Friday, December 23, 2011

The More of Christmas

The rain has passed but it left behind its dreariness. The gray, damp skies encourage a blanket and a hot, steaming cup of something. The twinkling lights of our Christmas tree warm the room and the light of the manger scene sitting below it consistently reminds me there is more.

There are no gifts under our tree yet. The hustle and bustle of the next 2 days is teasing me. No matter how much I try to slow down and enjoy the Advent season, it often blows by me like a frantic shopper on the day before Christmas. The candles on our advent greens indicate they haven't been lit very often. Where did the last 3 weeks go?

As I prepare food for our Christmas tables, I try to prepare my heart for what is about to come. As I try to push Santa Claus, my to-do list, and my growing spam folder of "special holiday deals" out of my mind, I am so very thankful for the more. Why spend all of this money? Why rush around like I've lost my mind, my head? Why chop down a perfectly good tree, decorate it with sparkly lights and a litany of ornaments? What is the point after all? There is more to Christmas then this.

And there is more to the Christmas story, too. We celebrate that a Baby is born, but we also remember how perfectly executed the plan was. That the Messiah would innocently come in the form of a child. That He would grow and live among His people. His time on Earth an example. He touched lives, performed miracles, and taught His children. And He GAVE. He sacrificed. He loved.

Why is the Christ part of Christmas so important? Because without Him, we would have no hope, no chance of eternal life, no redemption.

Although I really enjoy spending time with family, sharing tasty foods, giving gifts from the heart, and the traditions we have created with our children, I know I would be left wanting more. Because those things satisfy for a moment. They don't sustain.

As I sit with toasty blanket and cup of steaming mulled cider surrounded by decked halls, I am so thankful that when I pull all of these Earthly treasures away, I have something left that will sustain. Something that promises to be more. More than I could ever imagine. More than I could ever want. And that leaves me feeling very full. Very full, indeed.

"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." (1 Timothy 1:15-17)

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Happy Advent (and how to make an advent centerpiece)

Happy Advent! The Christmas season sort of "snuck up" on me. We made up for it this past weekend by setting up our Christmas tree and decorating inside our home. In the midst of the busy, hurriedness of December lies the best part of the season...advent, the anticipation of the "coming" of Christ. It's just not Christmas without our Advent centerpiece, which I made the other day with my own two hands (yeah me!). I thought I would share how "easy" it is to make and encourage you to give it a try.

The advent "wreath" consists of 4 candles (sometimes 5) surrounded by evergreens (and whatever else you'd like to throw in there). Where the wreath requires wiring the greens to a frame, the centerpiece doesn't take as much effort or supplies, but I'll still refer to it as a "wreath" just sounds better. The advent "wreath" is a symbolic way to prepare your hearts and can be a fun and tangible way to get your kids involved. There are 3 purple candles and one pink. Sometimes people add a white one to light on Christmas. This is a "tradition" meaning there is no right or wrong way to include the advent "wreath". Each candle represents something, commonly the first candle lit on the 1st Sunday in Advent is purple and represents hope. On the 2nd Sunday in Advent you light another purple candle, for love. The 3rd candle is the pink one, for joy. And the 4th candle lit is purple, for peace. The white candle, if you choose to add one, can go in the center and is lit on Christmas Day. It is nice to do a family devotional along with lighting the candles. There are many out there to choose from. Or you can just read a little bit of the Christmas story each time and sing some Christmas songs. Like I said, there is no right or wrong way.

Several years ago we purchased a Christmas activity called "What God Wants For Christmas" by Family Life. It is similar to Easter's Resurrection Eggs, if you are familiar with those. It comes with a booklet to read over 7 days or all at once, if you want. There is also free PDF activity sheets you can download with coloring pages and other things.

How does your family celebrate the Advent season? I'm always interested in hearing suggestions for things that may work well for you. So email me or comment with your ideas!


Here are some of the items you may need to purchase for your centerpiece (these items can be found at your local craft store): A small rectangular plastic tray for it to sit on and to catch any water that may come out of the floral foam.; a rectangle of floral foam; 4 plastic candle holders; a box of Advent candles (they often come prepackaged or you can just buy your own 3 purple, 1 pink).

My favorite part about my centerpiece is that all of the decorations I use come from my own backyard (literally). I take clippings from my various evergreens on the property. I also use any greens we trimmed from our Christmas tree (which this year I had a lot). The bulk of the centerpiece is made out of the traditional greens, from our Christmas tree and our Ewe bush. I use the other greens here and there on the centerpiece to add contrast. I also have a holly tree and pinecones in my yard, which liven up the centerpiece, as well. If you do not have access to pinecones or holly, then you can purchase these items at a craft store and they look just fine.

Once you have gathered all your greens and decorations, place the candle holders onto the green floral foam. I rarely do anything symmetrically, but that's just me. Put them wherever you want them.

Now start adding your greens. I always have a pair of trimmers with me to cut the greens into the size pieces you need. You can start anywhere on the floral foam. "Larger" pieces should go on the sides and towards the bottom, "shorter" pieces are great for the top. I always put the greens in on an angle. You don't want the centerpiece to be too bushy, so try not to make the pieces too long. Play with the layers. Experiment. Be creative!

