Uriah Gets an Award

Recently our son Uriah was selected by his teacher to receive the "Sense of Community" award for his class. His teacher called to notify me and so the "home" kids and I made sure to make the trek over to his school to witness him receiving it.

When we got there I noticed that most of the other parents had brought their kids balloons.  At first I felt kind of bad, but it really made me think about a change of attitude I've had in the last few years.  I'm not judging the parents who brought balloons...they have their own motives and reasons for doing what they do and I don't think any less of them.

Yes, I'm proud of Uriah.  And yes we support our kids but awards like this aren't a HUGE big deal to us and here's why....

1.  I want my kids to understand that they don't have to do anything to earn my love.  I love them no matter what they do.  If they went to prison, I'd be disappointed but I wouldn't love them any less.  If they received a Nobel Peace prize, I'd be excited for them but I wouldn't love them any more than I already do.  My love for them is not based on their performance.  It's based on our relationship, it's based on who they are.

2.  Awards like this don't necessarily mean anything.  Teachers are not infallible.  They are not omnipotent.  I've witnessed kids who made my kids lives miserable (by incessant bullying and cruelty) receive this award.  And I've witnessed the efforts of kids who continually work hard go completely unnoticed and un rewarded. So depending on the level of observation by the teacher, the kid who gets the award may just be the kid who managed to make themselves look good in front of the teacher, regardless of how they behave when he/she is not looking.

3.  I want my kids to understand that we do the right thing simply because it IS the right thing...no matter who can see or if anyone else will even notice or what the reward will be. If their teacher notices, great! But if not, the peace of a clear conscience and the glory they bring to God is reward in itself.

4.  I want to, as best as I can...I am only human...give my kids a picture of how God loves them.  I want them to understand that salvation is completely unmerited...that God forgives us and loves us in spite of our sin.  And that we do good works to bring Him glory...not to earn his favor.  I don't want them to spend their life trying to earn it. I want them to bask in God's love and instead of being depressed and feeling hopeless...I want them to feel elated that their God is so awesome that He could forgive a poor wretched sinner like them. (to be clear...I do not believe that they are sinners right now...I believe that eventually they will be)

So, as of now, the only celebrating we have done or will do is taking his picture with his award. I don't think the occasion requires balloons or a special dinner.  We'll have completely unmerited balloons and a special dinner to celebrate our love for our kids on another, completely random occasion.








I Don't Eat Breakfast

I don't eat breakfast.  Gasp! I don't and I don't feel guilty about it.  I used to and I would force myself, or I would start the day feeling like a failure. But I finally came to the realization that sometimes I have to just do my best and feel okay about that.  So I don't eat breakfast.  In fact, I don't typically eat anything until after noon. Maybe eventually that will change, but for now, I'm focusing on eating good foods in good amounts at the times I DO eat and feeling okay with that.

For a long time I worked out at night.  I know what "the experts" say. But at night after my kids were in bed was the time I felt most motivated.  So instead of pressuring myself to get up earlier and workout first thing, I worked out at night and it worked really well for me. Recently I've started working out first thing in the morning.  Not because the experts tell me to, but because at this point in my life, I am motivated to do that. 

The thing is, there are so many voices telling us what we should be doing.  Or telling us how we should do it.  A lot of these voices will tell you that if you don't do things a certain way that you might as well not do them at all.  But I think that way of thinking does more harm than good. Yes, it's probably best to workout for at least 20 minutes, but you know what?! Any amount of time that you spend NOT sitting on your backside is good and beneficial. If you can't spend 20 minutes...spend five and feel good about that.  If you feel good about that, you'll eventually feel motivated to do more.  If you feel guilty because you only spent 5 minutes instead of 20 you are likely to quit. 

This theory applies to Bible reading too! We all start the year off determined to read it through in a certain period of time and that is AWESOME. It's a great goal.  But sometimes we get behind.  And then it gets overwhelming trying to catch up.  If you can't read 15 chapters every day, read one.  Do what you can do RIGHT NOW.  And learn to be okay with that.  

