My 2018 word has been confirmed as EMBRACE. This is an addition or a morph of the last two years' themes, Smart Not Harder and Simplify.
Life is made up of seasons. There are periods of planting, growth, pruning and rest. And yes the cycles repeat, but do we Embrace the one we are in?
Our faith is like onion layers, learning who God is and who He created us to be. This overlaps with the seasons, because the urge to do different things at different times may seem completely opposite from the last season.
My current season has my heart filled with whispers of the Spirit reaffirming my identity in Him. I sense something coming, but not sure what it is. It is almost like He is trying to explain a painting to me so I can trust and appreciate the depth and beauty of His work in an even greater way before I lose focus. Cause let's be honest, I lose focus quickly.
I love the tapestry analogy of how God sees the completed side and we only view the mess underneath. His sovereignty allows me some peace despite the unknowns, maybe not always complete peace. I know He holds me because over the years He has been faithful. He hasn't always done as I wished, but He has walked me through.
The world spins faster and faster! Doesn't it make you lose focus? I feel the need to drop what I am doing and either start running or throw out an anchor and dig in my heels to stop completely in defiance of this mass brainwashing. Who can keep up this kind of pace?! Have you ever felt the need to just check out for a day? I have! When everyone seems to be doing and trying everything, I feel like I'm being passed on all sides.
I NEED to embrace the process rather than rush to completion. There is such satisfaction in accomplishment or checking a box complete though! I feel like my mantra to walk humbly with God needs to be tattooed on my forehead so I don't feel like I'm being left behind. I know life is a marathon and that means moving at a snail's pace is still moving. I don't need to exhaust myself or feel ashamed for pacing myself, especially when I would be dragging my kids behind me. The more I see the trend word HUSTLE the more I want to scream PACE!
How much joy people are missing out on in their hustle? How many small miracles are overlooked because we are in such a hurry to get to the big ones? We tell kids to enjoy childhood because life passes in a flash. Maybe we should listen to our own advice; do as I do not as I say. You don't want to get to the end and realize you missed seeing the best parts in your hurry.
My season may look different than yours and thank goodness! We need variety in this world. Not everyone can rest or prune at the same time. I need to be glad that there are ambitious people out there even if I'm not called to be one of them right now. There is no new, best thing that works for everyone, so I just need to be okay with what works for me right now. I want to encourage you to be okay with what God is calling you to, in this season. So, if He is saying hustle, then by all means hustle!
The quieting of my own life has allowed room for God to show Himself to me. Awe is natural when we see huge miracles, but God is doing so much more than we are aware of. I want to embrace these everyday miracles and dwell in gratitude. The fact that the God of the universe TAKES TIME to orchestrate every detail of my life is - WOW! So, I want to be sure to TAKE TIME to thank Him!
God will meet every need and a lot of our wants too; He is a good father! Recently, I prayed for a bag of clothes because I hate to shop. He has done this for me in the past so I had faith that He could do it again. Spending money makes me uncomfortable and I prefer trying things on in the comfort of my own home. I don't like to return things either so online shopping isn't the best place for me. Less than a week later, I had BAGS of clothes from two different people! (Greater than we expect or imagine.) I got a whole new wardrobe 4 FREE! When I was done I had an even bigger bag of clothes I was able to pass on from my own closet to bless another person. I love recycling - Awesome!
He is a God of specifics. He hears those little prayers for a close parking spot because I need to be in and out quick with three kids. He knows my secret wishes for microscopes and globes for our homeschooling adventures which show up on my doorstep. Through friends and family, He sends new bikes for my children, theater tickets, zoo passes and so much more. Today, He even planned a spontaneous opportunity at the beach where we enjoyed learning hands-on physics and aerodynamics from one of the top kite flyers in the world! How cool is that?!
I don't know where you are in life, but I hope you will join me in taking time to embrace whatever season you are in. Need something? Ask. Want something? Ask. God has things to teach us, about Him, and about ourselves, so take time to connect with Him in this moment.
Recently, when I was on a flight I heard that the lady seated beside me had an accent. She opened the window to reveal the de-icing process we were waiting on. She started explaining (very scientifically) what they were de-icing the plane with. She had recognized the smell coming in through the air conditioning vents. Through small talk, she confirmed that she was, in fact, a scientist from Russia. I shared how I had lived in Moscow when I was a child and we swapped a phrase or two in Russian when she asked if I spoke the language. Upon hearing that my parents were missionaries, she asked me bluntly whether I had ever thought about becoming a missionary myself.
