Monday, January 31, 2011

An Unexpected Answer & Soli Deo Gloria Party

Welcome, Soli Deo Gloria Sisters!  I'm so glad to see your faces and meet some new ones as well.  This is a place of encouragement and blessing, and it is my prayer that you always feel welcome here.  If you are new (anyone is welcome), please read here for the heart behind this meme and some general guidelines (the button is to your right).  I hope you are blessed on your page and leave blessings for others, as well.

Photo courtesy of Stock.Xchng
Have you ever asked a question, but when the answer came, you kinda wish you hadn't asked in the first place?

I've been asking God if it was okay to dream, to imagine what the future might hold for me as far as ministry outside my family.  The reason I felt like I needed to ask permission is mainly because I've struggled with pride, obsessive planning, and not living in the present.  I was fearful that if I looked beyond the five feet in front of me, I would start to fall back into those pits.

Just between you and me, I think I've always known what God wanted me to do, but He has had to do a lot of housecleaning to get me ready for it.  I had aspirations, you see, and those aspirations focused on what I could get out this calling.  I could see the side benefits for God, you know, and for His people, but really, to be truly honest, living out said calling was just for my own glorification.  It was about how I could be worthy.  How I could be the best.  How I could be known.

How did I know, deep down, what He was calling me to do?  Because I have had moments, instances few and far between (specific to this calling), when God whooshed through me, worked through me, and brought in His glory for His people.  In those happenings, I knew that I had become simply a vessel, that in His power He could knock my SELF aside, and show me what He could do through me.

Driving home after taking Hannah to preschool on Thursday, God gave me His vision for my life, or at least the part that I am to know now.  And even though I think I suspected it all the while, it still came as a shock.  The thought of it scares me to death.  Even as I type these words, my knees get weak.  It is a calling that is totally outside of my comfort zone.  It is a calling that is 100% reliant upon Jesus.  It is a calling that requires a daily prayer of Less of me, more of You, Lord.

For the next few SDG posts, I’m going to write more of this story – the confirmations I’ve received, the practical steps that I’m taking to live into this calling.  Hopefully, you will stay tuned and walk this journey with me (I hope, I hope, I hope) because I’d sure love your encouragement and your friendship.

What?  What was that?  Oh, you want to know what He’s called me to do?  You expect me to actually type out those words?  Do you know how much more real that will make this if y’all know?


He’s called me to speak.  Like in front of people.  Goodness me.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Update: 30 Day Challenge

Photo source: Stock.Xchge
*Disclaimer:  I was, after all, able to run the race that I accidentally didn't sign up for.  My running partner's friend decided not to run it and let me run with his bib (shhhhh....) for FREE (Thank you, Brian!).  Needless to say, my body is tired.  My brain is tired.  And I take no responsibility if this post makes no sense at all.  I did, however, have a great race.  I left it all on the course, though!

So, this is the 3rd week we have used the chart (for back story, please see the other 2 posts called 30 Day Challenge or just click here and here).  Just a recap, my goal is to not yell, my oldest's goal is to use a respectful voice, and my youngest's is to do things the first time I asked her to.  The first week, we did not get to go to Yo-Yo's for our special treat.  The second week (success!) we did.  Then, the third week came along...

Let's just say that my sweet oldest daughter kinda forgot about her challenge.  Either that, or she just didn't really care.  When I would remind her, she would *sorta* straighten up -- she genuinely seemed to realize that she was doing the things that she didn't want to do, but she just couldn't sustain that self-control.  Come to find out, on Friday, she was diagnosed with the flu.  Part of me wonders if maybe she was just tired -- her  little body trying to fight off and then finally succumbing.  Anyway, by Thursday, the keeping up with the chart had fallen by the wayside, but the dialogue continued.  I could still ask, "Is what you are doing in line with your goal?  Are you choosing to show respectful behavior?  Would you like to try that again?

And that is what I have realized about these chart (the selfless chart included) -- they are often points of departures, ways to motivate initially, but realistically, it is difficult to sustain that kind of upkeep.  And, truth be told, we want these behaviors to be come internalized, intrinsic, and not dependent upon a prize at the end of the week.  But, what I love about doing these charts for a week or two is the dialogue that they prompt.  We have discussions about why we have to work on certain behaviors, why they are important, and what they look, sound, and feel like.

As a family this summer, we completed a selfless chart (we all got little checks for doing something that was selfless during a whole month).  We no longer have the chart, but the behaviors (sometimes) still live in us.  I hear the same inflections in the girls' voices, "Okay, Abby, you can have a turn now."  I can ask, "Is what you are doing right now selfless or selfish?  Which one does Jesus ask us to be again?"  They don't always make the right choices, but they do know what is right.  Even my husband and I pause much more often to consider our motivations and think of ways to bless the other, instead of being so focused on our own needs.

As I think about this holistically, keeping a chart is the easy part, honestly.  It's the daily teaching, molding, and rearing that gets so tiring. However, I am holding onto the belief that if I do the hard work now and spend a lot (A LOT!) of time and energy laying a foundation that is based on how Jesus lived His life, things *might* be easier in the end.

We'll see...

I would love your comments on behavior charts/dialogue, etc. that you have used/had with your children!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Um, Yeah, Wrong Race

So, I registered for the wrong half-marathon.  So, there will be no 13.1 mile run this Sunday.  Oh, no.  See now, I get to EXTEND my training a whole other 3 weeks.  3 WEEKS!

