Wednesday, December 10, 2014

God Is With Them

Well it's not an afternoon cup of coffee today, but a morning cup of coffee--an early morning cup of coffee!  I've been up for quite some time and throughout the night.  Not altogether abnormal, as I do have a baby who is still nursing.  However, my heart and mind have been heavy with something my oldest son is going through.  

I have prayed for him.  My husband has prayed for him.  We have both prayed with him.  We have talked with him separately and together.  We have talked to each other about this particular issue.  I have talked with an adult who can help, to an extent.  Really, at this point, there is nothing else to be done.  But as I sat with my steaming cup of strong black (okay, not so is still decaf) cup of coffee earlier, I realized what I want for my son more than anything in this situation:  I want him to know and feel, with certainty, that God is with Him.  Isn't that just it?  No matter what I'm going through, big or small, tragic or trivial, I want to know that God is with me!  And if I know and can feel that His presence is with me, I am okay!  I know that everything will eventually be okay.

We cannot, as parents, interject ourselves into every situation our child deals with.  We cannot come to their rescue at every difficult moment.  No matter how much we may want to, we cannot possibly shelter them from every tough battle they go through.  We can and should seek God for wisdom, help, and protection.  But at some point, we have to be willing to turn them over completely to God's care.  He is the only one who can be with them at all times.  No, He doesn't always keep them from problems and difficult circumstances, but He will be with them.  That is the one truth that I want each of my children to know with complete certainty.  I want them to know that God is with them.  

So, as I take another sip of my semi-strong black cup of coffee, I am encouraging myself with these promises from God's word.  I'd like to encourage you as well.  These are the promises that I'm praying over my son as he faces another day.  These are the promises I want my youngest daughter to know as she cries "but I'm gonna miss you!" again while heading out to the bus.  These are the promises I want my oldest daughter to know as she musters the courage to ride bare-back at horse riding lessons for the first time.  These are the promises that I want each of my children to know, deep in their soul...

"Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." Psalm 23:4 
"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10 
"...And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:20 
"Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9 

*I am having Coffee For Your Heart with my friend Holley Gerth today.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Gramma Peanut's Path

Last week was Thanksgiving, and oh so much to be thankful for.  But last week was also when we said goodbye to my husband's paternal grandmother.  I loved this woman so dearly.  Growing up, we didn't live close to either of my grandmothers, except for a few early years, so the relationship I've had with my husband's grandma--Gramma Peanut the kids called her--felt like a personal gift from God.  She always called me Steph, which to me, demonstrated her love for me.
A visit with Gramma Peanut after our annual Apple Orchard trip in Fall 2013

During her funeral service, one of Ron's cousins showed a video that was a compilation of pictures of Gramma and Grandpa, along with the story of their courtship and early family years, told by Gramma.  This was to be a video gift to this cousin's father for Christmas; it turned out to be a gift for the entire family.  It was so touching to hear her voice again.  Gramma was known for saying some of the same phrases repeatedly, and the entire room chuckled when one of them was said during the video.  One of those phrases was "Right hand to God!"  She loved God and prayed daily, but she always felt the need to clarify for us when she was being as honest and candid as she could possibly be.  The other phrase I heard from her, probably every single time I visited with her was, "God put me on this earth to have babies."  This always rang true when she said it--and she often said it to me--because I think that was one of the intimate connections we had.  She would tell me what a good mom I was and what a good dad my husband was, each time we visited.  Her family meant everything to her!  One of the last quotes in the video was "God put me on this earth to have babies", and right hand to God, she fulfilled her purpose and walked that path.

I've spent much of my adult life seeking to know--to fully understand--the purpose for which God put me on this earth.  So often I think I get carried away with making it deeper than it really is.  I had a lightening bolt revelation the night after Gramma's funeral, thinking about purpose.  My life verse, that I cling to regularly is:  
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all of your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5,6
I was thinking about Gramma's heartfelt declaration that she was put on this earth by God to have babies.  She believed with all of her heart that her greatest purpose was to be a mama.  That was reflected in how she lived her life from the early years of her marriage, and I believe all who knew her would agree.  If you were to seek to know what path her life took, you would see that she followed down the path of being a loving, involved, and possibly doting mama.  She was that kind of grandma and great-grandma as well.  Her path was clear to all who knew her:  being a wife and mama was number one.  Her path was her purpose.  Eureka!  There it is!  This is what God showed me:  it is the same thing!  Right away I thought of my life verse, and realized just how simple it is to know what God's purpose for my life is.  And without a doubt, it will be revealed to me as I continue on my journey with Him, day after day after day!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all of your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your purpose straight.* (He will make your purpose clear!)

