My First Book Review

A few months ago I had the privilege of being asked to write a review for a book by Shannon Upton entitled, Building Your Home:  A Faithful Mom’s Guide to Organizing Home and Family.

I love a good book on organization.  I feel like it has been my life’s goal since my first born took his first step and started mixing things up!  Five children later I’m hopelessly entangled in the never-ending endeavor of organization.

Prior to having my sweeties I was a conference planner, a profession that requires a high level of organization.  Now, I can’t seem to even give the illusion of being organized.

I have read so many organizing books that it’s highly likely I’ve read almost every one out there!  And I’ve tried many of the techniques involved.  Most recently I went through all my clothes as directed and made instant decisions.  It was so effective that I can fit every season of my wardrobe in one small closet and my dresser.  The only down side is I find I have very few things to wear!  On top of that, I did not, as the book suggested, thank my clothes for their service to me.  Apparently, I am a very ungrateful clothes wearer!

But none of these books have been quite as inspiring as this one.  This one has made me think…made me what to be what Shannon Upton calls a “Jesus Mom.”

One of the first things she wrote that grabbed me and made me want to sit down for tea with her was her story of dealing with postpartum depression (PPAD).  She tells how, during her struggle, someone shared their story of dealing with PPAD.  This is what she says, “I knew she was trying to help me feel better by letting me know that I wasn’t alone, but all it did was make my burden seem heavier-more real somehow.  She was bringing up feelings that I was trying so hard to keep under control.”

I instantly felt connected to her because I have had those moments, those interactions.  I loved her honestly.

Throughout her book, Shannon shares openly about her life while encouraging us to reevaluate and find peace in our own.  I love that she didn’t present herself as the perfect homemaker, but as someone working through all of life’s complexities and busyness…sharing the successes and struggles along the way.

Her book is about choosing to focus on Jesus first, to clear out the spiritual clutter of our lives.  “The point isn’t ‘having it all’ or even having it all together – it’s settling our spirits so we can dwell in the Lord’s peace” (p. 15).  Peace that isn’t based on perfection, but on building our homes in a way that will bring peace to our families.

Shannon warns against giving ourselves more spiritual clutter by stressing about getting organized.  Putting pressure on ourselves only takes away the peace we are hoping to choose daily.

There’s no pressure here, no hurry.  Don’t go giving yourselves even more spiritual clutter over “getting organized.”  In fact, I don’t even like that phrase.  It implies that “organized” is a place we can get to, a thing we can achieve, but it’s not.

Your home isn’t a problem to solve, it’s a set of systems to be managed.  As a Jesus Mom, you don’t want to organize your household so you can “feel at peace.”  Instead, you can choose to feel peaceful while you organize.”  (p. 25)

What a great idea!  Choosing peace.  God’s been encouraging me to choose peace a lot lately.

I’m choosing it with varying degrees of success, but success nonetheless.

What I took from this book was that managing my home is about creating a peaceful refuge for my family that exudes Christlikness.  My goal is for my home to provide me with opportunities to love the Lord well, to love my family well, and to love others well.

Shannon recommends starting with prayer.  What a wonderful way to begin – praying over our home.

Dedicating it to the Lord.  Asking for wisdom as we begin the process of organization.  Asking for a godly perspective and a spirit of contentment.  Giving thanks for all the blessings.

Then beginning.

Shannon provides some practical advice on the process and throughout encourages, inspires, and entertains with her engaging writing style.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and have already begun the processes Shannon recommends.

I’m taking my time and praying my way through my home. And God willing, my home will be a place of ministry, not only to my family, but to my friends, neighbors, and acquaintances.

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Shake it UP

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I finally did what I’ve wanted to do for a long time.  I didn’t bring work home and I spent some beautiful moments thoroughly enjoying my kids.

We spent the evening together without homework, work, or chores. The best, most enjoyable thing was dancing.

Seeing my little girls’ faces light up while I danced like a goofball was the BEST thing I’ve seen in a long time!  Even my 15 year old son was happy to join in!

My favorite dancing song  was “Shake” by MercyMe.  The girls requested it because they sang it in Sunday school.  I love love love that song.

It was such a joy-filled time for us.

So often I’m so tired or have just simply too much to do and I can’t seem to find the time to do anything but what absolutely has to be done.

Absolutely. Has. To. Be. Done. Right. Now.

Not what I want to do.

Not what I would like to do.

Just the gotta-do-or-feel-like-I-might-die-things.

But that night of dancing brought it right in front of my eyes…I need to spend time doing fun things with my kids.

I just gotta.

I feel so convicted…so sure of it…and yet, it is something I rarely make time for…

It’s not because I’m not looking.  I just can’t seem to find it.

Last night was my fourth night in a row of 5 hours of interrupted sleep.  I’m seriously hanging by a thread.

This morning I woke up praying that God would show me what to let go of…but I honestly can’t think of one thing I’m doing that can not be done.

At church we are talking about transforming our lives. This week the pastor spoke about stress and rest.  I felt like crying through the whole sermon.

God has me HERE…in this stressful, sleepless, weary place and I don’t know what to do.

I want to just dance around the living room with my little girls, but I have papers to grade and household stuff to do and finances to figure out and children who need help with homework and life stuff.