I suppose things could be worse.  I could have paid $86 and missed the race completely, had it been scheduled before the one this weekend.  I could have not registered for any race at all and not gotten to run anything.  I could have been running a race out of town and would have lost tons of money on travel expenses (not that I ever run races out of town, I'm just saying).  Or, I could have registered for the full marathon instead of the half, which would decidedly be the end of me.

I've run this particular race (the one that is in 3 weeks) twice.  Plus, the marathon I ran last year is the same course for the first 10 or so miles.  I definitely feel that I could PR and that would be fun, but the main difference between the one I thought I was running and the one I actually signed up for is the fact that the first one is DOWNHILL.  Yep, and the one I'm running?  All hills during miles 10-13.  Oh yeah.  Guess I'll be running some hills in the next 3 weeks, too.

The funny thing is that I very, very rarely make mistakes like this.  Like, never.  Oh, well. I guess I just hadn't been pruned enough back in September when I made the mistake.  Too much going on.  Or too little sleep, I'm not sure.  But, definitely distracted because I didn't even register the price difference between the two races.  And I am always careful with my pennies!

I have no deep thought to tie this into.  Good thing it happened today and Fridays are a day to not take myself so seriously.  And most definitely, this is a random post, so good thing it's Caffeinated Randomness at Michelle's!  Also, linking up with Rachel Ann's Company Girls!


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Simple Pleasures: Back on the Big Bike

About three weeks ago, my darling 5 year old daughter wanted to take the 16 inch bike for a spin instead of of hopping on her regular 12 inch bike.  She's a short little chick, but she got on and got  She was confident, proud, ready.

Then, the weekend came and while my husband was working on his workbench, Hannah got the bike out. All was going along swimmingly until she fell.  Hard.  Like you could hear the sound of the kneecap and concrete colliding several yards away.

All wounds seemed superficial, except the one to her self-confidence.  All of the sudden, after the big crash, she was consumed by fear, of getting hurt, of falling again.  She pulled the big purple bike back into the garage and dragged out the little pink one.  That one is too big for me.  I'm just not comfortable on it.  I might get hurt. It didn't matter how much I cajoled, how much I tried to build her back up, how I downplayed the injuries.  She was going back to what was safe.

And then, 2 days ago, it was actually warm and we ventured outside.  She again dragged out the pink bike, road it around the driveway a few times, and came back into the garage.  She hopped off the little bike, looked at the purple bike, and proudly declared:

I'm ready.

Onto the purple bike her leg swung.  She found the pedals and off she rode.  Around and around, down the sidewalk, and back again.  With each pedal, with each gain of speed, with each ounce of wind blowing through her silky blonde hair, her confidence rose.  She became comfortable.  She felt safe.  And even after a few small spills, there was no turning back.  She had been convinced by what she could do.  She knew what it meant to fly.  There was so much more to experience.

And so, I hear God speaking to me through this little modern-day parable.  His soft voice whispers, The dream I have for you is not too big.  It may seem not to fit just right.  You may not feel comfortable at first.  You may be scared of falling.  But just like you knew that your little girl could do it, so do I know that My little girl can do it, too.

My simple pleasures are the courage of my little girl, for a Father who loves me enough to speak gently to assuage my fears, and for helping me unearth the courage that lives in me...somewhere.

I'm linking up with Dayle at Simple Pleasures.
Project Simple Pleasures2

Monday, January 24, 2011

Dreams & Soli Deo Gloria

Welcome, Soli Deo Gloria Sisters!  I'm so glad to see your faces and meet some new ones as well.  This is a place of encouragement and blessing, and it is my prayer that you always feel welcome here.  If you are new (anyone is welcome), please read here for the heart behind this meme and some general guidelines (the button is to your right).  I hope you are blessed on your page and leave blessings for others, as well.
Photo by Becky
Today's post may seem a bit disjointed.  Ever since I woke up this morning, I've felt a  For the life of me, I cannot pinpoint what is swirling in my heart.  I keep asking and analyzing and figuring, but I have no clarity.  I feel as if I am wrestling a little bit with myself.

I've been doing Anointed, Transformed, Redeemed for a week a half.  It's a study about David and Priscilla Shirer keeps asking about my calling.  And I have no real answer.  Me, the long-range planner who once had every inch of her life pre-planned, pre-packaged, and ready to deliver right on time, can no longer answer the question:  What do you feel called to do?

From the second grade until my first baby was born, I felt called to be an elementary school teacher.  Then, I felt called to teach teachers and so I taught at the college level.  Now I'm the assistant director of Christian Education at my church, and though I like it a lot and definitely use my knowledge from teacher-dom, I don't feel that it is my life-long calling.  I've thought about going back to school to become a counselor (for adults), but I think I'd rather just save my emotional capacity for my family and friends.  And, of course, I'm a mom, and that will always be a calling that I will treasure, but I know there is something else for me to do, too.

Ever since Christy wrote about daring to dream again, I've found myself to be in quite the quandary.  My fear is that if I let myself start dreaming, I'll start dreaming something outside of His plan.  I fear that I will become discontent with what I have and start living in the future, instead of the present.  I fear that pride will start creeping in and I'll get all territorial about my life again.  

