Saturday, March 24, 2012

What's that noise?

This is what it looks like.  My children have decided that the most fun thing in the world is to scream in the bathtub... where the sound reverberates... and drives their supervising parent insane... but it's also kinda funny... and we can't stop laughing.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Radical Acceptance

We crave it, wonder if we have it, fear losing it; but the truth remains that each person has a God-given need for acceptance.  We either find it in Him and glory in His unchanging grace, or we spend a lifetime looking for it in all the wrong places.  However, even once we find acceptance from God, I firmly believe that we also have a God-given place in our lives for both giving and receiving acceptance from the people around us.  I'd define this as community.

I love my community right now.  It's full of people that build into me, encourage me, pray for me.  It's full of people I can build into, love on, and serve.  However, while there is some diversity in my community, there isn't much.  Now, when I say "diversity," I mean any differences, whether that be in religion, socioeconomic status, education, culture, or race.

My current community is full of amazing people, but, if I were truly honest with myself, I would have to admit that most of them are people who would agree with me on most things.  Our faith and our families are our first priorities, and we've all chosen to express these priorities in similar ways.  Our speech reflects the fact that the Holy Spirit is transforming our hearts.  Our choices are, for the most part, socially acceptable.  It's so comfortable.  And safe.  And we all need this to be a part of our community.  But how did I assemble this group of like-minded people?

Have you ever taken the Myers-Briggs assessment?  I'm a "J."  And not just any kind of "J"... a high "J."  This means I'm a judger.  I am.  My first reaction to any conversation is to judge whether or not it's important.  To judge what the best course of action would be.  To judge the efficiency of a particular method.  To judge the success of someone's efforts.  Sometimes being a judger is a good thing.  I can make decisions quickly, but sometimes I make them too quickly.  I'm a leader because I move decisively from the verdict to action, but most of the time I feel like being a judger just means that I don't spend enough time on the log in my own eye. And, trust me, there is a sequoia in mine.

And as a judger, it is incredibly stressful to be around people who are making what I would define as "not the best choices."  The choices may not be wrong, but they just might not be what I would think of as best so my judgmental brain labels them as "not accepted" and I neglect to include them in my community.  This is, without a doubt, sin.  Ugly, rancid sin.

Another reason I think I'm surrounded my like-mindedness is just the simple fact that stay-at-home moms have similar schedules.  Our kids nap at the same times and want to play at the same times so we hang out, but I live in a lost and dying world that desperately needs to know Christ's wholehearted acceptance.  And He's in me.  And He wants to use me to reach them.  So my community must expand and diversify.

Some friends and I were talking about our judging tendencies last night, and then this morning I opened up the book of James to the second chapter, which is providentially about acceptance.  While I'd hate to think that I'd ever treat someone better or worse on the basis of their financial status, I know I mentally stamp "accepted" or "not accepted" on many people simply based on whether or not I feel comfortable around them, whether I like the choices they're making, whether I agree with them on the majority of issues.  This may not sound too horrible, but it just doesn't seem like Christ to me.

We all need to have friends that encourage us to love justice, show mercy, and walk humbly with our God; but I'm talking about community.  What was Jesus' community like?  Well, there was that motley crew of twelve men that He kept by His side almost all the time, but even in that bunch there was a guy he knew would betray Him one day.  How did He spend every day with Judas?  Then, he hung out with a lot of serious sinners.  The man with no sin spent hours with the crowd that made completely ungodly decisions... a lot of ungodly decisions.  He gave them such a sweet gift: acceptance.

This morning Wiersbe's commentary on James gave me two reasons to accept people.

1. The person is a believer.  Jesus Christ is in him.  I accept him because Christ is in him.
2. The person is not a believer.  Jesus Christ loves him passionately.  I accept him because the Christ in me wants so desperately to be in relationship with him.

This radically throws my mental rubber stamp collection out the window.  Everyone gets accepted.  Everyone has a place.  Everyone gets loved.  No one can be excluded.  The "J" in me whimpers.

