Friday, September 14, 2018

Resist & Enjoy: What does "important" mean?

It's not yet halfway through September. The schedule is full, I am forgetting things and the rhythm of rush has pushed through my front door (Man! I thought I locked it tight!). So here we are. FALL.

Swimming, ballet, gymnastics. Work, dating my spouse, playing with my kids, friendships, exercise. Bible study, ministry leader, personal quiet time. Planning dinner, planning activities, planning....planning....planning.

But it should. be. different.

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2

On a Sunday not long ago, our pastor pointed out that Jesus was never in a rush. Wow! How powerful! What can I do my life differently, like Jesus?

RELATIONSHIP. FOCUS.

In my personal study time today, here is what God revealed to me about His way: 

"How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil." James 4:14-16
By spending TIME with Jesus, He can renew my mind. When my mind is renewed, I will no longer stress about all of the planning but rather rejoice in TODAY...after all, that is all we are promised, right? Wow does that change things just a wee-bit, huh?

I am also seeing this concept of time in a different way (living in today) when my daughter started her second year of preschool. Driving her to her first day I realized that one-day, not far off, all three of my children will be in "all-day school"......!!!!! Wait?! WHAT? In just a few years? THE DISHES CAN WAIT! I only have 1,095 more days until my three kids are in school?! Three years. It's not much time, regardless on how big the number looks. My 4-year-old proved that. So, priorities. 

What matters?

RELATIONSHIP.

As my handsome husband says, "The important stuff will get done." I think I have misinterpreted the "important" for the tasks of life. Focus. Focus! FOCUS! My relationship with God is of the utmost importance. My spouse and children are of the utmost importance....

Let's pause. Invite God into our heart and mind. Focus. Intention. Fellowship, Friendship. The important stuff will get done. We just need to re-prioritize what "important" means.

Live in joy today (and always). 
Peace.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Sabbath Summer: The Fleeting Sun

The time is approaching. Our Fall schedules are once again filling and the rhythm of rush is pounding at our door. In many ways this summer has been a dream, a vacation from expectations and a mental re-set. A time to listen to God's convictions, seek deeper friendships and enjoy my kids without the pressure of work or mounds of pre-planned activities. Our family schedule was filled with slow, easy wake-ups, breakfast for dinner and extended bedtimes to enjoy just a little more outside play before the sun set. Certainly a breathe of fresh air.

Now, today, we get to make a choice. Will we open the door to the rhythm of rush or will we fight back the loud bangs on the door to strive towards this life of sabbath--- rest and peace.

It seems like an easy decision, right? But as the days tick closer to September the banging gets louder, activities increase and it seems everyone and every activity to teeming at your door. So, what do you do?

GO. TO. PRAYER.

In prayer, our family has been asking God these questions:
  • What is YOUR desire for our family?
  • What activities will bring us closer to YOU, God?
  • What decisions about schedules will teach and display YOUR love through us?
  • What boundaries do we need to create to protect our hearts and minds, reserving them first to GOD then family then everything else?
  • What can we eliminate in our life that will allow us to be more present?

The reality is: our life is HIS. My life is not about pleasing myself or doing all the things "I WANT" to do (because they seem fun or easy or just because 'everyone' is participating). The things God calls us to can be hard, uncomfortable, unfamiliar. AND this summer I have learned that that is okay.

In the beginning of this Sabbath Summer I sought to change my thinking about life, my relationship with God and friends and find satisfaction and gratitude if what God has given me. Overall, I feel this mission was a success yet in other ways God still needs to change my heart.We are all in process, after all.

Through this journey I have learned much about myself (some icky and some great things). I'm looking forward to seeking God more, asking Him to establish my life. Moving forward I pray for motivation: daily prayer, daily scripture reading, continuing to love my husband, kids and friends best I can and be motivated to have better eating & exercise habits. I pray for HIS strength to hold back the loud bangs and unending pressure of pursuing activity over relationship--to be more present and enjoy the gifts of this Garden of Eden. But in order to enjoy the garden, we must resist the off-limit fruit. Whatever that off-limit fruit is--- RESIST IT! God has so much more, so much better for us.

So...here is to FALL INVITATION: Resist and Enjoy...accepting God's decisions for my life rather then setting my mind of the earthy, temporal things that only leave fleeting satisfaction. Join me?

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Sabbath Summer: OH NO! My phone is full!