I’m trying to look at the bright side of things…but I’m so tired I think my drooping eyelids are making it difficult to look up.

I want to write about happy, joyful things.  In fact, when I started writing this blog I was thinking how exciting to write about something fun.

Alas, I wandered…slid into the pit.

Is it just me?  Does life seem slippery right now?

I seem to have one foot always slipping perilously close to a pit, while the other is knee deep in mud…gosh, that’s a lovely picture.  Ok…maybe the other is just a bit muddy and it’s dry, caked on mud.

Where is my joy???

Where are the dancing moments?  Why not more?

I cherish every moment of joy, but I want more.

Count it all joy…

Count…(maybe the problem is I teach English…words not numbers).

I just want joy.

But joy comes with remembering…

Remembering that I am loved…that NO MATTER WHAT God loves me.  No matter how I feel…God loves me.  No matter how much of a failure I am (or think I am)…God loves me.

Count on Him. Count the blessings.

I remember when I was young, my mom and I sang “Count Your Many Blessings” for a Sunday service.

I love that song.  Catchy and true.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed, When you are discouraged thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings – name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.  Count your blessings-name them one by one; Count your blessings-see what God has done; Count your blessings-name them one by one; Count your many blessings-see what God has done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?  Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?  Count your many blessings- every doubt will fly, And you will be singing as the days go by, Count your blessings –name them one by one; Count your blessings-see what God has done; Count your blessings-name them one by one; Count your many blessings-see what God has done.

I believe that counting our blessings is very similar to counting it all joy.  Within every moment is a blessing.  I know that…so how do I forget it?

I know how…it just simply doesn’t feel that way.  It doesn’t feel like I’m living blessings…I’m surviving burdens right now.

So I guess that leads me back to some shaking it up.

I need to shake up my perspective.  I need to shake up my life.

I honestly don’t know what that looks like, but I believe I’m going to start with another grateful journal.

It’s been a while since I wrote down things in my little journal of thankful thoughts.

I’ve even said I was going to in the not so distant past and promptly forgot to do it.

So, I guess I’ll pull it out and start tonight.  I know what I’m going to write first:

I’m thankful for…

  1. Time to dance with my children.

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It’s In A Box…Somewhere

IMG_8315My mom ’s garage is packed almost to the ceiling with all my belongings.  I thought when we were loading them in that there was some sort of organizational plan.

Yeah…nope.

There might have been, but I’ve messed it up with all my digging and moving and climbing around the mounds of stuff!

And I can’t find anything!

The most frustrating thing has been all my tax documents.  I was so sure I had labeled it and placed it carefully on the outside of the piles. Apparently I did not…drat!

Now I’m looking for my spring/summer clothes…that one might require emptying the whole place, because I don’t want to buy another thing that might end up in a box.

But one thing I think I might have inadvertently packed away is my sense of humor.  THAT I might need to find sooner.

I used to be a funny person…light-hearted and occasionally witty…now I’m just a bit sarcastic.  That’s no fun.

I’ve gotten so bogged down by heavy life things that I haven’t had time to just laugh about things.  I occasionally chuckle, but it’s more so I don’t cry than that I truly am laughing hard.

My kids used to tease me about how loud I laughed…that hasn’t happened in a while. Now they comment on how lame and fake my laugh sounds.  Lame?  Fake? Argh.  I need to laugh!

A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.  Proverbs 15:13

I don’t want to be crushed anymore…heartache schmartache.  My heartache might have crushed my spirit a bit…well, a lot…but I am not crushed.   In fact, God says I’m not crushed.

Be we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  2 Corinthians 4:7-9

So a happy heart and a cheerful face is my goal.

I think this is one way I might actually be able to model the Proverbs 31 woman.

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.  Proverbs 31:25

I don’t often laugh at the days ahead.  I very often think I’m more dreading…fearing…scared out of my wits than anything resembling laughter.

But I love to laugh!  Why not choose that instead of dread?  Why not find the joy in things?  Why not grab hold of hope?  Why not expect great things?  Seriously, why not?

Laughter gives us the opportunity to change our outlook.  The opportunity to release some stress, defuse the tension, and smile instead of sigh.

Maybe when I look at all those boxes, I can think of something to smile about…well, maybe, but I can’t think of what it would be.

How about my kids…there is ample fodder for fun with them.  I’ve been so busy I’ve missed out on it.

How about a night out with a friend or two…a funny movie…a good book (I can at least get a smile from a good book)…how about laughing about things instead of fussing about them.  Maybe a tickling fight instead of another kind of fight.

I could get a good laugh from most things if I flipped my perspective a bit.  If instead of looking at our housing situation as just a nightmare, I could have fun with the closeness of my kids.

I used to joke that the 800 square foot house we lived in for a few years was my children’s favorite house.  They could never be more than 3 feet from me at any given time.  They LOVED that!  Most of the time I did too. 🙂

When I couldn’t eat after I found out about my husband’s adultery, I had waaay too many adultery diet jokes. I think I might have joked about that one too much.

When my car made noises that no car should ever make, my kids and I would laugh and make jokes I shouldn’t share in this blog.  Let’s just say my sense of humor is perfect for someone who works with 11 year olds!

