Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Being Thankful for the Pain

With Thanksgiving being a little later than normal, I've been a little more aware of the holiday than it seems like I normally am.  Of course, food and family are at the forefront and cooking and traveling are what we usually focus on.  Our thankful thoughts hover around freedom, safety and abundance, which is right according to the custom.  This year though, I'm reminded of a few of my weaknesses surrounding this topic of thankfulness.

I'm thankful when I get what I want.

Being thankful for what I have is easy as long as it is what I want.  But, all the submission, obedience and grace goes out the window for me when things don't go my way.  It's kind of like the passage in the Bible where we're told its nothing to love those who love you back.  Of course, you should do that.  It's, generally, automatic.  To really love is when you love those who hate you, who can do nothing for you, who can and will hurt you back.  I think gratitude, real gratitude, might imitate love in this way.

Some friends of ours were expecting a baby and have begun a blessed journey with all of the events surrounding this child's life.  I would like to encourage you to read from the beginning the father's blog about the coming and arrival of their child.  I'm not joking when I say starting from the beginning is sooo worth it - talk about a plot twist!  Shaun does an awesome job at writing and encouraging others through the words and videos.  I'd also appreciate it if you would pray for this family.  God has been doing so much in a short time for them and it's exciting to see what will continue with God's help.  The reason I bring this family up now is because of the gratitude Shaun expresses in everything.  Take a read and you'll see what I mean.

Over and over in my life, my loved ones lives and even through out the Bible, God knows what He's doing.  Things we think we want and don't get are usually for our own good.  For learning, for better things to come, for protection, etc.  And that almost always involves pain at some point.  I hate that part.  You can do so many things 'right' and if you're always avoiding pain, you miss so much.  My labor with Jude was like that.  I did a lot of things well to prepare - we were both very healthy - but when the pain hit, I shut down and wanted out.  In childbirth and life too, pain means something is happening - usually an opportunity for growth and something better and until you embrace it somehow, you'll just be stuck.

So, thanksgiving.  I have much to be thankful for and many to pray for.  There's a lot of pain, loss, and struggles.  Pray for the evil who are hurting so much - in need of mercy and grace.  Pray for the hurting - loss of family, old and young.  Pray for the misguided - those with zeal but without truth and understanding.  But mostly, be thankful for all of these people and circumstances.  I'm trying to see the pain and discomfort, wherever it grows, as blessings this year - gifts to be fully appreciated farther along.  I hope our gratitude can be just a touch more true when including pain in the category of thankfulness.

Friday, November 22, 2013

No Nonsense November: The Only Way Out

I was perusing the news and found myself drawn into an update on a murder trial.  The details aren't important except that they were awful, unmentionable and committed by a minor.  Yet, it happens so much these days.  Whether it's more than it 'used to be', I don't know.  But it's convicting nonetheless.

I'm a first born perfectionist daughter who loves a clear set of rules that will allow me to do something the right way and loves improving towards that illusive perfection.  So, even if I really stink at follow-through or accomplishments, in my head, I take things very seriously!  Like marriage, like parenting, like Christianity, like healthy living, like frugality, etc.  And for people not like me, I know that high achieving and always improving can be downright annoying.  A broken-record or a snob, you say.  And some days, you're right.  That's why I need balance so badly.  But that's not my point today.

That random news article took a hold of me somehow and convicted me of why I (should) take some things so seriously.  Our society is crying out in pain and suffering through these children that find themselves choosing paths of hate, pain and violence.  Everything from divorce to substance abuse to pornography is seeping (if not gushing) into our kids lives and then for some families it's just a time-bomb, waiting for the right trigger.

Even when we mean well and get lost along the way, consequences still cut deep.  I seem to have very little figured out, but I see bold truth in a few things.   Healthy marriages, strong role models and active parenting aren't the solution, they are the groundwork - the bare minimum - to raising healthy, reasonable, productive kids.  Some days it feels like we're lucky to even smile at each other, much less feel like we're doing a good job in our marriages or roles as parents.  So it might sound like I'm saying we're all worthless unless we're perfect.  I'm not.  Not at all.  Because I'm not worthless and I fail miserably all the time.

