God Is Everywhere

January 10, 2018

God is Everywhere

We usually talk about movies after watching them.  The girls were discussing a movie while sitting at the “stone table” (what the little girls call the stone bench and table they get to do school at while waiting for the big girls at college) today.

The exchange from this movie being discussed goes generally like this:

“Don’t rob me of my hate…”

“…God has given us a second chance.  Don’t slap His hand away.”

“God? Can’t I ever get away from Him?”

“No.  God is everywhere, even in a kiss…”

And so this story that, as a novel, is a story of bitter vengeance and betrayal becomes morphed for the big screen into a story of forgiveness and God’s mercy.

Jaquline says, “I like how God is everywhere.  The Bible says He’s in the darkest valley and the tallest mountain.  Is God really in a kiss?”

“I think so,” Kimberly pipes up, “God also gives life and love.”

“So if God is in everything, do squirrels get married?” Jillian asked.  (She loves the Landmark Tribe squirrel stories, and in those, the squirrels are married.)

“God is in everything; He created everything,” Jaquline sighed, “but I don’t know if squirrels get married for real.  Dogs don’t but when we are feeling sad, God uses Prim’s and Sheba’s kisses to make us happier.” (Prim and Sheba are our dogs.)

“So God is even in doggie kisses!” laughed Jillian.

I smiled.  The sun that warms us, the air we breathe, the water, plants, animals; each spark of life is a gift from God.  “God is in everything” isn’t just a movie line; it’s real.  Sometimes we try to make God so distant when in reality He’s inside us, touching everything within and around us.  No, we can never get away from Him.  That’s the beauty and mystery of His love.  Why would the God who spoke the universe into existence want to “chase after” each of us?  God is in everything so that everything we see, feel, and love reflects His love for us.  In this way, all of creation sings God’s glory!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

Saying No to Nagging

November 29, 2017

Saying No to Nagging

As the oldest of seven children, an analytical puzzle-solver who is rarely wrong (sarcasm), and a perfectionist, I also have a rather uncanny knack of nagging to get people to do stuff (I heard a sermon on the persistent woman before the judge and thought nagging was the same as her persistence.)   Since I was about ten or twelve, I started to learn (mostly from watching my Daddy while he was driving) that I don’t have to say what I’m thinking to that person’s face.  Because of this, I learned how to keep my nagging thoughts to myself around my siblings.  The younger ones who didn’t remember the nagging dictator began to enjoy my company and actually listen to me when I suggested they do something!  (This was an amazing and empowering discovery!)

Fast forward to when I’m a young woman considering long-term relationships with a fearful heart.  (I actually have to talk to a person I know nothing about? GOD!  How I am going to do this?)  I think I could actually hear God laughing, and the wind blew my Bible open to Proverbs 31.  (Anyone else remember singing that catchy song a guy sang about a “P31”?  Airplane-crazy younger me thought he was talking about a plane.  At least, teenage me realized he meant a woman.)

Have you ever read Proverbs 31?  The whole thing??  I freaked out and thought, “no way can I be all that.”

God said, “one verse at a time.”

So I started studying about the ideal woman.  (Most of the time, I laughed and journaled stuff like “I am NEVER going to be that!” and “This is IMPOSSIBLE!”)  Slowly I realized that this perfect woman just loved God first, loved her husband second, and allowed love and wisdom to rule her.  (Her business savvy totally intrigued me.)  Then came the part that is still my hardest challenge… I study by flipping to suggested parallel verses and almost everywhere in Proverbs this poor guy was saying stuff that I interpreted as “it is better to be buried in the deepest, darkest, scorpion-infested, cave that belongs to lions named “Ghost” and “Darkness” than to live in a palace with a nagging woman.”  (I thought, “CRUD!  Okay, God, this one you will really have to do for me.”)