I'm afraid of turning back into who I once was if I start dreaming again.  Has He brought me far enough from the bad habits and mindsets that I could quickly respond to His correction if I began to stray towards the shaky path?  Has He whittled away enough of my head-strong nature, the cloak of pride, the must-be-the-best-at-something-anything-kind of attitude?  Have I surrendered enough? Have I surrendered it all so that if I took my eyes off the five feet in front of me, I would only see and desire the things afar that He has planned?

Am I planted firmly enough to be able to fly?  To everything there is a season.  For everything there is a time.  Is it my time to dream?

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn a way.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8, NLT

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Update on 30 Day Challenge: Success! & Mama's Heart

It was a good week.

Just to catch you up,  my 30 day challenge has been to use a nice voice (no yelling) around the house.  I also gave my kids goals to work towards, too, since it is usually their disobedience that elicits the aforementioned yells.  The oldest is working on using a respectful voice (and NO eye-rolling).  The youngest is working on doing things the FIRST time we ask her to do them.  Two weeks ago (the first week of the challenge), neither one of my kids was very successful in meeting their goals and I yelled 3 times.  So, we had a good talk about what it means to start over, to start fresh with a clean chart, to repent and then really turn our behaviors around.

I told them that I was doing away with the threats because I often caught myself saying things like:

If you do that one more time, you will get an X.
Don't you want to go to Yo-Yos for our family reward?
If you do this, you'll get a smiley-face.

I (for the most part -- sometimes I just didn't have the patience to wait) stopped saying these things because I want them to learn to show respectful and positive behavior because it is simply THE RIGHT THING TO DO.  I don't want them to be so focused on the tangible reward that they fail to miss the beauty of the positive behaviors and the life that they bring to the family dynamics.  But, I also wanted to communicate grace, so I told them that if they started down the wrong road, I would say, one time, I want you to think about your behavior right now. If they turned it around, high-five for them.  If not, they got an X on their chart.  Abby (the oldest) only had one meltdown day, but in hindsight, I was glad she did because of the conversation we had the next afternoon.

During dinner the following night, I asked her to compare the two afternoons.  What was different on Thursday compared to Friday?  What did she notice about the level of fun we had?  What did she notice was different in our interactions with each other?  Which interactions did she prefer?  What was fabulous was that the dialogue centered on the relationships and not the tangible reward listed on the chart.  We were able to talk about the importance of positive interactions, understanding another's point of view, and the benefits of remaining calm even when our emotions seem to want to overrun our ability to be respectful.

I realized, through processing with Abby, that I have not always done the best job of modeling the ability  to keep those emotions in check.  I have a hard time not taking her lashing out personally, and therefore, I usually lash out in self-defense.  And I do that by yelling.  By demanding respect.  By enforcing my will upon her.  So the sad truth is, sometimes watching her stomp around, arms crossed, face red, voice raised, is like looking in the mirror.


It's amazing how introspective I can be just by asking my kids to be a little introspective, too.  Which, no matter how painful it might be now, ends up being so fruitful in the end.  Kinda feels like pruning, yet again.

I'm linking up with Erin at Mama's Heart -- a brand new meme about motherhood...just anything that is on a mama's heart.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Very Random Friday

I didn't write this last night.  It's 7:06 AM. I'm standing in my kitchen, in my pajamas, trying to decide if I should muster up the brain cells to put together a post.


Well, I got nothing.

So, I think I'll just continue with some other randomness of my life.  Let's see here.

{1}  My niece and I had an art date last Sunday.  I don't even remember what prompted the whole thing or how it came about, but anyway, last week I picked her up and we went to Starbucks to draw.  And chat.  Mindlessly.  It was absolutely fabulous and mind-freeing.  She reminded me how relaxed I feel when I draw, so I'm going to make that a part of my Sabbath and start drawing again at least once a week.  But, my charcoal pencils were put to shame -- she has better art supplies than I do!  So, I'm going to the art store to stock up on some goodies this weekend.
The light fixtures at Starbucks with some fanciful flowers thrown in for fun!
{2}  I started scrapbooking again.  I'm a year behind.  I just couldn't do it and write the blog -- it seems that I only had time for one extra-curricular hobby!  But, I'm hoping that God helps me make time to do it, as I love creating things with my hands.  I had thought that after I finish 2010, I would move to doing the scrapbooks online.  But, I spend enough time on the computer already and as fun as it looks to create a masterpiece online, I think I'll stick with my tape runner, punches, and real paper.  It's good to have multiple types of creative outlets, I think.

{3}  Today is going to be busy.  And it's cold outside, which means that I really would just rather stay snuggled on the couch with my youngest.  Alas, it will begin to a trip to the tire store (where I will have to plunk down a significant amount of money for 4 new tires so it will pass inspection).  Then, I have a meeting a church, a playdate after school (for my oldest, not for me).  But, then, it will end on a good note -- dinner at my sister-in-law's house.  Gumbo and beer biscuits on the menu!

{4}  Next week is the last week of training for the half-marathon.  I'm ready to have my Saturday mornings back!  I'm excited about the race because I've never run this course before.  The other half-marathons that I have run have had hills (serious hills!) the last 3 miles.  This course is, overall, is downhill.  Whee!

For more randomness and all-around good company, please join us at Michelle's Lost in the Prairies and RachelAnn at Home Sanctuary!  Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

As of Late

Lately, I've been learning how to relax.  It's harder than it looks.

