The Chocolate Milk Revelation

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As a little girl, I mixed Nesquik into my milk for a yummy chocolaty drink. When my own children were small, I kept Hershey’s syrup in the refrigerator for them. At some point, they experienced premixed chocolate milk, the kind that sits strategically next to white milk in the grocery store. Instantly, the stir-your-own brand of chocolate milk tasted like imitation butter on boxed mash potatoes. My kids began to ask for the real deal. So, on special occasions and Kroger sales, I purchased this delectable delight for them.

Weeks became months and then years. Just like a snow skier that begins on the bunny hill and graduates to diamond runs, we no longer were satisfied with the two heaping tablespoons of powder in our milk. My family, now hooked on the hard stuff, not only placed chocolate milk on the grocery list, but we also made darn sure a jug waited in the wings. A staple at breakfast, an evening snack before bed, a great source of protein after a vigorous workout, and a pleasant way to swallow one’s vitamins, chocolate milk, shaken and not stirred, captured our taste buds, and we could not return to its lesser substitutes.

Too often we also do the same thing with God. We run to false gods like money, relationships, power and love to provide what only the God of the universe can. The Israelites collected their jewelry to fashion a golden calf to worship which seems completely ridiculous, but how many times have we looked to the dollar bill, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a spouse, or a promising career as the ticket to our problems or an answer to our discontentment? These cheap substitutes will only disappoint and not deliver like settling for Nesquik when the most satisfying chocolate awaits.

It’s only when we place our identity and security in Him, turning our backs on the idols who bankrupt us, we find true satisfaction and freedom.

He’s the Real Thing.

Don’t settle for less.

Photo courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu

Do You Need a Shot?

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I sat on the table waiting for the doctor. Minutes ticked by while I surveyed the room. Doctor instruments lay on a smaller table. I stared at them looking for the needle. I hate those long pointy things that prick skin even if the liquid injected is the antidote for my pain. Why does it require pain to relieve pain?

The hands on the clock moved slower than a traffic jam giving me time to ponder and panic. Fear gripped me as my heart began to race. All this for a stupid shot? Still, I thought perhaps I could escape, slip out of the room before anyone arrived.

I birthed three babies in sheer agony yet fear held me firm over a needle. Irrational yet real. Maybe I could handle this myself, sneak out quietly. Oh yeah, I had already tried home remedies for over a month in treating this toe infection that began with an ingrown toenail. My embarrassment over this unsightly issue kept me from seeking professional help until it became so painful, I couldn’t walk without a limp. At my first visit, the doctor suggested a shot to numb the area so she could extract some of the gunk and goo (sorry for the graphic imagery) along with a round of antibiotics. I hemmed and hawed.

“Will the shot hurt?” I asked. (Stupid question, I realize.)

“Just for a few seconds,” she lied. I’m sure she was lying because that’s what all doctors say when asked such idiotic questions about shots. She just wanted to make me feel better, kind of like the same things I say to my children.

“Uh, I’m afraid of shots,” I confessed. “I’d actually rather have a baby.”

I know that sounds insane, but I’ve also told my dentist the same thing when he’s filled a cavity. I was never afraid to birth three children, but a shot? Different story entirely.

Sensing my extreme apprehension, she reassured me that I could just take the antibiotics which would probably do the trick. Awesome, I thought. I’ll get the pills and have a new toe in a week. Lest you smirk like some of my friends and family who couldn’t believe I wouldn’t experience some pain to heal more quickly, let me remind you that fear encapsulated my being. Albeit silly to many, it was the mountain that loomed in front of me.

Yet, a week later, I sat in the doctor’s procedure room, thoughts racing, imagination whirling, fear engulfing. I sighed, prayed, sighed some more. The longer I waited, the more I fret and fidgeted. An eternity later, she entered with the intern. Too late. I’m stuck—literally.

The doctor instructed the poor, unsuspecting intern to hold my hand while she inserted a very sharp needle with pain medicine into my toe several times. I grimaced and tensed, apologizing for squeezing his hand numb like my toe. I’m not going to lie. It hurt like H-E-Double-Toothpicks, and yes, it was longer than 2 seconds. Ten minutes later, however, she had clipped and snipped, bandaged my toe, and I was set free.

By that evening, my toe felt brand new. I walked normally with no pain.

Why didn’t I do this a long time ago?

Don’t we all ask that a time or two or three?

Too often, we live with fear whether rational or irrational and never push through to the other side. Sometimes it takes a procedure and pain to knock down that mountain, but there’s freedom and new life on the other side.

