The Gift of Time

A few summers back I stepped out of my comfort zone and decided that I wanted to get my thumb a little green.  When we first moved into our home 8 years ago the gardens were abundant and beautiful; organized yet spontaneous and wild.  My Grandma, who had lived here for many years prior, had excelled at creating something that looked so effortless, as various blooms sprang up one after the other from early spring through until fall.  But when we moved in, it didn’t take long for me to realize that such beauty came with much effort.  As the summer’s passed and our family grew, the time that I could devote to maintaining those gardens became less and less, until one year we decided to uproot several of those beds and replace them with grass.  (I’m fairly certain I could feel the shudder from every gardener just now)

And then a few years back the most unlikely thing happened – I decided that I wanted to change the smallest of corner gardens in my yard by simplifying and salvaging what was left to make something new that I could handle.  I’m not sure if it was the accidental discovery that my abundance of ferns were actually not weeds, or if it was simply that I had slightly more time on my hands with children out of diapers, but whatever it was…it had set me on a path of discovery.

My journey of observation and asking resulted in my realization that I could create something very manageable with what I already had…all that was required was a simple Google search and a quick YouTube tutorial to arm myself with the knowledge of splitting and transplanting a Hosta.  Now being as my knowledge of plants was very limited, I decided to split off as little as possible so as not to destroy both the old plant and the new if my venture were to fail.  So needless to say that little hosta plant was quite small and sad-looking that first summer.

However I did not allow that to dampen my spirits…in fact…in my mind…it was a great success that the plant had survived at all, and it inspired me to stretch myself even further.  (Really it was only after viewing a picture I had taken of it that I realized how pathetic it looked on its own).  I began to do more Google searches and less “weed pulling” as I learned that many of those weeds growing were in fact, flowers; and over time I began to maintain the remaining gardens with my slowly growing knowledge until we finally tackled the largest gardens at the front of the house, uprooting overgrown bushes and wild shrubs, and in its place transplanting more of my new garden favorite….the Hosta.

Now, two years after it all began, that initial Hosta has grown into a lovely not-so-little plant, filling up and adorning that tiny corner of real estate.  The “weeds” are growing quite nicely beside it, and the ferns I had hastily uprooted and destroyed are now full and lush (yes lush…like those mascara advertisements you see…exactly like that…but green and bigger…much much bigger).

The new Hostas in the front garden are only now experiencing their first summer in their new home as last year was their big move, so they’ve yet to take off, but I’m not concerned because out of all of my garden growing and learning, probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned has been from the teacher of time.  You see,

all good things take time to grow; time to be nurtured, time to be fed the right amount of water, time to bask in the adequate amount of sunshine…time to allow for the roots to stretch out and familiarize themselves with the soil, to go down deep and become strong enough to sustain the life of the plant.  It takes time to uproot the weeds that would try to choke out the life of the new plant, and time to learn and educate oneself in how to best care for it.

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When You’re Stuck in Neutral

So I’ve gotta confess something here; you know what one of my least favorite things is? Like I really really really can’t stand it…. wasting time. Yup, just ask my husband. Whether it’s taking the scenic route for a road trip, a lazy Saturday afternoon around the house, or re-cleaning a mess that was already done earlier… It. Drives. Me. Nuts.!!!  But lately what really gets my goat is when I have a short allotment of time to devote to writing and I sit and I stare at a blinking little cursor… And I go for a coffee and I come back and I stare… And I pace in a circle and still… Nothing!! And then before I know it my free time is over and as I look at my blank screen I begin to think of all the things that I could’ve accomplished in that time. Talk about frustrating!

Whenever I’m in one of those situations it’s like a little flip gets switched and all of a sudden I become Captain Efficiency.  Funny because in default everyday mode that very thing usually makes me late so it’s my poor husband doing the stressing…but in my free time it makes it difficult for me to relax and enjoy the journey because I’m always so worried that we’ll waste time taking a wrong turn, or just relaxing when we could be making memories somewhere doing something else instead (literally…that’s like exactly what I think…)

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When You Feel Like a Hypocrite

“You’re such a hypocrite!” – I can still feel the ring of those words echoing in my mind and the sting behind them piercing my heart.  Were these words spoken by an ill-willed person?  An enemy? Or perhaps by a close friend or family member whom I had hurt?  No not at all.  Once upon a time, those words were the all-too familiar sound of the lies inside my own mind…lies that I had embraced as my own voice…lies I had believed were absolute truths.

All throughout my teen years, that lie would convince me that I was nothing more than a failure every single time that I fell short of the standard that I felt I claimed to live by.  It kept me stuck in a place of wanting to be so much more, but feeling like I couldn’t because what if I failed…it was always two steps forward, one step back.

