Monthly Archives: February 2017

Take It Slow: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: Paul Saad Flickr via Compfight cc

I’ve been attempting to find silence and solitude lately. If you don’t already know, I am also a mom of three young children. (Ok, don’t laugh at me yet). I’ve always been fascinated with many of the ancient spiritual practices that are rarely highlighted in the modern church. But I also live a life of noise and chaos, also known as motherhood. But I still believe it is possible for both to coexist; both silence and motherhood. My counselor recommended I begin thinking and praying about how I could work this into my life. I’ve gotten a little better at self-care.(Though I missed my weekly relaxing bath, and I find that I’m feeling the lack). But spiritual self-care is just as important.

There is nothing wrong with the prayers of desperation that are such a regular part of my day. But something in me wanted something more. I wanted to become more aware of the voice of God and more attuned to his presence in my daily life. I am consistently aware of my need for a Savior, but I wanted to reconnect with what it means to be Fathered and loved by the Almighty, just for being who I am. I can look at my 1 year old, and I love him just for being him from the moment he was born. Yet I have trouble believing God feels this way about me. So I am trying to find moments to rest and listen.

But how can I do that when my days are so full and so loud? By starting slow. When I am in the car without the kids, I turn the radio off and try to pray. I take deep breaths and meditate in the shower. When the baby is taking a nap and the big kids are watching TV downstairs, I try to take five minutes to sit quietly in my bedroom with my eyes closed and quiet myself. Choose to slow my soul and let the hurry fall away. I expect interruption and distraction. Then I’m not so surprised and angry about it. I just take a deep breath and begin again. (I am still very much working on this. The other day when both my big kids were pounding on the door I barely resisted the urge to yell “What could you possibly need right now? Can’t you understand I’m TRYING to TALK to GOD!”)

It has been very difficult for me to accept that life is process. I’m always trying to check off boxes and pursue goals hoping that eventually I’ll have arrived and I’ll be able to relax. But life is a constant progression of renovation and transformation. This unsettled nature of life goes against my natural state, my innate personality. I enjoy the destination more than the trip. So finding moments of silence and solitude is part of engaged and accepting the nature of the journey. Finding a place to pause along the road, whether it appears to produce results or not.

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Categories: Faith, Five Minute Friday, Uncategorized, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Because I Am Weak, I Can Be Useful: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: Sebastian Anthony Flickr via Compfight cc

I’ve always hated being weak. I spent most of my life as an overachiever. A lot was expected of me at a young age, and mostly appropriately so. I was encouraged in my areas of talent and ability. But it was also a lot to live up to. There is such a fine line between encouraging a child and expecting the best from him or her, and pushing them into overachiever status. I often felt like I needed to be the best, or I would lose the confidence and love of those around me. I liked being depended on by teachers, parents and church leaders. I didn’t want to disappoint. While I was continually reminded about the unconditional love of my heavenly Father, I found myself carrying over this attitude of overachievment into that part of my life as well. Of course God loved me no matter what, but just in case, I needed to make sure I was giving it my full effort; checking off all the boxes.

But of course I was only human and I couldn’t do everything, I was far from perfect. I had a very hard time taking criticism, not because I didn’t want to improve, but because in that criticism I heard my unspoken fear: you aren’t good enough, and if you don’t “fix” your issues you will become useless and unlovable. Now, those things were never overtly stated, and rarely true. But I heard them anyway.

I like to think that I have improved in this area, and in some ways I have.but it still takes continual effort to have a teachable, correctable spirit. My need to impress has kept me from taking risks because I might do it wrong and someone might notice and tell me so. Since having children, it is easy to question myself constantly. It doesn’t help that our social media culture fosters an environment where each person’s choices become public discussion fodder. Gossip has always existed, but the difference between the village rumors and the internet is that now one mom’s apparent failing becomes a public opinion discussion but without the important relationship of community closeness. When the sweet older lady who helps you wrangle your children gives you advice it’s a lot easier to take than when a stranger half way across the world criticizes you on social media. Because correction should always, whenever possible, come from a place of love and relationship.

This past year I have been learning the hard way that God can use us because of our weakness rather than in spite of it. I took on some major responsibilities last year, ones I had been praying about for a while. Then within weeks, life got very crazy. Suddenly being my usual overachieving self was no longer an option. Instead of just delegating, I was forced to really depend on those around me. It was a position of feeling out of control. This was not how I liked to function. I had been raised to be dutiful and responsible. Without meaning to, my personal mantra had become “do it well or don’t do it at all.” (Not quite the same as perfectionism, for which I am not usually plagued, but close enough to get in the way). So as I saw myself handling my public responsibilities at less than full capacity, I felt like a failure.