This doesn't mean the next person to walk down my street will babysit my children.  Or that I need to spend hours in the local bar, finding some prostitutes and tax collectors that want to hear the Sermon on the Mount.  But I know I need to broaden my horizons and retire my mental stamp collection.  I need to allow the Jesus in me to reach out to them.

I don't know what all the practical applications to this will be, and I'm pretty sure the first part of the journey will will be taking every thought captive to be sure the stamping ceases.  Not that I fail to recognize sin, but that I look beyond the sin to love the sinner.  Something in me feels like radically accepting others will bring so many Home.  Think about it, prostitutes weren't running away from Jesus.  They came to Him because they felt loved and (wait for it...) accepted.   They felt at home with Him.  And He was comfortable with them, not because He agreed with their choices, but because He had loved them before the foundations of the earth.

You know what?  He loves that guy who swore in my presence in the grocery store yesterday.  He loves the neighbor whose habits I don't approve.  He loves the dad in the library who is yelling violently at his children.  He even loves this sorry mother who has been judging those around her for years despite His command to judge not lest she be judged.  Acceptance granted.  Radically and unconditionally.  Will they find acceptance in Him because they've seen it in me?  I hope so.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
Hel­en H. Lem­mel, 1922 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What is that behind lid #2?

One thing you should know about me... I have days that I'm a total klutz.  Truly.  This happens especially when I'm tired, distracted, stressed, or excited.  That pretty much covers all the time. Funny...  Unfortunately, this afternoon's regularly scheduled reading was canceled due to this situation out of control... my klutziness.

You'd think I'd be able to fix lunch for my children without making a gigantic mess.  Think. again.  First I put a very full gallon of milk back in the fridge without the lid.  Nice.  Whole, fatty milk all over the fridge.  After cleaning that up, I reached for a bag of blueberries and managed to knock over a cup of milk on the top shelf.  More whole, fatty milk all over the fridge.  And I mean ALL over the fridge.  So instead of a peaceful, relaxing afternoon reading hour, I had the "Guess what lives under lid #2?" afternoon. 

My baby is 18 months old.  I'm pretty sure I haven't wiped out my fridge since my baby was born.  Please say you'll still be my friend.

As long as I was wiping, I decided to put all the food that was feeding the Fungus Family in the trash.  As long as I was disposing of all the fungus food, I decided to throw out all the expired condiments.  As long as the fridge was going to get cleaned out, I decided I might as well clean out the freezer.  And as long as I was letting go of things I'd been saving, I decided to dump out that container of frozen lentils that I'm pretty sure I cooked when I was pregnant.  I have not been pregnant for a very. long. time.

Surprisingly, I was able to identify everything, even under the freezer burn.  And now the fridge and freezer are arranged so one can open them and not be attacked by food or whole, fatty milk.  

But now my baby is awake.  My big boy is crying for me to let him up from this rest hour.  My book remains unread, and my kitchen faintly smells of freezer-burned legumes.  Ah... so this is why I never cleaned out the fridge before now! 

The truth is I'd rather play with my kids than have a clean fridge.  I'd rather read a good book than check the expiration dates on my condiments.  And I'd rather let those lentils be preserved for posterity than worry about my freezer at the end of a long day.  Amen.

 Oh well.  Looking back, I'll I can do is give thanks and proper credit.  This clean fridge moment was brought to you by Krista's klutziness.  Hopefully I'll find a different sponsor for the rest of this day's activities.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Stop, Drop, and Read

I have a tall stack of books sitting by my bed.  And I'm not the kind of girl who reads one at a time.  Normally, I have about five books going concurrently: a fiction, a non-fiction, a devotional/Christian theology, a classic, and a few magazines just to round out my world.  Back in the day (before children), I would pick up whatever I felt like reading at about 9:15 p.m. and would read until I fell asleep or Teacher Man was tired of the lamp being on.  It wasn't the fastest way to finish books, but for whatever reason I struggled to staple my behind to the chair and just read (books of substance) during the daytime.  I guess on a normal day I find plenty of distractions to keep me moving and occupied, and I just can't give myself permission to sit and fill my mind.

