Monday, November 18, 2013

Chaos Has Descended!

As much as I love holidays, the weeks leading up to them seem to get crazier every year! My calendar is full of conferences, doctors appointments, dental appointments, and seminars - on top of all the regular parts of my weeks - exercise, Bible study, music lessons, and Jiu-Jitsu. Somewhere in there I have to squeeze in time to work since the holidays really are coming, and we'd like to pay for whatever gifts are coming! I think I might really and truly lose my mind this year!

My goal right now is to find peace.  I know, that sounds kind of crazy, right? Did you see my calendar?? Peace is a far distant destination, if you look at everything on my plate. However, for my sanity (and my family's) I've got to find a way to carve out some peace in the midst of the chaos. I have some ideas I'm going to try, and I'll try to update you on my progress as I go along.

1. Stay focused: I have to stay focused on what's actually important.  Are there things I can let go of? Probably. I have a bad tendency to say "yes" and figure out how I'm going to do it later. I may have to miss a few events, or say no to a few people, but I have to stay focused on what's most important - my commitment to God and to my family. Everything else can wait!

2. Calm it down: I have a tendency to carry all my stress around, letting it compound and make me crazy until I start dropping things. Unfortunately, the things I end up dropping are usually bills, appointments, or school commitments - all things I REALLY need to remember! I have to calm everything down and make time for these things that just won't wait. Keeping a desk calendar front and center has really helped me a lot with this. As long as an event makes it to the calendar, I'm OK and I can plan for it. If I forget to put it on the calendar, it gets dicey!

3. Push Forward: I know that some days I'm not going to get much done on my list, but I can't let that stop me. Life has a bad habit of intruding just when I have everything planned out just right! When that happens, I have to remember to push forward and get through. The world isn't going to stop just because I'm overwhelmed!

4. Pray it out!: The final, and most important, part of the equation is prayer. I have to pray when things get to be too much. God will give me the peace I need to see my way out of the hole, but only if I ask for it. Sadly, I think that too often I rely on myself to get things done, when it's only through him that I'm going to truly succeed in life. He's promised to take our cares and burdens away if we give them to him - so why in the world don't I? His shoulders are much broader than mine, and much better suited to lifting heavy burdens.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Little Things

This caught my attention today.  It mirrors what I've been trying to do with my girls recently.  I read something that said if you want your kids to come to you with the big things when they're older, you have to listen to the little things when they're small.  This really hit me - mostly because I find myself tuning out so many of the little things three girls are constantly throwing my way.  But, if I don't want to find myself on the outside looking in when they're bigger, I've got to get my act together and start listening.  

I've been putting the poem above into practice in my life.  When the girls come home from school, even though it's peak writing time, I stop what I'm doing so I can hear about their day and everything that happened.  Do my ears ring and my brain slightly implode?  Yes, but it's worth it.  In the midst of all the chatter, I'm learning about my girls and what's important to them. 

Emily will tell me what happened in different classes, Abby will have a report on recess, and Morgan will have a behavior report on her classmates.  It's amazing how much their personalities and individual struggles come through in what they say!  Abby won't have anything to say about classwork because she doesn't care about it, but she'll have a play-by-play of her interaction with friends on the playground, because that matters to her.  Emily will share a wide variety of things, mostly class related unless something happened with one of her friends and she needs venting time or advice.  Morgan will let me know who misbehaved in class, and what steps she took to remedy the problem. 

Look what I would miss out on by tuning them out every day!  By turning off my lips and opening my ears, I get to come inside their world for a little bit and see what it's like.  Is it easy?  No, I will honestly tell you that it's really hard, but it's so important!  I'm building a foundation today that will (hopefully) sustain our relationship through the teen years when I really need to know what's going on with them.  It also clues me in to trouble areas early.  If there's going to be drama with a friend, sometimes it can be headed off before it's a problem.  If someone's struggling with a subject in school, I can take measures here at home to help.  Sometimes my girls just need to know that I am present and I understand what they're going through right now.  They don't need a solution or remedy - they just need Mommy, a listening ear, and a giant hug.   

I encourage you to spend some time with each of your kids and their "little things."  You may need to go to a quiet place and lose your mind a little bit afterwards, but I promise you that you won't regret it! 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What is God Doing for Me Today?

There are some great ideas expressed in this simple message, and they're really hitting me today.  I was joking with some wonderful girlfriends last week about patience, because we all know what happens when we ask God for help with it - he provides the opportunity to use it!  Most moms aren't real excited for the opportunity to exercise more patience, but we certainly do need the help.  How often does he send answers through opportunities?  He gives us the opportunity to work, to help others, to become strong, and to resolve problems.  Too bad we often see these opportunities as the troubles and not the solution! 
How often do we miss blessings in our lives because we don't see God's answers?  Think about all that God does for you every day.  How many of his answers go completely over your head because you were expecting something different? 
We miss out on so much that God has prepared for us because we continue to look at things through the world's glasses.  When we stop and see a situation through God's lenses we can see his provision for us.  Try to see God's opportunities in your situation.  I have a feeling he's sending blessings your way - more than you can imagine! 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Back to School

Today was the official first day of school and I'm bittersweet about it.  I'm not ashamed to say that I look forward to summer vacation each year.  I like having my girls home, sleeping in every morning, and keeping a relaxed schedule.  However, I am ready to get into a regular pattern, especially with my writing.  I find it hard to set aside the time I need to devote to my craft when there are three energetic girls running around the house.  They regard my "working" time the same way they do a phone call - they always have something really important to tell me even though I'm off limits.  It tends to make me just a little irritable and short! 

Do you have the same issue?  Were you both happy and sad when you waved your kids off on the bus?  It's one of the many interesting situations we face as moms.  We're happy to be with our children every minute of every day until we REALLY need a break!  My mother-in-law has mentioned home-schooling to me several times lately and I just have to laugh.  As much as I love my girls I do not think I'm up to the challenge of home-schooling.  Over the summer we did some math review and that was plenty for me to realize that I'm just not cut out to be their teacher! 

These hours that they are in school are my time to work - I'm either doing housework, writing, leading my Bible study, or running various and sundry errands.  I don't find that I get more rest when they're not here; I can just direct my attentions to other things I need to do.  When the girls are home things get compressed.  I can maybe sneak in a couple of hours working on my book or articles, but I feel the need to compensate them with something fun to make up for it.  That usually adds a trip somewhere to our day and takes away from productive tasks I would have done. 