This made me pause.
Surprisingly, I can't recall being asked this. I have been asked whether I enjoyed my childhood, whether I liked languages and travel etc, but I can't recall ever being asked if I would want the same vocation as my parents. I answered by explaining that my husband was a Christian counselor and that we loved to travel but we had our mission field right here in our hometown.
Her question started an inner dialogue with God that continues on.
My parents have modeled the ebb and flow of seasons. We did have a season of GOing as missionaries throughout my childhood. They still go on short-term trips here and there as the Spirit leads them. They continue to take us children and now our spouses too because they believe in widening your culture and viewpoint. I am very grateful for this! Now they have a season of being missionaries right here in their own country and community. All throughout their deputation, they shared how everyone is a missionary and how whether your mission field is across the street or the world mattered little. They believe in being a friend before sharing their friend Jesus.
My Bible reading keeps bringing me back to the book of Acts. The community there in the first group of believers was one of doing life together. I feel strongly that we are slowly losing the sense of community that we are meant to live in. Your circle may overlap mine, but maybe for only a season. God has been good in allowing me to reconnect with a person every now and again who was in my circle for a while, but then He called away.
Friends are friends forever if the Lord is the Lord of them! (Michael W. Smith)
To be honest, the idea of going with some organization that has control or requirements gives me pause. I am more comfortable with the concept of tent-making missionaries. I like the freedom to follow the Spirit without feeling the need to explain or get approval before moving. I understand those mission organizations are there to protect how funds are used, so they aren't mismanaged, but I don't want the Spirit of God to be stifled or slowed by dogmatic protocol. Satan loves to use red tape and I would rather remove that option. If I can do God's work with my own funds, then I am free to do it as He requests.
The faith of George Muller is still the most uncomfortable, but attractive to me. I want to watch God move through his people. I love the verse in Matthew - But when you do merciful deeds, don't let. your left hand know what your right hand does, I don't want the vocation of missionary. I just want to watch God move! That is rewarding enough.
So, the answer is...
I am a missionary, just a secret one -
♫ cue the James Bond music ♫
right where God has planted me for this season and so are you!
There is such a negative connotation with the words losing, failing and giving up. When I woke this morning my mind was filled with these three concepts not because I’m depressed and wanting to give up on life, but because I want to retrain my mind.
When I think of the word ‘lose’ I picture a race being lost or searching for a misplaced item. When I think of failing my mind goes to tests and trying new things. Giving up is the phrase often used for defeat, but this isn’t always the case.
If we look at the context, it can all change. Are we focusing on the negative or what comes with it?
Losing your mind is a bad thing, but losing excess weight is a good thing. What about losing ourselves in a good book or another activity we love?
I know God is trying to change the way I view failure and success.
Failure is not the opposite of success. I actually hate the word success because I feel its pursuit can steal the joy of the journey. One person’s view of success can be very different from another’s. Failing forward is progress. Failing shows attempt. And where does contentment fall in the process? Dream big, but don't forget to be thankful for here and now because it is all you have.
Giving up is another one that I laugh at. Giving up sounds so bad until you tack on what you are giving up. Giving up sugar? Wow! Giving up worry? Yes! Giving up control? By surrendering you may actually gain freedom and peace.
Maybe I am just a die-hard optimist, but once again my perspective is my choice. It doesn’t matter how someone else views it. How I choose to perceive and think on a topic can make or break my day, joy and ultimately my life. My responsibility is to keep my heart attentive to the Lord’s direction and enjoy life’s ups and downs.
I am struggling with how things keep changing! Maybe its because I am getting older and I can remember what came before all these advancements. Technology has revved up the speed and expectations of life. Being privy to everyone's day has also upped the comparison factor.
I love getting the newest model or update, but its hard to keep up both money-wise and time-wise. Its harder to feel content when we are bombarded by the message that - New is better!
Newer doesn't mean better necessarily! Marketers are good at pressuring and convincing us that this is true. Their voice is loud but contrary to reality. Reality is that we are often taking one step forward and three backward. A little adjustment can fix one problem and send four others spinning out of control. Why are we in such a hurry to do or accomplish more?
