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.

Winter Comfort-Soup is On

I love to cook.  Being a part of Debbie Arnold’s food blog is always a special treat and privilege.  If you know anything about Debbie Arnold, you know she is an amazing cook and is full of great tips (which she shares on Arkansas KTHV 11 During Dining with Debbie).  It is always a little humbling to prepare a dish to share on her blog, but the other aspect of Debbie Arnold is her genuineness and love of gathering in the kitchen.   She is a down to earth home cook who inspires you to jump right in and share the kitchen.

Transitioning back to work full-time outside of the home has made cooking at home a little more difficult.  However, I still believe that relationships are most often built around the table.  We were created to need sustenance.  We were created to need relationship.  The table draws us together, allowing for two of our basic needs to be met. That belief, my desire to nurture my family physically and emotionally keeps me working to find ways to meal plan better, to slow down and let the cooking time also be bonding time, and letting go of some of my “perfectionist” expectations of myself.  Meals have become a little simpler.  The crock pot finds it way to my counter at least once a week.  My girls play a bigger role, getting something started as I am on my way home or taking on one of the dishes as we put a complete meal together.  I have also found I turn to some of our favorites more often, cooking less variety during the week.   It just helps keep things simple, and keeps us at home.

Today, I am sharing one of the few soup recipes my family can agree upon and devour in less than an hour.  Cajun Shrimp Chowder.  The recipe, originally passed along to me by a friend from Louisiana, has been given a few Chaplin tweaks. It was the perfect bowl of warmth and comfort after church today.

I hope you enjoy the recipe.  Spend a little extra time around the dinner table this week with family and/or friends.  In a world filled with sadness, turmoil, and busyness we all need the comfort of good food, good company, good fellowship.

cajun-shrimp-chowder

Serve One Another

As a missionary kid I grew up in the midst of people giving their whole lives to service, to making the difference in someone else’s life, seeking to help and to share the gospel. Opportunities to travel the globe as a child and youth exposed me to needs, to political structures which stifled and caused harm to citizens.  I knew from the age of 14 I wanted to work in public service.

This week thousands of us in public service, join the Points of Light Foundation in remembering President Bush’s inaugural speech and his call to action.  We honor him, the legacy he built.  I remember watching the speech.  I remember the reference to the non-profit and government programs spread across the country “like shining stars”.  I remember, in those moments, knowing I had chosen the career that was right for me. Today, as I serve the citizens of Arkansas, President Bush’s words continue to inspire me. Programs and processes do not change people.  Programs ad processes may offer help, they may meet a concrete need, but they do not change people.  People change people.  I believe that, not just because of years of service with government and nonprofit organizations, but I believe that because I know we were created by God to have relationship.  We were created to need one another.

My work plans for 2017 involve the launch of a system to connect people to other people, helping people meet the needs of others.  In my personal life my desire for 2017 is to strengthen existing relationships and open myself up to new ones, to respond to needs when I see them.  As a mother, my greatest desire has been to teach my children to connect to others, to see the needs of those around them and sacrifice their time and resources to meet them.  That character trait is one I have desired to instill and rates high above grades or popularity in our home.  My prayer this week is that they, my girls, and you will read the words of President Bush, be inspired, and then take action.

http://www.pointsoflight.org/people/board-members/president-george-h-w-bush

LoveAllHeart

 

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.

Family: the Ties that Bind

2014-04-20 12.19.06

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.

25 Years Looking Back

My husband and I celebrated 25 years of marriage this week.  We did so with little pomp and circumstance.  When we first got married I remember talking about extravagant trips when we hit the 25 year mark.  Funny how life changes.  No extravagant trips.  Instead we had a quiet week (our girls have been gone) and spent much of it reflecting on the past, making some decisions for the present and prioritizing for the future.  We celebrated with a quiet evening out, thinking how quickly time had passed.

wedding-anniversary-cake-ideas-nice

Our marriage is a testament to the grace of God.  By all measures, we shouldn’t have made it.  We can now laugh about it, but we seriously faced just about every stressor you could face in our first 5 years of marriage. My parents divorced about a year before I got married.  That meant lots of emotions running high during the wedding planning and day of.  It also meant VERY limited resources and I had to be creative.  Two weeks after our honeymoon a cyst was found on my cervix and we went through a “this could be cancerous” scare.  Fortunately it was not, but out-patient surgery followed.  Within our first 18 months of marriage my mother lived with us and then my brother.   Within the first 2 years of marriage Paul’s mom was diagnosed with cancer, we built a home, entered a 6 year long infertility phase, and my mother lived with us again.  Paul’s mom passed away shortly after our three year anniversary.  My brother lived with us one more time and over the course of the next 15 years my mother lived with us several more times for various lengths of time.  The firm Paul had been working for disbanded and we were faced with opening his own appraisal firm.

I won’t bore you with any more details, but as you can see, our marriage was full of stressors at the beginning.  I wish I could tell you we handled it all well, but we didn’t.  There were arguments.  I was on some occasions an emotional wreck. We were hurt, disappointed, angry and often felt alone.  So how did we survive?  By the grace of God, and a whole lot of humor.  I don’t say that tritely.  There were moments we both wanted to call it quits.  We loved each other, but boy was it hard to like each other some days.  Not to mention, we both grew weary.  Have you ever been there?  You don’t want to give up, but you just honestly don’t have the energy to keep going?  My husband, a fixer like most men, felt defeated on many a day.  I can remember evenings when we didn’t have the energy or emotional reserves to be happy or angry.  There were even moments when the only words we could speak were, “Divorce is not an option.”

Thankfully during those difficult years we also had much to celebrate.  We welcomed three nieces/nephews.  We built three homes.  We had some fabulous vacations with friends.  Paul’s business flourished.  We worked in the youth department and had lots of entertainment as we served and bonded with those students, many still dear friends.  We had a pastor who prayed for us, walked alongside us, and again, became a very special friend.  The day we finally arrived at the hospital for an emergency C-section this dear pastor immediately brought his staff and prayed over me and the staff as I was wheeled into surgery.

This week as we looked back, while the difficult times were real and are still vivid in our memories, we were able to think more of the joy, the lessons, the character building.  We are able to stand at the 25 year mark truly believing we can survive anything-by the grace of God.  We are able to see that while we made decisions to help family too much, financially gave too much, we also see that each decision was made based upon scripture, our desire to honor our mother and father, to care for family, the wounded, the desolate.  My husband is so good at staying away from the “coulda, woulda, shoulda” thoughts.  (unlike myself)  My husband is so good at looking to the future with hope, trusting God.  Throughout each decision he has always looked me in the eye and said, “He will provide.  He always has and He always will.  Not necessarily what we want, but it will be what we need and what we can handle.”  I married a rock.  Sometimes a stubborn rock, but that is another story.  I married a rock, a man of faith who gives way more than he takes, who fights for family and lives by faith. He brings laughter into our days and keeps his eye on the prize.

Standing at the 25 year mark feels good.  I would love to have taken some of the moments back.  I’d love to have NOT experienced some of the experiences.  Yet, as we stand together in this place I know we are who we are because of each moment, each experience.  I have no doubt we’ll make the next 25 years.  I also have no doubt they won’t be easy.  I have no doubt we have more trials to face, more heart ache ahead.  I also know we have much joy ahead.  By the grace of God we’ll carry on.

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.