness." -- 1 Corinthians 3:18-19 
"Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools."-- Romans 1:21-22

Individuals who hold to an "I'm a better Christian than you" mindset can always find scripture that will support their stance. What they need to do is examine their rationale for holding to this view and deal with it biblically. If their offering of correction is not sparked from love, then one can only conclude vanity or revenge is their only motivation.

"Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself."--Philippians 2:2-3


Friday, July 27, 2012

Got a minute? Make a muffin.

Without a doubt my biggest habit is simplification, so when I find something that is satisfying, good for you and simple, I must try and share.

First I must warn you, this is a low carb, high fiber snack made with flax seed meal and if you're scrunching up your nose at the idea of flax seed meal don't shoot it down yet. Flax seed has multiple benefits including reducing bad cholesterol, it can reduce the risk of stroke, certain cancers and oh yes, ladies it will make you regular (cause no woman wants to talk about constipation).

Let's get started on the adventure of making a chocolate mug muffin...

Step 1:  Get your favorite mug (trust me shaped mugs can be fun with this one). Add 1 tsp (a pat) of butter (not margarine), melt in the microwave till liquid.

Step 2: Add one egg and a 1/4 tsp of vanilla syrup and as Michael Jackson once said "Beat It" until it is all one blend.

Step 3:  Add in 1/4 cup of flax seed meal (I did say this was a healthy snack right??), then a tablespoon of unsweetened chocolate powder, a 1/4 tsp of baking soda and one packet of Stevia (of Splenda...depending on your health preference)....and do the encore of  "Beat It."

Step 4:  Put it in the micowave for 60 seconds (I personally go 70 seconds, because I like a little more texture to mine). *Ding* and turn it upside down on a flat surface and presto! I let it cool for a little bit cause the edges harden up a bit, but then look, it's a muffin.

Ok so it looks like nothing you'd buy at Starbucks, I get that. The health options are important though. It's gluten free and high in fiber. 1/4 cup of flax seed meal is 120 calories, the egg is 70 and 1 tablespoon of Hershey's unsweetened cocoa powder is 10 calories. So 200 calories for a healthy, low carb alternative. I can tell you I have craved these for 3 days in row and I can honestly say I have made it for dinner on the run and felt full until morning.

Stop scrunching your nose and ask me to make one for you. With a muffin in a minute, we would have even more time to fellowship.

Back to the cave for the moment.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Chores just aren't my thing mom"

Last night I got home minutes before my husband and the kids. When the minivan pulled up my oldest was crying her eyes out. I asked her what's up kitty? She said "I'm crying cause chores just aren't my thing mom." I looked at her and said "okie doke", grabbed a twin and went inside the house. Quick conversation with the hub, and I learned he told her she needed to go clean her room upon returning home, in which she had a completely different opinion on the matter. I've learned with Tessa that she craves confrontation and shock value at this stage in her life and have found a way that meets her goals and ours.

I am so beyond blessed to have been provided with years of working with multiple personalities people, and I have realized children aren't really different than some adults. I mean don't we have confrontations with people and think "wow, they really are acting like a child." However, everyone has their reasoning point and I have always believed that when you truly care to know someone, you know how to reach that reasoning point.

While my husband wrestled with the twins, I took a seat with Tessa on the couch and brought the conversation right to God. We talked about the blessing of having arms, hands, legs, feet and the strength to do what we can with them. How when we work we do it to glorify God, for it is He that has given us so much. Can I tell you, how comforting it is to feel the love your child has for God that she would do anything for Him. Tessa eagerly agreed that it is important to clean up for God. You see, God is her reasoning point.

Oh what a blessing this little girl is to me. I still get tears when I feel the emptiness of not having a relationship with God in my life at a young age. I am comforted in knowing that my loss is only for the gain of my children, as there is no way they won't know what it is to have God's love in their lives at a young age. I can't predict where they will take this knowledge and love as they enter their adult years, I can only pray they will always just know that it is His love that is needed first and foremost.

Tessa and I discussed a plan of attack. We'd take cleaning in stages, tonight we'd start with the bathroom and tomorrow her room, and we'll do it together. Our game plan was simple, she will toss her trash and I will do the scrubbing. She thought it was fair and got excited telling me "we're going to need a trash bag to put all my waste basket stuff into," (really, just one bag??? hardly).

We started with her bathroom. All I can say is WOW. How can a 5-year old do so much damage to such a small room. When we finished, the room sparkled and Tessa continued to clean her way through the house until she got to the trash can downstairs she also put all the toys away that the twins scattered through the house. She was on a roll and I couldn't have been any prouder of this newfound spirit. I also recognize, it is up to me to keep the spirit flowing and that my reasoning point is seeing my kid's faces beam when they realize God's love for them.

This morning when heading out to work, we hugged and I told her that I look forward to tonight and spending time with her as we clean her room. She smiled and gave me that bone crushing hug so needed before you leave. And truthfully, I anticipate that time we can spend together tonight even if I am uncertain of what I might find in her room.

After a tough cleaning,
we rewarded ourselves with a
free Slurpee from 7-11.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Thankful for decisions...

What an incredibly fast-paced 3 weeks it has been in regards to my career and how a single decision gave me clarification that I am on the right path.

I have never claimed to be the best wife or mother, but I am doing all that I can to be everything my husband and children need and deserve. Will I ever be perfect? No but it won't stop me from working on it. I have been provided the most amazing roles in this world by the most amazing God and I will do all things for His glory. It is the lessons that He provides me that makes me so thankful for the person He is shaping me to be.