Lately, I've been doing a DVD Bible study all by myself.  It's kinda nice to watch it alone, to go at my own speed, to rewind at my will.  (I'm doing Anointed, Transformed, Redeemed by Priscilla Shirer, Beth Moore, and Kay Arthur.)

Lately, I wonder if I still have more pruning to do.  Sometimes I still feel frazzled and busy and overwhelmed.

Lately, I've been overcome with emotion when I'm with my children.  But, as of late, each family member has had a goal to work toward to help improve our home life. I'm almost giddy with all the improvements that have been happening here.  This week, I've enjoyed being a mom.

Lately, I've been missing my grandmother.  I miss her unconditional love, her ability to always say the right thing, her smell.

Lately, I've been enjoying the sun.  It's been warm(er) the last few days and the sun has been shining.  I've taken the time to just stand it in, my arms outstretched, basking.

Lately, my husband and I have really been connecting.  Like at least once a night we are talking about something real.  I love this.  I love him.

Lately, I've been thinking about dreams and dreaming.  I think I've been a little afraid to dream, as if it means that somehow I'm not being content with the present.  But, I don't think that is really true.  Is there a right way to dream?  Silly question, I'm sure.

What have you been up to, as of late?  Link up with beautiful, extraordinary Critty Joy to share a part of you and to see what others have been delving into as of late.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Simple Pleasures: Giving Freely

There was a time in our lives when I would get to the 30th or 31st of each month, know the mortgage was due the next day, and have absolutely no idea how we would pay it.

I am a long-range planner, people, so this kind of thing was definitely not my cup of tea.  I knew that we were following God. I knew that we were in His will.  But knowing and trusting are two different things and there was always the inkling of doubt.

I know He can provide, but will He?

And each month, He did.  But it wasn't like the sky opened up and dollar bills started dancing down into my arms.  He provided by asking people to fill our needs.  And, thankfully, His lovely people responded.  They gave.  They gave freely.  They gave joyfully and without strings.

And now, I know He can provide and He will.

I am thankful now that we are in a better place financially.  I am thankful that I can give.  I am thankful that I can be one that He calls to ask, Will you provide?

It is a pleasure to give.  It is a simple pleasure to give freely, without expecting reciprocity, without strings, without baggage.

If you are hearing God ask you, Will you provide? I would invite you to Big Fat Mama's place.  She almost quit blogging because, well, I'll let her tell you.  But out of that decision, a new ministry was born, called A Meal in the  Mail.  Big Fat Mama makes it so easy to give directly to people who are hurting, who are in need, who are desperate for provision.  Please visit her by clicking here and enjoy the simple pleasure of giving.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
    “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
   “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25: 35-40

I'm linking up with Dayle at Simple Pleasures.
Project Simple Pleasures2

Food Fights: Put Down the Utensils

I've struggled with food addiction for a really long time.  I'm not sure when it actually started, but I think I was probably in late elementary school when I can remember pulling up a chair in front of the TV in the kitchen, my hand perpetually in the cookie jar.  I could easily eat 6 to 7 chocolate chip cookies in one sitting.  I remember rationalizing each cookie -- How many calories could there be in flour?  In sugar?  And isn't that whole stick up butter spread out through the ENTIRE batch?  So really...

In 2002 (oh-so-many years later), I finally confronted the issues head on.  Since I started writing for the health section in Blissfully Domestic, I been talking about some of the issues that I've had, some of the battles I've fought, and some  battles that I still fight today.  Honestly, once an addict, always an addict.

I thought it would be appropriate to link to my most recent Blissfully Domestic article today for the following reasons:

1. It still shows that it's an area that I cannot completely let my guard down.
2.  I've had success in controlling the addiction, but I need practical, tangible strategies to help me keep it in check.
3.  God has done so much in my life in releasing from the addiction and I really feel that the wisdom He has given me can help other people who are struggling with the same thing.

So, if you feel inclined, please click here to read the article.  Or, actually, just keep reading.  I'm posting the whole thing in full here...

The Backslide Begins
About every four months or so, I realize I have backslid into to some bad eating habit.  The one that gets me every single time is simply not paying attention to when my stomach says it’s full.  It can be waving white flags.  It can be practically screaming in my ear.  But, since I want to keep eating, I choose not to listen.  I ignore all the signs.
And then, I pay.  I pay the moment I set down the fork after consuming every crumb from my plate. I feel full.  Bloated.  Stuffed.  Guilty.  And I think, Wow.  Was that really worth it?  Were those last ten bites so delicious that I don’t mind feeling sluggish, piggish, and gross for the rest of the day, and perhaps even, through to the next morning?
How To Put It Down
When I look back, I think about why it was so hard to put down the fork.  Why could I not step away when my body had been satisfactorily nourished?  The sad fact is that most of the time, I just don’t want to deny myself the sense of pleasure I feel when I am eating.
However, just like any over-indulgence, there are consequences.  Even if I don’t end up gaining a single pound, I never fail to heap the guilt onto myself for not stopping when I should.  I lament the fact that I could not employ a sense of self-control.  I realize that I let the addiction win.
Last week, as my husband and I celebrated his birthday over take-out Chinese food and a movie, I was determined not to eat everything the restaurant had given me.  And even though each morsel tasted every bit as good as the last time we dined on this meal, I remembered.  I actually closed my eyes before I opened that Styrofoam container and I remembered how I felt the last time I stuffed myself to the gills. I relived the physical sensations over being overly full.  I recalled the emotional consequences of failing to realize that this pleasure was oh-so temporary.
And several times during the meal, I simply put down my fork.  I waited to see if the signs were there.  And when I felt my stomach start to extend a wee bit too far, when I saw the white flags slowly waving in the distance, I closed the lid.  I tossed the fork in the dishwasher.  I put the leftovers in the fridge.  And I walked away, pleasantly nourished.  And it did it just by remembering how I didn’t want to feel.

