Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Redeeming Regrets and Dusting Off Dreams

This past year I began dusting off some shelved dreams. I entered a new season- sticking my pinky toe into the waters of being a mom and something else too: a writer.

Beginning when my daughter was born 13 years ago, I focused my sole attention on raising, feeding, training, teaching, and cleaning up after her (and later, two more kids). Staying at home, instead of finishing my college degree or pursuing a career, was both a sacrifice and a privilege.  I am thankful for the support of my husband and for the time I had seeing our babies grow up right before my eyes. It wasn't all cute, mind you- especially the parental learning curves, the sleepless newborn nights, the periodic loneliness, and the messy potty training- but I never regretted diving into the whole crazy world of diapers and dishes over resume-building or professional success.

I do, however, still have some regrets.

Aside from embracing motherhood with all of it's priceless memories, I wish I knew that it didn't have to be my ONLY occupation. The new "Mother" title didn't erase my name, my personality, or my God-given abilities prior to holding those precious swaddled infants in the hospital.  I came into the mom season with too many ideals and too many rules, even though I was never officially read any list of expectations on child-rearing before taking my baby home to care for.  But I, personally, critiqued every single one of my moves with an unhealthy slathering of guilt and internal sermons on selfishness.

I regret that I believed that there was only one way to parent.

I regret that I perceived that time spent on personal endeavors was self-centered.

I regret that I was so hard on myself.

I regret that I lived too long without joy or freedom.

It seems backwards, I suppose- wishing that I had mothered a little less. I guess it's more that if I could do it again, I would have mothered better.  Because functioning out of my strengths and skills as often or more than I struggled in areas that were, to me, very draining, it may have all balanced out. My ritual disappointment in my housekeeping ineptitude would have been stabilized with some encouragement in my creative leanings. Instead of squashing my natural inclinations, I could have figured out a way to merge my home life with other avocations. The two worlds wouldn't necessarily cancel each other out.

I find so much fulfillment when I come home after a lunch meeting of the minds or completing a creative project.  It's exciting to share my passions with my family and has been more rewarding than I expected. The best part is realizing that my kids love this side of their mom too.  We get to support ALL of our dreams and celebrate inches of progress TOGETHER.

We are like those intricate patterns that we love to fill in with colored pencils.  The designs catch our eyes because of their bold and colorful complexities- not just a single black line segment on a page. I am a woman, mother, wife, friend, sister, leader, follower, daughter, volunteer, writer, artist, laundress, cook, teacher, reader, and a dozen other things.  And all of those shades of me are elements of some kind of unfinished work of art.

When God said that His creation of me "was good (Genesis 1:27, 31)," I don't think He was referring only to one of my roles or capabilities. I am ALL of the lines and ALL of the colors! And as an artist, which is one of the many roles I ascribe to God, I imagine that it brings him much pleasure to see His flowers bloom and His people live vibrantly.

I am finding that God redeems regrets. He restores dreams.  And the most exciting truth is that He isn't finished making masterpieces out of us (Ephesians 2:10)!

Moms, if you have ever felt expected to cram yourself into some kind of one-size-fits-all box, remember that God has made us all unique.  He planned it that way (1 Corinthians 12).  The "abundant life (John 10:10) doesn't include forcing yourself into someone else's version of motherhood.

Bring out all of your colors and unpack those dreams!
"Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  Your workmanship is marvelous-  how well i know it (Psalm 139:14)!"
Have you set aside some dreams for a season?  What makes you come alive?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Living Fulfilled When There's No Applause

Have you ever felt that your efforts weren't receiving the attention that you thought they deserved?  At school, on the job, at home? I have often written about the times I've felt unnoticed in motherhood and how I've sought perspective and encouragement during those thankless and lonely moments: Invisible Work and Other Unseen Things, and But Who's Going to be MY Cheerleader?
On a day-to-day basis, we often do things for others without much recognition. My family doesn't always see me sweeping the floor, let alone cheer for me. My work is basically invisible, which can really do a number on how I view myself and what I do. Dissatisfaction and disappointment can regularly sneak in and disrupt my purpose. How can we still find fulfillment during those times of doubt and lack of appreciation?

