Books of 2017: Present Over Perfect

 

We find as we get older it is as hard as when we were in high school. Women are judgmental creatures, and we don’t do a lot of changing for one another. When we need something, it can sometimes come at a cost for those who care for us. This is not an intentional price to charge for friendship, but sometimes a necessary one to pay. Read More

The Dirt that Lies Beneath: Installment 2

The Real Dirt

The truth is I feel like a failure most days as a parent.

Now, before you go saying a bunch of positive things you don’t mean, let me explain.

Information has been kept from me. Vital information I could have used on a daily basis as a mom. I was green you guys. GREEN as a blade of grass, a dollar bill or the Grinch. I mean, I had no clue. The best part? I was really good at faking it. I mean, I could successfully breastfeed and eat spaghetti at the same time. I could talk on a corded phoned (do I need to insert a picture of that?) while I changed a poopy diaper. I could fold laundry and rock a cradle. I could fix dinner while rocking a cranky baby to sleep.

And I was frustrated the entire time. For a long time I didn’t enjoy being a young momma. I was so overwhelmed. I cried a lot. And those babies- they just kept coming. We had 4 kids by the time we were married for 8 years. Please, let me do the math for you.

1993, baby boy #1.

1995, baby girl #1

1997 baby boy #2

1999 baby by #3

This equals 4 kids in 7 years. FOUR of them. I was always outnumbered. Even with an amazing, hardworking husband, I was completely out of my league with this entire stay at home mom gig. Sometimes I don’t know how we survived it. I may still need some therapy.

I may still need some therapy.

Survival of the fittest is my joke when I talk about having four kids, but the truth is, it’s no joke. This is the dirt of my younger days that on occasion haunts me still. This is the stuff that life is made of. It’s where my kids learned to be loyal to one another. It is also where they learned expletives and how to shove everything under their bed in less than five minutes because company was coming over in ten, and I needed the rest of the house picked up.  These “formative years” we read books, learned to write our names and played in the dirt.

There it is again.

The dirt.

We all start out so innocent, yet we always return somehow to the dirt we came from. For kids that age, it was in the playing, the falling down and the getting back up. The way they learned what “no” meant, and how they learned about hurt feelings in the backyard.  They also figured out when you call nine-one-one,  a nice officer comes to the door, and she isn’t happy when she finds out the call was because the goldfish crackers were spilled everywhere and someone was in big trouble. (all while mommy was in the shower for three minutes) Incidentally, that was the longest shower I took for several years.

The dirt showed my children how to get messy, then find redemption in the water hose, washing all the mess away and down the street. It showed them how the blades of freshly cut grass could cover their feet one minute, and be traveling down a small river to the street the next, picking up more grass and leaves and debris in their path. Washed in the water, cleansed by the hose.

Just like Jesus does to my soul every time I think I am a failure as a parent. There is so much more to this part of my dirty story- this is just the beginning. We still need to talk about all those things I could have been warned about, yet- silence.

The dirt taught me to grow things, like our children, into adults who can be independent. It started out with dirty shoelaces and all that tying practice. It ended up with me being a Mimi to some precious babies, that belong to my babies. Three with us and one already waiting for us on streets of gold, no doubt holding onto Jesus smiling at our dirt being washed away every time we come before him.  The dirt has become a sweet perfume as I grow into motherhood, after almost 24 years of practice.

Books of 2017: Live Full, Walk, Free

Intentionally setting ourselves apart is generally no picnic.

In Cindy Bultema’s book, Live Full, Walk Free, we find the direction applicable to our lives today in  1 Corinthians.  Covering the letters to Corinth written by Paul, this study guides you through the perils and warnings of living a sin filled life. It also points you in the direction of where God wants you to be, specifically in your personal life.

More than a book to read, I enjoyed very much having a study intertwined in the reading. It was nice having one copy to work from, and the pages are meant to be written on. This book also has some extras like a 1 Corinthians reading plan, A-Z scripture cards and scripture memorization.

