Monday, October 31, 2011

Hearts & Fruit

Every time we choose to do the right thing, when no one is watching, we're reinforcing our integrity and it gets a little easier to do the right thing the next time. It helps sweeps out the darker corners of our hearts where nasty things like bitterness and spite like to make themselves comfortable. The good stuff, in essence sows seeds into our hearts. Ever notice how plants are much bigger than the seeds they come from? God grows those seeds in our hearts. Eventually they grow into more good stuff that produce more fruit... and that stuff takes up even more space... which means, it nudges out more of the crud. Eventually, our heart is overtaken by the things that do us the most good.


Romans 12:21 (NIV)
"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

Galatians 5:22-23 (NCV)
"But the Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. There is no law that says these things are wrong."


I love the way The Message translation words Galatians 5:22-23. The Message is not a literal translation of the Bible. It's a paraphrasing of ideas. Sometimes, especially when you're new to studying the Word, the language of the more literal translations can be hard to read. The Message is nice because it paints word pictures of what the Bible says in a modern context and it's sometimes easier to understand.

Galatians 5:22-23 (The Message)
"But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified."


Legalism sucks.
Living life in such a way that bitterness, impatience, and unkindness do not rule my heart is better.
Don't you think so?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday Funday #8 at The Fence

It's the last Sunday Funday of October!
Thanks for joining me! 



If you're new to the neighborhood... Here's how it works:

#1 Grab the Sunday Funday button from the sidebar!

#2 Link up a post from the last week! (No giveaways please!)

#3 TURN YOUR CAPTCHA OFF!!!
(Seriously, nothing kills commenting quicker than that stupid captcha. Blogger and WP have EXCELLENT spam filters. Using that will eliminate 99.9999% of spammy comments. You're only annoying your readers by leaving it on!)

#4 Tweet your Sunday Funday posts and spread the word!
The more links we get, the more fun we'll have!

#5 Go visit the other posts, comment on them, and make some great new bloggy connections!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Character

Recently, a friend of mine was talking with me about "what counts as wrong". She was really mulling some serious stuff over and was sharing her heart about a thing with which, I think, we all wrestle.

"If I do a wrong thing and no one sees me do it... and no one else gets hurt... is it still wrong?"

The short answer is: Yes!

But really, it's not just an issue of "good" or "bad". I think it's more of an issue of the heart. I think that the person we are when others are not around is the Real Us. The person I am when I'm alone... when I'm not trying to make a good impression, or have good manners, or be the girl who tells funny stories, or doing my best at something in order to get kudos later... the stripped down version of me is the REAL ME. Me in the simplest form.

Our character is revealed when we think no one sees us.

I've written about examining my own heart and seeing where I haven't made the best choices. The story of Jonah seriously makes me check myself when I start to get a big head about who is and isn't worth my time or worthy of my concern. For whatever reason, this topic seems to come up in my heart and head a LOT. I want to keep track of what the heck is hanging out in my heart. I want to clean house whenever I need to so that my heart will look more like my Creator's and less like some hot mess that life has beat up.

I've been through some pretty heavy stuff in my short lifetime but, I don't think God gives us a pass when it comes to poor choices because we've been hurt.

Why?

Because we've ALL had a broken heart. All of us. It doesn't make us special. Sometimes we act like it does. Sometimes we act like we can do whatever we want, treat others however we want to, exercise no restraint or self control, with no regard for how those kinds of choices affect others simply because X, Y, and Z have happened... and X, Y, and Z are really bad!

I'll be honest. I've totally done that. I've used other people's meanness and some of life's tragic happenings as an excuse to be a first class ass. I've been mean. I've been vindictive. I've been bitter.

People and circumstances reveal what the contents of our heart are.

I've been wrong.

I've let my mouth run away with me. Have you ever done that? Have you ever said something that just seemed to skip right off your tongue so easily but, then it fell with an awful, resounding THUD once it was out and you just wished you could take it back?

I've done that. It sucks.

What comes out of your mouth is already in the root of your heart.

In Matthew 12:34 (NCV) Jesus actually said "The mouth speaks the things that are in the heart."

The question about whether or not something wrong I do is still wrong if no one sees me do it is really a question of integrity.

Do I really possess integrity?

Integrity is not only being disciplined and exercising restraint. Sure that's a part of it but, only a part. The definition of integrity involves being solid in construction; a condition of honesty with moral uprightness; living unimpaired. It encompasses quite a lot when it comes to how you could apply it to your life and heart. It isn't just "rule following" for the sake of following rules. It's actually having a moral code so firmly rooted in your heart and mind that it becomes your nature.

You don't fake integrity. It's how you really are. It's a natural behavior that's rooted in moral uprightness.

If you're just going through the motions, that's not integrity.

The One Who Holds Me Accountable isn't you.

