Monday, May 23, 2011

Starry Night

Right now everything in our house is quiet.  I’m the only one awake (well, me and our kitten, Coraline).  Even our Golden Retriever, Thurman, is asleep upstairs in Elliot’s room.  I’m not really a night owl though.  Typically I am exhausted by 9 PM and asleep myself by 10.  Today was a busy day though; this week is a busy week.  I needed a few minutes to decompress.  Our kitten has “surgery” this week to keep her from having “baby kittens” (try explaining that to a 7 and a 4 year-old).  Tuesday Sydney takes gymnastics.  Wednesday Sydney’s preschool class is celebrating the end of the school year with a luau.  Thursday Elliot’s class is hosting a young author’s celebration.  On that same day Sydney has Kindergarten placement testing.  Friday is field day for Elliot and also Sydney’s preschool graduation.  And, Elliot still needs to get to indoor swim practice twice this week.  Whew!  Somebody stop this ride because I wanna get out!

I’m not a person who enjoys being overly busy.  When I get too overbooked I start to forget things.  John tells me about appointments, bills, or his work schedule and I don’t remember the details.  I have made a lot of lists to help me get through this week.  I hope I didn’t forget to put something on the list.

I’m reading this great book right now called “WEIRD:  Because Normal Isn’t Working.”  It’s written by the Senior Pastor of LifeChurch, Craig Groeschel.  LifeChurch is a multicampus church in Oklahoma that offers an amazing online experience.  It’s pretty awesome.  I won’t go into detail about the book or the church…it’s worth a Google search though.  One part of this book deals with how we spend time.  We are overscheduled, overworked, overwhelmed, stressed out and exhausted.  One sentence had me grab a highlighter; it’s this:  “If the devil can’t make you really bad, then he will make you really busy.”  Now, upon my own Googling I discover that Pastor Groeschel wasn’t the first to make this statement, that’s fine, I don’t think he intends it to read that way, but it still sticks as really good advice. 

I know I need to say “no” to some things in order to say “yes” to some great things.  There are times though that I don’t really have a choice in the matter.  This week is an example of that.  I cannot say “no” to experiencing the kids’ year end celebrations.  Some appointments cannot wait. 

What I do believe though is that in the midst of the busyness I can still take care of myself. 

I walked outside before I started writing this.  It’s a beautiful night—like that Van Gough painting “Starry Night.”  I could hear crickets chirping, frogs doing whatever that sound is called that frogs do.  There was a slight warm breeze, and I could hear the leaves in the trees rustling.  The stars were shining so bright.  Summer’s so close; I can smell it in the air.  I stood in our driveway for a few minutes, in the dark, warm night and just thanked God for this moment.  I was thankful for that moment.  Thankful to take in what I already did today and what the rest of the week will bring.   I can’t know that I will get to experience that serenity again this week.  But, just for tonight I did. 

“If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (Contemporary English Version).  That verse reminds me that even when I am tired, have a lot going on, feel overburdened, stressed, etc…I need to come to Him and recenter myself.  For it is in that, that I feel renewed.  A woman in my Lifegroup reminded me that everything has an “off switch.”  I’m grateful that I digested her comment because it gave me a wonderful way to end my day.

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hometown Buffet

Have you ever eaten at one of those big buffets?  I have and even though I am a pretty picky eater, I have to admit all those choices excite me.  The colors, flavors, textures, and tastes of so many different foods are wonderful.  They can appeal to anyone and the diner can be filled beyond expectation. 

If you attend a traditional Sunday service at a local church, Sunday mornings are like eating from the whole buffet; it is filling.  Sundays are great.  However, I see a small group like the lean protein that keeps me going through the week.  The connections I make and the things I learn about encourage me and guide me.  I enjoy focusing on feeding that part of my appetite that needs that lasting fuel. 

I read a study book on the wilderness experience of the Israelites.  This is new material to me.  I keep attempting to apply it to my own life, as the author suggests.  I have to say, it’s no coincidence that the neighborhood I live in is called Lake Wilderness. 

I lived many years in a wilderness.  I spent a lot of time questioning what I was doing where I was at.  I spent days on end asking God, “how did I get here and when do I get to get out?”  What I am beginning to understand though is this…this is a journey.  God sees potential in me that I often don’t see myself.  He’s guiding me through this wilderness to make me stronger.  He wants to instill in me the necessary tools to get through my journey.  It's only through the wilderness that I gain strength.  And, it’s a different wilderness for each of us. 