Why change something if it is working? What happened to being content?
Something isn't an improvement just because it is new!
Don't get me wrong. I am thankful for a lot of the advancements that have come in the last two decades or so. It is such a fast paced world! I find myself rebelling. The faster life goes the more I am looking to step out of the race. Life isn't a sprint people! Every year brings new inventions and sometimes that makes life easier, but it also feels like I am trading my peace for productivity.
Do I bow down to a Sovereign God or the god of productivity? What is my motivation?
Now, I find myself asking myself questions. Why are spouses wishing each other a Happy Birthday on social media? Will they not be seeing them in person? Can they not call them? Is this message for their spouse or for the rest of the world? Hey, I don't judge; I find myself copying this ridiculous trend! It's just a thought that runs through my mind...
I cringe when I see someone post their stance on something because I know how many times my stance has changed on a subject once I learned a little more information, love or grace. I feel bad knowing that post is out there for everyone to see FOREVER! How many posts will I regret? Sometimes the language makes me thankful my kids have many more years before I allow them anywhere near a social platform.
Has Facetime and Facebook replaced saying sincere things in person? What happened to the face-to-face? I am grateful to follow friends across the country/state on social media or getting a glimpse into their day-t0-day, but now you can follow anyone and everyone! If I am not careful I won't leave enough time to live my own life. What happens if these advancements take us away from living in the moment to recording the moment?!
Am I feeding a monster? Does sharing a status update or talking live to unknown audiences feel strange to anyone else? Almost feels like I am bragging about my day, kids, time, date etc. How did we get here? How is this normal? Seems like I am forgetting how to have down-time. Do I leave any time for boredom - imagination - to flourish?
So here are some of my questions I consider before posting:
I wish I could always get it right. Almost makes me want to dump social media altogether. There is good, bad and ugly when it comes to these technological advancements. For now, I choose to be more social with my immediate circle, say things in person when I can and be more mindful if and when I post. My whole life does not need to be out there to prove it is happening!
You ever stare at yourself in the mirror and wonder, what the hell happened? I wish I could pin it to something specific. One moment you are cruising along and doing well and then KAHBLAMMY!
I get that this parenting journey isn't easy or perfect. I get that life throws curve balls. But to go from one extreme to another, for seemingly no reason at all, that is when the logical part of my brain throws a fit. LITERALLY! I like to know the why!
I readily admit there are certain times of the month that hormones mess with me. Lack of sleep or sickness can easily throw me off kilter, but all that is understandable. I didn't realize that I was looking for someone or something to blame for my lack of self-control. I am an adult and I should be able to act like one, but... there are some days I don't! There are some days that I just suck and feel like giving up.
Normally, I can feel it building, but not always. I've tried counting to ten, retreating, meditating, or phoning a friend! Cheerfully, I can say, this has worked some of the time. As a parent, it's hard to get the you-time when you need it. Methods for chilling out and restoring balance are wonderful. Exhaustion makes it hard to use them, however. Mental exhaustion is just as real as physical. It sneaks up on you!
You see, when you are a mom, there are a lot of variables to your day. A lot of people are depending on you for countless reasons. The nurturing mentality oozes out even when it's to our detriment. The amount of responsibilities, worries, details, tasks, and demands that are placed on us or that we willingly take on are incredible. We don't even realize all that we are balancing. Even our subconscious is overworked.
Every year I hear about women doing more and more incredible things! We throw around slogans about Super Mom and talk about how we want our daughters to be able to do anything and everything they want to. We have seminars about empowerment and vision. Don't get me wrong; I am all for equal rights! But just because we can do something doesn't mean we should, right? And definitely not all at once! I need to be okay with my workload and not try to mimic all the Pinterest moms I admire.
I am still learning that I have a lot to learn: about myself, about priorities, seasons, and saying no. Too much of a good thing, striving until exhausted, people-pleasing, volunteering for one more thing - these are things you learn to stop most often by failing. I've had pretty great examples, but they weren't perfect! So, I am here to admit it. Aloud and unproud - no excuses -I lost it! Ugh!
The day before was amazing. I made pancakes with my kids, remembered to kiss and appreciate my husband, cleaned the house, homeschooled the children, and it was all Instagram worthy! And then today happened...
