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.

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!

Faith · Family · Parenting · Perspective

Nancy Drew and other Happenings

Heart Check+ (idea courtesy of Fierce Marriage podcast):

  1. What book is in my hand?
  2. What voice is in my ear?
  3. What’s God stirring in my heart?
  4. Most exciting event of the week?

1 — “The Way the Crow Flies” by Ann-Marie MacDonald. I’ve also read Llama Llama Red Pajama and a box of “Bob” books this past week with my 6yr old. As riveting as those books are, my library choice is just starting to grip my interest. It hasn’t yet reached the point of taking it with me to bed and keeping me up late to read. Maybe a few more chapters before I hit that point? So far… Madeleine’s family has just moved into their new home and are hosting a BBQ for the neighbors. Mr. Froelich is quite seriously explaining why it is important to reach the moon first…

2 — Nancy Drew. Yes. That’s the voice in my 35 year old ear. We Carolyn Keenechecked out a 3-CD set of audio books. “Curse of the Arctic Star” was a good listen and a welcome change-up to the radio. Both kids listened intently in the car everywhere we went for the past week. No arguments. We’d pause it and discuss the exciting points or who we thought the culprit was. Tomorrow we take this one back and get the next installment!

3 — Encouragement. It’s been the message the past few weeks at church and keeps popping up on my social media and in my devotions. Encouragement for me to have courage to step out of my comfort zone. Encouragement to lend a helping hand. Encouragement to show love to all those around me and making sure the glory isn’t mine. (Hint, it’s God’s!) Encouragement to be a light to those around me. I have specific examples, but if I post them… isn’t that seeking glory for that moment? So I’ll just keep making the rounds “catching and releasing” kindness and encouragement to those around me.

4 — In other news, my 8 year old jumped and dived off the diving board at the pool for the FIRST TIME today! I’m so proud of him!!! Yes, that warrants three exclamation points. He struggled with ear problems and tubes for the first 6 years of his life. This stalled him out in terms of getting comfortable in the water. He has worked so hard the last two years to learn to float, then to swim, and finally this summer – IT CLICKED! Deep water, water slides, and the diving board are all major accomplishments!

My kids aren’t natural fish, which is super frustrating for this mother. The water feels natural for me. I married a land-lover who can’t swim. Our children seem to be an interesting mix of the two of us (in many, many ways!). We agree that either the kids know how to swim or they stay out of the water. It’s the “in-betweeners” that are in the greatest danger of drowning. Here’s to hoping that our 6 year old eventually catches on. She is also looking to be a land lover at this point…

Have you read anything worthy of losing sleep over? Any great audio book suggestions for kids?

Faith · Family · Love · Parenting · Perspective

Tempo

Life here is slowly returning to a more normal pace. Lentando.

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Photo by Pixabay

The kids and I fell asleep on our couch last night. We read Llama Llama Red Pajama. That Llama sounds an awful lot like my 6yr old.

We prayed together. Each of us took turns praising for something we are thankful for and praying for someone who might be sick, sad, hungry or mad. May our eyes be opened and our hands ready to humbly serve those around us.

I woke an hour later and carried my children to their beds. I’m still able to lug my 75 pounder, but I’m not sure how much longer. I’ve got him by about 60 pounds and 12 inches. He’ll outgrow me in the coming 5 years.

Two hours later my husband walked in, finally home from a work trip. Sleepily I told him how nice it was to have him home. I don’t communicate exceptionally well at midnight.

Today will bring about the hustle and bustle of shuttling between swim lessons, basketball camp, a trip to the dentist and work responsibilities. Even this isn’t consistent with our lives 6 weeks ago, but we are getting closer.

Our cadence is slowing from affrettando. Too vigorous. Too chaotic. Like that flurry in the middle of a song, we are over the peak of summer.

We are falling into a new, more comfortable rhythm.

Faith · Family · Parenting · Perspective

The Value of Time

June is over. At the end of every month I think to myself “Wow, now I can take a breath.” All the while, we are living our ups and downs, celebrating and mourning, thriving and struggling thru weeks, months, days, and moments.

June was full of all of the above descriptions. Big commitments included baseball for both kids, wheat harvest, baling straw, and (as always) work. The smaller moments category encompassed watching the sunsets and stars, sighting lightning bugs, digging our first couple hills of new potatoes, and putting together puzzles. Sprinkled in between are cousin-exchange days, quick trips to the pool and lake, church activities and way more fast-food than we should have consumed in a 30 day period.

