Saturday, December 29, 2012

Thoughts at the End of Day

Keep steady my steps according to your promise,
    and let no iniquity get dominion over me.

This interim week is always a little strange, wouldn't you agree? We spend the last half of November and the month of December looking forward to Christmas, some days running around like crazy, or baking till we collapse, or fitting crafts and cocoa and cards into an afternoon. Then Christmas comes, and goes, and we just kind of start breathing again. Whether we had unmet or fulfilled expectations, it matters no more, because the holiday is in the past now. And yet, there's another one coming, in just a couple of days. And with it, a new year, brimming with new plans and dreams and goals.

So...Christmas is over, and with it a slew of expectations, but the new year is coming with a whole new set of ideals. Have you ever been in a thunderstorm that quieted for a few minutes and then started up again, full force?

That's the feeling I get this week. I can let my hair down for a few days. I took the whole week to get caught up on my dishes and tidy the house (and it's still not done, truthfully). And everywhere, kids enjoy vacation, sometimes people take a break from work, families still travel, post-Christmas family get-togethers take place. But the world rests quietly for a minute or two. Stores feel like a beach after a hurricane. The leftover snow from a white Christmas has settled and grayed. The Christmas tree skirt lies wrinkled and empty below the tree...all presents are gone.

And I sit with my cup of chai and read blogs about New Year's traditions and wonder what holidays will be like when Charles is old enough to enjoy them (beyond eating the wrapping paper).

This is my thought for this week: Life is too short to do anything but rest and rejoice in the Lord.

Complaining because my ideals in the past year weren't met to the "T" or worrying because 2013 may not in every way live up to my expectations will only waste my time and energy. Time and energy that could be spend praising God and glorifying him by enjoying this life he has given me. I have such a blessed life. God blesses me every day in so many ways. I so dearly want to be to my family, and others around me, a living testimony to his goodness. A mouth that sings praise, not one that sing-songs complaints.

This verse from Psalm 119 has been the prayer of my heart this week:  

Keep steady my steps according to your promise,
    and let no iniquity get dominion over me.

I think I will let it be my prayer for 2013. I just want to keep moving steadily forward in the Lord, to continue to learn to walk in victory rather than being dominated by sin, and to keep my eyes on his promises.

I thank God he is allowing me to finish this year well in several personal goals. I look forward to walking with him in the coming year. He is good.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Some Favorite Shots of the Season

When you're a mom with a 9-month-old, snowy tramps with a camera are not really an option.  But that doesn't mean you can't find picturesque moments to capture within steps of your living room. :)

Below is Charlie's hand ornament. It's kind of a miracle that we got it so well, but here it is, in baked salt dough, painted and all.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fa-la-la-la-la! Tis the Season!

 I already posted pictures of our wonderful tree, but I thought I'd put up some shots of the rest of our Christmas decor. I made these little Japanese lanterns from my Better Homes and Gardens magazine. They were far more complicated and at first didn't look as cute as they did in the magazine, but I like them with my garland on the banister!

My kitchen lights don't usually go for more than a couple days without getting pulled down by my starting-to-crawl baby. But I love the way they brighten up the kitchen!

This month I have sworn off desserts until Christmas eve, so in order to still utilize my cute Christmas mugs and yet not be tempted to fill them with hot chocolate, I put them as a centerpiece on our dining table with candles. 

And our TV stand arrangement: Nate's Pier 1 Imports Christmas trees. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


There is a reason I fly to my computer when my baby goes down for his nap. It's the same reason I normally scour the cabinets and fridge for munchables. And the same reason I like to wear my yoga pants all day. Or turn the TV on in the afternoon when we are tired and waiting for Daddy to get home.

It's called a Refuge.

A safe place.

Where I can hide behind something else and not have to face anything I'd rather not. Like the counter full of dirty dishes, or my relationship with God, or laying aside myself to play with my baby for one more half hour of the day.

The Bible says that God, Yahweh Elohim, should be my Refuge. And indeed, he should be! He is so good, so satisfying, so awesome, so strong, so safe! So why would I ever choose a handful of chocolate chips, or Facebook, or a reality TV show over this mighty, incredible God?

It's simply because to find refuge in God is to turn my back on my flesh. In Christ I have new life, and my flesh has been crucified. But until I am glorified with Christ in heaven, my flesh will always rear its ugly, demanding head, and try to pull me back to its clutches. And it wants nothing to do with my Creator.