Linking up with Tiffini today - come join us!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Surprise Prayer & Soli Deo Gloria Link-up

Tuesdays (& Monday nights, I guess) are now my favorite days.  Because of you.  You know, I just love how God works through the process of surrendering.  The idea of the Soli Deo Gloria link up didn't come until I finally was able to lay down my other part-time job.  Oh, what I would have missed had I not heeded His call!  I'm thankful for and humbled by your presence here each week.  Thank you for coming.  If you are new, WELCOME.  Sincerely, I am so glad you are here.  Click here for the details and heart behind this meme.

Oh, and one more thing -- I have a Soli Deo Gloria email list that I use just to remind people of the link-up and other occasional news. If you are not on the list and would like to be, would you please leave your email in the comment section?

Here's my heart...

I had just put the kids to bed when pretty soon I heard the thump, thump, thump of little feet upstairs.  I peeked my head around the corner and there in her pink footy pajamas was my youngest, quickly trailed by my oldest.  The youngest:

Mommy, I'm scared and I just don't know what to do when I'm scared.

Let me just state that I am 99.9% positive that this was a ploy to stay up for a few more moments, but I thought I would indulge her because, remember, I'm working on having a more loving-mommy-mindset.

Well, honey, remember, that when we are scared, we can pray to Jesus and ask Him to give us comfort. Do you want me to pray with you?

So, the three of us held hands on the stairs and prayed.  And sometimes I just kind of get lost in my prayers.  I mean, I just start praying about one thing and move on to the next thing that pops into my head, and then the next, etc...

You can see why she might have thought this was a good idea...

Anyway, I was wrapping it up and I said, And Jesus, thank you so much for giving me two amazing little girls.  Amen.

But see, I popped my head up before the amen and I saw this look on their faces.

(I had to recreate the scene the next day.)
They were simply in awe that I had uttered those words.  And to Jesus.  I had told God that I thought they were amazing and by the looks on their sweet faces, I could have given them the world.  It was one of those looks reserved for only the most unexpected, delightful surprises.  When Santa brings the coveted present.  When the proclamation that yes, kids, we are going to Disney World is heard.  When she reaches the wall after swimming across the pool for the very first time by herself.

Those words that I uttered to Jesus in front of them were precious.  My two little girls felt enormously loved, protected, and filled.  Hmmmm.  How sweet the power of our words.  How precious the power of prayer.  What an amazing little way to lift up my children.  Who knew?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Update on 30 Day Challenge

Photo by Becky
To view more beautiful photos by her, click here.

So, for 30 days, I'm not supposed to yell.  Um, yeah.  So, it turns out that this is harder than I thought it would be, BUT, on my little no-yelling chart, I only have 3 Xs, so I think I'm doing pretty good.

See, a lot of times when I give something up, it's something external that can be eliminated.  Yelling, however, comes from something internal that is often born from external circumstances.  I've been doing a bit of introspection the last week as to what prompts me to raise my voice and here's what I've come to conclude:

I yell because I lose my sense of self-control.

Shockingly profound, yes?  Let's dig a little deeper.

Why does my self-control go out the window?

Because I'm tired.  I'm strung-out.  Because I'm longing to rest, but won't allow myself to see beyond the house-cleaning, the laundry, the cooking, the working, the blogging, the husband, the friends, the children.  Today, I even got stressed about how I was going to relax.

Does scrapbooking count as relaxing because I'd have to organize all my stuff first.  And then before I could organize, I'd have to dust.  That would definitely be work.  Should I just read?  Should I do my daily Bible reading first, or would that just be doing something to check off my to-do list?  What about writing?  Maybe I should just read a book.  Or a magazine.  Or finish the paper.  What would be best?  (Yes, I'm a bit neurotic, I know.  Please, love me anyway.)

Just do whatever you feel like doing, my sweet husband responds.  Honestly, I'm sure he was thinking,  Come on, crazy woman!  Why do you have to make things so hard?  He gets points for using his nice words.

Anyway, my point is that if I just continue on with the "no yelling" challenge, I think I'm just signing myself up for defeat because it does nothing to help me with the underlying problem that I have of not being able to rest.  And, I've come to the conclusion if I don't rest, I'm really not able to enjoy life.

I want to be able to enjoy my children without allowing the amount of work I have to do overshadow my interactions with them.  I want to be able to watch a movie with my husband without having my iPhone next me, begging me to click on the email icon every time it dings.  I want to be able to sit by the fire and read my book and ignore the nagging oh-yeah-I-really-should...thoughts that pop into my head.

You'd be proud of me today.  I sat by the fire.  I read the paper. I read my magazine.  I read a few chapters of my book.  Now I'm writing, but I'm still by the fire.  The dryer dinged and the LAUNDRY IS STILL SITTING THERE.

