This last year was more of the same in a lot of ways and completely different in others. With the arrival of election season our world went Topsy-turvy.
Corona & Lock-downs
Murder Hornets & Dust Clouds
Riots & Ridicule
Cancel Culture & Masks
We continue our learning, but our trips to the beach and park were curbed by our state's attempt to protect people. I won't get into politics here, but know that ethics and critical thinking will be huge in next year's topics! Enjoy a glimpse into our year with the video montage below. We are gearing up for the next season of learning with two students in elementary and one in middle school! Ever-learning - Meg
I love conspiracies! The intrigue, the mystery, and the subterfuge all appeal to my personality. Currently, in 2020, we are over a month into the pandemic or Covid-19 mess.
Stay-at-home orders and social-distancing have become the norm. Peer pressure to protect those immuno-compromised has paved the way for shaming healthy individuals into a quarantine lifestyle leading to the shut down of our economy.
This pandemic has been given multiple names: COVID, Covid-19, SARS-CoV-2 and has sparked weird labels like social-distancing, essential-businesses, essential-workers, essential-activities. Despite unclear descriptions of these terms, but the implications are clear. Some people are more important than others! Stickers are appearing on the grocery store floors to herd us like cattle. X's are stamped for our compliance. Glares ensue for going out without medical masks. Fear and control are the order of the day.
Public services and locations are closed to the public. First restaurants took the hit, restricting dine-in options. Crowd restrictions canceled all sporting events and conferences of any kind. Schools, beaches, parks, and paths were closed. Unemployment, only months after our government's announcement of success in creating jobs, is now in the millions thanks to the "essential workers" mandate.
BUT Whistleblowers and conspiracy theorists are on the rise, with doctors and nurses suggesting ventilators purposely blowing out people's lungs and deaths caused by other things are being counted toward this supposed pandemic. So many people are explaining how the numbers quoted by the "experts" aren't adding up, In the midst of all this, more people are slowly awakening to the realization that in fear we've allowed our constitutional rights to be taken away.
Regardless if you believe this is an elaborate hoax, a planned-demic or legitimate deadly virus, we all are forced to cope. Here are a few methods!
1 - Quarantine buddies!
Having one other family to share life with has helped immensely. With kids about the same age, movie nights, shared dinners in the backyard, laughing over board games and corn-hole tournaments have kept us sane. Being able to physically hug a friend and share a glass of wine or a cup of coffee gave us a little taste of normal. (Yes, we were under the recommended amount!) Isolation can be a dangerous thing, so choose your community carefully.
2 - Hammocks in the backyard!
I nearly cried when they closed down our beaches. It still makes no sense to me because our small county was perfectly capable of not overcrowding the beach. I am thankful to have a big backyard with hammocks. Reading books and being out in the fresh air is essential to me. I know not everyone has the option, but try and make it a daily practice to soak up some Vitamin D. It is so essential to a healthy immune system!
Bike rides, yoga and lots of walks around our community have helped me not gain weight despite spending more time at home eating my feelings. Unknowns can seem scary at times, but I do not need a quarantine-15 or tyrrany-20 on these hips. Movement is essential to a good quality of life as well as reduces stress.
4 - Guarding my Mind!
If you haven't noticed that you are being lied to by the news media then I pray you awake soon. The fear-mongering and outright lies are blatant! The constant barrage of repetitive negativity is not healthy. Turn it off! Misleading skews of numbers is draining. I look every so often to stay informed, but I don't need to be updated all day long. Watching a comedy and reading an uplifting book does way more for my emotional health.
5 - Faith!
This will not last forever! I may not be able to control the outcome of this craziness, but I can control my inner peace. I can also choose not to be silent about evil. Lies are evil and I will not tolerate or spread them. I will continue to trust that God is in control and choose peace to reign in my mind.
I hope you are finding ways to cope with the craziness in our world today. I hope you share them with me in the comments below.
NOT THE BOOKS!
If you are anything like me, then books might be a tender topic when it comes to minimizing. The smell of books and the adventure they carry you on can make you sentimentally captive. For many years my goal was to collect books, but the tide has shifted. I was recently asked for tips and took it as a sign to write this blog post.