In my study I realized that by “nagging” the Bible meant a woman asking, telling, or pleading with a man to get him to do something.  (I substantiated this by interviews with older married men I knew and they agreed.  One guy even said, “ask me once, I heard ya; say it twice and I turn my ears off.”)  I decided that once I was married, I would practice not nagging by only voicing my opinion once.  (At this point, I still “know” I’m right 99.9999% of the time, so I made an asterisk in my journal that added, “but in important matters I will remain firm.”)  I think God laughed at that too because who is to say what is important?

God’s timing is always perfect.

I finished writing my five-pages-in-my-journal decision after almost a year of study – writing everything I thought a Biblical woman in today’s world should be and listing the qualities I wanted to cultivate in preparation for being a wife and mother.  I ended it with a prayer (as I usually do when I journal) that read: “God, I think I’m ready to start my forever relationship.  If you think I am ready, please let the guy ask me out if I have met him…”

And God laughed again.  (That was written Monday, July 1st.  Louis told me we were going out on Wednesday, July 3rd.  We were engaged on July 20th & married life began on November 22nd.)

Have I conquered that nagging thing?  (NNOO!!)  My brain still talks back, but I have learned to keep my sarcastic thoughts inside, take a breath, form a perfect suggestion, SPEAK IT ONCE (ONLY ONCE, remember?  You promised God that!  – I had to argue that with my brain for the first 12 or 13 years of marriage every time.), and leave the rest to God.

This was also a HUGE trust issue for me.  (See, I like to be in control so giving that to another human even if I trust God to lead him is just bonkers to my analytical brain.)

I learned that to respect my husband meant to trust him to trust God with his decisions (our decisions) and over time, God has taught Louis that most of the time; it’s a good thing to listen to my suggestion.  (He said that, not me.  I never even mentioned this challenge until about a year ago when it was mentioned to me that “you never nag” and I had to answer the question, “why?”  It had always been something between me and God.)

Well, I guess the good thing is that Louis hasn’t lamented for people 3,000 years later to read “I wish to be in Daniel’s lion cave instead of with this nagging woman!” (At least, he hasn’t said that yet.)

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

 

What to Say?

October 20, 2017

What to Say?

It doesn’t matter how you get the message.  A man in uniform, a hospital doctor, a call from their job, a letter from a mission council: it doesn’t matter the messenger, when you hear “we regret to inform you…” with the universal calm sadness people use, you don’t hear anything else.  It doesn’t matter if the name they give is your husband, wife, father, mother, brother, sister, or child.  Your world just imploded.

You are devastated; and that word falls flat when trying to convey the emotion coursing through your veins like blood.   You stare blankly, scream, yell, cry, hit, punch, or politely slam the door in their face and curl up into a tiny ball just behind it to bawl the remainder of your heart out.  Every dream you had with them has just died.  The messenger knows this and stays silent even if you lash out at them.  They usually leave you to your grief.  No more words are needed.

Your heart compresses into a lump of coal; furious at the job, war, accident, drunk driver, sickness, or whatever that stole your loved one from you.  Your heart constricts as your emotion rises into a whirling series of blades and swirls from inside your heart to rip apart everything inside you.  Anger is a part of grief.

This just happened to someone you know.  What to say?

There is nothing you can say.  Not even the most eloquent speech from the best orator on the planet will breathe life back into the lost loved one.  No one can say “I’m so sorry for you” with just the right tone to shoot back time and change the events that have happened.

We’ve all been there (most of us have been in this insane horrid sorrow of loss ourselves).  We’ve also been the friend of someone who is still reeling from the shock of extreme loss – and if we are wise, the best we can do is say nothing.  If our eyes meet the survivor we offer a smile of encouragement, a hug, or simply cry with them; just so they know we are here.

We’ve all heard someone at a funeral say what they intend as an encouragement but it actually stabs the survivor in the lungs, sucking out their air and life, tearing into their mind.  Inwardly, the animal of attack is shredding that person – but the survivor usually realizes they meant well, it just didn’t come out that way.  (“It was just her time,” “you could always have another,” “he lived a full life,” “at least she’s not hurting anymore,” or any other cliché soundbite.)

