29 January 2009

Obedience Without Compromise

I have been sick.
For 4 days.

And in my slug-like state, I have had a lot of time to think and pray about what it is that I am doing and what, exactly, I should be doing.

This whole business of having a "call" upon one's life... it's not something to take lightly.
Just ask anyone who's been there.
When God gives you a vision for your life, it's totally up to you whether or not you accept it.
After all, we do have freedom to choose for ourselves.

But a wise Christian will know that choosing anything outside of HIS will is risky business, indeed. While one path is guaranteed to bring you eventual (not always immediate!) peace and contentment in your life, the other path is almost equally guaranteed to be less than fulfilling, sometimes downright painful.

Even so, if you DO accept the call, you must know that the call will now supersede all the other "plans" you may have had for your life.
Those plans may be absolutely wonderful -- life-giving and selfless -- but if they interfere in any way with your calling, no matter how GOOD they are, it cannot work. You have to submit everything to the path you have chosen and listen to HIS directions.

You're probably wondering what I'm talking about, but I've been put to a test this week...

When "Thrive" (our inner-city ministry through the Dream Center) ended in October, I was very sad. I have become very attached to those ladies over the past 2 years and I knew it would be hard to not see them regularly. Each week, I came away just as blessed and encouraged as anyone who attended.
Around the same time Thrive ended, God made it pretty clear to me that I need to get this book finished. In obedience, I cut back on all my obligations and I even stepped down from Elevate -- a decision that I wrestled with for more than 2 weeks.
But I KNEW -- absolutely, without a doubt -- that I was doing the right thing.
And I have made considerable progress on my book.
But it's still not done.

Fast-forward to a couple of weeks ago:
I found out that the Baton Rouge Dream Center is going to start up a NEW Friday group for the ladies and I am asked to co-lead with Jennifer Maggio.
Of course, all I can think about is how I can't wait to see "my ladies" again & how many great ideas we can implement in the group...
Within a day of telling Jennifer "yes," conviction set in.
A Friday commitment would take about 5 hours each week and that's not including planning meetings and personal preparation for the classes.
As much as I support the idea of this class and even though it will kill me not to see Mrs. Augustine and Mrs. Mary and Kenya and the others each week, I know that I cannot commit to it now.

The day I made the decision to step down from the Friday class, I received a call from a wonderful lady in Texas who wanted to use my book to lead a Christian weight loss support group.
I had to confess to her that my book was not quite finished, much less published.

Ok, God.
I hear You, loud and clear.
And I know the path I have chosen is the only one I want to follow.

28 January 2009

Is It Wednesday Already???

Where has this week gone?
I want it back!

I seriously feel like I have had my ear glued to a phone for the past 3 days. The laundry is done, but that's about it. I have been completely swamped tying up loose ends from before I left town and trying to get ahead on things I will have to complete before I leave town again.

And this dreary weather's not helping to motivate me, either.

The next couple of weeks are going to be crazy busy & loads of fun (no I'm not being sarcastic... well, not entirely).
My first life group meets tomorrow night, for the 8th time, and my second group meets next week. Since the first meeting of my second group (confused yet?) on Sunday night, I have had 5 ladies contact me wanting to join.
This is great news, but now I must find time to meet with these ladies, either individually or as a small group, to bring them up to speed so the second meeting will make sense to them.
Ok, that paragraph gave even me a headache!

This weekend is hopefully going to be a MAJOR house-cleaning and eBay-listing weekend! I have to get a LOT listed before the stupid short-sighted CPSIA law goes into effect.

On top of that, 2 of my 3 children have their final games for Upward Basketball and I have a dinner to go to on Sunday afternoon, followed by (of course) Super Bowl Sunday night!

There's nothing I would cut out of this line-up, but it does make me tired just thinking about it.
I'm the kind of person who can become overwhelmed to the point of inactivity when faced with so many demands. I'm immobilized with indecision.
Well, that's my story anyway, and I'm sticking to it!

24 January 2009

A New Chapter...

I am finally back from Arkansas & I'm happy to report that my little niece's surgery was a success & she is doing great!
I'm sorry I haven't blogged, but it's so hard for me to sit down and focus when I am not at home on my own computer.
I guess I'm just neurotic that way. =/

In the past week since I have seriously blogged, our nation has made history with the inauguration of our newest president, one of my closest friends is (right now!) on her way to the continent of Africa to get her newly-adopted son, and I have lost another pound and a half.