Sitting in the ICU with my mom could be incredibly depressing, but we have had fun joking about my mom mooning all the nurses, as well as some other jokes, which again, I best keep to myself.

Hey!  I might not need to find the sense of humor box!

I just need to start looking for the joy…even the funny…in my circumstances.

I have to be honest and say I don’t imagine it will always be the easiest thing. There are times when I feel like humor is the farthest thing from my mind.  The farthest!

I believe a concentrated effort to smile and laugh more will make a big difference.

One more thing I’m going to try!  Add it to the list…

  1. Expect great things
  2. Smile more!

(And, maybe #3 should be to organize the garage!!)

 

Day 5 – What Will the Neighbors Think?

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I have often joked that wherever we go, we are kind of like the Beverly Hillbillies.  I should just blare that music from our car when we enter the neighborhood.

I’m looking for a house right now.  I think maybe we should move out into the country!

We are loud and busy and just a lot…

My cul-de-sac in Fredericksburg knew us and loved us still…thank goodness!  I can’t tell you how blessed I was to have understanding neighbors…although I can’t imagine they didn’t shake their heads behind closed doors 🙂

The year that my husband left I had to learn a lot about the house and there were many days of decluttering, organizing, and projects…lots of throwing away and fixing.  One unintended project was a toilet bowl issues.

I had misplaced a set of keys…a big set of keys.  My friend Darcey and I tore the house apart looking for them.  No luck.  Finally, we had to figure the slow flushing powder room potty was the keys’ location.  My littlest daughter was two at the time, and we believed she was the culprit. We tried desperately to remove the keys with coat hangers, plungers, and gloved hands.  I won’t go into too much detail, but it was a very dirty job.  We finally ended up having to drag the nasty, dripping toilet through the foyer and out into the front yard so we could hose it out and recover the keys.

By this time, my friend Laurie had arrived to assist.  My friends are awesome!  Darcey, who in her first trimester, was amazing even in her nausea.  My friend Laurie was great too.  We could barely work for all the laughing.  My life had definitely become a really bad sitcom.  Darcey stated, “All your neighbors are in their houses calling their realtors right now.”  It was probably true.

After having a neighbor be front page news for adultery, watching massive amounts of stuff pile up at the curb, witnessing the craziness and noise of a big family daily, and now a toilet in the front yard…who wouldn’t second guess being neighbors with me?

But they didn’t move and instead they have laughed along with me, helped me more than I can say, welcomed my children into their homes so I could work, taken girls to AWANA, fed my children on crazy days, loaned me tools and ladders and supplies, answered questions, and prayed for me.

Now I’m moving and my heart is breaking for the loss of these neighbors.  They cannot be replaced…ever.

Right now, we are guests in my mom’s house and her neighbors don’t know us.  But they have heard us, and watched us, and probably been annoyed by us.  And I don’t have time for them to really know us.  And I wish I could.

I imagine they think I’m crazy.  Sometimes I worry what they think of me.  I wish it was summer and I could go outside and chat, but I can’t right now.  Life is just too busy.

I wonder when we move if we will have the time to invest in our neighbors like I want to.   How do single parents make friends? Build relationships.  Seriously?

I don’t know how to find time to meet people and even if I did, I wouldn’t have time to spend with them.  I know this is a season, but it is a season that I’d like to have the encouragement of friends close by.

I’m not complaining…well, maybe a little…:)  I’m ever so thankful for a job, and how could I not feel beyond blessed by my children.  It is another opportunity to focus on the positive and pray for answers to the negative.

And maybe I just need to make time to say “hi” to someone, even if I don’t have time.  And maybe I just need to call a coworker to sneak away for coffee.

I think it will be easier when I have my own home and leaving isn’t imposing on someone else…because my children rock and are happy to babysit….well maybe not happy, but willing. 🙂

There has to be a reason I’m in this place now…really trying to figure out what it could be.  Could it be to spend time building my relationship with the Lord and realizing that He is enough?

It usually, if not always, is that, right?  God wants to spend time with us. With me! Sometimes I’m so shocked by that.  Why in the world does He want to spend time with me?  That’s nuts!  But He isn’t nuts…He is loving.

I love spending time with my children.  I love hanging out and doing things.  I really do love them even when they are rotten.  I’d still choose them.

I’m so grateful that even when I’m rotten, God still chooses me.  That when my house is a mess…when my children are difficult…when our family is noisy and chaotic…when the yard is decorated with a  toilet…when our family falls apart in front of the world…God still loves us!  He wants to be with us.

He’d always choose to be our neighbor!

Enough to be Happy and Healthy

dinner setting   Last evening I had the pleasure of sitting with an eighty-three year old gentleman at a church dinner in the fellowship hall of a lovely little Baptist church.  He was so sweet and kind.  A fellow that clearly had worked hard all his life.  He told me about his grandchildren and attending the dedication of his first grandchild recently.  Shared about losing his wife last February and how she had been sick for 10 years.  How the last 5 years had been very difficult after her stroke.  How he missed taking care of her.

