Sunday, December 21, 2014

Advent - Coming - Preparing

I'm reading The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. It was a gift from the women of my church earlier this month.  I'm also (loosely) reading The Jesus Storybook Bible with my kids each night as our Advent devotional.  (Loosely = about every 3 nights we read because the other nights we forget, have activities, or mama's exhausted)

This season of Advent I'm struck by one thing...my need to come before the Lord.  I need to get silent and just be still.  I need to stop and think.  I need to reflect and ask hard questions. 

Joel just finished his Master's degree.  Woohoo!!!  It's pretty anticlimactic actually.  I don't know why.  Maybe the reality hasn't sunk in yet because it's December and this month is so busy.  January might bring a moment of realization...when there are no papers for me to proof and no light on in my bedroom at wee hours with a man trying to stay awake and read.

This season has been good.  Joel has wanted to go to seminary for a decade.  He tried a few classes back then and life with three kids under three years old made it just too hard.  When we knew we were leaving the ministry that brought us to Texas, I knew it was time.  I knew there would be no other "good" time.  We both knew it would be hard.  But, "hard" doesn't always look or feel like the "hard" you imagined.  It hasn't in this season.  The "hard" hasn't been the classes, honestly.  It hasn't even been the schedule.  Joel has worked part-time and taken three classes each semester while I worked full-time teaching elementary school (with my oldest three kids). I think the "hard" for me has come emotionally.  The adjustment of not being home with my kids, not being the one who packs their lunches or prepares our family meals, not being able to do it all but feeling like I should. My job hasn't been as "easy" as I had hoped.  Maybe it's the reality of working once you have a family or teaching much younger children or maybe I'm just not as good at it as I thought.  I fear it's the last so I work harder.  Not wanting to fail at anything, I strive and push. But, there are only so many hours in a day so on some days I regret I gave the majority to anyone outside these walls I call home and other days I regret that I haven't given enough to do a good "job" at my job. Struggling to find that balance is almost as exhausting as the imbalance itself.

So, I find myself responding to these Advent readings with big sighs.  Emmanuel.  God made flesh to dwell among us.  Humanity desperately in need of saving and a God who pursues with a relentless love and sacrifice. A God who wants us to come near.  A God who created man in His own image and walked with him in the garden.  A God who was sorry he had created man but didn't just wipe them all out.  A God who loves me, who reaches out a hand for me to hold, who sees my tears and speaks to my heart.

Our future is pretty much wide open at this point.  We have no idea what is next for us in this journey of life.  Will we stay local and pursue a business opportunity that might provide for our family and allow us to do much more ministry?  Will we stay local taking a full-time role for Joel?  Will I continue to work? Will we move east for a full-time role?  We have no idea.  There are moments where my desire for a plan starts plotting and thinking and imagining.  But, I'm determined to just ride this out.  I am determined to just wait on the Lord and pray.  I'm determined to not rush things.  I will come before the Lord and just wait.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Making Progress

Green smoothie of the morning: 2 c. water, 2 c. spinach (blend). add 2 frozen bananas, 1 c. pineapple, 1 c. mango (blend again).  I poured off Joel's portion then added more pineapple to my half. 

I've been doing a daily green smoothie in the morning for the last three weeks since Joel and I participated in a 10 day eat clean challenge.  I was already part of an online accountability group for improving my health.

I've lost 16 pounds in the last 10 weeks.  I stopped indulging, cut back on drinking sweet tea, added more veggies into my diet, cut out dairy/meat/sugar/caffeine for those 10 days of the challenge, and decided it was time to do something.  Joel lost about 5 pounds on the challenge and has now lost another 5...that's 10 pounds in three weeks for him.

Doing this together makes all the difference.  We aren't on a "diet" and aren't counting calories.  We're making better choices and holding each other accountable. 

This last week, I ate the "Thanksgiving Feast" with my kids at school, ate wings on Friday night when we were out with friends, enjoyed free breakfast with my kids at Chick-fil-A, and even went out with girlfriends last night and had chocolate cake. 

This morning my weight was 1.8 pounds lighter than last Monday.

The things I described above were the indulgences.  I didn't also eat Halloween candy, cookies in the office, donuts brought in, the yummy coffee drink I thought about stopping to get, pastries at church, second helpings at meals, and the cinnamon rolls at Chick-fil-A. I chose.  It's all about choices.

I'm trying to make better ones.  For my health.  For my happiness.  For my longevity.  For my clothes to fit better. 