Romans 8:18 tells us “For I consider that the suffering of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  For me this means that even if we feel uneasy about our current situations in life, there is a reason and there is good to come.  The reason for our “wilderness” will be revealed; just maybe not in the time that we want it revealed to us. 

We go through different places, seasons of life if you will.  Sometimes we just have to camp out in those uneasy places and see what we can learn.  Easier said than done, I know.

We have to keep eating from the buffet too.  Eat, be fed, and learn what we can.  When we come across that lean protein, we’ll know it.  It will keep us fueled beyond anything we’ve known before. 

Thank you for reading.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Summers at the Lake

When I was 2 years old, my parents took my older sister and me to Lake Cumberland, KY on vacation.  It’s one of my favorite places on earth.  It’s located in the southern part of the state.  The shoreline measures over 1,200 miles; the main lake is over 100 miles long.  It is a site of deep, clear water, lush trees on the rocky shores, and lots of wildlife.  We fell in love with this beautiful place.  We vacationed there every summer thereafter.  My dad purchased a boat when I was young and we were a water-loving family.

The summer when I was 5 I learned to water ski.  I will never forget that day.  My dad had purchased a pair of red skis.  They were linked in the middle by small white ropes to keep the skis parallel while skiing.  My mom drove the boat and my dad was in the water with me.  There I was, in this massive lake, my strong dad by my side.  My life vest was bulky and those skis probably weighed more than me!  My dad had me hold this long rope with a handle at my end.  He told me, “no matter what, do not let go of this rope.”  He yelled to my mom to “GO!”  The boat took off with force…I gripped to the rope, scared to death.  My dad in his own skis and in his own bulky life vest was right behind me, gripping the same handle on the long rope.  It felt like gallons of water were in my face, and my dad was still yelling—over the sound of the gushing water and the boat’s engine, “don’t let go!”  Within seconds, I was UP (and then down)!!  What a lesson!

It took many summers and lots of practice, but eventually I became a decent skier.  The golden suntans on our skin may have faded by Labor Day each year, but the memories that I have of those summers on that lake are with me every day. 

I was recalling this to a friend the other day and suddenly it dawned on me.  Skiing is a lot like faith.  When I first learned to ski I was scared. I questioned my ability.  Even when I was able to get up on top of the water, I stayed right behind the boat.  I didn’t venture out past the boat’s wake.  I wanted to stay where it felt safe, where I felt guarded against anything that may be in the water. 

When I first became a Christian my beliefs were much like my novice skiing abilities.  I wanted to just stay where I was.  I didn’t want to place too much faith in things unseen.  I didn’t really want to “let go and let God.”  Where I was at was safe, non-threatening, not a challenge.  I didn't really trust God.

As my own seasons of life pass though, I’ve grown.  That “safe” place I was at isn’t enough for me anymore.  My grandma describes me as a seeker.  I think she’s right.  For it’s in my seeking that my appetite for something more was fueled.  I am looking at myself now as a skier who is ready to slalom ski WAY outside the wake (for anyone who is not a skier, this means skiing on one ski).  I’m ready to venture out and be vulnerable.  I trust that God will look after me, show me the way.  Protect me, teach me, guide me. 

I read this scripture this morning, which further encouraged me to write this vulnerable post because let's face it, I'm sorta scared to share this stuff.  It’s from Jeremiah 17:7 and it says, “Blessed is the person who trusts the LORD. The LORD will be his confidence.”  (God’s Word Translation, 1995)

So, perhaps that’s where I’m at.  I’m a girl who’s willing to take some risks because I’ll reap the benefits and have confidence from Him.

I’d still like another chance on that gorgeous lake though.  And, some time with my dad beside me there. I miss those summers on that boat.  The sound of classic rock on the boat’s radio, greasy fingers from too many potato chips, windblown hair, seeing my mom’s sunburned nose.  I love those memories…what a blessing.

Thank you for reading.

Brave enough to wave and ski!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”
– Robert Brault, freelance American writer

I made a list last week of the small simple things in my life that bring me joy.  It was a sunny day, the forecast had been wrong.  The kitchen floor was freshly mopped and some of my favorite music was playing from the iPod docking station.  As I stood at the kitchen counter jotting down this list, I started humming that song from The Sound of Music, My Favorite Things.  Now, the list may or may not contain my favorite things, but it’s certainly an indication of what brings happiness or a small sense of peace to my life.