Ultimately, you're opinion about whether I'm a big fat jerk or totally fabulous doesn't matter. As much as I'd like for you to like me, there's only one Judge and it ain't you.

It also isn't me. So, I don't get to point any fingers in your direction one way or another either.

God is the Only One who gets to cast judgement.

 Hebrews 4:13 (NCV) says it like this: "Nothing in all the world can be hidden from God. Everything is clear and lies open before Him, and to Him we must explain the way we have lived."

If God really never sleeps... if His eyes are really always watching over us... if He really sees into the deepest portions of our hearts, then He sees when we're doing that wrong thing that we're insisting no one else sees. We can argue that we aren't hurting anyone but, the truth is... we're hurting ourselves. We're fooling around with our own integrity. We're making our own heart structurally unsound. And God cares about that because He's the Creator. He didn't build us so that we'd destroy ourselves. God is Love and that wouldn't be Love. We weren't built to implode.

Our hearts are valuable. They affect our actions. Their contents affect what comes out of our mouths.

"Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life." Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)

How closely are you guarding your heart?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Funday #7 at The Fence

I'm a little late getting this post up today!
Things have been a little hectic around here because I've got a lot of stuff going on at the RiceCakes' school. I'm a Room Mom and we have our Fall Festival coming up this week AND class parties so... I've been busy with all the planning and stuff that goes along with that.
But that doesn't mean there's no time for Sunday Funday!



For the new people... Here's how it works:

#1 Grab the Sunday Funday button from the sidebar!

#2 Link up a post from the last week! (No giveaways please!)

#3 TURN YOUR CAPTCHA OFF!!!
(Seriously, nothing kills commenting quicker than that stupid captcha. Blogger and WP have EXCELLENT spam filters. Using that will eliminate 99.9999% of spammy comments. You're only annoying your readers by leaving it on!)

#4 Tweet your Sunday Funday posts and spread the word!
The more links we get, the more fun we'll have!

#5 Go visit the other posts, comment on them, and make some great new bloggy connections!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday Funday #6 at The Fence

It's Sunday again!
That means that it's time to hang out on my deck and share posts from the last week!



Here's how it works:

#1 Grab the Sunday Funday button from the sidebar!

#2 Link up a post from the last week!  (No giveaways please!)

#3 TURN YOUR CAPTCHA OFF!!!
(Seriously, nothing kills commenting quicker than that stupid captcha. You're only annoying your readers by leaving it on!)

#4 Tweet your Sunday Funday posts and spread the word!
The more links we get, the more fun we'll have!

#5 Go visit the other posts, comment on them, and make some great new bloggy connections!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dancing With Rainbows

My friend Karen (@TimeCrafted) is one amazing chick. She's a great Mama to her 2 sweet kidlets. She digs her husband. She's a fabulous writer. She's got a beautiful heart. I'm lucky to call her my friend. Her stories and tweets literally brighten my day. In a world that seems to overflow with snark and sarcasm, Karen brings authentic joy to the blogosphere and Twitterverse.
Karen LOVES being a Mom. She LOVES her family. And she LOVES to tell you about it. I love that! Karen doesn't deny that some days are hard... REALLY HARD. But she finds joy daily in the small stuff.... and life... really, is about the small day-to-day stuff. Karen's ability to seek out joy is contagious. Her outlook is the epitome of the quote I have hanging on my kitchen wall.
"A person will be just about as happy as they make up their mind to be." 
-Abraham Lincoln
I was stoked when she agreed to guest post for me about her sunny perspective. Here's Karen's take on what it takes to seek and find joy on any given day.
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Dancing with Rainbows

I don’t ride rainbows, but I do like to dance with them.

Do you?

To get your dancing partner you need a little sun to come out and play with the rain.

But, sometimes when it’s raining, it isn’t always so easy to find the sun, is it?

Or, maybe it is.

But, we’ll get back to that. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like you’re being swallowed whole by some of the not so nice things in life. Sometimes they come on, one after another, after another. Sometimes, they come out of the blue, so big that you feel as if you are hit by a brick wall.

I’m not oblivious to those less than rosy, sometimes blacker than black moments that we all encounter in life. And yes, sometimes I get knocked down by them. As I said, I don’t ride rainbows. I’m not a permanent keeper of the sun. But, I try to coax that golden glow out, so I can dance, in, out, around, and about that spectrum of light.

How?

That sunshine isn’t too hard to find, if you actively look for it. If you actively look for the silver lining in those clouds that are raining down, the sun tends to peep out.

Sometimes, starting with the most simple, even ridiculous silver lining can start a new habit.

Sometimes I trip over my own toes. Yes, it’s been known to happen (I wear a size 10 shoe and I’m only 5’5”,what can I say?!). And while I’m down, I may just find my shiny lining…like a head-side up penny, or a pretty li’l rock, or a toy my kidlet’s been looking for, stuck under the couch.

