Monday, January 28, 2013

An Experiment That Could Change Your Life

I'm not always a nice person. (Gasp!)

There is an impatient, angry voice in my head. I hear it when I'm driving behind a slow poke on the highway. It says stuff to me when the bagger is rough with my eggs when I'm checking out at the grocery store. And it growls to me when a parent parks at the curb instead of in a parking spot when they're picking their kids up at school. How dare they!

Sometimes the voice escapes my head through my mouth. Like when I was arguing with my husband on the phone the other day. Or when my child is screaming and crying at me because I asked her to wear jeans instead of stretch pants today. Oh, the drama!

But last week, I tried something — an experiment, if you will — that might change my life.

It started with a verse:
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, in Our likeness…" (Genesis 1:26)

Imago Dei. Image of God. This is not a new concept to me. But like a lot of "Christian talk" I never really took it in or thought about what it actually meant for me.

My Pastor preached on it last Sunday. And short of hitting me over the head with it, I think God is trying to tell me something.

I recently wrote about how I needed to readjust how I measure success. And I'm trying to change that habit.

Then I wrote about how I was feeling undervalued as a stay at home Mom. But a new perspective came when my child uttered one simple sentence.

And then a new friend suggested I was wearing a label and what was it? After I thought about it awhile I decided it might say, "unacceptable". Why do I feel like that?

So when God (through Pastor Tony) started talking to me about being valuable simply because I was made in His image, I started taking notes.

No matter who or what we are. No matter what we believe. No matter what we have done or what someone else may have done to us. Every person is significant. Every person has value because they were created by God in His image.

So as I internally fight to find and assign value to myself, based on my own or the world's idea of worth, I already have it. It's been mine to give away all this time.

I have had to sit with that for awhile.

What does it mean to practice the image of God?

I think it has something to do with accepting that we are all image bearers. Do I live this way? Do I see others this way?

It's not been easy, but I'm trying it — treating my interactions with others like I am talking to someone sacred.

C.S. Lewis wrote (see whole quote):
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.

Can I see people this way?

Thinking this way changes my perspective. When my criticisms stop, acceptance begins.

This is about grace-value. Not about the good or bad choices we make or about our sin. It's not about what we deserve. It's seeing beauty in each person simply because they are. Seeing them as a reflection of God.

When I quiet the impatient, angry voice and see people, myself, this way I find respect for life — and love and compassion.

And instead of looking for (and not finding) passion, worth, or importance from other people, my work, or my material possessions —

I find it in me because I find it in Him.

Could we try doing this experiment together? Seeing people with God-glory all around them? Reflecting and representing God as image bearers? Who knows, it could change your life.

Living radically with Ann at "A Holy Experience":

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Gain (a Five Minute Friday)

My Five Minute Friday on: Again

Perhaps the best part of again is that it's familiar.

If I do it again, it means I've already tried it once — or a thousand times.

This perfectionist fights "again." I want to do it right the first time. But there's no learning in that.

I wait in the quiet, stillness for their return. My kids bringing after school crazy and loud into this home. It's the again that I'm counting on, look forward to.

Again is a friend and a foe. An exciting thrill ride at the amusement park may elicit an again from me, but I often hesitate to welcome a struggle's return.

What a treasure to know I'll see my mother-in-law again, holding her Savior's hand.

Again can take a lot out of you, make you weary. But it also encourages perseverance as you try, try again.

And "again" holds a beautiful promise, particularly that Jesus will come — again.
My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I do and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:2-3)
I marvel at this little word. I have typed it eleven times (yes, I counted) and something popped out at me.

Again. A gain. I think so.

Whether it's surrounded by goodness or feels like an unwelcome visitor, the promise of an again can be seen as a gain — at least to me.

Linking today with Lisa-Jo:

Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Undervalued and Overpaid Part 2

"What do you think I do while you are at school?" I asked my young children at the dinner table that night.

A prayer had set me off, punched me in the gut. But my disappointment wasn't about the prayer and it wasn't about my kids. It was about me.

Being a full-time Mom was always a choice. A sacrifice we made. But did my kids know that? Did they value that?

Staying home when my kids are at school, instead of getting a nine-to-five job is confusing to people. My husband shared recently that a co-worker frequently makes comments about the fact that I don't "work". And although I don't care whether he understands our reasons or not, I do find it disheartening and quite presumptuous.

This is not a post about why staying home with your kids is better than working full-time. I refuse to go there because I know we are all called to different things and we all make different choices. And if we are viewing success with the correct ruler, then it doesn't really matter what other moms are doing (or why) anyway.