"PRAISE THE LORD! My phone's memory is full!"

When I started this Sabbath Summer journey in May, those certainly were not words you would have heard coming out of my mouth but almost three months later I find it to be a joy that my phone's memory is full. And here is why:

Prior to this journey many people would often comment on how much I would post on social media and my craze for always having to capture the moment on camera. It's true. My husband, who is not on social media, would also frequently comment that everyone knows so much about our lives that it left little room for actually "catching up." I mean, why would you need to catch up if your whole life is on display for everyone to witness and in the front row at that! Convicted by this and the growing evil in the world, the momma bear came out in me. First and foremost I want to protect my children. Next, I wanted to cultivate deep, authentic relationships which would happen face-to-face instead of screen-to-screen.

I started by first deleting the offending phone app (I am sure you can all guess what that is). From there, I stopped posting all together for a period of time and made a pact to myself to only log-on when at an actual computer. It worked! Next, I decided to put my phone down. Instead of being known as the one who instantly returns text messages, I found that I would have 7, 8 or even 9 or more unread messages at the nights end. I saw this as a victory.

With my children, I also began to think about them as young grade schoolers. Did they give me permission to post their lives so publicly for the world to see? Is it an invasion of THEIR privacy in which I have spoken for them by making a decision that it was okay to be so open with so many strangers about THEIR lives? With the increase in child-trafficking, I want to leave little room for someone to go after my three precious littles when so much information is already easily available (and some of it from me!!). How scary!

Not to mention the vast amount pictures and videos I have accumulated. I create family "year" books and even at that there are SO many pictures I max out the page numbers AND picture limit every year. I found that I often remember the picture of an event before I remember the actual event. I would like this to change. This has been a hard one for me and a habit/mind-set that I have had for almost two decades. Yet, with a full phone memory, it helps me stay present and embrace the ordinary making is permanent in my mind rather than a picture.

I recently read an article about a teacher who posed the journal prompt, "I don't like cell phones because...." The results were sad, convicting and eye opening. Her grade school students made comments like, "I wish phones were never invented." "My parents care more about their phones than me." "Phones are more important than I will ever be." WOW! Is this the generation that we are creating? Are these the feelings we are making our children have by being a phone-obsessed generation? I want to choose different for my children. Tonight I asked my daughter this, "Does mommy spend too much or not even time on her phone?" In the same feeling as the children above, she said, "too much mommy." Even with a valiant attempt, I am still on or near my phone too much. I am so glad my 4-year, in her honesty, told me how she felt. It is a reminder of the greater thing in life--relationship. One day my daughter (and my sons for that matter!) will be grown, having her own friends, hopefully in college, and  working. She may be married. She might even move out of the state...so WHAT AM I DOING!?! Wasting theses precious moments in time tied to a "meaningless" device that brings great separation between me and those I love the most. Please, do not mishear me. I think phones are fantastic! I love snapping pictures, calling, connecting through messaging/FaceTime and even the ability to do a quick web-search. Brilliant...but when phones take the place of (or overshadow) important relationships and being present then this inanimate object has GOT to take the backseat.

Obviously, I still have a ways to go in this area (as convicting as my daughter's response was!). Yet today, victory! My phone's memory is full. If you asked those you love the same question, what would their response be?

Sabbath Summer: The Duality

In this day of age many sayings/cultural norms grant women the "right" to be who they want. Be independent! "Do anything you want," they say, "Make your path. Follow your heart."

Yet a life as a Christian (and a woman at that) tells a different story.

Here is what God is showing me (then I will tell you what this means to me):

  • I must be dependent on God not be independent as the world calls.
  • I am made with a purpose, gifted to be used by God. I can do what God has created me to do/become and within that there is great freedom as I press into the gifts and talents HE has given me.
  • Jesus said that HE is the way, the truth and the life. He IS the path so what path would I make for myself that would be any better than the one Christ has already made for me, specifically, and for us as collective believers.
  • The OT says that the heart is deceitfully wicked above all things (so why would I want to follow my own heart/desires?) Doing so could lead to death of sorts (physical, emotional, relational, financial, etc.).