Friends, we all have a very unique, hand-crafted by God, purpose on this planet.  Mine is mine alone.  Yours is yours to walk.   There very well may be some similarities in our paths, but none of our paths will look exactly the same.  So be encouraged!  You have absolutely no one to compete with and no one to keep up with!  Really.  You don't.  You have only your path to walk.  You have only your purpose to fulfill.  That is God's perfect design.  And don't spin your wheels making it more difficult than it needs to be.  Gramma Peanut had it figured out...and so can you!  Just trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all of your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5,6

*word changed for emphasis
**I am having Coffee For Your Heart with my friend Holley Gerth today

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Holiday Grace

My husband has been listening to Christmas music in his truck and at home ever since they began playing it a few weeks ago.  Last year, I decided to jump in with both feet, at the beginning of November, and commence all of my traditional celebratory acts of the holiday season.  I personally don't have a problem wrapping Thanksgiving and Christmas together; to me, it's all about God's grace and blessing and I'm thankful for that at Thanksgiving and don't cease being thankful when the Christmas season begins.  

However, this year has been different.  I hate to admit that I've been almost grinchy already!  Sure, I've allowed the music...I've even tried to enhance my holiday spirit by listening at times.  But, I haven't felt the usual joy at all.  Up until this morning, I have felt a sense of overwhelming stress concerning almost everything that the holiday season has to offer.  I strongly dislike the commercialism of it all (well mostly...except that I love the "Red Cup" with a decaf peppermint mocha on occasion...and all my fellow coffee drinkers said "amen").  But yes, I've been grinchy!

So much of the holiday duties fall on me, as mama, in this home.  Okay, with the exception of decorating the tree and wrapping gifts, it all falls on me!  Not because my husband isn't a helper either.  He's an amazing helper!  It's just that I'm the one here.  I'm the one who compiles the lists; shops online or in the stores; bakes; sends cards; gathers hats and mittens to donate; distributes the teacher and bus driver gifts...  It falls on me.  The other part of it that (I feel) falls on making it all happen.  Year after year, I feel more and more that I need to turn into some kind of a miracle worker to make it all happen.  I've even shaken my fists at God in times of frustration and stress and declared, "I'm not the are!"  But am I relying on the truth of who He IS??

The reality is no.  I'm not.  I've been reading these Pioneer Christmas stories lately; I could get lost in them for hours.  Truly, it's that simple Christmas that I crave.  I'm tired of the overabundance.  I feel like my insides are screaming "ENOUGH!"  But the reality is that I'm simply not relying on who God is during this time.  The reality is that I don't live in Pioneer days because God put me right where He wanted me to be:  this time, this place, this family!

This morning while vacuuming...and being close to tears about it all, again, I felt a nudge from God to shut up and listen to Him.  That may sound harsh, but I'm a communicator and God knows it all too well.  Sometimes if I'm not reminded or urged to shut up...I won't!  Not even in my own spirit.  So as I quieted myself, He reminded me of 2 Corinthians 12:9 "My grace is SUFFICIENT for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  Grace is defined by the Free Merriam Webster Dictionary, as "unmerited divine assistance".  Wow!  I can honestly say that my heart was moved to complete repentance while vacuuming cereal under the table.  I have been trusting in myself alone to get through this holiday season.

Whether or not my husband and I make big or small changes about how we do the holidays, some things won't change.  Some things I don't want to change!  Only, I don't need to rely on my own strength to make them happen!  God lovingly reminded me this morning of my sinful nature, which wants to go at it alone, rather than trust in the divine assistance of a Savior.  I think this is true all the time, but it seems glaringly true during the holidays; it's so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle!

We won't have an old-fashioned Pioneer Christmas, now or ever!  I like baking too many batches of cookies, muffins, and bread!  I like sending cards to loved ones.  I enjoy buying gifts for my children's amazing teachers and cupcakes for the school administrators.  But I need to stop shaking my fists at God, expecting Him to work miracles.  Rather, I need to open those fists and receive, with open hands, whatever daily bread He has for me this holiday season.  And with the daily bread, I will also thank Him for His grace--His unmerited divine assistance--to accomplish whatever I need to accomplish during this season.  Relying on His grace and His power alone, is what will give me strength with each holiday task.  Relying on His sufficient grace is what will turn these tasks into joy!  I'm so thankful that He doesn't give up on me when I'm selfish and stubborn!  I'm so thankful that His Word reminds me I don't ever have to go at it alone!  I'm so thankful that His grace truly is sufficient for me today and every day.