To find refuge in Yahweh is to leave self and past behind and move forward, joyfully confident that his grace will be sufficient for all he calls me to do and be today. He empowers me and gives me the courage to walk through my fears or laziness and bring him glory with my life. It's still a safe place, but not because I'm hiding from something else. Instead, it is safe because I am trusting in the One who keeps me secure no matter what I have to face.

Yahweh says, "Come, let's do the dishes, or talk about our relationship, or play with Charlie for just 30 minutes more." My flesh says, "No, thank you, I'd rather curl up on the couch."

Thing is, the freedom found in my Refuge in God makes me sing, whereas the bondage of my idolatrous Refuge makes me sleep.

So, today, do I choose a Refuge of dissatisfied comfort or a Refuge of courageous freedom?

I think I'll go grab my Bible and spend some time with the everlasting God.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Our First Real Tree

 This Christmas, our second since getting married, we are living in a house big enough for a full-sized Christmas tree. My husband teases me because I am all about traditions and experiences and family time (secretly he likes it...I know because he tells me so). And so, we decided to start a family tradition and cut down a real tree! Charlie loved riding on the trailer behind the tractor and sitting in the grass and watching his daddy saw down the tree. Our very own! 
Definitely an exciting tradition to begin.

 The tree fits perfectly in the corner of our living room.
Loving it! 


Charles is a fan of the tree as well. Eating it, that is. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Just Enough, Part II

Fighting a lie with a half-truth doesn't do much good. There is only one foot to stand on, and therefore, not much fighting power. It might help chase the lie away for a day or two, but it cannot strike its death blow.

Last night it struck me - hello! - that is what I've been doing for some time now. No wonder I keep struggling with this particular issue.

When the day drags on, and I am weary, slightly down, and feeling like I've failed, this lie nags me: You're not enough. You can't do enough, be enough. You'll never be enough.

I used to say, "Oh, yes, I am. I can. I'll be enough if it kills me." Not in my words so much as in my actions - I'd try harder, work more diligently on improving myself or the work of my hands. And often I would accomplish it. Then, as life got more challenging, becoming a wife and mom, running my own business from home, serving in the church, etc...I began to lose more and more battles to that lie by fighting with that weapon of Try-Harder (which is, in fact, another lie).

And then the Lord revealed to me that I actually can't be enough. I will never be enough to meet those impossible flesh-imposed standards. Even if I were to be perfect, I would not be satisfied. I need to find my satisfaction in God.

So, I began letting go. Releasing those standards. Raising the white flag and just stopped trying harder. It freed me and I began to live again.

But lately, I've been discouraged, and the lie is back: You're not enough. You can't do enough, be enough. You'll never be enough."

This time I haven't slipped back to trying harder. However, I still hadn't grasped the whole truth. Instead, I've been telling that lie, "I know I'm not enough. I won't ever be perfect. So quit trying to make me think I have to be." It helps for a little while, but it's more like a win by resignation (you know when you played checkers as a  kid and your little brother gave up because you wouldn't move your checkers where he could jump them? Or maybe that was just my brother...). I still felt a bit sad and discouraged and not like the victorious woman I am in Christ.

Until last night I realized this: No, I'm not enough for that impossible standard of perfection. But I am just enough for what God wants of me.

I am right where he wants me. It's true - I honestly can't do anything in my own strength. But that doesn't mean I don't have strength! It is God who equips me with strength (Psalm 18:32)! By his grace, I am the wife my husband needs, the mother my son needs, and the servant the church needs. Me - just as I am - I am accepted by God, and my family, and my church. God uses me as he will and makes me sufficient to obey his call.

Paul wrote the Corinthian church, "Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant..." (2 Cor. 3:5-6). No, we are not sufficient, but God has made us competent! He suffices us and those that he reaches through us.

What blessed relief. It takes away the guilt when I feel like a failure. I am covered in the blood of Jesus and the grace and strength of the all-powerful God equips me to live each day. He makes me competent.

So I rest in him.

Be gone, lies. I may not be enough. But my God is...and he has me just where he wants me. It is enough.

Friday, November 23, 2012

An Extra Reason to be Thankful...