These things I have been pondering durning the SS blog series. Since I don't teach at the university during the summer my attention has focused on God and supporting my family while healing from all the events of this past year. I have realized, once again, that I have began to lose a little more of who I am as an individual to become what the world wants me to be (what I think I should be...the epitome of fulfilling the stereotypical roles of a woman, wife, mother, working-professional, friend, neighbor...you get the picture). My focus has been on being the best wife I can be to my husband of eight years and the best mother I can be to my three children. In the mix of that, my focus has been on keeping our household afloat: dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, paying bills, planning for my upcoming year of teaching, our upcoming year of ministry and thinking about/preparing for our fall schedule: preschool, ballet, swim and gymnastics lessons. My mind is like an Internet web browser with a million tabs open. Then I realized, in this process I have forgotten to dream a little, to set personal, achievable goals for myself. But, is it really that important?

The bigger question is who is God and what has HE created me to be and do.

I recently started a new bible study questing to deepen my relationship with God. Without this (my focus on Christ) as my foundation, I can do nothing. For in Him, I live and move and have my being (Acts 17:28).

In this moment I am called to support my husband as we make some very big decisions about his work and other future possibilities on the horizon. I am called to submit to his leadership, as Christ describes in Scripture. I am to be supportive, be in prayer, offer my opinions and impressions and then let God do what God does best...direct our future. Of course, we are playing our part, yet ultimately God will prevail.

I put the needs of my children after the needs of my husband. How is their health? Do they have what they need to function in this world? Are their tummies full, minds thinking and bodies active? The needs of a 4-year old, 2 1/2 year old and 15-month old are vast yet each need is important to address. And even more important than all of those items mentioned above, how is their relationship with Christ? In what ways can I better re-present Christ and invite them into the most important friendship and partnership of all--with Christ! This is the second thing to occupy my mind.

The third is our household: what to cook... that is nine times a day (minus snacks) that these three mouths need food in them. NINE! (3 kids, 3 meals a day) The result is a lot of time in the kitchen: planning, prepping, serving, cleaning. In addition to potty-training and a lot of outside play, laundry during the summer seems to be a daily or bi-daily activity. In this, I can refocus on thanksgiving! So much sweetness comes from the kitchen. I am BLESSED to have such a time as this to serve my children and show them the practical love of Jesus.

Then comes service and friendships outside my nuclear family unit. It is in these sweet moments of connection with extended family, friends or another mother (or in meeting a need someone in the Body has), I am recharged, fulfilled and overjoyed to play a small but significant role in the lives of those Christ has called me to be in fellowship with. Putting feet to my faith.

There are other things that float in and out of my day and at the end of the day mostly "not thinking" after 7pm when hopefully all three kids are down for the night and my husband is working late, I reflect. I think of the sweet moments I had with my husband and with each kid. I survey my almost-clean house and smile as I imagine the leaps, giggles and squeals of a days worth of play. I glance to the dining room and thank God for the conversations around the dining table. I breath. I sigh. I rejoice. I am blessed. I usually then start to fold a load of clothes or put dishes away while a Netflix show runs in the background for noise sake. God, thank you for this complex life. This tension of duality: surrender and serve or selfishly pursue my own ambitions.

I pause...

My life is a JOY! God has blessed me with these three little humans, each one having grown so closely inside my womb and now He has grown them into these precious beautiful little people! The husband I serve works diligently at following the Lord, pouring all he can into our family and household while working at a very difficult and sometimes very emotional job. By His grace, we have a beautiful, cozy home that meets all of our needs and more. I love my profession as a university lecturer and find great satisfaction in teaching hundreds of students a year.

I pray all who reads this will reflect on the goodness of LIFE (Zoe) found only in HIM (the Creator). There are many tough days (and tough moments that create those days) but I am learning what matters is my foundation and my focus. "For in HIM, we live and move and have our being." Acts 17:28.

Be blessed as you partake in His goodness for you, trusting that His ways and path are always the best.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sabbath Summer: Stuff & Friendships: The Simple and the Conflict

Mostly everyone gets it...the desire to have a simple life, simple home, uncomplicated relationships. To have never-ending peace, tight-deep connections with a few intimate friends. A life that is above all honorable to God.

The efforts of this SS have forced me to explore this idea of simplicity in an even deeper, more meaningful and practical way. At first, it started with purging my overwhelmed schedule. Summer. Summer schedule would be filled with a few things: church on Sundays, Pray and Play group twice a month on Tuesdays and our annual family Bible focused trip to Canada. Everything else was put on hold, surrendered to God, in hopes that He would renew my mind on this quest of a life of Sabbath-- a life of remaining connected to Him, seeking Him for friendships, seeking Him for scheduling meetings and ultimately seeking Him to satisfy me.

