Thursday, March 31, 2011

Accountability Partner

Almost six years ago, I met my best friend.  I was out on my very first coon hunting trip with some longtime friends of mine and they took me down the road to meet their brother and sister-in law.  Introductions were made first to Terry, who stood by the dog box lifting the howling hounds in, then to Carla his wife.  She had her back to us as we walked up, and I had to cough back a laugh as she turned around.  Here stood this tiny woman, decked out head to toe in camo for the hunt and as she turned around we had to take a step back and give her pregnant-bulging belly room to sway.  I stood and smiled politely as I was given the accustomed introduction.  “Carla, this is Melonie the preacher’s daughter.”  Instantly a contagious smile spread across Carla’s face, “Howdy!  I’m Carla, the drunk’s daughter!”

Immediately, I liked her.

Almost two years would pass before her and I would become "bf’s" (best friends).  We visited a each other a couple of times in the in-between, each time drawn as if a magnetic force pulled us together.  I was pleasantly surprised when her family started attending our church.  I was absolutely THRILLED when I got a call from her sister-in-law saying that Carla had accepted Christ that evening after church.  I waited what seemed like days, really about ten minutes, before calling and congratulating her.  We talked for hours and created a bond that exists to this day.

Carla and I are many things to each other: confidants, partners in crime, sisters, and shopping pals (or lately, internet window-shopping pals).  Most importantly, from the very beginning we have been accountability partners.

Proverbs 27:17 tells us, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”  (NLT)

For years now, we have done our best to help each other “tow the line”.  When we see each other stray, we loving do our best to get each other back on track.  We even have a “vent” rule.  When one of us is really upset, we call the other up, and without a greeting just say: “Ok, I’ve got to vent.”

The rule is that no matter what the other says, right or wrong, we listen empathetically as the other gets it out of their system.  Then, inevitably, after the angered friend has calmed down you’ll hear the other say, “Alright, now you wanna know what I really think?”

When one of us is “on fire” the flames quickly spread to other, and when one’s flame begins to flicker as we allow Satan to creep too close the other friend is there to help rekindle that flame through their prayer and direct, but loving, confrontation.

We have discovered that a friendship, like any other relationship, is not always easy.  We have had our ups and downs.  Periods have gone by where we barely went to the bathroom without talking, then spells where months passed and we didn’t so much as whisper.  I have found, through all our times, that my relationship with the Lord has been the deepest when I have had her by my side softly saying, “You wanna know what I really think?”

There have been many times when I have been tempted to take the low, easy road; to give up on my faith or just have a moment of weakness, that I have stopped short for fear (or foreknowledge) of Carla’s reaction.  Just knowing that she was there with every intention of holding me accountable for my actions have shown me the truth in Solomon’s words.

 James 5:19-20 says, "My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins." 

As Christians, we are called to be a support to other Christians.  We are to love them, and give them our ear, but when necessary hold them accountable for their actions.  As hard as this can be, especially in a society where the popular mandate is to never offend, it is a necessity (and, speaking from experience, a true Godsend).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I am a Tree

            Recently a friend of mine went through a tough time.  It seems as if around every bend she came to she was faced with another daunting obstacle.  As I sat at home, after a phone visit with her, I was reminded of a verse.  Jeremiah 17:8:

                        He will be like a tree planted by the water: 
                        it sends its roots out toward a stream,
                        it doesn't fear when heat comes,
                        and its foliage remains green.
                        It will not worry in a year of drought
                        or cease producing fruit.
                        (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

            I can picture this tree, standing tall and proud by the crook of a flowing stream.  All life around it is barren and stark as the unforgiving sun bears down; but this tree is not just is thriving!  The lush grass around it is cool to the touch and shaded by the olive-green leaves, which stand, in stark contrast to the glorious blossoms scattered impulsively throughout.  Mist floats up from the stream and a slight rainbow connects the tree and water.

            When it seems as if I cannot handle one more thing thrown my way, I think of this tree and am reminded of God's grace.  I am grateful that I am that tree with its roots stretched out toward the life-giving water.  I am thankful for God's promise of never giving us more than we can handle; though there have been times when I doubted that.

There have been moments when the weight seemed too much and it felt as if at any second I would come crushing down under it, but I have to remember that with that promise comes the assurance that we will be able to handle it...not because we are that strong, but rather because He is.  He is the stream that gives us life; that keeps us blooming in the midst of the drought.  He will carry the weight, but first we have to
stretch our roots towards Him and give Him our burdens.  We have to realize that we cannot handle it (or fix it) on our own, His promise is dependant on our ability to trust Him.

            I wish I could say that when times get tough I always remember that promise of peace, but I don't.  I know, though, that when I allow myself to become overwhelmed with the grief of the moment, that is not His choice for me, but rather my own.

30 Days Facebook Free: Day 14

You know what's amazing? I actually have gone a day or two without thinking about Facebook! At first it drove me crazy, I had no idea what was going on with anybody.  But, now...I kinda like it.  I find that I'm MORE involved with people. Instead of just writing a quick "Hi!" on their wall, or only "seeing" what is going on in people's lives I'm re-acclimating myself to their worlds.