But for me, this job suits me. And not because I love to clean my house. I am not going to win housekeeper of the year. You won't be seeing me on the next Iron Chef, either. But I do my best and try to find a good balance between the things I want to do (volunteering, writing, photography, video editing) and the things I need to do (dishes, laundry, cooking, taking care of the kids).

"Mommy is a homemaker," my husband told the kids.

"Because without Mommy, we wouldn't have home," my child piped in.

So this is where I lost it. Such sweeter words were never said. Like a soothing salve on my hurting, undervalued heart. It was then that I realized, the people who matter most, my husband and my children, do understand and appreciate what I do.

I have value because I'm their Momma.

And because of them and the infinite ways they bless and fill my life, I am indulgently overpaid —

Whatever it is I do tomorrow.

To read Part 1 of this post, click here.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Undervalued and Overpaid Part 1

Dear God, please be with my Dad at work tomorrow, and me at school, and my Mom, well, with whatever she does

I admit, I did slightly paraphrase (and over-emphasize certain words in) that prayer, but that's what I heard.

Whatever she does. Do they honestly not know?

I'm a stay-at-home Mom, but to my kids and to the world around me, does that really mean anything?

It was a messy conversation as we hashed out the implications of that prayer. I felt hurt, under-valued. I know my child didn't mean it like that. In fact, it was described later that I do so much and that was why it was worded that way. It was just an open-ended…whatever she does tomorrow.

Perhaps my emphasis was on the wrong word, but it revealed this tiny chink in my Momma armor. A place of vulnerability that my child's words found like a dart to a bullseye. And as we talked, the tears started to well and fall down my face to the confusion of my family.

I want to be valued. And if I may be blunt, society says stay at home Moms are just not.

I worked at a video production company when I became pregnant with my first child. I worked until the last month of my pregnancy. There was no resignation. No termination of employment. I just left it with a "we'll see what happens."

Once my maternity leave ended, I tried for a while to be Superwoman, being caregiver to my young son and working from home. But as flexible as my employer was, actually being in the office was necessary a lot of the time and after several attempts dragging my son along with me, I knew it wasn't going to work.

My husband was always in favor of me leaving my job and staying home full time. It was me, I guess, who had been the hold out. I liked what I did, for the most part, and working was all I had known since graduating college.

It became clear, however, that being a Mom was what my heart was truly being called to do. So without further hesitation, I quit my job to work at home as a Mom and homemaker.

It's been ten years since I worked in an office. And I have raised two beautiful children who are now in elementary school. My responsibilities have changed, along with my availability.

Being a stay-at-home Mom with kids in school all day created a new pressure. But the pressure didn't come from God and it didn't come from my husband.

What once had been an admirable profession, caring for a baby and toddler all day, had become empty and meaningless in the world's eyes.

And I had to come to grips with that.

To be continued

Friday, January 18, 2013

Cherished Lady

My Five Minute Friday on: Cherished

Tomorrow is my Mommom's 90th birthday. We have been quietly scanning and creating something very special for her.

A photo book, celebrating her life.

It's been fun looking back — to days when hair was dark and wrinkles were few. A glimpse back in time when things seemed simpler.

Do you see that little girl with long hair and glasses, arm slung up over and around? There are more pictures just like it. Snuggled in, holding on.

I have always cherished her.

It sounds cliche', but she has always been there. I know I am loved and accepted when I'm around her.

And she has always been so full of life. Very active and outgoing. And fun to be around. My kids have discovered it — her joie de vivre — joy of living. It's contagious and beautiful to be around.

The years are taking their toll and I have been preparing. Stashing away the memories. Storing them up like a squirrel with his acorns.

Cherishing every opportunity to love on her. Happy birthday, Mommom!

Even though I wrote about her recently, when I saw the prompt I felt compelled to share more. Thank you for your grace.

Linking with Lisa-Jo…
Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Measure of Success

"I wish I could get it right," lamented my ten year-old son as we drove his sister to piano lessons.

He had made a mistake in judgement, but it was hardly worth getting worked up about.

I chuckled to myself. I hear you God.

Over the last few days I had been lamenting. Different words, but same answer. Today my heart was groaning about it. And today, God decided to speak perspective to my heart — through my son and two different writers.
Because the culture we breathe and work in rushes against rest. It equates our worth with production and wealth and fame. The more we work toward those goals, the more society assigns us worth. (DeMuth "Everything"189)
Yes, this is what my heart has been wrestling. An idea that success, or even my worth, is somehow measured by how I compare to other people. The more I do, achieve, excel, the more value I have.