Oh how blessed I was to hear this man’s story…told with gentleness, humor at times, an undercurrent of sorrow, and three (maybe four) helpings of dessert.  🙂

He shared how one lady at church asked how he was doing – taking care of his wife, the house, and the big yard.  He said, “I keep it clean enough to be healthy, and dirty enough to be happy.”

I love that!

And something I find even more wonderful…this man meant it.  He didn’t just have a cute quip to share.  He understood living a full, busy, difficult life.  It encouraged me so much.

It was like a fresh breeze.  I didn’t realize how much I needed to be encouraged until I sat listening to this man share.  I didn’t realize how someone simply sharing their story could be such a blessing.  I don’t believe he shared with the intention of anything more than getting to know me.  He don’t think he even knows my circumstances.

It was delightful.

There haven’t been many people in my life who are willing to just take me as I am…who aren’t telling me what I should or shouldn’t be doing.  I’m weary of being advised.  I’m weary of feeling like I pretty much mostly disappoint people.

And that leads me to my second encounter at church this evening.  One of the most amazing women I’ve ever met approached me and apologized that she hadn’t reached out to me more.  I hadn’t expected it.

This woman…she has lost so much more than I can imagine.  Her young son went to be with the Lord last year.  It takes my breath away to even consider the loss.  And here she was apologizing to me!  But then she said something that struck me…something I needed to hear…she said that those feelings of always disappointing others were probably the lies of Satan.  I said, “Yes, I think you’re right.”

Do I?  Do I think she’s right?

I absolutely do.

I think that every time those thoughts come into my head I need to take them captive.  I need to recognize them for what they are…just like this dear lady did.

Those aren’t my only thoughts that need to be thrown way far away.

The thoughts like:

“No one will ever really and truly love me…just me.”

‘There is something wrong with me and I don’t know exactly what it is – no one will be faithful to me.”

“I’m an awful mother.”

“I haven’t made one good decision yet.”

“I’ll never get it all together…I’ll always be a mess.”  (Well, that one might be true. J)

I spend a lot of time thinking about all the things I’m not good at, all the things I do wrong, all the people I disappoint, all the times I could have made different decisions….I could go on and on and on.

But, I don’t need to…it’s bad for me.

I think right now I just want to remind myself that there are thoughts that aren’t worth having.

And just sitting with a friend – old or new – and sharing life is a blessing beyond compare.

Isn’t God amazing?  I would never have guessed that a simple lasagna dinner on Styrofoam plates at church could encourage me so much, but it did.  Totally God.

He knew that today I would need encouraging…today I would need to remember to take thoughts captive and that perfection isn’t possible.  That healthy and happy are great goals.

Lord, thank you for the reminder of your faithfulness, care, and love in these little things…these little moments of blessing.

A Serious Love of Honey at MomLifeToday

Just wanted to share this post with you from MomLifeToday.  I hope you are encouraged that no matter your struggle, Jesus will and can be your strength.  No reason to fear.  No reason to fuss.  No reason to sigh. Jesus will truly give us all we need to do all He has called us to do!

photo (21)An empty white page.  Beautiful. I love it…the potential, the wonder at what God is going to show me…open up to me as I write. Often I sit down at my computer with the intention of sharing a difficulty or struggle that God is bringing me through, but today I decided I just want to write.  To share life.

This past weekend I started an organization project.  I thought it would take about 4 hours…oh my goodness did I underestimate!  I’m on hour 47 and there is more to be done…how is that possible?

My projects always ooze into other things and before I know it I’ve created complete chaos. I once saw a t-shirt that said, “Chaos, Madness, Mayhem…My Work Here Is Done” – I should have that t-shirt.  Actually I think I should get that shirt for me and my children…we are excellent mess-makers.

I need to finish this project.  I can’t work in mess…I need clutter-free zones.  Clutter takes me to bad places…like duck and cover mama’s gonna blow places. But I found a corner that is uncluttered and my children are all busy or sleeping, so I decided to ponder things…not sure what things yet.  This is kind of stream of consciousness blogging…might be disastrous.

I’m sitting in my favorite chair, Bible and laptop beside me, with a cooling down cup of coffee and hot cocoa (Yum!) on the windowsill next to me and praise music filling my ears.  And I’m realizing how much I need this moment.  This clutter-free, no to-do list moment.

Be still and know that I am God.  Psalm 46:10

Life is cluttered in my head, in my heart, and in my home. There is so much to think about, feel, and do.  If I just had more time to work through my thoughts, quietly ponder the Word, finish my projects… Sometimes the lack of time in my day is astonishing to me.  I wake up with such hope for what I will accomplish, only to go to bed disappointed by a day spent in constant motion with very little to show for it.

Wanna know something funny?  When I typed that last sentence I typed “constant emotion”

Hmmmm,  I wonder…

I wonder if I might want to consider that a bit more. Constant emotion. I feel like that might describe me well.  I do feel like I’m in constant emotion. I’m always feeling something…well, I guess we all are always feeling something. God made us in His image…He feels therefore we do too!

And these emotions aren’t bad, necessarily. It’s just that mine tend to swing all over the place and I tend to be ruled by them. I range from feelings of peace and acceptance to anxiety and confusion, anger to forgiveness, frustration to understanding, loneliness to longing for solitude, regret to trust, hope to fear…the list could go on and on…and amazingly I could probably feel all those emotions in a day…any day.

