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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Change Your Picture



I'm told I don't have a life. I don't know how often I've said that to myself. Or thought it.
But it's been a lot.
And I want to address this subject of 'not having a life' we hear of and speak of so often.

About 3 weeks ago, I was honored with the good ol' parental obligation of taking away privileges. It became a big thing in our home that day. BIG. I won't even go into the original reason, but we took computer privileges away from my oldest, about to be a teenager-but still a child, son. The original sentencing consisted of 2 days or so, but gradually additional days were added per attitude. Somehow, we wound up around the 2 1/2 week mark with no laptop, no phone.

He has only had a phone for a couple of weeks and technically it doesn't have service, but it's my old phone and is still able to connect to WiFi, so we thought we'd let him use it, all the while making it clear that it is still my phone and I am able to let whomever use it of my choosing. But mainly, he's the oldest, so we let him keep tabs on it. It was long awaited and begged for and he loved it from the moment it was handed over. So along with the laptop (his first love), it was the 2nd to go.

When do I get it back?- is always the first question. Usually in disgust.
NOT how can I change my attitude to get it back or what can I do to win your trust again, Mom?
When rolled eyes (by him) and pure frustration (by me) changed to let's sit down and talk, I was finally able to pull together my thoughts on what was happening and why. And then we talked.
"You will get it back when I feel you understand what life is really about and what it's not about."
I know that's big and deep, but it's not really. Life is not about the computer. Life is not about the phone. Or the tablet. Or the Wii U. Or the Xbox One. Or even 'wince'... Netflix. The computer we let you use is not a right. It is a privilege.  And your phone is not real life. When I say "Do your homework" or "It's time for church" or "Get ready for school" or "Come and eat" or "Let's do something as a family" - I am not interrupting your real life with things like family/ God/ responsibility because I loathe you and want to (I quote) ruin your life. Despite what you may feel at that moment.

Life is simple at this point. God. Family. Responsibilities. That's what I told him.
That's what having a life is. For real.
(I will add friendship on as well, because obviously that is important. But if you tell that to a 12 year old in the year 2016, with friendship automatically comes skype and gaming or things of the like, and we aren't going there for now.)

My heart to heart with my son turned into a day date with him with lots of hugs, apologies and him nodding his head in agreement of what I was trying to teach him. We had a fun day. However my words sat with me so much longer than that day.
What is life really about?

Just days later, those very words "you don't have a life" were casually flung in my direction (not by my son, for the record). Whether or not it was intended doesn't matter, because either way it made me think hard about what I do each day, what I want to be doing and who I am doing it for....

I don't currently work outside the home. I had a good 20+ years of work on the outside starting at the age of 14 and will probably get back there someday and will have the rest of my life to do so, but for now I stay home with my little man and of course, my four kids in the summer. I don't really want to miss a moment. (Well, maybe a couple moments wouldn't hurt -hint: free babysitters please) But it's just where I am, personally. And it's where I want to be. Over the course of the ups and downs of my adult life, I've realized what I want out of this life and I am 'going for it."
Going for it sounds small to to others when you are "just sitting around" -at home. But raising a family, being with your children and involved in almost every single moment of every day and experiencing every moment with them is gigantic. And beautiful. And exhausting too, in it's own way. If being a mom and who God called me to be isn't enough, I do also home school my oldest son part time (which even part time feels like a full time job some days- props to you full time home school Mommas!). I watch other peoples kids occasionally so they are able to work. And I volunteer more hours than people realize for our church all week long. Not to mention, I write my heart out when I can squeeze in some midnight moments like tonight.
But primarily in this season of my life, it is my honor to just be Mom. I can't imagine it any other way. When I tickle and snuggle my baby boy after the big kids leave for school in the mornings or when I pick my girls up from school and Leila talks my ear off or when I sit with Jada and we do devotions together or when I sit with Wesley and we go over his home school lessons together and he gets distracted with telling me minecraft stories, I never ever thought of it as not having a life. Every single time, I think to myself, this is what life is all about. Honoring the Lord, by loving my family and training them in the way they should go. This is the desire God has given me. In this particular season, yes, this is what I am designed for. For such a time as this...

