Thursday, February 15, 2018

Run with Endurance

This has been a hard week for me. Emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally. A sinus infection, a situation with foster care, a busy schedule, car all piled up. But the biggest issue was that I preached at church Sunday, and can I just be honest? I was SO nervous leading up to it, but when I got there, I felt completely at peace. At peace that this was exactly where I am supposed to be, and who I am supposed to be in community with. and what I'm supposed to be doing. That God had orchestrated my life up to this point to share this story, at this time, with these people. That he had anointed me to invite people into the story that he's writing with my life. 

And yet, I fell apart afterwards. I've spent the entire week "introverting" because I was completely overwhelmed with the response. I was not mentally prepared for the people who came up to say that what I shared really ministered to them, or that they were impressed with my "sermon", or that I should expect God to use me more in this way because they really see that in me. I wasn't prepared for people to see value in me in this capacity. So through all the positive comments and encouragement from people who know and love me, all I heard was Shame's voice saying "Who do you think you are? You have no right to share this. You have no right to think you ought to stand up there and speak. You have no right to be used by God in this arena."

And then I was so frustrated with myself. Frustrated for struggling. Frustrated for butting up against shame and fear. Again. Didn't I just struggle with this 6 months ago? Why is this rearing its ugly head AGAIN?! How do I finally break free of it? If #thestruggleisreal then I've been living it for the last two years. And you know what? I'm tired of it. I'm tired of the battle with shame and fear.

I got bent out of shape that this thing "popped up" again because I forgot that I am being perfected. That I am being transformed. The Christian life is not a life of mini-goals, or deadlines, or finish lines. There is ONE finish line and we are running toward it, building endurance, crossing hurdles, being  perfected, and being conformed to the image of our Father.

The track star doesn't get frustrated when he comes to another hurdle, he just keeps running and jumps over it. He doesn't stop for a pity party and cry because he already jumped over one hurdle already. He just keeps running with endurance. 

So when the storms come (not if, but when), when the lies are revealed that I believe, when I struggle with sin or shame or fear, I can rejoice because God has another opportunity to have his perfect work in me. He's revealing another area where I can be more like Jesus, NOT through will power, but through HIS power that works mightily in me.

And he did. He did work mightily in me. He showed me the lies I believe that caused this reaction to the attention after my sermon. And he's setting me free, taking me from glory to glory IN HIM. That's the only place I want to be.


PS: And because I'm trying to be brave and embrace this new season that God is calling me into, click here to listen to what I shared on Sunday. ;)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

One Little Word 2018

Random pictures from our family photo shoots this year ;)

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Wow, it has been a loooong time since I wrote here. If you don't follow me on Instagram, that's where I share our day-to-day life, and have been "mini-blogging." I love to write, but don't always have time to sit down at the laptop to share my heart. I'm jumping on tonight for a quick post...very little editing, just pouring my heart out for a few minutes.

We're quickly approaching 2018 and can I tell you, I'm pleased as punch? I'm SO ready for this next year! I believe there are some big things in store for our family, I believe God has some amazing things in store for his kids, and I'm excited to see what's coming next.

As I always do, I like to choose One Little Word for the year (click the link if you're not sure what that is.) And as God always does, he dropped the perfect word in my spirit a few days ago. My One Little Word for 2018 is

I have felt this word stirring in my soul for several months now, but the last few weeks, God has really been speaking to me about being faithful. Faithful to the story he's writing with my life. Faithful in my relationships. Faithful with my time. Faithful with the gifts he's placed within me. Faithful. My initial reaction was "God, I'm faithful! I don't cheat on my husband!" LOL But as I dug into the meaning of the word, I was taken aback. There was a far deeper, richer meaning to this word than I knew.