It was a whirlwind. I must say though… I don’t think I have any moments (except that one complete mommy meltdown) that I regret spending my time on.

All this twirling and whirling causes me to be introspective. What is the actual value of my time? Is it monetary? Is it emotional? Is it in physical toll?

Truly, I’ve been mulling this over for quite awhile. I have friends that will drive a hour one way (60+miles) to go to a discount grocery store and suggest that I do the same. “Oh the savings are HUGE! I bought eggs for $0.39! Then we grabbed a meal (or shopped elsewhere) and drove home.”

This frustrates me.

Upon suggesting I do the same, I let them know politely that I do not have 3 hours in my daily, weekly, or monthly schedule to dedicate to groceries. I’d rather use my coupon app at our local grocery store, shop my list and the markdowns, and get it done in the 15 minutes I have before I pick my kids up from daycare after a day of work. #shoplocal

(Honestly, I’m not sure how much you’re really saving by the time you add in 120+ miles of gas and wear on your vehicle and a meal at a restaurant. But hey, if that’s how you roll – good for you!)

The way I look at it, I’ve just banked 2hrs and 45 minutes to spend doing things like riding bikes, gardening, or hosting a playdate.

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Princess dresses and manicures

It’s taken effort to place a value on time. I’ve said “no” or “today is not the day” to more things than I thought I would this summer. Furthermore, I’ve cleared an entire week in July and said we are scheduling NOTHING during those 7 days.

The value isn’t just monetary. It is physical and emotional. Running in a thousand different directions to shuttle this child to this event and to make sure I’ve picked that item up from that location is exhausting. It makes my whole body weary. My mind gets foggy. Anxiety grips my heart. Emotionally I’m a bear. Instead of easily seeing the joy, I have to remind myself it’s okay to smile and laugh. Overall, it’s daunting when there is no value placed on time.

This must be fate that I am writing this today. I saw a quote from Handmade by Heroes just before I attempted to finish this entry. “Time is like a river. You cannot touch the same water twice because that flow has passed and will never pass again.”

I don’t want to miss moments like this because I’ve undervalued my time.

Unplanned. Unscheduled. These moments are full of worth to me.

 

blog 7-2 KS Sunset
Harvest Sunset 2018, Kansas, USA

 

Faith · Family · Love · Parenting · Perspective

What I’m Celebrating on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day 2018.

Many moms out there were being showered with lavish gifts. Quite a few, I imagine, received no recognition at all for the day. Others were somewhere in between.

I was an ‘in-between-er’ at the low end of the spectrum. No gifts, but they did make construction paper cards. It was another day where my kids bickered, my extremely tired 5yr old melted down and crashed for 3hrs (when is school done?!), and at one point I threatened to get out of the car and let my husband proceed with the kids to our destination without me.

So yeah, basically just another day of motherhood.

Isn’t that what the day is about though? Are we supposed to be put on a pedestal on Mother’s Day or should we move our focus to the little things that are to be appreciated?

I’m not one to worship my children. They aren’t always correct. They aren’t always even pleasant to be around. And yes, I’ve told them to leave me alone or  not talk.

However, I am thankful for these little people in my tribe. I love them unconditionally- always and everywhere. I learn new things about them and myself in abundance when we are together. At times, they swell my heart with gladness. While at others, they throw me into the pit and leave me questioning what I did to make this little monster.

At church, our pastor recognized the mothers and made that the focus of his message. He spoke of   the need to lift up and support all the moms- the young and old, married, single, widowed, biological, adoptive and foster, those who have lost, and the grandmothers raising their grandchildren.

It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. It’s effective in the little things- offering childcare for any length of time, helping load or unload bags of groceries, passing her your $10 when she’s checking out at the store, welcoming a family with children instead of frowning at their noise.

The church needs to acknowledge the shift of stay-at-home to working mothers. It’s a change that has been decades in the making. The faith community needs to embrace these weary, hard working women.

He spoke about Hagar in Genesis. She didn’t willingly become a mother. Mothers who weren’t excited to become moms need to be cared for. They are treading water. Don’t let them go under.

When Abraham (man) gave her limited water and sent her away, God (the Creator) showed her a well. Think on that comparison for a moment…

He specifically recognized all of us who have locked ourselves in a room and cried- overwhelmed by life and questioning if we are making the right choices.

Motherhood has deepened my faith exponentially. All the trials, tribulations, meltdowns and months years without solid sleep have given me a glimpse of what love without strings looks like. Love that can’t be earned. Love that just IS.

That love is what I’m celebrating on Mother’s Day.

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