I'm having Coffee For Your Heart with my friend Holley Gerth.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

He Loves the Waves

Last week our family was in Destin, Florida on our first-ever family vacation.  What a beautiful beach it is!  We learned that this has been voted the number one beach in America.  It was easy to see why.  The water is so crystal clear.  At any point during the day you are able to see so many different shades of blue and green.  And the sand is clean, soft, and white...perfect!  The first two days we were there the waves were so calm; we assumed this was how it must always be.  But the third day, the waves were very strong and coming in differently....with force!

We were discussing the waves, the beach, and the tides as we took one of our daily early-morning walks, when my Tessa said, "Jesus loves the waves!  They're familiar."  Ya know, sometimes your child says something and you think How did she come up with that?!  Not one of those quirky kids-say-the-darnedest-things.  And not even something that she is parroting from a classmate, teacher...or parent.  No.  Once in a while, one of my children says something that stops me dead in my tracks.  Something about the innocence of her stance and the deliberation of her tone tells me I need to take heed.  And I did.  I have.  I have chewed on this one declaration over and over since it came from her sweet lips:  Jesus loves the waves!  They're familiar.

And you know what?  She is absolutely right!  Jesus lived and traveled by the sea.  Jesus was never nervous on the boat when the storm was present and the waves enormous.  He slept while the disciples fretted.  And what's more, metaphorically speaking, Jesus came to make waves.  He was very familiar with that.  He made his parents nervous at the tender age of twelve when he stayed behind at the temple; he said "didn't you know I'd be about my Father's business?"*  Jesus overturned the money changer's tables in the synagogue and he overturned their theologies too.  He was always about His Father's business!  Incidentally, His Father's business was so often about making waves!  Familiar? Jesus.  Predictable or safe?  No.  Just as we warned our children about those strong waves:  you can't trust yourself or your own strength in those waves....even if you think you can.

In our own lives--and with the many waves that come--we can't trust ourselves!  We need to put our trust in the One who is familiar with the waves.  He can handle them.  He allows them.  He is the Creator, Author, and Finisher and He alone can handle the waves.  He can calm them or He can hold, protect, and remind us gently of His presence while they roll and roar.  Although I don't always understand why He chooses to allow some waves in our lives to grow so strong, I'm learning to trust.  When the disciples were fearful at sea, in the midst of the storm, they finally called on Jesus.  They had Him with them all along.  They could have been at peace, while the Prince of Peace was with with their Savior!  But they didn't trust or choose peace.  At times, neither do I.  

When the waves in my life grow strong, so often I cower in fear and trust in my own knowledge or feelings, rather than lean into the arms of the One who can handle the waves.  He loves the waves.  As I have contemplated the words of my 5 year old, I think I understand.  When the waves get stronger, I need Him more.  And when they become fierce--though my soul may be in anguish--I lean on Him like never before.  After I come out of the storm and the strong waves, I look back in reflection and realize that those have been the times when I've pressed into Him the closest.  I may be fearful alright.  I may feel tossed and shaken.  I may have desperately cried from deep within.  But without the mighty and unpredictable waves--those ones that are familiar to Jesus, I would not cling so strongly to Him. 

At first, when she said "Jesus loves the waves!" I felt a bit uncomfortable with that statement.  The audacity of it!  How can he?  How can He love something that shakes and whips me about?  How can he love something that creates such desperation within me?  But if I'm honest, I get it!  He wants us to need Him.  He wants us to cling to Him.  He doesn't want us to ever get so confident on the waters that we forget to depend on Him....the Creator of the tides.  And I'm learning this.  Day after day after day.  Just when I think I'm capable...He allows the tide to turn.  And the tide always turns.  I have to learn complete and utter dependence on Him!  Sometimes the tide turns in my favor.  Sometimes it whips me in a direction I never thought I'd go.  Sometimes it wipes me out and flips me upside down, gasping for relief.  And at times, the waves are hardly more than ripples.  He allows the calm too.  That's just it.  He is the Creator of the tides.  He loves the waves and yes, they are familiar.  He knows the end from the beginning.  The test is in the middle of the waves.  But the answer is always the same.  He is familiar with the waves.  He alone can allow the tide to turn.  He alone can calm the sea.

