Friday, March 22, 2013

Looking For the Smiles

Feeling very fulfilled and content creating precious memories with our children.  I'm focusing on remaining content in all things.  This is good.  Really good.  Circumstances cause me to look up, look down, look around, seek, seek, and seek; they're not altogether bad, constantly changing, because once I seek, I find.  I find Him.  I find the One, the only one, in whom my soul rests.  Once I find Him--as I always do when I seek--I am fully reminded to rest in Him.  To be content.  To remain content.  In contentment is the peace which my soul desperately craves.  I crave this peace more than I crave any other thing in my life!  I crave peace as my body craves water.  And I have found...I am finding, again and again that peace, true peace, is found in contentment.

Living this truth is key because I know that my children are watching me more than they are listening to me.  (Often I wonder if they're ever listening to me.)  But, do you know what I mean?  The way that I live my life and walk in contentment and peace...or not, is what they get more than what I say to them.  I have to keep this truth in the forefront, because I want my children to live life in peace more than anything else.  Just as the apostle Paul said, whether they abound or are abased (Philippians 4:12), I want them to live life content; this brings about true peace. 
Today is a perfect opportunity.  My husband and I finally have a date night planned.  They are few and far between so we are ecstatic when one is on the calendar!  My 7 year old woke up complaining of a headache.  I gave him medicine, prayed with him, and sent him on his way to school.  I had a very strong suspicion that the school would be calling me by lunch time, at the latest.  Just had a feeling.  Sure enough, I got off the phone with my older brother mid-morning and there was a call from my son's school.  So, I pouted for a minute.  Then, I packed up my 3 year old and drove to get my son.  He had a low grade fever.  I sent a message to my friend, who had so graciously offered to watch my children.  I let my husband know what was going on.  I pouted just a bit more.  Then I began to seek.  Why, darn it?  Well...why not?  Life is life...and sometimes it's unfair!  But, you know what else I found?  Contentment.  Peace.  I watched our new chicks for a while...and they made me smile.  I looked around my beautiful living room (beautiful in my eyes as we're still renovating and it's been a long journey).  I smiled.  I breathed.  I listened to my son talk to his sister with kindness.  I relaxed.  It's okay.  He may feel better after resting, and we may still get to go.  Or, he may not and the date will be off.  Either way, I'm okay.  I'm fully content and enjoying this day.  I am at peace.  My soul is at rest.  

So, this peace is truly what I want my children to catch, if they don't get anything else from me.  This is my prayer for them.  Am I always at peace?  No way!  But, this is my prayer for myself too.  And I'm learning.  I'm growing.  I'm seeing God work His peace in me as a master craftsman.  He is perfectly able to finish all of the good works that He has begun in me.  I will continue to look for places to smile.  I will continue to thoroughly enjoy creating memories--and opportunities for memories--with my children.  Some of the things making us all smile recently are our 8 new baby chicks.  They are darling.  And yes, I know that they grow up!  We are so excited about this new chapter in our new country life!  Loving the moments.  Loving the days.  Looking for the smiles.  Learning to remain content.  Learning to live in peace.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Too Much is Not Enough

Remember having a pen pal?  I do.  In fact, I remember having many pen pals throughout my childhood and young adulthood.  Now, not so much.  What seems to have taken the place of something like pen pals is something like emails, texts, and social media outlets.  Believe me, I am all for these advancements.  I email; I text often; and I have used social media regularly.  There is nothing, in my opinion, inherently wrong with any of these mediums for connection.

I do use the word "connection" hesitantly however, because I have had a slight change of heart.  Or, maybe it's just my perception that has changed.  Either way, I have begun to wonder if there is much of a genuine connection that takes place via emails, texts, and social media.  Up until approximately 4 months ago, I used social media regularly to connect with friends, family, and acquaintances.  I really enjoyed it!  Circumstances caused me to make a decision to deactivate my social media account.  At first I felt very disconnected!  I missed seeing pictures, fun quotes, interesting status posts, and my friends' check-ins.  But before long I realized that in the innermost makeup of who I am, I wasn't missing anything at all (in terms of feeling connected with people who I care about).

Fast forward 4 months and I am doubtful that I will re-connect in this particular way any time soon.  Again, nothing at all wrong with social media; it can be a whole lot of fun.  But, it can also be a waste of time.  It can be a source of hurt.  It can allude a false sense of identity.  And it can sure be a false sense of community...or if you will, connection!

Please understand that I am not on an anti-social media rant nor am I suggesting that anyone who participates is falling prey to what I specifically pinpointed.  But for me, I saw most of this at play in my own life or those with whom I was connected.  You know, the perfect marriage online....but have dinner with them and it's a completely different couple.  Or, the constant bragging about all the do-gooding in one's family or children, while failing to consider the feelings of some who think they'll never measure up.  I've been a part of entire meal-time discussions about something posted on a person's social profile page.  Had circumstances not prompted me to bow out, I would probably still be an active participant.  But not having this as a part of my life has been nothing short of a refreshing change of pace, if not a blessing.  (Again, this is just me!)

