Thursday, September 4, 2014

Out With the Old, In With the New?

Somewhere along the way, my generation lost respect for older people. Maybe we never had it. We were a spoiled generation, full of our own worth and so many complaints of the injustices of our "station" (as the youth of the day). We spent our youth scoffing at the wisdom of those who raised us, fighting against the restrictions of what was simply good sense, and creating our own reality as victims of our circumstances and our determination to overcome them.

How arrogant! And now, we aren't youth anymore. And we still don't value older people. We don't include them in our lives, we tolerate them. We don't ask about their experiences, we roll our eyes when they tell "another of their stories." We don't sit at their feet and soak in their wisdom, we turn away with confidence that we have this whole thing figured out.

Is this normal? Is this just us, or does every generation go through this? Will we come back around to understanding the value of those who've gone before us on the journey?

Because if we don't, i shudder to think how our children will ever mature well! We are like spoiled teenagers playing at adulthood. Here we are, parents, responsible for the future adults our children will be, but so sure that we have this whole thing figured out that we shut down anyone who attempts to speak words into our lives that are different from our beliefs. We've nothing to glean from one another because we know it all already.

I get it that each generation has new information. And we are responsible for that information once we have it. But along the way, i have needed, no, craved, the precious wisdom of someone past my stage of life. Someone to tell me what i might not be seeing, what i might be doing wrong, how i could improve, what they learned... because once upon a time, those older people walked in shoes that looked a lot like mine. And they fought many of the same battles. Why, then, should i reinvent the wheel? How arrogant i would be if i was unwilling to learn from others and from history!

{sigh} Maybe i'm tired. Maybe it's years of living apart from family and wondering if every visit will be the last time i see my grandparents. Maybe it's age. Whatever it is, it makes me sad that we treat our wise older relatives and friends like we can totally live without them. Well, maybe we can live without them. But can we thrive?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Trenches

There's a lot going on in our world today.
There are a lot of reasons not to turn on the news. Because, quite simply, there are things you just cannot unsee.
And we are heartbroken for the many experiencing Genocide. No question.
But i'm beginning to wonder...

I've been in the trenches with Jesus. Nothing like Genocide, you understand, but in the muck that the evils of life enjoy dishing out. And i've learned something really important: i'd rather be in the trenches with Jesus than in a beautiful resort with the devil. Or even all alone.

You see, unless you have experienced the soul-connecting, Spirit-filled encounter with Christ that comes in the midst of trials, you will always think, "i could never...." And, absolutely, you are right. You could never. But God.

God is with those who suffer for Him.
God is with those who suffer for their faith.
God is with those who are persecuted because of Him.

And while there is undeniably an astounding suffering happening amongst people who absolutely do not deserve it, we must also understand that God is with them. In a way we almost cannot wrap our minds around. And i sense some of them, if not all of them, have found their way to grasp that inner peace that overpowers the fear of an unknown (or known) evil.

So, certainly, let's pray.
Let's pray for help. For the terror to end. For the bad guys to stop.
But let's also pray for the peace and strength and comfort of our Abba Father to wrap around and inside the ones in the trenches today. May they find joy in their suffering and relief in Christ Jesus. And may they be rescued besides.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Back to School = SUCCESS!

This week, we had our first week of school after taking the summer off. Since i fired the teacher this summer and rehired myself as the mom, it was a nail-biting weekend of preparations, wondering if the Little Darlings would revolt against "the institution" and refuse to get out of bed or cling lovingly to the schedule of normalcy and productivity. (Yeah, right!)

Well, i am happy to report that on Day 1, they had a successful day of positive attitudes, brain-stretching lessons, and completed assignments. Wahoo! They even asked if we could do that Um, say wha..?

Yeah, so, i didn't hold my breath, but i squinted my face a little in fear as i tackled Tuesday... then Wednesday... and by Thursday, i thought, "we're in the home stretch! Will it really be this easy?" And Friday was no different. Lessons learned, books utilized, brains engaged, attitudes improved. Golly, i love homeschooling!