This story begins earlier this week, when I asked God to provide more formula for Charlie. It is far from cheap and last month he provided through a friend who had several cans to give us, so I asked him to provide again. I was eager to see how he would answer. 

Last night I decided to brave the cold and crowds and go "Black Friday" shopping for the first time in my life. Well, not the first time, but the first time was in my KS hometown of 8000 people, so...that was no big deal. I'm not a big shopping lover, so I'm not sure why I thought it wouldn't be a big deal, but my logic was that the store I went to was not Wal-mart, Target, etc, so it wouldn't be as busy.


I spent 5 minutes dizzy and rather stunned before I figured out what was going on after we all pushed through the doors at 9 pm on Thursday. I was able to find the deals I was shopping for, as well as a few other things, and then I decided to run back and check the baby section, well, because, that's what a mommy of a baby does.

Then, I saw a small clearance rack. On it sat 5 containers of Similac formula for $8.79 each, marked down from $21.99. Wow. It had nothing to do with Black Friday but I know it was meant for me.

I guess going out in the crowd was worth it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Free to Walk in Grace

At the end of a long day, in which I feel like I've failed multiple times, the temptation to wallow in discouragement overwhelms me. I'm tired, and I want to do better - to be more. It's a far cry from where I began this morning with a wonderful discovery about God's grace vs. my works.

And yet it's not.

I'll be honest. Today I rolled out of bed feeling defeated. We had gone to bed tired and unready to begin another work week. I've been discouraged about my weight and eating/exercise habits. When I got up with Charles to feed him and play with him for the first half hour of our day, I started psyching myself up to work harder to have self-control in my eating and exercise. Mentally, I was considering how I needed to "learn" to have more self-control.

Then, I had this revelation: Is self-control something you actually learn to do, or work at, or as a fruit of the Spirit, is it something you receive simply by choosing to walk in the Spirit? Paul wrote to the church in Galatia, who couldn't stop sinking back into legalism, the "gotta-do-this-and-that-to-please-God" mentality, "Walk in the Spirit and you WILL NOT gratify the desires of the flesh."

For some reason I think I have always read this "Walk in the Spirit and do not gratify the desires of the flesh." But to see it that way is to totally miss the point! It's to take a fact and change it into a command. Walking in the Spirit keeps me from gratifying the desires of my flesh.

As a follower of Christ, I don't trade in one set of works for another. I don't trade in my please-God-for-salvation works in for become-more-like-Jesus works. Instead, being a Christian means having a beautiful, close relationship with an incredible God who transforms me to be like his Son, Jesus.

After Paul wrote the sentence above in Galatians, he mentioned the fruit of the Spirit in a list: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control. In my first vacation Bible school experience, we focused on this list and how God wants us to do these things. If you peruse the Christian bookshelf you will find scads of books on how to follow this list to be a better Christian - more like the Spirit. Of course, you do it with his help, but you're still the one DOING it.

But even if I somehow manage to enact these in my life, the results are the fruit of MY hands, not the fruit of the holy, omnipotent Spirit of God. Truthfully, though, no matter how hard I try, I fail miserably when I try to show love, to have joy or peace, to be patient, to control myself, etc, in my own strength, working hard to be like Jesus.

As it turns out, however, what I really need to be working at is growing closer to the Lord - deepening my relationship with him by living with an open heart to his leading, communicating often and sincerely with him, confessing my sins and failures and receiving his grace daily (rather than trying to work my way out of the guilt I feel over them!) and getting to know him better through his word.

Paul continued in Galatians, "If we live by the Spirit [which we do as Christ-followers - the Spirit is our source of new life in Christ], let us also walk by the Spirit."

What I don't need to do is learn how to have more self-control, or how to be more joyful or peace-filled, etc, but rather learn how to walk hand-in-hand with the Holy Spirit of God. Then, HE will produce this fruit in my life and I will be more like Jesus.

Back to how I felt this evening...weary and wanting to be better at this thing called life than I am. God gives me grace every day, because he doesn't expect me to actually be like Jesus on my own. No - it is his grace that gives me forgiveness for salvation, and it is his grace that frees me from the need to perform well as a Christian.

