Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I'm Ready to Shut Up & Listen

There are things in my life that require courage, some more than others.  When I think about going it alone, I’m frozen.  I’m afraid.  I’m at a loss for words that I need to flow from my heart and out of my mouth.  My problems feel like mountains…I cannot climb them or move them.  The peaks almost reach the sky, sometimes over the clouds, and I stand at the bottom wondering and questioning.  Even in my questioning I sometimes think I have it figured out.  I’m hard on myself.  I have high expectations of myself.

My women’s group is doing a really cool study right now called Faithful, Abundant and True.  While working through this week’s lesson I read some verses from Job.  He was sort of a know it all, but God quickly reminded him that he didn’t know as much as he thought he did.  A sort of “oh no you didn’t” moment fell over Job.  God reminded Job that He is much bigger.  Job didn’t call the sun to rise, make the mountains, or have the answers that God does.  As I read this, I was reminded (again) that although what I am going through feels very significant to me; there is a HUGE world outside my small place.  Now this isn’t to say that I am insignificant because I am not.  But after reading, I was reminded (again) that I need to get quiet and listen.  In The Message version it even says that Job responded to God by saying, “I’m ready to shut up and listen.” (Job 40:3-5). 

I’m pretty sure that if I keep in mind that ratio of me to the world, my anxiousness will quiet.  I’ll find the words I need to say and I will be given the courage I desire.  Putting into perspective that my seemingly big problem isn’t all that big in the grand scheme of the world already takes it down a few levels.  It’s not easy to do…not by a long shot.

This morning I was sitting at Panera by myself reading through this study.  I had a table right beside the window—the glass was cold but the sun was warm.  Two men were right outside the window talking.  I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but then suddenly they were praying together, just standing with their heads bowed.  I’m sure that what they had been discussing over coffee at Panera is a mountain of their own.  It was just the perspective I needed to see though, just exactly at the right moment.  Funny how that happens….

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Where Is Joy?

There is a quote that says, “Joy is where you least expect it.”  As I ponder where I find joy I realize those are some true words.  Just last night Syd was on John’s lap, Elliot was next to me on the couch and John leaned over to me and Elliot.  We had this sort of family snuggle moment on the couch—that was until Elliot began to complain because Syd touched his hair, John sort of squished into him playfully, and then he said he “couldn’t breathe.”  It was a really nice moment (before the complaining) and I felt joy.  It brings me joy to have two children that are growing and learning, healthy and curious.  I love that our family fits on one couch together.
It seems to me that our society tells us that joy is experienced from things of this world.  All the Christmas gift-giving commercials are running on TV right now.  Women in these ads appear joyful when the men in their lives go to Jared.  A luxury car with a giant bow on the hood makes one man appear joyful.  However, for me I experience a deeper sense of joy from small moments; especially unexpected ones.  The feeling from a fancy gift will fade, but memories of moments with my family can stay with me.  

John is starting to get a few gray hairs and this brings me joy...because I feel fortunate to be part of his life long enough that I get to age with him (and he’s doing it more gracefully than I am).  Joy when I least expected it.  I laugh every morning when I drive the kids to school.  The topics they discuss from the backseat are hilarious.  Joy when I least expected it.  Sydney drew me the most adorable picture when I helped in her class this past Monday and gave it to me before she went to lunch.  She learned how to write, “I love you Mom” and had written that over a rainbow drawing.  Joy when I least expected it.

There are so many things in life that drag me down.  I’m a work in progress to seek out joy.  My kids provide it to me easily, but again there are even moments with them that wear me out (teeth brushing, mountains of laundry, sibling squabbles….).  I keep open to the unexpected joy though.

So, maybe instead of the quote “Joy is where you least expect it;” the quote should be “Joy is where you didn’t expect to find it.”  Phrasing it that way makes it sound more like someone is seeking it, and I am seeking it.

When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.   James 1:2-3

Thanks for reading.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Something about the color of the leaves this year just has me completely captivated.  I’ve been taking pictures of them constantly.  We live in a wooded neighborhood surrounded by battlefields and it is just amazing the colors I have seen.  We have 27 trees in our yard and we only live on one half acre!  Cleaning up the leaves after the first hard frost has taken away the beautiful colors is not fun.  We don’t have the right equipment to properly remove the leaves.  It takes days and sometimes weeks for John to rake them, mulch them, and move them out of the yard.  The kids and I try to help, but we are easily distracted by jumping into the piles.  They do the jumping, I do the picture capturing.

I am not a gifted photographer.  It’s difficult for me to capture the beauty of what’s right in front of me, but I try, boy to I try!  So, this post is mostly just some pictures I have taken within our neighborhood of some gorgeous trees.  The kids are LOVING fall.  You will see how much in the photos. 