Let me take you back to a random email I received 4 weeks ago from an HR recruiter who originally contacted me a year ago about a position that wasn't career-wise, not to mention I had been at the job I am in for a week. Anyway, he now had another position to put in front of me and as a marketer it's normal to keep your eyes open for the next quest. This role was intriguing from the tasks, to the challenge, to the growth potential, to the salary. And my mouth started to water.

The interview with the VP went well, I can tell we connected and again from what she described, the position would be a challenge but an opportunity to work alongside some pretty intelligent marketers was what kept me excited. I do recognize now we connected so well because 7 years ago that was me behind that table. The same look in my eyes that nothing besides working mattered, but 7 years ago I didn't have a husband to come home to and little ones to love on. It made me reflect on how much I loved my life.

The next step was an interview with the team, individually, (one additional VP, 3 product people, 2 like-managers in the department). I had prayed so hard for these interviews to shed light on the what the role would look like for me daily and how this could affect my family.

3.5 hours later and having turned the tables on 4 of the 6 interviewers, I was released and left with red flags from the following questions:
  1. "How do you work with difficult people" this was also posed as "Can you provide me an example of how you worked with people who may have been deemed difficult."
  2. "How do you feel about long hours?" This was also detailed with "We work hard, we play hard" and "Twelve hour days are pretty average for me."
I believe interviewer #4 shed the most light on the role. While it would be different roles, we shared similar circumstances. Mothers of small children, just about the same age. Having been there only 4 months herself I asked her what was the biggest transition for her. Her face changed from emotionless interviewer to one of sadness and guilt. She told me of how she has had to rearrange everything in her children's lives to be able to make it to work on time but then on-time, was at least 30 minutes later than everyone else in the building. She explained that this past Mother's Day, her daughter had a "thing" at school for moms and she didn't even want to ask if she could take the morning off.

If that wasn't enough to convince me I'd be selfish to take such a role at this point in my life, my daughter talking to me about not being able to take her to school anymore was a dagger in my heart. With my current job being 22 miles from the house, she's right I don't take her to school and pick her up like I once had the opportunity to do. However, she knows that her dad or her aunt is always there for her and that mom gets to come home earlier to spend way more time with her after school, but I would never miss her Mother's Day "thing" for a job.

I had prayed that these meetings would open my eyes to give me the best representation of what I would be entering into and it did. It is not to say that these people aren't going places in their careers, and that this role isn't right for someone. Just not someone like me, not anymore.

When the company made the offer at a figure a little over $15,000 more than what I currently make, it actually was easier than I thought to turn it down. $15,000 would barely cover the cost of the nanny I would need to hire to replace my role in taking care of my children while working those long days. That folks is sarcasm. Yet, reality.

I am so thankful to God to have provided me the heart that never made me feel like it's about the money in any position I've entered into. Yes, we need money to survive in THIS world, but taking money that would force me to spend time away from my husband and children isn't going to work well for me in HIS world. It is too easy to get wrapped up in the world that we need more, expect more and demand more. I was there once, but I'm not going back.

Over a year ago I was praying for the job I have now. A job that would challenge me and provide me the freedom to spend the time with my family that is needed, when it is needed. A job that affords us the money we need to have the things we need and insurance to cover us in our health needs. I trusted in the Lord then and I continue to trust in Him for these plans that shape my life. He provides and I love Him for all the ups and downs.

This coming year is filled with some wonderful milestones and I don't ever want to miss them:
  • My babies turn 2 in July.
  • My loving and always supportive husband has taken on the new role at the school and I need to support him in all ways.
  • My oldest starts kindergarten - and due to the start time, I can take her to school.

This is how I spent my daughter's Mother's Day "thing" at Tessa's school.
So thankful to not have the feeling that I can't be there for my kids when it means
the most to them, not to mention how much it means to me.

" Lord forgive us when we get consumed by the things of this world,
That fight for our love, and our passion,
As our eyes are open wide and on you.
Grant us the privilege of your world view,
And may your kingdom be, what wakes us up, and lays us down."

-- Toby Mac, Lose My Soul

Thursday, June 7, 2012

What beats bacon? Steak wrapped in bacon! Genius!!

I apologize for not posting this sooner, but the Cave has been crazy, but that's for another blog.

Turn back your mind to Memorial Day weekend...ahhhh! Our neighborhood is so fantastic, we saw that feeling before we purchased the home but never realized how important these people in our hood would be to us. Anyway, back to the weekend...we decided kind of last minute to put together a little BBQ. Simple really, bring your own stuff for your own family, but I couldn't resist sharing these bacon bites that I spoke to neighbors about just days before.

This time around I used sirloin. First time I tried this with filet, I am not sure it made a huge difference taste-wise. Filet is scrumptious of course, but the sirloin has a nice and tender chew factor as well. I gotta admit, I let the money make the decision and went for more steak and that's how we got the sirloin.

Step 1:
Take your steak and cut it up into bite size pieces. Season lightly with sea salt and pepper. These babies are gonna pick up a lot of flavor through the bacon, so don't worry about your need for salt.

Step 2:
Take your bacon, and again I use uncured bacon cause that's what we do in the Paleo world, and cut it into 4's. It's bacon and it is flexible, so one time around and pin it with a toothpick. Try and get your toothpick through it so the sides are flat, it will help cook the bacon evenly.

Step 3:
Throw them in the pan and cook them until the bacon is crispy (not burnt).

Step 4:
Eat!!!! I don't provide a dip sauce for this, but thinking out loud I would bet a nice honey mustard (more mustard than honey), or a BBQ sauce might be fun too.

Words like "what is this incredible bite of yumminess" were used. And I agree. They are incredibly tasty and filling too. It's a pure bite of protein.

Speaking of baby Bella (below)...she is pure yummy, and quite the character.

Back to the Cave.