Oh my goodness I AM in a state of constant emotion… I’d like these God-given emotions to display Christ’s character…not my craziness.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control; against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23

This week I’m waiting to hear about a job I’ve applied for…I thought I would have known by now, but I trust God’s timing.  It’s been interesting how the waiting process has gone for me.  At first I felt such desperation to get the job…it seemed like the perfect fit for our family.  Then I decided maybe it wouldn’t be as easy a transition as I thought and I was okay if it didn’t happen.  And then I went back to the hoping hoping hoping I’d get it.  And each day for the past month or more has been a variation on the theme of hoping, desperately wishing, indifference, fear, or any other number of emotions. Today, I feel such peace as I wait.  It would be a nice fit to be sure, but if it isn’t God’s perfect fit why would I want it?  It is in His hands, not mine.  Thankfully.  And as I ponder not getting it I wonder what God’s perfect plan is…how in the world are the needs of my children going to be met?  I know He is aware and cares about each of them more than I can even comprehend so I’m sure the plan will be good.  (But oh do I wanna know what the plan is!)

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

And I again I come back to what God keeps reminding me…His good might not look like my good.  His good might be more challenges and more struggles…but in His hands those challenges and struggles would be just what we need to grow in our faith and in our love of Him and each other.  I know that, but oh how I pray that is not God’s plan for us.

Sometimes I can really “get” things in my head, but my heart struggles.  You know…those dang emotions. I wrestle with feeling like I need to fix things…I need to make things happen…I just need this and I’ll feel better…my child just needs this and they’ll feel better…

Most of the time my emotions are centered on my circumstances, my situation, my environment…I’m easily swayed emotionally by things not going as I planned…my house not looking as I hoped…my children not doing what I asked…wow, it is all about me isn’t it?

But you know, sometimes life seems really hard. There hasn’t been a time in the past few years without some struggle going on. My prayer partner and I pray each year for an uneventful year.  So far, not so much.  We seem to go from one crisis, tragedy, and struggle to the next.

But I can see that those difficult things, although overwhelming at times, do not represent my life. Just as my state of constant emotions does not need to be my identity.  My identity is in Christ.  I want to be defined by Christ.

Remember that story of Jesus calming the storm?  He was asleep in the boat while the disciples freaked out.  In the past, I’ve wondered why He was asleep…it seems odd, maybe even a bit callous to the fear of the disciples. But I wonder if the reason might be to show us how much we can trust the Lord in the storm.  Jesus was so confident in the Father’s care, he slept through the raging winds and crashing waves.  He rested in the care of the Father while the storm raged on.

I wanna be like that.  I want to calmly be with my Lord as the storm rages on around me.

I know I’m blessed even in the storm.  I can see it as clearly as I can see the clutter in my office.  The blessing of time spent with my children around the fire pit reading a great novel together.  The blessing of dinner out with my girlfriends to celebrate a birthday.  The blessing of a neighbor dropping off cookies just to love on us.  The blessing of neighbors who invite my little girls over for dinner just for fun.  The blessing of a sister who laughs at all my jokes.  The blessing of hot coffee and cocoa in the morning.  The blessing of a comfortable house.  The blessing of family and friends who love me. The blessing of His word spread before me each day.

This week we had more rain than I can ever remember and my backyard became a rippling creek or I might even call it a small river…there was water everywhere in pools up to 6 inches deep.  Our little English basement drain decided it was done draining and I feared a wet basement episode.  I went out in my daughter’s rain boots and tried to figure out how to divert some of the water cascading through my yard…honestly, I was laughing most of the time.  It was nuts!

Sometimes those moments when things are just ridiculously awful, I can smile more than at the little annoyances of life.  photo (20)

I even laughed when I slipped holding the bucket my kids had filled with “puppy presents” and forgotten to put in the trash…it was the most disgusting bucket of “water” you can imagine.  I was carrying it back to the woods and unfortunately I slipped.  The bucket and I had a face to face experience I would prefer never reliving!  After my initial holler of “YUCK!!!!”  I ran laughing to the sink to pour the hottest water possible all over my face…I seriously wanted to dip myself in bleach or Purell or something!  Icky!

Splashing poop water all over myself kinda put the whole backyard experience in perspective for me.  I could angrily stomp around in the pools and puddles and fuss about the mess (and the poop water), or I could splash around laughing at the absurdity of it all.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  1 Thessalonians 5:16

Adding to the silliness of the afternoon, my littlest daughter was outside sledding (yes sledding) down the muddy hill into the huge puddles.  She was covered in mud…just like our two labs (so you can imagine what my house looks like…).  It was pure joy!  Pure muddy, filthy joy!

Sometimes I miss participating in the joy-filled moments because I’m so busy doing…dare I say, so busy fussing.  I wish I could remember that I NEVER regret stopping work to enjoy my children.  NEVER.

Today I’m determined to finish my project so that I can spend time tonight playing…maybe we’ll even splash in the mud again.  I foresee it still being there. The trick is going to be letting myself look past the clutter in my house – to put aside the clutter of thoughts in my head – to overlook the clutter of feelings that overwhelm…and focus on the simplicity of time spent with my children.