To some extent you have to fill the centerpiece by eye. Keep turning it to make sure you don't have any obvious gaps. When you have it "filled" you can start to add the accent pieces, like the various pines, holly & berries, and pinecones. I usually just lay the pinecones on the top instead of securing them.

When you have it the way you like, add the candles. The final step is to water the floral foam. I do this once I put it in its "final" resting place. I water the top, like I would water a plant. Make sure you go slowly since any excess water will leave the foam and fill the plastic tray its sitting on. The foam will absorb the water from the tray so I actually try to always leave some water in the tray. You will have to check on it every couple of days to make sure it stays "watered".

May you have a blessed Advent season as you await and celebrate the coming of Christ, Emmanuel, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thank You For Today

It's been too long, I know. I hope I've been missed. My absence has not been on purpose. The Lord has been occupying my time with other worthwhile causes (I will share more when I have something to show you).

I sit down to write and all I can think of is how thankful I am. Obviously thankful for all of the normal stuff; a loving husband, healthy happy kids, Adam's job, a roof (literally) over our heads. If I was to summarize what God has been teaching me over the last several months I would say His faithfulness. Financial woes, a leaking roof, and a bump in the marriage road and I am often left trying to figure out how to fix it or worse, feeling like there is no hope. Deep down I know there is always Hope. But I spend too much of my life (as a planner) looking ahead and using that as fodder for worrying. How am I going to pay that bill? Will we ever have enough money to fix our roof? get new windows? give the kids their own rooms? The mental list can go on and on. A planner is always looking ahead and I think that is a good trait. But sometimes, the planning can get in the way of plain old trusting. A planner looks at what's going to happen and tries to figure out how to handle it. Again, not a bad thing. But if God is the ultimate planner, how much of my own planning gets in the way of God's plan? If I am always trying to figure out how to fix it or make this or that work out, am I focusing too much on my own efforts?

Certainly there is a give and take. Our relationship with God should involve discussing the plan with Him. Asking Him for guidance. Depending on Him knowing, accepting, surrendering that I cannot do it all myself. The Lord continues to blow me away. His faithful provision, just when we need it the most, leaves me in awe. He is faithful when I make the choice to not worry (even though it's difficult) and choose to trust Him to take care of me.

The one thing God keeps bringing me back to is today. Today I can pay this bill. Today I can put food on the table. Today our cars are both running. Today...

"Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matthew 6:34).

Thank you God for your faithfulness. Thank you for reminding me that I don't have to do this all on my own. Thank you for what you have provided today and the peace of knowing it is enough.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Why Be Afraid

"That which we fear might happen to us — might be the thing to produce deep faith in us. Why be afraid of anything — when He’s using everything?"
-- Ann Voskamp, "A Holy Experience"

Need I say anymore? I love this quote. I believe this quote. I have lived this quote.

It's not that I welcome the bad in. I don't look forward to hard. Easy and calm are so comfortable. But I think it's more a way of life. A perspective to combat our fears. When we struggle or when we hurt it's a place to turn. It's a promise (Romans 8:28).

My son was given an opportunity. A mere blip on the screen of life, but I'm seeing it as a life lesson. He joined a club at school, a problem solving club. It's literally not for everyone. He actually wasn't even asked to join. It was his interest in it that began a conversation about him participating. His teacher said it's difficult. It starts out okay but as the year progresses it gets harder and harder. For some kids that's too much. We were asked to consider whether or not we wanted to put him through that. From day one his interest in being part of it hasn't wavered. The more I thought about it the more I wanted him to have the chance to try. Just because something is hard doesn't mean you shouldn't do it.

Life is hard. Although I don't want life to be hard for my kids I do see the value in it. The hard stuff develops character and perseverance (Romans 5:3-5). It molds our faith. Because when we begin to realize that there is worth and value in the things we have to work hard for, then we are more likely to surrender to it, appreciate it. If everything was easy, would we ever turn to God? It's in the trenches that we meet God and understand how much we need Him.

Maybe we could do without the painful losses and the deep wounds and scars of things that "shouldn't" have happened to us, but for me, I learned more about myself and God because of what I've had to deal with. And I can look back on my past without wishing this or that never happened because I know and have seen how God has used it for my good. I wouldn't be who I am today without having to face the hard stuff. And I don't have to live in fear of what is going to happen, because I have had to persevere and I know that He will be there helping me through it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hearts 4 Hearts Girls

I was shopping at BJs today and browsing for gift ideas for my daughter's November birthday when I found these really great dolls. They are called Hearts For Hearts Girls. There are six dolls from different cultures all around the world. They are made for World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of these dolls actually go toward the organization.

Each doll is supposedly based on a real girl from that country. The website explains that "each of them has an important story to tell about life in her country, inspired by real girls who are strong, smart, courageous, and determined to rise above challenging circumstances."

In a world that is feeding immodesty and "it's what's on the outside that really matters" to our children, I would feel good about giving my daughter one of these dolls and supporting such a worthy organization.

Just thought I'd share...