I have learned in this process a few things about my friendships and my physical stuff.

First, my physical possessions. I (and we as a family) have too much! If you have journeyed with me over the years, you will know that I have been on this journey of simplicity of my stuff for over three years. At this point, it continues. My closet is slimmed down to about 35 hangers or less and about three medium sized drawers. My shoes can fit easily by the front door (minus my few dress shoes in which I store). I have created capsule-ish wardrobes for my children in which everything pretty much matches so no matter what they pick out it matches. In the process I cut their amount of clothes in half (or more). It has also meant less laundry for me! Less picking up clothes. Less hanging clean clothes up. My hall closest is hardly overflowing now and you can actually see the back panel of our main bookshelf in our living room. Most days, I observe our life and see what toys the kids do not play with, what books they ever go to and the objects I never touch (for example, as I get ready to go out or as I cook in the kitchen). These unused items go up into the attic for an end of the week drop off. It feels good to have less. The less stuff I have, the less I have to manage, wash, organize, or trip over. Simplicity. It will always be a battle and there will always be areas to re-address but it feels great to open up the "junk" drawer and find only what I need without shifting through needless items or to jump in the shower and LOVE every product (just four of them) I use. It brings me a little peace and joy (even when the kids are banging on the door to ask me a question while I quickly scrub my hair). I want this life of peace, created by God, to be present. Eliminating my stuff has truly shown me the abundant life I have in Christ. It has shown me how much waste I create. How much I did not truly appreciate what I had and how much my physical stuff weighed me down emotionally--always on my mind--always thinking about what needed to be cleaned, picked up or organized. It has allowed our children to become more responsible for their things, caring for them, playing with them and then putting them away where they belong. It has given me a deep sense of freedom of not being attached to my things and being more connected to God and the relationships He has given me.

So, this leads into what God has been teaching me about relationships. I desire these close, intimate friendships. Those individuals I can live life with on a weekly, if not daily basis. To have lives and families intertwined. To have real, meaningful conversations about things of the Lord, struggles, victories and prayers. To have someone reach out to me instead of feeling it is most often the reverse. I was deeply pained by these things early this year, longing for such a friends so badly that I began to judge those that God had put into my life. So, at the start of SS I surrendered all relationships to the Lord. Asking Him to heal me, to show me my wrongs, my errors, seeking true healing. Then God...

Then God turned the question back on to me: Am I a good friend?

This has been a painful reflection for me and one that I still am processing. In the area of friendship, God showed me that I was striving too hard to have this ideal of close friends, in ways trying to force friendships that were not mutually beneficial.  God showed me that I placed too high of expectations on my friends, revealing to me that I desired my friends to satisfy me, not God. How wrong of me. As a result, my mind shifted to negativity. Focusing on the "bads" or the "they are nots" of these relationships rather than focusing on all that God had blessed me with within these relationships.

Friends: please forgive me!

God showed me that I didn't listen enough, that I was unwilling to be flexible. In many ways I made things more difficult than they needed to be by "sticking my ground," being almost unmovable and stubborn. Somewhere in the past year, I have stopped serving my friends and expected to be served, not remembering details or take the effort to follow up. Perhaps it was moving from the season of Oliver to moving into the season of healing from the year's events. I am not sure but somewhere along the way my mind and heart shifted. I tried to be friends with too many people. My intentions got the best of me.

I reflect on Jesus and His friendships. He indeed had His 12, yet He sought to serve them. He did not expect them to serve Him. He looked at their interests before His own. He shared His struggles and pains yet He took those pains to God and did not directly put that burden on His 12 (although He did invite them into to those times). He accepted that each of the 12 had their own lives and own worries. He was willing to allow them to live their lives and to listen to them before He shared His worries. He understood that His friends might not always be there for Him, yet God would. There is more I can say about this (and more that God has revealed...and I am not sure if I am even articulating it well) yet here it is: shouldn't I be more like Jesus? Shouldn't His example of friendship reflect my attitude towards friendships?