Fast forward into my adult years as a wife, and mom to three young children.  By this time I had learned a thing or two about that lying voice and in some areas of my life I was able to recognize it for what it was.  But to some degree that voice had somehow found a way to sneak back into my thoughts whenever I would lose my cool with my kids, or selfishly put my own needs before my husband’s.

It was right there waiting for me to mess up…waiting to whisper…”I told you so”….”you’re nothing more than a hypocrite…just look at how you behaved”.

I wanted so badly for nothing more than to be the kind of mom that my kids were happy to be around; the kind of mom that could be that stability for them when their emotions were running amuck; the kind of mom that acted rather than reacted in the heat of the moment; the kind of wife that believed the best in her husband, that made him feel loved and valued.

But it seemed that no matter how hard I tried…I would find myself in the rhythm of that same old dance from my high school days…two steps forward, one step back.

Did I continue to learn new tactics and approaches in my parenting?  Absolutely.  Did I continue growing as an individual; learning how to be quick to own my actions, apologize, and move on?  Definitely.  Was I learning how to accept and love myself, and walk in grace?  Slowly, yes.  However I was still slipping up, still feeling frustrated, and still feeling like a failure for the better part of my time.  I was making progress…but something major still had to change…the recording that was on repeat in my mind had to be replaced.

Now this change didn’t happen overnight, and to be honest, it’s still a work in progress…but the difference now is that I’m learning to reprogram that voice with a new one…one that assures me that a set-back is not a failure…one that reminds me that I may have made a mistake, but I am not a mistake…one that reminds me that I will become what I behold…that I have been given the nature of Christ when I simply received His forgiveness so because of that His nature becomes expressed more and more as I refocus from my problems to His ability.

I’m learning that there is no such thing as a perfect parent or wife and there is no end-date for such a destination to be achieved.

You see, when we allow ourselves to believe that we must be a perfect … {fill-in-the-blank} by a certain time we set a limit on what we can and will do with the abilities that we have been given.  For me, I had allowed that belief to stop me from reaching out and allowing my life to be used to affect those around me….I thought that I had to have things nailed down before I could help another or share encouragement from what I had learned or experienced.  It kept me from opening up to others, and from using my gifts to speak out and do what I loved to do because it convinced me that when I messed up, I would be nothing more than a hypocrite.

And that is exactly how that lie keeps you stuck in a place of frustration and defeat.  You’re passionate about something; you want to make a difference; you want your life to mean something….but then you hear “what if I screw up?”…”I need to wait until I have this figured out”….and so you stop moving forward…you stop the process…and eventually you quit.

Friend, I want to tell you that progress means taking that first step…even though you’re still figuring it out…even though it’s still messy…even though sometimes you may say one thing but then eat your very own words…progress means you keep moving forward.  The end-date is your lifetime.  It’s okay if you are still taking two steps forward and one step back…but just keep going forward.

Progress means taking that first step, even though you're still figuring it out. Click To Tweet

There’s days when I still think…”seriously, how can you write about this when you just did the opposite thing?!”  But friends, I’m learning, and I’m not about to let the one time I failed, or maybe the 20 times I failed convince me that the other 50 times I succeeded didn’t happen.

Maybe you’re feeling that way today.  Maybe you can relate….maybe you realize that you’ve had your life on hold, waiting to attain a perfect-status that is never going to come.  There’s good news for you if that’s the case; you can move forward today with what you do know and are capable of; you don’t have to wait a minute longer because every single day has fresh grace available and a fresh chance to start anew – you don’t have to wait for a New Year, or a new you.

Every single day has fresh grace available and a fresh chance to start anew. Click To Tweet

Your world is waiting, so don’t waste another moment, or another lesson waiting for perfection.  Move forward and use every lesson, every set-back as an opportunity to affect another.

Because for every time you share your one victory, you multiply that victory into countless lives…and that far outweighs any amount of setback you may face.  And that my friend, is not hypocrisy.  That is progress.

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{FDF}: When Grace Stepped In

Well friends, this week’s’ Full Disclosure Moment was brought to you by broken coffee machines, smudged nails, unravelling jeans and sad sad tears of frustration.  Tis true; while my jeans were unravelling, I’m afraid my emotions were even more so.

What started out as a beautiful Monday evening (getting out for a haircut while my husband supervised the children for thorough room cleans #BestHusbandEverAward) quickly fell apart by the typical bedtime battle…and if you asked me now what the battle was over this time…I wouldn’t be able to tell ya if my life depended on it…I just know that by the time everyone was in bed…I was exhausted and ready to relax for the evening.  (I’m sure none of you can relate to that though right? 😉 )

So anyways, rarely do I decide to take the time to paint my nails, but given that the weather had me feeling all sorts of spring and festive, I thought I’d give it a go with some nice light polish.  And that was where it all went south.  No sooner had I finished my second coat of polish, than my husband was calling me into the kitchen to check out something amiss with the coffee machine.  I entered to find that our 2 month old fancy coffee machine, with the attractive one-cup Keurig feature as well as the regular pot, the one that we were able to score for next to nothing with a left-over gift card…the one I had been super excited to upgrade to – was leaking water out of the bottom and onto the counter creating a huge mess everywhere.