Holding the bedtime storybook I read to all of my children, the emotional ties made want to hold onto it forever even though no one wanted to hear it anymore, including me! I have held onto a few of my favorites that I plan to read aloud to my kids as they mature. I also keep some uplifting books that I reread occasionally. It is okay to preserve some special things, but when it becomes a whole bookshelf worth for each person in the household, it might be time to reevaluate a little. Are we keeping books out of guilt, fear, sentimental obligation, or because we truly use and enjoy them?
It is a childhood right of passage to pull books off the shelf, but when it brings mom to tears regularly, it's time to make a change. Picking up the same pile, over and over again, gets old. My inner librarian needs books to be treated gently or reverently, and that was not happening because they were toddlers! To save my sanity during the season of littles, I moved all special books high and strewed only a few of the chunky board books at a time. Then I could breath a sigh of relief.
Through birthdays and Christmas, we collected more and more books. I kept having babies, so I saved them to read to the youngest. During those years, I hoarded books, but now that my youngest is no longer a toddler, the first to go were the board-books. I became aware of how my belongings weighed on me and was ready for a change.
The kids didn't often object to giving books away. I was the one with the attachment. The perpetual what if mentality plagued me for a while. They had already moved on to the bigger and better titles. If someone did happen to object, we would do one last read aloud and set it aside. After a week, it was inevitably forgotten, and I would donate it at our local library while mentally reassuring myself that we could always borrow it back. Immediately afterward, I felt lighter allowing our books to bless others rather than collect dust.
My youngest is a boy, so next to go were all the early readers that didn't catch his interest. Barbie and other girly readers were looked right over; he wanted superheroes! We were able to bless other families who had girls and my shelves are more under control. Once he graduates, his first readers will be passed onto friends as well.
I was hoping my girls would love Harry Potter as much as I did. After number three, their interests waned. I am still holding onto it for my boy in case the series works its magic on him. The girls have discovered other series, and I had to come to terms with that. Classics are great but getting stuck in the past isn't. Forcing them to love all the series that I did as a child is ridiculous, instead, I am cultivating a serious library addiction.
The more we let go, the more we have room for. Sometimes, it is best to wait and see if anyone goes looking for that title. Keep an ongoing pile for donation and encourage kids to be generous. The story they loved might bring adventure to a new reader because of their generosity!
These tips can overlap into other areas too. Minimalism isn't a destination, it is a mindset. Be mindful of the season you are in and keep refining.
I’m so excited to be a guest writer on my daughter’s blog! My newest phrase is “Such fun!”. This is a quote from the mother on the Amazon Prime series Miranda. If you haven’t seen it and need a good belly laugh, check it out. I just love British humor.
So, that’s the beginning of my advice to young mothers - laugh more. Don’t take everything so seriously. Play more. Enjoy the messiness of childhood and stop thinking you have to clean it all up.
I sat the other evening with a young mom, about the age of my daughter, and listened to a familiar theme. The young woman was worrying aloud, “Am I disciplining my children enough? Am I keeping the house clean enough? Are our meals nutritious enough? Am I volunteering enough at church? Am I teaching the children to read? How many clubs and sports can we afford? I’m running all the time and it makes me tired and not as patient as I want to be.”
I sometimes feel that my most important mission as a grandmother is to put a reassuring hand on a young woman’s shoulder and give her permission to relax. We are living in an atmosphere where society is constantly urging us to be more, do more and have more! This pressure is blared from the television, the computer, our smartphones and even the pulpit. Everything in your life should somehow be bigger and better. The whole family feels the pressure.
My recommendation is to step off the treadmill and refuse to let anyone force you back onto it. Don’t be bullied or pressured by your neighbors, your friends, your family (but Mom, everybody’s doing it) or even your church. If you want to teach your children good things, start with the basics.
Teach your children to breathe! Slowly! We all need to stop running, rushing, shallow breathing or worse hyperventilating. My Dad, who is now 81 was just released from a hospital to a rehab center. There they are trying to teach him to breathe deeply. He said he was amazed at how much of his life he has spent shallow breathing and how difficult it is to learn to slow down. He had no idea how much breathing impacts your health. So teach your children to breathe.