Father, help me to trust and hold onto you in the midst of the ocean waves of my life.  Calm or fierce.  Strong or small.  Let me cling to You and depend on you alone.  You love the waves because they create in me a dependence on You alone.  You are my source and my  strength.  Help me find my rest...riding out life's waves with You.  

*Luke 2:49

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Let Them Be Kids!

"Don't worry about it buddy!  You're doing a great job on your farts!"
  Yep, this was what came out of my husband's mouth as we drove home from a fun evening celebrating our son's fantastic soccer season having pizza with the team.  Now, if you are still reading this, then you are possibly a parent who has many fun, goofy, even hysterical side-splitting moments with your kids! just have to fulfill your curiosity.  Those who quickly decided they clicked on the wrong blog will just have to miss out this time.  

We were having one of those drives home in which our kids were way too happy.  Ya know what I mean? They were all laughing and goofing off with each other....and they were loud!  Like, really loud!  And honestly, my husband and I just didn't care.  We were talking and reflecting on how fun it was to have the entire Vikings Pizzeria filled with Evergreen Vikings soccer players and their families, from our son's team.  They played air hockey and spent way too much money trying to win stuffed animals and bouncy balls from the claw machine.  Everyone had a blast.  So it continued in the car.  Everyone was in a great mood, including mama and daddy.  So, what naturally transpired was the game of trying to see who could make the others laugh the hardest with the fake farts stinkers.  Luke, our 9 year old, is particularly gifted with goofiness and is generally very successful in this game.  He will keep his older brother up at night sometimes in complete hysterics with this.  And just in case you feel sorry for the two younger sisters:  they are completely agreeable to this game....and even "keeping it REAL" at times too...if you get my drift!  

So, there they were in the car playing the fake farts game and having a great time when Luke realized he wasn't getting the usual laughs.  He started feeling a bit bummed out.  That's when my husband encouraged him:  "Don't worry about it buddy!  You're doing a great job on your farts!"  Of course, that completely cracked me up!  The things you never dreamed you'd say as a parent.

What I realized reflecting on this drive home was that sometimes I fail to just enjoy my children being children.  Not this night...but all too often.  At times, when they are just being children and having mostly innocent fun together, I get uptight.  I know there must be something at the root of that and I haven't completely put my finger on it.  But the first step for me is realizing that it's okay to just let it be sometimes.  They are kids, for goodness sake!  And they will only be kids once.  And how often do I remind them that it's great being a kid? That really, they don't want to grow up so fast.  Life only gets tougher.  They have it so good right now.  Then why can't I just allow them to be kids more often?!  Why must so many situations end with me reminding them to settle down, practice self-control, and remember their manners?  

I think partly it's fear.  There it is again.  That ugly four-letter word that prevents me from being the best parent I can possibly be for my children.  Sometimes when they are just acting like kids, I become fearful that I'm not doing my job well enough.  I'm afraid that maybe they don't remember any of their manners!  That they have no idea what is appropriate behavior and what is not.  Never mind that home should be a completely safe place for them to learn.  And home should be a completely safe place to just!  And in case you're wondering:  yes, we do teach and emphasize manners and appropriate behavior when at school and friends' homes and church.  Often we feel proud of their good behavior at those venues; I received glowing reports at school conferences this year.  But just as often, we are embarrassed about some one's behavior in public.  I think that is where my mind goes.  If I'm not continually reinforcing the expected behavior, then they'll make an obvious faux pas again, right?!

That's the point though.  They are children, who are learning to live their lives on this earth with all the other people learning to do the same.  They are going to mess up aplenty.  They will also figure it out.  Our job is to model what's appropriate and to engage in plenty of opportunities for them.  But our job is not to obsess about their behavior and to be uptight at all times about maturity and manners.  They should be able to have fake fart contests!  They should be able to wrestle and melt into tickle-fights at home.  Why the heck not?  They are kids!  There are many years ahead of them when life's expectations will overwhelm.  I hope that they can learn, in our home, to laugh and play and enjoy life to the fullest.  We take ourselves too seriously as adults!  I'm not sure why we think that if we have too much fun we won't fulfill our expectations. And again, I know that there's a time and a place.  But if that's true, then the place is our home, our backyard, and our car.  From time to time it's also the dinner table.  And while my upbringing prevents me from relaxing too much at the dinner table, I'm fully aware that on the occasions that my husband and I allow it, everyone is in a better mood the remainder of the evening.  Truly, a merry heart does good like a medicine.*