I recently finished re-reading a small revised version of letters written by a monk from the 17th century.  Practicing God's Presence: Brother Lawrence for Today's Reader introduced me to an incredibly humble man seeking contentment in less than glamorous circumstances.  He performed menial tasks despite physical handicaps and illnesses and still found indescribable joy.  Though Brother Lawrence had given up "the pleasures of his life," he felt that "God surprised him by giving him a life of satisfaction" in return (Elmer, 17). He also believed that, "We shouldn't get tired of doing little things for God, either, because God doesn't care about the size of the task (Elmer, 33)."

I have preached these truths to myself often, because valuing smallness has been a consistent battle for me.The Bible tells us to "work willingly at whatever you do (Col. 3:23) and to "be faithful over a little (Matthew 25:21 )."  So while what I do may not be described as anything grand, I have to remember that the size of a job or the prestige of a title, doesn't mean as much to God.

For as long as I can remember, I have chased big dreams.  It started when I was nine years old, begging to sing a solo in church and continued well into young adulthood.  As I continued to pursue moments of lime-lit greatness, I stumbled down paths of disappointment.  I mistakenly connected my worth to the way people viewed me.  If they approved, I was doing well. If I lost the election or didn't get the part, I felt the defeat of failure. How would I ever make a difference in the world if no one could see me?

To be seen. At the heart of my delusions of grandeur was simply the very basic needs to be loved and to be known. Beneath my seemingly selfish ambitions, that little girl version of me wearing patent leather dress shoes just wanted to do big things. She wanted to know that she mattered and that she was important. 

I was just using the wrong tools to measure my self-worth and my impact.

Over time, I've learned that there is only one source of truth, and that it brings freedom.  Knowing what God says about me limits the power of others' opinions- whether they are loudly spoken or confusingly silent. And like the Apostle Paul, I am continuing to learn  "to be content whatever the circumstances (Phil. 4:11) and like Brother Lawrence to be "happy to work at whatever small job...all for the love of God (Elmer, 24)."

What about you? Have you struggled in the area of not being noticed? Can you relate?

I would love to hear more from others who've been in a season of obscurity- to learn how you processed and how you persevered. Are you still in that place, or have you moved ahead a few spaces?  Will you share your experience in THIS SURVEY?  Your comments can help me write more specifically about the things that help you! 
Obviously, I'm not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ's servant (Galatians 1:10).

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Take-a-Trip Tuesday & a Summer Giveaway!

It's Take-a-Trip Tuesday, and my kids are off to the Summer Movies. Where do you go to cool off when it's hot? Some of our favorite places to get out of the house are: 
the library     the aquarium     indoor trampoline/inflatable park     the beach     a shady playground     children's museum     ice cream shop     the pool     an arcade
 If you want more suggestions from The Mom Season's List of 72 Free Summer Activity Ideas, you can still sign up here! 

Since not all of those field trips are free, here's a chance to win some spending money for all those fun summer outings! Click the image below for a $50 cash giveaway.  And share the love with your mom friends!
#TakeATripTuesday #themomseasonsummer

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Read the Classics with Your Kids This Summer: A List of Favorites

In the school year, teachers assign books that the kids may not enjoy, or they spend reading requirements on series that fellow classmates recommend.  While their top picks may be fun reads, they often lack brain-building vocabulary, thought-provoking imagery, or inspiring messages that last. That's why the summer is the best time to check out some heftier titles from the library and read as a family!

I love introducing older, popular classics with my kids when we have more downtime. If I don't take the opportunity that school breaks offer, I worry that my three children may not otherwise get the chance to experience these well and long-loved tales. After all, there has to be a reason that certain books have been recycled, revised, and re-told for ages.

Remember what it was like to be bored and forced to come up with your own mental movie pictures? Listening to or reading stories, without provided images, was the original form of entertainment, before television. Kids are never too young or too old to imagine the narratives being told them.  Not only are there brains sparking with renewed creativity, but reading out loud allows me time to explain phrases or words they don't understand, as many older stories have cultural or dated references. For example, I had to explain recently that a "torch" in The Chronicles of Narnia was actually a flashlight. I'm also able to skip over any language or descriptions I find inappropriate for their age.