I wish I could blame it on the kids, my spouse, or even hormones, but nothing was different from the day before. My kids were fairly well behaved. It wasn't rainy and miserable. My husband said he loved me and told me he didn't have that long of a work day, so he would make supper. Yes, I married a good one! Then KAHBLAMMY - I was short tempered with the kids! I could see the bewilderment in their eyes. Maybe I felt overwhelmed by the little mess that had accumulated in the one day since we had thoroughly cleaned it, but really there is not excusing my behavior even if I couldn't pin down why. I was angry! I slammed a door and dissolved into tears, feeling like a total failure.
Talk about a roller-coaster, a great day followed by a suckfest! I justify my actions a lot by my circumstances. Did I get enough sleep? Did my spouse show me any appreciation or love for that basket of laundry I folded and put away! Were my kids kind and obedient? Was the weather too hot, cold or rainy? I didn't get my needed ____ (sleep, caffeine, chocolate, wine, etc.)! The list of excuses goes on and on. The fact was - I blew it! So what now? Hand in my kids? Delete my social media accounts because I am a not a supermom with endless patience for baking, crafts, sewing, and board games? Waaaaahhh! (Can you hear my pity party?)
If you are feeling like a bad mom, you are not alone! I had myself a good cry, thanked God for yet another do-over and went to hug my kids. Maybe you've had a day or 50 like mine? I've had more than I want to number. From one wanna-be-supermom to another, God offers endless redos. We haven't scarred our kids in some way God didn't foresee. It's okay for our kids to see that we get overwhelmed. It's probably the biggest and best lesson we can teach. Moms need to apologize too! Our good days and bad ones will shape our kids, but the potter is still on his throne. He is able to turn our lumpy attempts into useful vessels. Listen hard and you will hear him whisper:
I've got this; I'm good at fixing things. Back off the ledge and we'll start afresh together.
It has been a while since I wrote. Can't say I really feel guilty about that.
Starting up school, celebrating our tenth anniversary and surviving a hurricane took precedence over writing for a while.
We have all these ideals. The ideal way to start school. The romantic getaway appropriate for a decade of matrimony. What trials we expose our children to. We see what others do and we dream of what we might do, but until you are there and juggle the variables you really have no clue.
I remember pre-children watching people discipline their children and I'll admit - I judged. Until I had my own toddler throw a tantrum in public I had no clue what other variables played into the decisions and reactions of parents. I just assumed I would have the infinite patience and wisdom to be a tough but loving mom. We all have our ideal way we would do something, but what we have to keep in perspective is whether we ourselves are in our ideal state when said situation comes into play. This school year started off with a new board game. It was a flop. I'd like to say the first week was easy with everyone wanting to learn, but homeschool involved typical, cantankerous children just like public school. It takes us a few weeks find our rhythm.
I had this idea of what romantic vacation I wanted to take for our tenth anniversary, but time constraints, sitters, energy, and finances did not cooperate. Face-time is key....no not on your phone, but shoulder-to-shoulder enjoyment and laughter go way further in marriage sustenance than any perfect trip to the Bahamas. Because we tried that trip to the Bahamas for our fifth. Ha! What those Instagram photos won't show you is the hurricane that changed the course of our ship, the food poisoning that ruins your night of passion, and the inconsiderate wall mates who make too much noise for your to get proper sleep. Smile - this is the trip of a lifetime - snap! This time we got two nights to ourselves in the city, saw a show, swam and held hands. It wasn't nearly as Instagram glamorous, but I'm so thankful that after a decade we still dream and laugh together.
The real storms blow in and you are watching the weatherman attempt to predict and you realize he is no better off that you were trying to judge a situation from the outside with no idea what the variables really are. All you can do is patiently weigh out the pros and cons of staying or evacuating. The last hurricane was predicated as a direct hit at cat 4 maybe cat 5, so we chose to go. It wasn't fun, but we were safe. This time was all over the place in its predictions, but we chose to stay. We had a night of high winds and nerves were a little jittery, but life resumed the next day.
