Friday, September 28, 2012

Actively Waiting

My life group is studying the book of James over these next few weeks and I am so excited.  I love the material, I love the women in our group, and I look forward to the time each week.  This week, we all had an opportunity to share some updates on our lives before diving into our material.  When the time came around for me to share, I wanted to just give a quick - "I'm good" - and move along.  I often do that...convince myself there is nothing really to share but then my mouth opens and the words seem to pour out.  So, I proceeded to gush and share some things that are going on in my heart and mind.  It certainly did not come out "right" or eloquent as I would have liked.  (Before you get too excited, I promise it's nothing "juicy").  I was having one of those moments where a thought had escalated somehow into a full blown issue.  Fixation on anything small will carry me away.  I should know better.

So here it is...I'm a follower of Christ, a wife, and a mom. The list looks pretty short on paper, but when unpacked, consists of anything and everything that fills the 24 hours given to me during a day.  My fixation on this list comes from not really knowing what these roles are suppose to look like right now.  
(You gals out there exhausted from being up all night with little ones are probably thinking, really? you are complaining?) I promise this is not meant to sound like I am clueless about the demands different stages in life bring.  My time does look very different from the way it has in the past. I'm not bored, I'm not sad, I'm certainly not complaining and I'm not desperate to fill the time to the max...but I am contemplative.  When I find myself with a bit of down time, I do wonder what God has in store for me.  Better said...I wonder what growth and life lessons lie ahead.  Some of this is prompted by the individuals God has surrounded me with who are doing some phenomenal things for God.  I wish I could tell you that it comes easy for me not to compare myself to the amazing people using their gifts, but it's actually not. And I don't always know what prompts this feeling - Is is God preparing me for something or is it my insecurity and performance driven nature that wonders if I'm "doing" enough? Comparison is usually an unfruitful game to play, but, is there a time when it can motivate and prompt an individual in a healthy direction?  

Waiting is not my strong suit. Nothing in me likes to wait on God to reveal His plan on His schedule. When I think He might be prompting me towards something or I have a longing, I want all the details now. (I proceed to act like my kids when they want to get my attention by annoyingly tapping me on the shoulder.)  But God doesn't always work that way does He? Come to think of it, He has never worked that way with me. So here I am waiting and learning that this "idle time" has a purpose, too.  Our church has been going throught the book of I Corinthians.  On Sunday, we specifically looked at how the body functions together and how each part carries value and importance.  Even better said, each of us as individuals has gifts to offer one another and ultimately God's kingdom.  (I Cor 12:12-26).  As I pondered the message, I noticed a perspective shift taking place.  My gaze seemed to be less focussed on what I was lacking and more on what only God had designed me to do.  So what was I waiting for?  Couldn't I just use these gifts now regardless of what else I thought lingered out there for me to be doing?  Absolutely!  And then the next day came, and my insecurity got to me again...Ugh. Sometimes keeping perspective is the hardest part in the waiting.  So I pick myself back up again, go back to His Word, and remind myself for the 99th time to stop trying to skip the process that might actually turn out to be the most important part of it all.

Scripture has a way of shaking us up, doesn't it?  It does not apologize or leave blanks for us to fill in when we need a way to justify what it is we are struggling through in the moment.  My dear friend shared some great perspective on looking at specific verses we seem to know.  You know the ones. The verses we are quick to quote (or in my case piece together at times.)  We might have said them or read them a hundred times and left out just enough to miss out on maybe the most crucial part of the text.  How many times I have read James 1:5-8 "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (here's where I usually stop...but please read on...) But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do."

Ouch!  Like I said, no apology and no fill in the blanks for how I would like it to read.  How many times I read and follow the first part, the asking part, but then go right back to my business of trying to make something happen on my own as a result of my disbelief? This time though, what if I asked with boldness, with belief, with trust that He will answer. It may seem obvious to you but I am so stubborn.  And I need to acknowledge this yucky heart that wants it done my way at times.  How about you?  What do you need clarity on and where do you find yourself waiting?  Will you wait actively with me?  Will you continue to pray for wisdom, ask for direction, believe He is going to provide the answer?  And maybe we will get so lost in the process of waiting, that we will forget we were ever waiting at all.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

No Regrets

Backpacks packed, lunches placed in pretty new totes, outfits carefully planned and laid out on beds, and three little girls sleep after restless anticipation of the day ahead. I hover over each of them and swallow hard, holding back tears of pride and joy mixed with sadness. The admonishment of "enjoy it because it goes by fast" rings in my ears and I remember these words spoken by everyone from a stanger in the grocery store to an old man people watching our family at our nearby park. We nod and arrogantly act like "we know".