In our current techno world, grief doesn’t have a chance!  Someone loses a precious loved one and instantly society wants heart-stopping news stories, social media posts with pics and vids on all outlets, and 24/7 access into the private life of the grieving family.  Politicians want to be on stage with them.

NO!  Just let them grieve!

Pray for them if you hear of their loss.

Deliver them a meal, send them a card or flowers, or be there at the funeral to show your support and empathy if you know them.

If you are family – protect them from this ruthless media assault.

Why must society know everything about everyone in such a callous way, so distant, so superficial?  If a person really cared, they’d do something meaningful to help the family – and not go on TV to highlight their perfect generosity, excessive understanding, and absolute empathy.  Their grief shouldn’t be our profit.

Please, let them mourn for the loved one they lost and the dreams, hopes, and life they had – and no, it will never “return to normal” (something will always remind us; a uniform, policecar, firetruck, work truck, cane, wheelchair, the ocean, the hospital, the outfit they last bought us, the ring on our finger, our children, our grandchildren – these will flood us with memories and emotion at times) but yes, life does continue.  Hope allows life to continue and restores happiness, but first they must grieve.

 

In memory of all those we’ve lost…

~Nancy Tart

 

Power of Music

October 15, 2017

Power of Music

Sometimes music is just the perfect thing to lift you up.  Today, I needed an energetic soundtrack for work.

I love how God seems to know exactly what to play and in what order.  It never matters what station: it’s always the right playlist!

So, my radio started with “That’s How You Change The World” by Newsboys.  (Absolutely perfect!   Skyrocket volume up, windows down!  I’m sure anyone outside on my road wondered if I was deaf.  My Daddy taught me to enjoy music by feeling it like a bass drum is your heartbeat.  Oh, I love that song too! Beckah Shae does it… But it wasn’t in the mix today.)

Just as that one is finished, I crawled to a halt at a red light and “The River” by Jordan Feliz started.   (Now in the middle of traffic, my hands stay on the wheel but my head is bobbing like a doggy on a dashboard so I’m pretty sure people think I’m crazy – but that’s perfectly fine for them to see me as I really am.)

This wonderful selection was finished with Britt Nicole’s “Amazing Life” (This one caused the volume to increase another notch) and “I Feel So Alive” by Capital Kings.  (Halfway through I had to turn this down to a manageable super-sensitive-ears-person-enjoying-music volume so I wouldn’t blow away my passenger.)

The power of music is to energize and refresh.  I love worship songs – I love songs I can make motions and signs to because that feels like dancing.  I imagine the music entering my body, refilling me with some kind of electron fuel, and exiting as a broad grin and my attempt at singing along. (At least, that’s what happens in a car… when my feet are free to dance?  “Shackles” by Mandisa; let the song do the talking!)

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

 

Level Up!

October 2, 2017

Leveling Up

On this nice warm day Jillian, Lucas, and I sat playing a video game on the couch.

We like to play this game together because Lucas can push the buttons (he thinks this is super) and Jillian narrates (this is Mommy getting creative about reading practice).   Some monkey bandits approach and Lucas tosses the controller to my lap. (I get to fight the battles.)

Afterward, Jillian reads “Alena has increased!”  She adds, “I like it when they level up.”

“Why?” I ask.  Lucas is walking the character around again.

“Because they learn new stuff.”

“I’m about to level up,” laughs Christina from the kitchen table.  (How is she following our conversation when she’s nose deep in chemistry?)

“In your game?” Jillian asks.  (Everyone has a saved game for this game; it’s a family competition.)

“No,” Christina laughs, “in real life.  I’m about to enter level 14.”

“Oh,” Jillian says thoughtfully.  She grins like Davy Crockett and starts bouncing (she does this when she figures something out), “you mean your birthday!  I love birthdays!  So I really love leveling up in real life.”

This made me smile.

It also made me think:

Our lives are quite like a game.  We go through “stages” in life that change as we grow.  Sometimes entering a new “level” is challenging, and we need help to get through this trying time (aka handing the controller off to mom).  Sometimes we are perfectly happy with the level we are at and don’t want it to change (Why can’t we stay in this land?).  Just like our goal in games is to “level up” by moving into new territory with new challenges, our goal in life is to “level up” by continuously learning, growing, and moving beyond complacency.