I guess my point today is don't let anyone make you feel guilty that you were just the slightest bit relieved when the bus pulled away this morning.  You're not alone in it!  We all love our children and want the best for them, and sometimes we need some time apart so we can really enjoy them when we get them back!  I know that I am determined not to let someone else dictate to me what my schedule should look like, and neither should you.  Enjoy your back to school day!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Where Am I Pointing My Children?

Photo: At the end of the day the question remains: Have I pointed them toward You, Lord? 

{Thanks Time-Warp Wife for this}
I saw this on Facebook today, posted on Proverbs 31 Ministries' page, and it spoke to me.  It got me thinking - am I pointing my girls to God every day?  How do I accomplish this in the midst of the hustle and bustle and general craziness of life?  I think the answer is staring us right in the face every day.  The question we need to ask ourselves is this: am I living for God every day?  Because if I am I will automatically point my children to him in all that I do.  
I don't know about you, but I want to live in such a way that my children see my faith played out in my day-to-day life.  I can show them how God is working in my life when I sit down to write or make food for friends that need it.  What I find is that sometimes it's the small things we do that mean more to the girls than the big ones we think will make an impact. 
So take the opportunity today to teach your kids about the important things in life, no matter what you're doing.  You can show them God at soccer, at the dentist, or in the grocery store.  Let them see God working in your life!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Blessings Pour Down

"Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.  He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.  With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation."   
Psalm 91:14-16

I find myself stopping at random points during the day this week to say "Thank you Lord."  That's all - short and sweet and heartfelt.  You know why?  Because I am feeling His blessings in my life in some special and visible ways.  Here's some history: my husband is a DoD (Department of Defense) employee.  As you may know President Obama decided in his infinite wisdom last year to institute sequestration if Congress didn't bend to his budget demands.  It hit the news and fizzled - after all, who cares about some fat-cat government employees getting a pay cut, right??  Unfortunately what people didn't (and still don't) understand is that the fat-cats don't feel the cuts.  This sequestration was targeted at people just like us - middle-class working families, many with children, who are trying to make a living for their family.  The result has been 11 days of furlough spread out over 11 weeks.  Allow me to translate - for 11 weeks Charles is "off" on Fridays because he's not getting paid.  It's a partial lay-off in layman's terms.  20% of our pay every week is gone.  Granted we still get to pay all of our bills at full price, but with 20% less money available to do so. 

Now, reading all about sequestration and its affects on our family you may be wondering why I'm writing about blessings.  Strangely enough, God's blessings are pouring through the clouds surrounding us right now.  I have been signed up with a freelance writing website for about a year now.  I had almost forgotten about this site until I started fretting about money and how we were going to make it financially right now.  I ended up exploring this site and accepting an article.  I spent about an hour writing, turned it in and made approximately $7.  Not too bad, but I'd sure have to take a lot of assignments in order to make up any pay Charles has lost.  Imagine my surprise Wednesday when I opened the site and had a team invitation.  I have been invited to join a team that writes an average of 20 articles a week, with the opportunity to do more if I'm able.  Would you believe that writing 20 of these articles will make me almost exactly the amount we are losing to sequestration every week? 

I was stunned and incredibly humbled by this discovery.  I have been worried to the point of sickness over this whole situation and I finally hit bottom with it last weekend.  I sat down and had a long conversation with God about this whole business and gave it to him completely.  For Real!  I didn't grab it back immediately so I could worry some more.  I handed my burden over to his more-than-capable shoulders and left it there.  Needless to say it was very freeing and I started feeling better about the whole situation right then and there.  And three days later I am provided with a way to make up every penny that we are losing.  I don't think you could attribute this to anything but God and his goodness.  I am floored and comforted by his overwhelming care and protection.  I hope that you, too, will give him your burdens.  I can't guarantee you'll have the same answer, but I promise you He will provide for you.  His blessings will pour down on you!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (NIV)
Galatians 3:26-28
I can't tell you how many times this verse has gone through my head today as I continue to hear anger, pain and hurt from both sides of the Zimmerman / Martin controversy.  People are in pain, families are hurting, and of course the media is right there spreading the hate around.  Why?  Why do we do this to each other?  What is wrong with us as a country when the federal government involves itself in a situation just because the verdict was not guilty?  Are we really so petty?  Apparently we are.  It makes me sad and disappointed in my fellow Americans. 
It's times like this that I can just picture the devil rubbing his hands in glee.  We are letting ourselves get drawn into the "race" arguments and hard feelings and ignoring the needs of people all around us.  Are you going to fix anything by stoking the fire?  How can we expect anyone to heal if we constantly shove this in peoples' faces?  We've got to get it together my friends!  Wake up and realize that pointing fingers and judging people you don't know will set you right into Satan's palm. 
What does Paul tell the Galatians?  "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  I think God would allow me to add "black or white" to this verse to make my point.  We're all the same in Christ Jesus.  Men, women, African, Asian, Indian, or Caucasian, and the list goes on.  If we're all children of God these differences we have don't matter.  Skin color especially - do you realize skin color is all about the amount of melanin in your skin?  More melanin = darker skin; less melanin = lighter skin.  It's such a silly thing to judge each other over!  I'm not saying we aren't all different, but culture plays a bigger part in our differences than skin color ever will. 
In this time of uncertainty and negativity I challenge you to be better.  Don't get mired in the controversy.  Hold on to God while others are holding on to the hate and anger.  Let God in so He can heal your hurts.  And pray that those at the heart of this very sad situation will do the same thing.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Happy Saturday!

Hello my friends!  Here are some great Dr. Seuss thoughts for you on this beautiful weekend afternoon...
Photo: Wednesday Wisdom <3 

Who says nursery rhymes are only for children!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

De-Vacation My Children!

Do you ever have to de-vacation your children after a trip?  You know what I mean - sit them down and explain that the world does not, in fact, revolve around them and their every whim, that we do actually have to get stuff done around the house, and that the pocketbook is not a bottomless reservoir.  Is it only me that has this problem?  I think not!!  I bet you know exactly what I'm talking about.  I made the tactical error of taking the girls to Wal-Mart yesterday before the de-vacationing speech and got nothing but "Can we get _____?"  "I really like ______," and the ever so subtle "I'm SOOO thirsty - that bottled water sure looks good..."  Yep, it was a pretty quick shopping trip followed by a much needed conversation about real life. 

So, how do we go about de-vacationing? 
Here's my feeble attempt:

1)  Try to get things back to normal-ish.  Monday morning we started back with the chore charts.  It's a way to ease us back into routine without killing anybody.  We're not being real sticklers on bedtimes or wake-ups yet since it's still summer break, but we are taking some time each day to work on math facts and make sure our normal tasks get done.