Now, if you hand me a thrilling fiction, I'm all set.  It'll be done in a couple days.  I'll be reading when I should be cooking, cleaning, and sleeping so that I can find out what happens next!  I have to be careful though.  If I get too many of these in a row, my house goes to pot, we eat fast food, and my children forget my name.  Mommy who?  Is that the lady on the couch who's still in her jammies reading the latest Beverly Lewis?  Yep.

Recently though (and probably due to the number and type of blogs that I follow), I've found myself with a hunger to know more, to study more, to learn more than the incidentals, to be intentional about self-education.  Here's where you sigh and say, "Does Krista need one more thing that she's intentional about?"  Yes, yes I do.

My children are entering a new season of life.  Caleb is a preschooler, hungering for direction and challenges. Ben is hitting the stage where we actually are seeing that strong will coming out, and I need to remember how to lovingly guide a toddler.  And as I said around Christmas time, we're really in an exciting phase of parenting.  We're starting traditions and habits without even knowing it because of the ages and stages of our sons.  I would rather those habits be developed intentionally because we are making informed choices rather than just conveniently filling up our days with twaddle.  And the books just weren't getting read with my old system.  Every mom knows what happens if you get to bed, even a few minutes early.  You open the book, you read the first paragraph, and you fall asleep.  The end.

So last week, I started a very helpful tradition called Stop, Drop, and Read (SDR).  After the boys go down for their naps around 1 p.m., I take fifteen minutes to switch out the laundry, clean up lunch, start the dishwasher, and pick up the house.  Then I turn off all unnecessary drains on our electricity bill.  The desktop computer is put to sleep, the lights around the house are turned off, extra appliances are unplugged.  I brew my cup of tea, grab my bag of chocolate (every woman needs one of these), and head to my room.  The pictures don't do it justice.  It's just lovely.

Why my room?  Because when David and I married, we determined that our bedroom would be a place of rest and solace.  Even in the early days with a two-room apartment, we kept our bedroom free of clutter, bills, or paper piles.  Instead, we filled it with reminders of our vows to each other, things we love, and glorious books.  Sometimes my room is trashed. You betcha.  But most of the time, it's the quietest, cleanest room in the house; and that's the way (uh huh, uh huh) I like it.

After that rabbit trail...  I move my rocking chair into the sunlight, look out on my flowering tree, and read.  This time could be for fiction, I suppose; but for now, it's reserved for books of substance.  My mind has enough energy to focus and think in the afternoon (unlike at night these days!) and often the afternoon gives me the opportunity to practice things that I learned from my rocking-chair-reading time.  The boys sleep/rest in bed from at least 1-3 p.m., giving me about an hour and half of reading time without distractions.  Hurray!

What am I reading?

1) Devotional/Theology
Be Mature by Warren Wiersbe
This is his study of the book of James.  Each chapter can be read in about 15 minutes, starting with a passage of Scripture and then moving into Wiersbe's exegesis of that passage.  They're just deep enough to give me some more meat from the Scriptures without being so deep that I drown.  If you're looking for something more than your normal daily short devotional, I'd highly recommend your picking up one of Wiersbe's many commentaries.  They're easy to find since they all start with the word "Be." Be Mature, Be Wise, Be Joyful, etc.

2) Non-fiction
A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola
Even if you're thinking about just doing preschool at home, I'd encourage you to pick up this book.  Charlotte Mason was an educator in the 1800s who believed in teaching teachers to work with children's natural curiosity in order to encourage true learning.  This does not mean that students are allowed to study whatever they choose whenever they choose it.  Her theories actually encourage students to explore complex topics through living (good) books, to learn good habits and discipline from a young age, and to develop age-appropriate processing skills for comprehension.  I'm learning a lot about guiding my children's learning without dictating it.  If this sounds confusing, it's because it truly is an art form.  I'm sure I'll write more on this book later.