What most of us crave is real connection--person to person.  I text friends and family frequently (and honestly, 9 times out of 10 it's just easier than a phone conversation).  But, I am refreshed and affirmed after a coffee date with a friend, like the one I recently enjoyed.  I appreciate the short and sweet messages my husband sends me, but what I really crave is some face to face time with him (I'm talking about conversation....mostly!).  I enjoy reading and sending a nice email, but how much more special I feel to open or send a card in the mail.  Snail mail, yes!  That's what I'm referring to!  I love it!  Writing notes, letters, and cards is one of my things--always has been!  And personally, I've found that one is much more deliberate this way than when the "send" or "post" button is pushed.  And boy, can buttons easily be pushed!  I've been the recipient and I've been the perpetrator.  Yes I have. 

I was having a phone conversation with one of my lifelong friends, who unfortunately lives thousands of miles away from me.  She too, has recently taken a leave of absence from the social media world.  She echoed everything I was expressing in relation to that decision.  She is the one who used the term deliberate.  She wanted to become more deliberate in her relationships.  So do I!  So do I.  When I think of a friend or family member and send that card, or make that phone call, or even when I send that text...I want it to mean something.  I don't want it to be haphazard or careless. 

You know, when you see 60+ "likes" on a post or a picture, it's very easy to fool yourself into thinking that 60 some people genuinely care.  When in reality, what happens in what's real!  Go through a life-altering circumstance or an extremely difficult transition and observe who is by your side.  Most of us, if we're honest, are pretty darn lucky to have 6 people genuinely care, check in, bring a meal or dessert, pray with us, cry with us, celebrate with us, or break bread with us!  And that is not a bad thing!  It's a very real thing.  We can be fooled into thinking we are surrounded by swarms of people who love us, care about us, and are cheering for us...but when the rubber meets the road we see who is really there...walking this life road with us!  That's where the blessing is!

There is a bible verse that refers to throwing pearls before swine.  It is not my intention to take that verse out of its context, but the general idea of deliberate relationships can be similar.  We only have so many hours in a day.  We only have so much emotional energy.  We only have so much to give.  As is the same for those around us.  How realistic is it to think that our 500 online friends are really our friends?  Or even 50 for that matter?  And why would we continue to pursue relationships that are rarely--if ever--reciprocated?  We can either invest in those few meaningful relationships or we can spread ourselves thin...and possibly miss out on enjoying rich, meaningful fellowship or connection.  Most of us have looked at the life of Jesus, who had the multitudes, the crowds, the disciples, the 3, and the 1 close friend.  This is a very real picture.  And I repeat what I said before:  social media is a fun use of time, but we were created for nothing short of real life connection. 

Sometimes there is just too much noise in our lives!  Too much.  Too many distractions.  Too many obligations.  Too many scheduling conflicts.  Too many business ventures.  Too many after-school activities.  Too many toys.  Too many clothes.  Too many shoes.  (Well....maybe not that necessarily!)  Too many posts.  Too many people constantly around us.  Too much noise.  Not enough life.  Ironic?  I don't think so.  How many times did Jesus deliberately leave the multitudes and the chaos?  How many times did he steal away to be quiet?  To pray? 

And on the heels of that, if I may:  real life and growth most often occurs in the stillness and the deliberate quiet.  How else can we hear what God's still small voice is whispering to us?  I read a wonderful passage in a beautiful book recently.  The book is Hinds' Feet on High Places:  it is the story of Much-Afraid making the journey to the high places with the Shepherd's guidance.  Toward the beginning of Much-Afraid's journey, the Shepherd explains to her why it's necessary for this journey to the very highest places to be one made in quiet and solitude--not before the eyes of beholders. 

All the fairest beauties in the human soul, its greatest victories, and its most splendid achievements are always those which no one else knows anything about, or can only dimly guess at.  Every inner response of the human heart to Love and every conquest over self-love is a new flower on the tree of Love.  Many a quiet, ordinary, and hidden life, unknown to the world, is a veritable garden in which Love's flowers and fruits have come to such perfection that it is a place of delight where the King of Love himself walks and rejoices with his friends.  Some of my servants have indeed won great visible victories and are rightly loved and reverenced by other men, but always their greatest victories are like the wild flowers, those which no one knows about.
That last paragraph may read like a diversion from my main topic, but it really is not.  When we are deliberate with our time and relationships, we can enjoy the kind of connection that God intended for us all.  When we deliberately separate ourselves enough from the noise of this world we live in, we can even ascend to more meaningful places in our personal lives,  in our relationships, and primarily--and most importantly--in our relationship with God.  When we make a deliberate decision to say no to too much, we are giving ourselves the space and permission to grow; the energy to enjoy our most precious relationships; and the strength to enrich our life's journey.  Simply put, too much is just...not enough.

*quote from Hinds' Feet on High Places, Hannah Hurnard