What freedom! I don't have to "try harder" to be good. No. I just need to give myself the same grace God gives me, and learn to trust him more to work in me and produce the fruit he wants to see in my life - fruit that brings him glory because he is the one who produces it!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Our Romantic Retreat (A Bedroom Renovation Project)

Nate and I have finished redecorating our bedroom! I absolutely love the finished project. My goal was to change our rather blah tan room into a cozy, romantic retreat. And of course, on a budget! Our landlady paid half of the paint price, so that helped a lot. But, after selling/consigning some things and then shopping consignment and garage sales, I was able to gather all I needed to put together the room. I'm not sure it's HGTV worthy, but it works for us. The blue on the walls definitely ups the cozy factor and there are scads of candleholders around the room now, too. We enjoyed painting together, and I loved doing it all.

Before (like, waaay before...when we first moved in back in March):

And now, AFTER!

 The plan for my dresser is to get a jewelry stand and switch my jewelry from my ancient jewelry box to some glass dishes and stands on the white tray I redid. So my dresser is not completely finished.

I wanted to re-purpose some shutters or a fence or door or something rustic for our headboard, to use as a focal point in the room. However, I opted for a less expensive, more available choice of a headboard and shelves and accessories I found at consignment stores.

Flowers from my wonderful hubby. They are stunning against this gray-blue, aren't they?

Hubby's dresser. A little mix of the old and new.

Our reno was altogether right under $100 for the whole bedroom and all the small accessories - candle holders, mirrors, baskets, curtains, paint, etc.

Light up those candles and it's just cozy and lovely in the evening. The perfect retreat.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pumpkin Cranberry Deliciousness Bread

Pumpkin Cranberry Deliciousness Bread

1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup coconut oil
2/3 cup honey
2 cups pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1/2 cup hot water
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup oat flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup flaxseed flour
2 Tbsp. wheat germ
1 cup chopped cranberries

Cream butter, oil and honey together, scraping bowl. Add pumpkin and eggs, beating until smooth. Dissolve soda and powder in water, then stir into mixture. Add salt and spices and vanilla. Then mix in flour one cup at a time. Stir in cranberries. Pour into greased loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

What I absolutely loved about this recipe was creating the ingredients myself. I pulled out my blender and ground up the oats and the flax into their flours, and chopped the cranberries as well that way. The original recipe called for 2 2/3 cups of white sugar, 2/3 cup shortening, and 3 1/3 cup white flour. What triumph to convert a family favorite recipe into this still-scrumptious-but-much-healthier alternative. It tastes sweet and nutty and hearty.

So thankful this morning for small blessings and joys, like the ability to cook with good ingredients, and a nice long nap for baby, and the reminder that God is enough to satisfy my heart. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My Boy

Recently I've been thinking about the challenge and blessing of being the mother of a little boy. Till recently, in my mind, he's just been a baby...but all too quickly he has become a little boy baby and soon the baby will have to drop from his title altogether (although not very soon, thankfully!). 

It fascinates me how, although he is only 7 1/2 months old, you can already see his little masculine side coming out.

He's tough - he can topple over from his sitting position and smack his head on the floor and he'll just look up and you and blink a few times, confused, but not disturbed at all.

He loves a challenge - he owns a giant toddler plastic three-wheeled motorcycle that is his absolute favorite. He likes to lie beside it and pull on the pedal, eat the wheel...whatever he can do to own that bike, he tries. He like figuring out his toys, and reaching for one thing after another, without caring about it once he's mastered the challenge of grabbing it.

He's destructive - knocking down block towers, dumping out bags of toys, etc, are already his favorite things to do. I envision explosions and bonfires in his future.

He loves adventure - his daddy does a human roller coaster with him that involves swinging upside down and around. He has come to equate daddy with wild, crazy can tell in his eyes when Nate holds him that he expects to be dropped upside down!

I began to realize the vast male-female differences before Nate and I started dating, and once we were married they were magnified again. However, now they are written in the sky for me to see! Mommies are not much like their little boys!  Someone (a man) recently told us, "Girls are so much easier to raise than boys!" It made me realize that this is because our society is so feminized. We don't live in a man-friendly culture. Men aren't encouraged to be men...strong, valiant, adventurous. So we try to fit our boys into a girlified boy mold, and the result is that they go crazy. It's hard to train boys to be boys in a culture that wants them to be nice, neat cultured men when they are born with a wild heart's desire to be a cowboy or a soldier or a pirate.