Teach your children to see, look and notice. I just read an article about children having neck problems due to being bent over tech devices all day. Here’s the remedy. Look up! When was the last time you spread out on the grass and looked up at the clouds, noting their strange shapes and movement? Encourage children (and yourself) to really looked at a flower and noticed all it’s parts. Did you know that not all blades of grass look the same? It takes a certain calm to notice details. Play games where you hide things in the backyard and let them search. Ask them if they remember what color shirt Daddy was wearing when he left for work, or what their sibling was wearing or doing five minutes ago. It will amaze you - both with how much they notice and how little we do!
Teach them to smell! Help them smell; not only the flowers, but also the musty, dirty laundry under their bed. Help them identify lavender, cinnamon, mint, modeling clay, baking, and the many fragrances in our world. Play the blindfold game and see if their noses can give them information when their eyes cannot.
Teach your children to hear. First go outside and listen to all the sounds on the earth - from nature sounds to the sounds of humanity. Then help them learn the differences between listening, hearing and understanding. You do that first by listening to them. They also observe how you listen to your spouse. Take time to communicate with your spouse over more than the mundane details of the day. Allow the children to witness you argue sensibly and even passionately, so they can see what it means to compromise, apologize, and make-up. Allow them to know that the real world requires negotiation.
Teach your children to taste. Okay, this starts early, from nursing to baby food to every toy they put in their mouth. Children instinctively want to taste life, so broaden their tastes by helping them try new foods Let them experience the difference between salty, sweet, sour and bitter. Explain that all tastes are relevant and remind them that sweet is not the only taste they should enjoy. Stop worrying that if they don’t finish all that new recipe that they will starve. They won’t. Our job is not to cater to their tastes - it is to help them develop their tastes.
Teach your children to feel! Allow children the wonders of all the textures they can touch with their hands, teaching them to touch small things tenderly and gently. But along with actual physical touching/feeling, also teach them to identify and feel and own their emotions. Help them find proper outlets for real emotions. My Dad once gave me a hammer, some nails and a log and let me pound out my anger in the backyard, driving in as many nails as it took to work out my feelings. Some people punch or bite pillows. Let your children have a good cry when needed. Give them a safe space to feel and work out their emotions. I personally feel our society is suffering the consequences of suppressed emotions. People who have never been taught appropriate acknowledgement of anger or sadness, reach a tipping point and react in sudden violence to themselves or others. We need to start young to teach children to acknowledge their own emotions and then they will also develop compassion and empathy for others.
What? That’s it? Encourage the five senses? What about reading, writing, arithmetic? What about thriving in a competitive world? What about extra curricular activities? What about technology? I repeat! Relax. This generation is asking the same questions we were asking in the last generation - how much screen time is okay? We were concerned about television and you worry about Ipads and smartphones. The truth is still the same, when the power goes off, and there are no screens, we are all back to relying on our five senses and the knowledge we draw from them. If they have been neglected, we all lose out. Screens will come and go, grow larger and then smaller. Technology will develop and then be replaced with better and more sustainable invention. Those children who have been taught to see and understand their surroundings and themselves will have the best platform and the best designs to bring into the next generation.
Recently I came across a devotional which prompted me to put myself into the story of the blind beggar in the book of Mark.
One of the reasons I fell in love with my husband is the way he asks questions about situations. This practice took old, repetitive stories from the Bible and made them come alive in a fresh way.
This devotional prompted me in much the same way - to taste, feel and experience the story of encountering Christ. Jesus asked the beggar what he wanted Jesus to do for him. It then prompted me to answer it for myself. What would I ask of God? With sudden clarity, I realized I would ask the for the same thing the blind man did.
I have eyes to see physically, but spiritually I know I miss a lot. The circumstances of life, the hardships, and the joys distract me from walking in full connection to the power of Christ.
I have moments of breakthrough where I see what I believe God wants me to see. I want more of that! I want to walk closer so I can see things the way God does. Not just to see the opportunities, but also the lessons in day to day trials and joy.
Keep opening my eyes, Lord!