I looked back through my medical files on Friday.  I'm at a lower weight right now than I was after having my twins and when I got pregnant with Jett (I held that weight for 5 years). I would really like to lose 7 more.  But, I'm happy with my progress.  And, I'm most happy that I haven't done anything crazy to get to this place.  I think it's sustainable.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Joyous Day

She is exactly 10 1/2 today.  Dates are important to me.  The 19th.  Not a date that had ever meant much to me.  I remember being 19.  It wasn't particularly exciting. 

As I approached the due date with my first child, I was excited for her to be born in the 4th month of 2004.  Those are good numbers.  She was due on the 12th.  Another great number because it's a multiple of 4.  See...my mathematical mind is always at work in quirky ways.  The 12th came and went.  Oh, the 16th...another multiple of 4.  That came and went, as well.  Even the 18th looked appealing because of the 8...you know.  Nope.  So, I was all set to be induced on the 19th.  No avoiding the seemingly odd number.

With great joy, despite the odd date, we welcomed our first child.  She was wonderful.  Beautiful.  A gift.  It wasn't until a year and a half later that I truly came to embrace the date, though.

I committed my life to Christ as a teenager and then grew in that commitment as time moved on.  As a college student I came to a point in my walk where I realized I needed to completely surrender all aspects of my life to Jesus and let Him truly lead me, even (and especially) in my relationships and dating.  I had already committed to this, but then life happened and I went to college and ....  Heartache brought me back to the foot of the cross and to the place where I would ultimately surrender my whole heart and life to Jesus.  That was January of 1998. I was broken. I gave up. I let go. 

Over the next several months the Lord opened the door for me to take part in a ministry and then even lead it.  It was a huge challenge.  I think of Gideon being called "mighty warrior" when I think of the Lord calling me to that ministry at that exact time.  The most unlikely person.  The most unqualified.  Yet, the Lord's glory is most evident when He is the only One who can get credit for the wonderful things that happen.  So it was with me leading a sexual abstinence program.  Part of the program was signing a certificate committing to purity and accountability.  I signed my certificate and my friend Heather signed it as my accountability partner during the program in the spring.

Heather was with me in the delivery room when my first child was born.  She encouraged me, prayed for me, and celebrated with me.  It was a joyous day.  About a year and a half later, Heather was visiting us from out of town.  I had been going through some old papers and found that old certificate we signed.  It was a sweet reminder of all we had walked through together and the beauty of how God keeps His promises. 

With tears, I showed Heather the certificate.  In particular, I pointed out the date.  We signed it on April 19th.  Suddenly, I realized just how amazing my God really is.  Though I hadn't picked the 19th as a great day to have a baby, God did.  My first child was born on the six year anniversary of signing the covenant to honor God with my body.  That day began the seventh year of that covenant.  The seventh year is a year of blessing.

Lev. 25:1-7
The Sabbath Year
The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten.
 God is good.  All the time.  Even when we have no idea.

Today, that baby, born on the 19th, celebrated believers baptism and declared publicly that she loves Jesus, has accepted His salvation, and wants to follow Him all the days of her life.

I kinda like the number 19 now. After today, I like it even more.  What a great date!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Rejection

I recently posted on Facebook "Contemplating rejection on this summer afternoon. I think it is perhaps the largest reason for so much grief and pain. A fear of it motivates so many to pick up habits that are destructive. Even small rejections are incredibly painful. Amidst rejection, I'm trying to wrap my brain around the reality that I am not rejected by God, the Creator of the universe. But, I think many of us feel rejected even by Him, or especially by Him. Rejection is the opposite of love...it is pushing away. God has demonstrated His love reaching out, time and time again."

I got several responses and some were in agreement that they were struggling with feeling rejected that day. As I thought more and more about the topic of rejection, I began to realize how many areas of my life have been impacted by rejection lately.  

The last school year was incredibly difficult for me.  The group of students I was teaching were at a different level (overall) than the group I had taught the previous year plus it was my second year teaching and so I did a lot of adjusting . But, honestly, the students were the easiest part.  I love the kids!  I like figuring out how to help them best and meet their individual needs.  The hard part came with adults.  Everyone thinks teenage girls can be mean girls.  Adult girls can be meaner.  They are much meaner.  They are rude and hurtful and gossips.