2)  Don't give in to the gimmees.  It's so easy on vacation to play the sentimental card and buy way more than any one kid needs to have, much less three.  If this happened during vacation you have to put a stop to it once you get home or you will find yourself drooling somewhere in an asylum corner before you know it!  While a little treating during vacation is nice, and even expected, you won't do your kids any favors if you continue the trend when you're home.  Kids need to know that there's a difference between our usual budget $$ and the $$ we set aside for vacation extras.  Otherwise you might as well paste a wallet to your head because that's all they'll see when you're around.

3)  Be honest.  Let your kids know that you had a budget for vacation and you have a budget for home.  If you spend at home like you do on vacation you might find yourself in a bad financial spot.  It's good for them to have a grasp, albeit not dollar amounts, on the budget.  For instance, as a DOD employee my husband is going to be furloughed for one day every week for 11 weeks - yay - which is affecting our budget.  I've sat the girls down and explained that things are going to be tight, and we won't be doing much extra.  It stinks that we have to deal with this over the summer, but what choice do we have?  We could ignore the cut in pay and spend our way right out of a home and into bankruptcy.  Not a smart move! 

4)  Be fun!!  The fun doesn't have to end just because vacation is over.  Try to keep that spirit alive when you get back home.  Let the kids camp out together if they want to.  Fire up the firepit and roast some s'mores.  Turn the sprinkler on and let them loose.  Visit the pool or the library - or both!  Try to remember, even as you get things back to "normal" that you only get this time with them once.  Let loose and have some fun with your kids!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Where is my freedom?

With the 4th of July upon us our minds naturally turn to freedom.  We remember how blessed we are to live in this country: the land of the free and the home of the brave.  It's got me thinking about my freedoms as a parent and what they mean to me. 

What do I mean by free?  Let me put it to you this way - do you find fulfillment and freedom in your life as a parent or does it stifle and constrict you?  I think we all have moments that we identify with both sides of this question.  It's when we can't escape the constriction that we have to stop and fix things.  Being a parent should be a freeing and exciting journey for each one of us.  Whether you planned each of your miracles or were surprised, they are special and worthy of your time and energy.  You should be free to love them without restriction, to play with them without embarrassment, and to cuddle them without limitations.  What keeps you from claiming that joy?  I know what keeps me from it - I get distracted, I get busy, and I get so bogged down in the day-to-day muck of life that I don't feel free or joyful.  Instead of enjoying an outing I find myself thinking about what has to be done when we get home. 

So, how do we work ourselves out of the funk and into the freedom and joy of parenting?  I think the best way is improving our prayer lives.  I know that too often I lay a burden at God's feet only to take it up again later.  Really??  Am I really so arrogant that I think I can handle my stuff better than God can?  Apparently I am all too often!  It's a hard thing to give your burdens away for good.  I like to think I'm getting better at it, and most days I am, but there are some things that I have a hard time giving over.  However, when I'm successful I find that parenting becomes easier for me.  I'm calmer and more relaxed with my girls, which makes me more fun to be around. 

Along with improving our prayer lives we have to learn to lighten up!  Be silly with your kids - who cares if you look funny singing your heart out to One Direction songs?  Does it matter?  It means so much to your kids when you can sit down with them and be fun - play games, play Barbies or Legos, read together, make up silly stories, or color.  They don't care what it is.  So I'm going to challenge you to be free - claim your right to be a joyful, free parent and see how your children respond!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Enjoy today!

Photo: "You will never have this day with your children again. Tomorrow, they'll be a little older than they were today. 
This day is a gift. 
Breathe and notice. 
Smell and touch them; study their faces and little feet and pay attention. 
Relish the charms of the present. 
Enjoy today, mama. It will be over before you know it." 
- Jen Hatmaker

Picture Source: Joni Lay at
As we start our summers with a bang, I want to challenge you to remember this message.  I know I need to remind myself of this very thing all the time!  Our children are a blessing every day, even when we are going crazy!  May you have a blessed summer with your babies.  Make some great memories and tell me all about them!
I'm off to make some memories with mine over the next two weeks.  Between Disney and Gatlinburg I will have many chances to remind myself that every day is a blessing!  I pray that I will be able to leave the stress behind and just enjoy being a mom.  I pray the same thing for you as the summer vacations begin and we all have kids full time. 

"Enjoy today, mama.  It will be over before you know it." - Jen Hatmaker

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Help, the Mommy's Guilt is Out to Get Me!

Today's question deals with something us moms are very familiar with: mother's guilt.  Some of us are better at it than others, but we all feel it over something at least once in our mothering "career."  The question we're going to address today is two-fold: how do I deal with the guilt when 1) I enjoy one stage of mothering so much and can't stand another and 2) I'm not super volunteer / cheerleader / philanthropist at school?  Can you empathize with either of these?  I know I can!  Why do we love to beat ourselves up over every little thing?  It seems like we can always find something to feel guilty or inadequate about as moms.  We volunteer, but not enough; we love our children, but really can't stand changing diapers or crying babies; we missed every field trip for one child and made all of them for another; we totally forgot about Teacher Appreciation week, and the list can go on and on.  We love to hold on to all these "failures" and stew, don't we?  If only we were perfect!  Well, we're not, so you can take that pressure off yourself right now!  The way I see it we have some options here for dealing with our Mommy Guilt. 

1.   You can choose to let the guilt rule you.  This is not what I recommend, but you can certainly try it for yourself and let me know how it goes!  Here's a picture of how this might go for you: every time you feel guilty about something that doesn't meet your standards let it eat you up inside until you fix it.  Did you forget to send in a donation for the class auction basket?  Quick, write a check or go out and buy something really nice so no one thinks poorly of you...  don't worry about the family budget you just blew.  Feeling guilty about your volunteer schedule?  Make sure you're at the school for something every day... just forget about the things at home you're leaving undone.  Do you see where this strategy will get you?  I have tried to keep up with everything and invariably I can't do it!  If I'm Super Volunteer at school, then I'm not Super Mom at home, and vice versa.  One thing I can guarantee about this option - you will not be satisfied if you let your guilt rule you.  You will never measure up, and there will always be something you could have done better. 

2.  You can deal with the root of the problem.  Do you know what is at the root of mother's guilt?  Insecurity.  We are all scared that we're not good enough.  Some of us love babies, but struggle when our kids get bigger and start expressing their opinions, while others really have a hard time with babies and their constant demands, but love the ages when their kids are mobile and active.  Does that make us better or worse than each other?  I don't think so.  I think it makes us human.  As with anything, if we were all the same this world would be an awfully boring place.  If I'm a baby stage-loving mom and have a good friend who's an older stage-loving mom, don't you think we can complement one another?  She can be strong in the areas that I am weak in, and vice versa.  Here's the kicker though, we have to be honest with ourselves and others about these things.  We let our guilt rule us and we never admit that we have struggles.  The key is to turn that guilt on its side.  How about listening to God's ideas of parenting instead of the worlds'?  What does He have to say on the subject?
Ephesians 6:4
"4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."