Is it possible to really know, though? Even as I reflect on the last 5 years preceding Ella's first day of Kindergarten today, I can hardly believe time's unforgiving speed. I remember the sleepless nights, the dirty diapers, the post-partum depression. I remember journaling the little moments with my camera, laughing at first words, and cheering them on as they took their first steps toward independence. All of these memories become blurred at times, though. And my heart sinks a bit.

Is there really such a thing as enjoying the time with which these little people fill our days, and looking back and wondering if we took advantage of the hours given to us, without any regret at all? Whether I am at home or work, whether mentally or just physically present, or whether I am supermom or not, would I still question the stewardship of my time? I think I would.

Does this somehow excuse me from sitting on the floor and playing "gold fish" as Ella calls it... from jumping on the trampoline when I don't feel like it...from putting down my phone so I can look my kids in they eyes while they proceed to tell me some silly story...from tucking them in at night even though they are quite capable of putting themselves to bed...from snuggling on the couch even though laundry and dishes and dirty floors need my attention...or from allowing them to cook with me even though dinner might take twice as long to prepare. Maybe I am not excused but I cannot walk around guilt ridden either. Sometimes I wish for some formula or recipe to a guarantee that I will feel I spent this time wisely. I laugh at myself as I think about the absurdity of there being such a thing. Instead, I am left to wrestle with my priorities, emotions, insecurities, fears, and motives and everything else I tend to overthink when sizing myself up. I simply must lay this before my God, the one who encourages me to listen to Him.

So as this "time flies" and the comments from people I love and people I don't even know echo in my mind, I assure myself that I am doing an okay job. Mom guilt wants me to believe otherwise. Most moms I would imagine feel this at some point. So as the days blend into months and months to years, I just want to enjoy the time without regrets but with the reality that they do grow up too fast. Time cannot be stopped and I will someday look at other young families and most likely think or say the same thing. Something innate within us wants others to enjoy the seasons that have passed us by. So as the torch passes from generation to generation, I wonder if a better commendation would be... "be sure to live life to the fullest with your kiddos, and live without regret".

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Straight but definitely not clean

Yesterday I decided to FINALLY clean my shower. Isn't it ironic that the very thing that you would imagine to be clean could contain so much nasty grime? I began thinking about my house as a whole. On any given day, you would probably find my house to be fairly tidy. You might walk in (except for the laundry room of course), and even assume my house to be clean. The problem is that I KNOW it's not. I know that there is a splatter of grease on the backsplash of my stove, water stains on the cabinetry under my dishwasher, baseboards begging to be white again, fingerprints on my stair rail, crumbs under the table, toothepaste splattered all over the girls bathroom upstairs. All is easily hidden when things appear to be straight and tidy.

As I cleaned the shower, (and I will spare you the grimy details), I thought about my life right now and the lessons I am stubbornly having to learn. In general, if you were to look at my life, I would say it APPEARS straight. My priorities seem to be in order...for the most part. But that is not what God is doing with me right now. He is not straightening me up, He is cleaning me and exposing all the dirt that has been sitting in me for a while.

A few weeks ago, a dear friend gave me the book, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Little did I know at the time that God would continue to reinforce this idea of "just enough" in my heart and mind. Little did I know that He would start some deep cleaning in me and how much grime would be exposed. Seeing the nasty funk up close is not pretty. I keep catching my thoughts, wanting to take back words, and so aware of every area where I lack gratefulness. I appreciate the testimony and story of Ann Voskamp who has struggled to choose God and what He has given. If I am completely honest, I like the appearance of clean and not what it takes to get there. So many areas that are unsurrendered and easy to just tidy exist. I pretend, cover, hide, and sweep things under the proverbial rug deep in my heart. With my lips I say that I am grateful... and I believe in the moment I truly am...but then that dissatisfaction with life creeps in and in an instant I am lacking gratitude, comparing my life to others, and the grime becomes visible again.

