Monday, September 24, 2012

I Choose You

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”  Psalm 139:13-16
Sophie Sue
~The little runt squawked like a loud bird every time I picked her up!  I had my heart set on choosing the runt of the litter, but I began to have my doubts.  When our dog, Carlie, had her four miniature schnauzer puppies, I was getting ready to move into my own apartment which meant that I was going to get to raise one of the puppies on my own.  Well, as you can imagine, it was very difficult choosing one.  Carlie gave birth to three females and one male whose names were based on their size:  Big Guy, Big Girl, Medium Girl, and Little Girl.  Yes, I know, we were so creative.
From left to right:  Big Girl (Sophie), Medium Girl, Big Guy and Little Girl
I already had the name, Sophie, picked out so at least that narrowed it down to choosing from the three females.  I thought I knew that I was going to pick Little Girl because she was the runt, but the squawking sounds she made were incredibly obnoxious, so I decided to spend more time with Medium Girl and Big Girl.  They were both sweet, so now, I wasn’t sure.  Until one day when I picked up Big Girl.  I was holding her up to my face, and I was talking to her.  “Hi, sweet Big Girl!  Are you going to be my puppy?”  

Then, playfully, I spit my tongue out at her and she spit her tongue out right back at me!  I was amazed.  I did it again.  And she did it again.  It was then that I knew that she was the one.  She was my Sophie. 
The day Sophie spit her tongue out at me!
 I had no idea that this little puppy that I was holding was going to be my best friend.  I had no idea how much love I was going to have for her, and I had no idea how much I was going to learn from her.  I had no idea how grateful I would be for choosing that “Big Girl”!   
Years later, I read in a book that animals actually choose us; we don’t choose them like we think we do.  They choose us!  And that little puppy looking into my eyes; listening to me talk to her; watching me spit my tongue out at her; knew what she had to do because she wanted me to be hers!  Isn’t that an interesting way to look at that?
Here’s another interesting thought…God chooses us too!  We are all here on purpose… to do God’s purpose!  He chose the right sperm and the right egg when each one of us was conceived to make us exactly the way He wanted us to be.  He chose every little detail about us and, more importantly, He loves everything about us.  We are His creation and even though we beat ourselves up when we look in the mirror because we may not like something about ourselves, God made us that way and He loves us exactly the way we are!   Really, God?  Even the wrinkles? The stretch marks? The gray hair?  The pointy nose? Oh, sorry, just a little moment between me and God.  And do you know what He said?  “Yes!  I love you exactly the way you are!”  The bible tells us in 1 Samuel 16:7 “…the Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
This week, I pray that you can accept yourself as you are and love yourself just as our Father made you---a beautiful, wonderful being!  In fact, right now, spit your tongue out at yourself in the mirror and say, “God, I know you chose me, so help me to choose myself exactly the way I am.  You made me.  You love me.  No matter what I think of myself at this very moment.  Help me to see what you see, Lord.  Help me to love myself exactly the way I am!  And help me to focus every day on what is in my heart and who you've made me to be.  And help me to live every day for Your purpose for my life.   In Jesus’ name!  Amen!"

Dedicated to "Little Girl", the runt, the squawking bird, Lucky, who I didn't end up choosing but my parents did.  Even though she was the runt who had seizures, never quit squawking like a bird when someone she didn't like picked her up (which was everyone but a select few), was paranoid and jumped in fear of everything, we loved her anyway.  In fact, Lucky ended up living longer than every puppy in that litter---surprisingly outliving Sophie by 5 years.  I was with Lucky at the very moment she was born and at the very moment she died.  Good bye, little Lucky!  We will miss you!
Sophie and Lucky--See?  You can just see the paranoid look on Lucky's face.

Sophie, Carlie (the momma) and Lucky

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Only Trust Him

And those who know Your name
put their trust in You,
for You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.  –Psalm 9:10

Again, it's exciting that used another one of my devotions on Sunday, September 16th.  Here it is in the original version.  