 I truly do see God using the landscape like a canvas.  I can’t quite say where else the deep hues we see would come from.  I realize there is a biochemical change going on, but even scientists have admitted they can’t quite figure it all out.

It reminds me of the poem by Robert Frost, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”  If you aren’t familiar with it, here it is:
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down today.
Nothing gold can stay.

Even if you live in a place where you haven’t seen much color besides green this year (my sister in Florida), or you live in a place where snow has already touched the ground (our friends in Wyoming), I hope you enjoyed autumn.  The color is only with us a few short weeks, but it is amazing isn’t it?

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I'm Thankful For...

It’s November.  I love this month.  It hosts my birthday, my mother in law’s birthday, and Thanksgiving.  I love Thanksgiving; and it’s not just for the food.  Although my mother in law makes the best Berk’s County Filling I have ever had in my entire life!  

I love November because I enjoy being thankful.  I had a conversation with Elliot and Sydney about the importance of Thanksgiving.  Elliot (who is 7) wanted to know what we are celebrating.  My answer included much more than just the traditional story of Pilgrims and Native Americans.  I told them Thanksgiving is the way in which we say “thank you” for all that we have. 

There is a challenge on Facebook right now to state one thing you are thankful for each day during the month of November.  I loved seeing these statuses last year, so I felt excitement to have the calendar turn to November 1st.  I love how some are so simple and others are complex.  One friend said she was thankful for hot coffee on a cold morning.  Another said she is thankful for another day to love her kids deeper.  Another said she feels thankful for God’s grace; new each morning.  I’ve loved reading them all.

Showing gratitude is such a wonderful way to be connected to the blessings we are given.  There have been various studies done on gratitude.  One study’s results stated that a group, who kept a gratitude journal experienced less depression and stress, were more likely to help others, exercised more regularly, and made greater progress toward achieving personal goals.  The psychologists even went on to state that practicing gratitude can increase happiness levels by around 25%.  That is significant! 

Thanksgiving can easily be squashed by the retail industry.  All the Christmas decorations are already up in the mall…in fact they were up on November 1st!  I was in Kohl’s yesterday and there was Christmas music on!  Christmas is the Cadillac of holidays.  Its symbolism is unmatched, but I don’t want to lose sight of how valuable November is.  I don’t want the opportunity to be thankful for what I already have to slip away.  I don’t want to be forced to charge forward to Christmas gifts, lights, cookies, and the “want” of new things.  I want November to be thankful for colorful leaves, morning snuggles with my kids, a hardworking husband, laughs with great friends, a long walk with my dog, and great phone conversations with my far-away family (among many, many other things).

It’s not that I can’t be grateful at other times of the year.  I’m just finding myself even more thankful for November and its 30 days.  30 days of opportunity to express gratitude for what life has to offer, big and small.  I’m having Elliot and Sydney tell me one thing each day that they are thankful for.  Yesterday Elliot said God, then Sydney said Jesus…then Elliot told Sydney not to copy him.  Today Elliot said he is thankful for our DVR.  Sydney said she is thankful for Honey Nut Cheerios.  I love these kids!

Quite a few years ago my sweet, dear Grandma had me read Psalm 100 before Thanksgiving dinner.  I’m copying it into this post.  I hope it speaks to you and is a reminder of being thankful.  If you are participating in the Facebook challenge, I look forward to reading your posts.  If you aren’t, consider keeping a few notes on what you are thankful for.  And, wherever you are, enjoy November because December is right around the corner.

Thanks for reading.

Psalm 100

A psalm for giving grateful praise.
 1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
 2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
   come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the LORD is God.
   It is he who made us, and we are his;
   we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
   and his courts with praise;
   give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
   his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Now You're Speaking My Language

Yesterday I made a phone call to John to talk to him about something that was weighing heavy on my heart. He took the time to walk out of his office (cell in hand) and gave me his undivided attention. He provided his wisdom, listened intently, and gave me caring advice. One piece of his advice was to consult with a dear friend of ours. Not by coincidence, she had sent me a text while I spoke with John. I called her and we made a quick lunch date. Again, I had the undivided attention of an important person in my life. This morning I am still reflecting on that. I feel loved through quality time. 

Not long ago, John and I read the book The 5 Love Languages. The book offers a way to understand the way in which you best receive love. I scored equally in Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch. However, after reading the book and retaking the assessment, I have learned that Quality Time is really important to me. I feel loved when I have a person’s undivided attention. No television buzzing in the background, or my least favorite, having someone texting someone else while I’m sitting right there. I like eye contact and knowing that the person I am with sees me as important enough to put other things aside. 

Yesterday proved my theory, which is…sometimes, assessments give us a false positive; we have to dig deeper for the correct result. Digging deeper showed I had a hidden Love Language.  Had I told John and my friend what was on my heart then received a hug (Physical Touch) I don’t think it would have had the same effect as the Quality Time did. Having Quality Time with two people that really matter to me left me filled up. Having them speak Words of Affirmation while giving me their Quality Time was like hot fudge on the best sundae! 