All the other things we can desire or strive for on this earth, I wouldn't say they are always distractions from the true abundant life, but they certainly can be if we let real life become more about them and less about what will stick with us...

It makes me ponder all the Mommas out there who have had this very thought or said these very words out loud. I don't have a life.  I don't get any sleep. I can't get a babysitter. I don't ever get a break. I used to love to read. I wish I had time for myself. We say it jokingly in our facebook posts or to the other moms, but half way crying on the inside, wondering where our life went. All this because real life is kicking your tail every single day.
Girl, you DO have a real life... and this is it. The circumstances may have changed (and become better really, I think)...But this is abundance if you know how to really live smack dab in the middle of it.
Be so so thankful and embrace each breath, each giggle, each minute. Work hard and at the same time, just rest. You're doing it. You do have it all. The dream. You just have to change the picture in your head of what life is supposed to be. (Thanks for that, Hart of Dixie!)

To all the Mommas that work so hard outside the home and come home to just a few short hours with their babies each night, to all the Mommas busy creating and writing and designing in between those home school lessons, to all the Mommas who desperately love their children, and are taking care of someone else's children too and never seem to have a kid free moment... I just want you to know, what you are doing is important. This is life. It's not a matter of not having one. It's a matter of what you what you want out of it, make of it, who the grace comes from and all glory goes to.

Change Your Picture.

When our desire and pursuit of God's heart, 
our recognition of the beautiful design of family (and friendship), 
our ambition to take on responsibility genuinely and with integrity, 
and our passion for honoring the Lord by using our talents and chasing those dreams God placed inside of us...
When these things all come together, then we have found a beautiful life and yes, a real life.
We have found the abundant life Jesus wanted for us and gives us. 
It's not about the things, the jobs, the titles, the comparisons...
It's about knowing who you are in Christ and embracing all He's placed around you and on the inside of you. Don't let it sit there. Stand tall in those roles you play in life. Wear all those hats proud. And as you do every moment, do it in honor to the one who gave it all to you.




Monday, April 4, 2016

Apology For Being Me



A few days ago I caught myself semi apologetic... for being myself.

I heard myself saying to a friend, "I wish I wasn't like that, but I am. I wish I didn't wear my heart on my sleeve. I wish I didn't share stories. I wish that with every post on social media, 75 bazillion words didn't accompany it."  Or something of that nature...
But words. They follow me like that cloud of dirt that follows Pig-Pen around on Charlie Brown. They spill out of me, out of my mouth, off of my fingertips, and they will swim around in my head for days and days if I don't liberate them in some way. It's almost embarrassing. Almost. But not enough to stop me.

I realized that somewhere in between the end of 2015 and now, I've said nothing. Strangely enough. At least not here. 
And I tried to do a little soul searching to find out why the silence. We (writers, bloggers, and the like) go through our "I've been quiet" phase and we usually have a good reason for it. For reasons that usually bury themselves somewhere between moderately intellectual and magnificently heart expanding.

But honestly, sometimes we just aren't feeling it. Sometimes it simply boils down to the truth in what we say, when we say "I have kids. I was tired. I was watching Netflix. (yes 3 months of Netflix)." Sorry, but it's true.

I'm forcing myself, for tonight... to write. Because I love to write. I love to think. I love to process. I love to explain. And I'm sure it's a treat for my husband too. Write something. Anything. I've had an assortment of well meaning, well thought out topics of things to write about these past few months, but you know... Netflix and whatnot.

But let's bounce back to my apology for being me. There has never been a time in my life where I felt more confident in who I am. There has never been a time in my life where I recognized and understood and knew the Greater One on the inside of me, so much so that I've challenged and trusted myself to stand tall and strong because of Him. Each and every time an accusation against me and who I am dares flatter itself in my presence, I am reminded that its' not me, but Christ that lives in me. 
So why am I apologizing? Now I apologize for apologizing. 

Really, I think some days I owe God a great big "I'm sorry" for not trusting Him and His purpose in creating me.
 
I'm sorry for not realizing you really do want to use me. I'm sorry for thinking that all the quirks and personalities and genius in this world aren't something you can work with. I'm sorry for forgetting that you created this world, you imagined and spoke the 7.77 million animal species and the 298,000 plant species into existence. Why wouldn't you be the one to create a human race with distinctive skin colors and personalities and passions and expertise ? And why wouldn't you want to use each of us for your purpose and your glory, in our own significant and exceptional way?
It's all you, God.

I'm someone that gets a kick out of the vast and colorful array that makes up the human race. I don't mean skin tone. I mean, I unquestionably see God's handiwork in the abnormal, the artistic, the eccentric, the intelligent. We don't serve a robot and he didn't manufacture us to even be comparable to one another, really. We are all convincingly vibrant in our own way. And it all comes directly from our amazing Creator and Heavenly Father.

So, why do we question His design? Or even the purpose of His design. Scripture is clear. He knit each of us together with thought and purpose. We were intended. Why wouldn't He use our sense of humor, our words, our dreams, our quirks, our charisma, our passions for His glory? 
After all, It's not ours. It's His. We are His. 

YOU are nothing to shy away from or be embarrassed about. Your story is not yours. Your story of creation and redemption and everything that comes along with being His prized son or daughter... is for His glory. 

Use what He put inside of you. Be loud with it. Stand tall and be brave. Clutch it to your chest tightly and embrace it even. But don't bury it. Cultivate it and watch God continue to weave His purpose and plans into you and through you. 

There is nothing more rewarding in this life, than really truly knowing that you are His, knowing that He is big inside of YOU and He wants desperately to let Him use all of YOU (yes, you), for all of His glory.

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth...
Psalms 139:13-15



Sunday, December 27, 2015

Loving Them Well



I started writing this around Thanksgiving and seemingly got busy and sidetracked and never quite finished. Fortunately, I can say with some certainty that it wasn't too much of the 'holiday rush' that consumed me, but just having a family. And that's a good thing. It's a good thing to have people to love. It's even a better thing to love them well.

All year long, most of us pour our lives into our people... our families our friends. And this is unquestionably a season where we intentionally set aside time, funds and thought to others outside of our circle. During the holidays, we make an effort to extend that extra hand in particular those that are in need. It's what we are called to do at all times, to love. But as we celebrate the gift of Christ each Christmas, we are reminded to love and give to those around us. We go above and beyond. However, going above and beyond for many of us may just mean to start at learning to love the people in our lives better.

We live in this era when there is something to be said for just being there in that moment without having to document it for the world to see. There is something to be said for loving our people well...for no other reason than just because. Not for a photo op, not even to make ourselves feel better, but just because those are the people that have stuck by us, will stick by us and they deserve our best and our better most days.

Earlier this year, I really felt God tugging on my heart to step out of my comfort zone to love my people better. I'm a home body. I'm perfectly comfortable pretty much never leaving the house. I adore my friends and I love my family, but getting up and out takes work and energy.  Mustering up the words via email or a text or vox to let someone know I have their back when I wont actually leave the house to have their back seemed pointless. So I knew God was calling me to stretch a little and make sure the people who have laughed with me and cried with me knew that I loved them truly.

As the body of Christ we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus to this world, but I  have always had a problem with the person that can be kind to the stranger or will give more time and thought to the passerby in their life, yet fail to treat those who have always been in their life with respect, honor and kindness. I don't want to be one of those people.
I happen to believe most of my family and true close friends are God given. Those are the people who have defended us, who will repeatedly forgive us and who will go on trusting us over and over again when others wont. Those who will try and talk us out of the bad decisions or even tattle on us when we make them are the people who love us. And first and foremost, if we are to practice love, we need to learn to honor them with our time, our integrity, and our sincerity... I truly believe if we can learn to love our circle of people well, that love will spill over naturally to the world outside of our circle.

This past February, we very unexpectedly found out my dad had to have open heart surgery. I don't want to say I was scared, but I was prepared. At least as I could be.. And I made sure I was there every moment possible of his 10 day stay in the hospital. With four kids, school, my husband being out of town for 5 of those days, it wasn't easy and I was exhausted. But I knew how important it was for me to be there. It was important to me that I was there for him, and I needed my dad and mom to know how much I loved them. The previous year, my mom went to the ER and was told she was a week away from a heart attack. Those are hard and scary moments. I'm a faith girl and I believe in the promises of God, but those moments are just hard and I am thanking God for his peace through every moment.

Since then, I've thought a lot about whether I've shown my love and support for family  and friends the way I needed to over the years. And until this year, I don't think I have. At least not as well as I could have. And over the course of this year, it's something I'm still working on. I've been selfish. I've been negligent. I've been busy. But I've come to this place in my life where I realize a lot of the 'issues' we have with our people simply aren't worth the inner fuss and they definitively aren't worth the fight. Our goal in life is simple. To love. And to love well. To be there first for those God has placed  in your life and that are there just for you... and let that ministry of loving well, then, seep over to others... on the outside as well.

I'm really good at saying I love people, because in my heart, I do. I am empathetic. I am sympathetic. In my heart, I rejoice with those when it's time to rejoice. I mourn with those when it's time to mourn. But love isn't an empathetic feeling or a smile or a tear alone. Love moves you. And I want it to move me to be present in the lives of the people that mean the most to me.
In between the week of starting this post and today...One of my aunts who I am closest to had a stroke.... My heart aches. I see her almost weekly... at church, on visits, we spent Thanksgiving laughing and cracking as we all played Heads Up and Catch Phrase, we spend every Christmas Eve with her and her family, and she always has such a giving heart and is such an example of faith to me. And as I've witnessed and experienced these hard moments with people I love these past 2 years, somewhere in between shock and heartbreak, I am reminded how much I really love them, but even more, how much more I could be loving them. And this isn't my goal for 2016, but it's something God has been laying more and more on my heart. Love them well. From now on and forever, love them well.

The question we need to ask ourselves is, who are those people?  Who are the people that have been there for us? Who are the people that we spend our holidays with? Who watched us get married or came to a funeral of someone we love to support us? Who cared enough to tell us like it is when we messed up?  Who cried with us when we lost someone or something? Who texted us to ask if we were okay? Who laughed with us over and over at the same dumb joke? Who visited the hospital when we were sick or having a baby? Who taught us to be more like Christ? Whose words of wisdom have stuck with us? Who hand held ours? Whose arms hugged our neck? Whose shirt was wet from our tears? Who forgave us over and over? Who trusted us again after we hurt them? Who trusts us enough to tell their frustrations? Who looks up to us to care for them? Who do we laugh so hard with we need our inhaler to breather (ahem...)?

Chances are there are several people, friends, family members, leaders, pastors, classmates, co-workers, etc that fit several of these categories... Chances are these are your people. People that are in your life, right here right now, that need your time, your patience, your generosity, your forever support... These are the people you need to love well.
My husband always teases me when I drive through Starbucks or am on the phone with a customer service rep. Apparently, I  talk "pleasant." He's messing around me with me because my voice gets extra high and perky and I suddenly pull out the ultra nice card. I get a good laugh out of him joking with me. But the truth is, it convicts me of how I treat and talk to him or my kids or the people I truly truly cherish. Why do they not get this 'pleasant' side of me? Am I more kind to a stranger than I am to my own people? Do I put more thought into how I treat someone I don't know than how I treat those I love?

It's certainly something to think about...

I pray as we embark upon another year, our hearts aren't broken or afraid or tattered before we learn to love and cherish our people. I pray today, right here and now, before difficulty comes, we stop and make the decision to really love.
To realize and remember those that really impact our lives and we all learn to love, love them really really well...




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