We all have goals. We all have a place we want to be.  But we can't all wake up with a never ending supply self discipline after a lifetime of severely lacking.  This life is about growth.  Not perfection.  

People who run marathons don't just wake up one day and say 'hey! I'm going to run a marathon today'.  They spend months and months training for it.  They prepare.  They start off running (or walking) one mile and they slowly build up to more until they build the endurance to run 26.  Can you imagine seeing someone training for a marathon and walking up to them and saying "you only ran 10 miles, you're such a loser!" NO. Nobody would do that.  Because we all understand that it takes time and training.  So why do we do that to ourselves when it comes to things like eating healthy, working out or reading our Bibles? 

It's a process. It's training for our ultimate goal. It's about growth. 

So I Have a Confession to Make...

I started blogging because I felt "led" to.  I started with the understanding that my writing is mediocre at best but it seemed that God was laying things on my heart and they had to go somewhere.  Maybe it was just that I needed to process God's work in my life and blogging presented itself as a means to that end.

But I have a serious problem with comparison.  I see how well someone else writes or how many followers they have and mine is so small in comparison that I start asking myself questions like "why are you even doing that?! I mean, really, WHO DO YOU THINK you are?"

I guess the problem is that I seek approval from people instead of God.  I actually kind of correlate the two. If others don't approve then God must not either...right?! No. Not right at all. The Bible is full of examples of people who did exactly what God wanted them to do but who were not accepted or even wanted by society. Okay, so am I comparing myself to people like Elijah? No. Absolutely not.  I'm just using those stories as support for my belief that I don't need the approval of others to have the approval of God.

Yes, I hope this blog encourages SOMEONE.  Yes, I want God to do something amazing through me.  But even if I'm the only someone it encourages.  And even if the only amazing thing that happens here is like a grain of sand on a huge seashore that nobody even notices...it's STILL amazing because that's a million times more than I could ever hope to accomplish on my own.

When God gives me something to write, I'm going to write.  For HIS glory.  Not for my own. And not so that anyone else will approve.

I'm going to say yes to God, even if He's the only one that hears it. :)

Sissy Stuff!

So I've done some pretty tough workouts.  I'd already done some before I joined Crossfit.  But then I joined Crossfit.

And then I unjoined Crossfit.  I loved the workouts but I didn't enjoy parting with that much cash every month.

So after I unjoined Crossfit I kind of took a hiatus from working out. I hadn't done that in several years.  I would occasionally do something. But I would try to workout at the level I had previously worked out at and I would end up puking and feeling like I was going to pass out and not able to finish.

Because after doing those awesome workouts where I felt strong and awesome...well, honestly I mostly felt whipped and like throwing up but after I got over THAT I felt strong and awesome...stuff like walking just seemed like 'sissy stuff' (btw, I totally hear the rabbit from Disney's Robin Hood saying that!).  And since my body could no longer handle the tough stuff, I would brood the fact that I had allowed myself to regress so much and just do NOTHING.

It's hard to start over.  It's hard to admit that I've let myself get back to the point where I have to.

It's necessary though if I ever want to actually get back to and go beyond where I was.  Which I do. It's time to let go of the past, learn what I can from it and press toward the future.

The thing is though I'm starting over, but not from scratch.  I'm wiser.  I've grown.  And not just in size.  I know that I'm more than a number on a scale, my deadlift one rep max or my dress size. I'm a daughter of the King.  A sinner saved by the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ.  I have been set free!

So while I'm briskly walking along, I'll be thanking God for the progress I'm making and for the opportunity to start fresh...and giving myself grace for the necessity of it!

Have you ever had to start over? Is there something you need to 'start over' with?

Thursday Thirteen: Books and Blogs I Read Over and Over Again

In no particular order.

