Faith · Perspective

Comfort Zone

Tonight I led our women’s Bible study. It was an impromptu step-in. Come to think of it, both roles I helped with Sunday were also spontaneous.

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Could these situations be a lesson for me? Our adult Sunday school lesson was from the Old Testament. The message focused in on obedience and stepping out of our comfort zones to go where we are being led or called to.

Ya’ll… I am an introvert. I struggle to leave my bubble. Spontaneity is not usually my jam.

Besides that, I’ve always viewed people who lead in the church to be willing and able to throw all their personal stuff out on the public table- and own it with grace. Putting my personal baggage (of which there are heaps) out in the air makes me anxious.

Following close behind the anxiety is a solid couple hours of second guessing my choice of words. Then worrying that I might have said too much or omitted something important sets in.

The past two days of spontaneous ministry… whew! What words to describe? Uplifting. Honest. Humbling. Spirit led. The grace extended to me by the adult Sunday school class, children’s church group, and women’s study was above and beyond what I could have hoped for.

None of this ministry was about me. I am just a tool. It’s all about a relationship with God.

Officially out of my comfort zone.

Family · Love · Parenting · Perspective

Observations

Nothing prolific or astounding to report here today. Rather, just a couple of observations from the weekend and a Monday at work.

One – My home is not a staging area for a HGTV show. It likely never will be. I’m good with that. We don’t just exist here. We LIVE here. Work here. Play here. Life happens here. My home isn’t dirty – it’s lived in. Instead of apologizing to people or not inviting them over, I’ve decided to adopt the motto “Clean or Chaos – You are welcome here.”

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Two- Today is Day #4 of rain and cold, damp, dreary weather. Coming from the sunny Midwest USA, this weather makes me want to eat-all-the-things. I’ve already broken out the hot vanilla chai tea. I’m trying to tell myself that it isn’t really time to hibernate yet, but the meteorologist is forecasting our first freeze this weekend.

Three – The absolute worst part of owning a business has to be the phone calls to local customers who haven’t paid. There are very, very few of these. We have FANTASTIC customers. Even though facts are facts and the fact is that “item _____ was rented from ____ to ____” or “part _____ was ordered and shipped,” it doesn’t mean that people will pay in a timely manner. We mail the invoice, then go the phone route, then the letter route, then the phone reminder about the letter route…. and this last week we took someone to court for the first time in 10 years. These customers are few and far between. Life happens. I totally understand that. How do you balance grace and empathy with business?

Four – When I woke my six year old daughter up this morning, I swear I had a flashback. For just a brief moment, she looked just like she did as an infant. It made my heart swell and sink at the same time. The hours and minutes leading up to this might have been long, stressful, and trying. Fast and fleeting are the years that passed to this moment.

Mady5

 

Faith · Family · Parenting · Perspective

Part 3: The Flaming Yam

I am gloriously human. I heard that phrase at the women’s faith conference I attended. To be gloriously human, you must accept both the high points and the low.

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Being uniquely knit together by God makes you glorious- even if you don’t think so. You are made for something amazing. Maybe you haven’t found it yet or pieced together that puzzle , but there is a purpose for your existence.

The human part is where the lows come in. We are so fallible. Making mistakes a fair amount of the time. Honestly? That’s ok. There’s this thing called grace. It’s hard to comprehend, but it’s part of the puzzle too.

With that in mind, here is a glimpse of my day of the flaming yam…. a day when an incredible amount of grace and humility and humor was necessary…

  1. Spilled glass of red juice in light grey couch while doing early morning devotions. Stain stick and steam cleaned couch before the sun rose.
  2. Daughter cried for 10 minutes about getting out of bed (day3 of school. This bodes well for the year…)
  3. Found spelling homework in child’s backpack 10 minutes before bus.
  4. Filling in my tooth at dentist. I just LOVE the dentist. (Feel the sarcasm?) I ate my pre-packed salad for lunch with half numb upper jaw. Note to self- next time pack soup.
  5. Worked all day with exception to dentist appt.
  6. Child #1 got off bus and melted down about reading homework. Metaphoric nuclear meltdown on the office floor.
  7. Rushed to make dinner after work because family was LOSING it (American slang of ‘hangry’ fits this) Grilled cheese sandwiches, fruit, and baked potatoes
  8. And the finale- while trying to appease everyone’s personal tastes, I caught a sweet potato ON FIRE in the microwave. Not just a smolder, full on flames and smoke.
  9. Apparently there is science to this- lower moisture content and higher sugar plus high heat equals carbonized sugar. Sizzle, smoke, fully engulfed in flames…
  10. I know we have a working, charged fire extinguisher in the kitchen, but I can’t find it!
  11. When running the flaming yam pinched in a set of metal tongs out the door to toss in a puddle (it rained that day), I forgot about the grilled cheeses on the hot griddle. Those were also burning when I returned to the kitchen.
  12. After the smoke cleared – literally- I threw in the towel. Eat up people.
  13. I’m called it a night. I didn’t even eat.