I'm still going to work on not yelling, but the focus is more on enjoying life and learning how to let things go, learning how to relax, learning how to not be anxious.

I love this quote that I read yesterday in my Bible study:

The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith. The beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety. George Muller

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Art of Relaxing

Photo source: Stock Xchng

My friend called me today, but I didn't hear the phone.  She left me a message and the last thing she said to me was, I hope you are relaxing while Hannah's in preschool today.  I keep thinking about how tired you looked last night.

I literally let out an audible laugh, heard only by me and my cat.  Oh, dear, you know me better than that.  Relax?

But as I stood there, I knew that a part of me, well, I guess all of me, was being disobedient.  I knew in my very heart that God had told me that I needed to take some time to rest today.  I woke early to meet with Him, telling Him that it was going to be a long and busy day, that Craig had a meeting after work, and it would just be me and the girls until bedtime.  I begged Him, Please, help me be a good mom today. Help me to keep to my challenge.  Help me to be patient, and kind, and good to my daughters.  To which He replied:

Well, then, you'll need some time of rest today.

To which in that moment, I think I said okay, you know, just to placate Him and all (as if you can placate God!).  And, vaguely I penciled in rest on my mental calendar, and went about my day.  5 mile run, Hannah ready for school, Hannah to school, HEB, Home Depot, Christian Ed. craft planning and lesson-planning, respond to a few blog comments, encounters with some Kilz and chalkboard paint (and a pesky, curious cat), lunch, back to the paint.  Time for tea.  Okay, a little rest time now before I pick up Hannah, Abby, and the friend that's coming over to play today.

I sit down with my tea, my Real Simple magazine in my hand.  I sip my tea, shiver under my blanket, read an article.  Think about the other things I really should be doing, but then vaguely remember I agreed to rest awhile.  I read another article.  I remember that tomorrow is Friday and there are two link-ups that I want to participate in.  I gaze over at my computer.  Does blog writing count as rest?  What about responding to comments?  Because you know, God, I'm behind on that.

I throw my magazine on the love seat and I grab my computer.  And now I'm typing away and wondering why relaxing is an art form that I cannot seem to master.  Why must I be doing?  What can't I rest in being?  Why do the deadlines rage in my head and why can't I just tell them to quiet down?  If He's calling me to rest, surely He knows how the important stuff will get done.

But see, then, that takes me out of control.  I don't have the plan.  And you know how much I need to have the plan.

I'm going to put down the computer, because I'm kinda feeling like I'm doing, not being, while I'm writing this.  I'm going to try my hand at reading the magazine again.  I have a book nearby if that fails.  Perhaps I should invest in some superglue for my bum!  Or perhaps, I just need Him to teach me what it means to really lay it all down.  Perhaps I need to remember all those words I wrote about having a Sabbath...

Linking up at Michelle's Lost in the Prairies today!  And, don't miss Company Girl Coffee at Rachel Anne's Home Sanctuary.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Simple Pleasures: Arising Early

Photo source here

Before the holidays, since mid-October, I had made the habit of rising early, before the sun, to meet with my Savior.

Alas, now, not so much.  Oh, but I remember the mornings when I crept quietly down the stairs, padding down the hallway,  making my way across the cold kitchen floor.  I warmed my tea.  I settled into my chair, my blanket wrapped tight around my shoulders.  And I enjoyed the stillness of the house before any other person even thought about stirring.  It gave me a moment to gather myself before I rushed off into the day.  It gave me a process of centering myself so that I might be more equipped to handle the obstacles and challenges that might fill my day.  It gave me a chance to leave my slumbering, but to still find rest in the arms of my God.

I have missed Him in the mornings.  Although I can still find Him in the daytime, I have to be honest -- our time is interrupted often.  I often feel the pressure to do something else - run, work, write, respond.  In the wee hours, though, it is dedicated just to Him.

Reminiscing about our early morning conversations makes me realize that while any time with Him is a simple pleasure, it's nice to meet Him at the beginning, before the world has the time to enter in.  It's a sacred space carved out for just the two of us.

I will be joining Him tomorrow, before the light hits the ground, before the little voices fill my day, before the demands threaten to overwhelm.  Me and Him.  Him and me.

I'm linking up with Dayle at Simple Pleasures.
Project Simple Pleasures2

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Captivating Shoulds

Photo from PPNYC

I've been taken captive by the SHOULDS.

I'm sure you've met them.  If you haven't seen them, you've certainly heard them.  They say things like...

You should keep your house clean so that if someone stops by unexpectedly, you won't feel embarrassed.
You should only feed your children things that are organic.
You should get all your work done before you even THINK of relaxing.
You should run for P.T.A. president.
You should pray more.
You should make sure you are exercising at least three times a week, for at least 30 minutes at a time.
You should make sure you look presentable before your husband comes home.
You should read your Bible.  Every. Single. Day.
You should play with your children more often.

There are lots of things we should do, because, in all honesty, a lot of them are actually good for us.  But when I am motivated by doing them just because of the SHOULD part, I think I might miss the JOY behind doing them.

If I'm just reading the Bible because I SHOULD, is my heart really open to receiving His Word?
If I'm always working and never relaxing, can I ever really hope to have an authentic amount of energy?
If I only play with my children because it's the expected thing to do, am I really discovering who they are?  Am I really focused on building that relationship?
If I'm doing something just to impress someone else, has my life become more about me and less about Him?  What kind of void am I filling by seeking so readily worldly affirmation?
If I'm just praying because I should, how meaningful are those prayers?  How much do they touch the heart of God?