Yeah, ok.
I know a pound and a half is not earth-shattering, by any means, but when you consider the fact that I have now lost a total of 76.5 pounds since last (late) February -- and I have lost, steadily, without gaining back any at all! -- it's pretty impressive.
I continue to be humbled and amazed by God's faithfulness in this endeavor!

There are moments when I falter and think He will take it all away because I have been so UNfaithful at times.
But He keeps reminding me that none of us *deserve* ANYTHING good He gives us.
Lord help us if we ever all got what we *deserve!*

Tomorrow night begins my SECOND life group for Inside Out (my Christian weight-loss support group). I can hardly believe how far this simple idea (thank you Melissa Fluhr!) has come.
The response to this group has been simply amazing.
I just have to keep reminding myself that each woman who attends is on their OWN journey, and they alone are in control of the pace they set.

I realize that some people have become irritated with me because I am not giving them a DIET to follow or a set of rules or "secret tips" to get them to their goal.
But what I -- and this group -- are really seeking is
We are not looking for a quick fix.
We are broken & we want to be healed.
We want to never again use food for comfort, to abate loneliness or frustration.
We never again want to eat until we are so full
we feel sick.
We want to LOOK at food, differently -- as something that feeds our bodies, not something to fill our souls.

I've said it before; you may not have a weight problem or a struggle with food addiction, but
(whether you publicly admit it or not).

You may feel smug and confident when someone obese walks into a room,
but what if your own demons were posted on your chest for all to see?
What if the things YOU struggle with were revealed the moment someone looked at you?

It's true that obesity is the most "unfair" of addictions; after all, one can be an alcoholic or drug addict or pornography addict and the world may never know...
When someone who struggles with food walks into a room, EVERYONE knows without a word being said.
However, while our problem is more publicly "visible,"
so too, is our healing.
God's glory is that much greater when someone who has struggled with food addiction finally overcomes his/her battle and finds TRUE FREEDOM.
That's what I have found.

And that's the next chapter in my book. =)

19 January 2009

Coming Soon...

I promise, I have not fallen off the face of the earth, nor have I given up on blogging. I am out-of-state visiting family. I am here in Arkansas, briefly, because my niece is having pretty serious surgery in the morning. We would appreciate your prayers!

I will be back home soon & will resume blogging then.

Until then, um,... I don't know.
Go read a good book.

14 January 2009

Dear Senator/Representative...

Here is the letter that I just emailed to BOTH of my state Senators and to my Congressman:
(feel free to copy in whole or in part & mail to YOUR representatives!)

Dear _______________,

I felt that I should write to you concerning some legislation that you recently voted for, and how it is going to negatively affect me and dozens of my friends & family.
I'm speaking of H.R. 4040(CPSC Reform Act), which was passed on July 31, 2008. Please know that I am all for tougher standards to protect our children from dangerous chemicals and lead in their clothing, toys, etc. But I have several concerns about this act:

1) Rather than enforcing tighter restrictions on imported goods (as those from China -- the primary culprit), you are instead punishing the average American. Industry and home businesses have existed since the start of civilization. And now, this act proposes to revoke that privilege from many of us!

Here we are, in the middle of an economic crisis, and you are slamming the door of opportunity in the faces of those who are simply trying to stay afloat & make ends meet! Those of us who sell on eBay, or in consignment shops will be penalized. Those of us who create homemade goods such as quilts and baby blankets and custom clothing are being forced out of business -- in a time where there is little for us to turn to as another means of income! Did no one consider this? The average American cannot pay to have every item they make or sell on eBay tested and approved. If they could, they would not be running the home business to begin with!

2) Our landfills are already overflowing and the environment is a major concern for many of us. What is to happen to all the unused (and used) clothing, shoes, books, toys, and other items that can no longer be sold under this new legislation? They will end up in the ground! Our landfills cannot take this! Instead of encouraging clothing recycling (resell), you are actually encouraging people to throw away perfectly good clothing & other items simply because they cannot afford to have them tested! This is unconscionable.

3) What will happen to stores like GoodWill, Salvation Army, and America's Thrift where lower-income families shop in order to clothe their children? How will small, "Mom & Pop" stores fare in this new, hostile market? Sure, the big companies can afford the testing (WalMart, etc.), but most of these small American businesses cannot. Did that ever occur to you? And what about the whole idea of "Buy American"? How are we supposed to do that when you are stifling the creative productivity of the American people?