Enter mess number two….so as I tried to clean up said mess and help my husband locate the source of the problem…the inevitable happened and reminded me ever so quickly of why I never paint my nails…smudge city…I’m not sure if that was what set me off, or if it was my hasty decision to rub off all of the still-gummy polish rather than repaint one nail…or if it was my husband’s announcement that the machine was broken (somehow making it more official than the water leaking out the bottom)…but either way…at that point…there was no coming back…the waterworks had begun and were in full force (and I’m not talking about the coffee machine here).  Sometimes ya just gotta cry it out – you know what I’m sayin’?

Anyways…fast forward to Tuesday evening and there I was…yet again…with another frustrating moment on my hands…or rather on my back pocket.  After finally crawling into my pj’s I discovered that the back pocket on my newest, most favorite pair of (non-ripped) jeans was unraveling and in time would fall off.  Fun fact: the jeans (like the coffee maker) cost me nothing as they were purchased with birthday money at the time.  Thankfully though this time around I was able to stay better composed and hold it together in hopes of a solution.

So long story short, I was able to contact customer service for the coffee machine and found out that I could return it to a location relatively close and that they could have the replacement sent directly to me with no extra shipping fees.  Whew – what a relief (especially after reading in the manual that shipping there and back would be at the customer’s expense)!

Next up was the jeans…I wasn’t really banking on much for that one as I no longer had the receipt…but thought I’d try nonetheless.  Now here was where it got interesting…the Store Manager’s name, who happened to answer the phone, was “Grace”.  Now being that I’m a Christian that name stuck with me easily…which is not the norm (trust me…I’m horrid…absolutely horrid…with names…I’ve learned to adapt…and by that I mean…find ways to address people without using their name…I apologize profusely if you can recall an incident where I’ve done this with you….I blame it on my mom brain..anyways…I digress)….but I didn’t think much about it beyond that.  By the end of the conversation (actually it was pretty short and sweet) Grace had assured me that my pair of jeans could be returned within the next few days when she would be working and they could be replaced with the same pair at no cost to me as it was most likely a manufactures’ defect.  I was more than pleased to hear that!

By now I’m sure you’re wondering if I’m going to make any point at all today…or if I’m just rambling about my less-than-exciting week.  Well…here she be.  As I was pondering on these little incidents I started seeing the parallel between the broken objects…both items had come at no cost to me whatsoever…both were less than 3 months old…yet both items, although new and well-treated had a manufactures defect.  And then as I thought about both items being replaced free of charge, it struck me….Grace…the Store Manager…Grace stepped in and fixed what I couldn’t.  That was the bigger picture here…that was the ultimate parallel.  A picture of grace (not to be confused with Grace my new friend).

That's what the grace of God does; it offers favor when favor is neither earned nor deserved Click To Tweet

You see, that’s what the grace of God does…it offers favor when favor is neither earned nor deserved.  Regardless of how new and shiny we look or feel on the outside…we all have this inward bent to sin, to be selfish, to be unkind, to be unloving…it’s a defect…but if we stay focused on those defects we only become frustrated and discouraged – and grace stands off at a distance.  But just like when I turned my attention from my broken items and sought help;

when we chose to turn from our place of brokenness and look to God for help, His grace can then step in and offer us what we couldn’t find ourselves….an exchange of our brokenness for His wholeness…His message in the midst of our mess and fresh strength to take a new grip and courageously carry on.

This grace is not a quick fix band-aid for our wounds.  No, rather, it is the kind of enabling power that causes us to fearlessly conquer our deeper inadequacies as we look to our Heavenly Father; for it’s in the looking to Him that we find the reassurance that He is more than adequate and able to shape us into the beautiful image that He sees us as.  So take courage today because the grace you need is waiting to step in…you need only look up.

 

 

 

 

Thank you to Angie Makes at angiemakes.com for the pretty Free Watercolor Image shown above! Be sure to check out her lovely site. 

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You’re Gonna be Okay

Hey you! Yes you – beautiful mama over there…the one running her fingers through her 2 day old dry-shampooed hair; the one harshly critiquing those stretch marks and that baby belly that bravely held life for 9 months; the mama with the bags under her eyes because she had one too many interruptions in the night to calm scared little ones who awoke from bad dreams; the mom frustrated and overwhelmed with her pre-teens and teens who suddenly think they know everything about life; the mama over there scrambling to get the kids out the door for school so that the bus isn’t waiting on them…again….I’m talking to you….

