This blog is just going to be a mess. Sorry ahead of time to any of you reading. I've been behind in everything - including blogging. First the biggest news....
Our original small group leader, Donny had the brilliant idea that if we all chipped in, we could fly Steve's twin brother, Dan and his family (Jessica - wife, and sons Andrew and Noah) out to Vegas for the holidays. We discussed it with Dan and Jess and we have officially purchased the plane tickets. It's official - they are coming home in December for a week.
This is a huge deal for us. For those who know us, know our history with Dan and Jess. We were really close when Steve and I were engaged and
married during that first year. Then Steve converted to Mormonism, I reactivated, and they, being conservative Evangelical Christians, were greatly opposed. It really devestated our relationship with them for almost four years.
The last year that they were living here, we finally began to get that relationship back, attending the same small group at Donny's house each Sunday night, and overall just becoming very close again. When Dan graduated from college, he couldn't find work here in Vegas that would meet his family's needs, so they moved to Iowa. This was around February 2007. It was an incredible blessing for them, because they've made outstanding friends, they've had the blessing to be a part of a church plant (even phone conferenced with our pastor at Grace Point, Devin Hudson on church planting), and Dan even gives the sermons when the Pastor is away. We are really looking forward to their visit; I know Steve is especially looking forward to worshipping side by side with Dan.
Our nephew, Andy (pictured above) has food allergies. During the time that we became closer, I became more aware of Andy's FA and tried to make sure our house was extra safe for him. Since I do have OCPD, I did tend to obsess a little about how "safe" our home was for their visits (we're talking 9 hour cleaning sessions and three Costco sized bottles of disinfecting wipes). This is no different, although I am getting to do things around the house that I've wanted to do for a very long time, years even.
First, we were blessed by some really great friends that we were able to get our floors and couches professionally cleaned at a tiny price. They are awesome. After the floors were cleaned, it was an easy next step to finally convince my husband to seal the floors. Some pictures below:BEFORE the cleaning and sealing. (And some after.)
The tile on the left is in original condition, the tile on the right is how the WHOLE floor looked."]
After the first coat! We missed a few spots, but looking 100% better."]
Our friend Donny has agreed to come out and help us paint. We were given free paint to paint our home with and are going to our local Sherwin Williams to have it tinted a pale green (Withered Moss) and a java bean brown (Mocha Syrup). The kids will be with the granparentsso it'll be a perfect time to get this done and then hit a movie while the paint dries. I'll have to take pictures after we paint and post them.
We might even get lucky enough to redo our backyard (again). Third times a charm right? While looking for pictures of Dan and Jess, I came across what our yard used to look like. Sigh - I miss it.
So that's all the big huge news that I am ultra excited about. In other news, just as exciting for me (and humbling) I've been really awakened by God to a lot of things around me. I was literally woken up from sleep by Him. It was quite the rude and yet much needed awakening. With all the wonderful blessings in our life right now, I've really lost track of the intimate relationship I need to have with Him. For example, I have been greatly blessed to have lost 40 lbsand so far, have kept it off. Instead of looking to God and thanking Him for his abundance in this area, I have simply remained discontented and dependent upon myself. Thinking that I need to eat more protien, less carbs, do more work and stressing about everything that goes into my mouth. My goal of loosing 35 more lbs is secular and worldly, not a goal that will glorify God or respect Him by taking care of the body He has gifted me with. Weight loss, exercise, and diet have become glorified idols in my life that I think about day and night. He brought me back to the fact that my biking time and exercise time need to be focused and centered on Him. I used to listen to worship music and The Bible Experience when I biked and did my yoga. Now I listen to whatever I want. I don't look for that communion with Him. I need to return to my time with Him. I've been so focused on the house, the way I look, and school that I've been largely self centered and now God focused or focused on others. God made this point strongest by bringing my best friend to mind. She's always such a wonderful example of a woman living everyday for Jesus.