For more information or to purchase Live Full, Walk Free, visit Cindy Bultema at her web page.

February & Rest

In scripture, Jesus made sure to take a time-out. He intentionally pulled away from his followers to pray and eat. He spent this time preparing for what would come next. Jesus set the example for re-booting ourselves in a simple manner. Therefore, the February calm is important.

 

Matthew 14:22-23 (NIV)

“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he dismissed them, he went up to the mountainside himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone.”

 

 

Read more at The Glorious Table

 

Sometimes the dirt wears on you and it hurts.

 

In this weird place I have been thrown in my life, the dirt is coarse and harshly abrasive. My emotions continually get the best of me. Things I have no control over seem to pile up. I cannot see straight some days. I feel as if there is no escape.

I made promises to myself several years ago and I have broken every one of them. I had many weak moments, many opportunities to stand tall, and I was depending on my bible to rescue me. Finally,  I determined through experience and study that I preferred coffee to people and I slowly made that happen.

 I mean- I really made that happen.

No more bible study or small group. No more coffee dates. No more late night calls to friends. No more celebrations. No more dinners, sporting events, concerts or functions. I pared back my social media time and limited my interaction with people in general. Unless I am at work or married to you, I am simply not interested. I need a re-set.

I fell out of love with people. We are mean and dirty and imperfect, and I am tired. I don’t want to be involved in conversations which turn to gossip. I don’t want to take sides anymore, for any reason. I want to be able to help solve problems, not just listen to complaints. I don’t like secrets when they could hurt someone. I cannot handle seeing marriages crumble. I want simple. I want Christ based relationships with no ugly hurt. I want my Christian friends to be… Christ-like, so I can be free to be the same.  I want my life to be a reflection of Jesus, not the people in my social circle.

I don’t want to talk to anyone outside my very small circle which includes my very patient husband and immediate family. I force myself to say nice, polite things to the check-out clerk at the grocery store, the guy at the gas station and the greeter at the office in my school. Eye contact is hard, and church is the hardest place to go. Almost too hard.

This new commitment is super scary. People want me to do things I simply have no interest in doing. They want to talk to me, like about real life things. They want me to go to fun paint classes and serve on the hospitality team and bring the grandbabies to Sunday School. These people are quite lovely, and I just want to hide from them. Somewhere inside my core, I hear myself screaming “run away”.  Yet, they still check on me when I am absent. ( I am so appreciative, just quiet)

I don’t feel very loveable right now, being so overwhelmed. I come to him with a full plate. I know Jesus is standing here, holding my hand and heart. I know the answer is him.  I know all these crazy earthly things will melt upon his return. I know his promises are true.  But this dirt in my life hurts today. It hurts right now. It feels like it will never wash off. It is incapacitating, and he knows.

Do you go through the motions each day? Do you read scripture like you are dying of thirst for its power and knowledge? Isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing in our seasons of filth and unrest?  Is knowledge really power, and can we find our way back to using our power for good?

I want to use my power for good, my words for encouragement and my life for Christ.  In all the crunch and chaos of things around me, I stand alone on the promise of Jesus. I choose to stand alone and be quiet, even for these few moments (which in the grand scheme of things adds up to nothing). I choose to take a step back and reset my priorities and focus.

I choose to be still.

Books of 2017: The Magnolia Story

 Chip and Joanna Gaines (with Mark Dagostino) share their story of how it all began, and it is inspiring. From marriage to having children and multiple businesses, the couple has a unique story to tell. This was a great way to gain insight to one of America’s sweetheart couples. Their show Fixer Upper is a hit among many age groups. This book is an easy, readable conversation about their lives between Chip and Joanna. It was very enjoyable.

You can read more about them here.