I know the stress of the mounting pile of laundry, or toys, or dishes, or papers…the never-ending task of picking up and putting away the things…oh the things….again and again and again…so much stuff!

I see the frustration, the weariness, the exhaustion, the anger, the hopelessness, the weight of it all…. the weight of the thoughts, of the expectations, of the hopes, of the disappointments, of the desires, of the dreams…I see it and I feel it too.

I see you struggling to do your best, but at the same time wanting to just quit. I see you wanting to connect genuinely with your children, with your spouse…but also just wanting a few moments to yourself to forget about all of the responsibility, to just relax. I see you patiently listening to each one tell about their day, giving your best to just be in the moment with them…to soak it all up…but simultaneously being so overcome with guilt at your desire to just get it over with so you can get to your “me time”. I see you trying to fall asleep at night, but tossing and turning, replaying all of the moments that you lost your cool…the moments that you could have spent bonding with your children instead of criticizing them, instead of cleaning, instead of answering that text or checking that post….I see the guilt of all that you didn’t do to make your husband feel important and loved today…the missed kisses, hugs, thank you’s…the guilt over the angry and impatient words and tone spoken in haste…I see the comparison to the other mom’s out there that packed their children those home-made healthy lunches instead of the pre-made on-sale cookies. I see the disappointment within yourself for missing yet another day of exercise…and not sticking to those healthy eating habits…I see the undesirability and unattractiveness you feel..and then the guilt that arises yet again for being so focused on yourself instead of everyone else around you. I see it all.

Here’s the thing mama….what you’re feeling…and even what you’re thinking right now…”does it all even matter?” …”do I even really matter?”…..the answer is…

Yes!

an emphatic “YES!”

Yes you do matter.

And Yes, you’re going to be okay.

You matter & you are going to be okay Click To Tweet

You’re not alone.  You wanna know how I know?  Because I’ve experienced it…because I’ve been in that same battle so many times friend….because:

Every. Single. Time. He is right there with me…my Heavenly Father.

He is right there with you too.

He’s right there, smack dab in the middle of it all…in the middle of the mess…in the middle of the thoughts…in the middle of the exhaustion…in the middle of the fears, of the hopes, of the desires…

He is there.

He is the One who sees it all.

And He wants you to know that you’re gonna be okay. You’re going to get through this, and you’re going to succeed. He’s there to quiet your soul with His love…His arms aren’t too tired to hold you…and He’s not too busy to soothe you. In fact…He’s waiting for an invitation from you….so that He can come and carry you…so that He can lift those weights off of your shoulders…His are plenty big enough for them…He’s there to remind you of who you really are…and of Whose you really are.

So just let it all go…and grab onto Him…because He is all you need.

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{FDF}: When Life Throws You A Snag

Happy Friday Friends!

If I’m going to be completely honest with you here though, I must admit, that first of all…it’s actually Thursday…and while it started out to be a great day today, it all quickly went south when I ran into some computer issues. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s ever had that problem!

So I was thinking about how I respond when something happens that is beyond my control.  Computer’s are a biggie for me, as I know the bare minimum in order to keep my Blog up and running but when I run into a snag, and it’s happened a couple of times now in the past few weeks, I’m very much at the mercy of Help Forums and Google Search…and that can leave me feeling very frustrated and powerless…two words I’m not very fond of.

Looking back at how I usually react in times like these…well I can see why I’ve left feeling less like a champ and more like a chump.  Most times I repetitively do the same thing – close the program, log off, log back on, open the program, recreate the scenario, hope for different results…and when I get the same…hit the help button…and start through the whole cycle again.  Talk about spinning your wheels!  It’s no wonder I’m feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, and powerless by the time I finally give up!

Maybe you can relate.  Maybe you’ve been in situations beyond your control.  Maybe you’ve felt that powerlessness and frustration that I felt.  In fact – I’m positive you have, because that’s just life.  So how can we respond when things like this happen?

Well, in my instance today…I could feel the wheels spinning…I could feel the frustration rising…and well…the tears were already beginning to stream down my face as I helplessly stood up…BUT…that was where I did something different!

I stood up!

Simple right?  But powerful!

You see, in standing up, I was choosing to step away from the situation that was causing me so much frustration; to do something different, and really – it wasn’t until after I changed my position that I realized how important that decision was.

Did I do something drastic?  Did I call every techy person I knew?  (while the temptation was there…common sense told me that they’d all be busy at work at the moment anyways..sooooo no I didn’t)  Nope, instead I saw that it was lunch time, and while I’m usually terrible at breaking for lunch if my toddler is napping because I like to keep barreling through to get as much done in that time as possible (which is also why events like this cause so much frustration being a busy mama with so little time) I decided to break for lunch and some fresh air (since this week has been crazy warm for February in Canada – bring it on!).  And it wasn’t until I was away from the situation that I could feel the weight of it all lift off of me and new perspective move in.