That is easier said than done, but I believe God will honor my desire to serve Him through loving my children…investing in them not just their surroundings.

And I think focusing on the beautiful blessing of my children will really help with my mess of emotions…maybe I can change my constant state of emotion into something positive…something that is more a reflection of Christ than me.

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!  Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!  

Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered.  1 Chronicles 16:10-12

ImageIt was a near perfect day.

I was very tired the night before and I didn’t set my alarm. After all, I have two alarm clocks ages 6 and 7.  They are relentless in their early morning wake ups.  And although, they did wake me up briefly,  they just went and played.  Beautiful!

I woke later than I’ve slept in years.  I thanked God for rest and began what was to be a great day.

My oldest daughter was downstairs with the dogs watching TV – and yes, the dogs were watching TV too.  Honestly – all the “children” in my house are enamored by any kind of screen!

As soon as I entered the kitchen, she shut off the TV and we planned breakfast.  We discussed making breakfast in bed for the boys, but decided we just wanted to get the day started!  The boys dragged themselves downstairs shortly thereafter and we got our day moving…with chocolate chip pancakes and oatmeal with all the fixings.

Emma and I ran out to pick up a couple of things including a soda for everyone.  Soda is a treat now.  We have been trying to lessen our sugar intake – no easy feat.

The rest of our day was spent outside working on the yard together.  Music blaring, sun shining, and dogs romping.  It was just perfect…except for 1 snake, 2 black widows, 1 brown recluse, lots of doggie landmines, and the task of filling 28 bags with leaves!

But the yard looks great!  And the soda tasted wonderful…although we all ended the day with headaches – either from dehydration or sugar…or both.

We enjoyed dinner on the patio and a family devotional around the fire pit roasting marshmallows.  (When we go back to sugar, we go back big!)

This day was such a blessing especially in light of previous week which had been a little challenging at times.  It included but was not limited to sick children and an overflowing toilet which poured nasty water down into the kitchen.  (I will say that my house is now very well disinfected, but yuck!!!)

This near perfect day reminded me of how I’m so easily impacted by my circumstances…whether they are good or bad.

My kids noticed my happy attitude that lovely day.  My son asked if I could sleep in everyday because I was so much less stressed.  My oldest daughter said, “Well, maybe it was because we were actually really helping mom today.”  I laughed and said, “I think it was a little bit of both.”

But I don’t want my emotions and attitude to be dependent on my children’s obedience or my sleep habits or anything else for that matter.

Lately God keeps bringing me to the book of Colossians – particularly 3:12-15

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgive you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful. 

Those verses don’t only describe who I am, but how I want to be.

I am – chosen, holy, beloved.

I want to be – compassionate, kind, humble, meek, patient, forbearing, forgiving, loving, peaceful and thankful.

So how do I do that?  Even on a bad day?

It struck me that Colossians is a letter written by Paul, a prisoner, to share the secret of contentment and fulfillment with the church at Colossae – people who were in a much better situation than he was.  Isn’t that amazing!

I really love Paul’s perspective on things.  I love that he doesn’t offer Christian platitudes or a “name-it-claim-it” mentality or even a “do-good–or-else” mindset.

He shares often how difficult life can be.  In fact in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 he shares how he was to the point of giving up.

For we do not want you to be ignorant brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia.  For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.  But that was to make us rely not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead.  He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.  On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.  2 Corinthians 1:8-10

He doesn’t sugar coat the challenge of living a life of commitment to Christ.

BUT….

he also tells what is possible in this life of being a Christ follower… what we are called to…

I’d say the one word Paul uses a lot…the word he calls us to is JOY

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice.  Philippians 4:4

As I typed that verse do you know what hit me?  That it wasn’t “Rejoice!!!”   That’s how I would have written it.  But my teenage daughter tells me I use too many exclamation points – so maybe it’s just me?!

It’s one of those words which begs for exclamation points, especially when it’s an imperative.  But maybe the reason he doesn’t add the excitement is because it is supposed to be a way of life not a cheer leading competition.

After all, in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 he says, “Rejoice always”.  Amazingly, this joy thing is supposed to be an all-the-time thing.  Imagine that?  Honestly, I can’t…but then again, I can.

I can because like I said before – there is a lot to be joyful about isn’t there!

Image

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances,for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.                1 Thessalonians 5:16

That day was a joyful day.  I think every day should be a joyful day.

I’m not talking about being happy – I’m talking about joy.

Happy is hard…at least for me because it is based on my circumstances, what I feel.

Joy is another matter….joy is not about what I feel; it’s about what I know.

So what do I know…

 

I have an eternal inheritance and hope.

Nothing can separate me from Him.

I’m a new creature in Christ now.

I’m more than a conqueror.

I’m beloved and precious.

I’m forgiven and holy.

I’m redeemed.

I’m blessed.

I’m His.

 

I’m those things on a good day and a bad day.

I’m blessed no matter the circumstances of my day.

I was blessed the day we enjoyed sunshine and sleeping late.

And, although I can’t believe I’m saying it, I was blessed the day the toilet leaked all over the place.