Yes, I have read the CPSIA very closely and I have noted the ambiguous terms and provisions. Supposedly, we who do resell (eBay, consignment, etc.) are not required to test. HOWEVER, we CAN be held liable if we inadvertently sell something that has been recalled or which has not been tested. Do you see how this could be a problem? I cannot afford to test every single item I sell, and even if I make a concentrated effort to monitor the RECALL lists, it is possible that something will slip my notice. I cannot afford the lawsuit nor the $100,000 fine that this legislation leaves me vulnerable to. Who could?

Finally, how do you propose that this legislation be enforced? By our already over-taxed police? Will they now be required to arrest that stay-at-home mom who sells her daughter's outgrown clothing to pay off her bills? Will they start ticketing every garage sale that includes items for children? Will grandma now be charged and fined for making little booties and blankets for the church bazaar?

Honestly, I am seriously questioning if anyone took the time to actually READ and CONSIDER the enormous implications of this legislation! I am all for making this world safer for our children, but if we end up causing these same children to live in a world where creativity and industry are frowned upon & stifled, are we really doing them any favor?

PLEASE work with us to repeal this legislation! It needs serious revision before it can go into effect!
Thank you so much for your time in reading this.
Summer A. Kelly

If you want to write to YOUR Senator(s) and Congressman, but aren't sure who they are or how to reach them, you can go HERE and HERE to find out!
Please help join in this fight!
Thank you.

Alarmed Over Nothing?

Ok, so last night... the more I read, the more upset I became.

I had heard from a couple of people about the CPSIA affecting us who sell on eBay and all consignment shops and charitable organizations.
I was doubtful that it was as bad as they were making it out to be, but in my concern, I started researching it on the internet.

Now I am just confused.

The wording in this law is very ambiguous as to the exact responsibility of resellers, IMHO, but several people have sent me articles claiming that resellers and charitable organizations will be fully exempt.
But then I found this THREAD... And more importantly THIS.

It sounds like, to me, that they are leaving the door wide open for future decisions. While the government agency "says" they are not going after resellers, it is made pretty clear that resellers & charitable organizations will still be responsible for making sure NOTHING they sell has been recalled or contains lead or phthalates, or face serious and hefty fines.

Then I found THIS which seems to pardon all resellers from testing... as long as they sell no items that violate the ppm lead content.
Ah, but there's the rub!
To quote the CPSC, directly:

"The new safety law does not require resellers to test children’s products in inventory for compliance with the lead limit before they are sold. However, resellers cannot sell children’s products that exceed the lead limit and therefore should avoid products that are likely to have lead content, unless they have testing or other information to indicate the products being sold have less than the new limit. Those resellers that do sell products in violation of the new limits could face civil and/or criminal penalties.

When the CPSIA was signed into law on August 14, 2008, it became unlawful to sell recalled products. All resellers should check the CPSC Web site (www.cpsc.gov) for information on recalled products before taking into inventory or selling a product. The selling of recalled products also could carry civil and/or criminal penalties."

Do you still think I am overreacting?

Most of my "eBay friends" are like me: We sell a variety of items:
*Clothing our children have outgrown
*shoes (also outgrown)
*anything else we find lying around collecting dust that we think we might be able to sell...

Do you think I have the time or means to research EACH and EVERY product that I am reselling? Seriously?
Ok, so maybe I just won't sell items that could contain lead or phthalates.... That knocks out books, toys, shoes, but what about clothing?
You would think clothing would be exempt, but you'd be wrong... especially if the clothing was made in CHINA!

So, although "technically" resellers and eBay sellers are "exempt" from the testing requirements, are we really?
If anyone can sue me for something I sell or if I inadvertently sell something that has been recalled, I will be penalized & fined heavily.
Does that sound like exemption to you?

Read this explanation from the link I posted last night:

The law applies to all products, even used items. This means that unless the stores (including eBay sellers and private parties) do the testing themselves, on Feb. 11 all of those products are to be treated as hazardous waste and destroyed. In a vague memo issued this week by the CPSA “resellers” may be excluded from certification, but these proposals also say that businesses owners will still face the same penalties if an item they sold ends up containing lead. It not only omits a specific definition of what a “reseller” is, it also fails to explain whether it applies to their entire inventory or just used items. So it exposes the store owner to the risk of either being shut down because of an item that may or may not have actually been purchased from them, but also to the nuts that could sue them if they claimed they were injured by the product. (Ouch, McDonald’s… I spilled my coffee!) It also is a very effective tool for competitors to use against businesses who they know can’t comply, a practice that has already been used by some of the big guys.