So, i am here to tell you that it really is okay to take the summer off sometimes. Go ahead, fire your kids' teacher and just be the mom every once in awhile. The kids will do just fine. In fact, if mine are anything to go by, they'll thrive!

Christmas break is gonna rock this year!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

You're Fired!

This month, i did something drastic: i fired myself as my children's Teacher and re-hired myself as their mother. Let me explain....

Instead of seeing them as my offspring in whom i delight, i was seeing them as workbook pages to be completed.

Instead of seeing them as my heart walking around outside my own body, i was seeing them as lessons they would fight me on.

Instead of finding opportunities to connect with them in their personal time, i was seeing them as simply leaving me alone to do "more important work" while i wasn't teaching.

So, this month, i fired that Teacher! She is NOT who my children need, and frankly, i don't particularly like her.

Since i have fired the Teacher, i have enjoyed outings, walks, documentaries, laughter, and most importantly, real conversation and connection with each of these beautiful blessings God somehow believes i am worthy of raising for Him.

It is a good reminder of my first calling, and i am grateful the Holy Spirit saw this lack in me and convicted my heart to make this change.

Happy Summer, Friends! :)

Friday, May 16, 2014

The "Not-Quite" Life

We are in the process of selling our home. We have lived here longer than i have ever lived anywhere, and it took weeks to prepare a "ready" home for market (for our standards, anyway). Now that we are ready, and our home is finally listed, we are living in a sort of transitional home. We can't quite live freely in this space, but we can't move into our new home and live freely there either. We are stuck in this model home that other people can come see at any time... and i find it is exhausting in a way for which i was not prepared.

It is exhausting to be afraid to cook a meal the family loves because it will stink up the house for the whole day. It is exhausting to be afraid to have friends over to play with my children because they might make a mess that is a lot of work to clean up. It is exhausting to remind my children to wipe down the entire bathroom - every time they use it. It is exhausting to stay hyper-connected to my cell phone just in case the Realtor has to inform me of another showing. It is exhausting to keep coming up with things to do with three children and a dog for an hour and a half - every day.

People seem to understand the work of preparing the home for showings. But i haven't heard anyone else talk about the weariness that comes from living in a state of "not quite" life. Sure, we go on about our day, but just when i make a plan to throw caution to the wind and make those birthday cupcakes for a friend, we get a showing at the most inconvenient time. And, folks, the bottom line is that i want the house to sell. So, yeah, we're available for showings as much as possible.

The cleaning isn't fun. And i'm not a fan of cleaning, i'll be honest. The vacuuming daily is giving me enormous arm muscles that are not the least bit feminine. And making sure everything is in its place is a little nerve-wracking. But after a week of that, i'm getting really good at it! And it isn't what is wearing me down at all....

So, let me be the one to tell the full truth: listing your house and showing it to sell it is going to wear you out in ways you might not realize. I know it will eventually be worth it, and i know i value my humdrum daily routines and my family much more now that we have this experience. But, i'm so ready for the "Not-Quite" Life to be over so i can have my real life back. :)

Monday, March 31, 2014

How to be "Rich In Years" (book review)

I thought this book sounded really deep. As I'm dealing with aging parents in my own life, watching my aging parents care for their aging parents, the reality of aging is never far from my thoughts.

Rich in Years: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Long Life, by Johann Christoph Arnold, was a window into the aging adult beyond what I had already deduced for myself or learned about in my Sociology of Aging course in college. Can the aging adult really be at peace with approaching old age? Can there still be purpose in those later years?

Arnold answers those questions, and others, in Rich in Years, and I found myself captivated by the words on every page. Just as I would proclaim a particular concept "the most powerful statement" and want to share it with all of my family members and friends, I would continue on in my reading and be gripped by yet another "most powerful statement." Just as I would thrill to the subject of one chapter (i.e., Combatting Loneliness), I would finish it and be equally thrilled by the subject of the next (Finding Purpose). Since I have relatives battling dementia, the chapter, Living With Dementia, was eye-opening and encouraging.  And truthfully, I can scarcely wait to read back over the book with a highlighter in hand, to commit much of it to memory, so that the ideas within are never far from my thoughts as I face my later years.

