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.

action animal beach diving
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

brown close up cup empty
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

Educate Life.

I am sitting at a crossroads. To teach again someday or not to? To renew my license or let it go?

This is a decision I’ve been kicking down the road for at least two years. Do I take the Master’s hours to renew my teaching license or just let it expire at the end of 2018? I haven’t been in the classroom other than a long-term sub since I turned down a new contract in 2009.

My quitting was complicated, but in retrospect, the correct choice for my physical and mental health. I was offered a contract for the following year. I was promised more administrative disciplinary support for a small, challenging portion of the population I was serving. He said I could have another prep and it would be ok to back off on the clubs and sports I was sponsoring and coaching.

“If you send them to the office, we won’t send them back during that same class period.”

And yet, I still told them no. I was done at the end of the school year.

I had another opportunity with health insurance, less mileage, more flexibility, and less stress. I took it.

So why is this decision to let my license go so difficult? Why not just cut the cord? Does this mean that all that money and time I spent in college is null and void?

I think this is a decision that many people face when they change careers. Does a change of this proportion negate any type of impact I made previously?

Last Friday, a young man stood at the elementary school with his family. I walked up to him and his wife and started a conversation. In the spring, I visited with another young man at a wedding reception. My son’s kindergarten teacher. The cashier at our local store. The marketing director at a local dealership. The guys who fix tires and do re-alignments.

Education-Quotes-Dr-Seuss-1

These examples speak to me. Successful, intelligent, caring people who I had the privilege to work with. Although I stepped out of the education field after only a few years, I cherish the students I worked with – the successful ones and those who caused me anxiety. Stress not for myself, but that I wasn’t able to reach deep enough in them for their future success as human beings.

What would that look like? Not monetary success as that is fleeting. I wanted them to have contentment, drive, passion, and mercy. To withstand criticism and turn around to use it constructively. To observe life outside the local societal box. To approach people willing to look at the other side of the coin. To forgive and move on.

Education-Quotes-And-Sayings-About-Life-1

You might think “Wow. That’s a lot for a secondary science credit!” My job was to teach physics and freshman science. My mission was to teach life.

To renew or not? I just don’t know. Will I ever go back to education? I guess only time will tell.

Education Quote credits to http://quotesvana.com/quotes-about-education/

 

 

 

Faith · Family · Fitness · Health · Perspective

Positive – Leftovers, Strep, & Pancake Syrup

IMG_1973This is me. I just finished the most amazing taco salad for lunch at my desk.

As I was chewing the spicy, dairy-free concoction, I realized how thankful I was that my kids weren’t interested in tacos last night.

It kind of irked me as I was standing across the kitchen island with the fixings laid out, corn on the cob boiled and ready, food all hot. Nobody wanted to eat. Even my husband only had one small taco and called it done. My 5yr old only wanted 1 ear of corn and no taco. My 7 year old couldn’t eat the corn due to his jankity mouth of missing baby teeth and asked if he could have the taco later. What the what????

But in a new light today, I’m thankful. I just devoured a delicious leftover lunch.

Always seeking the positive!

My two best girl friends pointed this out on Tuesday in a string of text messages that occurred when my 5yr old puked all over herself in the car (read: hair, pillow, blanket, dress, car seat, etc) on the way down the switchback mountain roads about 9 hours from our home on Monday. 9 vomit scent-wafted hours.

IMG_1974

Later, my friend sent me this.

IMG_1962This is how I try to roll. I used to be a pretty serious Debbie Downer sometimes. That was what my sisters actually called me. Then, if it was Christmas, they’d make me wear a Santa hat until I pulled out of it.

I’m not completely sure when my outlook changed, but I know I’ve thrown my life into a more positive direction post-birth of babies, upon going dairy-free, taking up running and regular exercise, my MS diagnosis, and upon learning how to say “NO” to things that aren’t my best yes.

Whew… we are talking about the last 5 years here… not an overnight mental shift.

I don’t have it all mastered. Frankly, I never will. That’s ok. It isn’t my job to do it all perfectly or have everything go according to my plan. That job belongs to God.

But let’s be real. Do I want to re-live the puking and pancakes mountain pass situation? That’s a solid NO. Do I appreciate cooking and nobody eating it? Nada. Am I happy when my child gets strep throat? Of course not. I’m just trying to keep it all in perspective.

In the scheme of things, those are all small potatoes, or shall I say a small packet of syrup?