Here is one more link where you can get more info and see how your senator voted.
The Latest

So, whether or not you think I am overreacting or blowing this out of proportion is irrelevant. This WILL affect me and many, many of my friends.
I believe it threatens to change the very fabric (no pun intended) of the American retail & resell industry.
Only time will tell.

13 January 2009

If You Are Like Me...

Then you like to have a little extra spending money.

Or, you do things to help make ends meet from time to time...
Like sell on eBay. Or Etsy.

Maybe you sell your children's outgrown clothing through a consignment shop.
Or perhaps you make homemade items for children (baby blankets, bibs, toys, dresses...) and sell them online or locally.

If you are like me, you absolutely MUST read THIS.

The implications of CPSIA are enormous and far-reaching:

Whether you run a small, mom & pop retail store, a consignment shop, a children's toy shop or bookstore, or even if you just make cute, homemade items (like baby blankets, or dolls, or pacifiers!) to sell or give away, this affects you.

You can no longer make & sell or distribute ANY items for children (even items made before this legislation takes affect) without first testing EACH and EVERY batch for lead and phthalates!
If you own a bookstore or toy store, each and every batch of each item must be tested.

"According to the actual scope and wording of this bill (H.R.4040), as of Feb. 10, 2009, all products made and/or marketed to children under the age of 12 will have to comply with mandatory lead and phthalates testing for each component of each product they sell or face felony charges and hefty fines."

Look, I am wanting tougher laws and safety standards
to protect our children, too.
But let's face it, it's not the "mom & pop" stores
that are poisoning our children!
And it's not the corner children's bookshop or
that granny knitting blankets, either.
It's IMPORTED, CHEAP, Poorly-made goods from countries like
that are causing the alarm and this subsequent (and extreme!) backlash.

Maybe you think I am just being a "Chicken Little," but if we do not stand up and fight this -- make our voices heard -- we stand to lose a lot. Many small businesses will disappear from the American landscape. What happened to freedom and independence??

Our country is already in an economic crisis and they want to further LIMIT the average American's ability to make money and pay bills? Does that make any sense to you?

Our landfills are already overflowing and have become a serious problem, and they want to DUMP all this perfectly good clothing and books and toys into the ground to rot? What a waste.

If even charitable organizations are held liable for the items they GIVE AWAY, will charity as we know it, cease to exist???

What will happen to stores like Salvation Army and Goodwill and America's Thrift -- where MOST of the clothing of lower income family children is purchased?

These are important questions & if you are like me, you want answers NOW.
Go HERE to read more.

10 January 2009

Voice of Truth

God has been teaching me a lot about listening lately.

For so much of my life, I have listened to the wrong things, the wrong people... I have allowed negative people to speak failure over my life and to criticize me on multiple levels, whether or not the criticism was justified.
He has taught me to stop listening to the voices of ridicule, fear and worry and to start trusting Him more, my own strength, less.

This is not something I have learned overnight; His good grace has been patiently teaching it to me (or trying to!) for some time now.

I will openly admit, I'm kind of a control freak.
I'm also a perfectionist.
If things are not going the way I want them to go -- or how I expect them to unfold -- then I become stressed.
If I don't have a clear plan of action to escape any potential problem, I start to worry.
And when people don't respond to my genuine attempts to do the right thing, I become very upset.

Obviously, this has caused me more than a little grief in my life. It has also made me somewhat guarded.
I guess, in a way, we are all kind of like this -- putting on our protective shells so that people can't get too close and hurt us (again).
But when our fear of failure immobilizes us from realizing our full purpose and potential, it really becomes a tool of the enemy, used to keep us unfruitful.

I am learning to limit the influences of negative people in my life; some I have cut out of my life, entirely. When I do become hurt or feel betrayed by someone who I thought was my friend, I try to give it to God and stop obsessing over the why's and what-for's. After all, it's really their problem, not mine. Offense is totally counter-productive to the life I want to lead.

Listening to the right voice involves a good deal of trust.
Just as Jesus asked Peter to do the unthinkable and step out onto the waves, so too, we will be called upon to take steps that make us squirm...
And it's interesting to me, how Jesus just patiently keeps on reassuring us... and lifting us back up when we do begin to sink.