I'm saying when you think you're being paranoid about how much sexualized tv your kids are watching or when you make light of a drug problem or how hateful families are to each other, just stop.  Pornography is killing marriages everywhere.  Sexual abuse is rampant.  Substance abuse is washing lives down the drain and feeding violence everywhere.  It's happening.  Don't act like its not.  Instead, join me in an effort to love your spouse. Ensure your kids are safe, loved and have plenty of honest men and women in their lives.  Love your neighbors.  In a society with so much hate and ugliness, our best weapon is to fill every space we can with security, honesty, beauty, respect, hard work and wise love.

I think of the moms of these children who get dissected in the news because of their crimes.  How much pain they must bear.  We can throw blame around and where will it get us?  Instead, let's be proactive, preventative and most of all convicted that Jesus came to save us from all of this hate.  Submitting everything to him - our marriages, our children, our habits, our hearts - is the way out.  The only way out.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

No Nonsense November: You Can Do Better

If there is one thing I've learned about myself over the past few years, its that I can always learn to do better.  Challenges are always hanging around, but if I work at something long enough, hard enough, with extra information and help, eventually I'll get the hang of things.

And if there is one thing I've seen about the world we live in, its that we believe so little about ourselves and God's ability to work and grow.  The complaint is usually the first thing to enter our mind and exit from our mouth - I wish {enter problem here} would change.  I, for example, have a list of things that has bothered and depressed me for years going back to adolescence.  Things like my complexion, my weight, my relationships, my financial status, my to-do list, my stress...etc.  We all WANT to be better or different, but whether by ignorance or laziness, we just think its not possible.  "I've been this way my whole life!" "You think I'm bad, you should've seen my parents.  I'm doing great compared to them!" Or that the only way its possible is to be completely miserable (discipline) and who can live like that?  Am I right?

Well, it's a lie that I'm sure the devil started.  You can do better!  It doesn't matter what you've come from, what you've spent the last decade learning to be right (while it was sooo wrong), or how messed up things are right now.  You can change your perspective, your habits, your responses.  We can be an active participant in our life instead of a victim.  God is waiting for that desperate but determined plea for help when we finally admit we're not going to do it alone.  But we put him off with delusions that it's too hard anyway.

It's common to get a little teary eyed at the person who was born with a condition or had a terrible accident or was found in an abusive situation and then applaud their courage and persistence in rising above their circumstances.  They are an inspiration, we say.  Yes, yes they are.  They have defied the odds.  Combatted hardship and rejection.  And they succeeded!  It is wonderful.  So, then what is my excuse?  No, really.  What is your excuse?  Is it harder than any possible scenario I've described?  I daresay there might be a few who have comparable situations, but for the rest of us, what's our problem?  I have all of my limbs, no degenerative disease and was not abused as a child - or any other tragic thing I can think of.  As a young teenager I was heavily rejected by some girls who I thought I was friends with and now I constantly have to remind myself to relax and that any friend isn't hating every second with me.  So I guess if you want to classify that as some tragic situation, ok, but still I'm sure we all have those kinds of stories.  So, what?

You can do better.  I can work smarter.  We can change those problems.  Or at least we can grow.  It's hard to change, for sure.  But why wouldn't you want to be healthier and happier? Really? You'd rather just complain about it? Well, I get that.  Sometimes its easier to complain than to work.  But I'm over it, myself.  I'm ready for results and steady growth.  Extremism is for the birds, but balanced growth and change.  Yeah, I'm feeling it these days.  Hope you will too!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

No Nonsense November: Birthday Party Panic

One of my most favorite things as a kid were birthday parties - especially mine or my brothers.  My mom did a great job every year making the whole thing special and fun.  So, of course, doing the same is important to me.  Doesn't mean I'm great at it, but it's important to me.

