Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 10 Things I Learned in 2012

Things are getting rowdy around here tonight on New Year's Eve... spending the evening with my friends, Alka and Seltzer, the cold variety (also the PM variety, so my time is limited here). Maybe it's the seltzer talking, or maybe I'm hanging onto a pipe dream of watching the ball drop into 2013... but I started thinking back to the past year, and wanted to document the top 10 things I learned:

10. I really enjoy knowing very little about what's going on in the news. For example, when someone mentioned the fiscal cliff to me recently, I was actually glad that I knew nothing about it. What would I have done about it anyway? Plus, any major news I need comes through my Facebook feed anyway- haha. That's kind of a sad statement. Call me a millennial if you want, but the fact remains that we just don't have cable... and I'm fine with it.

9. I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing as a mom. Whew, glad I got that off my chest. I'm done trying to pretend, or trying to please people in restaurants that I don't even know. Yes, my two year old plays Angry Birds on my iphone, and he's beaten my highest score. Talk under your breath about me, but I no longer care. Doing my best here, and I'm over your judgment.

8. I'm very passionate about many things in this world. But I'm not going to talk about them all the time. The only passion I may talk incessantly about is my love for my Savior. He's done too much for me and in me for me to not talk about Him. You may not agree with my passions, and I may not agree with yours. That's okay. This past year, I've learned alot about listening to differing points of view. I can't promise you that I'll ever change my position on them, but I do care about how you feel, and I do care about your point of view.

7. Tragedy happens. It's like dog poo in a slightly overgrown backyard. It's only a matter of time until it affects you personally as you walk. I will experience it. You will experience it. Sometimes you can't do anything about it. But I want to love others through their tragedies. I hope you'll do the same for me.

6. I have learned that this is the time to care about my health. Gonna do it.

5. I have learned to take mental pictures of little things. My iphone camera helps with that too.

4. I have learned that I'm a terrible listener. Gonna work on that.

3. I have learned that every job has dysfunction. There are different levels of dysfunction; there's even some ingrown dysfunction. But at the end of the day, I have to remember that we're all human, acting out of our own hurts and insecurities.

2. I have learned that forgiveness does not, in fact, mean reconciliation. I thought this was true, but struggled all year with whether or not it really was. It's true. And while reconciliation may never happen, the black marks are gone. I no longer hold myself captive, and that's nice. (See my previous post for more on this issue)

1. I have learned that I am not promised tomorrow. If I have wronged you, let me make it right today. I will hold my husband and son a little tighter, try to speak love in all circumstances, and try to live out my calling. I'm going to fail in a lot of areas. That's cool with me. I'll keep trying my best though, and with the Lord's help, I hope to make a difference in the lives of others.

Happy 2013, y'all.

Monday, December 10, 2012

What we need most

I don't know about you guys, but the Christmas season always seems to highlight the best and the worst in my life. I'm always very thankful for what I have, as the Lord seems to remind me in not so subtle ways how much He blesses us each day. In the midst of all of that though, I am also reminded of my own shortcomings. I have so much to learn, and I tend to beat myself up during the holidays for bad choices I've made, for things I wish I'd done differently, for the relationships that went sour in the past. Two Sundays ago, our pastor said that the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas has a higher suicide rate than the other 11 months of the year combined. The enemy wants nothing more than to highlight hurts and pain in our lives during the one time of year that we celebrate the birth of our Savior... a time that should be filled with joy and celebration.

Well, I choose to not fall for that anymore. The past couple of weeks at church have been a series of sermons based on forgiveness. We've only done the first two weeks, but in those two weeks, I have been so incredibly blessed and set free. So, I wanted to share with you what I've learned so that if you are holding onto some unforgiveness, you might experience release and freedom as well.

The reason it's so hard for most of us to forgive is because we have a wrong understanding of forgiveness. We think that forgiveness is somehow minimizing the seriousness of the offense, or that it means reconciliation HAS to happen, or that we must forget what happened. Forgiveness is none of those things. The offense IS serious, you don't always have to reconcile, and you certainly can't be expected to forget what happened. But the problem is, we don't think it's fair for us to have to forgive. As Pastor Chris said two Sundays ago, you don't want to go the fair route. We didn't receive what was fair when Jesus paid for our sins, died on a cross, and reconciled us to God... WHILE WE WERE SINNERS. So, why are we so harsh with others when we didn't even receive what was fair?