Do you know how much Mommy Guilt we can avoid by simplifying our parenting?  Instead of worrying about living up to others' standards we should worry about living up to God's; and he's pretty clear - bring your children up in the training and instruction of the Lord.  Wow!  How often does that even cross our minds while we're wallowing in guilt over everything?  Does it ever?  I know the guilt is very real and very troubling, but it really is misplaced.  If this is your struggle, I urge you to take it to God in prayer.  Let Him take this guilt away!  He will... if you are willing to let it go. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Loving Through the Pain

9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
This post is for those of us who are living with pain: injuries, disease, disorders, you name it.  Pain stinks!  You know my history - herniated disc in the lower back, two surgeries to fix it, re-herniation, and now more sharp, insistent pain in the low back and down my right leg... again.  It's frustrating and maddening and all-consuming!  When every move you make shoots pain through your body it is hard to think through it.  It's hard to focus on things you need to do because you hurt and your pain recepters are going to make sure you know that you are hurting and they aren't happy.  My question today is: how do I find the love through the pain?

Does that make sense?  Let me try to explain.  When all your brain processes is pain it's very easy to become irritable.  I find that little things will just set me off: toys on the floor, kids knocking my chair, more toys on the floor, someone else knocking me off balance - you get the picture!  Every nerve in my body is on edge right now and it takes so little for one of my beautiful treasures to step right on it and set me off!  Since I can't put myself away in a padded room full of pain relievers, what can I do?  How do I love through this pain? 

First, I have to acknowledge that there is a problem.  I am hurt... again... and need to take steps to make it better.  This means regular Motrin, not sitting too long, icing, and using my "Mini-Masseuse" machine.  Nothing new, but these are activities that eat into time I'd much rather spend doing other things.  This is all a big pain in the rear (literally!) but very necessary.  I can't just sit back and play the victim.  If I want to feel better - and I do - I have to take steps that will help make that happen. 

Second, I have to watch the attitude.  Yes, I hurt and it stinks and it would be great if it would go away, but I also have a family that still needs care and loving even though I don't feel good.  I think my frustration has come from a perceived lack of empathy from the younger girls.  They see me hurting and it translates into an inconvenience for them instead of an opportunity to help.  My struggle right now is to teach a different attitude without just being mean, crazy mom and losing my mind.   If I can learn to look at my situation like Paul did I think I could really do the girls a lot of good.  I can honestly tell you that I have a really hard time looking at this physical weakness as a strength or opportunity for God, but it can be!  If I can take my own thoughts and perceptions out of the equation and focus on how God can be glorified through my situation He will make my weakness a strength!  The question is: can I do it?

Third, I have to keep on track.  This setback can't affect my forward progress.  I still need to write and work on my ongoing projects.  If that means working in snatches as my back allows, that's what I will do.  Yes, it'll stink and it'll wreak havoc with my "Zone" time, but I have to make it work!  I know from experience that the best way to stave off the depression that would love to creep in is to keep myself in God's word and in close communion with Him every day.  My favorite way to do this is writing, so I have to keep it up.  If that means writing for 15 minutes and taking a 5 minute break, that is what I will do.  If that means using paper and a pen while I'm icing and typing later, I'll make that work too!  I can stay on my positive work track and keep my forward momentum if I fully rely on God to get me through this. 

Finally, I have to keep God close.  Having done this same routine a few times before, I know that falling to my knees in front of God and His mighty power is the only thing that will let me love through this pain.  If I have to be weak in order to be strong in Christ I will take it!  I would much rather be strong for Christ and feeble in body than strong in self and weak in Christ!  I know that He is stronger than my weakness and He will carry me through this.  So, how do I love through the pain?  I put my arms around God and let His love radiate through me to those around me.  I can't do it on my own, but if I let Him do the hard part I can't lose! 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Help, My Children Have Lost Their Minds!!

I don't know about you, but here in Maryland our kids still have until June 11 before school is out.  Right now that feels like an eternity to them... and to me!  No one wants to get up in the morning, no one wants to do homework, no one wants to go to school and do anything productive - you get the picture.  They are ready to be done.  Unfortunately we still have 12 days of school left.  12 more days of work.  12 more days of morning crazy before 8 blessed weeks of freedom. 

I find myself in need of some strategies and tools to get us through to June 11.  What can I do differently to help the girls?  How am I contributing to the stress?  How do I stay sane over the next weeks?

I have some ideas on making these last weeks of school more pleasure than pain for all of us:
Make it Special - Tuesday evening the school had a Book Fair that we could visit as a family, so we all piled in the car and went down for some new reading material.  The girls all got to pick some books out and immediately started reading them in the car.  Abby, especially, has been devouring her choices - and she's not a huge reader!  It made me realize that sometimes they need the novelty of a "treat."  Something out of the ordinary that just makes them feel special.  Sure, it cost Charles and I the price of the books, but their enjoyment and appreciation make it worth every penny!  Today I drove them to school - again, not a huge thing, but something that starts their day out special.  Over the next couple of weeks I will try to find different little things that will make their days pass a little easier.

Relax -  I don't know about you, but my May calendar is full!  In the last two weeks I have been at the girls' school for 6 different events.  Add in church functions, friends and family and you have a crazy, busy month!  It's hard enough to manage the family during this wind down time - add in all the field trips, field days, concerts, and activities and you can easily lose your mind!  This is the first weekend we have nothing scheduled and we have declared it off-limits.  Charles and Morgan have plans to conquer the two-wheeler bike, Emily has a date with her roller blades, and Abby is itching to get back on her bike.  Mommy will be on camera detail and we will rest.  We don't take enough time to enjoy being home together as a family, especially during this time of year.  There's so much going on that sucks your family time away, so we will take this weekend to steal it back!

Prioritize - All the hectic rush makes me crazy and rubs off on the girls so they get kind of crazy, too!  It doesn't help anything and just makes us all want to rip at each other, so I'm trying to figure out how to avoid it.  It's time for me to prioritize - what's most important, what can we let go, etc. - and then accept the limits I place.  Why do I continue to think that I can do anything and handle anything?  I have proved over and over again that I have limits - why do I choose to ignore them so often?  My poor family are the ones who suffer because I can't say no.  So I'll keep working on setting my boundaries and sticking to them.  One of these days, with the Lord's help, maybe I will figure it out!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

I'm Proud to be a Nurturing Mom!