And that’s the ticket right there.  In order for us to stand up, we must change position; that means that as we interrupt the current crazy cycle that we’re in we become free to see things from a new perspective, an elevated perspective.  It’s like we become detached for long enough from the situation and the emotions of it that we are then free to see it in a new light.

As we interrupt our crazy cycle we become free to see things from a new elevated perspective Click To Tweet

So what did I see from my new perspective?  Well, first off I could see that I needed help because this was beyond my reach.  It’s interesting because this morning I read and wrote this verse out for the day:

“Come and listen to my counsel.  I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise.”  ~Proverbs 1:23

So first off, I went to God while I was having my lunch and I dumped my frustration off on Him, then I asked for help.  After that I felt like I was in a much better position to seek help from the good old-fashioned “help/contact us” feature without losing my mind on those poor folks.  You see, when we’re in the midst of that cycle and we’re being overwhelmed by it all, just like someone who is drowning at sea – we can completely miss the help that is right there, literally within arms reach, and sometimes we can even fight it without meaning to.

I recall being in swimming lessons and being taught that in a rescue, the victim can be so fearful that their adrenaline will actually increase their strength so that they could potentially drown their rescuer…so the solution…punch them if need be – but do not let them overpower you…or you’ll both drown.  Now punching ourselves out is a little drastic of a solution…well….a lot drastic…ha hah I bet it even shocked you reading that just now….but the principle remains the same… the punch interrupts the situation so that the individual is in a place where they can now receive help.

When you're overwhelmed, you can completely miss the help right within arms reach Click To Tweet

So after seeking out the help I needed I switched gears and moved on to something else while I waited to hear back on my questions; and while it was tempting to return to that cycle of figuring it out myself, instead, I held off until the answer came (something I’m learning to do…although I will admit, the abnormally warm weather also helped…’stay indoors with the stupid computer or get out in the lovely sunshine?’…sunshine you win – hands down!).

Friends, I know the temptation can be huge to jump back into looking for an answer when you’re in that period of waiting, whether it’s something little like my frustration (which I’ll point out – certainly did NOT seem little at the moment! ha hah), or whether it’s something larger, like waiting on your dream, your career, a spouse, a baby, healing, to get out of debt, to move, to change…whatever…but just trust me…it’s always better to leave it in God’s hands…and I’m not downplaying the difficulty of your situation…I know what it’s like to wait for something that you have no control over, and all of the pain, the thoughts and the emotions that go with it..but friends…it’s better to trust.

Trust that He has a plan, believe that He has your best interest in mind…and every time the temptation comes up again to figure it out – remember the weight of it when you were in that cycle of frustration and hopelessness and let Him have it.  He’ll show you the next step to take when the time is right – you won’t miss it.

God will show you the next step to take when the time is right - you won't miss it. Click To Tweet

Now, I’m happy to report that this story has a happy ending.  The solution did not come from the help that I sought, but it did point me in the right direction for more help, whereupon I indeed found the answer to my dilemma (and guess what? I actually learned something techy!).  Upon reflecting, I think what struck me the most in all of this was how frustrated I initially was…and could have been had I stayed on that path.  I obviously didn’t consciously think this, but I think somewhere I had this expectation that life should go smoothly and shouldn’t have roadblocks; so then when I did encounter one…all of that frustration would come up almost as a way of saying, “I can’t believe something went wrong! Everything’s supposed to go off without a hitch!”

Maybe you can relate?  Maybe you can see that same reaction within yourself…frustration, feeling overwhelmed at your inability to do anything, angry, hopeless.

Friends, can I be so bold to say, that perhaps it’s because we’ve believed a lie…a lie that’s told us that “everything is supposed to go smoothly and if it doesn’t then it must be because we’ve done something wrong”?

Well I for one, have believed that lie for far too long…it’s caused me to get stuck, to be selfish, and to have tunnel vision.  I think it’s time that we start believing the truth; that life is bumpy, it has detours, and yes, some are self-inflicted, but for the most part…it’s curveballs…things we didn’t plan for, or see coming…and the important thing is not if or when we get out No, the important thing is how we come through.

You see these situations will either make you bitter or they’ll make you better, they’ll either best you, or they will bring out your best.  Your troubles of today are someone else’s triumphs for tomorrow.

Your troubles of today are someone else's triumphs for tomorrow. Click To Tweet

Allow every roadblock to shape you into the person that you want to be, because when you do come through it, there will be more challenges…but with every challenge comes the opportunity for growth to better prepare you for your future.  So let’s be individuals who expect challenges, who grow through them for not only our benefit, but for the benefit of those around us, and who run out to greet them with tenacity, leaving our timidity in the dust.