3) Classic
Elsie at Nantucket by Martha Finley
Sigh... The Elsie books.  Elsie really is too perfect, which can sometimes annoy; but I appreciate her perspective and the manner in which she handles life's struggles.  It makes me want to be a better mom.  A better Christ follower.  It's also an interesting cultural perspective into life at the turn of the century.  For the record, this is the tenth book in the Elsie Dinsmore series, which is available for FREE for your Kindle.

4) Inspirational
The Hole in the Gospel  by Richard Stearns
Written by the president of World Vision, Stearns tells the story of how he was led from a successful, lucrative career to a non-profit ministry position.  He challenges believers to serve and reach out to the world's poor as Christ did.  The more I read, the more I am convinced that every American Christian needs to read this book. Even after living in a third-world country, I am far too easily lulled into complacency by the ease of American culture.  Loving his perspective on how we can meet the needs of the poor and the fatherless of today's world.

5) Fiction 
Since zipping through The Hunger Games Trilogy in record time, I'm making myself take a break from fiction.  I love it.  A little too much.  There's nothing wrong with reading fiction in balance, but that's just it.  I need to tip the scales in the other direction a bit more.  If you haven't read this trilogy though, it's worth the read.  Call it cultural research if you need an excuse.

So there you have it, I cheated today on my Stop, Drop, and Read to update the blog because so much of what I want to write is about what I'm learning in my little self-education hour.  It's changing me.  I feel more rested and refreshed, but, more often than not, I'm inspired at the end of the hour.  I love the saying:

You'll be the same person you are now at this time next year but for the books you read and the people you meet.  

So true.  So glad my life now intentionally includes both amazing people and strong books.  And chocolate.  Never forget the chocolate.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Define Education

I know.  I know.  I know I don't have to have this all figured out right now.  My older son is 3 years old right now.  His birthday is in October.  Really we have 3 years before he will officially be considered school-age.  But we're seeing so many beautiful beginnings that it is sparking my planner instinct.

"Mommy, there's the word 'off'!"

"Mommy, I counted all the way to 18!"

"Mommy, why do cars stop when there's a red light?"

"Mommy, how come I can't be 1 again?"

So many questions.  The beginning to a beautiful journey of learning (and, yes, sometimes this journey drives me out of my skull).  I'm such a planner.  Every major trip in our family takes begins with a 3-page packing checklist.  No, I'm not even exaggerating about this.  So can you imagine as we try to chart a course for our firstborn's education?

I have several moms that I admire deeply.  One of them makes a personalized decision each year for each child whether they will be homeschooled or attend public or private school.  One year she had a child in private college, public school, and homeschool based on the needs and strengths of each child.  Now that is flexibility and faith in action.

So why do I feel like I need to have my child's educational course mapped out for the next 15 years?  I just don't want him to miss out on any opportunity to grow, to be challenged, to be shaped into the servant-man God wants him to be.  And so I grapple.

I pore through The Well-Trained Mind, imagining days of reading the classics aloud and studying Latin.  I slowly digest Karen Andreola's A Charlotte Mason Companion and find myself in love with the idea of surrounding my sons with living books and a holistic approach to education.  And as I synthesize the thoughts of the two authors, I find myself with a mental picture of what I want to invest into my children's minds in the early years.

Curiosity.  Adventure.  Steadfastness.  Honesty.  Clarity.  Discovery.  Loyalty.  Honor.  Sacrificial love.

So many of these things found within the pages of great books.  All of these found within the pages of the Great Book.  And I slow down.  I take a deep breath.  And I remember first things first.  We will read the Word of God.  We will talk about it as we sit, as we walk along the way.  We will let it change us, convict us, shape us.  We will be different next year because of the way Truth has pierced our hearts.  And I will pray that the Holy Spirit starts this change in me. Today.