Desperately I want to walk with an authentic, thankful outlook on life. But first, I must aquiesce to the Perfector of my Faith. I am not expecting perfection here...there will be spots on my heart until the day of Christ return. But I pray that I allow Him to point out what I miss and not just live life pretending and failing to recognize what needs alot of elbow grease. Thanks for putting up with me Lord. You know my every thought, even the ones I can so easily conceal, and still love me. Would you clean the nooks and crannies? Would you keep my eyes open to what you see?

2 Corinthians 7:1
Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

Philippians 1:4-6 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Talk

Not so long ago, my oldest became quite curious about all the changes that would inevitably begin to take place. She was 9 at the time. Just like the time she began to ask me question after question aboutSanta Claus, (She literally wanted me to help her understand how he could make it to so many houses in one night all the way around the world) she began to want answers to questions that took me by surprise. The way Madison thinks fascinates me. Much like her daddy..(he would say me), she is not fully satisfied by the short and sweet answers. Her mind craves information and understanding on how things work and why they work the way they do. Now in my mind, I had a couple of choices. I was already familiar with the God's Design for Sex series, a set of books published by Navpress with age recommendations. (To my utter shock, I was actually behind based on their timeline.) I still felt a deep sense of inadequacy and questioned how much to share with her. But at the end of the day, explaining periods and development only seemed to make sense alongside the understanding of God's institution of marriage and more specifically sex. Now I love Madison and appreciate that sometimes she doesn't even know where her questions are going to lead. She can be innocently naive. I know she got more than she bargained for when we sat down to read the second book describing in detail how babies are made. I still remember her head jerking up after the explicit explanation of how God designed a man and woman's anatomy. "How does THAT work?" was her question. To which my response was "just like it says".

Selfishly, I was proud that I made it through the conversation, we closed the book, and the enlightenment she experienced did not lead to heart failure or make me pass out like I had anticipated. (I confess I had been much less worried about her than I had myself.) I had no idea that by making sex such a matter of fact concept and a gift from God, (Thank you Navpress!) that the stage would not be set for further conversation.

Over the past year, I have appreciated time in the car with her. (This is the best place to have conversations with your kids so be intentional when you are running errands) I have been pretty content with her understanding and periodically asked her if she had any more questions. Maybe I am naive (I wonder where she gets it) but the difference between me asking her how she feels about sex and her latest test at school have seemed no different. All this changed a few weeks ago. Thank you Lord for controlling my jaw that wanted to drop, for giving me a game face, and for playing it cool...something I have learned that is invaluable when your kiddos ask you questions. (saving the overly dramatic response for when I am repeating the story to my husband) She simply asked...

"Mommy, what is the difference between ungodly and godly sex?"

Wow! I admit that a part of me was so grateful for straightforward the question, but the other part of me had this sinking feeling knowing we were about to venture deeper into this topic. Thoughts raced through my head in that 2 second pause. Amazing how quickly our brains process information, isn't it? Up until now, I am quite certain she was under the impression that sex was only for reproductive purposes. I also knew by explaining to her God's heart for sex to remain between a married man and woman, the inevitable question of "did you wait?" could come up. I was fully prepared to let her know that "daddy and I waited" and save the details of my past for later...possibly another conversation on a different errand. She never asked those questions, but something unexpected happened. I suddenly looked at her and felt reassured that talking to her about my past would not be the worst thing. Her lack of embarassment suddenly put me at ease... (I thought it would be the other way around) and she proceeded to ask what the next book was about.

So as of today, she is still curious, wants to read the NEXT book in the series with me, (and there are words in this book that I did not hear until I took Anatomy in college or read until I went through pre-marital counseling), and this time has informed me that she has questions but does not even know what to ask. (She actually told me that) How could I not be grateful? Because of how tainted my view of sex was, I now see through her eyes the innocence and beauty of it all...the way God intended it to be when we first discover. I am so thankful for our relationship and how comfortable she is with me. She has given me courage to now prepare her sisters (which began a few weeks ago with the first book).

God continues to answer the prayers I prayed long ago when only holding them as babes. I remember praying desperately for wisdom in this area (and am praying even more desperately now). I have longed desired that she would hear information for the first time for me. The reality is that the world is in a race against us as parents in this area. I know we all approach this topic differently and at different times when we feel is appropriate. I encourage you to not make it weird because it doesn't have to be. Have the conversations. See things through the eyes of your child and not from the vantage point of a world that has tainted sexuality. Open the door so that our children can walk through unashamed, curious, bold, and with conviction to save what God intended as sacred.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Just Enough

I confess. I have thought many times how nice it would be to have one of these trees. Haven't we all?