Sophie Playing in the Snow!  Even though her eyes were blind, they still saw love!
~ Even though she was blind, Sophie loved to run.  When our eight year old miniature schnauzer lost her sight due to diabetes, we were devastated!  We soon learned that we were more affected by her disability than she was.  Sophie adapted so well.  In fact, my husband and I noticed that she seemed to enjoy her life even more being blind than she ever did when she could see.  She would go on walks, and sometimes she would even start running!  A by-stander would have never thought she was a blind dog unless he watched long enough to see her knock into a tree as occasionally happened when I wasn’t paying close enough attention with the leash.  I would just say, “Sorry Sophs”.  She would turn and keep on running.   One time, she was trotting along behind our other schnauzer, Wrigley, and Wrigley stopped to sniff something.  Sophie kept running and bumped right into Wrigley’s butt.  Sophie really “laughed” at herself with an enthusiastic tail wag and then just kept on running.  She was so free when she ran, and despite the occasional tree bump, she trusted us so much.  When we were approaching a step or a curb, we would just say “step up” or “step down” and she would reach out her paw “feeling” for the step.  She was so amazing and inspiring.
~After she went blind, Sophie didn’t spend any time feeling sorry for herself.  Instead, she started enjoying life even more than she ever had!  She was more active.  She was more energetic.  I admired her so much, and I wanted to be more like her.  What about you?  How do you handle tough situations?  Could you be a little more like Sophie, too?  What about with the next challenge that you face, you go running free.  Seek God’s wisdom and trust that God has your leash and will guide you around the “trees” and around the “Wrigley’s butts” that you may encounter along the way!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Homemade Lasagna Attitude

"What the wicked dreads will come upon him, but the desire of the righteous will be granted."  Proverbs 10:24

"Devil With the Blue Dress On"