I don't have an answer right now for what our education will look like in a year or two.  I know what I want it to include, but I struggle with the desire to plan for a future when I don't even know who the characters in that scene will be or what they will be like.  Because by God's grace, we will change.  By God's grace, we will be just a little more like Him.  By God's grace, we will have wisdom to define education for our children because He promises wisdom to those who ask.

And we will ask.  And we. will. change.

Education: the method by which the mind, the heart, and the body changes.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Natural Pick-Me-Up

So Katie and I were running last night; and, as usual, we ended up talking about random things that we're processing in our lives.  Most of the time, I have tons of things I think I want to talk with her about; and I end up forgetting most of them as soon as my running shoes hit the pavement.  One of the many unrelated topics that came up was how much happier we are when we've spent time in the sun.  Can I get an amen?!

The last few days have been exhausting.  Park time, play dates, gardening, running, walking, chasing after that heavy pedal car.  We haven't stopped moving since the weather warmed up and the sun came out.  It's been glorious.  At the end of every day, I'm ready to fall into bed; but I'm so encouraged.  Yes, there are many graces going on in my life; but I think Katie and I have nailed down a huge factor in these lifted spirits.

The sun.  Yep.  It's just good, old-fashioned sunlight.  It's working its magic in my children too.  When my husband and I went for a run on Monday night, Ben stretched out his arms as if to hug the sunlight and the great outdoors.  So knowing this, how do I change my lifestyle to soak up more of the sun?

Well, I moved the rocking chair in my bedroom.  It now is in the direct afternoon sunlight.  So as I blog and read and answer all my emails, I'm getting some of that great Vitamin D while my kids are napping and refilling their energy tanks.

We also spent the morning at the park rather than going to the library.  Thanks, Ann and Karen, for the great idea!  For any mom that is shaking her head at my clear lack of regard for literacy, we're planning our trip to the library later.  Perhaps it will become a field trip with Teacher Man.

Lunch has been eaten outside for the last few days.  My kids like a picnic food diet anyways for their noon meal so this isn't really a challenge.  I also hate picking up after the noon meal so I can relax while they nap.  Problem solved.  Eat outside.  No clean up.
Lastly, we spent the evening at our local college once again sporting the pedal car and letting the kids run/ride off that last burst of energy.  Hurray for the fresh air!

Results: I'm sore.  Seriously sore.  This happens every spring after a winter of huddling in my sweaters and blankets on the couch, reading good books and watching countless episodes of West Wing.  It's a good kind of sore though that I know is due to a changed lifestyle of more activity and less lethargy.  I'm also more energized.  I really do have more energy and enthusiasm to get through the day and to be creative with my children.

And there's that intangible, I-don't-quite-know-why-things-seem-so-good feeling that I can't shake.  This is the first week in many that we don't have a lot of "extras" which certainly helps with the rejuvenating, but I have to give credit where credit is due.  This pleasant week has been brought to you by the sun (and, of course, its Creator).

Sunday, March 11, 2012

I do not like it, Sam I Am

We do not like it Sam I am.  We do not like Daddy being far away.  Teacher Man has been gone for over three days... in sunny California.  We miss him like crazy.

He just called to say they are running late.  What!?!   That is unacceptable!  Do I sound unreasonable?  Let me shed some light.

The first time that Teacher Man and I were apart for a full day and night, I was on a road trip to Illinois for a friend's wedding.  At four months pregnant, I rode in the car with some friends through the day to get to the wedding and then we drove through the night to get back home.  Since my husband was visiting friends while I was gone, I was dropped off at my parents' home sometime around 2 a.m..  Teacher Man was picking me up the next day... and I cried myself to sleep.

As I waited for him to arrive, I got more and more emotional.  By the time Teacher Man pulled into my parents' driveway, I was in hysterics.  He held me while I cried for fifteen minutes at the front door.  He held my hand all the way home to our apartment while I teared up.  Then he held me while I bawled in bed for an hour.