I've had my share of mistakes.  In fact, I made a big one in the fall and then paid for it all year.  In fact, I'm still paying for it.  The problem is: I'm not really sure what the mistake was.  I thought it was one thing.  I dealt with that.  I asked to be forgiven and was granted grace. But then I found out it was perceived as something else and others were upset.  Then the gossip began and truth was distorted.  Insecurities made the truth more warped and people were unwilling to come to me.  I'm not really sure why. I guess it was considered too hard to confront me and ask.  People would rather just talk and speculate.  So, it just got worse and worse.  Finally, the year was over and I was relieved.  I was also sad.  I believe the adult junk took away from my focus on the most important aspect of my teaching--my students.  I would love to get back a slice of my time with them and do a few things over.  Oh well, there are no do-overs.

The pain of the year just got worse as I thought it was finally closing.  The pain came from another arena for the second round.  It's lasted most of the summer.  The beginnings of the rejection were incredibly painful.  I thought about it constantly and cried and just tried to wrap my brain around it all.  Then I cried some more.  Time passed and reality just settled.  I accepted it.  

Now I fear there is another rejection coming.  I really hate to say I "fear" it because when I stop and think through it, I do not fear.  I know Who loves me and who I am in Him.  I know life will move on and I will be okay even if I'm rejected.  But, there's still fear.  I do not like pain...physical or emotional.  Who does?! So, I fear it. I worry it is coming.  I've tasted a little of it and I'm worried more will pour in and overwhelm me.  I am afraid I'll be broken by it somehow. But, in reality, I know I won't.

As I stop and think about these times of rejection, I see a vision of arms just pushing out against me.  I try running to them or approaching them and they are like walls.  But, amidst all those walls of hands, I see hands overturned and reaching to me.  Waiting for me to put my hand in theirs.  Arms open for a hug, an embrace.  I will focus on those hands.  They are the ones that matter.  

They are the arms of my God, Who always welcomes me.
They are the arms of my husband, who loves me despite knowing me deeply and completely.
They are the arms of my children, who depend on me and think I'm amazing even when I've failed them.
They are the arms of my mom, who is so different from me in personality but accepts me with all my rough edges and firm stances.
They are the arms of my friends, who have walked with me and know the good and bad--the friends who haven't left me.
They are the arms of the children I teach who know nothing of the drama behind the scenes but just love when I sing and dance in class.

I will not dwell on the rejection.  I will realize that many of those who reject me feel rejected themselves.  I will walk up to the hands raised against me as a wall and say kind words, pray for the person behind the hand to be blessed and loved, and eventually I might ask them why.  But, I'm not really sure I want to expend the energy to find out all the whys.  There are just too many.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Thankfulness - Keeping the Focus in the Right Place

My devotional today in "Jesus Calling" talked about thankfulness.  I feel like it's a topic that is discussed often.  Yet, maybe it is regularly discussed because we do it so little!

The author highlighted that we will focus on the one thing we don't have (or don't like) and obsess until it is fixed.  Instead, we should be looking at all we do have and be thankful for each thing.

A few things immediately came to mind...
...instead of focusing on the struggle I'm having with one student, I should stop and be thankful for each student I haven't struggled with.
...instead of focusing on the weight I need to lose, I should stop and be thankful for the strength I have.  This last week someone commented to me "You're really athletic."  It was a great compliment to me and very encouraging.
...instead of focusing on the one time my child(ren) disobeyed this morning, I should stop and be thankful that my children baked together happily, helped clean up cheerfully, and asked me to cuddle!
...instead of being sad about the grey day, I should stop and be thankful for the water for my grass that I don't have to pay for!
...instead of looking at my week ahead and worrying about what's to come, I should stop and be thankful for my job, God's provision, the gift of Joel being able to go to seminary, my children, my mom living with us, my coworkers, my friends, the youth we get to serve, and all the million other "little" things I easily overlook every day!

Thankfulness and gratitude really do change your attitude.  I was irritated today when I found out no one had bought ketchup even though it had been on the shopping list.  I'll be honest and say I was really annoyed.  We were having burgers and, well...I really love ketchup!  I took a break and went to my room to put something away.  I sat for a moment and thought about my reaction.  How petty and childish. This is one of those moments where I should be grateful for everything else I have and realize I have plenty.  I'm happy to say, that timeout was just what I needed.  But, too often, I don't take the timeout and I let my attitude get soured by focusing on the lack or disappointment.  I'm hoping thankfulness will flow more readily from my heart and my lips this week!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Journal

"He is our peace, who has broken down every wall."

I remember this line to an older worship song. I sing it every now and then as it pops into my mind. Today, it was on my lips off and on for hours. Our pastor is teaching through Ephesians. We covered chapter two today with a target on verses 11 through 22. The passage is about the division between Jews and Gentiles and how Christ has reconciled the two. Christ abolished in his flesh the enmity so he could make the two into one. He offers this reconciliation to us as believers. He tells us to be at peace with others, regardless of our differences. We are told in 2 Corinthians that we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. We should be pointing others to Christ that they may be reconciled to Him as we are. In addition, we are to pursue peace.