This also means we enjoy the journey as we go.  (Who would play a video game they didn’t enjoy?)  We find something fun in any situation and depend on God for direction, strength, and the wisdom to meet all challenges.  There’s even a guidebook!

The goal of our game is to make good choices and collect enough skills to win at the end.  In life, since being with Jesus in heaven forever is our end (we already know we will win!), our life choices should be made with this goal in mind.   (Being careful that what we do and say reflects Jesus is a good start!)

I never thought video games could be such good parodies of real life!  Oops, I’ve got to go get a “level up” cake ready for tomorrow!

 

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

Summer Storms

September 13, 2017

Summer Storms

We are an outdoor thrill-seeking kind of family.  So, what do we do when the winds die down and there is water everywhere?  (And the kids are stir-crazy because it’s been thundering for most of the outside-time hours?)

We go outside…

In our bathing suits…

And get muddy.

Sometimes we ride boogie boards on flooded lawns. (Last year we “boogied” where hurricane Matthew created a pool in our front yard that reached 10 inches deep!)  Sometimes we march through the trough of water in the driveway. (This year, new place, new storm, new water adventures.)

The screams of “I found a real pool!” happen when a puddle is more than 3 inches deep.

The big girls make a funny Lego video about Hurricane Irma preparedness.  (My favorite part was the guy in line behind the mini-cooper!)

The most fun after the storm  is discovering the unique toys in the yard (Like the two felled trees that became “teepees” covered in branches shed by other trees.)  and the new “swing.” (A grape vine attached to the maple tree but hanging enticingly low enough and sturdy enough to be used as a temporary swing.)

After a storm, especially a major one, I always try to help everyone focus on the positive.

Bored?  We can help the lady next door by cleaning her yard.

An oak tree is gone.  But it became a teepee! 

The chinaberry tree, a favorite climbing tree, split and fell.  But the leaves make a great mulch for the chicken yard and help reduce odor. 

The power was out for two days.  But we had plenty of maple and oak wood to grill yummy meats and tin foil to bake sweet potatoes!  And we had good no-see-um screens & strong, cool breezes!

We couldn’t get out of our street to go to work because of three big trees blocking the roads.  But that meant we could stay home and play every board game in the house!  (We shifted to the backlit electronics like Scrabble Twist and Catch Phrase once the sun went down.)

We thank God for family, for the opportunities to help others as they presented themselves, for teaching us to find joy in any situation, and for keeping us safe through all summer storms.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

Filling Big Shoes

July 31, 2017

Filling Big Shoes

We are always trying to be like someone.  Lucas is two.  He is always trying to do “like Daddy” or “like Becky” (what he calls Rebeccah sometimes) or “like you do.” (that can be anyone)  When Daddy got his hair cut, Lucas wanted “Daddy hair.”  When Jillian is coloring, Lucas wants to “color like big me.” When Christina is cooking bacon – BACON!  Lucas pulled out the bacon from the refrigerator before Christina had finished putting the pan on the stove!  He was jumping around, yelling “BACON!  My BACON!”  (We’ve never seen him this excited over food since the last night we made popcorn.)  After discovering that the pan was too hot for him to play with the bacon, he ran through the house telling everyone “Tina making my BACON!” and jumped on Daddy yelling, “BACON!  Me eat BACON DADDY!”

Although we girls laugh, I see this passion for food rather neat.  Lucas does everything with 110% excitement and passion.  He likes watching Wild Kratts.  When that comes on he jumps up and down and yells, “YEAH!  Animal movie!”  (Actually, that can be any well-done nature documentary that shows actual animals – I can’t wait to show him “A Zebra in the Kitchen!”)  He dances with joy when he’s happy.  He wants to be like everyone around him.