Much love,
Jen

Faith · Fitness · Health · Love · Parenting · Perspective

2 Steps Back and 5 Forward

5F2B2 Steps Back and 5 Forward: An effort to get to know yourself and who you are made to be, deeper than the outward reflection shown in the mirror.

A local women’s group did a short exercise with the ladies who were present. It is a Christian non-denominational group for new, seasoned, young, and older. A lovely mix of women.

*I follow online because although it is God-centered, it still isn’t a Best Yes for my time when I add in the driving to town and back and how it disrupts my family’s schedule.*

The exercise asked the women to say or describe two things about themselves that are negative.

  1. I overshare details and stories… then spend anxiety-ridden time mentally re-hashing all the oversharing moments that just spewed forth from my lips. Ugh. Thank goodness I don’t publish on here every thought I actually say out loud. Awkward!
  2. I get extremely frustrated during transition times with my kids. Daycare pickup is the absolute WORST. I’m overwhelmed. They’re talking and arguing over each other for my attention. We all end up with our feelings hurt when I have to SHUT IT DOWN.

^^^ It honestly didn’t take much to come up with those. ^^^

The exercise then asked the women to say or describe five positives. I’ll take this one step further, in honor of the book I’m currently reading – Walking with Purpose, and say it can’t be about my job or my duties as a mother or wife.

giphy4Ummmm…. Hmmmm… Maybe…. ?

  1. I am compassionate for ALL things. I catch spiders and release them outside. I don’t want anyone to suffer. If it has to be the end for a living creature, I want it to be quick and painless. Hungry? I want to feed you. Confused? Let’s figure this out.
  2. I very rarely rush to judgement. I like to gather my own research before forming an opinion. I have friends from all sides of the political, geographical, and faith spectrum. Discussions, when respectful, are thought-provoking and enlightening, even if I disagree with the other parties.
    giphy5
  3. I am determined. Four years and two babies ago, I decided if I ever wanted to get in shape and feel good mentally, physically, and emotionally, I had to make it happen. No one else could do that for me. It was MY job to exercise; MY job to make devotion time; MY job to figure out where my life was going. Yes, I have a husband, two littles, a job, a pet, family, friends, etc… but what was my path? my goal? Was I just supposed to feed small people and handle advertising from my computer? No.

    I have a bigger purpose. It is one that is constantly evolving and coming into focus as I make another trip around the sun.

  4. Honesty. I told my children that if they ever ask me a question (which they do 3:1 for every statement – truly, I counted), I will ALWAYS tell them the truth. Don’t want to know about Santa? Don’t ask unless you want the truth and history behind Ol’ Saint Nicholas. What happened to Nana & Papa’s old dog? It died because a body gets old and unable to heal. NOT that it went to live on another farm with other old dogs…. Right Mom and Dad?

    I really think honesty is key here. We sugar coat too much to the point where the next generation won’t understand reality.
    giphy6

  5. Love. Love for my family. Love for my friends. Love for people I don’t even know. I am unconditionally loved by God and want to share that love with those around me.

    I separate love from “like” and “enjoy” and “happiness.” Sure, those are comfortable feelings, but in the uncomfortable is where we grow, support, and care for one another. It’s easy to give a high-five or a smile at the end of a game. It isn’t as easy to sit with a bestie after her engagement ends or know what to say when a friend miscarries, but those are the places that love illustrates beauty. Spending time volunteering to give a hand up to the less physically fortunate or going to an elder care facility and touching a frail, lonely hand, that’s love. Parenting with grace (so hard sometimes!) is another form of love.

    We don’t all “do” love the same way, but think of the world if we all “did” real uncomfortable love in SOME way for somebody.

So there it is. My five positives and my two negatives are out there. Time well spent looking a little deeper into myself.

Much love — Jen

Faith · Perspective

Borderless

Our pastor says every Sunday: God fed – Spirit led.

I like it. It sticks with me.

Another quick phrase that stays in my mind: God is God and God is Good. Always.

I’ve been making the effort to get out of bed before everyone else in the morning. Tiptoeing down the bedroom hall, I go to the kitchen and make my morning beverage. About a minute after that, I sneak down to the basement to sit with my study Bible in my robe with a lamp on. No TV. No phone. No overhead lights. Yes cozy blanket.

IMG_0976
Morning View

It’s been mentioned before that I don’t have time in my schedule to attend a regular group study. This is not my life season for that. Instead, my goal is to get those 20-30 minutes of devotion at least 5 days a week.