Reading together on the couch is great family time- maybe even a lost art form.

Understandably, my younger boys sometime resist turning off screens and settling down for lengthy periods of time at first.  But after every chapter is finished, they're hooked and their curiosities are piqued!  We sometimes draw pictures of what we think the characters or scenes looked like.  And when we read an entire book, we find the movie adaptation to celebrate. It's fantastic conversation material, as we compare the film's interpretation to the original story.

Here are a list of classics turned into movies that our family has enjoyed (I started this with my daughter years ago, so many titles are female favorites.  We're venturing more into boy territory these days now too):

  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
  • Anne of Green Gables* by L.M. Montgomery
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
  • The BFG by Roald Dahl
  • Little Women* by Louisa May Alcott
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • A Little Princess by by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  • Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
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Here are more on my list to read in the future:
  • Mary Poppins by Dr. P. L. Travers
  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl
  • The Lord of the Rings series* by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lingren
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann D. Wyss
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  • Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
  • The Collected Tales of Nurse Matilda by Christianna Brand (Movie: Nanny McPhee)
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green
  • Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reed Banks

*These titles are geared more for older children.  My oldest is a middle-schooler, so we can venture into harder texts than with my elementary-school aged sons. 

Do you have a favorite classic story that you think kids may love?  Share!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Monday, June 13, 2016

It's Another Mom Season Summer Plan!

Three weeks into my kids' summer break, I am finally getting familiar with the new paces and routines.  Every day is different.  Each week is new with camps or trips dotted throughout the calendar. So, I'm very casual.

But I know that the hour is looming...the clock will soon strike...OH MY GOSH WE HAVE GOT TO DO SOMETHING BEFORE WE DRIVE EACH OTHER CRAZY!
I'm not saying that the kids can't be bored sometimes.  I don't mean that we have to constantly keep them entertained every blessed minute.  But we can't really expect the kids to come up with the smartest ideas for filling a dozen hours on their own without some adult interaction.
Their first pick is usually screen time. Then they attempt risky experiments or stunts suggested by their very own genius imaginations. Those sweet faces will also constantly demand to know, "What are we doing today???"  And without some direction, the sibling harmony turns into terribly out-of-pitch cat screeching, when Mom doesn't have a surprise or two behind her back.
It's time to make a plan.  My son has already asked a few times when we were going to start our annual themed activity days, because he is so totally stoked that he doesn't have to do any school.  I get it.  I just haven't been on it yet, because we all just needed a break from schedules.  Until now. you haven't been following, my Mom Season friends and I come up with rotating weekday themes that give us the general framework for fun activity planning that has lots of flexibility.  

Allowing for our personal skillsets and resources, we can use this plan to tailor-fit our families' favorite things to do. We don't all love crafts, and we don't all join the swim team. But we all want to make lasting memories and enjoy our time with the kids, don't we?

So this year, I compiled a free list of 72 activity ideas that I've either used in the past or plan to try this year.  If you sign up, you'll receive a PDF to download in your email.  The lists should get you through the next 12 weeks!  How's that for a Make-Something-Monday AWESOME?!?

Rest your weary brain, Momma, I've got you.

Share your own fun summer plans with us!
Comment below or share on Facebook and Instagram

Friday, May 27, 2016

How to Love Your Less than Ideal Summer

Today is the last day of school! We are so excited! But we are also terrified.

The month of May, with all of it's tests and projects, field trips and field days, award ceremonies, class parties and recitals, has brought us to our knees- hugging a street sign while the hurricane winds of activity blew our hairdos to pieces and smacked our faces with unexpected reminders. 

When I forgot to bake that platter of cookies and chip in for another teacher's gift, I knew I was beaten. 

Please, God, bring us the sun!

The busy storm has finally relented. And so today, we stand on wobbly limbs and face the aftermath. We look to tomorrow with much hope and expectation. We have survived another school year. We breathe relieved... and then, we hold in another breath as we survey the summer landscape.


Our family will begin this summer with a trip to the mountains, and I will finally nail down any camp registrations I started to complete and never finished. I'll make tentative fun plans and then have a real talk with my ideal self:

Dearest Idealistic Momma,

You have been dreaming about slower, calmer mornings without lunch-packing and carpooling. 