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That was an actual day in my life. I accept that I am gloriously human. I accept that this day was humbling and ludicrous. It was also humorous. Days like this will drive you to drink if you don’t have a sense of humor.

Lessons of this day: Stay humble. Rejoice in being gloriously human. Keep your sense of humor.

Faith · Perspective

Faith

Faith: Part 2 – Fatigue, Faith and a Flaming Yam

Growth is hard.

In my previous installment “Fatigue,” I wrote about how much fatigue slowed me down this summer. It basically ground the month of August to a halt in terms of activity for me. During this time period, I was also struggling with my faith. Not actually doubting that there is a God – I see and feel so many actual points of proof for His existence – but rather feeling alone.

Yesterday, I taught children’s church. This takes place during our normal Sunday service for 30 minutes and is open to kids ages 2-up. In a completely disorganized fashion, I hadn’t planned anything as of 9:50am. Church starts at 10am. As I dashed into the bathroom to apply mascara, I saw my children’s rubber bath tub spout cover. It’s a whale. On the way out the door, I grabbed a flashlight, the whale spout cover (story props), and my Bible.

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You guessed it. I taught a lesson about Jonah and the whale. The story is found in the book of Jonah in the Old Testament. Basically, Jonah knows what he should do. He’s been told what to do. He just doesn’t want to do it and heads the other way on a boat. God stirs up a huge tempest. Jonah admits he is disobeying God. The crew of the boat asks God for forgiveness for throwing Jonah over and then launches him off the side. The storm calms. The crew has a new-found faith in God. (He uses ALL things for His good.) Jonah is swallowed by a huge fish and survives IN THE DARKNESS and with PRAISE for three days and three nights before being deposited on the shore.

There’s a lot to take from this portion of the passage. This entry won’t touch a fraction of it.

Jonah and I have quite a bit in common here.

Growth is hard.

In August, I attended a women’s faith conference: “Boost! Bloom Where You Are Planted.” I donated an entrance fee essentially to cry the whole day. Tears streamed down my face during the fantastic speakers. Tears hit the floor during guided prayer. Tears salted my cheeks during the praise songs. It was a complete TURNING POINT.

I’d spent the summer keeping myself so busy that I was that ship headed in the opposite direction. I was blown about, cargo being thrown overboard to keep afloat, ignoring those peaceful words that I could only hear when I’d slow down: Be Still.

This seems to be a recurring message for me. I get all wound up with the happenings surrounding me and shirk my devotions, praises, and generally start disliking everything around me. My fuse gets short. Patience lacks. I want to be alone. My cup is empty.

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Here’s where the growth happened- light bulb moment: I’m not supposed to fill my cup. The Holy Spirit does that… unless I’m too busy holding my hand over the top of the cup.

I took my hand off the top of the cup. How? By being still. I am a volunteer by nature. I WANT to help. Saying “No” doesn’t come easy. Truthfully, it usually comes with a *sigh* and a couple of drafts of thoughtfully composed words before I can hit send on the email or text. There’s guilt in the those two little letters: N-O.

By stepping back from some activities, I can honestly say we’ve found joy, patience, and peace again at our house. I’m back to reading my devotions most mornings. The waters have started to calm.

Sometimes God isn’t asking you to do more, He is telling you to do less. He is asking you to re-focus like a good, loving, and caring Father does.

Back to Jonah – His story isn’t over after the boat ride and the fish. He made both good choices and bad after that. Although I’m hopeful I’ll only make good decisions, I’m human. Gloriously human. Thank goodness for grace and mercy!

Perspective

Fatigue, Faith, and a Flaming Yam- Pt 1

Goodness. It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve written. The title of this blog post sums up the month of August fairly well. I’m breaking this down into 3 parts simply because I need to get my kids up and dressed for church. #reallife

Fatigue has been a real bear this past month. A culmination of everything “make sure the kids have a fabulous summer” and then tack on a bacterial illness and two weeks of high dose antibiotics. Ugh. My body was DONE.