Knowing my Love Language helps me gauge why sometimes I feel low, and many times it’s because my tank needs filled with Quality Time. I’m sure everyone goes through those feelings when you need another person to "speak" your Love Language to you. When you know what your Language is, it becomes easier to seek out what you need to feel loved. 

I’ve been missing my younger sister something awful this week. Florida is way too far away from Virginia. I’m longing for some Quality Time with her. I’m thankful for unlimited talk and text plans because it does lessen the ache. And, perhaps with the holidays growing nearer, we can plan a visit. Tonight I have plans to spend some Quality Time with one of my very best friends. I’m feeling loved already just having these plans made. I wish our plans involved jumping on a plane to fly to Florida together. 

Keep in mind though that most people close to you don’t “speak the same language.” This means that in order for your spouse or best friend to feel love from you, you’ll need to speak their language. I’m fascinated by finding out a person’s Love Language because we all want to feel loved and give love to those we care about. 

You can take the assessment online here: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/assessments/love/.  I should add though that reading about your language may also show that you have a false positive. :o)

I’d love to know what your Love Language is. Leave a comment after you take the assessment so I can better “love” you. 

Thanks for reading. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Defeating Chocolate Cake

The last post I wrote was about tradition.  In it I mentioned we joined a gym; and have we ever been taking advantage of it.  I have the sore muscles to prove it!  I went Friday morning to an abs class.  It was a 30 minute class.  I had every intention to head to a nice relaxing yoga class afterwards.  I saw two friends that convinced me to forgo the yoga class and try the Cross Training class.  Today is Monday…I am still sore.

This class was a serious adventure in pushing limits.  I did a level of exercise that I didn’t think I was capable of.  As I pushed myself through the course set up by the instructor, I was tempted to skip a few pushups and lunges.  However, I knew that if I completed the class having not stopped short, I would feel a sense of achievement, even if my body felt like Jell-o.  And, it did.

I’m impressed by John’s ability to find peace through exercise.  The amount of exercise he can do in one visit to the gym just baffles me.  Truth be told, I’d rather camp out on the couch.  If I didn’t do much more than walk our dog around the block I would be perfectly content. 

The instructor of the class I took was attempting to motivate us by telling us “there is an inner athlete in all of you!”  In my head I heard the response, “Um not so much.”  Is there a competitor in there?  You betcha.  I think I have to figure out how to use my appetite for competition to push me when my heart rate needs elevated.

I wonder too, how many people have this struggle?  I heard John say in a lecture once that the “hardest part about going to the gym is going to the gym.”  Putting our shoes on and getting out the door is a challenge some days.  

So, here I am admitting that I married an exercise physiologist and I struggle with exercise.  Shouldn’t there be some sort of support group for a person like me?  I imagine sitting in a circle in a room full of similar people.  The lights are bright, my shoes are that white that’s almost blinding, and I’m wearing workout clothes that haven’t seen sweat.  I use only my first name to admit that I am not a “gymaholic,” but rather a person who struggles to exercise and enjoy it.

However, there is a flip side to this.  I read a book recently called Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst.  In it she writes about how we can learn to “satisfy our deepest desires with God, not food.”  Do I crave exercise?  Not really.  Do I crave chocolate cake?  Yes…well, I think I do.  What I learned from the book though is that I don’t really crave chocolate cake (I’m still struggling with this though).  I think what I crave is the feeling chocolate cake provides (while I am eating it).  And, as Lysa points out...I "crave" a deeper relationship with God that food or anything else cannot satisfy.  More importantly too though is that I cannot really feel a sense of peace through chocolate cake.  Because, once the cake is gone the guilt arrives.  Perhaps though, through sore muscles and a stronger body I can find satisfaction—I can feel a sense of peace.

The band The Fray sings a song that says “sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.”  Man, does that ever speak to me!  It’s so easy to love chocolate cake.  In my day dreams I shrink down and swan dive into a Wegman’s chocolate cake.  I swim in the frosting.  I would prefer backstroke for this event.  In my real life I push myself in classes that make sweat run into my eyes.  And the reason is because it’s the right thing.  I think most of the time the right thing and the hardest thing are the same thing, but I also think there’s a pretty good pay off for choosing the right thing.

I pray my way through exercise.  I pray myself away from chocolate cake and other temptations—it’s what Lysa teaches in the book.  I know I was made for more than a cycle of defeat.  Some days I am better at this than other days.  And, I promise you there are days when the cake wins.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress.   If you want to listen to the song, follow this YouTube link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KiM4I86FsM.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…For when I am weak, then I am strong”.  2nd Corinthians 12:9-11

Thanks for reading.