I have more time for actual phone calls, and just a little while ago I actually sent a real email to a friend. I never realized how out of touch I had become, and how focused on how others were living and what they were doing. Now, instead of stressing of what's going on in Facebook I'm spending more time in the Good Book learning to be a better me.

I miss seeing the pictures and reading the funny statuses and updates, but I'm substituting that by working on my writing and trying to develop myself as a christian, wife and mother. I don't want to lose touch with those far away, though. This experiment is intended to make me stronger, and without family one is not; so I have to make an extra effort to pick up the phone and send cards, letters and emails.

I'm still not sure what my end conclusion will be, but I do know that I am a better person when my life does not revolve around the social network.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Gardening for Dummies

Every year as spring rolls around I voice my intentions to plant my own vegetable garden, this year I'm doing it again! Since I'm on a mission to cut as many expenses as I can so I can be a SAHM I fully intend to follow up this year.  I've even dusted off my Gardening For Dummies book and been making a list of the plants I'm most eager to get. 

I've decided to start off relatively small.  So far my list includes: green beans, purple hull peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, bell peppers and maybe some zucchini (maybe I can bribe my mom with some fresh zucchini to make me zucchini bread!).  Chuck will probably make me a raised bed, since the only decent spots in the back/side yard are low.  Hopefully I can keep all of the neighborhood animals out of it, but I can always make a cute scarecrow!!! Oh, how fun that will be!


Friday, March 4, 2011

Faith by Choice

One of the most wonderful things about being a Christian is that I am one by choice.  Not once has God ever forced anyone to believe in Him, or to follow His guidelines.  What so many Christians forget, is that just like many other choices that we make in life, it sometimes comes with consequences.

Recently my husband and I realized that we were going to have no choice but to buy a new “ride”.  The transmission went out in my red Ford Escape and with Chuck taking his Master Electricians class every Thursday evenings; two vehicles are a requirement right now.  We know this purchasing a new vehicle is not a decision that should be made lightly, we looked at every alternative possible, reviewed our budget and finally made a choice to find a vehicle (within a certain price and payment range) that would meet the needs of our family.

Now no one forced us into this decision, we have done it of our own free will.  We must keep in mind, though, that this choice does comes certain responsibilities and consequences if we do not do keep our commitments.  When we sign the paperwork, we agree to make payments, each month, on time.  If we have a late payment then we will be responsible for additional late fees.  If we continually make the payments late then we’ll have multiple (costly, mind you) late fees, our credit score will be affected negatively, and we will run the risk of the vehicle being reposed.  If we choose a vehicle that the payments are too high, and we make the payments anyway, then that could take the money away from other necessities (food, electric, diapers…).

Choosing to be a Christian, to have faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, is much the same.  God does not force us to believe.  He doesn’t grab us by the collar, haul us down the aisle at church, and throw us on our knees demanding that we say the believer’s prayer and follow His ways.  He doesn’t have muscled men in black who follow us around threatening to break our fingers until we get “saved”.  No, He places a burden on our heart then leaves the rest up to us.

Once we make the choice the accept Christ as our Savior we are choosing to believe in His Word and agreeing to abide by it (even the parts that don’t sound like too much fun).  That means that just as with the responsibilities with our new vehicle, we have responsibilities to Christ.  He lies down his guidelines and, like it or not, expects us to abide by them. 

30 Days Facebook Free: Day 7

Hi. My name is Melonie and I'm a Face-a-holic.

It's been one week without Facebook and it's not been easy. I never realized just how addicted I was to it. Every spare moment I had, from riding (not driving) in a vehicle to lapses in any conversation, was spent "checking my Facebook". I was so involved in what he/she said on Facebook that the first few days without checking it I was at a loss.  It's almost ironic that I spent so much time "checking" up on people that I would "check-out" of reality and miss what was actually going on around me.

Perhaps, so far anyway, what I miss most is the connected feeling that FB gives me. It makes me feel like no matter where I'm at, or how far away my loved ones are, that we are still a part of each others' lives. What I do not miss is the drama and gossip that goes along with it. Nor do I miss the snide comments that are not-so-vaguely aimed at each other. I despise just how uncivilized people have a tendency to become on there; as if it's alright to say whatever we please just because we can't see the expressions on our "friends" faces and then continue on in life as if our comments don't affect people.

Perhaps, for me anyway, the worst aspect of Facebook was the respect that I lost for some people and the relationships that were ruined because we didn't show the self-control necessary. I know I mentioned this in the first FB blog, but because it has such a lasting effect I'm going to take a moment to reiterate its importance. Even if we delete our comments, its nearly impossible to remove them before someone else sees them and then the damage is done; and trust me on something, our "friends" get it. Even if/when we think we are being sly by not specifically mentioning names (or "unintentionally" leaving them out) we're really not, we just look weak because we're going about it in a round about way instead manning up and speaking to them. *And, on a side note when we are "vague" like that we run a risk of insulting/hurting someone that we had no intention of because they think we are venting about them and/or they assume its about another person then run and tell them....rinse & repeat*

So far, despite feeling unconnected with the world around me, the good has outweighed the bad. I've spent more time playing with my daughter, bonding and snuggling with my husband, and talking and laughing with my friends and family than I have in a long time. Even though I tend to be a bit paranoid now, wondering who is saying what and if its about me, I enjoy being connected the physical world around me instead of being obsessed with the virtual one.