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.

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.

Step Back- To Find the Way to Move Forward

It is hard to believe the holiday season is here.  Time marches on.  School started and I welcomed it with open arms.  While I relish the lazier days of summer, opportunity to step away from the schedules, I am always ready for back to school. Ready for the new schedules.  Ready for structure.  The structure and the schedules can fill up, and if not careful, the schedules crowd out everything else.

I found myself there a few weeks back.  Not just there, but feeling overwhelmed.  Then a small health issue and time was not enough.  The instinct for most of us it to push through.  I tell myself to give a little more, wake up a little earlier, go to bed a little later, skip lunch, say no to the home parties/social events.  No one wins in that.  Fatigue, frustration, loss of focus-that is all to be gained.

The only way to move forward is to take a step back.  It’s the counter-intuitive thing to do.  I step back.  I block off some time each day for a few weeks.  I have to stop.  It is not until I stop I can see what has consumed the time, the days.  It is not until I stop I can assess the time and the activities, knowing if the pieces fit or are indeed too much.  Those moments are for figuring out what is real, what is clutter.  Those moments are for taking time to go back to my true loves-making the time for that reminds me who I am, the life I have, and how to move forward becomes clear.

I talk about “white space” a lot when I talk about managing time.  White space gives me opportunity to breathe, to take in life, but they also give me opportunity for the unexpected.  When life becomes overwhelming, the plates can’t all be juggled and kept spinning the white spaces become the moments of clarity.  The white spaces are on my calendar and in the schedule I keep.  But spiritually, the white space is when I am still-the moments I quit telling God and instead I release it all and wait for Him.

BeStill

Step back in a moment of nothingness to be still, to find the way to move forward.

Stepping Away

I have stepped away from the blog for a bit.  In fact, I have stepped away from several things for a bit.  Stepping away is often necessary.  I’ll write more about that next week.  For now, I wanted to share a post by a friend I met through Holly Gerth’s site. Valerie Sisco has a heart for God and home.  I love following her blog and love when we have opportunity to share through comments.  Her post this past week spoke volumes into my heart as I was in a period of stepping back so I could step forward.

http://www.gracewithsilk.com/2015/10/when-doing-next-thing-is-way-forward.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=gracewithsilk

Three R’s for Raising Children

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Every event seems to be taking on new meaning lately.  We are nearing the end of our parenting journey-well, the parenting children at home journey.  It’s not easy for this mom.  I know they deserve to fly, to soar, but boy is it hard to think about a quiet house.

In the midst of it all I find myself thinking about all of the things I had hoped to teach, to share, to impress upon their hearts and minds.  My husband and I had to wait what seemed an eternity to have our girls.  The pregnancy road was long and hard and brought with it as much sorrow as it did joy.  We had a lot of time to pray.  We had a lot of time to think about what kind of parents we wanted to be.  We also worked in the Youth Ministry at our church so we saw a lot, worried with parents, walked students through frustration and anger with parents, saw great parenting, saw some bad parenting.  We took a lot of notes, we spent a lot of time with families soaking up their wisdom.  In the end, it boiled down to three things.  Three words that captured the core of what we hoped to impart to our girls.  Three things we hoped we lived out in front of them.  Even now as I look back at our own parenting journey, take stock and think towards the next two years, the final push, the same three R’s are still the main things.

  1.  Reverence:  Paul and I have a healthy fear of the Lord and His holiness.  Not a brimstone and fire kind of fear, but a healthy fear.  We live life with a complete understanding that we serve a Mighty God who is all powerful, all knowing.  He is the creator of heaven and earth.  He is Holy.  He can part the waters, heal the lame.  He allows Satan to roam this earth and He has in His infinite wisdom given all of us as humans freewill, the choice to choose whom we shall serve.  We want our girls to have reverence for God.  Knowing they have reverence helps us to feel more confident that God is indeed Lord of their lives.  We want them to see Him as Holy and deserving of their awe, their devotion.  No one else deserves that same kind of adoration.  Knowing they have a healthy fear of God gives us some assurance that they desire to love Him for Who He is and that an outflow of that love is to do His will, to obey His Word.  We also believe that reverence for the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and that we desire above all else for ourselves and our girls.  (Deut. 4:10, Deut. 6:2, Psalm 19: 9, Psalm 33:8, I Peter 2:17)
  2. Respect:  More than ever we feel this one is important.  We have raised our girls to know they must show respect to those in authority, beginning with us, their parents.  Yes, we expect our girls to say “Yes sir.”  “No ma’am.”  We expect them to follow rules and show respect to teachers, coaches, bible study leaders, other parents.  We have always told them that if anyone in authority asks them to do anything that makes them fearful or uncomfortable they are to ask to make immediate contact with us.  We have always told them if they disagree with authority they are to show respect, share their opinion with us and then we will discuss an appropriate game plan (which often means they just have to suck it up and move on.)  By in large we have told our girls there is never an excuse to disrespect another person-even when we do not like their behavior, or their views.  This is increasingly difficult in a day and age when most people seem to think their rights out way showing respect, but we believe it is a Christ like behavior.  You can respectfully disagree.  You can respectfully get angry. Respect is paramount to honoring another individual and their worth.
  3. Responsibility:  We want our girls to know they have been given much.  They are blessed to have been born in this country, where affluence abounds, freedom of religion still exists, opportunities are abundant.  We want them to know they belong to God and their lives, their choices, their words, their deeds should exhibit that.  We set high expectations for their behavior and hold them accountable for doing what they are supposed to do, for carrying out their work (whether school work, athletics, chores, paid employment, volunteer work).  We teach them priorities, reminding them they are first to serve God, then family, then church and others.

Even as I type these words I think of lessons yet to teach.  I think of the times my husband and I have failed to live out these principles ourselves.  Yet at the same time I see these principles being lived out and I know the three R’s have served us well.  I know the three R’s have made a difference.  I know we will continue to focus on these three R’s.

Reverence, Respect, Responsibility-this family’s formula, our guiding principles.

Family: the Ties that Bind

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Father’s Day.  As with any holiday there are those who celebrate with great joy, but I am mindful too there are those who struggle with this holiday, having been abandoned, hurt or maybe even never knowing their father.  I thought of those yesterday, maybe because in my circle I know too many struggling there.  Maybe because it was the Spirit’s prompting as I seek this year to be mindful of joy, to be mindful of others.

My small family is pictured above.  A family my husband and I longed to have, waited to have, and fight for every single day.  As I watched my girls prepare for the day, celebrate their father, I had to pause and thank God, not just for this man of mine, but for giving me the wisdom and the discernment 26 years ago to pick this man.  26 years ago my own family was going through a difficult time.  Relationships were strained.  Somehow in the midst of it all, I was able to see this man for who he was.  He didn’t let the strained relationships of my family deter him, instead he became my rock, my encourager. He often held me accountable, reminding me time heals, and that what I did with the situation would set the course for my life, more than the situation itself.

My girls wanted to get their dad a tie this year.  Yes, the proverbial tie.  It was a stylish little Southern Tide model.  They always seek to keep their dad in the latest and greatest.  He loved it.  He really did!  As I reflected though over the course of the day the tie became symbolic.  My husband works for himself and NEVER dresses up for work.  However, he is a traditionalist when it comes to worship and every Sunday dresses in his very best-right down to the tie.  The tie for him is  a symbol of “best”, a reminder of more traditional days and times.  It is a reminder to me I married a man who values tradition, not in an “I refuse to change kind of way”, but in a traditional values and morals matter kind of way.  He believes in family.  He fights for family.  He encourages family and friends a like to value their family.  He has raised our girls to honor family, even in the difficult times, even when it hurts.  He holds firm to the biblical teaching that God created family, it is His plan for man on earth.  It was created long before the church.  Family matters, and matters more than church, work, ministry.  Family isn’t ALL that matters, but it is priority, it is the foundation on which societies are built.  I am so thankful this man has taught right priorities, has lived what he preaches.

Our family is far from perfect.  On both sides of our family we have those who have hurt us, some who have strayed from faith, others who have never known faith.  I am thankful the leader of my family says, “That’s no excuse to quit family.”  I am thankful my girls are learning grace, how to give it and how to except it through family relationships.

Families are the ties that bind.  They are the building blocks of society, they are the building blocks of the church.  How we manage our families, how we respond to crisis, hurt and disappointment in our families reflects our faith.  Who we are at home reflects our true selves.  Families are the ties that bind.

The Love Hate Relationship with Summer

Summer.  It is amazing to me how we as moms can have such a love hate relationship with summer.  Come about April most of us begin to long for the “lazy” days of summer.  We are tiring of the lunch making, the homework, the after-school activities, the schedules.  We dream of days filled with no schedule, moments by the pool, sleeping in a little later (if we are lucky), no back packs to check, no homework to battle through.

Then summer hits.  BAM!  Within the matter of a few days we begin to seek out activities.  What will we do with these children all summer?  The camps, birthday parties, family vacation, reunions, etc… fill the calendar and we realize that in no time at all we will back at it.  We gaze at the long list of all we thought we’d do this summer and realize there is no way!

It is a love hate relationship.  But isn’t much of life that way?  Too often we look forward to something missing the moments right in front of us.  We find ourselves in the midst of the time we anticipated and we panic, we realize we have failed to plan or the reality of our limited time hits us in the face.  In a matter of moments we can go from dreaming to being overwhelmed and panicked. The words ” I’m bored”, are uttered by a child and our emotions go through the roof.

Our family intentionally cleared our calendar this summer.  No family vacation.  No camps.  We decided instead to simply be at home, a home we just had the opportunity to build.  We decided to go with the unexpected, to spend more time with family and friends.  I decided to keep pursuing better health and engage in more of my creative pursuits.

beachseatSounds great doesn’t it.  A “lazy” summer at home.  Well, let me be honest.  Two weeks in and the above picture is where I think I want to be.  I’m missing the family vacation.  I’m doubting our decisions-even though we reached them as a family.  I see what others are doing and I feel the comparisons creeping in.  Why?  Why do we go there?

I know why I do.  I take my eye off the prize.  I look around more than I look within.  I forget that I am right where God wants me to be, with the people He has entrusted to my care for just a little while.  I forget that through prayer and seeking we made decisions we believed were best for us.  I forget to trust He will see us through, even the leaner times, the darker times.

So, while I have moments wishing I was in a chair on the beach, I am going to focus on being where I am.  I’m going to treasure the moments by my pool listening to nieces and nephews laugh, taking in the squeals of high school girls, breathing in deep the quiet moments captured sitting alone in the sun by my little space of paradise.  I’m going to be thankful for a home in which we rest, land safely.  I’m going to appreciate the fact my 16 year old daughters would rather be here than elsewhere, that they still share with their dad and I.

Summer is here.  I have anticipated it.  I’m going to rest in it-soak it up.  I’m not going to rush it.  I’m not going to fall prey to the comparisons, the regrets, the looking around.  I’m going to take today for what it is and be-be in the moment, be grateful, be content.