Teaching in kid's church has also opened my eyes to this. Boys need freedom - to have fun, to be crazy, to face a challenge. They need to know that they are respected, even when they are little boys. What a challenge as a woman and a mom!

My heart's desire is to be a mom who lets her son be a boy, yet trains him to behave appropriately and responsibly, to help Charles chase his dreams and tackle challenges and learn to depend on God in the process. It's amazing to see my husband thrill to have a son to teach these things to, and I want to support that with my whole heart. What a privilege I have been given, to be the wife of one godly man and the mom of his son, two fun-loving, affectionate, adventurous men!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Just Enough

Ever lived in one of "those" seasons...where every penny is counted twice before being spent and you breathe a sigh of relief when the first of the month rolls in and the bills are all paid, and where you feel that pinch of "I'd love to go buy this or that but I'd probably better wait until next month"? It's not a comfortable place for an American to be. We like our buffer zone - that extra spending money in the bank or on the credit card. Often our stuff either defines us or at least pleases us to the point of complacency.

I've been thinking a lot about stuff lately. Craigslist and are my two new favorite websites. We made an easy $30 this month by listing books we picked up at garage or book sales. I sold an ugly vase for $12 and used clothes at a consignment store for another $11. Eagerly, I've been scouring our house mentally. Can I get rid of that? Do I have more of those I can spare for a few extra dollars? Charlie is growing and moving and playing with so many toys and I have to admit I'm already thinking, "Are there any toys we could get rid of?" (Does that make me a terrible mom?) :) I know, I'm a little weird...

Another thing I've been doing is updating my wardrobe, by ruthlessly cleaning out my closet and taking things to consignment stores and turning around and shopping from those stores to spruce up my fall/winter wardrobe. I love buying lightly used clothes for good prices, but sometimes I do think, "What would it be like to just go on a Kohl's shopping spree without worrying about how much you're spending?" Then you can start to compare yourself with others and their stuff. It's easy to start feeling like you don't have enough. Like your options in the closet or pantry are limited.

But tonight, as I was hanging up our laundry, it struck me how wonderful it is to have enough. My husband's jeans all lined up nicely...our shirts hanging all color coordinated (per Nate's preference...), jackets, hoodies, scarves, shoes...perhaps we don't have enough to fill one of those massive walk-in closest on House Hunters on HGTV but it is enough! We in the West have this mindset that we always need more, and that we have the liberty to use our money to always get more for ourselves. How refreshing it is to let it sink in - God has provided all I need and will continue to do so, always. It may not be all I want, but it will be enough.

Our country enters a season of thankfulness this month, with Thanksgiving approaching. Closely on its heels comes the worst surge of materialism, starting with Black Friday, opening the Christmas shopping season. Gifts are a wonderfully fun part of Christmas, no doubt. But is my heart truly thankful, or am I discontent deep down, wanting more, more, MORE? And perhaps, going a step farther, I might ask, would I be willing to start seeking to live with LESS, to declutter my life even further?

Starting today I resolve to be thankful for the enough that God has given me. And, I resolve to look for every way to give to others who may not have that enough with which I am blessed.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Infestation of Stress

Mommy and daddy and baby. We've been suffering with a lingering cough/cold combo that has left Nate without a voice (very difficult as both his jobs require his vocal chords...customer service and leading worship!) and stressed both of us out. Charlie has been crabby and needy and by late this afternoon, all of us were tired, and crabby.

Great timing to start a project like painting the bedroom, wouldn't you say? We didn't put a lot of strategy into it, but started anyway. Nothing went right. I had to go back to the hardware to buy a paintbrush. We spilled paint. Various other mishaps. We were tense. Charles was fussing. What was wrong?!

Humbly, we went before the Lord together and asked him to heal us and to change our hearts and attitudes. Nate put on a playlist of our favorite songs, and we got back to work. Within a short time the tension had dissipated, but I was most fascinated by our son. Whining and squirming that had carried on all afternoon gave way to happy noises and kicking feet. His tension had given way to peace as well.

It's amazing how God works through the hearts of parents to create a safe place for little ones. When we were in unity, and trusting the Lord, our 7-month-old baby was at peace after a day of stress.