Identity is an ambiguous concept. A quick search revealed thirty plus personality tests from the well-known Myers-Briggs to the recently re-popularized Enneagram. If this doesn't give evidence to humanity's obsession with our identity, I don't know what will. People use descriptive labels, their relationships or occupation in their attempts to identify themselves. Using those parameters - I am an INTJ, Reformer, wife, mother, writer, teacher, etc - but I am not the same person I was even a year ago.
Our obsession with identity doesn't end there. Add the countless branches of religion and their subsets which reveal our efforts to interpret God's identity. Our attempts to understand, lead us to more labeling and staunch viewpoints that layer up over time creating our interpretation or perspective. Systems and methodology are born in our pursuit to define God, people, our reality, and ourselves by these accumulated beliefs. With that in mind - I believe in a loving God and strive to follow Jesus' example.
I know my perception of God may not match yours. That is normal and okay! If you ask my siblings to describe our parents you would get differing descriptions. We are all unique and have our respective experiences that have shaped our individual relationships with each other. Our experiences will vary and naturally produce differing perspectives about God, too. Let's talk about fundamentals or the deal-breakers. Even what you think is fundamental probably differs from what I think is important. Sorry, not sorry!
I am seeking to understand who I am but more importantly who God is. For me, I feel my identity is wrapped up with God's. When my experiences with God do not line up with my "knowledge" of what I've read or been taught, I must accept the challenge to keep seeking rather than angrily cling to something out of fear or allow myself to crumble. If I stop seeking and think I know, then I am in big trouble. Fitting God into a box of my finite understanding should be a given impossibility. The disciples appeared pretty thick at times and theologians have differed over the centuries, so I am okay with it taking a lifetime to discover or grasp.
I was shaped by loving parents in an environment rich in spiritual religion. My childhood was a nice Christian bubble. I am grateful because my grandparent's faith transformation impacted generations to seek after God. I got to experience "church" in many cultures all teaching a variety of theologies. At home I was taught that God loves me and to be a friend before you share THE friend. That basic ideology has not changed in my mind. God wasn't forced on me, so I refuse to "evangelize" out of fear, through man-made strategy or out of guilt-ridden compulsion.
The layers of religion are slowly being peeled away. This statement may scare some people, but I don't know a better way to describe the modifications. I only share my thoughts because I process best this way. This journey has been slow, sometimes painful and definitely personal. Whether it is the gentle patter of the keyboard, the scratch of pen on paper, or discussing it with a trusted friend, I thrive with puzzling things out. I'm getting warmer, but God's timing in revealing truth comes as I am open to receiving or revising.
Being a life-long learner is one of my identifying traits. I thirst and curiosity runs deep. Maturity has taught me to wait and hear all sides. The same way a prosecutor's remarks can seem absolute or persuasive until you hear the defense, our initial interpretation without proper perspective is often faulty. It's a good thing we have a Spirit inside to guide us. I like absolutes, but I've had to get used to disappointment. The pendulum swing is real, polarity's pull is strong, and dynamic tension isn't always pleasant. It hasn't killed me but made my faith stronger. 1 Cor 13:9 talks about how we know in part.
The freedom to seek was presented to me around the age of twelve. I brought my questions and doubts to my parents. They assured me that God instructs us to seek and was big enough to handle all my questions. That encouraging discussion started a deeper awareness of God's guidance. My frustration has grown when religious authority or culture tries to designate where and how I am permitted to seek or serve. At seventeen, when I was first on my own, the Spirit in me discerned how a spiritual authority was wrong and that experience strongly impacted me in my journey forward. Time has revealed more truths about modern missions, the current-day spiritual culture, ministerial expectations, healthy boundaries, resentments, and true freedom.
I know my seeking will never be done. I have found greater peace in releasing religious custom and walking in greater awareness of my identity in God. I am a daughter of God created to bring glory by sharing my perspective of God's transforming journey in my life.
I struggle in many areas. Some have been brought to light and gently dealt with or healed; others I am still blind to or need more rounds of wrestling to overcome. I continue to journey through one issue, one moment at a time.
One area of silly pride I held was the fact that I had never gotten drunk, until the day I did. The circumstances were right, and it happened. Rather than feeling that God was angry at me, I felt His gentleness. Through that situation, a gentle truth bloomed in my mind. BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD GO I.