 

 

 

PS: I do apologize for getting long-winded & all serious on this Full Disclosure Friday…I swear I had no idea it was going here when I first started!  But see look…my trouble became your triumph…and mine…gonna have to review this again I’m sure! 😉 )

 

Thank you to Angie Makes at angiemakes.com for the pretty Free Watercolor Tropical Flower Image shown above! Be sure to check out her lovely site. 

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What Your Family Really Needs

Hello Friends & Happy Family Day to you!

In light of today’s holiday, I wanted to share something on the topic of Family.  I tossed around several ideas, and even wrote half of a blog on one, but it just wasn’t going anywhere really.  So here’s what I want to talk about today: what is the greatest gift I can give to my family?

Now I don’t know what you’re like, but I absolutely love, and I mean LOVE to pick out presents for my family.  I love to think of their personality, their likes, their dislikes and what makes them unique…and then I shop like a madwoman…I’m talking like Indiana Jones-style treasure hunting…at Christmas it gets really bad…like, last year for example the hunt started in October (isn’t there a movie title something like that “The Hunt for Red October” or something?), but truth be told, the first item purchased was actually in August. (yikes)  I just can’t wait to see the expressions of surprise, happiness, and excitement on their faces when they rip into it and have their miiii-i-n-ds bl-o-wn. (I wish you could hear the way that sounded in my head…I tried to spell it out for you to catch but I apologize if it just looks like I’m incompetent…I promise I’m *mostly* not).

Anyways, where was I?  Right…gifts.  So yeah, it’s like a continual hunt when I’m out and about…”oooh…so and so would really like that….wouldn’t that make a lovely Birthday/Christmas/Just Because gift”?  But here’s what I’m finding; while these gifts are always great in the moment – the memories of them don’t tend to last far beyond then.  Take Valentines, for example, when the kids received their little gifts I was the World’s Best Mom, but now that they’ve all been eaten, lost, or broken (yes, sadly it only took less than a week) do they really remember all the “stuff”?  Not so much.

I’m not really sure what goes on in my mind that causes me to believe that because I spent time searching the whatever-it-is out that they will recognize that sacrifice and be honored by it…maybe that’ll change when they’re teenagers but I have a strong feeling that that’s not quite the case.  As I’m sure you’re already aware, our kids don’t really notice the time we spend cooking or cleaning or shopping for them when they’re busy playing; but what they do notice, is the time that we don’t spend with them when they are present, the times that we’re too tired to play dolls, or hockey, or blocks, the times that we’re too busy to sit and read or color, and the times that we seem more interested in our phone than in what they’re trying to show us (more on that here: The Day my Cell Phone Died).

I know it’s a tall order because we’re busy and we’re tired…as parents, I think we’re always tired…secretly I tell myself that there will be a day when that will all change and I’ll catch up on all those years of sleep…I might be delusional, but this I do know…if we really want to give our families a great gift – we’ll give them ourselves…our love…our time…our presence.

If we really want to give our families a great gift - we'll give them ourselves. Click To Tweet

Now before you get ticked off at me for adding yet another “to do” to your long list, or you think I’m here to shame you into being a better parent…just hold on.  Because the truth is;

In order to give of ourselves, we first must give to ourselves. We can’t expect to have enough fuel to give to others if our own tanks are on empty.

So here’s a few questions for you to ponder:

  1. Are you loving yourself and receiving love?
  2. Are you making time for the things that bring you joy and refreshment?
  3. Are you giving yourself the gift of God’s Presence? (more on that here: When Rest Isn’t Enough)

If you can confidently answer yes to those questions, then you will be much better equipped to give of yourself…because you will be giving out of your overflow…not out of frustration and weariness…running on fumes so-to-speak.  I think giving of yourself will at most times be a sacrifice, because by nature, human beings are selfish, but it’s important to remember that,

when you give of yourself, you’re not only meeting an immediate need of another, but you are also making a long-term investment in your family which can yield a good return long into your child’s teen and adult years.

If you feel like you’re already giving yourself time and giving of your time and are still getting frustrated, try a few of these tips to help you get started:

So although that half an hour of playing dolls can sometimes seem like an eternity, or you’d rather scrub toilets than have to play Monopoly one more time, and although the thought of just giving a gift or a treat can often seem so much more appealing; keep in mind the greater goal, and if you need extra incentive, just sneak a peek at the smiles on their faces…and that should help.

 

 

 

PS: While I geared most of this towards connecting with your children, feel free to apply it to your marriage as well! 😉

 

Thank you to Astrid Mueller at astridmueller.com for the pretty Free Watercolor brush stroke shown above! Be sure to check out her lovely site.

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When Rest isn’t Enough

Ironically enough I’m writing this post immediately after returning from an overnight family vacation; however the eye-opener happened a few weeks prior to this trip…in the middle of busyness, mood swings, and what seemed to be a whole lot of inner turmoil and mess in what was really just regular, everyday mama life.