The last several weeks have been such a mental test for me. The subject of money has been a source of fear in our marriage for many years. You would think that for someone who has seen God provide on a consistent basis that fear would lessen. Just in the last year, He has provided for our non-profit in ways I never would have imaginged. He afforded me the opportunity of a lifetime to go to Israel. A debt owed on our van was forgiven. And I am sure there are more! While I can say my worry has gotten better, I know that way down deep it still holds on by a thread. (okay maybe a rope). Money is like anything else deceptive, it appears to be a fix for all of life's issues. Money wants to drive me to "if only" thinking. If only we could do this, pay for this, drive this, or buy this...all would be great! I know that isn't true, but money sure wants me to believe and give in to this lie.

Upon receipt of some medical bills over the last couple of days, I have thought a great deal about the concept of God's provision in our lives. Because God is so gracious, He has allowed me to see that His provision is not limited to a tree with money (like the one above), a check in the mail, or a stack of cash at my front door. While those things would be nice...okay great, really, I would miss out on seeing Him in other ways. When I was in Israel, I found peace easy to experience. We were surrounded by examples of how God provided for His people in war, in the desert, and in the most unlikely circumstances. One particular day, while in the desert, we saw some trees that were somehow green and living. Water was scarce, but to my amazement the trees were surviving because they were given...not an overabundance of water...and not too little water that they were barely hanging on...but just enough.
My hope was to remember the things I saw and find strength not succumb to my doubts once home. So try as I may, I lasted a few days before breaking down in tears and asking for a money tree(ha!) and leaving behind the thought of the other desert trees.

God began to stir in me and used some sweet prayer time with a friend to show me something even more valuable than money. God was prompting me not to ask for money, but for His peace. While what He wanted to give me does not pay the bills, it frees my soul and is no quick fix. So as I sit here, the bills are not payed, no money tree is growing in my backyard, and Target has not sent me that $5000 for filling out the survey on their website, but I am at peace...and a prayer has been answered...and for me that is just enough.

Proverbs 30,8b-9a "give me neither poverty nor riches; fill me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, "Who is the LORD?"

Sunday, July 17, 2011

10, 8, and 5

When our girls were babies and toddlers, I was certain that as they grew I might not find them as "cute". Every time a word or phrase was misprounounced, I refused to correct them because I knew all too soon they would grow out of it. (Ella still calls an apartment a repartment and marshmallows, washmallows, as well as appointments, reppoinments.) While they have indeed passed beyond the afore mentioned stage, I am having the time of my life with them in this stage now! I have tried throughout the years to simply enjoy them, learn about what makes them tick, and appreciate the stage they are in currently. (Except for that 1st year when Madison would not sleep through the night - I do remember wanting that to pass quickly) Countless people have stopped us over the years and encouraged us to soak in this time because of how fast it tends to fly. I am beginning to feel this as the girls get older. Just five years ago Madison was starting Kindergarten and I looked at my husband and said "Won't it be crazy some day that all the girls will be at the same school together?" That five years seemed more like 5 minutes as what I once said is coming true. Ella will begin Kindergarten in just over a month. Such an interesting feeling! And our life seems to be moving quickly now as we rotate between school years and summer vacation. Okay, this is too depressing so I am moving on...

What I wanted to capture in this post are the personalities, quirks (they are Slayden's and are born with them), and unique qualities that make them the girls I love!

Madison just turned 10 and is such a sweetheart. She loves to read and devours books. She loves her friends dearly and values everyone getting along. I see such a passionate heart in her. Like her mom, she wants to be understood and struggles to wait on the Lord. We have such great talks about life, her faith, and friendships. She cracks herself up at times and gets a little intense at times. I watch how she struggles to be perfect and it breaks my heart...this I wish was not a burden she would have to bare. So I am trying to expose her to all the hard lessons I have learned but allow God to take her through moments of needing to learn things for herself. I confess this is not easy. We have a great relationship and I continue to pray for it to grow and thrive.