Oh, Lord, may my heart always be at peace in You so that our home might be a haven for our family and for anyone else who may enter here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Living TODAY

I've had two very similar conversations with two good friends of mine lately. They both resulted in this message to my heart:

Live in the present. Don't be owned by the past or afraid of the future. Just enjoy the now.

I truly think this is a key to peace in our lives. God carried us through the past and has already triumphed in the future; therefore, why would he not satisfy and protect us today? Trusting Jesus brings peace to my soul and quiet joy to my days.

But what does this look like in Real Life? Concepts are very good, but they do nothing to help unless they become changes in the dailiness of our lives!

For me, today, it looks like this.

* Having a to-do list but not worrying if the only thing on it that gets done is "Time with God"

* Picking up something creative and having fun with it rather than worrying about the stack of dishes in the kitchen

* Taking, yes, even an hour to play with my baby who is learning to sit up but needs close supervision so he doesn't face plant and smash his little nose

* Eagerly awaiting my husband's return from work this afternoon and planning how to make it special

* Enjoying what I have in my closet and not wishing I could go shopping for more

* Deciding that even though there's the possibility we might move in 4 months, downsizing, I'm still going to paint our bedroom and redecorate it, so we can enjoy it for those 4 months

* Savoring each moment, whether I'm cooking pumpkin, feeding Charlie, running to the bank and post office, fixing supper for Nate, or reading a book - worshiping God in my momentary tasks and relishing the joy he brings.

Monday, October 22, 2012


Scrubbing dishes,
Singing softly,
I stop.
Coos and squeals come wafting down
The stairs.

Wiping my hands,
Slipping to the stairs,
I creep.
Little feet are banging on
The crib bars.

Looking around the door
Peeking in my head
I smile.
Socks are off, blanket pulled up on
His tummy.

Stepping in the room,
Calling out his name,
He grins.
Kicking eagerly, he squeals, reaching up
His hands.

Picking up my boy,
Kissing his sweet cheek,
We laugh.
Grabbing my hair, into my neck he burrows
His little face.

Forgetting all my housework,
Ignoring my to-do list,
We snuggle.
Rocking in our chair, we love
Mommy-Baby time.

- Elizabeth Cravillion

Sunday, October 21, 2012


I am resolved to be a woman who glorifies God, whose life reflects Jesus Christ and not just herself as "a good person."

I am resolved to walk by faith and rest in God's strength and wisdom each moment of my day, rather than letting my own plans overtake my mind and heart.

I am resolved to set goals only as a means to an end; that end must be God's glory, and not the satisfaction of feeling that "I" accomplished anything in which I can find my self-worth. 

I am resolved to take a breath and move forward when I am flustered rather than letting myself take its natural course of tensing up and losing my cool.

I am resolved to savor each moment of the day with husband and son - to take time to giggle with my baby and hold him as he eats, to hold my husband, and pray for him as he works - and not wish the days away with discontent in pursuit of the "if-onlys."

I am resolved to be thankful, with no "buts."

I am resolved to exercise my creativity and pursue things I enjoy rather than continuously getting caught up in work alone, to write, to sew, to take pictures, to paint and build. 

I am resolved to spend more time "being" than "doing."

I am resolved to take better care of my own body and mind and soul so that I can be refreshed and prepared to take better care of my family and loved ones.

I am resolved to learn how to better share Christ with others, not only in my loving actions but in spoken words, revealing to them the glories of a peace-filled life of following a precious Shepherd.

I am resolved to live freely, with laughter, and joy, to do fun things, to take adventures, to foster new relationships and stir up current ones, to be a person who reflects the bright, joyous side of my God. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Why Pity Isn't Enough

There is a person I pity. Their life has been hard and is a miserable existence even still. They have very little family and are at odds with even those they have. They are lonely, unhappy, and unfulfilled. They are needy, selfish and hard to love.

Then there is a family I pity. They are not well off at all financially. They struggle. They are a little rag tag and just a bit non-pristinely crazy. I actually like them quite a bit. But I do feel sorry for them.

Then, I find myself in a conversation with this first person I pity. They are talking about this family like they are "white trash," in a sense. Disdain. "Do you know what they did/what they are like?" kind of attitude. It takes all I have to bite my tongue. To smile and nod and offer just the gentlest remark in their defense.

Inside I am raging. Who are YOU to look down on these precious souls? Do you have any idea how hard it is to reach out to YOU? What makes you any better than them? Just because you live at the top of the hill and not at the bottom? Inside I shake. My heart breaks. I want to go out and beat down the world in defense of this family.