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Newly Medicated ADHD Honey

The past month has been one thing after another. October is soccer season and both kids are playing. It's been fun to watch them both develop their "soccer skills" since last year. They seem to be having a great time! It must be the time of year, but I remember last year around this time wondering where all my time was going. I guess we are still adjusting to being back in school and with that, all of their extracurricular activities. It's all good. Atleast life isn't boring!

I wanted to write an update since my last ADHD post back in September. Adam had his appointment at the doctor to evaluate him for possible medication. Since the beginning of October he has been taking 20 mg of Vyvanse. Initially it was hard to decipher how exactly the medicine was effecting him. There seemed to be a little bit of a placebo effect where you think you see a difference but then maybe you just think you are seeing a difference.

This is his third week on the medicine and I think we are both cautiously optimistic about it. There have been definite circumstance where he has felt better focus and clarity in his thoughts. We just attended a wedding this past weekend. Trying to have a conversation with someone in a room full of conversations was always VERY difficult and overwhelming for him. He would sometimes sort of withdraw because his brain was so overwhelmed. It was exhausting! But on Saturday at the wedding, he noticed a marked difference in being able to concentrate. We'll take those small victories!

I feel like over time, we will have a better sense of the medicine's impact. His body is still getting used to it and he is trying to decide the best time to take a 9+ hour extended release pill. Especially since he needs better focus once he gets home in the late afternoon/evening. He goes back to the doctor for review beginning of November. Meanwhile, he continues to evaluate things with a counselor on a regular basis.

We thank you for your prayers as we continue to figure out what is best for him!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Inconvenient Love

Do to others as you would have them do to you.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.
And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.
And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.

LUKE 6:31-35
There are times in my life when it's easy to love. My love for my children is as close to unconditional as it gets. When everyone is in agreement, when people are kind to you, when you feel like it, love is easy to give. There are even times when I have myself convinced that I love people without any strings whatsoever. Perhaps this is how I would like to be, but more times then not I have something to gain.

Over the past few years I have been intrigued by the idea of loving people without strings. Loving people when I have nothing to gain. Loving people like Jesus did. I read a great book on the topic called 'Love Walked Among Us" by Paul Miller. I have written about love before on this blog. It's been an area in my life that I have felt called to grow in, to understand better, and to live out in my life. Perhaps that is why I was so impacted by a line in a book I read recently.

"Inconvenient is what Christians are called to." --Joanna Weaver

I had never heard love put quite that way before. Inconvenient. How often do I allow myself to be inconvenienced so that I can love someone else? Any Mother can tell you that inconvenient love is a part of being a Mom. It's probably the closest I have been to loving inconveniently, and yet, they are my children. I have good reason to love them that way. What about other people, strangers, other people's children, neighbors...even serving in my church?

May this idea of "inconvenient love" challenge you to cut the strings we often attach when we give love away.

May we re-evaluate how we decide when, who, and how we love others.

Because part of loving is sacrificing. Giving up our own interests in order to love others the way they need to be loved and allowing ourselves to be inconvenienced so we can put someone else first.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Oh, Joy!

"The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse."
--Helen Keller

Our Pastor preached a sermon yesterday from John 16. It was about having joy. I have been having a particularly challenging month and I am just not feeling the joy. I'm sitting here this morning, asking myself the question Pastor Tony challenged us with yesterday...If I'm not feeling joy, then what in my life is stifling it?

So here I am, overanalyzing joy. Have I ever felt joy? What is joy anyway? If I'm not feeling happy does that mean I don't have joy?

Merriam-Webster defines JOY as "an emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires". But a woman, Emily Rustad, left a comment on the Merriam-Webster website that made so much more sense to me. She wrote that "joy is different from happiness in that the word "happy" comes from the same root word as "happen": "hap." "Hap" means chance or fate. the feeling of happiness comes from what happens to a person by chance, but joy is a source of delight. it is what lies underneath all emotions, no matter what happens to a person."

So we can have joy in all circumstances because of Jesus. Because of what He did for us. But joy is not about my circumstances. It is not about whether I'm feeling happy today or whether my kids are listening or whether my husband and I got into an argument. Joy is more then just an emotion. My joy is Jesus. It is my hope in Him. It is my belief that He is in control. That even though things might be hard right now, the bigger picture reminds me that He loves me and cares for me and that is my joy.
HEBREWS 12:1-3
A huge cloud of witnesses is all around us. So let us throw off everything that stands in our way. Let us throw off any sin that holds on to us so tightly. Let us keep on running the race marked out for us.

Let us keep looking to Jesus. He is the author of faith. He also makes it perfect. He paid no attention to the shame of the cross. He suffered there because of the joy he was looking forward to. Then he sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

He put up with attacks from sinners. So think about him. Then you won't get tired. You won't lose hope.

Let us keep looking to Jesus...
Then you won't get tired...
You won't lose hope.

Linking a post from the archives with Ann today…

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Next Step...Squirrel...for my ADHD Hubby

This is an update from the post, "Loving an Adult with A.D.D", back in April. About a month or so ago my husband was officially "tested" for ADD/ADHD. We learned that he has moderate ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Initially the "hyper" part came as a surprise because I would not necessarily describe his physical behavior as hyper. But apparently "hyper" is not always physical, but internal, with how their thoughts are processed and that makes a lot of sense for Adam. His number one complaint is how overwhelmed he feels with all of the thoughts he has running through his mind and he doesn't know what to do with them.