Furthermore, I don't ultimately want to change who my kids are.  They are fun and creative. They are funny and playful.  I don't want to rob them of these years at all.  I read something this morning that was on a different topic but the point was made that if we are constantly trying to stifle or change who our children are (or their natural behavior and inclinations), then we will probably constantly wrestle with negative emotions toward them.  I can see how that can happen.  That has happened in my mothering from time to time.  I don't want that at all!  I want to love them for the precious, playful, beautiful children God made them to be tempered with moving them toward maturity and greater responsibility.  

My family is getting ready to embark on our first-ever family vacation.  We are all very excited.  We've had road trips a few hours away to Grandma and Grandpa's, but this is a for-real vacation....with a long drive.  I think God was reminding me last night, while listening to our kids crack up with fake farts, that it is good to laugh with our children.  It's so healthy for us all to let down our hair and have fun.  I envision many fake fart contests and other moments of hysterical laughter and fun with our family on this adventure.  I can't wait!

*Proverbs 17:22
I'm having Coffee For Your Heart with my friend Holley Gerth

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Colorful Reminders

Many of us know the story in the Bible of Noah.  Noah was a man who built an ark obediently, to shelter his family from a great storm.  When finally the rain ended and the earth dried, God put a rainbow in the sky as a promise to Noah that He would never again flood the whole earth.  A reminder...that God brought them through...and that He always would.  

Sometimes I need a reminder.  Sometimes I need a big fat rainbow of a reminder that God is good and that He is working out good things in my life.  God is pretty patient with me.  But often I am anything but patient with Him.  I know that I am losing patience when I stop thanking Him for all that He has already done...and all that He has already brought me through!  Thankfulness is key in preventing my attitude from becoming sour and foul.  And oh how easy it can turn foul!

I don't know about you, but when my attitude turns foul, no one in the house is safe from it!  I bark too loud at bedtime; I frustrate too easily at homework time; I am weary at dinnertime.  And a frustrated, weary, and barking angry mama is not a blessing to her family.  I have lived each one of these realities lately.  I hate admitting it!  Wish I could oh so humbly(ha ha) brag about how gentle, patient, and kind I have been recently.  Sure, there have been some of those moments.  But I've had too many moments recently (I'm sorry to admit) that have been the opposite of gentle, patient, and kind.  And what is at the root of it?  Worry.  And what is worry exactly?  It is fear!  Fear that God isn't really listening.  Fear that He has no intention of answering any of my prayers.  Fear that He doesn't even care how things work out in my life.  That's it folks!  It is fear, plain and simple.  And one cannot live in fear if one is too busy giving thanks.  But I haven't been.

I have set aside my thankfulness journal and I have spent more time, as of late, detailing my worries and concerns to God--about several areas of life--rather than thanking Him for what He has done.  Thanksgiving is a conscious action.  If we are not practicing thanksgiving, then we are not living in thanks.  If we are not living in thanks...well, let me just speak for myself....I am instead living in worry fear.  

God knew that Noah was likely to forget how his family was spared, at one time or another, so He gave him the rainbow as a reminder.  The rainbow is a visible, colorful reflection of God's light and goodness.  The thing is, we have such visible and colorful reminders of His light and His goodness too.  All around us.  Honestly, if I just breathe deep and open my eyes, I notice His goodness all around.  And I need to take those moments to give Him my thanks.  Psalm 77:11-12 says "I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.  I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds."  Just thinking about what God has already done on my behalf and on behalf of my family is enough to pull me out of the funk!  Giving thanks is what I need to do to remind my heart and my mind that He is truly in control and that He has never stopped listening to me.  He is answering our prayers even as we give thanks!

Several nights ago, after a few hours of rain, the sun peeked out a little as it continued sprinkling.  My son came running up the stairs shrieking, "You have got to see this!"  And as my husband and I made our way downstairs, we saw a breathtaking reminder of God's goodness.  And it wasn't even just half a rainbow (as I often see).  Nope, it was the entire beautiful, perfect arc.  (Of course, I couldn't fit that into my camera, so I took two pictures.)  I was telling my husband that I think it was the first time in my life that I could remember seeing the entire arc.  My son then said, "That's not all Mom, it's a double rainbow!"  Sure enough!