But don't be surprised when THE KIDS WILL STILL WAKE UP EARLY, because in the summer, there is a much more exciting and motivating reason to leap out of their comforters: TV! iPads! Xbox!  "Woohoo! No school! We can do whatever we want!"

Also, the door-slamming will wake you up and THE CHILDREN WILL ARGUE before 7am. 

No one will make you coffee before you have to deal. It's all you. And then your kids will still be there. All. Day. Long. Without fail. 

But you also need a break. TAKE A BREAK, and don't feel guilty. If you don't, you may eat your own young and have even more regrets.

BE FLEXIBLE when you make your plans, because there will be hiccups- and not the cute ones- diaper blowouts, jellyfish stings, and milkshake spills in your freshly cleaned minivan. 

Sometimes, you'll just cancel said plans and call it "PJ Day."  That's okay too.

Life will not stop providing work just because it's the kids' summer vacation from school. Break the news lightly: there will be housecleaning and laundry and dishes and grocery trips. Our small charges can handle a lesson in responsibility. IT'S NOT ALL FUN AND GAMES. It's sweeping the floor too. 

GET EXTRA FOOD, because they will want more too eat when they're bored, and the neighbor's son will pretend like he wants to play, but he's really sniffing out your snack stash. 

You'll need proof that your days haven't been a complete wash. Make a calendar of plans and memories, because at some point (probably in 2 weeks), you'll start thinking that this is the worst summer ever and that no one is having a good time and that you are wasting precious days!!! Hang up your calendar for June, July, and August, then LOOK WHAT YOU HAVE DONE! Point to the evidence:
  • You took the kids to the pool thirty times! 
  • You made hand print molds, even though you hate arts and crafts! 
  • You let the kids stay up late and catch fireflies or watch fireworks after the baseball game! 
Remembering the sweet successes re-charges your summer spirit

Lastly, and just for fun, START A COUNTDOWN CALENDAR for the first day of school. What?!? *cue evil laughter* No, but seriously. I did this secretly with a friend last summer, so that every time we were having a crazy bad day, it made us laugh. The kids won't appreciate it, obviously. 

But it gave me an end goal. You can make a countdown calendar for anything fun: date nights, girls' weekends, or family vacations. There's an app for that! This is just to remind yourself that there's something to look forward to when you’re getting a little battle-weary. There is a season for everything.

Finally, CALL YOUR FRIENDS. Don't just be your kids' social secretary. Be your own. It will keep you sane. 

Also, misery loves company. 

Happy first day of summer,
Realistic Momma

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Learning to be Wild and Free

It's been exactly two years since I first heard Jess Connolly speak about being wild and free.  I remember taking all the notes and then going home to read and re-read John 10:10.
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (NIV)."
"...I have come so they may have life. I want them to have it in the fullest possible way (NIRV)."
To be fully alive?  I wanted that!  But to enter into that kind of living, I needed to give myself permission to be fully who God made me to be. For myself, this means being creative, even when it doesn't bring me an extra income or a massive internet following.  It may not lead to a great career, but it brings me joy. It makes me come alive.

And I wonder if that is how we bring the light of Jesus into the world- by being fully alive.
"My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving (MSG)."  -Colossians 2.6-7
On May 1, 2014, God used Jess Connolly to begin a spiritual work in me.  I return to that entry in my journal often, because the sweet truths unlocked my jail cell of a life living according to others' opinions.  That message empowers me, daily, to connect with Jesus in my own unique way.

Now, Jess, and her friend and Influence Network co-founder, Hayley Morgan, are sharing this song of freedom to everyone in their book, Wild and Free: A Hope-Filled Anthem for the Woman Who Feels She is Both Too Much and Never Enough. The title alone makes my heart leap! I joined the launch team and read the pages early, so I could selfishly renew what stirred in me two years ago.