The thirties have hit hard with three kids, one income, and a mortgage, but my perfectionism still runs strong despite life upping the game. As part of my hurricane prep, I borrowed a puzzle. I normally love puzzles; I find them calming. This 2000 monster was making me angry despite a few friends helping her and there. It was mocking me from our only table four days later! I got down to just the sky which was one solid night color....absolutely no shading left. Just endless blue-black. Ugh! My ideal was in its completion. It would bring satisfaction! I always complete the things I start! I called my mother...
Earlier in the week, we had been discussing photo albums. I had helped mom scan them all, but she was having a hard time parting with the physical albums. I told her to have a bonfire and set herself free. She could keep her favorites, but she wasn't required to keep every photo from 6 decades. She has dreams, goals, and ambitions! It is hard to do the things you need to when you are carrying around baggage. So essentially I absolved her guilt about needing to hang onto every heirloom. She has all the photos online and can take her time making keepsake books to give away as we have children, but in the meantime travel and live lighter.
This time, she asked me a few questions... "Is the puzzle bringing you joy? (Not anymore!) Will it really bring you a sense of accomplishment? (For a few seconds, maybe minutes.) Are there other things that you would rather be doing? (Yes!) Then break it apart and relish it!" So, I did. I broke apart the pieces and felt very satisfied in choosing NOT TO DO SOMETHING! I didn't finish! I didn't complete that checkbox!
And yes, as a thirty-four-year-old, I needed my mom to absolve me from completing a puzzle! I will admit it. I call her pretty regularly to absolve me of guilt for lots of things: not being the best wife, the most patient mother, having the cleanest house, or people-pleasing. I just need to hear another sane person tell me I am not crazy for giving up or being human. I know God absolves me of it all, but sometimes you just need an audible voice.
So, I am back to my mantra with some tweaks -
Walk humbly with God today and do the work at my hands.
But I am learning to ask more questions about the word work...
How important is this work?
Does it really need to be done? ... by me?
What will happen if I don't complete it?
Work sometimes means to create and invest, not just drudgery. So...
What do I feel God is calling me to do today? - Everyone/everything else can wait!
As soon as Fourth of July passes, my thoughts start to shift into preparation mode. I know the shift happens for mothers and teachers way sooner than the students. Summer is still hot and fierce, but the wind of change begins to blow as soon as the last holiday firework smoke fades away. Kids are soaking up the last of the days by the beach or pool while we start preparing.
I am excited! I want to be ready for August and the first day of school. It is probably the cute holiday pictures with sparklers that starts my mind on dreaming up what we should do for back-to-school pictures. We have done signboards and black and white, so what should we try next? That thought then spirals into more checklists. What supplies are needed? Did I mention that I love paper? Yes, that is me in the back of Staples smelling that paper. Come on! You got to love that new paper smell. New pens, folders, and highlighters....oh yes I love office supplies! Don't get me started on sticky notes and new markers before the children get ahold of them...
We homeschool so I also get to ponder which curriculum tweaks need to be finalized. I have portfolio reviews from last year to send into the superintendent. This year we have new students, so a letter of intent needs to be brought in for one and fresh preschool supplies bought for the other. Preschool is the best - everything is so colorful and fun! Dropping off forms in person means I don't have to worry that they got lost in the mail! Thank goodness I don't have to worry about uniforms, or drop-off and pickups, but there is still plenty of other things to prep for when you are with your students all day. Ink? Check. Paper? Check. Grocery shopping and meal planning for easy lunches and snacks. They need to be quick, so as to not take too much time away from teaching, yet still be nutritious!
The structure of learning hours before free hours is definitely tantalizing to me by this point (maybe not to the kids quite yet). Summer and the freedom it brings to our family schedule is starting to wear off after two months of blissful vacation. The reality is lazy summer days mean I often have to fight off countless screen-time requests and arrange playdates! I am missing priorities, order, and goals. Seasons of rest and freedom are needed! But, by August, I am eager to get back into the cadence of learning and discipline. I love seeing my kids flourish into responsible people who understand play comes as soon as responsibilities have been accomplished. I enjoy seeing true appreciation for the fun times, won through self-discipline rather than an entitlement that Summer can breed. They become responsible masters of their time and future. Summer is nice, but life needs balance and mommy needs help.
I hate to shop, but I love Amazon! I can check reviews and order from the comfort of my home. Win! I have my go-to things for each school year but am always looking for new things to help us along this learning journey. Below I will link of a few of my favorites buys that have enhanced our schooling.