Even though it was disgusting with a capital D, we did laugh, my bathroom and kitchen were cleaned…seriously cleaned, and we all worked together well.  Those are all good things.

But even  if we had not laughed but rather fought and yelled and despaired, I’d still be blessed because God is my God.

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to his great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved with various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:3-7

sensory issues, socks, and serious stuff

socksSo the other morning, my youngest daughter decided to completely fall apart about socks.

To say it was a disaster is putting it mildly.

About 5 minutes into the exchange, I realized that I was acting more immature than my 6 year old.

I wasn’t sure how to stop the spiral, so unfortunately….I didn’t.  I just went with it…spinning in nauseating circles to the bottom of the pit of momma fail.

And I did it with gusto.

I’ve been thinking about it for days.

What caused me to respond so poorly to my little girl’s sensory issues?  I mean, it’s not like they are a surprise.

Okay, well the socks were exactly the same as the ones that were fine the previous day…so that was annoying, but really, she’s 6 and she’s got stuff she’s dealing with…and, honestly, I do too.

But being that I’m approximately 39 years older, wouldn’t it seem like I could hold it together better than her?

Yeah…well…apparently not.

I think the issue might be that I simply want things to go my way.

Everyone just do things my way, ok?

And don’t get in my way.

I mean I am the momma after all.

I’m the boss.

But I’d like to be a benevolent dictator!

I think I was more like a really, really mean drill sergeant.

Thankfully I don’t have these meltdowns often, but when they happen they are spectacular. And I don’t mean that in a positive way…

Ugh…Why do they happen again?

Oh yeah…it’s all about me.

I’ve been studying the book of Philippians.  Chapter 2 to be exact.

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (3-8) 

I believe I could read the verse about putting other’s interests above my own and apply it to this situation, but most of the time, I probably put my children ahead of me even when I shouldn’t.

Although I believe I should always put my children’s well-being above my temper tantrums…above my emotions.

My emotional craziness that morning can’t really be justified…even though I was frustrated and nothing was going as I had planned.  I had stuff I needed to get done…they needed to get on the bus already!

Truly that seems to be what my life is about right now…getting stuff done.

Getting stuff done even if it means not being patient, kind, or gracious.

Getting stuff done even if it means less sleep…and a fussy momma.

Getting stuff done even if it means no time for relationships.

Getting stuff done even if it means oodles and oodles of stress…for everyone.

Do I really need to get so much stuff done?  Yes. I do.  But there has to be a way to do it gracefully.

Before I can figure that one out, I want to consider my emotions a bit….just a bit, because as I heard someone say once, “I don’t like the way emotions make me feel.”  I’m all over that.  (And I have to be honest, I’m not particularly fond of hormones either.)

When my ex- husband left 5 years ago, I wrote in my journal, “Remember it’s not what you feel, it’s what you know.”

That was written when I was feeling completely beaten down and I was trying to remind myself of my identity in Christ.  I wanted to be sure to make decisions and act based on what I knew to be true from God’s Word, rather than what I was feeling, especially the feelings based on my husband’s actions.

I think this situation with my daughter was another opportunity to remind myself that my actions must not be based on what I feel, but on what I know to be true.

I know that God has a plan even for my day and if things go awry He can help me handle it.

I know that my little girl needs encouragement, patience, and understanding, not the words I offered her.

I know that my actions impact my daughter and all my other children…that my thoughtless, frustrated words hurt.

I know that I have the Holy Spirit to help me control this blasted tongue.

And, thankfully I know that God forgives me for all my mistakes as a woman and a parent.

The other part of that verse that struck me was the humility of Christ.  He was GOD and He willingly took on the form of man to save me.  He humbled himself…humbled himself to death.

I need a minute to soak that in…

And I can’t humble myself to speak graciously to my child???

My little girl who wasn’t being disobedient (even though it felt that way), who wasn’t being defiant (even though it felt that way), who wasn’t being difficult on purpose (even though it felt that way)…she was just being a little girl with sensory issues who was completely undone by the toe seam on her socks.

And I was the momma who acted on how I felt, rather than what I knew.  I was the one in charge who instead of humbly and gently loving my daughter, chose to wield my big stick and verbally whack everything in sight.

Looking back I can see that if I had responded at first with graciousness, my little girl might have found what she needed sooner and we could have had a peaceful morning.  Unfortunately, I decided to disregard some of the other verses in Philippians 2:

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.  (14-16)

Oh the grumbling and complaining…oh well…no sense continuing to beat myself up about this.

So I have to tell you after all our sock craziness, as we were heading out the door, my daughter sat down in the foyer and said, “Momma, I don’t think I want to wear socks.”  So 45 minutes and 15 pairs of socks later…she went to school without socks.

Seriously.photo (4)

ImageTonight we dragged our tree out…well, I should say my oldest son and his friend dragged it out…leaving a trail of needles and water behind. Contributing to the messiness of my floor.

Today my floor has been an issue.

A neighbor stopped by unexpectedly.  As we stood in my kitchen all I could think about was all the stuff out, the general disarray of our home at that moment, and all the crumbs and such all over the floor,

I desperately wanted to ask her to leave and come back in 20 minutes.

I didn’t.

But oh did I want to.