Something else about forgiveness is that we usually just don't think that we can do it. Well, in a sense, that's kind of correct. I read a book called "The Hiding Place" by Corrie Ten Boom several years ago. At the end, she is faced with one of the very guards who had held her captive in a prison camp. And as he asked her for forgiveness, she said there wasn't an ounce of her that wanted to forgive him. It still hurt too much. So she asked the Lord to do the forgiving through her, because she knew that He was the only one who could change her heart toward this man. And as she embraced that man, she wept with a flood of forgiveness and love that she knew couldn't have come from her own flesh. We can't do the forgiving in our own power. When we begin this work, it doesn't feel like we're forgiving anything, much less anyone. But as you continue to walk it out, the Lord does a work in our hearts. I promise- I've been there. In the beginning, I couldn't go off of my own feelings. I had to just keep walking it out and choosing to forgive, and eventually I knew that the Lord had changed my heart.

There are three things you can do to walk out forgiveness for others:

1. Pray for them. It's REALLY stinking hard in the beginning of the prayer, but by the end of the prayer, you'll find yourself genuinely praying for their wellbeing because you can't truly pray for someone without turning out to love them. Matthew 5:43-44

2. Bless them. This means resisting the urge to talk badly about them. Human nature makes us WANT to talk badly about them though. But don't. If you truly want to walk out forgiveness, bless them and do not curse them. Romans 12:14

3. Do good to them. Don't give them what you think they deserve. Do good to them. Taking revenge leaves no room for the Lord to do anything. You've taken it into your own hands and decided to play God. That's prideful. It's not up to you. The Lord calls us to overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-21

The best takeaway I had from this lesson was three simple words: The forgiven forgive. If you really know forgiveness from Him, then you are able to forgive others.

I feel sure that there will be more on this subject, as I have just been in tears the last two Sundays at church. Don't for a second think that I am not walking this out right there with you. I am still debating on whether or not to share anything about that part of my life. For now, until I know that I know that I should, just know that this is very real to me- it's a part of my history. We can all walk this out together. I pray that the Lord blesses you through this message as much as He did me.

Friday, December 7, 2012

It's beginning to look alot like... a TRAVEL STORY!

Last weekend was all rush, rush, rush! I had to get the Christmas decorations done, the advent calendar, and pack for my trip to Virginia. Needless to say, I DID NOT watch the SEC Championship game... apparently much to the amazement of others. But, I spent some great time with JM and M and made some wonderful updates to the house to show our Christmas spirit!
I've had these since we got married, but somehow have always forgotten to get them from Selma!
John Michael is really loving the idea of an Advent calendar
This was hard to keep a 2 year old from eating while I created it!
So, after all of that was said and done, I loaded up and headed to Virginia with my co-worker, Polly. Our organization recently hired a new CEO, so we were going to meet him, attend a conference planning meeting, and accomplish some other stuff too. Polly always blames me when our travels go awry... and she's right. People say that I should pay THEM to travel with me, because flights are always delayed, or crazy things just seem to happen.

I actually thought we were doing well- only a one hour delay in Atlanta (which to me is cake compared to some of the delays I've experienced). We arrived in Virginia, and started out on the mad rush to interview new employees, make conference calls in time, etc. I was planning on just staying with my friend and co-worker, Shannon... but when we got to the office, I went in for an immediate hug and she stopped me, saying that she might still be contagious. Oh no. After much thought, I told Shannon that while I loved her, I just couldn't risk another Christmas Day in the ER if I brought sickness home to my family. I would just go with Polly to the hotel and book a room. Surely they would have a room. (Don't call me Shirley)

After a wonderful dinner out, Polly and I took Shannon's car to CVS to get us some stocking feet (because we Alabamians don't pack for winter winter... we pack for summer winter... that's what we know). After a roundabout trip to CVS (which may or may not have almost included a fight between a tow truck driver and myself- I totally would have won, by the way), we set out for the hotel. The SpringHill Suites in Ashburn is one of my favorite places to stay. I stay there alot. So, walking in felt like going home for a short visit. While Polly checked in with one of the desk attendants, I went to the other side to see if I could book a room.