I vividly remember a conversation I had with God where I mentally uttered the phrase. “This is not how I wanted to do things.” My spirit was quietly reminded of verse from 2 Corinthians. (Which of course I couldn’t remember verbatim which I why I am very grateful for the internet in helping me locate the full versions of verses of which I recall only a small portion.)
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

I realized that my weakness was not a barrier to God. If anything, he was forcing me to depend on him. When you are firing on all cylinders it is easy to give in to pride. After all, confidence in your own abilities isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But when God uses me, not just despite my frailties but because of them, the credit is his alone. When the children God has given me cause me to come to the end of myself both in public and in private make me accessible and relatable to other moms, his power is being made perfect in my weakness. When we begrudgingly made peace with the idea of renting our house instead of selling it, and now we get random texts from our new tenants telling us how grateful and blessed they feel to be living in our house, his power is being made perfect in my weakness. When I realize that parenting is as much about who I am supposed to become as helping my children become who they are supposed to be, (especially when I have doubts about what either of those things will look like), his power is made perfect in my weakness.

As we look back at our lives, may we be able to say that God, in his mercy, used our weakest places and our deepest failures to do some of his greatest work.

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Categories: Faith, Five Minute Friday, Parenting, Uncategorized, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Safe With Him: Five Minute Friday

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I was laying in bed last night when the full gravity of it hit me. 14 years this May. I’m so used to saying it, thinking it, that I don’t think I grasped how monumental that is. 14 years is a long time.

I was warned that it would be like this, that the further along in life you go time seems to speed up. In some ways I feel like I’m in the sweet spot for that. The days don’t drag by like they did when I was a kid. Things that are just a couple years away don’t feel like such a long time to wait. (Of course I’ve also learned how fast things can change in just a year).

It has been a rough few months (truthfully a rough last two years). A hard pregnancy and delivery, medication adjustments, work transition, major renovation followed by a full house move and becoming landlords. Little of it looks like I thought it would and yet there are bits of the impossible. It seemed like we would never have a bigger house and yet now we do. It seemed as though student loan debt would follow us forever, and while debt free living is still a few years away, it feels closer and more attainable than in the past.

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But in all the important happenings of these years, I don’t want to lose us. 14 years since I told this man “For better or for worse.” We’ve definitely had our fair share of both. Growing a small human four times over, and trying to find myself again afterwards each time. Dreaming, giving up on dreams, and yet still returning to them again. What I’ve always wanted most is to create a safe home, a space between us that keeps us connected. A force field of sorts that keeps both the bad, and sometimes even the good from separating us from each other.

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I want him to know that I hope in him, believe the best about him (sometimes despite evidence to the contrary) and can’t imagine the years ahead without him. This husband of mine celebrated a birthday this week, and while it wasn’t a major milestone number, the looming big digits ahead seems to bum him out. I think maybe he wonders if he’s doing all he wants to do and being who and what he imagined he wanted to be. But I can only see how far he’s come. 14 years may be a long time, but as I reminded him the other night, he promised me at least 50. So we still have a ways to go. I look forward to the journey.

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Categories: Five Minute Friday, Marriage | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Be Kind To Yourself: Grace During Times of Transition

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Photo Credit: Hijo de la Tierra. Flickr via Compfight cc

 

I sat down to write this post, wanting so much to share wisdom about how important it is to be kind to yourself. But then I realized something, I am terrible at that. I think I’m being kind to myself when the house is a mess and I haven’t exercises in two months because I’m adjusting my expectations.

Except I’m not. I’m harboring frustration and irritation at myself. Because a more disciplined person would be getting up early to pray and workout so that I could greet the day in a centered and calm manner. Instead of being ripped from sleep by the sound of my children up and already fighting with each other. If I really had it together I would be showered and dressed (extra points for makeup) and already started their breakfast before they emerge instead of alternating hurriedly throwing food at them while I attempt to wash, brush and dress. (This whole back and forth takes until at least 10 AM most days).

I can talk big about giving yourself grace, and encourage other moms to be kind to themselves, but you know what? I’m awful at taking my own advice. Because even though I know I can’t be super mom, I can’t stop trying. There is so much of me that doesn’t get expressed. The part of me that needs to focus on health and wholeness. The part that wants to be strong, and fit instead of saggy and lumpy. The part that wants to change the world, be a “real” blogger, and finish my next book. The part that wonders if I could have a teaching or a speaking ministry if only I had more than thirty seconds to think on a daily basis.

So what choice do I have? I can either continue down a path of negatively and self-deprecation and convince myself things will never get better. (Trust me I have those moments). Or I had just try again tomorrow and learn to rejoice in the small victories.

Today I managed to workout for the first time in a long time. It was at 3:30 in the afternoon while the baby was napping and the kids were miraculously playing without fighting for more than two minutes. I may have worn my workouts clothes all day to get to this small step forward and it’s likely that tomorrow may go in a completely different direction. But for now, for today, for this moment I was able to step out of the rut of survival mode and work towards a better way.

I can feel bad that I “should’ have done more and become disheartened if tomorrow I’m not able to make any progress. Or I can just celebrate the moment. Maybe those little celebrations and private acknowledgment of my small accomplishments are what kindness to myself looks like.

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