I am a rather vehement advocate for the underdog - the unloved and misunderstood.

But I am afraid that stems from an intense loyalty and extreme sense of justice.

And that is why pity will never cut it.

It's why Jesus never said, "Pity one another" or "Feel sorry for one another and let that be your motivation for helping out."

It has to be love.

When this incident occurred, I asked my husband, "Did Jesus love the Pharisees?" When I read the Gospels, I hate the Pharisees. Despicable ones. Self-righteous idiots. Jesus was incredibly hard on the Pharisees. He hated their sin - the way they led others astray. But, God is love. Jesus died for the Pharisees as much as he died for the tax collectors and prostitutes. He forgave them and gave them new life when they believed (think Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethea). He did love those cold, heartless, unloveable snobs. He didn't just pity them.

Pity didn't carry Jesus to the cross. It was his love for us and his determination to do the Father's will.

Pity is a rotten motivator, because it's just a feeling. Love is sacrifice, and that's why it will always trump pity.

Love chooses to love the unlovely. Love forgives hurts and betrayal. Love accepts people for who they are but helps them to grow into something beyond that. Love doesn't pick and choose who to care for. It reaches out to everyone, regardless of their range on the likeability scale.

It is God's will that I love others, no matter how they treat other people I love. And knowing that should help motivate me to lay down my life for ALL of those people God has brought across my path.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Saving or Splurging (and why neither really matters)

That moment when your little boy snuggles up against your shoulder with his little fingers wrapped around your shirt collar.

Opening your paycheck and relishing the blessing of being able to pay your bills for the coming month. 

Dipping your spoon into a bowl of freshly frozen, pure, low-fat ice cream straight from the ice cream maker.

Splurging on that book on Amazon that you've been hankering after for a good 6months.

Fixing grilled pork chops and a salad of fresh greens for a healthy supper.

Finding an amazing deal on a bunch of baby clothes at a garage sale.

What on earth do these things have to do with each other?

"Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past." (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20)

I frustrate myself to no end with my expertise in stressing myself out. Being a woman, let alone a wife, let alone a mom, let alone a businesswoman, let alone a friend, let alone [you fill in the blank], can overwhelm the strongest, most invincible person! Add hormones, trials, sleepless nights, unexpected "surprises" and you've got the perfect recipe for an overwhelmed heap of exhaustion instead of a bright, radiant woman.

As I've discovered, rubbing shoulders with new mom friends or even old friends who I can now connect with as a mom, there are different things we pride ourselves in, which in turn can be the very things we stress ourselves out over. For instance, I am very frugal and very health-conscious. Great things, right? But they turn around and bite me all too often. If I discover I paid more than I could have for something, or we slack off just a bit in our healthy eating, my heart unsettles itself and I begin to worry.

Then again, we all think that the choices we are making are the best. Perhaps they are funneled through a frugal mindset: whatever is cheapest is best. Or a healthy mindset: even if it costs extra we will do this because it is safest for our family. Or a family-first mindset: the feelings and comfort of every family member come before anything else. Or whatever else shades the lenses of your life-glasses.

But what about the incredibly health-conscious woman who is diagnosed with cancer? Or the very frugal family who still can't manage to pay off their loans? Or the family-centered home unit with a child who rebels as a teenager?

There is no explanation for so many things in life. It's so easy to put money first, or safety, or pleasure, or ministry, or family, or whatever. And when those things betray or disappoint us, we crumble.

This is where the Preacher's wisdom comes in: it is GOOD to receive what God stretches out for us, and to accept it, and to enjoy it. This attitude in itself is a gift from God! Simply put, there is no need for me to stress out. God offers a stress-free life attitude for me and all He asks is that I accept it.

The most important thing in life is fearing God.

That life is a life of trust. Relaxing in His arms and the guiding hand of His presence. That means enjoying what I am doing now, whatever that may entail - working to pay the bills or relaxing with my family, saving pennies on groceries or splurging on new running shoes for myself and my husband, eating spinach or eating brownies, cleaning the house or watching a movie in it, serving my husband and son or just enjoying their company.

"God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past."