I've recently had some strained relationships where I'm trying hard to pursue peace. As I listened to our pastor today, I was challenged in my pursuit of peace. Sometimes it's easy to think we are pursuing peace when really we are pursuing our own objectives. I am a personality that demands truth. I want the facts exposed. I struggle with anything that looks like it's less than forthright. I love transparency and openness. So, in situations where there is no peace and something needs to be said, I want it all said now! Holding my tongue is, consequently, not a strong trait of mine. But, there is so much wisdom in letting time pass and the dust settle. There are many times where peace will be found if I just sit back and let things happen on a natural timetable.

The most important place to pursue peace is in my own heart and in my walk with The Lord. I was reminded of this today. I was getting anxious; I could feel my heart rate accelerating. I recalled Scriptures about peace and did a heart check, asking God to search ME. Then, I was quiet. I know, if you know me well, you know that's almost miraculous. But, I was quiet and asked God to speak.

Right now, I'm feeling at peace. I feel confident in my silence. I feel confident in Christ. He is more than able to bring us to a place of peace, even as we stand on two very opposing sides. He is our peace. He has broken down every wall.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Shift in Focus

I'm happy to report I left school earlier than "usual" two days this week.  Sadly, I went back to school because my big kids have basketball practice Monday and Tuesday nights.  I went to my room and did a wee bit of work.  Neither evening was as productive as I had hoped for it being "after hours" when the place should be quiet and I should be alone.  We shall see how this next week goes.

I left late two days but my kids were with me and were having fun playing.  I've also been better about not bringing more work home.  I had to bring lots of papers home this weekend but they have been relatively quick to grade.

Just the mental shift of knowing I don't want to continue the way things have been is a change.  Sometimes that's all it takes to see changes in the bigger picture.

Of course, this week was also very dramatic with a sick kiddo at home.  Rylee fell off her scooter while at a friend's house last Friday evening.  She came home with a very skinned up face.  I cleaned it up and we put some antibiotic spray on it for the night.  The next morning the edges were looking pink and it had already started to form a think scab.  By the evening, the redness had increased and the area under her eye was swelling.  We showed a friend who works in the medical field and he gave us some things to watch for.  When Rylee woke up Sunday morning her eye was complete swollen and she couldn't open it.  We decided to take her to the after hours clinic for kids.  They told us to go to the Emergency Room to have it scanned.  The doctor said it was infected but she was concerned about something deeper.  We went to the ER and they did a CT scan. {We posted a prayer request on Facebook and were very blessed by the myriad of comments and people praying with us.} The scan came back clear, praise the Lord!  They prescribed a very strong liquid antibiotic for the infection.  Rylee took a dose of the nastiest tasting medicine in the world that night.  She stayed home from school Monday morning to rest.  She choked down another dose of her medicine (which is also a very expensive medicine...to go with the nasty taste).  Within two hours she was throwing up.  She continued to get sick several more times.  Finally, after getting some toast and applesauce and trying the medicine again, we gave up.  The swelling and redness in her eye was almost completely gone by Monday night.  She went to our regular pediatrician Tuesday and they prescribed a less potent antibiotic.  She took that one fine and went back to school Wednesday.  The scab had loosened and she pulled it off Wednesday night while we were at youth.  Crazy girl!  The skin underneath is a very faint pink and is so thoroughly healed that it is amazing.  I believe the Lord has honored the many prayers of faithful saints and been gracious to Rylee.

It's funny how I was contemplating all the issues of going back to work and wanting to see more balance.  There's nothing like having a sick child to put things in perspective.  I cried just a bit Tuesday morning as I walked up the steps to teach, knowing one of my babies was home and not well and I wasn't there to care for her.

This season of life has been such a change for us.  I remember struggling as a stay at home mom with my "job" and feeling guilty at times for not contributing financially to our family.  I felt guilty when working moms would talk about juggling everything and would tell me I was so lucky to be able to stay home with my kids.  I felt like my job was exhausting and never ending. {It was and it wasn't.}  Now, I struggle because I'm not with my children as much, I don't handle all the laundry, shopping, cooking, and homefront chores. I am not the one who helps with homework. Sometimes I walk in and feel like I have no clue what's going on inside the walls with these people I love so dearly.  I don't like that part.