Knowledge feels like power as we slowly begin to understand the impact ADHD has had on my husband's life and in our marriage. It has opened a door for us, for me, to have genuine understanding of how differently we think and process things. It's not been easy and I feel as though we are still only scratching the surface.

So what now? After his "diagnosis" he was given several options. We have put off making a quick decision about the path to take, but it seems the longer we wait the more I see how overwhelmed he can get and how stressful that is for him. Although initially medication was not something he was interested in, if it will help him to focus better and add stability to his emotions then I think he is willing to give it a try.

He has an appointment with our family doctor in October to discuss some options. At that time we will know better who will handle his medical care (GP, neurologist, or psychiatrist) and what medicine(s) he will try.

I am amazed at how adults who live with ADD/ADHD have learned to overcompensate for their ADD "weaknesses". Depending on what they struggle with because of ADD they often have other areas that they are very strong in, as well. These strong areas often "make up for" the areas that are harder for them.

This past summer Adam changed jobs. There were many reasons for the change, but one benefit was definitely a less stressful environment. He previously was in charge of running multiple projects at different locations. Having to keep track of all the details was very stressful for him. Now that his work environment is better we are seeing how stressful home life can be for him. He has said that at work he only has to focus on work, but at home he has to wear multiple hats (Dad, husband, maintenance, etc.) which means different responsibilities to different people. We are still trying to find ways of making this a little easier. I'm not sure we have figured that part out yet.

I'll be sure to share what happens after we visit with the doctor. I'm sure there are many ADD/ADHD adults out there trying to navigate this same path and we hope what we share might help you. Your feedback and experiences can help us, as well, so feel free to comment or send me an email.

(The "squirrel" is a reference to a scene in the movie "Up" when the dog has an apparent ADD moment. It's all in fun!)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Faith In Spider Webs?

What they trust in is fragile;
what they rely on is a spider’s web.
They lean on the web, but it gives way;
they cling to it, but it does not hold.

JOB 8:14-15

What do you trust in?

If I were to be honest, brutally honest, my biggest struggle is trusting in myself. As a Christian, I know the One I should be trusting in, but disappointments and baggage often lead me on the path of self-protection and self-reliance. My lack of faith leads me to worry, anxiety, and fear. Because I know deep down that even I cannot deliver what I'm looking for. No matter how much I try I cannot control nor protect myself from the things I fear the most.

An overwhelming thought, but I am so thankful that's not the end of it. Although my tendency is to trust in myself God has shown me the fruitlessness of that labor. When I pridefully think I am in control, I am usually left with more disappointments and unmet expectations. Putting my trust in myself, or anything other then God, is like "relying on a spider's web" as described in Job 8:14-15. I am going to fall. I may desperately try to lean on or cling to it, but it will not hold. It was never meant to.

The first line in the praise song, "Firm Foundation", says, "Jesus, you're my firm foundation. I know I can stand secure." It's the thing I so desperately want but cannot provide for myself. Security. On my own, I am insecure. When I lean or cling to other people or other things, my security is not lasting. It will give way.

I think living in faith is realizing that all attempts to do things successfully on your own will fail, or atleast turn out badly. We need God. He is secure. We can lean on Him. We can cling to Him. This is why we can have hope. He will "uphold you with His righteous right hand" as promised in Isaiah 41:10. And He will not let you fall.

"Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long..." (DEUTERONOMY 33:12)

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Nudge and a Song

A couple years ago I wrote a post entitled "Nothing Better Than A Good Book" and it's been awhile since something has been "good enough" to inspire a blog post about it.

The surprise of my summer reading came after I read, "The Reluctant Prophet". Written by Nancy Rue (co-writer of the Sullivan Crisp novels, "Healing Stones", "Healing Waters", and "Healing Sands") there is not much I dare say about the storyline (because I don't want to ruin it for you). It twists and turns and blossoms into something you may not expect. And it gently taps you on the shoulder, reminding you how intricately involved God is in each moment of our lives. How He often asks us to do things that don't make sense to us at the time, but if we follow His leading, He will do much more then we ever imagined. The main character was real to me, funny, questioning, and impulsive. I liked her because I could relate to her. The storyline isn't contrived, nor is it meant to guilt you into "service". Instead it encourages you to be aware of the nudges in your own life, believing that God has a great purpose for each one of us.

The back of the book describes the story in this way: "It's a total surprise when 40-something Allison Chamberlain feels a divine nudge to buy a Harley motorcycle and go wherever it takes her. Soon she finds herself in the darkest corners of society, experiencing the heartache of the poor. Will she discover that healing comes through the voice of God and those who follow it?"

To my delight, "The Reluctant Prophet" has a Part 2 coming out on September 24th called "Unexpected Dismounts". I hope you will consider reading this thought-provoking, inspiring work of fiction.

My second suggestion is music. We are always listening to something around here! I have written about my love for good, female singers before in my post "Song In My Heart". I would like to formally add Audrey Assad to that list of female artists.