I was trying to pick up things unobtrusively…sneak things off the counter, put things in the sink, push things into drawers, pick up a larger crumb on the floor.  I’m sure she could see my furtive attempts to clear the clutter.

I don’t know this neighbor well so she rarely sees the inside of my house.  But I believe I can safely say that EVERY time she stops by some sort of tornado has struck…well, 6 tornados – me included.

Today was one of those days.  It was back to school for my kids – both homeschooled and public schooled – and educational paraphernalia was strewn all over the counter, table, and foyer.

I began a new program to become certified to teach and earn my Masters in education so I have to admit that I contributed to the school stuff everywhere.

Calendars, bills, and other documents were stacked on a stool near the kitchen table because there was no room on the table.

My son had started a drawing project in the family room and paper had slid off the sofa onto the floor.

My youngest daughter had laid out Candy Land for us to play after dinner.  (She beat me! 3 times!!!)

Oven buzzers were sounding and pots were bubbling on the stovetop.

Sitting between the pantry and laundry room doors were 2 baskets of clean laundry waiting to be taken upstairs.

The only good thing about my house was there were no dishes in the sink – and that, my friends, is a miracle!

This unexpected visit was not one of my finer examples of hospitality…at least in the sense of my home being ready.

I love having people over and enjoy welcoming them into our pandemonium.  But sometimes… sometimes I want a little fair warning!

It’s okay though.  Just my pride being a bit wounded.

Why I think my sticky counters, cluttered tables, or messy floors would shock anyone, especially my neighbors, is beyond me.  Honestly, we are kind of like the Beverly Hillbillies of the neighborhood.  I feel like we should have their theme song blaring when we drive down the street.   (Hey!  I bet my teenagers would love that!)

When I pull into the driveway I have children climbing out of windows and/or falling over each other to get out of the same door.  And the number of odds and ends that tumble out of my car at any given stopping point is staggering.  My car is a giant purse…full of children, paper, shoes and goodness knows what else!

Where am I going with this blog?

Actually when I started this blog I was going to write about sweeping the floor – specifically the tree needles and some grapes that were dropped.

I was thinking how the needles, although everywhere, were quite easy to sweep up…kind of like all the mundane issues of life.  Those things that aren’t surprising or particularly difficult, but they seem to be everywhere.  They take up time and energy, but they are doable.

Then there are the things like grapes.  Grapes…ugh.  I can’t tell you how frustrating it was to try to sweep up those silly grapes.  They went everywhere but where I wanted them to go.

Those little buggers can roll fast and far!

I could have leaned over and picked them up individually, but I didn’t have the energy to do it.  (long, long day)  I just wanted them to go nicely into the dustpan.

But nope.  They went every which way.  Unfortunately I couldn’t leave them lying about because grapes are magnets for feet.  And squashed grapes are even more work…sticky work.  My house is sticky enough thank you very much!

I don’t know why I thought about the needles and the grapes…or why it struck me that it was so much like my life.  Maybe I’m over thinking things…totally possible.  I’m pretty tired.

But what I realized is that God equips me to handle both things.

Those needles are like the plethora of monotonous things that occur in any given day…like dirty dishes, cluttered counters, messy floors, loads and loads of laundry, and neighbors that stop by unexpectedly on a particularly messy day.  But they are all things that God gives me the grace to handle if I will rest in Him each day.

Part of that resting is finding my identity in Him rather than the state of me, my home, my children, my finances, my education, my work, my relationships, my marriage/divorce, my health…all of that is not defining.

I am defined by Christ!

And then there are the grapes…the things that roll around your life and cause trouble.

They roll in with things like dealing with our ex-spouses or struggles with our children’s behaviors, financial worries or household issues, health crises or work concerns…you can probably add your own grapes to that list.

And there are bigger grapes that spin everywhere, are impossible to catch, and often just end up squashed on the floor.  These things are bigger things…heart issues, agonies that bring us to our knees, struggles and sorrows that linger, hurts that seem to take forever to heal…I’m sure you know what I mean.

Those are some whopping big grapes.  But thankfully our God is bigger than any grape…large or small.

Needles or grapes all need to end up in the same place…and so do all our troubles and struggles and annoyances.

It’s a little hard at this point to continue my analogy perfectly because I’m going to have to equate a dustpan to the Lord, so maybe I’ll mix it up a bit and say this:

All our stuff needs to end up in the dustpan of faith and handed over to our Heavenly Father.

There is no amount of life messiness that God can’t handle.  And He’s willing to handle it all.

I’m more than happy to hand the broom and dustpan to Him…I’m tired of cleaning anyway.

If I trust Him to take care of all those things, I can be peaceful no matter the state of my home.  And that means that when people stop by I can rest assured that even if my house seems a bit muddled, I will not.  I will be calm and able to focus not on my house, but my guest.

If I trust Him, when the pains and sorrows of this life seem too much to bear I can find solace in His Word, peace in His presence, and comfort with His people.

So sweep those needles and grapes toward Jesus and let Him deal with them all!  His dustpan is big enough.

I don’t know if that string of thoughts exactly works, but I hope that it blesses you in some way – even if it’s just a smile at my attempt to spiritualize a messy floor.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  1 Peter 5:6-7