I'm trying to tune out the SHOULDS in my life right now, to severe the connection between them and my heart.  I long to be tugged by the whispers of my Savior instead of pulled into a pit by the yells of the world.  If I remained chained to the SHOULDS, I won't have the freedom to explore the will of God.

I'm linking up to Tiffini for Word Women Wednesday!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Neatly Packaged & Soli Deo Gloria Link-up

Photo credit JCasa

I like to take care of people.
I don't like to burden others with my problems.
I rarely do anything that doesn't have a purpose.
I try not to be too emotional.
I try to keep things in perspective.
I'm terrified of doing the wrong thing.
I've been really focused on keeping things together.  Operating so that I can be productive, efficient, tamped down.

I re-read these words and I imagine a box, so overstuffed that at any moment it might explode.  But there is something under all that purpose, organization, and compartmentalization that is trying to get out.   Things will get...

Out of place.

...if it bursts.

I don't do any of those things well.  I rationalize to keep from being too emotional.  I explain away things that don't fit.  I run a tight ship.  To ask me to function when things are out of place -- I get nervous, jittery, overwhelmed with feeling out of control.

But I have this vague sense that there might be a hint of freedom that could possibly come if the box bursts open.  In this neatly packaged life, I think I've buried some lies and God wants to bring me some truth.  But to replace the lies with truth means a lot of unpacking.  Life doesn't always unfold the way we think it should and I don't like surprises.

But I also don't like things such as...


I think I've spent the last few years wrapping string upon string around this box and God is standing next to it with a pair of scissors.

Can I let Him cut the strings?

30 Day Challenge

Photo from

Tiffini's hosting a 30 Day Challenge.  She's challenged us to give something up that will make us better people -- feel better, look better, be better.

I'm giving up yelling.  I don't feel good while I'm doing it.  I'm probably not so attractive when I'm doing it.  And doing it does not make me a better mom.  Physically or emotionally.

For 30 days I will not yell at my children.

While I'm not sure this is entirely possible, I'm going to attempt it because well, I'm not sure that yelling is really communicating effectively the point I'm trying to make to my children.  Plus, sometimes it makes them giggle (another clue that yelling does not become me, and in fact, may actually make me look funny).

So if any of you are non-yellers and employ other discipline tactics, I'm all ears.  My plan so far consists of:

  • Being in the same room when I'm talking to them
  • To think first about what I want to convey instead of spouting off what comes to mind first
  • To make eye-contact while I'm speaking.
  • Following through with consequences immediately.
  • Telling the kids about the challenge and give them each one goal to work towards, too.
  • Celebrating our success at the end of each week with a special date with the kids.
So, that's the rough draft of the plan. I would love any input that you have to share!

Linking up with Tiffini today -- come join in!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Charlie & Lola, Viking Graves, & International Calling Plans

Good morning, everyone!  A happy, happy Friday to you, my friend.

Things have been a bit serious around here at Finding Heaven so I am taking advantage of the invitation to be random, carefree, perhaps a bit silly.

Sometimes, I have to work to be silly.  Is this a problem for anyone else?  I need more let-my-hair down kind of days.

So, I thought I would just tell you some random things about myself, if you care to know.  We'll just see what ends up coming out.

{1}  I just love all children's books by Lauren Child.  She is also the writer of Charlie and Lola, the kid's TV show.  The characters on the show speak British English, and the character of Lola is based on a little Danish girl that Child's met on a train (so that last little fact I just researched for you on Wikipedia so you can sound all prestigious like when you're talking to all your other mommy friends).  ANYWAY, the point of all that is that I simply cannot read Child's book without using my very bad British accent.  It's simply not possible.  So my kids suffer, but I have the most fun.  Perhaps this means I must get out more.  Oh, and I always make sure they get at least one of Child's books every time we go to the library. Every. Time.

{2}  Just so you know, if one is Danish, it means he/she comes from Denmark.  Not Holland.  Those are the DUTCH.  You wouldn't believe what a common error this is.

{3}  Why would I really care about all this?  Because I spent 4 months of my life in Denmark while studying abroad in college.  I went to school in Copenhagen, but lived with a wonderful host family in Lejre.  It's a small town, with fields of yellow flowers, tulips, and oh, yes, viking graves.  It is also very cold.  Very, very cold.

Photo courtesy of Ian Stehbens
Viking Burial, photo courtesy of Gregory LeFever

{4}  If we are being honest, it was actually very hard to be that far away because at the time, I was engaged to my husband.  I met him after I had committed to going.  Very quickly, my dad had to find a very cheap international calling plan.  Very cheap.  At the time, Craig (my husband) worked at Golfsmith and didn't have a direct line.  So, I had to wait.  On hold.  Whoops!

{5} Did you know that Craig and I were engaged 11 days after we started dating?  We've been married now for 10 1/2 years.  I guess when you know, you know!

{6} And now, for a complete non sequitur, I collect the CowParade cows.  I so wish I could have completed my Wizard of Oz set, but now everything is retired, so they are super expensive.  I have Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Dorothy, the Wicked Witch, Wizard of Oz, Ballerina Munchkin.  Thus, the only ones I am missing are Lollipop Munchkin and Glinda the Good Witch cow.  So, now that you know I am certifiable, I will end this post, but not before granting you a peek into my collection.