Me: "Hi, I need to book a room."
Desk guy: "For how many nights?"
Me: "Two."
Desk guy: "I can book you for tonight, but starting tomorrow, we're completely full."
Me: "That's okay. I'll just move my stuff to her room and shack up with her tomorrow night."

Other desk guy: "What did you say your last name was?"
Polly: "Bennett."
Other desk guy: "Can you see if you can find Ms. Bennett? I can't find her."
Desk guy: "Sure. Ms. Bennett, do you have your confirmation number."
Polly: (Sigh) "Yes, let me find it." (Shuffles in bag... pulls out folder... opens folder... reads out numbers) "Oh wait, that's my Marriott Rewards number. No, I don't have my confirmation number."
Desk guy: "Ma'am, your confirmation number will let us know whether you're booked here, or at another one of our locations."
Polly: "I'm booked here. I even made sure to tell the person who took my reservation that it was the one by the Chik-fil-A. And she said that it was."
Desk guy: "I still need a confirmation number."
Polly: (Deeper sigh- pulls out ipad) "How do I sign into the wireless here?" (I move over to help- she gets her email up- pulls up her confirmation email)

Now, let me stop right here. Polly is our conference director, so she knows ALOT about hotels. And before I go further, I want you to know that I'm not painting her to be a rude person, or someone who gets frustrated over nothing. Polly is a "oh well, we'll figure it out" kind of gal. But she knows how hotels should be managed, how reservations should be managed, and she expects things to be run in a professional manner. These two desk attendants were the nicest guys- and they were doing everything they could to sort this out. Okay, time in.

Me: "Polly, that email isn't from SpringHill Suites. It's from Towne Suites."
Polly: "Well, here's my confirmation number." (Reads off numbers)
Desk guy: "That is not a SpringHill Suites confirmation number."
Polly: "Yes, I realize that." (turns to me) "You know what this is?"
Me: (Silent, scared to speak)
Polly: "Language barrier. I couldn't understand a word that woman said on the phone. And I kept repeating to her, 'Now, this is the one on 7 across the street from the Chik-fil-A, right?' and she kept saying, 'Yea, Yeah' (in what I think was supposed to be an Indian accent) But, clearly she had no idea, booked me at the wrong hotel, and now we only have a room for one night! (to desk guy) I need a room for this ENTIRE WEEK!"
Me: (looking at the email, trying to hold in laughter) "Yes, this is by the airport here, this hotel where you're booked."
Polly: (to desk guy) "Please call that hotel and cancel my reservation. Book us a room for tonight, and I'll figure this out tomorrow."

So, we get a room, and we get up in the room, and I cannot stop laughing. I realize that me laughing in a situation like this does nothing to actually help the situation, but come on! It was so funny to observe this whole transaction taking place. Polly said, "It's not funny, Kay." And I said, "But it really is, Polly. I mean, this is the stuff blogs are MADE OF!"

The next night, we stayed with separate co-workers, and I think Polly continued that for the rest of the week. I have laughed retelling that story a couple of times. I think maybe Polly will laugh at some point about it. I did get a smile out of her that night in the room. And if it helps, I lost my phone charger on the trip, so if you want to say that I got mine, go right ahead. ;)

I got home Wednesday night, loved seeing my boys again, and worked yesterday. No matter how little time I'm gone though, it always seems like my boys grow up exponentially while I'm gone. For instance, Max looked a little older to me yesterday...

Like a grandpa, in fact
And John Michael was excitedly playing with one of his toys he got from the Advent calendar last night. I don't know that I've seen him get this excited about a toy before. The quick laying on the floor to talk to the snowman is my favorite part! I can't wait to see how he responds on Christmas morning! (Oh, and his birthday is this weekend, too!)

Hope you all are slowing down this season to enjoy the little things, and to remember the reason for the season. If you're interested, Michael is writing some on the meaning of Christmas, including some personal stories and things he's learned from the Lord along the way. Chock full o' goodness.