So 'The Question' of most of these SS findings: now that this has been revealed, what do I do with it?
  1. Seek forgiveness through confession
  2. Pray: Pray that God will show me those HE desires me to reach out to instead of trying to be all things to all people. Seeking God's motivation for connecting with (or not connecting) with people in my life.
  3. Serve: Put others first. Stop focusing on myself, my hard life, our challenges and start serving as the Holy Spirit reveals. Being willing to be inconvenienced in doing so (regardless if it is hard or not).
  4. Be Authentic: share my needs but don't dwell on them.
  5. Surrender: remembering that my life is not my own, therefore I need to daily surrender in all areas and in this Christ will be my peace, my companion, my satisfaction. He will fill me up.
  6. Reflect: continue to seek God in every decision: purchase, appointment, rendezvous.
 So simple in theory, right? I pray God will continue to transform me. I know that He gives me the desires of my heart and in doing so He is faithful in fulfilling those desires. So, Jesus, I leave my heart with you. I leave my desire for these deep friendships with you. I surrender.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Growing a boy: Taking a step

Last week was a very hard week emotionally. Learning our son is "labeled" developmentally delayed. Feeling the rush and pressure to see a bone doctor to get his hips x-rayed. To hear that our son may not walk until 18-months old. To learn we have to go to PT two times a week.

Well, God has a sense of humor.

At the end of the week, as I cleaned up dinner our son "crawl-hopped" into the kitchen. My husband was working late so it was me and the three kiddos. I have been working on leading him as he walks, holding onto both of his hands loosely. I was in the corner of the kitchen picking up the colorful potholder I used to retrieve the fish, dinner, from the oven. I was waving the colorful pot holder in one hand and my son's hand loosely in the other. He pulled his hand away. He stood for a few seconds (his normal) and then.....AND THEN! He took two steps!!

"OH  MY GOSH!!" OH MY GOSH!!" "REALLY?!?!?!" "OH MY GOSH!!" is all I could say.

Of course, no one was there to see the AMAZING event but me. It was a gift. I felt God surrounding me and the angels in heaven cheering. Victory. God knew how much I needed to see this.

He has since, not taken a step on his own (maybe a 1/2 step) but I SAW IT! With my own eyes! My son CAN walk! At 15-months old he took his first. This is bigger than anything I could have asked! Even if he really does not walk until 16, 17 or 18 months, I know that he can! God proved that to me! (And so did Oliver!).

God is SO faithful to us and when we need it the most, He gives us these amazing gifts.

Thank you God for blessing this momma's heart in such an incredible and amazing way. Praise be to God.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Growing a boy: Balancing Needs

Nothing went right this morning. Our voices were aggressive, our minds reeling, our emotions swirling. It started to sprinkle, the coffee shop we went to as a family was closed for renovations and we ended up taking all 5 of us to Oliver's (somewhat unnecessary) appointment...mind you after he did not get a morning nap AND during lunchtime (in which we failed at packing the kids proper food...thankful I grabbed a few carrots, oranges and cheese sticks on the way out the door!).

It is not emergent, not even "super" urgent but certainly necessary to get answers....our son's hip x-ray. Thankfully, even before we stepped into the doctor's office, the x-ray was already ordered (a referral is required from his primary care doctor) and our visit was quick, not even seeing the doctor. We should be receiving a call tomorrow or Monday from the orthopedic doctor to schedule this required x-ray.

In the meantime, we are making room in our schedule for every Saturday pool physical therapy. Yes, pool therapy and clinic therapy...every week.

******
I sit here while all three kids sleep, eating leftover salad from last nights dinner out of the large metal salad bowl (why dirty another dish, right?). Looking outside-in, this really does not seem like that big of a deal..."Really? You just need an x-ray and PT one to two times a week? What is the big deal?" If it was someone else, I might not see or understand the implication of this...the shuffling of schedules, the developmental delays of our son, the emotions/feelings from the 15-month journey to the stress of not knowing when/if our son will be able to walk or how well he might be able to walk. It is scary. It is stressful. There are many unknowns. How do we balance his needs with the needs of our other two? I feel like we either focus completely on him or completely focus on the needs of the "bigs." Where is the balance?

Like a recent Sabbath Summer post, it requires patience and time. I read the first part of Psalm 18 this afternoon. I was reassured that God indeed hears us when we pray AND he will defend us, protect us, led us, give us what we need and show us His faithfulness. So God, please show up, like you have in the past. May our hearts continue to strive towards you. Be in our marriage, in our relationships with all three of our kids, in both of our jobs, in our friendships. God, we need you and can't do this without you. Amen