It wasn't my incredible will power or self-discipline that had kept me from drinking to excess, sleeping around and getting hurt, cussing like a sailor or fill in the blank. This voice in my soul whispered of how every step I take is known. He walks with me directing, protecting, and loving even when I make bad choices. Allowing pride to build is naive and childish because any credit is due to His strength.
In many ways growing up in the church and on the mission field provided a safe spiritual little bubble. Other surroundings and I would have chosen differently. I was never offered beer, drugs, or peer-pressured into anything. I was born into a healthy family in a privileged country. God is capable of shaping us no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in because none of it is a surprise to Him. I can only be thankful my childhood circumstances were pretty ideal.
Another area I had pride about was relationships. I didn't date around and get my heart broken like a lot of my peers. I had a ton of secret crushes, but I probably would have dated a lot, if I'd been asked. Males around me were apparently intimidated by me. (Later several admitted that my confidence relegated me to their friend-zone.) I know God gifted me that confidence and strong childlike faith to protect me from myself. God wired into me a loyalty that would surface quickly. God blindsided me with my complimentary mate at the perfect time. We were friends who fell in love. We've been married twelve years and are still choosing love and balancing one another out.
I get prideful about all sorts of ridiculous things. My kids behaving. The truth is my kids misbehave moments later. How I've never been pulled over. God knows I would have an anxiety attack and cry if I got pulled over. Pride about my house being clean. Truth is my house stays clean when my kids are asleep or out with their father, and I have time to clean it up without interference. Accomplishing a lot in a day. Often, I make productivity my idol and I'm trying to change that. By the Grace of God I accomplish or not. I shouldn't take the credit or put goals over relationships.
God wired me and designed my personality. He knows what to protect me from and what I need to walk through to become more like Jesus. Like a good parent, He knows I seek best in the midst of the tough stuff. A complete life of ease isn't actually that beneficial for shaping character. A little pain or uncertainty and He gets my attention.
I know if I had been brought up in a different set of circumstances, or around other people, I would be a different person. I am learning to be thankful in the midst of life's struggles. I still wish and pray for hardship to pass, but I try not to begrudge God the journey process in my life. He gently breaks down my pride and lavishes me with mercy, grace, and peace. But for the Grace of God, I am convinced, I could be pushed to the point of murder, theft, drug addiction, abuse, etc. I choose to trust that this path is for my good and that my God is good.
I love the verse where it talks about giving so the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. I write this not to trumpet my giving (which is measly), but rather to praise God for His.
Honestly, I have had a hard time being generous. I get fearful of giving away what I might need. Intellectually I know that God always has provided for all my needs and because of this my trust has grown stronger. Faith is something that is grown through experience and experience takes time. I am learning to not begrudge God the time it takes to journey with Him.
God has shown me that His heart is generous, so mine needs to be the same way. Now when God brings to light a need, we try to meet it. I can't tell you how many times we have given only to turn around and have God bless us right back. It is impossible to out-give God!
It can mistakenly seem easier to give when you have a lot, but no matter how much or little you have, fear tries to steal the opportunities to give. When we falsely believe that money equals security then we become ruled by a paycheck, our productivity or our own striving. My husband and I regularly remind ourselves who our provider is and to whom the money really belongs.
Recently, we experienced several financial miracles. God made us aware of a family in need and we dropped of an anonymous donation. As we were pulling out of the parking lot we opened a card to receive back the exact amount we had just given. Talk about the fastest turn around ever!
Right around this same time we were notified that our tax return would be the largest one we had ever received. We have continued to give as the Lord leads and He continues to bless us. We laughed at how God shows off. He really does own it all and we can't out-give Him.
We have lost track of the amount of times where we have written the check or made the donation and we turn around only to have God bless us in return. Each time it happens we are delighted and our giving becomes even more cheerful as we try to give back to God. Like drops of water in an ocean is our giving, but I think He is pleased.
2 Corinthian 9:7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
It has been fourteen years since I met my husband. We have been married for eleven of those years and had three children. Our oldest just hit double digits and our youngest is potty trained. The infant stages are behind us, but we are still in the thick of parenting. Our sleep may be better, but our mental battles are just beginning. Both of us have experienced job changes while parenting and juggling school and ministry alongside. We have had some rough days balanced with some beautiful ones.