Faithful [feyth-fuh l] adjective
1. Strict or thorough in the performance of duty
          |a faithful worker
2. True to one's word, promises, vows, etc.
3. Steady in allegiance or affection; loyal; constant
          |faithful friends
4. Reliable, trusted, or believed
5. Adhering or true to fact, a standard, or an original; accurate
          |a faithful account; a faithful copy

I had been meditating on this verse for quite some time:

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?" Luke 16: 10-12
In 2018, I want to be found faithful. I want to be faithful to my husband, yes, of course. But I want to be found a faithful steward of my health. All of my relationships. My home. My gifts and talents. The story God is writing with my life. I want to be faithful in all the little things that I think no one notices. Because HE notices. And if it's true that I live for an audience of One, then I want him to see me and know I'm faithful.

My One Little Word this year isn't about changing everything about how I live my life. It's simply about having intentional conversations with my Father God, asking him "Show me how to be faithful with this life you've given me. Show me how to be faithful with the laundry and the dinner, with my marriage and my children, with these gifts and this calling, with every little thing in my life. Show me how to glorify you in the midst of the mundane by being faithful with those things that no one else sees." And then creating space to listen and obey.

This year my word is FAITHFUL. What is your One Little Word?


Saturday, May 13, 2017

My Last Mother's Day

***The images in this post are quotes and scriptures that have resonated with my soul as my husband and I came to do the decision to be foster parents.***

It's not often that you stand at the brink of a new relationship and know it's going to end in pain. I don't think humans are engineered for that. Unless there's significant trauma, I don't believe that we go into a relationship believing the other person is going to leave us, or hurt us, or that it will end in heartache. And yet, that's where I am today. It's the Saturday before Mother's Day, and I have "all the feels" as they say, but mostly the uncomfortable ones.

My husband and I are going through foster training. We started our journey just a few months ago, bright eyed and full of optimism and hope. We stand to complete our training and (hopefully) be ready for placements by August. And yet here, on the brink of Mother's Day, I'm questioning. Questioning what next Mother's Day will look like. How many children will I have loved and said good bye to by that point? How many little ones will steal my heart, and then return home? The thought crossed my mind the other day that this is my last "normal" Mother's Day. It's my last Mother's Day as a Mama to just two beautiful girls that I birthed. The rest of "my" children are either in utero, or in a home that may be neglecting or abusing them. And that is heart wrenching.

I also think about their mothers. I think about how some Mama out there knows she's pregnant, but her inner pain is so deep that she can't resist the siren song of drugs or alcohol. I think about the Mama who knows she's pregnant and feels completely incapable of taking care of a little one. I think of the Mama who desperately wants her children, but poverty means she has to work double shifts, at the risk of neglecting those same children. I think of the Mama who has lived through horrific abuse herself and knows no other way to exist than to try to displace her own shame onto her children. I think of the Mama who sits in jail, unable to see her babies, but loving them so much it hurts. It's their Mother's Day too, a day filled with pain and heartache, insecurity and instability.

And I my heart strong enough? Have I recovered enough from my own struggles to be able to walk beside these hurting families? Will I survive letting go when everything in me screams to hold on? Can I truly have open hands, an open table and an open heart?

I don't really have answers. And that's a hard thing for me to accept. I'm an idealist, and I want to believe the idea that the kids coming into our care will be just like our own, it's just their parents that are screwed up. I want to believe they won't have major behavioral problems, or physical remnants of prenatal drug and alcohol exposure. I want to believe they'll attach easily and it'll be only mildly uncomfortable to release them back into their capable parents' arms. But all of that is just the ideal. It's not reality. As that understanding deepens, my heart starts leaping in my chest and asking my brain, "Are you sure about this? Are you sure we're tough enough for this?" And when those questions get overwhelming, I have to do the only thing I know to do: pray. Pray for them to be safe, and pray for me to brave.