Books of 2017: The Broken Way

 

Ann Voskamp gives a new perspective to the brokenness so many of us feel in our lives. She really brings the reality of being broken and the connection with Christ to the forefront. In this book, all of our broken ways are addressed, all of them conquered and all of them left as grace. Her voice is a softly spoken one of redemption and self-forgiveness. The personal nature of this book can only help us move forward one step at a time. I really enjoyed reading this one, and I will probably read it again.

Favorite quote: “Your life is unwreckable. Because Christ’s love is unstoppable.” pg.146

You can read more at the following link.

The Broken Way

The Dirt That Lies Beneath: A series on Truth in Life, No Matter What

 

The Real Dirt.

I am so tired.

Exhausted, really.

I have a glass of iced tea right here, and I am ready to tell the truth.

Sometimes, Our lives are so well polished, we don’t even have a current profile picture on our social media pages. I know I don’t. My current picture is one of my husband and I, and there are about forty like them, all with flaws. I couldn’t post them. They aren’t what people want to see, our flaws.

Our flaws.

Our dirt, owned by us, created by our indiscretions. Dirt turned into mud by our tears and tracked around, leaving footprints on white carpet like sin on our souls. Just like people don’t want to see we have struggles, they don’t want to acknowledge our humanity and all the dirt.

We walk past one another, quickening the pace. We let the words fly out of our mouths like they are honey, but they drip fast and land hard like vinegar. “How are you?” we say, as our feet speed up and before we know it we haven’t even waited for an answer. We don’t want to know how you are. We can’t handle the truth, the sorrow, the dirt. We can’t handle our own mess, so we aren’t willing to take on yours. We can’t handle even the words, let alone all the things that come after them.

All. The. Things.

Now this is something I have been seeing written in many contexts. Here, however, I truly mean All The Things.  All of them. The messy parenting, the failed marriages and the alcohol hidden in the laundry room. The affair after hours, the pornography on the computer, the money embezzled from the fundraiser and the gambling addiction. What about the lies at work, the gossip we spread in the name of worry, and the manipulations to make us look better?

How about we share the insecurities in our marriage, the abortion no one knows about and the pain killers stolen from a grand parents’ cabinet?  Why shouldn’t we share our pain, grief, and suffering through illness or shame?  When are we going to talk about all of the elephants in all of the rooms?

When do we come to terms with the humanity gifted upon us, that sometimes feels more like a curse than a blessing?

Why must we continue waiting for someone to die before we know they are sick?

How are we supposed to hold one another up reaching for Jesus the whole time while lying to ourselves and everyone else about who we are and what we have become?

 

How about I go first? Let’s begin with my personal war on words because I just can’t stop cussing, and my frustration with relationships because I would gladly trade people for plants any day of the week. I mean that last part. I would (and have) trade relationships with people for the plants in my garden. I can even justify it, because I have had a lot of practice.

When a plant dies, you throw it in a compost pile and forget it. If I want new plants, I break off a piece of one and grow another. When I see some new variety I can order it on line, and when I don’t want something anymore, I give it away. Plants don’t share my secrets. They don’t lie to me, they don’t get emotional and they don’t require me to be sane. I can be a major jerk and it is ok with my pothos. My hydrangea does not care if I am madder than a wet hen.  Plants also keep me grounded, and remind me who I belong to. And they do a much better job than people do.

The truth is this. Jesus spent much time in a garden praying. That is where I connect with him most, even though I know deep inside my heart I do not deserve him. Not one ounce. Yet, here he is, dirt under his fingernails, ready to dig deep with me whenever I need him to. He is always willing. He spent his time with the broken, lost and lonely. I am all those things and more.

Together I hope we can discover a way to connect with one another by connecting to Jesus and all the truths he lived in the dirt.

He was before us and is forever for us.

 

**this series dedicated to a certain young woman who is so very tired of all the dirt**

New Year, New Words

New Year New Words

 

Each December as the year is ending I make a promise to myself. This year, I want to expand my vocabulary in the coming months. There are calendars with a word of the day or week. There are various programs and challenges to help me with my endeavor. However, I think I will put a new spin on an old challenge. There are some words I would like to un-learn.