This year, I will turn 40. Certainly not the end of my lifespan, I'll admit, but I have never been one to assume that I would be guaranteed a long life. Figuring out how to age with grace, purpose, and faith is helpful for anyone, but particularly anyone who finds the thought of growing older to be frightening. What I found especially inspiring about Rich in Years was the parallel between the concepts about the elderly's unique availability to God's purposes and those of the teen years (my oldest daughter and I recently did a study about teenagers' unique availability for God's purposes). It can't help but encourage someone dreading growing older to read all of the unique ways the elderly can be useful to God during those later years!

Reading this book, I recognized yet again how blessed I am. My paternal and maternal grandmothers are both well into their eighties and completely self-sufficient. Both have lived out the wisdom in Finding Nemo: "just keep swimming." :^) And my parents are full-time caregivers to two aging parents with dementia. I find the proof of this book within my own family's story. Accept the changes that come with aging, find your purpose in those later years, remember to hold onto your faith in your Creator, find the peace that passes understanding, and just "keep pressing on toward the goal." [Philippians 3:14]

*I received this book for free, with the understanding that I would read it and review it. My review is my honest assessment of the book.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Stop Being Abusive

This country today seems more and more abusive to me. Maybe that is how all generations feel when they approach mid-life. I can't be sure. But it feels true to me.

Growing up, i experienced emotional abuse and sexual abuse. I have experienced near-physical abuse (which is basically physical abuse that doesn't threaten your life and/or isn't "that bad") in many relationships. So i know a thing or two about abuse.

Some things i know about abuse:
~ it doesn't have to leave a physical mark to damage a person forever.
~ it doesn't have to be daily to have a terrible impact on the victim's ability to function normally.
~ it goes undetected nearly as often (if not more often) as it gets reported or discovered.

I know one more thing about abuse... sometimes, we abuse ourselves.
Sometimes, the biggest enemy in our life is inside our own head. The voice of shame. The cry of condemnation. The whisper of regret. The shout of insignificance. The clamor of criticism.

Personal rejection.

We are a broken people. Why? I wonder....

Then i think...
... our entertainment revolves around real lives that are a mangled mess (reality t.v.), crime shows (trauma and wickedness invited into our homes nightly), music about the perpetual heartbreak (break-ups, divorce, and betrayal) that goes with being human, and video games on our phones that we carry everywhere so we can kill the zombies and conquer the garden or launch the birds to kill the piggies... instead of connecting with the human beside us or appreciating the smell of rain.

It's all so insignificant. But is it also bringing us to the brink of stress and trauma on a regular basis and leaving out minds there?

Perhaps life wasn't easier before the personal computer could fit into our pockets, but it surely was simpler. And scientists have proven our brains were not built to handle stress well. So, we're broken.

What do broken people do? They hurt. What do hurt people do? They hurt people. Sometimes, hurting people hurt others. But all too often, we hurt ourselves. With our thoughts. Even, with our words. Thoughts of defeat. Words of condemnation.
"I didn't..." 
"I shouldn't have..." 
mixed with
"I did... (and shouldn't have)..." 
"I should have... (but didn't)..."

Let us take captive the harmful things we allow inside our lives, including those inside our own heads, and purge for emotional health. Let's all turn our hearts and minds toward more positive things, shall we?

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." - Philippians 4:8

Monday, February 10, 2014

Happy New Year!

So, it has certainly been awhile since i've dropped in to say "hello!" My life has been quite full, and blogging just didn't make the cut. Yet i've found myself longing for the creative outlet. So, here i am. :)

As 2013 wound down, i began the journey of re-focusing. I believe this is a journey because it often comes with twists and turns as we adjust to life's ever-changing landscape. For now, i am focusing on Family and Home and Health.