I recently read a Time article titled: "Viewpoint: Is Mother's Day Sexist?" The author is concerned with the messages we send this time of year. Why do we thank moms for being nurturing, gentle, and soft when just a month later we thank dads for their strength and good examples? Why can't moms be the role model and dads the nurturers?

Let me share a paragraph from the article with you:
"Of course, there is not a thing wrong with children saying thank you for all those cuddles and comfort, or for expressing gratitude for models of strength and responsibility. These are all lovely sentiments. The question is: why in 2013, are we still dividing all these traits by gender? It’s insulting to both women and men and it has less and less to do with contemporary American families. Dads can be nurturers. Moms can be role models. Many, of course, already are."

Read more:

My answer to this article is NO - Mother's Day is not sexist! I am proud to be a soft place for my children to fall, and I have no problem with my place in their lives. God made me different from Charles, just like he made all men and women different. Does this mean men can't nurture? No, of course not, but it's not the natural instinct of most guys. We thank our dads for their strength, example, and character because these are the things dads should be teaching us. My girls are learning what a man is supposed to be like by watching their father. He is the spiritual leader in our home... and I am perfectly fine with that! Why do we feel the need to steal identity from each other? Why is it undesirable for me to be a woman with womanly traits and characteristics? God has good reasons for what he does and he didn't mess up when he gave each sex different strengths and weaknesses. 

I find it interesting that my womanly traits mix with Charles' manly traits and make a complete set of parents for our girls. How sad is it that we can't celebrate that as a society?  I will spend tomorrow with my family, enjoying time together and celebrating my 11 years as a mom. I will be proud of the fact that I nurture my girls and teach them how to be Godly young women. I encourage you to do the same with your children! Let's send our own message this year - we are proud to be nurturing moms! 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Shhh... Mommy's in "The Zone!!"

I recently shared a list on Facebook.  It's great - in fact, so great I need to share it with you today:

Isn't it great?  I think this can apply to anyone, not just those of us crazy enough to write.  An artist would probably tell you something very similar, with "artsy" stuff instead of the writing references.  So, how does this list work when you're a mom?  #5 is probably the hardest for me to balance as a parent.  Kids notoriously don't care (or notice) if Mommy's in the Zone - they still need to eat, tell you everything going on in their day, and homework doesn't monitor itself.  How do I take the time I need to get my work done when I can (the Zone is no respecter of schedules or timelines) and still parent these treasures the Lord has given me?

As I sit here typing this awesome blog article I have been interrupted out of the Zone 3 times by various things: Can Morgan get dressed (yes, they're still in pajamas at noon), Crash!  the pencil drawers went flying in the kitchen, and Emily needs to walk her friend home from sleepover.  This is my life - enter chaos, noise and destruction!  Sometimes I wonder how I get anything coherent down on paper or screen while the children are home and awake. 
Today I want to try to share some tips for moms and kids in respecting the Zone.  What's resonable for us to expect and what's not?  How do we take advantage of that creative spark and take care of our children at the same time?  Am I still a good mom?

- Establish Boundaries - I think the most important thing for creative moms is to establish boundaries for themselves and the children.  If your children still nap, use naptime to be creative.  When the girls were younger I wasn't writing, but if I had been I would have used that time to get some work done.  Now that they're in school I do the bulk of my work while they're at school.  Unfortunately the Zone rarely wears off by 4 pm, so on those days I have to disengage from the computer so I can engage the kids.  Otherwise I get frustrated and annoyed when they interrupt.  As the kids get older you can set boundaries with them.  For instance, today the girls are home and I am spending some time writing.  They are set up playing Barbies downstairs and know to keep the interruptions to a minimum.  This way I get a chance to do some work while they have some fun time.  I will limit myself to a couple hours so that I get time with them today to do something fun. 

- Establish Priorities - What needs to be done each day at home?  Sometimes when we're firmly ensconced in the Zone it's easy to forget that dishes need to be done, clothes need to be washed, and our families would like to eat dinner.  Isn't it a pain sometimes?  I would love to retreat to my little bubble and not come out until I have wrung myself dry!  But, that doesn't work when you're a busy mom and wife.  Our families have to come first - even when we're solving all the world's ills in print or crafting the next great masterpiece.  They matter more than all of that, and they need to know that they're more important to you than your work.  It would break my heart if my girls or Charles thought my writing was more important to me than they are.  As in everything I am first a daughter of God, then a wife and mother - everything else stacks up after that.  There are some days I have to accept I won't be a writer at all.  I'll be a wife and mom all day, or spend the day with a friend who needs me.  And that's OK.  I know my priorities and need to learn to accept where everything belongs.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Having "The Talk"

I think parents will all agree that one of the scariest parts of being a parent is having "The Talk" with your kids.  It's nerve wracking, embarrassing, and just plain uncomfortable.  You have a couple choice with it, however.  You can choose to let school or friends tell your kids what they need to know or you can bite the bullet and sit down with them and discuss it.  Emily is getting ready to start the "Family Life" unit at school in May and I want to get ahead of it and prepare her beforehand so she knows what our family believes.  Charles and I decided years ago when we made the choice to send the kids to public school that we would be proactive with information.  We have taken the time to teach the girls about creation - God's way - and we spend a lot of time sharing our views of political topics so they'll understand that it's OK to hold a different belief than what's being presented in class. 

So, how do we broach this topic of puberty with our kids?  They won't get into a lot of "sex talk" in 5th grade, but I want to make our expectations clear early.  Here's my ideas on helping your kids stay pure and God-focused through puberty. 

- You have to talk to them about the hard stuff.  You have to talk to them about the changes in their bodies and the hormonal impulses that are starting to emerge.  It's hard and I can honestly say I have no idea what I'm going to say!  It's not something that can be scripted out anyway - your situation will not be the same as mine and vice versa.  However, I do think we have to be honest and open when we talk to them about it. 

- Have clear expectations.  I don't think there's anything wrong with teaching your kids about purity and God's plan for sex.  It's hard in today's world to be "uncool" like that, but it's a wonderful gift you can give your children and their future spouse.  My suggestion to you is know what your expectations are for your kids.  Sit down with your spouse and figure it out together.  You have to be on the same page with this or your kids are going to get mixed signals.  I would also recommend going to the Bible and learning what God's ideas of sex and marriage are.  Some great passages to look at are: Genesis 2:24 and Hebrews 13:4.

- Pray, pray, pray about it!  I am trying to lift this up to God in prayer and encourage you to do the same.  Through Him we can do anything - even get our kids through puberty!