I first heard Audrey Assad when I was randomly clicking on artists in iTunes one day. I liked her the moment I heard her. Her album, "The House Your Building" has become a fast favorite. My husband and I have also had the opportunity to see her in concert. She is a very humble, but extremely talented songwriter and singer. Her songs are from the heart and full of Truth. She seems to be making a name for herself these days and will be touring with another of my favorites, Sara Groves, this fall. I hope you'll give her a listen!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Getting Too Comfortable

"The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry."
(adapted from a line in “To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns)

There is something comforting to me about having a plan. I don't always enjoy the extra work planning can sometimes bring, but it's totally worth it to me in the end. Planning helps me feel more in control and not necessarily in a bad way. Thinking things through and being prepared are good things. However, you cannot have a plan without having expectations. And we all know that best laid plans can always change or even go wrong.

The best way to describe last week was an adventure. We were scheduled for a weeks vacation at the beach when Hurricane Irene hit the east coast and disrupted our weekend plans. Disappointed and a little frustrated with not knowing whether the hurricane would cause enough damage to cancel our plans we did our best to keep our options open. Thankfully, it left a lot of rain and some tree branches behind and little else. We finally did get to the beach, a couple days late, but happy to be there.

If that was the only lesson we were meant to learn last week that would have been enough. On our second day on the beach a strong wave hit me (and probably a flying elbow) sending me to the ER for swelling and seven stitches on the bridge of my nose. I cannot describe the trauma this "minor" accident caused our family. We had been out swimming together and blood rushing down my face was not a sight my children knew quite how to handle. Initially struggling with the "why did that have to happen" I quickly changed my perspective to "thank you it wasn't something much worse". I didn't hit the bottom and I didn't lose consciousness. And as every Mom can identify with, I was super thankful it was me and not one of my kids. And so our best laid plans were disrupted again by my injury and we were left to process the trauma the rest of the week.

Apparently bad things do come in threes because at the end of our trip, when friends came to visit for the weekend, their little boy got lost on the beach and we frantically searched for a 3 year old whose legs carried him seven blocks from where we had been sitting. Praise God he was found relatively quickly and unharmed. But you have to know those minutes of not knowing were hideous.

So I have come away from that week knowing none of those things would have happened if we had just stayed at home, but believing everything happens for a reason, having no regrets about going. In our case, my nose will heal and that little guy is back where he belongs, but I cannot take one moment or person for granted. And I cannot get too comfortable, trusting in myself and my plans because they can change in an instant. I have faith that God is in control, even when my plans change, especially when my plans change.

The day after my nose accident, this song came over the iPod. It is a good reminder that although I do not know what is going to happen and I may not understand what does, I place my faith in the One who does know and "I know He watches me".

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Enough IS Enough

I'm a pretty glass half-full kind of person...except when it comes to money (what's that about?).

There is a certain amount of faith in the way we approach money. Our needs have always been provided for, food on the table, and everything we need for our kids. We don't really live without (when compared to those who actually do). We are more then blessed. So why do I doubt?

Money is like a hanging carrot. There is always more to be made. Stuff, stuff, stuff abounds around us and we are bombarded with images of life being easier, better, nicer, and more fun if we just had a little bit more.

I have a love/hate relationship with money. Some days I would rather just live in denial. Not think about (or worry about) money. To find satisfaction in what we have without thinking about what we COULD have.

There are days when the "moons align" and we have enough to pay the bills and then some. But then there are weeks when it all sort of unravels before your eyes and you wonder how you are going to make it work. This is not an unfamiliar song. How easily we are lured back into dissatisfaction. How one thing compounds another and you become overwhelmed by it all, especially when the "needs" start piling up.

Ultimately, I think money hits me where I'm weak. Money has the power to make me feel insecure. And insecurity is an issue for me. I feel insecure when I'm not in control. Oh, my...back to the control issues again! I'm not even convinced that having "enough" would actually make me feel secure because there is always a chance that enough won't be enough. And this is how the cycle of worry perpetuates.

God, help me to remember that tomorrow will take care of tomorrow and that You will provide. God, please help me to trust in a future I cannot see, knowing that whatever happens is "all for God's glory".
"Anyone who loves money never has enough. Anyone who loves wealth is never satisfied with what he gets.

I've seen something very evil on earth. It's when wealth is stored up and then brings harm to its owner.
It's also when wealth is lost because of an unwise business deal. Then there won't be anything left for the owner's son.
A man is born naked.
He comes into the world with nothing.
And he goes out of it with nothing.
He doesn't get anything from his work that he can take with him.

I realized that it's good and proper for a man to eat and drink. It's good for him to be satisfied with his hard work on this earth. That's what he should do during the few days of life God has given him. That's what God made him for.

Sometimes God gives a man wealth and possessions. He makes it possible for him to enjoy them. He helps him accept the life he has given him. He helps him to be happy in his work. All of those things are gifts from God. A man like that doesn't have to think about how his life is going. That's because God fills his heart with joy."