Last year, i developed side effects in my condition (Hashimoto's Thyroiditis) that complicated my lifestyle and challenged my illusion of my personal health. I had to determine that giving up eating wheat gluten was less of a struggle than the physical effects of continuing to ignore that advice. So, as i write this entry, i am one year gluten-free. It has been quite a journey in itself - gluten is a complicated matter in this country with all of its processed foods and unknown chemical ingredients. I am certainly more knowledgeable now, and we eat more real food that i make myself than we ever did before. Not a bad thing. :)

As 2014 began, i was on the journey for simplifying in my life. "Purge 'til it hurts" was my philosophy. I have been purging homeschool "wanna-do" piles, home clutter, and less-than-ideal foods. It has hurt. Frequently. But it is also energizing and liberating! I highly recommend it!!

I am focusing on homeschooling the children with simplicity rather than complexity. We left a part-time homeschool supplemental school to come back to basics. Together. It has been a pure blessing.

And i am learning more and more about why i often feel sick.

It is always a journey. But it all begins with just one step in the direction of progress.

What steps are you taking in your journey for this year? I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Invisible [a book review]

Generally, the emails to review books for Handlebar Publishing announce books I would like to read, but I usually don't respond quickly enough to get my hands on them. Then I got the email for Invisible, by Ginny L. Yttrup. I wanted this book so badly after I read the description that I was sure I would not get a copy. But I did! After I found out they were mailing me the book, I decided that since I was actually receiving the book and so looking forward to it, it must be a book I would struggle to read. My, was I struggling with trusting God, eh? ;^)

Okay, so the book comes in the mail. I'm thrilled, I tell ya! I'm also 3/4 of the way through a mystery novel and no way am I stopping before I find out Whodunnit.... So. I wait. I scramble through the mystery, discover the killer (What?!?! That crazy lady did it!?!?), and sigh with satisfaction as I exchange that book for Invisible, which was patiently awaiting me upon my nightstand.

From the very first page, I'm hooked. Seriously. the. first. paragraph. Maybe, the first sentence. Hard to say. Love at first sight.... hard to analyze, but there it was. And I drank in this book. This book became my favorite part of the day, my excuse to go to bed right after the kids instead of playing on Facebook or washing the dishes, and my joy when the kids wanted to play outside (I get to sit in a chair in the sun and read!!).

The characters were amazing. Deep. Flawed. Focused. Beautiful. And somehow, different. I've read books before in which the author has more than one main character, and it is generally written in such similar style that the characters have similar idiosyncrasies and mannerisms. This actually drives me crazy because people are so unique, but I always let it go because I realize an author has a "voice" when she writes and it must be difficult to create a different "voice" for each character. You know? But Ginny does it. She nails it. Each of the three main characters are unique, but spectacular.

Okay, now I could give you the digest version of the storyline, but you can read that on the back of the book or on or when you go to buy it (and you really should buy this book!). Instead I will tell you that I only have one favorite book, and I read it years ago. It will forever be my favorite book because of all God taught me personally as I was reading it. However, Invisible is my new, close runner-up for favorite book. Ever. And I've never even had a second favorite! This book will help you - if you let it. This book will direct you to God - if you let it. This book will help you discover who God IS and who God IS NOT when it comes to the way you look at yourself.... if. you. let. it. I pray you open yourself and let this book in....

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Easter Egg

I'm not generally an idiot. Okay, that's not entirely accurate, but follow me here... This year, as we were dying Easter eggs, i had a couple of first-time thoughts, and i feel a bit, well, dull-witted for not thinking about these things before now.

First, our outside can be full of stains and mistakes, but when Jesus peels away our sins through His ultimate sacrifice for us, He leaves us pure and white inside, almost as if the old, cracked, mottled outside was never there in the first place. Perhaps this is why the dyed eggs have become a recognizable icon and family tradition at Easter? If so, i am obviously one of the last to figure it out, but i have made the connection. Finally.