We were getting ready for a date one night and Louis set his Sunday shoes down in Lucas’ reach.  (Lucas had a pair of black dress shoes that looked like Daddy’s.)  Lucas climbed into them and said, “my Daddy’s shoes!  My shoes!”  He walked around the house for a while telling the girls “Me Daddy in Daddy’s shoes.”  Of course, they played along with this asking, “Daddy, can I go…”  Lucas has learned to laugh and say “why?” with his lips stuck out.

In the way a child wants to be like their parents, grandparents, or big siblings, we should want to be more like Jesus.  It may be comical for us to see a toddler in big shoes, trying to fill them, but being woefully short, but in the same way, we do not start our journey of faith fully filling the “shoes” we perceive ourselves trying to fill.  We aren’t perfect.  We try to walk as close as we can to Jesus.  Our aim is to fill the “shoes” God has given us.  Our role, our mission, our goal.  Our life here is a gift and we should enjoy it with passion!

Sometimes it’s rather funny what type of thoughts I have when I watch my toddler on his exploration of life!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

Who You Are

July 28, 2017

Who You Are

As a teen, I decided never to “change myself” for others.  I watch people.  I watched many relationships in various stages during my teenage years and learned that I didn’t want to present myself as something I wasn’t.  It seemed that those who faked who they were had a hard time in their relationships.  You don’t have to pretend to love everything another person enjoys to “capture” them.  My mom didn’t have to bury herself in computer code to get my Daddy’s attention, she just does the bend and snap.

I analyzed the relationships of those whose love I admired.  They were the couples who had vowed til death do us part and meant it.  They enjoyed each other’s company in simple pleasures, like taking a walk, exploring a park, watching a movie, or eating a meal.  They built their relationship on trust and honesty.  They didn’t always do everything together.  They didn’t always have the same interests.  They did respect each other.  They loved each other.  They did life together.

I didn’t want a “catch” or “conquest.”  I wanted a best friend.  I wanted someone to grow up with, raise a family with, get old together with, and enjoy forever – I wanted someone to do life with.

I like to dress up (Heels, skirts, blouses and dresses) for church, work, and dinner.  I’m competitive.  If you want to play a game with me, I’m going to try to win!  I’m stubborn, so I won’t surrender.  I love to be outside.  If you ask what I want to do, surfing, tennis, bicycling, and swimming top the list.  I love worship.  I love to dance and be childish when I’m happy or feel free.  If I’m watching a sunrise on the beach, I am likely to start singing and twirling.  Bored on a bus or in a ride queue?  I’m probably singing some silly song with whatever child will sing along.  I am myself.  I wasn’t looking to change anyone else, so why would anyone want to change me?

That was my attitude; still is.

Truly it came down to self-worth.  I knew that God loved me so what else mattered?  My self-worth was in how God saw me.  I figured He died for me.  He must think I’m something good.  Out of love for Him, I’m constantly trying to improve myself, but not because He says I’m no good as I am.  (I am also a perfectionist, so yes, I’m always critically looking at myself and trying to self-improve – we tend to be hardest on ourselves.)  I especially want my girls to know that no matter what flaws they see in themselves, they are always loved by God.  (And by family, of course, but we are all human so putting your idea of self-worth in a person isn’t perfect.)

So think of who you are.  How do you see yourself?  Are you seeing yourself as the amazingly beautiful creation that Jesus loved so much He died and rose again so you can have life with Him forever?  You are a beloved child of God.

Today, my sense of self-worth is still in how God sees me.  This has helped me not to expect perfection from anyone except God.  (That seriously helps with all relationships!)

I have my husband, daughters, son, family, and friends to do life with.  We are loving every day of it!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

“But”

July 20, 2017

“But”

A lot can be carried in that small word.  It changes the tone of an entire speech, reading, paragraph, or statement.  I find a lot of “but” clauses.  