Please share with me some things that have made your schooling better!
The wise thing is to get counsel. Preferably godly counsel. The problem with that is in discerning who is giving godly wisdom versus worldly wisdom. The journey of faith is a deeply personal one since God states very clearly that only He can judge correctly the heart of man. It is easy for people we love and trust to speak in love and worldly wisdom. It is up to the Spirit to help us discern which advice is for us and which was well-intentioned but not for us.
AKA - Chew up the meat and spit out the bones...
We are embarking on a risky adventure of trusting God in a deeper way. I laugh even writing that because I know He is Sovereign and promises to walk with us.
So really, where is the risk?
My husband has handed in his resignation to a job which has provided for over a decade for the needs and wants of our family. We will be letting go of good health insurance and a weekly salary paycheck. Gulp!*
To many, this will appear foolhardy and unwise. At times, even to us, this seems like a crazy idea. Being able to offer Christian Counseling and run the Lifeline Celebrate Recovery program without working a 40+ hour job has been something my husband and I have been working toward for years!
It has been the dream placed into heart and soul. We want to walk a life of faith and this is our next step. It has come to a pinnacle... make a choice! We are strapped in and ready for the ride. We have felt the peace fill our spirits, that this is the right move. Our minds are still a war zone of what-ifs when we are not in prayer. Every time we lift up our choice to God He rewards us with excitement, reconfirmation, joy, hope and most importantly peace. We will not let the giant of doubt shake our inner peace. Doubts can rattle our minds, but we know we don't walk alone. God will bring his people who are hurting and we will journey with them to healing in Jesus name and we will watch in awe as God shows up and shows off!
We will gratefully accept all the prayers we can get.
There are a few things that help turn my day around. Music is a big one. I am a shower singer. I love to sing and thankfully my kids are a kind audience. They don't tell me to be quiet or intimidate me into silence. In fact they joyously join in with singing and dancing when we turn on our favorite pandora channel. Thankful for our little portable speaker that allows us to take our dance party all over the house and backyard. Music soothes me and often it is songs or hymns from my childhood that are my favorite. I have noticed my oldest child enjoy singing in the shower as well. The tradition passes on. ;) Sing when you are happy, sing when you are sad... or just let the music wash your soul!
Another, new favorite atmosphere enhancer is my aromatherapy diffuser. The smells are nice, but I think it is more the colorful lighting than even the fragrances that make me happy. I can lock it on my favorite soothing teal color or let it flip through the rainbow slowly. I am still learning what fragrances we like (and not to put too many drops in!), but I am loving the addition to our living room. The quality of air is so important. My husband installed a pallet screen door and we love this in Spring and Fall, allowing fresh air to pass through! But this time of year when it is too hot and muggy to open the screen door, the diffuser helps us feel like we are breathing healthy fragrances in at least even if the fresh breeze is absent.
My husband and I love to surround ourselves with beautiful textures. He has a favorite fleece blanket he prefers to sleep under rather than sheets. Our children love texture as well. Our youngest can tell the difference between his special fleece blanket and the one we have as a backup! We love nature. We have made many pieces of furniture out of recycled pallets this past year. Nature is beautiful so why not bring it indoors as much as possible? Functional and self-made are the kind of projects we enjoy - If you can make it pretty, so much the better! Carpentry runs in the family and my husband has quickly turned into quite the Mr. Fix-it. Nothing sexier than a man wielding tools!
The other atmosphere enhancer is flavor! The fresh smell of brewing coffee in the morning (you know you hear the Folgers jingle in your head...go ahead and hum it, I will wait), freshly baked cookies - yum! or the dissolving of a dark chocolate kiss - yes these are all a few favorite pick-me-ups in our household. If you slap uplifting slogans on all your favorite mugs and verses on your walls then - Amen! We are trying to add healthier recipes to our arsenal and fresh herbs and spices smell amazing. Sometimes a little flavor is all you need to hit those health goals. This would explain our flavored sparkling water addiction. Those little bubbles fill you up and black cherry flavored water is always a win!
These are a few of the way we have been shaping our atmosphere.
What are some of your favorite pick-me-ups? What do you like to diffuse?
My Current Mantra
Walk humbly with God and do the work at your hands....