Second, we spend a ridiculous amount of time working hard to get the external appearance of our eggs to be unique, colorful, and sometimes sparkly, yet it is so temporary! We crack, peel, and toss the external shell to get to the good stuff, and the beautiful decorations are discarded in crumpled, brittle bits and pieces. Do we do this in our lives, as well? Are we so focused on our external appearances that we fail to really understand that this body, this shell that houses our eternal soul, is merely a temporary home? Furthermore, how many of us understand the technique to the perfect hard-boiled egg? With all this attention given to the outside, are we losing sight of what matters: the quality of the food we are left with? How like our lives that is, too! We spend more time on external trappings than on the condition of our hearts and mind and soul.

So, this Easter, while i had quite the epiphany about eggs, i was in constant awareness of the work i have yet to do and the beauty of God's grace. I am still here, breathing and typing up blog posts, so i am obviously not done yet. And until God calls me Home, i will keep stretching, growing, and pressing on toward the goal, so that no act of forgiveness or grace on the part of my Maker will ever go unappreciated. I could never deserve it; but i can acknowledge and appreciate it.

Happy Easter, y'all!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

My First Mission Trip: Lynch, KY

Finally taking time to update my blog about my mission trip to Kentucky's Appalachian Mountains. We had a marvelous time, if you can classify working your tail off, sleeping just enough to stay alive, and enduring frigid temperatures "marvelous." I know i do.

We drove into the mountains at just below 50 degrees. When we left it was about 40 degrees. From our first morning to our last night there, it snowed. The high temperature was 32 degrees. For 3 days. The above photo is the morning the snow started, and the picture below was the view on the highway coming out of Kentucky, after much of the snow had melted.

Once we arrived, we threw a giant Block Party for the townspeople. That was really fun! I met some great people, and they were so welcoming of all us strangers! 

We got to attend church in a neighboring town, where our worship team actually took over the worship for the day to give the locals a taste of the more contemporary worship styles. That was neat, too. The little kids seemed really excited!

Then we had two days of work. I was assigned 4 girls and an apartment to gut. We hauled away stuff and furniture, shlepped it to the basement for storage, then ripped out carpet and swept out the entire unit. There was no electricity in the building, so we had no lights and no heat. We only had one mild frost-nip incident, and that was due to repeated trips through the snow to the basement with all that stuff. Then a hot dinner, some music, and some sleep. End Day 1.


On the second work day, we were ready to paint. I taught each teenager to paint, both with a roller and with a trim brush, and it was with immense satisfaction that i watched them cover the orange walls with taupe paint ... and greater and greater skill.

I do have more photos, but in the interest of privacy for the girls who were working, as well as courtesy to the ones who used to live in the apartments we were revamping, i will keep them to myself.

I must say, though, that God was with us on our journey. I didn't have any thyroid flare-ups, stomach upsets, or blood sugar issues. And my body allowed me to eat what they served me and work hard without complaining (much). We traveled a distance, but God met us there, and He multiplied our energies and efforts.

I am definitely looking forward to doing something like this again.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Mission Field

Okay, i've posted before about longing for mission work while in the midst of the mission field God has given me. Now, though, i get to travel with my church on a real mission trip! So many kids being raised in the Christian church in America have this experience before their 18th birthday. But this is a big deal to me!!

My eldest child and i will be traveling to eastern Kentucky to help renovate a dilapidated building in need of some TLC... and elbow grease. ;) We're visiting a small mining town, and we'll both be enjoying our time together and our first actual mission trip.

We are both so excited! Yet, as i begin this post, i realize this is not our first mission trip.... When we delivered food, toys, and household items to the East Nashville residents after the horrible Nashville Flood, we were on a mission. When we washed disgusting laundry for the volunteers that same week, we were on a mission. When we worked in the Graceworks food pantry, we were on a mission. When we planted trees for our city to reduce erosion in a creekbed, we were on a mission. When we fed the homeless on New Year's Eve, we were on a mission.

Seriously, everything we do can be a mission straight from God.... if we are open to it. It we listen and obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Although, i'm still excited about this particular trip.... :)