I have never cried so much in my life.  Yes, I know I'm pathetic; but Teacher Man is my rock.  He's the calm response when I'm panicked.  He's the affirmer when I'm not sure.  He's the man of faith when I'm the woman of questions.  And when he's away I feel like a house on the sand.

He's on his way right now, and I feel like I'm twenty two again, waiting in my college housing for him to pull up outside in his beat-up Honda Accord.  My better half.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Two and Counting

We confidently filled out our surveys in the pastor's office.  You know.  That premarital survey that you take that is supposed to help your pastor pinpoint some of your relationship's challenges.  We both came to the box that said "Number of Children You Would Like to Have" and unquestioningly wrote "four."  We'd talked about this and in our twenty-year-old wisdom decided on this number.

Teacher Man is the third of four children.  He learned how to share, how to live in community.  I am the second of two girls.  I never really had to share, unless you count the backseat of the van.  Although my parents will tell you that I used the "She breathed on me." statement way too often for that to count as sharing.  With unfailing logic, we decided that we didn't want an odd number of children, no one with the "Jan syndrome," but we definitely did not want just two.  They needed to be stretched more by each other so that they would grow more.

Now I look at my two children.  And at my total lack of free time.  And at my stressed-out self.  And I think, "How on earth do people do this with more than two children?"

How do I let them outnumber us?  How do I go into a grocery store if I can't grip each one of their hands through the parking lot?  How do I guide their behavior and disciple their hearts when I struggle with just the two little souls that I've been given?  When do I sleep?

I just had coffee with a friend in the midst of this post, and the word "surrender" came up more than I'm comfortable with.  Perhaps the key to all of these questions has so much less to do with how much I can handle, and so much more to do with how much I am surrendered to the One who truly handles everything in this world.  Perhaps having more children is less about stretching them into resilient adults than it is about transforming me to greater maturity.

I'm a control freak.  Anyone who knows me knows that I don't like surprises... at least not bad ones.  I don't like being redirected.  I don't like giving up my own selfish plans.  But there it is.  My plans and my control are selfish.  They're full of my self.  Of things I don't want to change.  Of sins that I am perfectly comfortable with.  Oh... that just makes me cringe.  I have sins that I'm comfortable with.  Is your skin crawling too?

When I realize the ugliness of what I'm fighting for in this battle (My self. My plans. My desire not to trust.), I am disgusted that I'm even on this side of the war.  What is the truth?  What should I be fighting for? What truly matters in light of eternity?

The truth: Children are a blessing from God, a sign of His favor.  Children are eternal with the potential to reach thousands more with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Children change us more than we will ever change them because the truth is that we need changing.  I need to get on the right side of this battle.

Because the battle is not for control.  That job is filled.  Did you hear that?  God had the job of Controller filled before I was even born.  And the bizarre truth is that this battle so much less about fighting than it is about surrender.  Total surrender to the will of God.  Total obedience to His will even if it goes beyond my logic.  Total submission to my husband though my mind screams for me to run in the opposite direction.  The battle isn't pushing forward, it's surrendering heavenward.

There was a verse that I claimed back in my other life.  That life I lived by the seat of my pants in South America, where God guarded my heart and my person by His incredible grace because I lived in a moment-by-moment surrender.  Not perfect surrender, of course.  Definitely not.  But it's a verse that has come back into season, that begs to be before my eyes daily.  No, hourly.  Even minute by minute.

Proverbs 16:9- In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

I need this more than I can say because I've been trying to do both parts.  I plan my course, and I try to force circumstances to obey the steps that I want to take.  But that's not truth.  So I take a deep breath and remind myself that the course that I've chosen is a life of obedience and loyalty to Jesus Christ.  That it's a relationship that fills the empty and redeems the ugly in my life... and in this world.  And that this Lord is worthy... oh so worthy of my trust.  

I don't know if we'll have four children.  We might.  What's important though is not that I determine those steps but that I walk my course hand-in-hand with my Savior and that I take those steps, not in my own limited wisdom but by faith in my Redeemer.  