Because for us to invite others to this freedom march, we have to believe it deeply ourselves.  We have to experience the goodness of God and how He sees us.
"And when you've tasted freedom? When you've walked away from defensive living, you can say good-bye to the heaviness of other's expectations. You can walk without crippling insecurity.  You can live with your imperfect self, knowing that you're covered in Christ (Morgan, chapter 12)."
Recently, I blogged about "Being Okay With Who I Am."  Settling our identity in Christ is what this book is similarly about.  While being "wild," is most likely not a term that we would classify as an acceptable female or Christian adjective, Jess and Hayley seek to redefine it as "unhindered by cultured norms (Connolly, chapter 9)." We have to stop looking around so much and comparing ourselves to others. We have to stop letting others determine how we should look or act or feel. Doesn't the Word tell us to "not conform to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2)?" 

We can be wild when we fix our eyes on Jesus and what He thinks of us.  He knows what we're made of, and He loves us. Period.  Right from the start, our Creator said that we were "good (Genesis 1:31)." In all of our different shapes, personalities, talents, circumstances, pasts, and even in our sins or weaknesses- we are unconditionally loved and accepted by our God.  Remember that "if Christ is in you...You're as loved by God as you'll ever be (Connolly, chapter 7)."

We aren't too much.  We don't need to be more or do more.
That's grace. And that's freedom. All we have to do is walk in these truths and live it out.

I strongly recommend that you read Jess and Hayley's new book. For yourself.  For your girlfriends. For your moms and your sisters.
You can order online or at most major bookstores (Amazon, Lifeway, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook, Books a Million, Faith Gateway).

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Remember me?

have this weird quirk. Whenever I run into an acquaintance, I re-introduce myself.  I have possibly been around this person once or twice before, but I do it anyway. Often. 

My greeting sounds something like, "Hey!  I'm Dani. Brody's mom?  They go to school together."  No matter how many times I meet familiar faces, I feel the necessity to overcome the chance of awkwardness by just blurting out my bio, "I have three kids. I'm a stay-at-home mom..."

As if expecting to be easily forgettable, I hurry to establish our connection before they have to ask me to remind them. Quite honestly, I draw a blank too sometimes, so I don't want anyone to feel badly for forgetting who I am. Let's just call this a helpful quirk.

But I would rather just be recognized.  Wouldn't you? It would save me some anxiety.I truly want to be known and be in relationship with others, so it's validating when someone calls me by my name without any prompting. And I would guess that I'm not the only one who feels relief when she sees a friend in a crowd of strange name tags.  

But there were whole seasons in life when I actually felt more anonymous than known. Moving to a new place is like that.  Beginning a new job or a new school can be both exciting and scary endeavors, because we are essentially starting over as a nobody.  Becoming a mom was one of those nameless eras too. While my husband excelled in his career and my friends enjoyed years of travel during their single or newlywed status, I was home figuring out how to manage things and take care of a baby- relatively alone.

It was a time of identity crisis and hiding for me.  I hardly knew how to hold a conversation back then.  Because after all, who was I? What did I do? I didn't think that I had anything interesting to contribute to a social gathering.

But the mom season has also been a time of growing up and leaning in.  God re-shaped my purpose and vision when I was incognito.  He showed me my importance, apart from blazing achievements (or lack thereof).

During a visit with a friend last week, we were talking around this topic of being known and knowing who we are.  It was fascinating how our experiences and uncovered truths sparked off of each other.  Towards the end of this spontaneous dialogue, we found a verse that jumped off the screen of my friend's poor, crackled-faced smart phone:
"Family of Jacob, The Lord created you.  People of Israel, He formed you.  He says, 'Do not be afraid.  I will set you free.  I will send for you by name.  You belong to me (Isaiah 43:1, NIRV).'"
Other versions say: "I have called you by name." 

These recently discovered words make me imagine a parent calling the kids home for dinner.  Because they belong to that family.  Because they were given names, carefully chosen and picked out before they were born. Their names set them apart from the other kids playing football in the field.  When children hear their names called, they are aware of their place in the world.  They are wanted, and they are known by their name.

To realize that the Creator knows MY name, and uses it to call me, is such a big deal.  Because I have often needed to be reminded that I am not actually alone or forgotten or unknown. How I feel or how others make me feel, in any given season, doesn't brand me. GOD sees me!  HE knows my name!  

There is such security in knowing that I never have to open my prayers with, "Hello, God. Remember me?"

Thank goodness, too!  Because I'm probably going to keep sticking out my hand and re-introducing myself to the rest of you. Just in case.  

And that's one less awkward exchange ;-)
"I'm amazed at how well you know me.  It's more than I can understand (Psalm 139.6, NIRV)."

"Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.  All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely (1 Corinthians 13.12, NLT)."

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Being Okay With Who I Am: So Long, Doubt. Hello, Freedom.

I've come to a place in life where I'm okay with who I am. Not everyone can say this, I know. So I want to share a little bit about how I got here. 

For the majority of my life, I camouflaged myself to blend in.  I kept fairly quiet and smiled a lot, trying not to create a fuss.  Making myself as easy to get along with as possible, I never wanted to be anyone's enemy.  It was my self-protecting social tactic, which actually saved me a lot of drama throughout my school years. But it led to years of identity crisis.

My greatest motivator was to be liked.  I was (and still am, at times) a Grade A people pleaser.

All that I can point back to as a reason for this, is a combination of being a first-born child, as well as, growing up with divorced parents. I was happiest when others were happy with me- my teachers, my family, my friends. 

Unfortunately, the moods and opinions of others are hardly a reliable anchor for your self-esteem. It's probably safe to assume that everyone usually has their own best interest in mind, which can lead to those confusing thoughts that swirl around: Wait, why don't they agree with me?  Why haven't they called? Why do they talk to me that way? 

And then a crazy cycle ensues: I feel secure when others affirm me. When their presence or encouragement is absent, I feel insecure. I attempt to make things right or find another source of confidence, only to find my worth in the same unpredictable good graces of the people around me.

Then I am back to where I started:
Not knowing who I am, apart from what others think of me.  Always trying to prove to myself and to others that I was somebody.  But I was a mirage- a glimmer of who I wanted to be. Not solid, settled, or grounded.

Can anyone relate?

That all changed when, at a particularly low point a few years ago, a sweet woman I met in counseling asked me questions that stopped my unhealthy thought patterns:

Who ARE you?  Are you who THEY say you are?  Are you who you THINK you are? Or are you who GOD says you are?

It all comes down to what you believe.  And sometimes, you don't even realize the lies you've accepted as truth, until you're forced to take a really hard look at yourself. No matter how you FEEL, "the truth will set you free." 

The truth is that:
You are not alone.
You are loved and accepted.
You are valuable.

In the Bible, reminding yourself of what God promises, is what we call "renewing our minds." It doesn't get easy to re-train old habits, until you've practiced the good ones. Over and over, choose to believe that God has a plan and purpose for you- that no part of your personality or your story is useless. Don't waste precious time treading the waters of doubt.

We are living, growing people.  That means that we weren't meant to stay the same or burrow underground in fear.  We are always in a state of becoming.

Be okay with your areas of weakness, because it causes you to connect with friends who help you become stronger.  And your strengths (yes, you have them), can help someone else. All of these combined, make you more dependent on your Maker, which lets His glory and power shine through you. 

I once believed that I had nothing to offer. My constant need to be approved by others and the endless amount of comparing my abilities, brought me down to a place of hopeless anxiety.  I never, EVER want to go back there. 

Questioning myself and my worth is a dark and paralyzing place.
Knowing who I am and being at peace with who I am becoming, is light and freedom.

So when I hear a friend doubting herself, I have an immediate urge to grab the largest mirror and verbally re-create the image that she sees.  You ARE beautiful!  You are SO talented!  You are NOT crazy!  Believe me!  Believe God!
"For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago (Eph. 2:10)."
When you know who you truly are, it's like waking up from a bad dream. It's a sigh of relief. It's realizing, I'm okay.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Working Faith

As I approached the new year, I started to become aware of a mistaken mindset that I've had for a long time.  I have been seeing a trend in how skewed beliefs affect my decision-making.  All this time I blindly functioned with the assumption that I was doing the best I could.  

But what I have realized is this:  there is a glitch in my faith.

When  faced with something that seemed hard, I immediately translated that to mean that I wouldn't do it.  It's not because I was intentionally being rebellious or lazy.  I just considered obstacles as closed doors.  The difficulties were obvious signs that it wasn't the right time to take that path.  If it was remotely complicated, I thought that it wasn't meant to be.

Oh, ye of little faith.

What I have missed with this way of thinking is that space between the here and the supernatural.  Somewhere, faith and hope and peace and joy are floating around us unseen.  All these spiritual gifts, are just waiting to be inhaled into our souls- where we can't touch belief, but we can feel it.  

We can sense God in that place, holding out to us tiny wrapped packages. But we wonder if they're for someone else.  Or if we take a gift, we say, "Thank you," admire the thought, then set it aside and never use it.

Something like faith, was never meant to sit on a shelf.  It may appear a small thing, but it is packed with potential.  Faith can spark big things.  It can produce miracles.  It can change everything.  

Faith can.

When that race looks impossibly long, and we don't think we can finish...Faith can.
When starting over seems like a joke, because we haven't succeeded before...Faith can.
When there's no proof and there's no chance, faith swoops in and messes up all of our logic.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for- the evidence of things unseen.

It's not easy to explain.  And yet there are all these stories of one prayer, one person, one life-changing decision that have been traced back to just a little bit of faith.  Someone just took God for his word, opened his gift, and gave faith a try.

Faith works. 

But faith without works is dead.  It's unusable.  It's a thing without batteries or an operator.  It just sits their lifeless.  Wasted.

So really, there wasn't a glitch in my faith over the years.  I had forgotten to take my gift out of the box and turn on the switch. I thought that "having faith" would be enough.  Possessing it. Calling it mine.

When Jesus healed the crippled, the diseased, the blind, He accredited their faith for making them well. They asked.  They moved in a direction.  They looked for Him and found Him. 

It was their last chance.  It was worth the trouble and travel and criticism. It was their opportunity, and they took it.

Their faith WALKED.  It HEALED.  It WORKED.  Jesus said so.

Our faith is a combination of believing, doing, and Jesus. It's the point right before giving up and right after acknowledging that it's a team effort.  

So what if it's hard?

It comes down to this: Do I believe God enough to obey what He is asking of me, even if it doesn't look like it will work?  I can admit that I am limited, but God isn't.  I can only do so much, but at least I'm not standing stillActivating my faith just means that I start, and then He and I finish...together.

And practice makes perfect, right? 

 "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only..." -James 1:22

Monday, January 04, 2016

Keep Going: A Kind of Resolution

What if my New Year's resolution was just to keep going in 2016? 
What if I'm too tired to think of new ventures, and I'm doing great to not give up on this current gig?  
Is that even a resolution???

I'm wondering if it sounds depressing.  It doesn't seem all that inspiring.  Maybe it's not exciting enough. I don't know.

But, it fits the season I'm in.

Whether you're in the middle of homeschooling and carpooling, like I am, or you're jetting off to a meeting somewhere and juggling other responsibilities, we're all doing important work. Now.

It is super motivating to pick a day on the calendar as a goal or a deadline or a start date, but today needs my attention.  Right now. The homework, dinner prep, emotional meltdowns, and solving the disappearing sock mystery is about all I can focus on some days.  It only frustrates me to try to squeeze one more item on my agenda.

Embracing "now" is challenging enough, isn't it?  Being grateful and intentional and present is quite an undertaking in our world.  We're so busy, and there's still so much to do! Resolving to be happy, without wanting more or different or better, feels like both a worthy goal and a lofty aspiration.  

How do I do that? Give me lists!  Give me charts!  Give me the "how to," and I've got this!
Just don't leave me here long figuring it out on my own, because I'd like to get this over with and move on to the next thing!

And there it is again.  The hurry to get through whatever it is we're experiencing. 

What if it takes a little longer than you thought?  
What if the process of working hard on this job right in front you is actually the thing that makes you better?  

It's not the fun beginning or the blessed end.  It's the middle- working hard, and not giving up. Keep going, keep hoping, and keep doing good when it's not fun...and still not over. It's what the mom season is all about.

That's kind of a resolution, right? 

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance (1 Corinthians 13:7).

Let us not become tired of doing good.  At the right time we will gather a crop if we don't give up (Galatians 6:9).

But as for you, be strong and courageous, for your work will be rewarded (2 Chronicles 15:7).

The strength to go on [endurance, perseverance] produces character. Character produces hope (Romans 5:4).