Well, in the spirit of full-disclosure, I'm so not prepared this year for J's birthday (which is Sunday, party Saturday).  I'm so unprepared that yesterday we just changed themes from Blue's Clues to Thomas the Train.  Sometimes I hate taking the easy way out, but in this case the easier way was the only way to survive! To get Blue's Clues related decorations you either have to order it from Etsy type places or make it yourself! And when I glanced around Party Galaxy yesterday, there was loads of Thomas stuff.  It didn't hurt either that I was getting super overwhelmed, Jude was running around like a crazy and when I asked him what he would rather have Baseball, Blues Clues or Thomas, he practically yelled Thomas!

It's not like it really matters in the grand scheme of things.  It probably doesn't even matter in the tiny scheme of things.  But letting go and just rolling with it was a big deal for me.  I want so badly to be thorough, detailed and IN CONTROL that I dismiss ideas and options too quickly sometimes just because they aren't ideal or perfect.  But I'm being forced to accept my reality in a lot of ways, whether I like it or not.  And one of those big realities is that in this season of life (two small children, part-time work, husband in school and under job stress), I certainly can't do it all and not exactly the way I'd want to in a perfect world.

Ugh.  Just saying it makes me scoff a little at the thought.  I just hate it, but I'm learning to accept it.  And don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Thomas! ha! It'll probably be more fun and festive than Blue's Clues anyway.

Monday, November 4, 2013

No Nonsense November: Mondays

On Sunday nights, the thought of facing a Monday morning feels like this:

After I've actually gotten up on time and finished my workout, I feel like this:

Sunday, November 3, 2013

No Nonsense November: Praise God!

Sunday mornings are busy in our house with making breakfast, taking showers and usually scrambling to get to church on time.  It always seems that the day gets caught up in the to-dos like naps and remembering extra diapers.  A day of rest and reverence to God is always my hope and expectation, but  I so easily forget.

To help shape the day a little better (at least in my head), here are some reasons I am praising God today:

-I'm able to learn and grow.  I may have fouled everything up yesterday, but I can start over, learn from it and do better.

-The season outside is changing again.  Whatever season of life I'm in today I am reminded to soak it all in and be patient - for it will all be different sooner than I realize.

-Potty training is going so well that J only uses a diaper at naptime and bedtime.  And he can usually go by himself.  Procrastination for the win!

-Prayer alone provides endless possibilities for God to work and to bless.

I hope your day is filled with rest and reverence!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

No Nonsense November: Life is Hard

Our culture is saturated with instant, easy and shallow.  And at this point in time, we mostly know it but usually don't care because everyone else is doing it.  We get fat, overspend, fail in our relationships and settle well below mediocrity usually because it's easy and everyone else is doing it.

I have high expectations for myself or I feel them thrust upon me.  That being said, meeting those high expectations is hard.  Really hard.  And, frankly, I don't like hard.  I like slow-pace ease, thank you very much.

My nest is very fully and busy right now two great kids, part-time work and an overworked husband in graduate school.  All of it/them are such blessings, but I slip into resentment really fast when its been a long day and I'm not getting a break.  Why does everything have to be this hard? Aren't I working hard enough as it is?

But there are beautiful things to be had in facing the hard stuff.  Beautiful things like a healthy body, a balanced budget, healthy marriages and families and going to bed with a satisfied soul.  

Friday, November 1, 2013

No Nonsense November

We let things that don't matter dictate how we live our life.  Wait, not we, I.  I do that.  I work overtime to make it look like I don't, but it still happens.  I'm also bad with friendships, not being in control and stress.  I am not the person you want on the operating table or in the middle of a secret mission.  I crack under pressure.  And like I mentioned last time, I'm ready to be more open and straight-forward about things instead of hiding behind fear and irrelevant concerns.  So, I'm calling this my No Nonsense November.  There's just no sense in being anything but real, authentic and genuine.

So, in closing and in the spirit of no nonsense, I'd just like to say that I hate when people have monthly themes, but then don't finish or hardly last half the month.  And I'm honestly afraid of doing that again this time around, because I'm caaarraaaaazzzy busy.  But when I write, I'm such a better person to be around and it satisfies something in my soul that few other things do.

“November comes
And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.

With night coming early,
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.

The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring.”
― Clyde Watson