I am dissatisfied. I can always do more, be more. This way of thinking snowballs — into an exhausting competition, if you will, against the human race. I look around and see what everyone else is doing and feel a pressure to be more then I am.

And this thought process trickles down into how I parent. I find myself spiraling towards the pit as I listen to other parents brag about how great their kid is at this or that. I feel the pressure for my own kids to be more and do more. But when I slow down and watch my kids excelling at just being them, that self-imposed pressure makes me feel sick to my stomach.

How do you keep "parent-brag syndrome" from infecting you?

Lately, as I tire myself reaching for the unattainable, I hear another voice whispering.  Perhaps you measure success with the wrong ruler?
It's crucial to avoid comparison, and set your own yardstick for success. Your path is not going to look like anyone else's. (Rachelle Gardner, "Don't Feed Your Discontent")

I am fairly certain I will not discover the cure for cancer or do anything the world might find extraordinary. But if I stop using the giant ruler marked "everyone" and instead use the one assigned only to me, I find that I am pretty extraordinary!

Success, in my opinion, is merely your ability to accomplish something you've set out to achieve.

Wow, just getting dressed and out the door some mornings is success for me.

Viewing myself, my worth, through the lens of comparison has become a bad habit — but one I want to break. Slowly shifting my focus forces me to see things differently — perhaps how they were meant to be seen.

Already I feel freedom, relief, even peace. When successes are measured by an individual ruler, I see myself, my husband, my children for who they really are — who God made them to be. And I really like them!

My son's lament in the car today was a sweet reminder.

There is no one on this Earth who will ever get it "right" all the time. Perfect does not exist here. Set your ruler for doing the very best that you can and be content with that. Because that's truly all you can do — your best.

And that is the real definition of success.

Breaking habits with Ann at "A Holy Experience":


God chose "Fruitful" to be my #oneword365 for 2013. And I can't help but view this new perspective through the lens of that word. I believe God is helping me to define what being fruitful looks like and I see now that it can only be measured using my own ruler.

Linking here:

Monday, January 14, 2013

(in)RL 2013 conference: Exploring the Importance of Community Pt2

Sitting together in a cozy living room, sharing the burdens of our hearts. We meet twice a month to share time and conversation. Stepping into my friend's living room feels like a cleansing breath. Real life friendships — safe, supportive, encouraging. This is what community feels like.

It doesn't matter who you are or where you live, (In)courage wants you to experience a local, real community of your own.

On Friday, April 26th and Saturday, April 27th, (In)courage is hosting a free conference for women called (in)RL (as in the social media acronym "in real life").

This year's conference will explore what it takes to stay rooted in community when sometimes just walking away would be easier and more convenient. During this two-day web-conference, women will share stories of how they've chosen to stay through hard marriages, challenging parenting, and worthwhile friendships. And how choosing to stay has freed them more fully and unexpectedly than if they had left.

So what are you waiting for?

Registration opens today, January 14th. Invite your friends. Join a meet-up group in your area or host your own. On Friday night, April 26th, you'll join other (in)RL friends for a global webcast. And on Saturday, April 27th, you'll meet-up locally for a time of fellowship and fun, in addition to watching (in)RL webcasts together.

If you register today, January 14th, you will receive some special free gifts. If that's not enough, here's another trailer you might want to watch:

Friday, January 11, 2013

Plunging In

My Five Minute Friday on: Dive

It was a warm, July morning at the swim club. For several summers we took swimming lessons there. I was probably seven or eight years old and my group was practicing diving.

Since we were well past introductory diving, our instructor took us to the "diving pool" to practice diving off the small springboard. After several adequate attempts, the instructor allowed anyone who was interested to go off the high diving board.

I had always been curious about going off the high dive, so I decided to give it a try.

I remember feeling nervous as I climbed the long ladder. It was so high.

I'm not sure where I found the courage to leave the board, but this little seven year old dove. I stupidly, naively dove off — head first. I'm sure it wasn't a pretty sight.

I entered the water with a smack! I remember immediately feeling a sharp, stingy sensation on my face and arms from the belly flop my dive had become. I fought my way to the surface and cried my way to the pool's edge.

I am fairly certain I have not, in all my years since, gone off a high dive.

Choosing to dive off the high board that day felt like a mistake. I'm not sure how deeply that incident affected me, but it's certainly stayed with me all these years.

When I think of that day I am amazed that I even tried it. But like the dive requires, I plunged in, head first knowing success or failure, there was no going back.