ECCLESIASTES 5:10, 13-15,18-20

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Helpful Idea for a Long Car Ride

We just returned from a wonderful week in the Outerbanks, North Carolina. It's a long drive from PA, about 8 hours and as you know, we have 2 kids. Trying to keep them occupied and happy for a long driving adventure can be a challenge. It's gotten easier as they've gotten older. I wanted to share with you an idea that came in extremely handy this year.

My daughter is an avid artist. She draws and colors every day, nearly all day. It keeps her busy and she enjoys it. We got a "new" minivan recently and it has 2 captains chairs instead of a bench seat. That little detail impacted my little artist greatly as she had no where to put her arsenal of coloring equipment in the car. Once buckled she couldn't reach it if it was on the floor. And when she put it on her lap (which isn't big enough for a container of pencils AND her drawing pad) they fell off and spilled all over. I knew I had to think of something better.

So my solution...a cosmetic bag. These were my stipulations -- it had to have clear, zippered pockets -- it had to hang from the top -- it had to fold up when it was done being used. I found the perfect one at Target. It wound up being a great option. With clear pockets she could find the color she wanted without taking all of them out. It could be organized with markers in one pocket, colored pencils in another, and crayons in a another. They all zip so there was no mess. It could hang on the seat in front of her. And when she was done with it, the whole thing folded up and attached to itself with velcro.

Anyway, I just wanted to share because it made my artist happy. And if my artist was happy, everyone was happy!

Friday, July 8, 2011

You Are Worth More Than Many Sparrows

"Man is so much more sensitive to the contempt of others than to contempt for himself." --Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

With great purpose we were created. Individuals, uniquely talented and beautifully made. However, with every rejection, trauma, unmet expectation, incorrect assumption or perception, human beings weigh who God created them to be with their own interpretation of their value and worth. I suggest there is not a person alive that does not struggle to some degree with self-esteem, worth, or acceptance. But sometimes our perspective takes a nose dive and our lack of confidence becomes much more then "will I fit in". It becomes self-contempt.

Contempt for yourself usually means believing there is something wrong with you. That when bad things happen in your life it's because somehow you deserved it. If things don't work out in relationships it's because you did something wrong. It's your fault. Contempt of self convinces you that you don't deserve better. You may take what you can get, allow yourself to be mis-treated and mis-used. At the very least, you won't stand up for yourself or make healthy boundaries.

Believing that you are worthless is actually about pride. Pride is the "cultivation, preservation or exalting of self" (Webster's dictionary). Pride can be in thinking too much of yourself or thinking too little of yourself, self-protection, and a building up (or tearing down) of ourselves in our own eyes or in the eyes of others.

Do you dismiss other's praise? Do you reject compliments? Do you believe the worst about yourself?

Contempt can mask itself as humility. To many, humility is a virtue. But somewhere between modesty and meekness, caring for others and putting others needs first, we have decided we are not important...period. We see the value in others, but not in ourselves. We give others the benefit of the doubt. We believe others deserve happiness, but we don't. We convince ourselves that we have nothing to offer, so we offer nothing.

Humility is knowing that we need help. That we cannot succeed in this life apart from God. Humility is understanding our weakness. It's knowing that even though we are sinful and we don't deserve God's love for us, that we are in fact loved and forgiven because of Christ. But humility is also believing that God can use even me; that He sees my value and wants to have a relationship with me.

I know a lot of kind, beautiful, amazing women who cannot see their value. Women who settle. Women who have dreams, hopes, and desires, but won't voice them because they don't think they are important. If only they could see themselves the way God and others see them.

Believe the One who made you.

Believe that you are loved and valued by Him.

Believe that He wants what is best for you.

"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Luke 12:6-7)

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Key To Change

"The key to to let go of fear." --Rosanne Cash
How is it that most humans hate change and yet God made it so that change is inevitable? From birth to death we are changing. Every choice we make effects us and often those around us. Some of the changes are so slow we can't see them day to day, but we know they are happening. Of course there are big changes that are hard to miss. Going from being single to married, having a child (or two or three), a new job, a new school, theses changes can make a huge impact on our lives and often there is much thought and discussion involved in making them.

I agree that fear holds us back from making changes and trying new things, but our fears also keep us from growing. I'm not sure that making changes means the absence of fear as much as it means pushing through our fear. I have yet to encounter a big decision that did not carry with it a basket full of questions, doubts, and fears. But I believe the blessing comes in embracing our inadequacies and self-doubts and trusting God to meet us there. Pushing through when we are afraid, facing our anxiety, and knowing that it's going to be okay.

My husband started a new job this week. He's been a remodeler for 12 years and this will the 4th company he has worked for. He left a company he'd been with nearly 5 years. Comfort and predictability had most assuredly set in and it was hard to contemplate "starting all over" at a new place. I'll save you the gory details of why exactly he decided to leave and suffice it to say God was leading and it was time. I'm proud of him for being willing to make that change and enter "the unknown".

The unknown...definitely the source of a lot of anxiety. People like to know what's going to happen. We like to know what to expect. It makes us feel secure. And yet God wants us to put ourselves out there. He wants us to reach beyond our comfort zones because it's in that place that we grow. No better way to learn about yourself. No better test of trust. No better opportunity to push past our fears and insecurities.