Life is good. Enjoy it!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Pictures of a Housewife/mom's Life

On a weekday, you can find Charlie and I in the bedroom, folding clothes, cleaning up, etc. He loves entertaining himself with toys. He's a Toy Man! I'll have to post a picture of him with his monkey. It's his favorite. He sticks his tongue out like Mom always did when she was little does.

Today when we got back from the Farmer's Market, he was so hot and sweaty that I laid him on our bed to nap (air conditioner in there!). When I went up to check on him, this is what I found. Can you guess where the baby is supposed to be? Pillows don't stop my screaming baby. I declare he doesn't have a clue what he's doing when he cries...scooting around the bed or floor.

And here's some of the lovely produce I bought. I ended up running back downtown once Nate got home from work. The tomatoes were $1 a pound...steal! And I found zucchini for $0.50 each, so I got a bunch to put up in the freezer. I should have bought far more tomatoes but I still have trouble buying a lot of something, even if it's a steal. How do you remind your too-frugal self that it's okay to spend more money now to save it later? :)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Mommy Lessons

If you have read Gary Smalley and John Trent's book called "The Treasure Tree," or have just heard in general about the "animal" personality types, then you know what it means to be a "Lion." That is me. Or you could call me "Choleric." Or break it down Myers-Briggs style and classify me as ESFJ. I am extroverted and Type A to the max. I take the lead and forge ahead. I'm responsible and full of initiative. I get things done. I take the vision of others and put feet to it. I am incredibly practical and have often run over the feelings of others to accomplish goals. There's another side to my personality as well, and that is the social "Otter" or "Sanguine" side, but this is not about that. God did a lot of smoothing out on that side of me predominantly before I was married.

 But this is definitely half of me. I'm all there, always there, and efficiently there. I used to think about those sensitive types, "Why don't they just get over it?" (For real, I did.) I mean, moodiness was illogical and useless. Efficiency and practicality, not mercy and beauty, mattered most.

 But once upon a time, or several (maybe several hundred) times, I asked God to make me like Jesus, no matter what it took, which is a silly prayer unless you don't mind being effectively broken all to pieces and then gently recreated.

 And so, the Lord decided to make me a mother. Being who I am, I "knew" that I would be a good mom. I'm the person who you can always count on to get everything done, right? I was going to be an awesome mom. A better-than-soccer mom. But I didn't count on pregnancy making me so sick. Or taking so long to recover from delivery. Or not being able to discern why my baby was crying. Or a baby whose gassy tummy made him inconsolable. Or God laying a new business in my lap 6 weeks before my son was born. Or postpartum hormones attacking my body like a cloud of doom. None of that was supposed to happen. But God planned it just perfectly.

 Lying on my back for the first 6 months of pregnancy taught me very effectively that my identity is NOT in what I accomplish, and that God doesn't expect mile-long to-do lists accomplished, but rather simple obedience to what he calls you to do, even if that means lying in bed.

 Taking so long to recover from delivery taught me to slow down and enjoy my little man from the very beginning. I had time to just sit or lie with him and couldn't rush to do the dishes because my body couldn't do it. It reminded me to savor every moment and not wish for the next stage as I had spent so much of my life doing.

 Not understanding Charles's cries taught me to stop stressing about fixing him and worrying about making him happy. If we weren't on schedule in my time frame, why did it matter? I learned to let go of my agenda and love my baby with mercy, meeting his needs rather than trying to plaster a schedule onto them.

 Dealing with his gassiness taught me patience. The first time I got angry with him really hurt my husband and it sunk in how sinful and selfish it was to want my sleep or my quiet evenings over consoling my poor baby. I started letting go of agitation and acceptance began slipping into its place.

 Working my business has taught me service like almost nothing on earth ever has. I'm serving my husband and my son while building this business. I'm serving others by introducing them to this amazing company and the benefits it has to offer. If my mindset changes from service to business I worry and fear and become overwhelmed. But when I trust, and humble myself before the Lord, He shows me exactly which steps to take and he blesses each act of obedience. And instead of accomplishing the maximum work possible, I'm making the small amount of work I'm doing an act of worship and obedience.

 And suffering from postpartum depression has taught me dependence. God's truth is the only thing holding me up most days. And in order to do anything of worth, I must ask him for his direction and follow where he leads. He leads me through. This is one Lion who is becoming more like Jesus, just by becoming a mom. Who knew?