Before you roll your eyes, I know all of that can sound silly. But, if you’ll trust me for a minute here, keep reading.

When you see the silver lining in the silly and sometimes even ridiculous, over and over, finding that shiny side, that light, that positive bit to hold on to becomes easier. And once it becomes second nature, it’s in your pack of tools to deal with life’s bigger rain clouds.

Years ago, early in our relationship, my husband and I lost our maternal grandmothers on the same day. That weekend we jammed in two viewings, one memorial, one funeral, one graveside, and good-byes in two separate towns, neither one local. We were exhausted, both physically and emotionally.

But, guess what? While there’s no silver lining to losing a loved one, there was a surprising moment that we might not have come across had my husband and I not been so focused on both of our families.

While driving to my grandmother’s viewing, my husband pointed out that his paternal grandparents lived nearby when they were still with us. When we brought that up with my family, we learned that his father and my mother’s sister went to the same high school at the same time. My husband didn’t grow up in that area, nor did I. What are the odds of that?! I have to admit, that memory is a positive one on that less than positive day.

We found another shiny side that weekend…we learned to lean on each other.

I’m far from perfect, I slip and fall and forget to seek out my silver linings at times. But, I’ve discovered that actively looking for the positive to take away or to relish in keeps me so much stronger for those rainy days.

I don’t ride rainbows, but I dance with them and it’s a mighty colorful way to get your groove on.

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Thanks so much for the reminder to keep on the sunny side of life Karen! I know that I've often been surprised to find joy in some of my darkest seasons. Seeking it out has always made my life richer and more manageable when life gets hard. It was so fun to have you here today!

To read more of Karen's awesomeness... Follow Karen on Twitter!
Go check out her blog Time Crafted! Want some ideas on where to start reading? 
JR Martinez is a Shining Star ... Be warned... you'll cry. Have tissues on stand-by before you start this one!
Sushi Making Makes Family Fun... Karen actually rolled sushi at home with her family! Gluten & casein free at that!
GFCF Pizza & Movie Night- Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop... How she learned to make practically perfect GFCF pizza with some pre-made crusts from some help from fellow Twitter buddies!
And the two part story of going from a Landslide of Lego Love to having that Lego Landslide Organized! I especially appreciate her organizational/ sorting ideas since we have a plethora of Legos at our house too!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sunday Funday #5 at The Fence

It's Sunday again!
That means that it's time to hang out on my deck and share posts from the last week!



You know the rules:

#1 Grab the Sunday Funday button from the sidebar!

#2 Link up your favorite post from the last week! (No giveaways please!)

#3 TURN YOUR CAPTCHA OFF!!!
(Seriously, nothing kills commenting quicker than that stupid captcha. You're only annoying your readers by leaving it on!)

#4 Tweet your Sunday Funday posts and spread the word!
The more links we get, the more fun we'll have!

#5 Go visit the other posts, comment, comment, comment and make some great new Bloggy Buddies!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sunday Funday #4 at The Fence

Hooray!
It's time to hang out in my backyard and share posts from the last week!
Pull up a chair, prop up your feet and settle in for a fabulous day of fun!



You know the rules:

#1 Grab the Sunday Funday button from the sidebar!


#2 Link up your favorite post from the last week! (No giveaways please!)

#3 TURN YOUR CAPTCHA OFF!!!
(Seriously, nothing kills commenting quicker than that stupid captcha. Trust me, you won't get enough spam to make it worth it. You're only annoying your readers by leaving it on! Especially your readers who wear reading glasses! Right Alison?)

#4 Tweet your Sunday Funday posts and spread the word!
 The more links we get, the more fun we'll have!

#5 Go visit the other posts and make some great new Bloggy Buddies!


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Michael

The first time I remember meeting you was when you were working at a gas station in Tampa. My Mom had taken us on a cross country road trip from California to North Carolina for Uncle Kevin's family reunion. I was 8 years old. We'd stopped in Florida to see Mom's other siblings and came by where you worked to see you too. You gave me a big hug, even though I don't think we'd ever met. Sometimes meeting grown ups for the first time is awkward when you're little. But you were so easy to be with. You looked at me when I was talking. You didn't act like I was an annoying little kid. You seemed just as happy to see me as you were to see your little sister. I loved that about you.

You gave me and my brothers Drumstick ice cream cones. When we finished those, you gave us another one. You were the coolest grown up I'd ever met.

I didn't realize that you were a little different. I didn't realize that there were things that other people could take advantage of... your kindness and generosity. I only knew that you were an incredibly sweet man who seemed to genuinely care about others.