Perhaps the hardest changes of all are the ones made inside ourselves. It's a common theory that once we get to a certain age we are no longer capable of changing who we are, how we react, or what we think. I could not disagree more. But in order to change we have to want to change. It has to be a desire within our hearts. Change can take a lot of effort. It may mean breaking old stereotypes, accepting fault within ourselves, and dealing with issues we may not really want to confront. It may require figuring out why we do what we do. It almost always means seeing things from a new perspective, from someone else's shoes.

So maybe the "key to change" is more about where your heart is, whether you want to change, and whether your desire for change is enough to overcome your fear. The courage and desire comes from knowing and trusting God and having the faith to do what you have been called to do, irregardless of your fears.

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (JOSHUA 1:9)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Awesome Dad Admired Man (A.D.A.M.)

When my nine year old was asked to describe something that is most precious to him he wrote "a LEGO ship that my Dad made". Sometimes we think we need to do something epic to get our children's attention and admiration, but it's truly the little things, the every day moments that our kids carry with them and treasure.

There is a struggle within me to fight the idea that achieving "the goal" makes me special, worthwhile, lovable. That if I work hard to "fix myself" that once I achieve "perfect" I will be valued (well, that will never happen). When I have something tangible to offer someone then I will find acceptance. The truth is that we all have an important role just as we are. God doesn't make mistakes. You are who you are for a reason. We are loved because we are, not because of who we are or what we have done.

Kids just want a Dad. They aren't looking for Superman or a father that has it all figured out. You don't need to be the strongest, smartest, most athletic. Kids want time. Real time. One-on-one, "I matter to my Dad" time. Because whether you like it or not, you are their hero.

Thank you, Adam, for being a great father. For making our family a priority. Thank you for being a silly, fun, engaged Dad. For loving and supporting our kids in their many endeavors. For being "Coach", "Teacher", and "Cheerleader". Thank you, Adam, for actively spending time with them, for your many sacrifices, and for your heartfelt desire to be the best Dad you can be for them. Thank you for putting Jesus first in your life and teaching and modeling Christ to them everywhere you go and in everything you do. We love you!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Oh My, Summer Is Here

Last Friday was my kids' last day of school. I always sort of look forward to summer and days spent with my kids. After all, it's been a long school year and they deserve a break. Inevitably, the excitement of summer fades and is often replaced with drones of "I'm bored". The day becomes a challenge of survival instead of adventure. This year I'm looking to change all of that. I don't know how it will work longterm, but you never know if you don't try, right?

At the risk of looking too rigid, I wanted to share with you something we are going to try this summer to make our days more structured. I don't know many people who don't appreciate a little structure, even if they are not very good at creating it. I am definitely a planner, but even my ADHD husband appreciates (even needs) a good plan.

The kids and I came up with a daily schedule/routine that could be flexibly followed each day. When we are home we break down the morning and afternoon into 30 minute and 1 hour blocks. We decided together what activities fit into the blocks. Here is an example:

7-7:30am Read
7:30-8am practice piano
8-8:30am eat breakfast
8:30-9:30am free play
9:30-10am math practice/summer homework packet
10-11am Wii/DS/or computer game
11-noon chores (clean up toys/room, collect trash/recycling, etc.)
noon-1pm Lunch

The afternoon is similar in structure. Two times a day (right before mealtimes) they are to pick up around the house. I am hoping this will keep the house from becoming a disaster area (a girl can hope anyway). This isn't a rigid schedule. There will be days when we have to run errands like to the grocery store or other appointments, but this schedule gives us a rough outline of how our day can go. And I'm hoping it eliminates the "I'm bored" comments since they can refer to the schedule for ideas of what to do.

I also want to encourage the kids to read this summer and I found 2 free incentive programs for reading. One is through TD Bank where kids have to read 10 books and will receive $10 in a young saver bank account. The other is through Barnes & Noble where they have to read 8 books and will receive a free book (from a list). I found these links, along with several others at Spoiled but not Rotten.

So here's to the beginning of another long summer filled with fun and adventure and a great balance of doing stuff we want to do and have to do. Hope we make it to August with smiles still on our faces!

If you have any tips, ideas, free stuff to do with kids this summer, feel free to share! I'm always looking for good ideas!

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Perspective of Thanks

On Monday I feel the raggedness of an overdone weekend. All the things we "had to do" and the rest we didn't get. I sigh out a weeks worth of chaos, hoping this Monday begins a slower, calmer week.

As easy as it is for me to take on the stresses and burdens of this life it is perhaps in that very moment that I need, require a new perspective. For every dark rain cloud there is a sun burst hiding behind it. So when the Eeyore in me wants to complain about the incessant rain, the hectic schedule, and the many things that are seemingly not going my way, it is as good a time as any to consider the rose instead of its thorns.