Friday, April 12, 2013

To Chore or Not to Chore?

Chores for kids seems to be a topic that garners many opinions on both sides of the argument. Are they character building or are they detrimental? Do they encourage responsibility or burn kids out? I'm writing this as I look at my girls' chore charts on the wall.  These are the second version since they have outgrown the chores we started with initially.  We have had success with the charts... when I make sure they follow through with them.  Each week each girl is expected to do certain things as a member of the family: pick up their toys, put their laundry away, get their dirty clothes to the hamper. Each girl also has items that she does each week that earn her a small allowance. Emily, being the oldest, has the opportunity to do some extra chores to earn extra money. Most weeks she earns that extra money while her sisters have to be pushed and prodded and often don't earn their allowance. That may seem harsh, but it's a learning experience for them. When Emily earns her allowance and has money to spend when we go shopping it gives the others pause - not enough to get their chores done, but I'm hoping it will eventually sink in. 
The girls' chore charts, laminated with Expo pen available for marking off chores

I did not think I would be a chore parent - I thought it was my "duty" to follow them around picking up messes and cleaning up their stuff. There's nothing like a couple back surgeries and continued problems to change a situation! I am not able to clean up after them like I used to, and Charles has pointed out that I shouldn't be doing it anyway. Who will follow them around when they're grown? Unless they figure out the formula for instant wealth, they are going to have to learn how to keep their spaces tidy. I also noticed that they didn't respect me for doing all this for them - instead it made them take me for granted. I wish I could tell you that this has all changed since they have started cleaning up their own messes, but unfortunately it's a slow process. We had many years of training one way, and now we have to spend the time training the other way until they "get" it. They are starting to learn, especially when they have something they want to do or somewhere they want to go - when the picking up is done they get to go play, and if they choose not to pick up they don't play. It's amazing how fast things get done when play is involved! 

A nurse in the hospital also helped me change my mind about chores. I was there for my second surgery and was chatting with my intake nurse. I mentioned to her that I felt bad that I would be down for so long recovering and would need the girls to help out more. She told me not to think that way. She shared a story about two young ladies she knew in her neighborhood. One had grown up with no chores and no responsibilities. She never had to work for anything. The other was in a serious car accident with her parents at 15. Both parents were injured badly and required care from her afterwards. So, at 15 she had to take on more responsibility at home and learn to do things on her own. There came a time that an older woman in the neighborhood needed some help and Girl #1 just couldn't be bothered while Girl #2 made time to help in whatever way she could. As adults, the trend continued, with Girl #2 growing into the kind of person who helped others and really took care of all around her and Girl #2 remaining someone who enjoyed being served. This story really hit home for me. I don't know about you, but I want to raise children who serve others happily and do good to those around them. If that means that I give them chores and let them take responsibility, that is what I will do!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

God Bless Spring Break!

As I sit here writing I have five young girls having tons of fun in my house.  It's a little bit crazy and a whole lot of fun!  Do you remember when you were on Spring Break as a child?  There is something magical about a whole week - during nice weather - that you get to break routine.  I think I look forward to it as much as the girls.  It's a week for me with no repeated directions, frustration, and clock watching.  It's downright heavenly!  I have tried to schedule very few things for us to do this week so the girls can just enjoy.  If they want to wear PJ's all day they can, or they can make the rounds of all the different toys and art projects available.  Tomorrow we'll head to Six Flags and put our Season Passes to work, and we'll probably go again Saturday when Charles can come too.  

While I enjoy all this "free" time I find myself wondering how to keep the Spring Break calm going after the school rush starts up again.  What are some things I can do to make our lives a little easier during the morning rush?  We've tried a few things this year that have had some success, but I never have found that magical medley that ends in a peaceful, harmonious morning.  I will share with you my successes and failures so that maybe you can add the good stuff to your routine and learn from my mistakes on the rest!

- Get the kids up a little earlier in the morning.  We have found that just allowing an extra 15 minutes in the morning makes a huge difference, especially when you have children that don't get up easily.  By getting them up just a little earlier they can take their time waking up and I don't lose my mind! 
- Let them help pack their lunches.  Anytime you can give your kids control over something they eat it up.  As long as you set some ground rules - you have to pick a fruit or veggie, not just snacks - they can choose each day what they feel like eating.  This has really helped us with waste.  If the girls are choosing their lunch items, I know it's something they want to eat and lunch boxes come home with far fewer leftovers than before.  If you find that this takes too much time in the morning you can incorporate it into your evening routine. 
- Don't send more than one kid up to brush teeth, hair, etc. at a time.  It took a wise woman to help me figure this one out (Thanks Aimee!).  Every day after breakfast I would send the girls up to brush their teeth and hair and every day it was nothing but a problem.  They would go up and do everything but brush teeth and comb hair.  It made for a crazy Mommy every morning and needless rushing.  Now I send one girl up at a time to do her stuff and it's amazing how quickly they get it done!  Isn't it funny how, when there's no one there to goof off with, they can each go up and get their stuff done?  Mind boggling, isn't it?
- Sign folders, agendas, etc. the night before if possible.  I am having mixed success with this one.  Each day when the girls get home they're supposed to bring me their folders so we can look at homework and I can sign them.  Most days we do this pretty well, but we're still having some mornings with unsigned folders running around at the last minute.  One of my goals for this next week is to get a better handle on this.

These are just a few things I have found to be successful and helpful.  I know I'm missing a bunch more and look forward to figuring those things out as I go!  I hope you have great success with your morning routine and a wonderful blessed Spring Break!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Where's My Sunshine?