Having an illness in the house made me more attentive to what was happening.  I chose to let go of some things at work and worry about my child, where my attention should be focused.  As much as I don't like when one of my children is sick, I was thankful this week for the chance to tune in more to the place that matters most.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Well, howdy!

It's a new year.  Maybe I'll be better about blogging, but I'm making no promises.

I just happened to pop over to send someone a link to something on my blog and decided I needed to write a post.  I mean, after all, I do blog when I'm on break from teaching and that's what I'm doing right now.

There have been many days I've thought about blogging.  In the end I concluded each time that what I thought about saying really didn't need to be said.

I think maybe I'm tired of blogs.  But, then I read them or think of a post and change my mind.  I feel the same way about Facebook, to be honest. 

I started this blog to keep our family and supporters up-to-date on us as we served on staff with GFA.  When we left staff, life took some turns and I got really, really busy with preparing for teaching and then actually teaching once school started.  Posting pictures to Instagram (and Facebook) are much quicker.

Since I don't have the theme of being "home team staff" anymore, I haven't known what to write about.  I often wrote about my children, parenting, cooking, and home management.  I'm still very much a mama and parent my kids, but the dynamics are so different.  Maybe I've been a little afraid to really write what I'm thinking so I have just avoided it.

I might just resurrect this blog with similar content.  It's just that now my purpose will be different.  I have to say, I love going back to read some of my entries.  I remember being completely overwhelmed by having toddlers and now I can look back on those posts with fond memories.

I watched the video I posted here at least a half dozen times during this Christmas season.  I cried the first 5 times, for sure.  My favorite quote from those years of having preschoolers is still "the days are long but the years are short."  Yes, indeed they are.

My goals this year are simple.  I'm not going to say I'll blog every day or even every week.  I'm not going to say I'll lose weight or exercise, though I definitely need to do both.  I am not going to try and break a bad habit, though there are a few I need to consider.  What I plan to do is focus less on my job and more on my family.  I want to find balance. I want to figure out how to be a committed and focused teacher during school hours and how to let go of it and leave when I should.

I've come to the point where I must draw a line in the sand and set more firm boundaries for myself.  I've been incredibly blessed to teach at my kids' school and to absolutely love my job.  Not to sound snobby, but I'm also blessed to have skills for teaching. I see success in my classroom and know I'm a good teacher. 

However, it has become very troublesome to me that the very skills that have been or can be an asset are also my stumbling blocks.  I'm super committed, don't want to give less than my everything, empathize with others to a level that is crazy, and must have things orderly to function best.  What it has translated to with me teaching is that I am always working when school is in session and on many weekends.  I get to school around 7:15 every morning and don't leave until 5:30 or 6 most evenings.  I usually bring work home and either grade papers, figure out lessons, or do some kind of work once kids are in bed.  Even if I've planned for meals, Joel usually cooks them.  My mom cleans up the dishes afterwards.  The laundry gets done here and there as someone thinks to throw in a load.  Cleaning the house gets done by Joel or in a frustrated tone by me because I've let it go too long.  I don't do homework with my kids; I don't even know what they're doing most weeks!  I do eat with my family, help with showers, and tuck my kids into bed, but I'm not okay with where things are.

I went grocery shopping yesterday in preparations for having friends over for New Year's Eve.  I took Jett with me.  Tears came to my eyes as we walked hand-in-hand into WalMart chatting because I realized that these were the simple pleasures of parenting that I miss the most. 

I am working full-time because I am supporting our family.  We chose this season and I love that it has worked out the way it has.  But, that doesn't mean I don't have to work through issues while we're in it.  I remember feeling incredibly guilty for being frustrated with the season of my life when my kids were preschoolers.  I felt like I couldn't say anything about it being hard because then someone would reply "well, you chose to have those babies" or "you chose to move to Texas" or ...you know.  But, just because a season is hard doesn't mean you aren't doing what you're supposed to.  And, just because you chose something doesn't mean you can't talk about the hardships.  It doesn't make me weak, it shows my human weaknesses and frailties. 

I've concluded in these last ten days of thinking about all this that life is just hard.  It can be complicated.  It is always joyful and good and amazing.  I shouldn't be ashamed that I find some aspects of my life to be difficult. I don't think less of anyone else around me who shares a struggle they're having.

So, there you go.  If you've read this far, you can pray for me.  Pray for me to find balance.  Pray for me to grow closer to Jesus...that's really the answer to it all because as I abide in Him I will have wisdom and direction and know peace and balance!  Mostly, pray as the Lord leads you.  Feel free to comment and tell me how I can pray for YOU!