Parent, or not, I’m sure we’ve all been there – that place when life is moving at too fast a pace for you to keep up.  For me, I often don’t realize it until it’s too late and I’ve been on a week-long streak of being miserable and short with my amazing family who have taken the brunt of it and inside I’m in a volatile, volcanic state…ready to erupt at any given moment.  Yeah, sadly you’d think I’d be more in touch with myself by now, but what can I say; I’m still learning and figuring out this business of being a grown-up.

So anyways, being in this state of mind a few weeks back on one particular evening, after reading a new devotional that I had begun on my Bible app entitled How’s Your Soul? (based on the book of the same title by Judah Smith…which I think I may need to read at some point in the near future…again…not getting commission here but dang it…I should be! ha hah!)…I was faced with a few questions on the topic of “rest” to reflect on.  The first question was seemingly quite easy, asking what I do to unwind and rest and how often I do that particular thing.  My answer came almost immediately as I pictured myself relaxing on the couch with my favorite pillow/blanket/tea combo, watching Netflix to nothing but the sound of sweet sleep coming from the children’s bedrooms (after the final bathroom break, water run, injury-of-the-day report, and umpteen trips out of the room for whatever else they could think of had wrapped up).  But before you could say “Nailed it”, and as I tried to move onto the next question, I had this nagging feeling that I wasn’t quite through with that one.  It was then that the real eye opener came when I heard God whisper in my heart…

“but do you feel refreshed?”

Whoa!  Now there was a new thought that had never occurred to me before.  Here I was thinking that I was getting rest on a regular basis once the kids went to sleep, but in reality…I was only getting to step one…unwinding…but never truly entering into the rest that brought refreshment.

So of course, the question begged to be asked…”what do you do to be refreshed?”.  Friends, I can honestly tell you that after searching long and hard for an answer, I came up empty.  It shocked me to realize that the refreshment I was in so desperate need of on a daily basis, was an elusive thing that came and went with the changing of the wind.  It became clear to me all too soon the source of my anger, frustration, weariness and irritability.  I was neglecting my soul – and my body, mind, and emotions were all suffering for it (not to mention my poor family!)

So what was the answer…where was I to go from here?  Take up another activity?  Exercise more?  Eat healthier?  Sleep more?  While those things are definitely all good and necessary in the maintenance of the soul, it was something else entirely that I found to be the solution.  Again as my thoughts began to run amuck searching for the answer, I heard something very different in the midst of all of the chaotic thoughts…a thought that wasn’t my own….”you could get up a bit earlier to spend time with Me“…It was the whisper of God’s heart again.  Inside I could feel of all the excuses forming…”but I’ve tried that and I just waste that time on my phone with a million notices from the night before”…silence on the other end….so I followed up with…”but I nee-e-e-e-e-d my sleep…I give out all day to little one’s and I’m exhausted when my head hits that pillow…I can’t sacrifice any of that time”….this time an answer…again, “but do you wake up feeling refreshed?“. Gah!  Again, I was without a sufficient response…speechless.  As I sat dumbfounded in the silence, the voice continued,

Just a few moments of  time spent with me would refresh your soul more than those 10 minutes of sleep that you think you need.”

I was shocked.  I had no response, no rebuttal, no witty comeback…nothing.  This was it…my answer…my moment of “aha!”…my solution to all that had been weighing me down.  So I decided that I’d try it out…my prayer was simple…”God give me grace!”…and His response just as simple…”it’s for your benefit…refreshment“….that right there was my grace…my ace in the back pocket for when I didn’t want to drag my weary butt out of bed.

The lasting result of rest is refreshment; anything less is artificial & temporal Click To Tweet

It’s been a few weeks since I started this new routine of finding refreshment in the mornings…sometimes it looks like reading a chapter of scripture from the bible, sometimes a devotion with a short bible verse, and sometimes just listening to worship music where the deepest parts of my heart can reach out to my Savior..sometimes it’s just sitting silent and listening for Him to whisper words of encouragement to my tired soul…but always, it’s refreshing, (and always it involves coffee).