I finished reading thru the book of James about a week ago. Picking a passage, I read thru it all once. Then, verse by verse, reading the commentary and being mindful about what it says, I study it. I try to apply it to what is going on around me. Who can I pray for? What does this make me feel? What does this make me think? Am I convicted or uplifted by this passage? What is the application of this for me and others?

James is full of practical application. He says it in black and white. It wasn’t like the passage from Isaiah I read for my scripture at church: Isaiah 28:23-28. (The commentary was necessary for me to get the point of this one – each of us is God-created and unique. We each require something different and should pay attention to the special needs of those around us.)

I started on the book of Psalms at the end of last week. Psalms 7 and 8 were my focus this morning. Psalm 7 focuses on praying for those who wrong you instead of taking revenge. It felt sorrowful and heart-clutching. How often do you immediately pray for those who lie, steal, back-stab, or hurt you or your children instead of lashing back? Ouch. Touché. Message received.

Psalm 8 is one of joy. I often marvel at how God loves us even at our worst. I struggle to love myself during hard times! Why create such insidious creatures as humans? Because He knows how beautiful (heart, soul, kindness, love, compassion) we can truly be. He has placed His beloved children above the angels.

He put the world in our care! Man, we’ve mucked that up too… Let’s try to step it up in that department, shall we? Take the time to show a neighbor or a child the beauty of nature. Listen for the birds and wind. Appreciate the open sky and voluminous clouds. Conserve water. Recycle. Don’t be wasteful. Treat all creatures with respect – every living thing has a purpose.

Speaking of children, my young crew at children’s church – although confused about many things 🙂 – have faith. Faith that the sun will rise. Faith that birds will fly. Faith that God loves them. They don’t question it. It takes faith to accept that God will take care of the things that are beyond our humble realm of knowledge.

Before anyone writes me off as simple-minded, lacking in scientific knowledge, or thinks that I live in a religious bubble, please recognize this: Understanding the mechanics of the world and having faith are NOT mutually exclusive. Tough concept in our current cultural atmosphere. When you accept how borderless God is, it is amazing how everything else finds a place within that lack of borders.

Creativity · Family · Parenting · Perspective

The Childhood Fort

It occurred to me as I was cleaning out flower beds in the gorgeous spring sun that I had a wonderful childhood. I’ve appreciated it before, but as a parent, my perspective shifts and deepens.

I was trimming down the pampas grass. It grew to about 12ft tall and the bundle of stems was approximately 18 inches in diameter. Each stem was 0.5-1″ thick. The winter had stripped most of the loose layers off.

pampas grass

I couldn’t stop thinking about how perfect those stems would be for constructing a fort!

Did you ever build forts when you were a kid using the random branches, boards, and other materials that you scrounged up? Did you dig into a natural low spot and set up a shack? Find that perfect arrangement of tree branches to pretend you had a house?

My sisters and I built forts everywhere we went – our house, the shelter belt of trees, down by the creek, at our grandparents, the trees behind the church between baseball games, etc. The list could go on and include anywhere we traveled from ages 5-12.

My dad lost half a dozen hammers to our construction escapades. He found the majority when he cleared out the area where we built our magnum opus – two stories, scrap lumber with wooden fence posts, a ladder, door, and window. The neighbor boys (2 miles away) came to help us put on the roof. We took fabric scraps and nailed them up for curtains. It was amazing and apparently full of dad’s lost hammers!

cabbagepatch-618x412Many lunchboxes filled with PB&J, cucumbers, and little Thermoses of water accompanied us out to the fort. Our favorite dolls would spend the day playing house or exploring “the forest.” When it was time to come in, my mom would honk the car horn. She does this now with our kids, who adventure around the farm on their own.

As I trimmed and stacked the pampas grass, I felt unbelievably lucky to have those experiences. Carefree in the country, sheltered from the world’s cares. Basking in the summer sunlight and smelling like the trees and grass when we came in at dark.

I want that kind of idyllic memory for my children: experiencing the freedom of imagination and nature. The simplicity and creativity of childhood illustrated in the building of a fort.

I kept the stems and trimmings.

Although we arrived home from a birthday party with only 30 minutes until their bedtime, we went outside to play until the sun was gone. My son’s eyes lit up when I told him he could have all the material I cleaned out of the flower beds. With excitement, last night they built their own fort.