And I hope that is the way I come at life. Willing to try, even though it may not turn out the way I imagined.

Linking up with Lisa-Jo…
Five Minute Friday

Thursday, January 10, 2013

(in)RL 2013: Exploring the Importance of Community Pt1

Several years ago, my husband and I went through some difficulties in our marriage. Although we were part of a small group of young married couples at the time, it was relatively new and we had never collectively shared any deep, heart stuff.

Authenticity is hard. But the pain of some struggles is difficult to hide and those closest to us knew something was wrong.

I hesitate to sugar coat our struggle by saying I'm glad it happened. But as in all things God guides, the act of journeying through it brought about some pretty wonderful things.

Beyond the work God did in our marriage, He used it to show us the power of community. Friends walked beside us, cried with us, and supported us through the most difficult of times. Our friendships remain strong today because of what we endured together — along with our commitment to continually cultivate community with each other.

But sometimes community is hard. Community can hurt. Hurt feelings, broken expectations can make you want to cut and run. Negative experiences with community in your past might make you hesitant to join in now. Or perhaps you crave community, but you're not sure where to find it, how to become part of one.

(In)courage is a website with a heart for women. They understand that women, like you and I, desire local, real life community and they want to help.

(In)courage is offering a tangible way for you to connect with other women, both locally and online. It involves a free girl's weekend away that doesn't require packing or plane tickets. Intrigued?

Check back this Monday, January 14th and I'll share the details.

In the meantime, I hope you'll watch this video:

Friday, January 4, 2013

When Opportunity Knocks

My Five Minute Friday on: Opportunity

I sat on my kid-crusty, green couch, toys strewn about the living room floor. My little girl, with chubby sweet cheeks and curls bouncing from the ends of her pigtails enjoying her morning playtime.

I searched, staring out my bay window for some answers. I knew the time was coming.

I was contemplating my life, when her needs would no longer dictate my days. When naps and Barney and sharing giggles over peanut butter sandwiches were finished.

What will I do with myself? How will I spend my time?

Innocent thoughts unraveling into demands of God.

When will you show me? What is my purpose? I want to know what I should do so I can make my plans.

He did not reveal much to me, of course. He seldom does. Seeds had been planted, but I didn't know that yet. As my mind searched for solid possibilities and my baby girl played with princesses, He had already started preparing me.

And time marched forward. And my sweet cheeked, pigtail wearing girl is now in second grade. With both child-blessings in school all day I have arrived in the life season I was pondering about on the couch that day.

I look back at that time and nearly laugh out loud to myself. Because God is more patient then I am. He waits to reveal what you need until you actually need it.

The vision I was casting for myself on the couch that day wasn't at all what really happened. But what really happened, was so much more then I could ever have imagined.

He will use you, when you are ready. When you have the time to commit to it. When you are no longer torn between being a toddler-Mom and a purpose-driven woman.

This is when opportunity knocks. When you are actually able to open the door and welcome opportunity in.

Linking today with Lisa-Jo…
Five Minute Friday

Thursday, January 3, 2013

One Word - One Year

I was early, so I pulled my white van into place behind the other vehicles in the school's "parent pick-up" line. And as I so often do, grabbed a book out of my bag to read. I'm almost finished Mary DeMuth's book, "Everything," which I think she wrote just for me (but that's a whole other blog post).

Earlier that day I began to notice blogger friends unveiling their "one word 365" for 2013, which intrigued me. I had never heard of this project before. My mind began to turn its wheels.

I wonder what my word for 2013 could be?

It had turned into a busy day, so I didn't give it much more thought — until I began to read Mary's words.

"Frederick William Robertson wrote, 'Human nature seems to need suffering to make it fit to be a blessing to the world.' When we suffer, we become effective here and bear fruit for the next life." (DeMuth, "Everything" 178).

And in an instant I knew my word. Bear fruit. Fruit. Fruitful.

I'm not entirely sure what God has planned for me this year. I like the many directions "fruitful" can take, beyond merely "producing good results," as the online dictionary states.

May "Fruitful 2013" be a reminder for me in all that I do, no matter what it is, that the fruit produced belongs to God (Leviticus 27:30).

And as I have struggled with trust and self-dependence throughout my life, I must remain in Him because "no branch can bear fruit by itself. (I) can't bear fruit unless (I) remain joined to Him" (John 15:4).

A special thanks to Melanie at Only A Breath for the special "one word" button.

Mary DeMuth's #PIC4YEAR
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