We called her devil with a blue dress on.  My grandma knew how to have fun, though I have to admit it was a sad moment when I realized that my grandma was having more fun at a wedding than I was.  She was in her mid eighties.  I was in my mid twenties.  She had enjoyed several cocktails and was dancing the night away.  All the while, I was sitting at the table watching her.  She really started to boogey when “Devil with the Blue Dress On” by Mitch Ryder came on.  Suddenly, I started laughing.  First of all, I was laughing that I was sitting at the table while my grandma was getting down on the dance floor and secondly, I was laughing because she was wearing a blue dress!  The nickname was perfect. 
Even though that night, she was the "Devil with the Blue Dress On", she was actually a kind-hearted, Christian woman who never met a stranger.  But anyone that knew her would agree that she was one feisty lady.  She was stubborn.  She had opinions, and she was going to tell you exactly how she felt exactly when she felt it.  Because of her incredible stubbornness and my incredible stubbornness (hmmmm, I wonder where I got mine), she and I didn’t always get along, but I loved her. I always admired her love of sports, her ability to save money and yet be very generous, her genuine love of everyone—no matter their background, and especially her love and support of her family (she came to everything I was involved in).  Despite our often differing opinions and despite her need to point out everything that I did wrong, there were two things that she always complimented me on…my driving and my delicious lasagna.  Even though she only had my lasagna one time, she talked about that lasagna for ten years.  She told everyone that she met that it was the best lasagna she ever had!  It always made me feel so good and a little guilty.  Let me tell you a story about the best lasagna she ever had…
I was during my senior year at EIU.   I had the opportunity to live with my grandma for a semester when I did my student teaching.  It actually worked out for both of us because for some reason, I was assigned to do my student teaching in Danville even though I lived in Charleston (an hour and a half away).  My grandma had just lost my grandpa after being married and caring for him for over 60 years, so living in her little house in Champaign was the best solution and would cut my drive in half.  Plus, she would have someone to take care of again.  And she did.  She would leave a bowl, a spoon, a box of cereal and a juice glass out every morning for my breakfast before I had to leave.  She would have dinner ready in the evening and we would spend time together at night watching a tv show or two.  It was wonderful to get to spend more time with my grandma, but it made for a very busy life.  Every Friday that fall, I would pack a bag, kiss Grandma and drive down to Charleston.  I was on the dance team at Eastern and had to learn a dance routine to perform at halftime the next day since I would miss rehearsal all week due to student teaching in Danville (another reason that it made no sense that I was assigned to Danville).  I would perform at the game, go out with friends, get up Sunday and drive back up to Champaign only to have to get up the next morning and drive to Danville to student teach.  It was exhausting. 
That semester flew by with all the teaching, grading papers, lesson planning, driving, learning dance routines, performing, and more driving.  Soon, it was going to be my last night staying with grandma, and in appreciation for her hospitality that semester, I offered to make her dinner.  I was so grateful for her opening up her home to me, and while living with her, she and I both gained a new appreciation and respect for one another.  I wanted to treat her to my homemade lasagna, salad and garlic bread.  Unfortunately, that week leading up to my last night with her was incredibly busy with student teaching, dancing and driving that I didn’t have time to make her the lasagna, so, with my parents’ blessing, I gave myself permission to buy Stouffer’s frozen lasagna.  To me, the most important thing was for she and I to spend time together and enjoy our last night.  I had it all ready.  The garlic bread’s aroma filled the air.  The salad was incredibly colorful.  And the Stouffer’s lasagna actually looked and smelled homemade. 
I have to be confess here.   I didn’t tell her that it was Stouffer’s because I knew that she would automatically hate it without even trying it---she came from the generation that everything has to be made from scratch or it’s AWFUL!  I just didn’t say anything.  As delicious as it looked, I was very anxious for her to try it.  I just knew that she was going to know.  I was so nervous waiting for her to put that first bite in her mouth.  She LOVED it!  I couldn't believe it!
She loved it so much that she wouldn’t stop talking about it.   She went on and on, and I kept thinking that she just had to know, but she didn’t.  In fact, from that moment on, anyone that she talked to, she would tell them about the best lasagna that she ever tasted that her granddaughter made for her.  All I would say to her is “I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Grandma.”  For 10 years, that woman brought up how delicious my lasagna was and she never knew that it was a store bought lasagna!
Now, I’m sure you’re thinking…why would you not tell your little old grandma the truth?  You know what…you're right, I should have.  To be honest, it was such a rare thing to get such raving praise from grandma, that I didn't want to spoil it for either of us.  But it really made me realize how the mind is a funny thing.  Had she known that it was store-bought, she wouldn’t have enjoyed it.  And for 10 years, she would have complained that I made her the worst lasagna she ever had.   And trust me, (anyone who really knew my grandma would agree) she would have brought it up any chance she got.  But because she thought it was a homemade lasagna, she thought it was the best lasagna she ever tasted.  A delicious homemade lasagna was her expectation, so a delicious homemade lasagna was exactly what she tasted even though it wasn’t. 
Our expectations of people and things in our life can have a huge impact.  How we feel about a person beforehand can have an enormous effect on how we interact with that person.  “That woman is so rude”---all we will notice is her faults.  How we feel about a situation can have an enormous effect on how that situation goes.  “Church is so boring”----all we will notice is the downtime. “The kids are going to behave horribly”---all we will notice is the chaos.  
Our expectation of something or someone is powerful.  This week, I pray that you will be aware of your expectations.  Are you expecting the worst in every situation?  If so, I pray that God will give you a more positive outlook?  Are you expecting to see the flaws in people?   If so, I pray that God will give you the eyes to see them differently.  In every person and in every situation, I pray that you will have a homemade lasagna attitude.  I pray that you will expect the homemade lasagna and even though you may end up with the store-bought, you will be none the wiser and enjoy every bite just like my grandma!