Because His thoughts are so much higher than my thoughts... and His ways so much better.

Caleb Wesley... His idea.  Not mine.  So. much. higher.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Taking Time to Live

Yesterday was beautiful here in the Midwest.  There was no way we were staying inside.  Ben had no problem with this.  He's easy to convince.

Plus, Teacher Man put this swing up last summer.  It's rocked our world ever since.

At some point, Caleb said, "Mommy, this is the best swinging in the whole world."  Sigh.  Love that.  Hate that I can't get in their swing.  Silly 50 lb. weight limit.

Caleb was happy for a while.  We discovered all the green things coming up.

See the daffodil bud?

But after discovering all the plants and gathering all the swords... I mean, sticks, Caleb started experiencing separation anxiety... because he'd been away from his trains for too long. 

Ben cried when we went inside.  Caleb didn't want to stay outside.


Definitely one of my better ideas.

There are so few days when I can make everyone happy.

When we can all do something that resonates with our hearts.

The fact is that the last few weeks have been full of therapy for my baby, errands for my husband, emergencies in our community, and just... life.  Since we are now out of the house for appointments three or more days a week, there are days that I wonder why I'm dragging my children through life...with all of us kicking and screaming.  I feel like I've been "that mom with the obnoxious kids" a few too many days lately.

We all need days when we remember to live in our own life, to feed our souls and build up the souls around us.  To take in the here and now.  Fully.  Every moment savored.  A discovery around every corner.  Reflecting our Creator by creating and enjoying His Creation. And yesterday we received that gift.

I didn't get anything done yesterday.  No laundry.  No vacuuming.  No planning.  I didn't answer any phone calls.  In fact, I left my phone in the house and turned down the ringer.  And dinner wasn't fancy.  
Thank. goodness.

Because we all need those days that are about discovering,


 and creating.

And even though today's calendar is full of appointments and must-do's, deep in my soul I remember that it's about more.  There is beauty to discover.  Memories to create.  And eternal souls that need to be loved well.

And I'm ready to courageously persevere.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

'Tis a Gift

Photo credit:
Here's a little known fact about me: I learned to cook on a wood-burning stove, the one above actually.  It was a privilege of my homeschooling that two days of every month, I volunteered at a local historical reenactment farm.  That's right.  Two days of every month in high school, I donned 1890s dresses and aprons, baked for the farm hands, and gave house tours.  And I loved it.   And I learned so much.

I learned that whipping egg whites by hand is painful... seriously painful.  I learned that it's just as important to admit what you don't know as to answer the questions that you do know (insert countless embarrassing moments here).  I learned that you really shouldn't put the cornbread in the oven until it is hot...really.  I learned that chickens can be mean... and stupid; but I also learned to soak up moments.

Soak up that perfect day of mending on the porch (mending badly, I might add) while the rain pours outside.  Soak up that beautiful green outside and let the fresh air fill your soul.  Absorb those teachable moments and give thanks for gracious teachers. Crave learning... and simplicity.  

This may seem obvious, but when you are dealing with hot fires, giant animals, and tools that are now considered weapons, you learn to keep things simple.  Keep clutter at a minimum.  Don't store things too long.  They won't last.  Keep what is useful or beautiful.  Pass on the rest.  Maybe that's one of the reasons I am who I am today. 

Simplicity inspires me.  One summer in high school we visited a Shaker Museum, and I fell in love.  No, not with the religious practices or societal rules, but with their simplicity.
For the most part, they kept everything off of the floor.  They found ways to make the things in their lives as useful as possible.  They kept walls bare of pictures but full of wooden pegs for storage of everything from clothing to chairs.  And their world was completely devoid of clutter.
Photo credit: Photograph courtesy of Shaker Museum and Library
Please don't misunderstand me.  I have no plans to give up my dishwasher, my stand mixer, or my laptop.  I'm not selling all of my children's toys (although, now that you mention it...never mind.) or moving into a 600 sq. ft. cabin.  What I am saying is that simplicity excites me, and those years of living out the past taught me a lot about what is truly necessary.  Without the litter to distract me, I can see the eternal.  The beautiful.  The soul-enriching.  When my sight is not blinded by colors, decorations, and trinkets, my eyes are drawn to the pure light pouring in a window, the fresh white of a new snow, and the rich laughs of my babies.  Thus begins my spring.