You called one day, when I was in high school, to talk to my Mom but, I ended up talking to you for about an hour. I was trying to decide what to do with my life. I told you that my friend's Dad was a recruiter for the Air Force and that I was thinking that the G.I. Bill was a good way to pay for a college education. You proceeded to tell me lots of stories about Vietnam and your experience with the Navy. You talked about how you'd enlisted and where you went, what your job was, and what you thought about it. You encouraged me a lot. You listened. You had time. You were always generous with your time. At a period of time when so many adults just ignored me because I was an annoying teenager, you saw me. I wasn't invisible to you. That meant a lot to me.

I didn't see you very often since we lived on opposite coasts and my family rarely went to Florida. But I remember seeing you the next time I was there (many years later), when your father was dying and being cared for by Hospice. I was pregnant with Matthew. You sat and visited with me for a long time. We talked about Lonesome Dove and you oohed and ahhed over my ultrasound pictures. You looked after me and were always checking to see if I was hungry. "Make sure you feed that baby!" You told me about your Knights of Columbus meetings and talked about cowboy novels. You spent a long time talking to me about your tours of Southeast Asia with the SeaBees because Dave was a SeaBee. You gave great hugs. And you liked feeling the baby kicking. You told me stories about helping your Mom take care of all the babies at your house growing up... after all there were 8 more born after you... and you told me you thought I'd be a good Mom.

After Matthew was born, you called me every week. You were the only person who called me every week. There was something incredibly comforting about those calls. We didn't usually have long conversations but, you cared for me and for my family. When lots of things were busy and hectic because our house was full of several very small people with big needs... you never changed. You were grounding to me. You were dependable.

You kept up with Dave's military stuff. You always remembered his rank (something no one else seems to be able to keep straight because they're not in the military) and always asked how his 2 week annual training went. You remembered how old each of my kids were... and always emailed me right away when I sent you photos of them. You told me that you saved them all to disk. We didn't see you very often, but you loved us.

After Abi was born, I spent a lot of time in doctor's offices. She had been so sick and I had been so sick and we had lots of follow ups to go to. You called one time, just like clockwork, to check on me. You told me that your favorite magazine to read in waiting rooms was Reader's Digest. I said that I'd always liked that magazine too. I told you that the Humor in Uniform section always made me chuckle and think of you because of the stories you'd told me about your experience in the military. The very next week, a postcard came in the mail. You'd bought me a gift subscription to Reader's Digest. The card said "From Uncle Mike to read in waiting rooms." You were always so thoughtful. You remembered things that other people would forget. Every Christmas another postcard would show up from the magazine. I took them to doctor appointments and they stayed on my coffee table the rest of the time. They always reminded me that you cared for me and that I was not invisible.

After we moved to Alabama, you still kept up with us. You checked on us during hurricane warnings and we got to see you when we came to Florida for Aunt Beth's 50th birthday party. Jack was just a baby, only 4 months old, you held him for me for a little while because I was wrangling Matthew and Abi

When we were able to make it to Beth's for the big McNulty Thanksgiving celebration while I was pregnant with Joshua, you were there too. I had been really sick ("morning sickness" was beyond an understatement) and Matthew came down with a bad ear infection while we were there. Abi had been sick and had to have breathing treatments. That was a lot for Dave and I to juggle along with a one year old Jack. While other people were busy, you still saw me. You checked on me and brought me a steady supply of Sprite so that my stomach wouldn't be empty. You always wanted to help. You were always so generous with your kindness like that.

You had many health issues that kept you in my prayers a lot. Esophageal cancer meant surgery that was scary. I was worried about you when I heard about the apartment fire that took much of your stuff and your beloved kitties. I was thankful when your siblings helped you find a new place to live and I was more grateful when they helped you move to Texas so that you could be cared for a little better. I was so happy that you were able to get Monte, the little dog who kept you company. I didn't want you to be lonely ever. The "Good Morning!" emails you sent always made me smile. I'd always chuckle that you signed them from Monte... with "Woof Barks and Puppy Licks to all".

I hate that the cancer came back.

I hate that you were in pain.

I am glad that you weren't alone. I'm thankful that your siblings were able to be with you and let you know that you were loved.

I am glad that you knew that Monte would have a happy home in Colorado with Chris after you were gone. I am glad that your heart could rest a little easier knowing that.

You were the most consistent person I've ever known. Lots of things changed over the course of my life but, you always stayed the same. Ever caring. Ever kind. Ever generous with your time. Ever dependable. Ever faithful. You loved people genuinely and you loved them so well.

My life was richer because of your presence in it.

Already the world is a little more dim because you aren't here.

And I think you're smiling at me, through the little white dog on the cover of the humor issue of Reader's Digest that's sitting on my coffee table. I'll be buying the kids a box of Drumstick ice cream cones a little later. We'll talk about you while we enjoy them.

I know that heaven is a little richer today because that's where you are. And there's no pain there... and you're completely restored in mind and body. But I will still miss you Uncle Mike.

I love you sweet man.


Michael McNulty (July 25, 1946 - September 30, 2011)