Wow!  He loves me!  He has gentle and colorful reminders all around me of how faithful He is.  I just need to open my eyes to see...and give thanks.  I need to actively remember and remind myself of all that the Lord has done.  And that giving of thanks will be enough to chase away the fear.  He truly does hear us.  He has an end to every storm.  And His goodness and light is all around us as a reminder that He loves us and He is faithful to perform His promises.  

Linking up with

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Bearing Our Burdens Daily

Not gonna sugar-coat it:  today has been a rough one.  It has been emotional for me.  In the midst of playing catch-up with laundry, balancing the checkbook, cleaning downstairs, and fighting a scratchy throat with raw apple cider vinegar, I decided to log on to my children's school website and check out their grades.  I have conferences at school tomorrow evening for our school-age children so I wanted to be prepared.  No big surprises with my 2nd grader.  No huge surprises until I saw my 5th grader's Reading grade....ugh!  And my 3rd grader's Reading homework scores...ugh, again!  Let me just say that my first thought was:  these are the same two boys I home schooled....I failed them.  True, that was two school-years ago.  And true, my younger son was on the honor roll last year.  Also true, they may have had reading struggles with or without being home schooled.  Regardless, it was all of five seconds before guilt set in.  And blame.  And ultimately...discouragement.

It is no walk-in-the-park being a mama.  I thought about the tough conversation I'd have to have with both of them later today.  I thought about the very fun teacher conferences tomorrow night (insert a sarcastic tone)!  Then I went to a very bad place of frustration and ultimately comparison.  I didn't stop with reading struggles and grades.  Oh no!  I recounted the number of times my daughter has come home or gone to bed with tears in her eyes because she felt slighted on the playground by a girl she thought was her friend.  I thought about the few times my son had said he sat by himself at lunch.  I thought about the fact that my oldest son has only been invited to two birthday parties since we moved out here over two years ago.  Why can't anything about school be easy for any of my kids?  

And you know what else?  I started in with my woes.  Why does it feel so impossible to get any alone(and quality) time with my husband?  Why can't we get ahead financially when we save and give and pay our bills and shop as wisely(and thrifty) as we can?  And that takes me to the comparison questions:  Why is it that the same people who always have a free babysitter on hand also have an aunt or grandma or neighbor who buys brand new clothes for their straight-A kids?  I'm happy to find good deals on second-hand clothes.  Not only does money often feel like a struggle, but if we don't have something wrong with our house, it's wrong at our rental.  And why if all is right with the houses, does it go wrong with the car and truck?  And why...?  You get the idea!

And you know what else?  All this is okay.  It's all a part of this thing called life.  Griping, complaining, and comparing are not okay.  Life's circumstances are okay; the good will ebb and flow as well as the bad.  Most times I can be very balanced, remembering to give thanks for all the good.  But sometimes I go to that dark place and the woe-is-me and comparison trap begins.  It never ends in a good place.  It's ugly.  And I never feel better on the other side of it.  Why do I allow it?  

I was reminded today of Psalm 68:19.  A portion of that scripture says that God daily bears our burdens.  That gave me something to chew on for quite a while.  I realized that when I feel the hurts, anxieties, struggles, and worries that my children experience, I am bearing their burdens.  I carry and accept these burdens as part of my own.  Now I know that I cannot handle these problems for my children.  Ultimately my children are responsible for their grades as well as managing disappointments and maneuvering friendships.  My job is to train them, teach them, and help them.  However, when they hurt, I hurt.  When they struggle, I feel it too.  It's a natural response that I don't always consciously realize.  I am bearing their burdens.  They don't know this.  They may never know this.  But it's something a mama does.  And thank the Lord that I usually end up in a place of humility and prayer before God, knowing that I can't take away their burdens or solve any of these problems for them.  

I'm so thankful that God reminded me today that He bears my burdens.  He bears their burdens.  Daily.  Daily,  He accepts the responsibility for our burdens...and carries the weight of them.  We are absolutely not alone, no matter how it feels right now!  As I remind myself of this truth, I am reminded to teach my children this truth.  And I can pray with all of my heart that one day they will know this truth in the depths of their being.  They are not alone.  Just as He bore our shortcomings and sin on that rugged cross, Christ is daily bearing our burdens.  