Sometimes it’s fear of a silly shot that keeps us from healing. What fear keeps you stuck? No matter what it is, real or imagined, what could you be missing out on by not facing and conquering those fears? A better marriage, a new friend, a job opportunity, a physical healing, a restored relationship?

My fear of a sharp object had so overpowered me, it prevented me from receiving healing. It finally took desperation and desire for wholeness to oppress the deep dread controlling my mind. I finally had no other choice but to let go. While I’m still not a shot-lover, I realize that to receive freedom, I may need to endure some pain.

The looming question is: are you desperate enough to let go? What amazing opportunities, healing, freedom are waiting on the other side of your fear?

Take the next step in your journey!

Photo courtesy of http://www.sxu.hu

It’s All About Me

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How often have you rolled out of bed, stumbled into the kitchen and bowed down at the stainless fork statue displayed on the counter? How many times have you prayed that this inanimate object would grant you strength for the long day ahead of you? Sounds a bit ridiculous, doesn’t it? Of course, none of us worship idols like this—or…do we?

Many of us have heard stories about other cultures worshipping idols or read Bible stories about the Israelites fashioning statues for their homes or traveling to mountains where idols were established. But that’s passé for us. We don’t flaunt golden calves or even stainless forks for worship. In fact, we scorn the very idea of an idol. Those stupid Israelites, we think. After all God had done for them—bringing them out of Egypt, feeding them manna in the wilderness, guiding them to the Promised Land—and they turned their backs on Him as quickly as a two year old throws a tantrum.

Before we point fingers at those idiotic idol worshippers, we need to examine our hearts for the objects we place before God. In Joshua 24:15, Joshua tells the Israelites to choose whom they will serve—the One True God or the foreign gods esteemed by the neighboring tribes. They emphatically assert that they would worship God alone. That lasted for about a minute!

Are we any different? We pledge our lives to follow God, but so much gets in the way—money, approval, pleasure, relationships, sex, career—just fill in the blank. And even if we don’t believe in or follow God, we worship something.

Kyle Idleman, the writer of Gods at War states, “…anything that becomes the purpose or driving force of your life probably points back to idolatry of some kind.” He offers a series of questions that will help us examine what those idols might be suggesting that we won’t be healed until we quit treating the symptoms and examine the source of the issue…our heart. Take a look with me on this journey of dealing with our idols.

What disappoints you?

What do you complain about the most?

Where do you make financial sacrifices?

What worries you?

Where is your sanctuary? I heard someone recently say, “When you are hurting, do you go to the throne or the phone?”

What infuriates you?

What are your dreams?

Whose encouragement means the most to you?

As you examine this list, honestly answer these questions. Determine who or what your idols are. When I truthfully contemplate my answers, I discover ME on the throne. Just like a toddler, I battle the “it’s all about me” syndrome. Our culture certainly doesn’t help, but then again, according to Joshua, we all have a choice. Every day, every minute, every second, we need to dethrone our worries, anger, approval, relationships, passions, money and whatever else and reestablish God as the ruler of our hearts and lives.

photo credit: jenny downing via photopin cc

No Cookie-Cutter Kids

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As a mom, I have multiple roles—nurturer, cook, nurse, taxi-driver, cheerleader, homework advisor—but the one I was prepared for the least was psychologist. I never realized how much I’d become a student of my children’s psyches. When I had just one child, I couldn’t imagine how any of them could be remotely different from one another. And, yet each one is as diverse from the others as salt and pepper.

If my three children hadn’t sucked out all of my brain cells, I might actually remember something from my college psychology class. Just getting the basics down is a chore: one likes blue, one likes green; one will try any food, one occasionally eats green veggies, while the other hyperventilates around anything green. Each one is as different as the lunches I used to make. One liked mayo, the other no bread just lunch meat, the other peanut butter and jelly.Not a good day when I mixed those up!

And aside from all that, it took me awhile to figure out that my middle really loved time outs, so it wasn’t an effective form of discipline for her. You see, my firstborn hated to be sent to his room, away from family and friends. It was just natural that I do the same with his younger sister, until I realized she treasured being by herself. When the girl sits in a corner happily for two hours (even when the discipline is over), it begins to register.

And baby Maddie? I expected her to sleep through the night at five and six weeks, just like big brother and sister. Six months later, I began to believe I’d never get a full night’s sleep again. Sure, the older two threw a tantrum or two, but nothing like Maddie who was like a stampeding elephant practically every day in every venue up until 6th grade.