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My kids got my phone and caught me resting.

I NEVER put the blame for anything with my body on MS, but had to concede on this one. I couldn’t function or fight thru the fog to think straight. I had to change my thought process from blaming MS and those flipping lesions to accepting that this is a reason.

When I associate an image with the word Blame, it looks like a kid having a tantrum. I won’t allow this situation to lower me to that.  Honestly, in the depths of the fatigue I didn’t have the energy for a tantrum. My kids, husband and work all still require attention. This body still has responsibilities.

After a solid heart to heart with my sister and a day at a women’s faith conference, I admitted that the elephant in the room is this autoimmune disease. Even though I refuse to use it as an excuse, an excuse is very different than a reason. Many factors led to my body being worn out. Multiple sclerosis is the reason for this level of fatigue.

I’m happy to say that a week later, I’m starting to feel like myself again. I’ve hit the stationary bike twice, elliptical once, and ran my outdoor route twice. All modes of transportation are much slower than when I’m at my top. Exercise sharpens my mind and improves my mood.

I’m listening to my body.

Part 2: Faith

Family · Love · Parenting · Perspective

To do or not to do?

I called my mom for reassurance. I’m a 35 year old woman who needed to hear my mom say “I think that’s a good idea for your family.”

The conversation has been mulling around in my brain for days. Do we or don’t we enroll in fall dance classes? Maybe we should try tumbling instead? Do we or don’t we encourage our son to sign up for fall flag football?

Leaning hard to the “No.” side of things, this was definitely a conversation that needed my spouse’s input. Although I am the chief get-kids-to-their-destination driver, everything we sign up for impacts all of us. Dinner schedules, my level of stress, when I need to leave work, can I work late?… All the pieces revolve around what we are committed to..

The pressure to sign up for extra kid’s activities is immense. It’s a weight I never giphy8anticipated carrying. The cost isn’t great either. Art classes, sports, dance, tumbling, volunteer opportunities, library activities…

Is my child going to be left out if she/he doesn’t sign up? Will they be athletically or academically behind?

Honestly… the answer is no.

No- all the way – no. Last time I checked, my 8 year old wasn’t trying out to be on the farm team (aka the minor leagues) for major league baseball. My daughter isn’t going to be in the Rockettes at age 6. Nor will taking the fall semester off from extra classes stunt their abilities.

Drawing this line in the sand will hopefully allow my family and friends time to be together. Let’s grill out on the patio for dinner! How about a nice bike ride on a Tuesday night after school? Invite a friend over to play for a couple of hours? Sure. I don’t need to schedule around this class or that class.

This basically sounds like utopia after the frenzied summer we’ve had. Although I swore we weren’t going to be THAT overscheduled family, we absolutely were. To say no… it’s a bold choice in our current culture. Being busy, scheduled, and enrolled in everything imaginable to enrich ourselves has left us all drained.

Our conversation about this was short and sweet. My husband agreed completely. Now, to finish convincing myself that I’m not blighting my children’s interests and aspirations I called my mother. She listened without judgement as I presented my case for NOT being involved and replied “I think that’s a good idea for your family.”

Isn’t it sad that the pressure to please others is so great that I needed to hear my mother reassure me that I was making the correct choice for MY family? Thank goodness for amazing beautiful souls like hers.

Don’t we all want to have the freedom in our schedule to do things like this?

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After a fall semester off from the extras, it’s possible that we will be ready and eager to do winter activities like basketball or dance. Perhaps we’ll discover that we enjoy less time running around. Either way, we’ll roll with it when it comes.

Family · Perspective

Work.

For anyone new to this blog, a little background information. My husband and I own a small business with a couple of employees in rural America. We work together full-time in the office. Our job descriptions are complementary but separate. Technically, it’s his signature on the “President” line.

Today he walked over to my desk and picked up an invoice from one of our distributors that I had a question about. He starts in on “from now on…” about this invoice.

What he’s forgetting is that approximately a month ago, I asked him this exact question about the timing of this invoice. I was annoyed….

Because I like to keep things light and as positive as I can, here is how the rest of that conversation went in .gif fashion.

Me:
giphy1Him:
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Me:
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Him:
giphy3Me:giphy4Him: giphy6

People often wonder how we can work together full-time, live together, love each other, and still LIKE each other the majority of the time. It’s work. Marriage is work. Work is work. Respect and trust is work.

Both of us have had to eat our humble pie and accept that we are wrong sometimes. It happens.

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Eat the pie. Move on. Live life.

Happy Monday!