Life is certainly messy and oftentimes plenty frustrating.  And if I allow myself into the comparison trap, I will always find someone who I've imagined has it easier...whose kids come home daily with great attitudes and smiles, birthday party invitations, high fashion boots, and straight A's.  But I'm also trapped in that imagination.  That's not where I want to live.  So, I'll take the occasional poor grades and dirty no-name tennis shoes.  And I'll take the fifteen minutes here and there throughout the week that my husband and I can find to have an uninterrupted conversation.  I'll take it because that is my life.  That is what has been given to me....along with a whole lot of good!  A whole lot to smile about.  And when it's not so good, I'll remind myself that just as I am daily bearing my children's burdens--whether they know it or not--God is daily bearing mine.

**linking up with

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Delightful Day...Despite

This past Saturday, my kids and I had a delightful day...despite.  A perfect Saturday to me, would be one in which our whole family would be together, whether we had chores and to-do lists or not.  This was not my perfect Saturday.  My husband had to work from early morning until early evening.  The girls had an overnight which didn't end until lunchtime Saturday.  We then had approximately a half hour to scarf down lunch and head out the door for a birthday party to which my daughter had accepted an invitation.  So often our weekdays feel rushed and busy.  I'd rather Saturday not feel that way.  But alas, this was our day.

The party was at a roller-skating rink in another town.  Our school district is so widespread that this is often the case.  I really didn't want to be in another town for two and a half hours so I fully intended to go home and drive back when it was over.  Unfortunately we knew no one nearby who was attending, so a carpool was out of the question.  When we were almost there I realized that it took a full thirty plus minutes to get there; I decided I didn't want to spend the entire afternoon in the car.  Staying at the rink with baby-in-tow and a younger daughter who would need me on the rink was out of the question.  I remembered driving past a very small neighborhood park.  

It was quite chilly, but after a quick check I realized everyone had a jacket or at least long sleeves.  The park was new to us.  It was cute and small.  It was a really fun few minutes.  A very few minutes.  We may have been there a whole fifteen minutes...before the wind kicked up and the rain started.  But this fun little adventure rejuvenated my kids so much; they must have thanked me and reminded each other to thank least fifteen times!

Following the park we made a very fun stop at Dairy Queen.  It takes a mama no imagination at all to make this a successful outing. We laughed, ate, told stories, and enjoyed each other's company!  My 8 year old even attempted to eat the largest ice cream sundae on the menu!  What a nice laid-back time.  We capped off the afternoon with a little grocery shopping and then the kids finished watching a movie in the car.  When we arrived to pick up my daughter at the party, there was so much extra cake and balloons that my other kids were offered some, to which they happily accepted.  We got a kick out of watching Ella meander slowly around the rink in her tiny pink roller skates--the cutest things I have ever seen--for one last song.  This was a delightful day...despite.  Despite not having Daddy around on a Saturday.  Despite the rush out the door.  Despite spending the entire afternoon killing time in an unfamiliar town.  Despite the chilly rainy weather.  We had a delightful day despite any of my preconceived ideas for this Saturday!

That was repeated, surprisingly, on Sunday afternoon.  My son had an out of town soccer game mid-afternoon.  I had earlier that day griped mentioned to my husband that due to our hectic weekend schedules (which include him working every remaining Saturday in October), we weren't going to be able to pick apples at the apple orchard--a tradition we have looked forward to yearly since our oldest was a baby.  I was bummed!  On a country drive to my son's soccer game my husband declared "Hey, an apple orchard!".  After the game, we both decided "What the heck? It's Sunday--and probably the last weekend we have a chance to do this-- so let's go!"  We broke tradition a bit by going to a different orchard, and truthfully, I had to make peace with that...for a minute.  But, we had a delightful day...despite!  Despite missing church that morning (which we don't like to do).  Despite the tractor not starting (which likely means a battery purchase in our near future), and the back part of our property not getting mowed.  Despite the car drive to the soccer game, in which my husband and I were quietly mulling over discouragements.  Despite feeling like we couldn't possibly fit in every precious family tradition.  Despite life's upsets and challenges, we had a delightful day!  

Hopefully I'm learning a lesson here.  Life is very full of opportunities to make the most out of situations that don't look fun.  Time is precious.  And family time is a treasure.  I believe God always wants to redeem the time and the moments.  I'm trying to keep my eyes and heart open for opportunities to make a delightful day...despite.