Early on, I donned the psychologist hat in becoming a parent, which we all must do in order to communicate with and discipline our children effectively and guide them successfully according to their unique personalities. I do not have cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all children, nor do you.

We can’t discipline or communicate with them the same. My firstborn and last born are natural communicators; they wear their feelings on their sleeves. My middle is sweet, quiet and more private. I’ve had to learn that just because she is quiet does not mean she’s upset or mad. She’s content not talking, and I’ve learned to respect her desire for down time. When she became old enough to stay home alone, she couldn’t wait for us to leave! Just a few years ago, I’m ashamed to say that I badgered her quite often to spill her guts, plying her with questions. Through the wisdom of a therapist friend, I learned to back off and give her the space to be herself. Turns out my middle doesn’t have to share every.single.thing she’s thinking. Go figure!

While I love each one of my precious God-given children equally, I don’t relate with them in the same way. God has given them each one-of-a-kind personalities, and as their mom, it’s my job to discover what makes them tick, look for their gifts and encourage them.

If you have young children, start observing them now. My children have given me valuable insights over the years, and I am still learning.

An Ungraceful Swoon

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Have you ever ridden “Rock n Rollercoaster” at Hollywood Studios in Florida? This high speed coaster blasts from 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds, twisting and turning through the dark while speakers blare Aerosmith’s songs in the rider’s ear. Life is like this rollercoaster, steering blind curves in the dark! Each year, highs and lows, good and bad, exhilarating and devastating impact our lives. When we turn the calendar to a brand new year full of do-overs, endless opportunities and possibilities, we can’t foresee the painful circumstances that might hit like a tornado. When life takes us by surprise, what do we do? How do we cope?

Flashback almost a year ago to a Mexico trip filled with unexpected drama. My hubby and I escaped Indiana’s winter weather for some time alone on the beaches of Puerto Vallarta. Just the two of us strolled under a beautiful star-lit sky, sand squishing between our toes, waves crashing upon the beach, an idyllic romantic interlude in the middle of our busy lives.

We awoke that morning in paradise ready for a full day of relaxation lounging in beach chairs doing nothing but soaking in rays. While I don’t consider myself to be a drama queen, this episode suggests that I might go to any lengths to achieve that desperately needed rest. However, being transported by ambulance to a Mexican hospital, receiving a shot and four stitches in my head exceeds even my limits. But I digress.

Long story short, long hours basking in the hot sun combined with dehydration and little food led to a fainting episode as I was approaching the resort steps from the beach. Did I mention that a stone wall broke my fall? Regrettably, my husband who was slightly ahead of me, looked back just in time to watch my ungraceful swoon as I hit my head and blood gushed. Doctor and nurses relaxing nearby swooped to my aid.

The remainder of my quite expensive mishap concluded in the emergency room, and you know the rest–a shot, four stitches and a mild concussion–just what this blond brain needed! The moral of this field trip besides “stay hydrated in the hot sun” is that at a moment’s notice, life can change.

Life IS a rollercoaster, subject to twist, turn and drop without warning!

We can plan, arrange, control and conduct to the minute detail and yet life can spiral as quickly as a coaster blasts around the curve. Because of my head injury, I was forced to adjust my sleep pattern and primping routine, the latter a horrific tragedy. My vanity flared as I fret about how on earth I would manage to get my look together!  I hadn’t planned for washing my hair of dried blood and blowing it dry while gingerly avoiding the tender wound. Instead of sleeping like a rock, I tossed uncomfortably, carefully placing my head on the pillow in just the right way. Taking antibiotics and pain medication hadn’t even made it to the list of “things I want to do in Mexico”. My perfect vacation was becoming more like Chevy Chase’s “Vacation” by the second. But then, life never seems to flow exactly how we envision, does it?

None of us know what this new year will bring—perhaps the fulfillment of longed-for dreams. Yet we can’t nix the possibility of a little drama and a few disappointments thrown in. I don’t do the words “flexible” or “spontaneous” well, but life rarely follows my instructions. Whatever happens, I sincerely hope I handle the impromptu better than with an ungraceful swoon, knocking my head against a stone wall.

We all could learn to make adjustments when necessary.

More importantly, rollercoasters are more fun when riding with a friend. When your life spins out of control, grab a friend to take the journey with you. And, if you know someone struggling right now, get in the car with them. Everyone can use some encouragement and support when life gets crazy!