For instance:  ”Mom, everything is great, BUT…”

“We don’t need anything from the store, BUT…”

“It was such a horrible day, BUT…”

“I will protect you and your people as I did for your father, David.  BUT…”

The last was snipped from I Kings.  Solomon has built the temple, asked for wisdom from God, honored the friends of his father, promised to serve God just like David, built a giant palace for himself (Which was not built to be greater than God’s temple; where the temple has gold, the palace has brass; where the temple has olive wood, the palace had cedar.  He gave the best to God.), and spent two chapters praising God, promising the people he would be true to God, sacrificing to God, dedicating the temple, and feasting with the people in honor of God’s mercy and provision.  God replies with (paraphrased) “Thank you for your praises and true heart, I will protect you and your people if you keep your heart toward me as your father did.” 

The very next chapter starts with “BUT…” 

Because of what is after that one word – the fact that Solomon loved women of lands God warned the Israelites not to take wives from lest they turn the peoples’ hearts from God (they worshipped idols) begins his decline from favor.  

Because Solomon allowed a negative “but” (literally about 300) into his life, he opened a door for idolatry to his people (he built temples for his wives’ idols) and ended up leading his people away from God.

That is a great lesson for all of us.  Despite all the good he did, when he allowed negative “buts” into his life, he lost what he had earned.  God didn’t instantly smite him down – I think God was waiting and hoping he would come back.  God wants all his children to love him, but He won’t make them; He wants relationships, not robots.

We need to insert positive “buts” in our lives.  

Like these:  

”This day is not going well, but I can change that!”  

”I’m really irritated at so-and-so, but I can forgive them.”  

”I’m not the person I want to be, but I can change that!”  

I’m not really noticed here, but I can do my job well.

Putting positive “buts” in our negative statements helps us to change our normal, hard-on-ourselves thinking and give us a tool to change our perception.  Sure, this is life and not everything is always going to go our way, but we can analyze the problem and find a way to fix it!  

Try it; the next time a negative thought starts to come in your head or across your lips, add a “but” and think of something positive that can offset or fix the negative.  

It helps!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

Butterfly Dryer

June 22, 2017

Butterfly Dryer

My Dad calls them “butterflies.”

Little coincidences that God orchestrates just so.

It’s almost like God says “I know you need this, here you go.”  It can be something simple like a kind word or a child’s smile, something amazing like trust, belief, or healing, or something material like as awesome book, a home, a bonus, or a ride.

The latest for me was a dryer.

I do love to hang-dry clothes.  I love being outside, I love the fresh smell the clothes have, and I love having time to meditate (because hanging clothes is something I could do blindfolded).  The only thing I don’t like about it is the time it takes from other things.

Yesterday, I thought I was keeping up on everything; I would clean the house, go out to hang a load of clothes, come back in, and a new tornado had spun through.  We’d clean up again, work on school as the washer did its magic, and I’d gather the younglings and go back out to take off clothes and hang out new ones.  This cycle continued – between answering calls and hanging clothes, it appeared there was time for little else. (Of course, there was cleaning, cooking, and school work also done.)

Lucas bumped his head while I was outside getting the last load (the girls had him inside to escape the mosquitoes) and he spent about 30 minutes screaming “NO ICE!” at the height of his vocal strength while we sang “1, 2, buckle my shoe” to distract him while applying ice; so an hour later, in total frustration over this days’ craziness, I announced I needed a dryer to have more time.  As I was saying this (and running down the hall after Lucas to make sure he didn’t fall in the potty), I missed a call from my Mom.  She wanted to know if we wanted her dryer.  (I hadn’t told anyone else I needed a dryer, but several knew we didn’t have one.)

I laughed as I thought of my silliness.  Call it a coincidence, butterfly, or whatever – actually it felt like a hug from God.  As if He were telling me, “I see your frustration; don’t let a little thing like this bother you, I love you.”

It isn’t really the dryer so much as it was God’s impeccable timing.  He already knew these events would go as they did and knew me well enough to know I would be frustrated at my lack of time management (I sometimes wish for a 30 hour day, but I’d fill that up too).  The perfectly timed phone call was just a reminder that nothing is out of God’s sight.  I need to trust a little more and worry (or be frustrated!) a lot less.  I’m not perfect, but I know who is.  And I get to call him Abba (Daddy, Father).

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart