You Can Have it All, Just Not All at Once

This week I have been doing a little evaluating of my current life.  Back to full time work, two girls graduating high school, a home to manage, friends to see…  As I pondered my own frustrations, disappointments, I also saw a post from another hard working mom asking if there was such a thing as balance.  Another young mom messaged me asking how I managed, what could she do different.

As women we all struggle.  It is hard to be all the things we want to be.  Sometimes we have choices, other times the circumstances of our lives dictate whether or not we have choices.  As Christian women the struggle can run deep.  Not only do we hold ourselves to the standard of the world, but we hold ourselves up to the Proverbs 31 woman and create expectations we often can’t meet.

Going back to work at age 50 is a completely different experience from that of my 20s. It’s not better, it’s not worse.  It is just different.  Experience has taught me.  Struggles with anxiety and fear have moved me.  As I thought about the questions of dear friends, as I pondered my own momentary frustration I was reminded that today matters.  What I choose today is what matters most.  Who I am today affects my tomorrow.  I cannot be all things to all people at all times, but I can be who I need to be today to the persons God brings across my path.  I can choose today to return home from work and turn my attention to the ones I love most, preparing food, washing clothes, caring for their needs. There is not a lot of time for relaxation, for outings, for extra time with friends.  But that is okay.  All too soon the girls will be gone, their adult lives unfolding.  I will no longer have the chance to wash their clothes, light a candle to say welcome home, cook their favorite meal.  When that time comes there will be more time for friends, for personal rest.

Life is a journey.  Spiritual growth is a journey.  I can have it all, just not all at once.  Each season brings new opportunities.  Each season requires saying no to some things, so others can be cherished.  As I read back through scripture I am reminded the Proverbs 31 woman lived a full life.  She too experienced and lived her life in seasons.  And most of all, I am reminded that what God desires I learn from her is her character traits- patience, love, perseverance, joy, hope.

Remember.  God has you in this season to do His work where you are at this time.  You won’t be able to do it all right now.  But over a lifetime you just might have the chance. Be patient, love well, persevere, and hope in the future.

 

Proverbs 31:10-31New International Version (NIV)

Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character

10 [a]A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

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Breathing,Breaking,Beholding

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I took a break from the blog.  I needed to step back, to really push through to the other side.  I began this blog as an accountability tool for myself.  It then morphed into an opportunity to share about my passion for home and organization, along with spiritual lessons.  Then one day, it just seemed there was nothing to say, my thoughts were dark and anxiety and bitterness were becoming more a way of thinking and living.

Somewhere between facing some changes in our finances, ongoing extended family relationship struggles, approaching the empty nest years, I began to spiral.  My thoughts were consumed with the “what if”…”why didn’t I”… “why does she” questions.  It seemed that nothing in my family relationships would change, and that depression and anger would continue to steal from our relationships.  It seemed at age 49 there were not many prospects for entering the workforce, engaged in something I was passionate about, creating a new identity for myself outside of motherhood.  The chaos of the world seemed to only confirm what I feared.  I was tired.  Anxiety woke me at odd hours, my chest feeling as though an elephant were sitting on it, and breathing was hard, shallow.  Fatigue kept me from moving, doing and too often the end of the day found me sitting face to face with regret, angry at myself for letting the worries win.

I would like to tell you that during my morning quiet time or a church service God spoke, pulled me from the pit.  I’d love to tell you about a “burning bush” moment, but that is not my story.  Instead, it has been a slow process, one that began with a desire to exercise, strengthen my physical being, burn off some steam.  I have slowly climbed my way out of the pit, dragging my body up the muddy hill, pushing, pulling, crying, laughing.

I joined a local gym and signed myself up for personal training.  I did it without talking to my friends or family (yes even my husband, which I do not recommend if you are on a tight budget).  I decided I had to do something on my own, for myself.  I needed to make just one small decision and just do something.  I am not going to lie.  I did it with a little bit of rebelliousness.  It has been amazing!  In a matter of thirty short minutes the trainer can push me through exercises that cause my heart to race, my muscles to ache and my body to sweat.  Learning to use equipment I didn’t know existed, pushing myself past that moment of “I can’t”.  At the end of each session with the last count done and the high five slap a sense of empowerment, accomplishment set in.  What I thought I could not do, I could do.  In fact not only could I do it, but I could do more than what was expected. Pushing myself physically, having someone to speak truth as I pushed, hurt, struggled, got me over the hump.  As I began to see and feel the difference in my physical being I began to realize how much I had let Satan fill my mind with his lies.  I realized that while I was a good Baptist girl who read her bible every morning, attended church and bible studies, I was not letting God’s truth fill my mind.  I was choosing to believe the lies, the distorted messages of Satan and it had and was robbing me of life.  I was focused on all that I didn’t have, on the hard parts of life and was ignoring all that I did have, all I had access to through Christ.

What began as a journey to renew my physical body has become a journey to renew my mind.  I have taken every negative thought captive and wrestled with it, searching out God’s truth.  Some wrestling matches have lasted months, while others stop and start. Some matches I have won and God’s truth reigns.  Everything about us, our thoughts and our actions, rest upon what we believe.  I believe I am the daughter of Christ, made in His image.  His Spirit resides in me and gives me access to His power, the power to overcome, to live free.

If you are struggling I want to encourage you.  Step back, breath, take a break and behold God’s truth.  Let each Word sink in.  Release the lies.

The funny thing is not a lot about my life has changed.  The truth is, I haven’t really changed.  I am still me, the girl I have always been, with the same personality, talents and gifts.  Depression and anxiety still have a hold on a family member.  My girls are still headed to college.  My husband’s business is still recovering from the economic crisis of a few years back.  I have had friends bury children, walk through divorce, and lose jobs.  The difference is what I choose to believe.

truth

 

When Faith Falters

I haven’t posted in a while, a long while.  For one, it is summer and time to savor the moments with family, enjoy a less hectic schedule.  More importantly though I have been processing God’s work in my life.

I began this blog as an accountability piece for myself.  I am a processor, a thinker.  That is not always a good thing.  I can get bogged down in the thinking and fail to act.  I can get caught up in worry and anxiousness as I let my thoughts get the best of me.  I often fall back into the old habit of striving, instead of waiting.  I have done a lot of all the above over the past 5-6 years.  A collapse in economy, changes in my relationship with family, having to end practical support for someone my husband and I love and honor, wondering what life would hold when my girls completed high school, and suddenly I found myself living in a place of anxiety and worry.  My faith faltered.  In all honesty, I was more shaken than I had ever been.

Today as I write, I am so incredibly grateful for God’s grace.  I am so thankful He reminded me time and time again that faltering in my faith does not make me less, nor does it in any way impact His love for me, my salvation, my worth.  More than that, I am glad he saw me through the storm, He opened my eyes to the lessons I needed to learn, and that in the end, He brought about His purposes in His time.  “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.”  I Corinthians 15:10a

The journey is the important part of life.  Embracing the season, acknowledging where we are, sharing the struggles.  My faith faltered.  Would I love to have walked the path in perfect faith?  I would love to be without sin, to never grieve my Savior, but He alone holds that place of perfection.  I treasure the journey.  I treasure each lesson.  I treasure knowing Him in new ways.  His grace is sufficient.  His grace has indeed had an effect on me.

If you are struggling today, if you feel less than, remember He alone is perfect.  Remember His grace is sufficient.  Let His grace have an effect upon your heart, mind and actions.

Unity of Thought, Word & Action

This week as I was reading from several leadership books, I came across the above definition of integrity.  Integrity is the unity of thought, word and action.  I was struck by that definition.  I usually think of integrity in terms of someone holding to high values, maintaining a position or set of values.  This definition struck a chord.

My word of the year is consistency.  As I read this new found definition of integrity I could not help but think about my own quest to be consistent.  It seemed to me the two were suddenly one and the same.  I desire to be consistent in my thoughts, words and actions.  I want to be true to the values I profess to hold, the passions I say I have, the priorities I have chosen.

So, in the end does being consistent lead me to integrity?  Or is integrity being consistent?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that word unity changes everything.

I have been in a very difficult leadership position as of late.  It has strained friendships, brought tension into my home and seeds of doubt have overtaken my mind.  It is easy in those times to want to push back, fight, bring people together in thought, word and action.  Five to six years ago that is exactly what I would have done.  But here is the truth.  I can not control other people.  I can’t cause someone to love something the way I do.  I can’t persuade someone to see value in someone or something.  I can’t force people to do what they say and mean what they say.   As I watch those who say they understood and desired the same things I did, step back, distance themselves from me, I am reminded that all too often we abandon our words, thoughts or choose a different course of action.  We live in a world where there always seems to be the desire to have a winning group and a losing group.  We live in a world where people desire to be right for rights sake, or seek to avoid any conflict at the cost of abandoning their morals and values.   I cringe at the divide that has been created and I know it to be wrong.  Unity.  The only way for anyone or anything to succeed, to grow, to develop, to be true.

I heeded the words of my wise husband this weekend and stepped back from the situation. I was raw.  I was alone.  But as I stepped back I realized my only real choice, the only thing I could really do was check my own behavior.  I am very sincere in my desire to see a holistic, full beyond measure approach to this particular thing.  I believe and value the legacy left by so many who plowed the fields, paved the way so that this thing could exist.  I didn’t take this leadership position to be right.  I didn’t take this leadership position to build a kingdom or to pick a side.  I took this leadership position because I believe that people can come together, can create programs that develop whole beings.  I believe in grace and I know my God to be greater than all that is within me.  To be consistent then I have to continue to show grace, I have to continue to extend an open invitation for all to work alongside each other.  I have to continue to put myself out there, knowing I will be hurt, disappointed, fatigued.  I can’t choose a side, even when others want to make me.  I can’t seek to win at the numbers game, but have to stay focused on the purpose, the calling.

This place I am right now is hard.  It is worth it though, because I desire to grow more consistent and I know this is but a learning opportunity.

consistency

I have access to the Master Teacher, the Christ who knew no sin yet bore the world’s.  The God who can be trusted, who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  May this journey to be more consistent make me more like Him.

 

The Little Box I Can’t Live Without

Prayerbox

Prayer.  One of the most difficult spiritual disciplines.  I have prayed as long as I can remember.  I believe in the power of prayer.  I have seen God answer prayer in a matter of moments, in weeks and years.  Yet, my prayer life seems to an area I struggle.  Despite all i know about prayer, I struggle to be consistent.  Yes, that word again.  Consistent.  I don’t really struggle to pray, but I struggle with remembering who I promised to pray for.  I struggle to articulate my prayers.  I give up on prayers when not answered my way or in my timing.  For years (23+) I have journaled.  Those journals hold my inner most thoughts, and much of what I have written becomes prayer.  I often look back through those journals and am reminded, struck with a recurring truth or convicted by lessons already learned.  But in recent years, the journaling alone just didn’t seem to be capturing the entirety of my prayer life.  I wanted more.  I wanted to be more faithful (consistent) in interceding on behalf of others.

The little box pictured above is my Prayer Box, my little version of a Prayer Room.  I LOVE it.  It is simple.  I purchased the box and the embellishment at Hobby Lobby.  I purchased tabbed dividers at Mardells Christian Bookstore.

PrayerBox2

I have divided the box by category and subject.  The pink is for all things related to home: family members, physical home.  Blue is for volunteer activities and organizations I am involved with.  Green is for my business and clients.  Orange is for friends and acquaintances.  I simply date a note-card and write out my prayer and any related scripture. When a prayer is answered I write the date on the back of the card and a prayer of thanksgiving.  On occasion I will send the card on to the person for whom I prayed.  Most often I simply place the card in the back of the box.  There are times when I feel compelled to alter my prayer.  I simply date another card, write out my new prayer and staple it to the front of the original prayer card.

I LOVE my box.  I still journal and often prayers from my journal make it to my prayer box. However, my prayer box has proved a much more effective way to consistently pray.  I keep the box next to the chair where I spend my morning quiet time.  I look through it every single morning.  If a prayer request seems more urgent, or I am prompted by the Holy Spirit, I pull a card and carry it with me throughout the day.  Sometimes I hang the most pressing prayer cards on the back of my master closet door so I am prompted to pray each morning and evening.  I love the flexibility this box system affords me.  I don’t feel limited by space.  I am not having to flip back through journal pages looking for a specific request.  Pages are cluttered with extra notes, lines drawn through answered prayers etc..  it is portable.  I can grab the box and pack it or pull out the prayer cards and slide them into my organizer.  I LOVE it.

Prayer is vital to our spiritual being.  Prayer is the opportunity to connect with God.  I believe in prayer.  I want to be a powerful prayer warrior.  I want to persevere, not giving up and believing with faith action.

If you have struggled with prayer, or like me, want to grow your prayer life I challenge you to create your own little prayer box.  See what God will do.

Steps to Creating a Prayer Box

  1. Select a pretty box that speaks to your creative spirit.
  2. Purchase tabbed dividers. You can find them at any office supply store.
  3. Label the dividers according to subject:  Who do you engage with daily?  Where do you serve?
  4. Set aside 2-3 thirty minute segments over the course of this next week to write out prayer cards.  Put in writing those prayer requests you already have committed to. Begin to place those prayers in the appropriate categories.
  5. Each morning look through your prayer box.  Follow the Spirit’s prompting as you name each prayer.  Pull out those you feel compelled to ponder over.

Prayer boxes are great for families and children.  When my girls were young we kept a small box on the kitchen table.  They would pull a card each evening to pray over.  You can simplify or expand the idea above to meet a multitude of needs.