Our friendship is an extremely unlikely one that I can only attribute to God. The Mormon and the die hard fundie Evangelical who just knew all Mormons were unsaved. Two strongly opinionated women who came together as friends back in 2006 (wow going on 3 years in March!) and have shared an amazing faith walk together. She always listens to my ramble on and on about the things in my life, unimportant really things. But she listens. I realized I was doing more and more talking with this very vivid dream that God gave me and less and less listening. In the dream Barbie stated, "I've been praying to God for a while about our friendship. And through you, He has answered me really clearly." And while she was saying this I was acting like Michael from The Office - whooping and hollering and not hearing a word she said. It was devastating to me to realize what a lousy friend I had been.
Especially since this is not God's only call to grace in my life recently. He has been ever so patiently reminding me that I lack grace with others. Yes, my neighbors are being abusive to us, but so what? It doesn't matter in the long run. In eternity, we all want to be in heaven with God. So James Dobson is being a cruel bully and an idiot by encouraging unChristian behavior with retailers due to his hissy fit - so what? God will judge him, and as much as he annoys me (I'd love to put duct tape on that man's mouth) - I am not his judge. I can simply turn the radio off when he comes on and try to be more action oriented in my protests of him (ie - show kindness where he leaves cruelty). So I feel overwhelmed with school, work, motherhood, being a wife and keeper of the home, and trying to get some alone time with God on my bike? I need to give it to God, not cut His time out of my life. And I need to be more proactive and creative about getting time with Him. I need to stop being legalistic of the things I do and don't do and return to being heart driven by the things I do. That means serving - even people I don't like or don't want to serve.
As I shared portions of this with Barbie, she shared with me that God was doing a similar wakening with her. Different stuff, but the message was the same - more grace, more intimacy with God. It always amazes both of us how God moves us in similar directions, gives us similar messages at the same time in our lives. This gives us the chance to serve one another, help one another, and to stay on the path together.
As a Catholic, she feels so intimate with God during the Eucharist and yet feels that the worship time of the Catholic church pales compared to the Protestant way of worship. I thought on this with her and realized how strongly the Spirit is within Protestant churches during worship. The swell of the music to the quiet of acoustics, the lyrics, the united front to worship God - it's all very well amazing. Compared to the quiet reverence of hymns, I can certainly see how this would pale. Yet, she made the point that Worship is to Protestants what the Eucharist (should be) is for Catholics. I thought back to the LDS church and felt that within the LDS church, that the temple is the ultimate place for such intimacy and moving. For me, the most powerful moment I've ever had with God was during my endowment ceremony. I could literally FEEL Him there with me and it's a moment I'll never forget.
So, where is God then? Is He within the Protestant worship or the Catholic Eucharist or the LDS temples? Where is He? Since God is God, why is He not within them all? Within usall? If The Holy Spirit indwells us, which all three groups would agree, then why can we not be connected and intimate with God in any of these settings? As usual, God reminds me of unity and grace. Some are called within the Catholic church - a beautiful, reverent place dating back to the earliest Christians and their traditions. Others are called to the Protestant churches - passionate people who focus everyday living on God. And then there are some, like me, who are called to the LDS church. A quiet church that focuses on missional living (a Protestant term yes, but it perfectly describes the LDS church) and living Christ centered lives. All people in these groups love the Lord, love the Redeemer and their Creator. It seems to me, that Jesus stated that we are to believe who He is - the Savior and Redeemer of the world, and that we are to give all we have in following Him. At the end of the day, I'll be worshipping side by side with my husband at Grace Point, but my heart is turned towards the Mormon church. I strive for unity within my family, rather than division over beliefs. I have to believe that God will honor that. More importantly, instead of longing for my home within the LDS church, I have to make the best of where I am now. I cannot deny that God moved us to Grace Point. I don't think the return to the LDS church will come until my life has reached the end of it's transformation within the ministry that GP offers (this is not to imply that my transformation will be complete, just complete within GP's ministry). Instead of looking back to what was and forward to what I want to be, I need to look to now and make the best of where I am.
There are amazing people on the journey at GP, people I could learn from and grow with. In the end, our heart is to be towards God and grow on this journey we call faith.