Tsh Oxenreider is beginning her spring cleaning series in which each week for four weeks, she approaches a different space in her house with a giant cardboard box marked "give" and a desire for simplicity.  This year her kids' room is up first.  Though we may not get through each room in her timing, I'm definitely on board for a few more blank spaces in my life.  A few more places where my eyes are drawn to glory and beauty rather than material possessions.  And, frankly, it would be a whole lot easier to get some things done if I didn't have to wade through the junk to get to the things I actually use.  Amen?

Most of all, I want to soak up this spring.  I want to splash in the puddles with my boys.  I want to discover the daffodil blooms through the eyes of my baby.  I want to rejoice once again that my Savior lives and revel in the glory that is Easter.  Removing the clutter is just a part of tearing down the barriers, getting rid of the distractions that steal my attention away from the beautiful.  So my eyes are turned upon Jesus.  And even though it's snowing outside right now, I wish you a happy springtime, full of His wonderful face and infinite grace.  What a gift!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Courageous Perseverance

Before the sun came up this morning, God woke me.  My husband had already noiselessly left the house.  My babies were still contentedly sleeping for the first time in days when He woke me up, leading me to His feet.  And I sat by the open window, listening to sounds of deep breathing from my little one and opening the pages of the book of James.  And I read this:

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations, knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.”

I hear the word “patience,” and I groan.  Patience… that waiting thing where I am supposed to joyfully grit my teeth and calmly wait in excruciating pain.  These last few days I have sat too long in that pit.  I turn in the pages of Mr. Wiersbe's book
… pages that my grandmother thoughtfully underlined and marked as she led countless studies through this Love Letter.  As I turn, I discover once again that my understanding has been skewed by this world.  My eyes have seen these words from my limited sight.  Patience… It is not gritting my teeth and passively waiting for God to move.  Patience is courageously persevering in the face of hard circumstances. 

These are words I can get behind.  I’m raising boys.  We’re all about valiant words, those made for adventurers.  Courage.  Perseverance.  Endurance.  Yes!  Perhaps the reason I’m so frustrated in the moments calling for patience is that I’m trying to hunker down and take the beating until it’s over rather that meeting it with courage

God guarantees that my faith will be tested, that these trials will come; but He also assures me that if I face the trial courageously I will become mature, refined, that I will have the honor of bringing glory to God.  And so I bow, asking for wisdom.  The wisdom not to waste the opportunities God will give me in this day to courageously face the trials ahead.  

The trial of aching wordlessly with those in unimaginable pain.  The trial of faithfully loving a rebellious child.  The trial of forgiving and healing with those who have hurt me deeply.  The trial of showing grace and speaking words of life when it just seems too much.  The trial of long days and even longer nights.  The trial of facing each unknown day with hands open and upturned, allowing God to will and to work.  

I needed this.  Because words like courage leave no room for self-pity or selfishness.  Perseverance can't allow covenants to be laid aside.  They demand wholehearted devotion as each trial is met.  And while I find this thought to be exhausting, I remember, "Not my strength.  Yours."  And patience then has her perfect work.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Weird Coping Mechanisms

For various reasons, I haven't slept in two nights... probably 8 hours total between the two nights.  I also have a sick little boy.  I'm exhausted.  So instead of resting, guess what?  Did you guess "finish extra projects that totally don't need to be done"?  If you did, you're right!

So far I've reorganized the worst part of my closet, done laundry, repainted a few spots in my bedroom, rearranged the furniture post-painting, and organized all the projects on my desk.  I've also organized my email inbox and cleaned the kitchen.  I need help.  Serious. mental. help.