Follow Up to Editing

In follow up to my post today about editing as a means of moving towards more consistency in certain areas of my life, I wanted to share the post from Arabah.  I love her writings and this post, in particular, spoke to my heart as I move towards consistency, wrap up a study in James and obedience and edit!  May it encourage you as much as it encouraged me.

http://arabahjoy.com/promises/

Consistent

This year my word is consistent.  In the past my word for the year has been more about a quality I want to have or a skill I want to improve.  However, this year, after a roller coaster of a ride these past three years, I felt prayerfully led to be consistent.  Like Paul, I so often know what to do, and yet I fail to do it.  I desire to serve God with my whole being-body, spirit and mind.   Yet so often these past three years I have let fear or doubt sink into the depths of my mind, keeping me from God’s best.

It is scary approaching 50.  Not only that, but as I approach 50 my twin girls turn 18 and leave the next for college.  I find myself longing to have something to take the place of 18 years at home, giving full-time to manage our home and raise our daughters.  In the midst of thinking toward the future I can fall into the trap of second guessing, wondering if I have been enough, and doubting there is a place for me.  I am learning though, learning that Satan knows just how to sidetrack me.  I am learning how to overcome the doubt, stop the negative talk before it settles deep into my mind.  I am growing.

I am grateful for the lessons of these past few years.  I can’t say I have any clearer sense of what lies ahead, but this I know.  The more consistent I am to fill my mind with God’s word, to establish habits that bring me greater health and physical strength, the more able I am to see the appointments God has placed before me right now.  I am also reminded as I stop along the path each day to sit in His presence, He desires nothing more from than I finish this stay-at-home mom thing strong!  I am so thankful for friends who speak truth into my life.  I am so thankful for the habit or morning quiet time with God that sets my heart, mind and spirit straight for the day.  This year, the task at hand is to keep my heart, mind and spirit straight-to be consistent:  unchanging in achievement or effect over a period of time; compatible or in agreement with something (God!)

Next Steps Instead of New Goals

It’s that time of year.  Goals, resolutions, one word challenges.  I have done it all.  I have set goals.  I have run from goals.  I have made broad resolutions and I have championed a word for myself.  And like you, I have found myself disappointed, frustrated, and on occasion have experienced a sense of accomplishment.

This year is different.  This year has been about stepping back, so I could move forward.  This year has been about letting go so I could experience more joy, more freedom.  This year has been about settling into the here and now, trusting God with the future.  As I have settled into this new way of thinking, living, being, I have come to realize that I don’t need new goals each year.  What I need are next steps.  Rome was not built in a day. I will not become the best version of myself in a years’ time.   Goals take years to achieve.  And often, even when we think we have arrived, we realize there is farther to go.

footprints

This year there are no new goals, just some new next steps.  I have some steps I need to take again, but by in large, there are new next steps.  I don’t want to rush life.  I don’t want to strive and grab at life.  I want to relish the lessons along the way, taking it one step at a time.  I want to move past doing and continue to learn to be.  I want to be content with progress, not seeking success in vain.  I want to move forward more than I move backward.  I want to keep perspective, remembering life is so much bigger than me.  I want to live simply, to take one step at a time.  Next steps will guide me this year.  Next steps will bring me closer to my goals. Next steps hold promise.

What are your next steps?  Give yourself permission to grow, stretch.  Give yourself permission to keep the same goals.  Acknowledge the accomplishments, determine what you can do more of or do better. Commit to next steps.

 

Do You Need to Go Off the Grid?

Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Blogs, Snapchat, Internet scrolling etc…  The digital age is indeed a blessing.  We have information readily available.  We have immediate access to current events and up to date information of family and friends afar.  Creative inspiration is at our fingertips.  However, with every blessing can come pitfalls.  Those very digital sites holding information and hope, can capture our attentions for far too long.  We can move in a matter of seconds from seeking creative inspiration to spiraling into a depression feeling inadequate, less fortunate etc…   As easily as we can access others and their information, we too can be accessed, often leading to increased obligations, some not really meant to be, yet in that digital nano second we say “yes”.

The week before Thanksgiving found me in a state of mess.  Fortunately I live by my own mantra – keep lots of white space.  As a result emergencies or unexpected events don’t cause as much havoc in my life as they used to – when I lived full throttle, filling every moment of every day.  The white space in my life and on my calendar affords me room to deal with the unexpected.  However, sometimes life throws us more curve balls than we could ever imagine.  Not only that, but sometimes the things we are involved with present to us all sorts of appealing opportunities.  I was in the midst of both – the unexpected and the allure of many good things.

I have found the longer I practice Sabbath living, a more simplified lifestyle, the more my spirit and body react to the “mess”.  The tension mounts in my neck.   My eating habits change and my stomach doesn’t act the same.  I lose focus.  What can be my best traits begin to compound and become my worse traits.

Have you been there?  Are you there now?  Do you feel yourself slipping into the abyss?  Don’t let it go any farther.  I have found the best solution, really the only solution is for me to unplug, go off the grid.  I don’t quit taking care of business, but I give myself permission to quit answering email, stay off social network sites, limit phone calls.  I change my voice message on my phone, I set up a vacation notice on my email…  That is what I did the week of Thanksgiving.  It was fabulous.  Not only that, but the world did not come to an end.  No one called me angry.  No one called claiming an emergency.  It was o.k.

Don'tNeedPlan

The week afforded me the opportunity to breathe, to let go, to focus.  I still had a lot to do, but I was able to get back to that which mattered most, my “best yes” tasks (as Lysa Terkeurst would say).  I was able to pull back from a difficult situation and in prayer and reflection see it for what it was.  A set-back, not a disaster.  A matter out of my control and not my responsibility.  I was able to fill some of the white space with the tasks that bring me energy, fill my spirit:  coffee with my girls, brunch with my best friend, a good book by the fire, decorating and setting the Thanksgiving table, and baking.  When I engage in those things that bring me joy, nurture my spirit I find I can more easily recognize my “best yes” tasks.  I can more readily see the good in life.  I hear the still small voice of my Savior telling me, “this is the way.”

Sometimes the plan is there.  The plan isn’t wrong, we have just lost site of the plan.  Stepping back, going off the grid creates the quiet in which we can think, be reminded, enjoy.

 

What Does It Mean to Be Organized? I Say It Means Nothing

Organization.  Purging.  Margin.  White Space.  Time Management.  Minimalism.  Simplifying.  Downsizing.

Google any one of those words and thousands upon thousands of articles, blog links, advertisements pop up.  We live in a high tech, fast paced, immediate gratification world and yet it seems all are seeking a simpler life, or ways to better manage the craziness of their life.

As a young mom, I sought to learn everything I could about managing my home, managing my time.  Some came naturally to me.  I like order.  I don’t like a lot of stuff, so shopping and collecting are not big issues for me (well unless we are talking dishes or shoes).  I am also an introvert, so staying home in lieu of a jam packed schedule didn’t feel awkward.  I ran my house with my 6 month old twins like a well oiled machine and took great pride when asked ” How do you do it all?”  From the outside my life looked great.  It was a good life.  I had healthy baby girls, a beautiful home, a wonderful husband, circle of friends through my almost daily tennis and weekly church involvement…  The truth however was that I was burning the candle at both ends.  I was quick to snap at my girls, get frustrated when they didn’t sleep as the schedule dictated.  The smallest interruption always felt like a huge disruption.  I was hard on myself and hard on my husband.

One day as my frustration had mounted, frustration with myself, I was struck by the fact that I was spinning my wheels trying to be organized-be efficient.  I was juggling all the balls and squeezing it all in, but at what price.  Being efficient was not creating the life I longed for.  God took me back to Proverbs 31, that woman we love to hate and long to be like.  As I read the passages again, God invited me to really get to know the lady, to look beyond the scripture as a litany or to do list and look at the impact of one woman’s life.    In those moments my whole view of organization changed.  I no longer wanted to be the most efficient.  Efficiency was replaced with a desire to be effective.  I wanted to live an orderly life so God could use me to impact my girls, their friends, my friends, our neighbors.  I didn’t want to be known for what I could get done in a day, I wanted to be known for having time to invest in others.  I wanted to see interruptions as opportunities to be the hands and feet of Christ.  I wanted our excess to bless others, whether it was purging to pass on, or shopping for others instead of ourselves.

Organization and efficiency are the world’s ways.  There is no such thing as being organized.  There is however a way to live a disciplined life that brings order and affords you the time and space in which to serve others.  Striving to be organized leads to fatigue and frustration.  Striving to be organized means being captive to our things, our schedules, our work.  That is not God’s design.  His design is that we live free, free to serve Him, free from the confines of stuff and schedules.

I still fall prey to the world’s call to be organized.  I even make a living helping others get their stuff organized.  However, I seek to approach every day asking myself if the purging, the sorting, the stacking, the time blocking is my attempt to control an unruly life, one I no longer really manage, or is it to afford me the opportunity to bless another person, invest in another person.  I am not interested in the pursuit of efficiency unless it helps me be effective.