Without the Holy Spirit to iron out our communication and expectations, we would not be happily married. The focus of God in our lives has solidified our mission. Being partners isn't always easy. There have been times of great connection and others where we start to feel like ships passing in the night. Marriage takes intentional work and a lot of prayer. Recognizing and making priorities to pull back is key to not becoming disconnected strangers.
Having hit the mid-thirty mark, I find myself starting to feel more confident in my own skin. My weaknesses aren't as all-consuming, my strengths are more balanced and I find surrendering easier as well as asking for help. Finding the end of myself isn't as scary or disappointing. My boundaries are healthier because I recognize my people-pleasing for what it is and strive to let it no longer drive me. I am more comfortable with disappointing others because my focus is on pleasing Jesus. He is a lot nicer to me than I am to myself. Expectations are a killer. I am still learning to receive graciously.
More than ever, I recognize that life has a rhythm of ebbs and flows. There are periods where survival is all you can manage, sprinting is fun, and passion is endless. Crawling and apathy can happen too! The kicker is we are often in a different mode than those around us. I think God designed this specifically so we rely on Him rather than those around us for support. It is so natural to want to give advice, but love is the safest thing to offer no matter what place a person is in. Listening is better.
We need the example Jesus gives of going off to pray. Seeing that his human tank got empty is so enlightening. God created the seventh day for rest! Jesus couldn't always get away, however, and neither can we. Sometimes we have to keep plugging when we feel we can't. What has life taught me? When you get the chance to recharge - take it! Making rest a discipline is a must!
My personality idolizes productivity, so I must be reminded of my priorities. The Spirit's gentle nudge to put people over projects is helpful. I want my goals to conform to a higher calling. I hate to admit I lose track of the primary relationship for which I am so desperate. God is constantly tugging me in and nothing does that better than pain and struggle. Rough times remind me how much I need him. He whispers, "Quit doing for me and just be with me!"
As a family, we are pulling in to rejuvenate our spirits by getting in touch with THE SPIRIT. May His voice be heard, His presence felt and His will be done in us. When we start to flow out again, may it be with even greater grace and love in a beautiful overflow.
My heart is burning and I cannot sleep. Recently, our path was diverted from disaster. Many of you who know us might think that it was diverted by disaster, but trust me when I tell you that your perspective isn't ours. This shift in priorities was beyond needed! God knew how to get our attention.
In life we often have these pendulum swings, because our beliefs are tied to a dynamic tension with the Spirit of God. He is trying to bring us to a peaceful balance but in our finite understanding we take a lesson all the way to the wall. He is gracious and allows us to swing one way and then nudges or knocks us back the other way.
Maybe I am being too vague. Let me just put it this way. There is truth to the saying "too much of a good thing." God opened our eyes to how far we had strayed from our true values. We had slowly allowed the LOVE GOD and LOVE OTHERS value to become DO FOR GOD and DO FOR OTHERS. Our lives had become unmanageable.
Now we have been set free. We are grateful believers in Jesus who struggle with codependency. Our codependency was with ministry. Godly advice had replaced the Holy Spirit in our lives and doing "too much" had enslaved us. Out of desperation we prayed and He answered!
In recent years we have gotten wise to the necessity of healthy marriages. Date nights are preached and marriage seminars have become more prevalent. Our pendulum in Christian society has swung. But again we are missing the full picture. What about families? What about rhythms of life? We are still not seeing a balance!
We are running the race like it is a sprint and wondering why we have trouble hearing from God or resisting temptation. Exhaustion is a bi-product of having productivity for God as an idol! Guilt and shame about service are felt. But my battered soul cries out for the examples of Jesus' mountain-top time. Who is modeling a discipline of rest? Are we encouraging sabbath in balance with service?
I write this as your flawed sister. Rest is not your enemy. In the quiet God can speak. Are we too busy to listen? Stop asking him to join your agenda and see how you can join Him in the today. It is a battle of the mind to be still and know He is God. The battle is His not ours. Stop taking on what isn't yours to do. Ask and trust one moment at a time.
So back to my mantra.... Lord let me walk humbly with you and be faithful in this moment.
My Current Mantra
Walk humbly with God and do the work at your hands....