Do you ever find yourself down in the dumps?  What a silly question; we all have days that we just don't feel right.  That's perfectly normal and expected, especially given the world we live in.  It doesn't become an issue until we can't see our way out of the clouds.  Have you ever found yourself floundering in that negativity?  It stinks!  I've been struggling with some of that lately and it's hard to fight!  For those that don't know, I have been having trouble with my back... again.  It's kind of a never ending saga at this point.  After months of discomfort and worsening pain I got myself in, had the imaging done and found out that my bad disc has re-herniated and that another one has herniated right above it.  So we're very much back to square one.  To top it all off everything is super-inflamed and angry, which causes more pain and crazy problems.  Not the best news to be sure, but none of it unexpected.  I knew something was wrong, just not the extent.  Anyway, here lately I have found it hard to look at any of this in a positive light - I'm exhausted, angry, and irritable - which makes for an unpleasant Amanda. 
I'm usually better at working myself out of these moods, but I think I just gave into it this time and have allowed myself to wallow.  Needless to say, I have recognized the problem and am actively trying to remedy it.  I usually make a deal with myself when I get bad news - I get one day to wallow, then I hitch up the 'ole boot straps and start dealing with it the next day.  I skipped that step this time and now I'm paying the price.  It's not fair to anyone around me, especially my family.  I've been trying to think about what I need to do to pull myself out of this funk. 
Yesterday I took the first step: I picked up a mess.  I didn't take any steps backward in my "child training" with the girls, but I took my space back.  As usual they have made their mark in my area and I decided to take it back yesterday.  I went through the living room and collected a trash pile, a pile of the girls' things (yes, it was the biggest), and the three items that belonged to me that were out of place (no exaggeration on that).  It felt so good and put a smile on my face!  Now I can sit at my computer or on the couch and enjoy "my" room again.  Isn't it amazing how a neat space is so calming and puts you at ease?  When Abby and Morgan got home they got to help me clean up the messes they have made in the entryway.  I won't lie and say we enjoyed it, but I am sure enjoying the results of it!  Now when the front door opens you see a nice, neat entryway opening onto the family room.  Much better!  It never ceases to amaze me how an organized space can lift the spirits.
Today I'm continuing my journey.  I'm getting to work.  I'm going to sit here at the computer - with the requisite trips up to save the back - and work on my Bible studies.  God can't take a backseat to me anymore.  I've neglected Him and His work for me long enough and it's time to get back to it.  Just saying that I already feel more positive and hopeful.  Why do I let myself forget that He is all I need to pull myself out of any funk?  If I fill myself up with Him and His word there's no room for my depressed, unhappy thoughts!  Maybe next time I'll remember to let Him provide the sunshine...

Monday, March 4, 2013

Why Am I So Overwhelmed?

I don't know about you, but I am feeling really overwhelmed right now.  It seems like I can't get a handle on all of the school stuff going on, and any other things on top of that just make it worse!  I don't know where I would be right now if the girls were doing sports this year.  We've got two different school projects going on right now, Maryland State Assessments start tomorrow (for the same two girls that have projects due), we have to keep practicing math facts and reading AR books, and on and on and on.  It's just too much!  I find myself checking the calendar more than the girls do to see when Spring Break starts so I can have a break.  This has led me to wonder where I'm making a misstep with the school stuff and how I can correct it. 
Not hovering enough?  Emily has taken me by surprise more than once because she "forgets" to tell me about a project she has until the due date is fast approaching.  I get so frustrated and fuss at her, but she keeps doing it!  So, am I not riding her enough?  She is almost 11 years old and starts middle school in the fall, so we've been trying to give her more responsibility in regards to her school work.  I have been asking her what homework she has to do each day and leaving it to her to actually tell me what it is.  Lately I've been sitting down with her and her binder so we can go over assignments together.  I would like to be able to just ask her and have her tell me what she has to do, but that has backfired on us too many times here lately.  My hope is that eventually she'll take more and more responsibility for her work as time goes on.
Not regimenting time enough?  Charles and I are big believers in play time for the girls and try to give them as much time as possible each day to do that.  However, this does cut into the time available for extra skills practice or reading.  So, where's the balance?  How do I fit it all in?  This is a struggle I've had since the girls started school many moons ago.  The last thing they need is schoolwork from dawn to dusk, but sometimes it feels like that's what we have to do to fit it all in!  We've started trying to get them into bed a bit earlier in the evening so they all have reading time before bed.  It's working pretty well most nights and definitely helps them get through books a bit faster.  I've also started fitting math practice in when they don't have homework so they keep their brains sharp.  I've also put a few math games on the tablet so they can "play" and learn at the same time! 
Worrying too much?  I think that sometimes I worry a bit too much about the grades.  I was always a perfectionist about my grades - anything less than a B on an assignment was something to cry about and heaven help me if it had happened on a report card!  Unfortunately my girls don't have that same problem.  They often can't be bothered to turn in an assignment if they're not reminded several times to do so.  It drives me crazy!  Their Daddy was just like that as a child and it drove his parents batty, too.  I am learning, though, to let go of the grades just a little bit.  If they work hard (and turn the work in!) I will be satisfied with the grade they receive.  I sure do wish I could infuse a little more perfectionism in them, though, and I don't think that's ever going to change!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Why am I raising such slobs?

I noticed in recent postings that I have gotten away from my blog's purpose, so I thought I would try to get back on track today.  The question that is forefront in my mind right now is: Why am I raising such slobs?  Last month I went through and did a deep cleaning of my house - something I try to do at least once each year.  I missed last year due to surgery, so this year was a catch-up.  The one thing that I noticed was how sloppy my girls (especially the younger two) really are.  They can't find their towel hook in the bathroom to save their lives and apparently the nice big laundry hamper in their room is much harder to use than the floor.  If you ever want to know what they've done in a day you only have to look at my house and follow their trails!  It has gotten out of hand and Charles and I have decided it's finally time to deal with it.  How?  With lots of consistency and perseverance on my part.  Yuck!  One of my least favorite things is following the girls all over making sure they do what they're supposed to be doing.  There are so many other things I would rather be doing!  But, if I want them to change their bad habits I have to be consistent.  After all, they didn't train themselves to be slobs - I did it by cleaning up after them every time they made a mess for the last 9 years! 
Some of the things we're having success with are:
*  Chore charts: Each of the girls is responsible for a certain number of chores each week.  Some of these are items they receive an allowance for doing (things that help me out) and others are expected for them to do as part of the family (picking up their rooms, putting toys away, etc.).  I have the charts hung out in plain sight so we see them every day and check their progress.  Since the girls, at 10, 8, and 7, have different abilities they have different jobs.  Emily is expected to empty the dishwasher and clean the cat boxes, both easy things for her to complete.  Abby is "the vacuumer."  She has one room each day that she is responsible for which is easy to keep up with.  She is also in charge of feeding and watering the kitties, which she loves, so there's a little bit of fun there for her!  Morgan is expected to vacuum the kitchen twice and run the Swiffer once in a week, as well as keeping the art supplies neat since she uses them the most.  No one is asked to shoulder too much of the burden and I get the added benefit of having help with tasks that are painful for me to physically do.
*  Regular "check-ups:"  I am learning that when I send the girls up to clean their rooms I can't take their word that they actually did what they were asked.  They like to clean the middle of the room by throwing stuff in the closet, under the bed, or in a container of some sort.  So I have been coming in and pointing out the deficiencies and making them keep at it until everything is in its place.  This keeps the room from getting out of hand.  We're doing the same with the art area and play area downstairs.  They get a chance to clean up then I come check and usually end up making them do part of it the right way. 
*  Be Specific:  We are learning to verbalize our expectations to the girls.  If I want the books cleaned up I need to tell them "Go put your books away" or "Put your dirty clothes in the hamper."  I can't tell Abby and Morgan "Pick up your room" without qualification.  It's overwhelming for them, especially when their room is messy.  Giving them small, easily achieved goals helps keep them on track. 
*  Be Consistent and Persevere!:  The most important step to "un-slobbing" our children is consistency and perseverance on our part.  We have to remind them of their chores, we have to make sure their messes get picked up, we have to check the towels and dirty clothes, etc.  If we take one day off they will break the good habit and go back to their old sloppy ways.  Charles has reminded me more than once that they didn't get this way overnight and the fix isn't going to happen overnight either.  It's good to remember - especially on those days that there are Abby and Morgan trails running through the house.  It's a marathon, not a sprint!  I am confident that one day we will look back and fondly remember their little cleaning foibles... one day far in the future!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love is...