Is un-learning even possible?

If it takes thirty days to create a habit, then why not make the habit un-learning a few words? In thirty days, can I change parts of my vocabulary so I sound more eloquent, less rough around the edges, or more professional? The challenge is something I can track through my journaling. Then, another thought pops into my head.

What if I could get a few friends to commit to un-learning some of the words we use on a regular basis? Some of this has already been done for us, due to the political correctness of certain things. I once thought words were just words. Now I understand their power. They can cripple and belittle. They can bring down walls and build them up again. Words can be used to build lives and just as quickly destroy them.

With all the things surrounding this project, I need to make an action plan.

First, I must list ten to twenty words I would like to forget. Clearly, for myself, anything I may say which is inappropriate or considered an expletive will be at the top of this list. I also must remember this list will probably evolve as the process continues.

Next, I would like to quit saying buzz words or phrases. I want my voice to sound unique. I want to personify the individual God made me to be. I need to stop sounding like everyone else. To do this, I may need a few replacement terms- so to the thesaurus I go.

Finally, how to implement the plan. I am not sure how successful I will be, but one thing I can do is remove words from the dictionary on my phone. Did you know this could be done? I accidentally removed a couple of heavily used words once. It was a mistake worth making. I already started a list of words to post where I will see them every day- with a red line through them. I am hoping I will remember they are “red-lined” whenever they begin their escape from my lips or keyboard.

While I take on this challenge, I would like for you to consider it as well. Maybe we can make some positive changes in our vocabulary. We might even learn something together.

What are your New Years Resolutions or Goals?

 

 

Rest to Take Breath

 

I recently read a new book by Karen Ehman called Listen Love Repeat.

It rocked my world so much I read it three more times, allowing it to sink in. The text is about making a sacrifice of time for someone so they know they are loved by listening to their heart, loving them and repeating the process with others. As I was reading along, I related to the words inside. I have always been a girl who serves. I try to be available when my people need me; I am the strong one. I have the words, hugs, and handholding down.  I can talk someone into seeing things differently after a good night’s sleep. I don’t answer questions I couldn’t possibly have answers to. I pray with someone, for someone, and over someone.  My heart breaks for my people when they feel broken or hurt.

Recently, I’ve found myself on the other side of all this, making parts of the book hard to read. I believe God uses circumstances to prepare us for big things, yet in current situations, I feel unprepared. I am not ready for the inevitable changes. On top of that,  I am feeling some other rather strong things as well. Maybe you can relate.

Overwhelmed?

Now there is a feeling we know all too well.

Loneliness?

Also our new best friend.

Under-served is another good adjective.

Hungry?

Only for a shoulder to cry on, and an ear to listen.

We never take the time to notice the very things we are good at are the things we need the most. Somedays, we need more than we receive. We need for others to understand our emotion, to hold our hand, to provide a shoulder or a listening ear. We need our people to expect little when we have little to give.

Amid all the things we are feeling, we are reminded of when Jesus separated from the crowd to pray, meditate and spend time resting. He took a few moments to spiritually fill himself. He purposefully escaped from his everyday situation, so he could return full force. He gave himself some rest turning to his father for comfort and reprieve, right up to the time of his death.

We need to remember if we are going to follow the path of Christ and all He laid out for us, then resting is a requirement. We have to take a step back to breathe, refocusing on ourselves for a time. Once we learn to utilize the tools Christ has provided for us in rest, we can move forward with more Joy and be thankful. We must make sure we spend time prayerfully considering all our life things, so when we have to handle the next stages, we are more prepared. We also need to be more intentional in our personal relationship with Christ.

This means making space in our planners for prayer, reflection and meditating on the word. Recognizing the ability within ourselves to tap into the gift of the Holy Spirit will provide us with greater understanding in our lives.  It gives us the still small voice of discernment and compassion. Once rested, we can begin giving ourselves in service once again, continuing the cycle of work and rest in Christ.