1.  Piercing the Darkness and This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti.
     I had kind of always thought God stood up in Heaven not really interacting much with us here...but these        books completely opened my eyes to new possibilities.

2.  Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

3.  The Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers

4.  Gentle Ways of the Beautiful Woman by Anne Ortlund

5.  The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

6.  Three books by John Ortberg If You Want to Walk on Water You've Got to Get Out of the Boat, The Life You've Always Wanted and The Me I Want to Be

7.  Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

8.  www.passionatehomemaking.org
Lindsay technically isn't even blogging  anymore but here are some of my favorite posts...even though there are so many more than I could post here!
     Can Natural Living Become an Idol?
     What is the Purpose of the Home?
     And all of her posts on hospitality!

9.  www.heavenlyhomemakers.com
I have gotten a ton of recipes from here! I've made homemade graham crackers, poptarts, Cheeseburger Soup, and Cheesy Beef and Rice.  Her recipes are economical and use real ingredients! And she also offers a lot of encouragement about being hospitable!

10.  www.Tammysrecipes.com
Tammy posts a lot of economical and real food recipes from this site! She also hosts Kitchen Tip Tuesday. She has a lot of her own recipes but she also creates at home versions of restaurant favorites.

11.  The Little House Cookbook
        I have always loved the Little House books.  As a girl I loved Laura but as a grown up girl I love Ma and Mrs. Wilder.  I love reading about how they "made do"...either economically or technologically. It inspires me!

12.  Proverbs31Ministries Devotions

13.  www.weareTHATfamily.com
Because we are THAT family too and it makes me feel better. Also, she has a lot of good things to say that challenge me!

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Sometimes it's difficult to really put my finger on what is actually different about our marriage.  Yes, we're happy. That's different.  Yes, we get along.  That's different. Yes, we feel connected more than ever before. That's different too.

I guess the really difficult thing for me to pin down is the cause behind those effects.  Even though I know that ultimately that Cause is God.

I can't really tell you a lot about how Michael has changed, and I don't really think that's my place.  He has his own story to tell and I'll let him do that when and if he's ready.  For now, I'll just tell mine.

Not long ago I was stuck in a shopping center and spent the time in a book store where I flipped through Shaunti Feldahn's latest book.  I usually read books on marriage taking notes on things I need to change.  But this time was different.  I came to one section where she was explaining that "happy couples" had a general sense that the other person cared about them...and I totally smiled to myself because that was something I had been thinking about recently...because THAT is another change.

I have a general sense that Michael loves me.  I know before he tells me.  And when he does something insensitive, I don't lose that sense.  So why the change?  Did Michael change? Probably.  But I think the problem in that area was me all along.  For the first six to seven years of our marriage I didn't feel that way. I often felt like he didn't care for me because I had an idea in my head of what someone who cares about you does to show you they care about you. And he didn't do those things.  As a result almost every area of our marriage was tainted.

But when I finally realized and pin pointed the way he shows love...I can see it all the time.  He researches my phone options, keeping in mind my likes and what will serve me best, and then goes and buys it for me so I don't have to go through the rigamarole.  He brings the van back to me full of gas.  He's kind of an "Acts of Service" love giver I guess.  Which is kind of weird since he's a "Words of Encouragement" receiver.

I think the most important change is that I have truly felt the gravity of my sin, the desperation of being caught in a cycle and the freedom of finally getting out.  I'm not sure why I never went through this process before, but I finally did. That process has given me a new perspective toward others sin and Michael's in particular. I don't feel the need to take his sin personally (I never ever thought I would ever be able to say that!), and I am free to love him in a way I never could before. I understand that he doesn't sin because he's a horrible person and he doesn't love me....he sins because he's human and that's what we do.  It's what I do.

All of this has brought a whole new atmosphere to our marriage. We can finally be real. With no strings attached.  It's not that we don't care about sin.  We do.  But we repent, we pray and we move on. But most of all, we love.

It's so amazing to look around and be able to see concrete evidence of God working in our lives.  I am truly thankful!!