Favorite color currently: Shades of blue
Current Want: Puppy
Where she shines: Responsibility at home, friendships, serving her family, Bible knowledge
What gets her in trouble most often: Asking the same thing maybe phrased differently until she gets the answer she wants (aka - nagging)
Favorite thing to do: Sleepovers, Reading Warriors books, Playing Games

Cali is now 8 and has such a spunk and carefree attitude. She is a tomboy and loves anything outside - bugs, animals, reptiles, sticks, and dirt. She has changed me for the better in so many ways. I love that she keeps me calm and is so easy going. I love that we can sit and snuggle, hold hands, or go for a drive in the car without a word being spoken yet, both be so content in each other's presence. She surprises me all the time with how she changes.

Favorite color currently: Green
Current Want: Puppy
Where she shines: Easy going, independent, great friend, organized, responsible
What gets her in trouble most often: Her tone of voice sounding disrespectful, begging for a puppy daily
Favorite thing to do: Playing Games, looking for bugs, finding things to buy at Justice

Ella is now 5 and the life of the party! I love her energy and she is constantly saying the funniest things. She is just my little buddy and somehow makes it her mission to have more of my attention than everyone in the family combined. She never lacks for words or questions. I cannot even imagine what God has in store for her future. She is also very sensitive and can go from laughter to tears in a matter of seconds. I watch as she tries so hard to keep up with her sisters. She is a strong little girl and very competitive. I cannot imagine what life would look like if my husband hadn't pushed for a 3rd - ha!

Favorite color currently: It changes daily - I think today it's orange
Current Want: Puppy
Where she shines: loves to snuggle, loves deeply and tells you often, writes notes and cards for people all the time
What gets her in trouble most often: Interrupting and her energy being out of control
Favorite thing to do: Playing Games, being with her sisters, being with family

I love these girls and look forward to every moment with them!

Friday, July 15, 2011


I dread laundry. Put me in a kitchen with an overloaded sink of dishes and I am good to go. With laundry, I would rather shove it in a corner or leave it piled to the ceiling in a basket, as it stares at me and awaits folding. My sweet husband used to say how he never minded doing laundry until I redefined what "doing laundry" actually entailed ... (simply moving it from washer to dryer does not count). Maybe one of the main reasons for my disdain is a gene I inherited from my mom or it could be because I am always behind. My mom has always said that she will know that she did not make it to heaven if she dies and a washing machine awaits her. I have to agree.

Blogging has felt that way for me over the past several months. I have this ridiculous pattern in my life that I really want to change. Before I go any further in this silly confession, please know I am not attempting to beat myself up in an area where I am lacking. I assure you I am just making fun of myself as well as making light of my messy thinking. The pattern is this: Once I get behind on anything, I somehow just let things go until the point of return is dismal. One disclaimer: I am selective on areas where this allowance takes place. Laundry is definitely at the top of the lis, with cataloguing photos coming in at a close second. (I encourage any guilt-ridden, scrapbooking, wannabe mom to feel instantaneously better about herself right about now.) Filing paperwork and keeping up with the accounting for our non-profit are up there as well. I would tell you to keep the latter one on the DL with my husband, but he is well aware.

I thought I could not possibly add another category to the list allowing this pattern to further itself. But, I was wrong. Blogging seems to have found its way into my world of procrastination. I even started building a new blog today thinking I could just start over with a clean slate. I know - ridiculous. I quicly abandoned this idea after realizing the absurdity of now having two blogs in need of updates. This would be like attempting to solve my laundry issue with the purchase of another washing machine and dryer.

So, I finally came to the realization that confessing I get behind on things is much healthier and honest. The truth is, no one really cares as much as I do. It's not like anyone reading this is left with some grandios cliffhanger and can't wait to read the next chapter of my life. Honestly, I just feel better writing it down and want to move on. I want to write when it's fun and not when it's work. I want to write when I feel inspired by the things I love. I would love to be more like my friends who have kept up with every moment of their life through being more consistent bloggers. Really, I would. And I admire them so much for doing so!

While I have a long way to go in letting go of areas that keep me burdened with guilt, I feel better acknowledging these little areas. Besides, they really are small in the grand scheme of things and certainly do not define me. At least I hope not. And in the end, if it's something important, I WILL get around to it eventually. If not, I accept that it probably wasn't that important anyway. Besides, I happen to think laundry folded and put away on a daily basis is WAY overrated.