For you, refreshment may look different. While I believe that it’s important for believers to read the bible, and pray…when it becomes just another “have to” thing in our life…we’ve reduced it to nothing more than religion…which is man’s attempt to reach God through outward performance and ritual…and friend’s…there is absolutely nothing in that, that will bring refreshment to the soul (rather it will weary you in doing all the “right” things to attempt to reach God…and in vain…we can never “do enough” to reach Him…our reaching Him is only through receiving the gift of His Son Jesus who gave Himself in order to reach us)  I’m also not saying that it’s wrong to do things like watch TV to unwind…but let’s make sure that in our unwinding…we also mix in some refreshing.  My strategy for refreshment might not be the same as yours, and hey…it might not look the same for me in every season of my life either…there’s been other times where it’s came through creating, writing, journaling, quiet walks in the woods, or reflecting by the water (that pun wasn’t lost on me…but if you know me at all you know that there’s just something about the water that inspires me like none other)…but always…the deepest refreshment has come when I’ve invited Jesus into those times to just do life with me.   Really, that’s all that He’s after..just connection with you…in the things that you love…do that…and trust me…you’ll be refreshed.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” ~ Matthew 11:28 (The Message Bible)

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When Light Breaks Through

So I was going to make this blog post rather short and sweet as a simple “Merry Christmas from my Family to Yours” – type post, but as I was reflecting upon a few verses that we tend to hear around Christmas time it began to stir up something within me that I just had to get out…so here it is…after all…what would a simple “Merry Christmas” post be from me without leaving you with some form of encouragement…so consider this my gift to you. 😉

So I was thinking about this verse here:

“…there the people who sat in darkness have seen a great Light; they sat in the land of death, and the Light broke through upon them.” ~ Matthew 4:15-16

and this one:

“I have come as a Light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer wander in the darkness.” ~ John 12:46

These verses were referring to the birth and arrival of Jesus on the scene as a wee babe.  And here’s what I was thinking about…the Light of Christmas…which is Christ…but…I was thinking about the relevancy of that in our lives.  How many times do we find ourselves wandering around in darkness, stumbling and searching for answers, for light, for hope, yet we neglect to turn to the One Person who is Light and who came to end our aimless wandering?  The answer, would be far too often.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the darkness that is prevalent in our society…just take one look at the media…at the heartbreaking atrocities taking place right now in Syria…it would seem that the darkness is winning.

Perhaps in your personal life, or the lives of those you love you can see nothing but darkness…what about in your own heart…when you look within yourself….sometimes…speaking for myself at least…it can feel as though there’s nothing good within my heart…selfishness, arrogance, pride, judgement, jealousy…the darkness can creep in so slowly until it feels as though it’s swallowing me whole.  And when that happens when we get to that point…what do we do?  What do I do?  Well…we hide….we hide our situations, our problems, our issues…we turn a blind eye to the darkness we see on a large scale…because really…we’re ashamed…and looking at that kind of darkness isn’t something that brings us warm fuzzy feelings…we don’t like to admit the truth…maybe because it’s inconvenient, maybe because it hurts…but I think mostly because we’re afraid…we’re afraid of what might happen if we bring it into the light…we’re afraid of rejection, of being a disappointment, of not measuring up, of the responsibility that will be expected of us.

There is good news though, and here it is:

“His life is the light that shines through the darkness—and the darkness can never extinguish it.”~ John 1:5

You see, no matter how deep the darkness, the bottom line is that darkness never extinguishes light…no, rather it is the light that extinguishes the dark.  So what does this mean to us?  Here it is friends: If the very purpose of the Light of Christ coming to the earth was to end our wandering in the dark…that tells me that He’s not afraid of the dark.  He’s not afraid of the darkness around us or the darkness within us…He’s not afraid of the dark, ugly spots on our souls…He’s not afraid of the mess that we can find ourselves in, of the mess that our family might be in…of the mess that our world is in.  In fact…His purpose has never changed…He still comes to us today to end our wandering, to light our path, and to bring us hope for newness.

The Light of Christ came for darkness, which means He's not afraid of the dark. Click To Tweet

So be encouraged today, that though it may look and feel as though the darkness is winning…the truth is that it never will have the final word…it will never extinguish the light…and although it may seem like the night is long…in this world, in your family, in your life, in your heart…the truth…is that the night will end and a new day will dawn….and the Light will break through upon us once again. My challenge to you this Christmas, and for this New Year…is to step into it…though your darkness may tremble at the Light, the Light of Christ never trembles at your darkness…rather it runs full force…searching out the darkness…to envelope it in love, in light, in hope, and in life.

May the Light of Christ be yours this season and always.  Merry Christmas & All the Best for the New Year, from my Family to Yours.

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When Christmas Doesn’t Feel like Christmas

when-christmas-doesnt-feel-like-christmas-3

Well Friends, it’s finally here…the most wonderful time of the year…I’ve been waiting and ready for it in my heart since the last week of October…patiently restraining myself as the anticipation built, and exercising moderate self-control as the deals began rolling in.  And now it’s here…it’s finally here…(well December…and as far as I’m concerned…that means Christmas with a booked-solid calendar and endless eating affairs)…the stocking’s are hung, the gifts are in hiding (for the most part), I fear my husband is already border-line sick of my Christmas playlist, and the tree adorned with lights and balls, shining in all her glory.  So why, I’m asking myself, am I left with this empty feeling of “blah” in the pit of my soul?

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