Find more randomness over at Michelle's Lost in the Prairies today!  And, don't miss Company Girl Coffee at Rachel Anne's Home Sanctuary.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Simple Pleasures: Tears

Many of you know that I lost my grandmother to cancer on Easter Sunday of 2010.  This was my first Christmas without her.

It hurt.

But you know, God has a way of working through people in just the right way where somehow hope filters through the pain.

I received a gift Christmas morning from "BCM".  It was my husband's handwriting, and per our tradition, we never place our real names on the "from" line when we are giving to our family members.  We always make up some clue that gives the receiver some sort of mysterious hint as to what may lay behind the wrappings.

I should have been more clued-in, but I'm blaming the ruckus of children and the lack of caffeine in my system as to why I didn't get the hint.  For the life of me, I couldn't figure it out.  BCM?

I slowly unwrapped the package.  Inside, a Willow Tree box.  Inside, a figurine, entitled With my Grandmother.


Betty Carson Miner.

My beloved grandmother.

Tears of pain.  Tears of remembrance.  Tears of missing.  Tears of joy.  Tears of knowing that she was looking down right at that moment.  Tears that say nothing, but say everything, all at the same time.

Sometimes, it is a simple pleasure, just to cry.

I'm linking up with Dayle at Simple Pleasures.
Project Simple Pleasures2

Guest Post: Breaking Free from Captivity

I'm guest posting today at Tiffini's.  She doing a whole new series about freedom from captivity.  I can say a thing or two about being in chains.  Figuratively, speaking, of course.

I'm sure you donned a few of these figurative chains.  They go by many different names.  The fact is that we all get entrapped by sin and we get ensnared by some sins more than others.  And when we spend a lot of time committing the same sins over and over, well, we become enslaved.

This is a story of me breaking free.  This is a story of my husband breaking free.

We are free.  Well, at least from the things that I wrote about here.  If you'd like to read about the specific chains that were broken, please click here to travel to Tiffini's blog.

I've turned off comments, so if you have some thoughts, please leave them on Tiffini's blog.  I'll be checking in for sure!  Also, if you have specific questions, please feel free to email me at jenfergie2000 {at} me {dot} come.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Being Still vs. Doing Nothing & Soli Deo Gloria Link-up

Welcome, Soli Deo Gloria Sisters!  I'm so glad to see your faces and meet some new ones as well.  This is a place of encouragement and blessing, and it is my prayer that you always feel welcome here.  If you are new, please read here for the heart behind this meme and some general guidelines.  I hope you are blessed on your page and leave blessings for others, as well.
January Wallpaper by Critty Joy, available for download here.

Being still and doing nothing are two very different things.  Jackie Chan, The Karate Kid

Never did I think that I'd be struck by a quote by Jackie Chan, but there you go -- proof that God can use anything to get my attention.

I have been ruminating on what it really means to be still.  And, then, what does it mean to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46: 10)? And how is this somehow more refreshing, more filling than just doing nothing?  Or, maybe it's not about one being better than the other?  Perhaps there is a time for both.  Maybe I need to do nothing (or at least slow way down) in order to even have a hope of gaining a sense of stillness?

And why am I struggling with this so much?  Why am I seeking to find the difference between the two? Honestly, I think it is because I am having a hard time with the concept of rest and feeling rested after I have attempted to recharge, refill, and rejuvenate.

I have to admit, I'm not very good at doing nothing, and after I have done nothing, I usually feel sluggish, even more unmotivated, and hesitant to jump back into life.  I just crave more "nothingness."  I don't know if this means I am doing nothing the wrong way (crazy question, I know) or if I just hesitate to jump back into a world where there is always something that needs to be done, where there is little time to frolic, where the next down-time is so far off it's hard to imagine if it will ever come in the near future.  So, basically, I leave rest time anxious for the next rest time.  I don't think this is what it's supposed to be about.  I've come to the conclusion that perhaps doing nothing tries to solve the problem of tiredness, but neglects to address the need to be refilled.

Maybe doing nothing is the first part  -- to get my body and mind ready for what my heart and my soul need -- stillness.  When I am still, I can hear God's voice.  When I am still, I can know, thoroughly and completely that He is God.  When I am still, I can cast my anxiety and cares on Him and He will receive them, lift them from my shoulders.  When I am still, when my soul is quiet, when my heart is open, I can find refreshment.  It's leaving the world behind for a few moments and allowing myself to just sit at the foot of the throne.  And, you know, He might not even say one word, but His presence alone, everything He stands for, longs to fill me with Him.  And that, sometimes, is enough.  It's just what I need.

I know that often, Psalm 23 is read at funerals, but I find it ever so appropriate for those of us who live our days on this earth, for although we can look forward to eternal rest with God after our time on earth is through, we sure need rest to make this journey here count for all it's worth.

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

 1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 
 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, 
he leads me beside quiet waters, 
 3 he refreshes my soul. 
He guides me along the right paths 
   for his name’s sake. 

4 Even though I walk 

   through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, 
   for you are with me; 
your rod and your staff, 
   they comfort me.

 5 You prepare a table before me 
   in the presence of my enemies. 
You anoint my head with oil; 
   my cup overflows. 

6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me 

   all the days of my life, 
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD