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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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

 

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!)

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.