Love At First Sight?

I remember the night I met Michael with perfect clarity. I'm not sure I could tell you what I was wearing, but I recall the moment I saw him and the warmth that took over my gut with perfect vividness. Over the next few months of getting to know him (long distance since I lived in West Texas and he lived in Alabama), the more time I spent with him, the more I liked him. I had never liked another human being as much as I liked him.  I had never felt as at home with anyone or felt as safe with anyone as I did with him.

So fast forward 15 and 1/2 years.  

I've never been a believer in love at first sight.  And I'm not saying that's what happened, but as I look over the last 15 and 1/2 years I am convinced that God was working. 

Which is kind of a light bulb, because for a long time I honestly thought that we were a mistake.  I thought that we had made such horrible mistakes that God was going to just leave us to wallow in our depravity. 

Our dating life was marked by sin. We lacked self control, we put ourselves in situations that were less than ideal.  Each of us brought our own set of baggage and sin that exacerbated the others areas of struggle.  We were literally a mess.  And neither of us told anyone. We just pretended that everything was fine.  We hid our sin.  

I broke up with him seven times.  But every time we broke up, he would call me and I would see an inkling of that amazing friendship we had in the beginning and we would "get back together"...only to repeat the same mistakes and sins.  It was so unhealthy.  And now looking back, it was even more unhealthy than we even knew or acknowledged at the time. 

Anyway, we got married after I became pregnant.  

We went through premarital (which ended up being post marital too because we took so long going through the material) counseling.  I'm not going to say it didn't help at all but it certainly did not address the issues we were facing.  Probably mostly because we were never really honest.  

Things escalated as we had baby after baby.  We spent money we didn't have, went through long periods of unemployment, and resorted to physical violence (with each other, not our kids).  My house was a disgusting physical manifestation of the things that were going on in the inside of me.  

At different points we made attempts to ask for help.  But we were never willing to be honest. We went to one marriage counseling session, we both bawled our eyes out telling the counselor what was going on and he handed us a book on communication and told us he wouldn't need to see us again.  We left SO INCREDIBLY frustrated. 

A major turning point came for us when we met with another counselor. We were more honest than we'd ever been and he helped us more than we'd been helped so far.

I wouldn't say there was a 180 degree change...more like the fork in the road that led to a better place.

The thing is, we both felt this incessant instinct to hold on...to keep showing up...even when things were at their worst and divorce seemed like a very real option.  

Over the next few years opportunities arose that allowed us to relieve some of the pressure sources to our marriage.

About 3 years ago God started (I say 'started' but I feel sure it probably started way before this) something amazing inside of me...and for the first time in my entire life I had a REAL relationship with Him...I became sure of my salvation. He has been teaching me some amazing things about forgiveness...how to give it and how to receive it.  

Is this where I tell you we lived happily ever after?

No.  Absolutely not.  

If you were a fly on the wall of our house, you would not see Cinderella and Prince Charming living happily ever after...you would see two people who struggle with sin...two people who snap at each other when they are frustrated (or just sitting on the couch on a normal day under normal circumstances) who very often make bad decisions...and who sometimes fight over really stupid things. 

But you will see two people who love God and who are daily in need of His grace.  

As I reflect on all of this, I no longer believe that we are a mistake.  I believe that God had/has a plan.  I'm not going to presume to say what that is...maybe He's using each of us to beat the other one into submission! :) I don't know.  But I see His work (He's done some really cool things just in the last month) and I can't help but praise Him! Because as amazing as what He's already done is, I bet in another few years I'll look back and be even more amazed by what He's done! 

So why do I feel the need to share this? First of all and most importantly, I want to boast in Jesus Christ! He is awesome! Also, I want anyone who is struggling in their marriage or any other area of their life, to know that they are not alone. You don't have to keep it to yourself.  Don't keep it to yourself! We are all sinners. Find a safe person and let them help you through it! 

You are loved.