To my Grandma who would have been 99 on October 4th.  Grandma, we love you, and we miss you!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Sweat Mrs. Turner

“It is God who arms me with strength and

 makes my way perfect” (Psalm 18:32).

My 3rd Grade Teacher, Mrs. Turner--Lincoln School

According to me, and my entire third grade class, my third grade teacher, Mrs. Turner, was so sweat.  No, that is not a typo and we were not referring to her having a lot of perspiration.  Allow me to explain…Mrs. Turner was one of the kindest, most encouraging teachers.  Everyone respected her and really loved her.  She would always put stickers on our papers and write things like “Great Job!” and “Way to go!”  Plus, she would give us handwritten notes to take home to our parents.  It was very clear to all of us how much she enjoyed teaching our class and how much she loved and cared for us in return.  In the mornings before school started as well as in the afternoons after recess, we would write nice things all over the chalkboard to show her how much we appreciated her.  She was always so excited to read everything we wrote.  We would write things like, “Mrs. Turner is so nice.” and “We love you, Mrs. Turner.”  But there was one sentence we wrote over and over and over throughout the year and that was, “Mrs. Turner is so sweat.”  Now, I’m sure you realize that we all meant to tell her that she was “sweet” not “sweat”.  She never corrected us.  I remember the day in our spelling book that “sweet” and “sweat” were two of our ten words that we needed to learn to spell.  It was that day that our entire class realized that we were telling Mrs. Turner that she was “sweat” instead of “sweet.”  See?  That’s how sweet she was!  She knew exactly what we meant and didn’t want to hurt our feelings by correcting us.  She stepped out of “teacher mode” and just enjoyed that her entire class thought she was wonderful and so “sweat”! 

~As a former teacher, as a mom, oh and even as a wife, I have spent a lot of time correcting.  I can honestly say that if my entire class was writing, “Mrs. Leeb is so sweat.” all over the board, I don’t know if I could have or would have let that spelling error go.  No, I know I wouldn’t have let that spelling error go.  That would have driven me crazy! I’m pretty sure that I would have taken a quick minute to thank them for the sentiment and then taught them the difference between “sweet” and “sweat” the first time that they wrote it incorrectly.  I admit that I do have some perfectionist tendencies, and it’s definitely something that God has brought to my attention. 
The worst part about being a perfectionist is not just the unrealistic expectations that I put upon myself, but when I project those expectations onto other people, especially my family.  Since God has shown me this flaw, I get so irritated with myself when I can’t just enjoy a moment without nitpicking every little detail.  I need to learn to let some things go, and just appreciate the effort.  It doesn’t matter if the pillows aren’t arranged on the bed just right.  What matters is that my husband made the bed!  It doesn’t matter that when he puts the bathroom trash can back, he puts it in the wrong spot every time!  What matters is that he took out the trash!  I think you get my point.  Or maybe you’re thinking…dude…this lady needs to relax.  As I said, I am aware, and I am working on it. 
I am not perfect.  You are not perfect.  God and His ways are perfect and that's all that we can strive to be.  Through God's grace, He loves us so much that He accepts us...flaws and all.  Why can't we do the same for ourselves and for others?  Can you even imagine what our lives would be like if God nitpicked us for every little thing we didn't do right?  Oh my goodness, He would be so busy with me that He wouldn't even have time for anyone else!
Nitpicking comes so easy to perfectionists, but it’s also a very slippery slope.  Nitpicking can lead to ungratefulness, and I don't want to live with an ungrateful heart.  I want to live each day with a grateful heart and to let those little insignificant things go!  Do you need to do the same?  This week, I pray that you will also vow to be more grateful and less of a perfectionist.  I pray that you will spend more time focusing on the sentiment or the intent of someone, like Mrs. Turner did, instead of focusing on the one little teeny tiny thing they didn’t do right according to you.  I pray that you will find the joy in being “sweat”.  You can always be “sweet” another day.