A dear friend and her husband are about to travel half-way around the world to pick up their newly-adopted son. When they first began this journey, there was NO logical reason to believe it would happen.
The adoption process for this country costs a minimum of $18,000! This is not something that she had. What she DID have was the absolute belief that this was what God was telling her to do. And because she was listening to Him, instead of all the nay-sayers in her life, she was confident that He would provide the funds.
And He did.

For me, the fear of failure or ridicule has stopped me in my tracks at some of the most opportune moments of my life. I am so glad that God didn't get tired of waiting on me. Every day now, it seems, He is showing me more and more ways to rest in Him.
Stop worrying.
Don't take it personally.
Trust ME.
And a little more each day, I do.
I gotta tell you, faith tastes a whole lot better than worry and regret.
You should try it sometime.

06 January 2009

What Defies All Logic...

I borrowed this from a friend's blog.
I thought it was truly beautiful.

Once upon a time, twin boys were conceived in the same womb. Weeks passed and the twins developed. As their awareness grew, they laughed for joy,
“Isn’t it great that we were conceived?
Isn’t it great to be alive?”

Together the twins explored their world. When they found their mother’s cord that gave them life, they sang for joy, “how great is our Mother’s love, that she shares her own life with us!”

As weeks stretched into months, the twins noticed how much each was changing. “what does it mean?” asked the one. “It means that our stay in this world is drawing to an end, said the other.
“But I don’t want to go”, said the other,
“but maybe there is life after birth.”

But how can there be?” responded the other one. “We will shed our life cord, and how is life possible without it? Besides, we have seen evidence that
others were here before us
and none of them have returned to tell us that there is life after birth.
No, this is the end.”

And so the one fell into deep despair, saying,
“If conception ends in birth, what is the purpose of life in the womb?
It is meaningless!
Maybe there is no mother after all?”

“But there has to be,” protested the other. “How else did we get here? How do we remain alive?”
Have you ever seen our mother?” said one. “Maybe she lives only in our minds.
Maybe we made her up because the idea made us feel good?”

And so the last days in the womb were filled with deep questioning and fear.
Finally, the moment of birth arrived.
When the twins had passed from their world, they opened their eyes and cried for joy.
For what they saw exceeded their fondest dreams.

Author Unknown

"Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools..."
Romans 1:22 KJV

Blogging Vicariously...

See my background?
The moving stuff?
That's what I WISH it was doing here.

But noooo... when you live in the DEEP SOUTH, you get rain, fog, and 73 degrees.
In January.
This is when I miss Arkansas most.

So... I have been spending entirely too much time on facebook lately. Yes, I KNOW it's the 21st century & I am just now joining the rest of civilization by getting a facebook page. I had one of those *other* sites... you know, MYspace?
But it never really felt like "mine," yanno?

Personally, I think the two sites should merge.
They could call it: MYFACE
Bwaha hahaha!
I crack myself up.

I don't know why I can't get back into the blogging mode. I just read others' posts & think, "Wow, that's a great story," or "Gee, I wish I had thought to write that."
I must have writer's blogger's block.

On another note: I have written several pages & done MUCH editing on my book since January 1st! People keep asking me when it's going to be done.
Maybe I could just sell it by the chapter...?

04 January 2009

Wait... What?

Ahhh... the pressure of a New Year's first post.

How can it be January already??? I haven't even finished my Christmas decorating!

I know several of my blog-happy friends (you know who you are) have done elaborate, well-thought-out, end-of-08 posts on their blogs, but I just can't seem to get there.

Don't get me wrong; I'm VERY excited about the coming year & I have so many thoughts and ideas going through my head. It's getting them down on paper (blog?) that I'm having a bit of trouble with.

For me, the turning of this year feels like I am holding my breath. There is an anticipation for something I can't quite grasp enough to speak aloud. There is such a HOPE in my heart for so many things & more than a hint of PROMISE of those hopes to be realized.

I know some of you will understand what I mean
(not just those who are heavily medicated).

It's like telling your wish just after you've blown out the candles.
It's like KNOWING that the coin in the wishing well really will pay off.
It's the excitement every child feels on the morning before a big vacation...

Can you feel it?

What are you hoping for this year?
You DO know it's 2009, right?

01 January 2009

H*A*P*P*Y N*E*W Y*E*A*R!

May 2009 hold all the answers to your prayers & the realization of your dreams.
God bless you in the coming year!
Much love,