Love is...
  • A nice hot cup of coffee every morning when I wake up, fixed by the man who still makes my heart smile.
  • An evening of fun with my girls and hubby: anything from pizza and a movie to games or a night out together.
  • Baking with Emily... or enjoying what she bakes on her own!
  • Talking with Abby... more accurately listening to Abby while she's talking to me!
  • Coloring with Morgan.
  • Family in all its forms and functions. 
  • Time with my besties doing just about anything.  We have found we can make the simplest things fun!
  • Digging into God's word with my Bible study group - sharing His message and in turn being taught so much.
  • Writing.
  • Cuddles from children.
  • Listening and sharing dreams with my one and only.
  • Opening the Bible and discovering God's love for me on every page.
  • Realizing that Jesus' sacrifice was the largest outpouring of love, mercy, and grace this world has ever seen.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Catching Monkeys

I heard a very neat story at church yesterday in a sermon titled "What Christians Can Learn from Monkeys."  Yes, monkeys.  You might be surprised at the comparison, but I assure you it's a good one. 
The story goes:
There’s an oft repeated tale about how certain hunters in Africa catch monkeys. It can be very difficult to corral these intelligent creatures, so hunters have used a more inventive method…trapping a monkey by enticing him. A small jar is placed at the base of a tree with nuts or other items which may attract the monkey’s curiosity.
The opening of the jar allows the monkey to place his hand in, but when he tries to withdraw it, he is unable to do so without letting go of the contents of the jar. Believe it or not, some monkeys will stay there with their hand in the jar until the hunter comes back to trap them! They are trapped because they are unwilling to let go of something they are doing which is working against them.
There was obviously more to the sermon than this story, but I was intrigued by the idea behind this little tale.  It made me wonder how often I am like the monkey, unwilling to let go of the juicy tidbits in that jar and trapped in a bad situation because of it.  Why are we so resistant and stubborn?  Intellectually I know that God will take my burdens from me and handle them better than I ever could.  Emotionally it's a lot harder to give him those things.  If I "let go and let God" what will I control?  How will I determine the outcome I need if it's not in my hands anymore? 
I think we really like playing tug-of-war with God.  How many times do you give Him a burden just to reach out and snatch it back minutes later?  What do you gain from holding on to it?  Nothing - in fact, you set yourself up to be trapped by the "hunter" every time you snatch a burden back from God.  I am convinced that Satan uses any little morsel he can get to entice you into his trap.  When we struggle with giving God control we open ourselves up to Satan and he's waiting with his net to catch us and keep us snared forever. 
Fortunately for us, God has given us everything we need to avoid the trap.  Throughout the Bible are verses that tell us what He has in store for us if we will just trust in Him.  I will share some of my favorites with you and I challenge you to find some favorites of your own to use when you feel the trap closing in. 
Matthew 6:31-33
So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
I remember when I first realized what this passage was talking about.  As a champion worrier I was stunned and comforted at the same time.  I don't have to worry - it's a choice I make.  I continue to work on giving God my worry and letting tomorrow worry about itself. 
Luke 12:22-34
Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? "Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
This is Luke's version of the same parable shared in Matthew.  Jesus is quite clear about what He wants from us.  He wants us to let Him do the worrying for us so that we can be about His business here on Earth. 
I hope to someday outsmart the hunter and get my hand out of the jar.  As I mature in my Christian walk I am able to leave more and more behind, but there's always something in that jar that I just can't resist holding on to.  I am determined that those things, too, will soon be left in the jar and Satan will have to stand back and let me go.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Celebration of Marriage

Today Charles and I celebrate 13 years of marriage.  Wow!  According to several online sites, the average marriage that ends in divorce in the US lasts 8 years.  That's pretty sobering, isn't it?  When Charles and I celebrated our 8 year anniversary we had three young children, had recently moved into our home, and were experiencing some rough financial times.  We were on a very strict budget, and I don't think we went anywhere to celebrate.  Each year since has brought something different - sometimes better, sometimes worse.  Last year I was just 9 days out of back surgery, so we postponed any celebration until I was mobile.  But whether we do it up big or just spend some special time together, I am a big believer in acknowledging the importance of every anniversary.

Marriage is not a popular topic in our society.  Don't get me wrong - we LOVE weddings and romance, and we love to be in love, but marriage is not nearly as cool.  Marriage requires sacrifice and unselfishness; it's taking a spouse to the hospital when they're sick, holding them when they cry, and letting them vent when they really need it.  It's bills and paychecks and more bills.  It's raising children and pets and learning to make time for yourselves as a couple when you're pulled in about 500 different directions every week.  That's marriage - is it any wonder so many people give up when it gets hard? 

What's the benefit to working your way through all the hard stuff?  You end up with a lifelong companion, a person who is so close to you they see you down to your soul.  Yes, that means the ugly parts too, but they don't care!  I can be myself with Charles, warts and all, and I can trust him to hold me accountable when those warts start showing through!  Conversely, I can also hold him accountable when his less desirable traits make a showing.  

I can honestly say that marriage is not what I expected it to be 13 years later, but it's better than what I ever envisioned for myself.  Our marriage isn't perfect, and it wouldn't work for anyone else, but it works for us.  Why?  I think because we made a decision long ago to put God in charge of our relationship.   Our home is built on a firm foundation of Jesus Christ and He influences every decision we make.  Times we don't see eye to eye there's often a disconnect somewhere between us and God.  We aren't perfect, and our marriage isn't perfect, but it's blessed by God and He holds us in the palm of His hand.  That's comforting to me, and makes me firmly believe that I will be writing on my marriage in another 13 years, and 13 years after that!