My "Multitudes":

--fresh mulch on a spring flower and veggie garden
--the anticipation of homegrown tomatoes this summer
--a baseball helmet that protects heads...and noses
--a Pastor that preaches the Truth, even when it might hurt
--spontaneous play dates with neighbor/friends
--an empty kitchen sink and school lunches made by my husband
--blooming irises (my favorite)
--my husband's job and the Lord's provision in it
--a school and teachers that my children are excited to spend Monday with
--a healthy household
--the smell of basil and lavender emanating from my dining room windowsill
--love undeserved and no condemnation (John 8:1-11)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Patience In The Process

“Time is free, but it's priceless. You can't own it, but you can use it. You can't keep it, but you can spend it. Once you've lost it you can never get it back.”
-- Harvey MacKay

The passage of time means progress. Like an escalator is in continuous forward motion, we are all moving through time. But unlike the escalator, we cannot stop time and we cannot step off when we have "arrived". Time is constant, but life is hardly on a steady course. Our lives are often compared to the ocean tides that ebb and flow, the valleys and mountains, or a mega-rollercoaster full of dips, turns, highs and lows.

Part of the fun of hiking a trail is the process of getting from the trailhead at the beginning to the trailhead at the end. On a recent hiking adventure with our kids we were met with many challenges due to a rainstorm that had passed through the area the day before. The trail was muddy and there was often a steady stream of water flowing down the middle of what should have been the path. We had to maneuver around puddles, climb over fallen trees, and find a way over a small stream that had become a large one overnight. Each obstacle was met with both hesitation and determination. Should we turn back? How could we find our way across or around?
There were several missteps. There was a battle for the "leader" position (our kids fighting their Daddy for it). There were even moments of hopelessness and frustration. But we didn't turn back. Sometimes we had to walk away from the trail to avoid flooded sections, but we kept the trail in sight and returned to it as soon as we could. And when we had finished and returned to the car we all felt a sense of accomplishment and were glad we had stuck it out.

Why do I fight the process so much? The process takes time to complete. There may be many steps and smaller processes that need to be worked through, obstacles in the way, and questions that need to be asked and answered. We must accept that we are in a process and be patient in it. A lot of times I want to rush the process. If I could only see what the end result will be, then I would know whether it was worth all the trouble. What if I never get to the end? What if I get off the trail and can't find my way back again?

Like the hiking trail, we had to literally take one step at a time, deal with each obstacle as it came. Perhaps if we knew what was ahead we would have turned back, but there was always a chance of something better around the next bend. It is that hope that can keep you persevering through the difficult things. It is that hope that may escort you through each adventure life throws at you.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Celebrating Mothers!

A newborn baby, so completely dependent and innocent. Yet we know it is only a matter of time before they experience their first disappointment, their first boo-boo, or their first unmet expectation. As a Mom you know that you cannot keep these things from coming and you know sometimes these disappointments will come from your own hands. We do the best we can with what we know, motivated by what we hope and desire for our kids. From the moment they are born we are teaching them to not need us. We are training and preparing them for the long road ahead, knowing they need to learn independence and to speak up for themselves. As much as we love those early years when only a Mom can soothe a hurt we know that they need to learn how to jump up and dust themselves off and try again.

Children can be such a huge source of worry for a Mom. We are their "protectors" and we want to guard them from unnecessary struggles. It can be a mighty tug on a Momma's heart when you want to save them from the things that are difficult for them, but you know they must walk through it themselves, without your help.

I have experienced this firsthand with my son. Seeing the struggle early on for him to put himself out there or speak up for himself. We witnessed many occasions where he stood on the "sidelines" watching other kids having fun. What I wanted for him was to be part of it, experience it, and enjoy all that life has to offer. What a difficult life lesson to teach an introvert! But something changed for him this year. Call it growth or maturity or maybe the desire to be a part of it started to outweigh the anxiety to taking that first step, but he has really taken some amazing steps forward this year, surprising me and showing me that my own kid can teach me a few things!

In teaching opportunities with him we have often referenced him to Romans 5:3-5, "We are full of joy even when we suffer. We know that our suffering gives us the strength to go on. The strength to go on produces character. Character produces hope. And hope will never let us down. God has poured his love into our hearts. He did it through the Holy Spirit, whom he has given to us." This perseverance, or strength to go on, means trying something even if it challenges us, volunteering for something even if it's out of our comfort zone, or participating in something new even though we have no idea how to do it.

These thing may come easy to some, but it does not come easy to him. So I'm celebrating Caleb doing the hard things, but I hope it is also an encouragement to you, to persevere, to join and not avoid, to push through things that give you anxiety so you may receive its blessings. What are the blessings, you might ask? In the verse perseverance produces character and strength in character is a great blessing in and of itself. Doing the difficult thing, pushing through it, and seeing, even proving to yourself that you can do it, that it isn't as bad as you might have imagined it to be often gives you new confidence.

This may surprise some of you, but my natural inclination is to be introverted. I was a hesitant child, I liked to hide behind my mother's legs upon meeting someone new. I still fight anxiety and discomfort in a room of people I don't know. And yet, somehow I have been able to overcome it. I don't let it stop me from trying new things. I have learned, through experience, to push through the fear and anxiety. I have figured out how to trust. I don't always know the "right" thing to say. I still get butterflies in my stomach sometimes. But having those feelings is not necessarily a reason to not do whatever I want to do. And sometimes, it's a sure sign that I need to do it.

Happy Mother's Day!
Celebrating the women who open their hearts to loving and preparing children to spread their wings to fly.
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