Here’s part of my list:
  • When the “shuffle” button on my iPod brings about songs that are just right for my mood
  • When the weather forecast is wrong for the better
  • The sound of Sydney playing with her toys in her room (I have to sneak up on her to hear this because she gets “embarrassed”)
  • The taste of Wegman’s chocolate cake (I will eat this every day in heaven…it will fall from the sky like mana)
  • Sitting in the sun reading
  • How the bed feels with clean sheets
  • The sound of the ocean
  • Receiving unexpected correspondence from someone I miss
  • The smell of John’s mom’s house 
  • The small smile that crosses Elliot’s face when he sees me at pick up from school

Simple pleasures, as some call them, are the free things in life that just lift us up.  They are all around us, all the time.  If I slow down to take notice, the list could go on and on.  I can always appreciate what’s around me, no matter where I am.  It’s in small appreciation that I feel filled up.  The key though is just to allow myself to see them, drink them in, and be filled up.  There is a constant hurl of things in my day that test me; attempt to tear up my list.  It’s a conscience choice to look for the good.

In the women’s group I am part of we were discussing just last night how to turn away from negative thinking.  Philippians 4:8 tells us this:  Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don't ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise.  

So, the next time you start “Stinkin’ Thinkin’” grab your P4-8 (as our facilitator referred to it) and get rid of that negative bug.  It can be like the WD-40 of the mind. J

What’s on your list?  Leave me a comment with some of your simple things.  Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids

I Was a Really Good Mom BEFORE I Had Kids.  That is the name of a hilarious book I read a few years ago.  I know we are told not to judge a book by its cover, but this book’s cover showcases a larger than life cupcake with hot pink frosting.  Hot pink is one of my favorite colors.  Cupcakes are one of my favorite foods.  The title of the book is great.  I had to have this book.  I devoured the contents of this book like I would like to devour the cupcake on its cover. 

This book made me laugh out loud and also offered me comfort in a comical way.  I love when people get real and admit that they aren’t perfect.  This book does just that.  There are what the authors call “dirty little secrets” on every page.  Moms admit something that’s not perfect that they do, say or think.  One mom admits that she tells her two year-old daughter, “See you are only two.  It says right on this cookie package that you can only have two cookies.”   I’ve done things like that.  I have told lies like that.  And, no I don’t think I’m a bad person because of it.

Motherhood is exhausting.  Some days I feel like an octopus and all of my 8 arms are being pulled in different directions.  There are so many things to remember.  Phone numbers, kids’ parents names, practice times, appointments, lunch menus, shot schedules, shoe sizes…the list goes on.  I didn’t know my brain was capable of holding so much information until I became a mom.

I had all these ideas of what being a mom was going to be before I had kids, don’t we all?  We critique others moms before we have kids (and even after) and make mental notes of what we won’t do.  That all gets thrown into an overstuffed washing machine after the kids arrive!   A baby is like a CEO that moves in and sets up his office right in the middle of our lives.  We conform to HIS schedule.  We follow HIS rules.  HE calls the shots.  We don’t even get a raise to deal with the extra expense or loss of sleep!  We use words like “potty” instead of bathroom.  Although Elliot did ask me recently to stop using that word, “Just say bathroom mommy, I’m not a baby anymore.”

There is so much unnecessary pressure that comes from being a mom, and I think a lot of it we put on ourselves.  Yes, kids are exhausting.  Yes, kids are demanding.  But, I’m the one that gets sucked into attempting to be the perfect mom.  And, here’s another thing.  I’ll never be perfect.  It’s not what God wants for me or expects from me.  As I’m told in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  So, I have made a new mental note…let go and let God.  My kids don’t care if the floor isn’t clean.  My kids don’t care if they wear a shirt with a stain.  Sydney purposely wears unmatching shoes!  When I let go and let God show me what being a mom is, that pressure melts away.  I don’t have all the answers; I’d be foolish to pretend I did.  All I can do is be passionate about finding the best way for my family. 

I know that people say, “These are the best years of your life.”  I know too that they are right.  Someday the house will be clean.  Someday there won’t be sippy cups in the cabinet.  Someday there will be books on the bookshelves instead of board games and Barbies.  Someday I won’t wince in pain after stepping on a Lego.  But, someday I will long for these days to revisit me.  Someday I will long for a small hand to reach out for mine in the grocery store parking lot.  Someday soon I will become “mom” and not “mommy.”

I’m glad that someday isn’t here yet because for today I let go and let God.  I will pray that all of us moms, especially on mother’s day let go and let God.  Let God show you the best way for your family, for yourself.   He is showing me the most wonderful things that this life has to offer.