So I stand on this side of the pain, on this side of the heartache and I still say yes. I still say yes because I feel His heartbeat every time I think of a child who feels unwanted, unloved, and unseen. I feel His heartbeat every time I think of a mother and father who desperately love their children, but are incapable of giving them what they need. I feel His heartbeat every time I think of the Mama who is drowning in her own pain and pulling her children under the current with her. And I say yes, even if it means my own heart must break in the process. Maybe it's in the breaking that we become whole together.

I plan to write more extensively about our foster care journey as we progress through it. May I ask a favor? Please keep our family in your prayers. This is a scary journey, but one we feel called to and we covet your prayer covering for us, our bio children, our extended family and friends, and the children and families we are called to love.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Broccoli Tomato Salad

I don't share a lot of recipes here because I'm the world's worst food photographer, but this is one of my family's favorite salads. How can you go wrong with broccoli, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, and bacon?! I served it alongside my favorite Green Chicken recipe from Nom Nom Paleo (and makes the perfect addition to a garden salad the next just gets better and better!), and a garden salad. And corn because my daughter loves corn. She loves it so much that I didn't get to eat any of the corn you see on my plate, she stole it. ;)

Broccoli Tomato Salad

1 large head broccoli, cut into 1/2" florets
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
8 oz. cheddar cheese, cubed
1/2 lb. bacon, cooked and crumble

Dressing Ingredients:
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
3 Tbsp. white vinegar

In a large bowl, combine broccoli, tomatoes, onion, cheese, and bacon. Whisk together dressing ingredients until sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour over salad. Toss to coat veggies. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

If you make this, let me know! I'd love to know if you enjoy it as much as my family does!


Monday, March 13, 2017

Don't Fence Me In!

I mentioned recently that I should write a post about how much I despise labels. Well, this is it. This has been something brewing in my heart since 2000. I'm excited to dig into it with you all today.

As I shared on Friday, I've been a member of many different Facebook groups and message boards over the years. I've been in groups with topics ranging from art to parenting, from diet to natural living to homeschooling. Each online community has a lot of questions posted each day. Their actual questions may be something like, "Is this recipe pure/natural enough?" "Is this curriculum Charlotte Mason enough?" "Is my painting realistic enough?" "Was my discipline choice for my child good enough? The topics may vary, but once boiled down to their purest form, they are all asking the question "Am I enough?"

Label or Prison?
If we aren't careful, we can be defined by our labels. Our labels, which should serve to guide us, instead become walls that imprison us. We can become fearful of branching out into new territory because our label won't allow us. Instead of being free to experiment and explore this wide, beautiful world full of possibilities, we create mental jails where we grow stagnant. 

For instance, if I label myself as a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, I've handed those around me a yardstick with which they can measure my "enough-ness." Suddenly, if I choose to try a new approach that may not align entirely with Charlotte Mason philosophy, then someone can say, "Uh-oh, you're not Charlotte Mason enough!" If that bothers me, I can quickly shrink my life down to fit into that box that I (or others) have created. That label can become like a boa constrictor, tightening around my life until I can't expand and breathe.

Relationship Killers
I shared in this post how much Chasing Francis meant to me. I'd like to share a section out of that book that really spoke to my heart:

I don't want to be labeled at all. Labels are misleading. They objectify people. They are a form of relational laziness. We think that if we can nail a person's label, we've got them all figured out and we don't need to spend time getting to know who they really are...People are always a lot more complicated than their labels.

I LOVED this passage. It is exactly my heart beat, particularly in light of our current political dynamic. If someone claims the labels of Liberal, Conservative, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, etc. then we think we know what they're about. We think we know what their values are, how they voted, what they believe and think about every current issue. But as Ian Morgan Cron said, people are a lot more complicated than their labels. And if I'm going to develop deep, meaningful, authentic, vulnerable relationships with people, then I can't whittle them down to fit the mold of a simple label. Don't I owe them more respect than that? Don't YOU want more respect than that?

If we aren't mindful about how we're utilizing labels, we can fall into "relational laziness", someone who labels people, decides if they're worthy of our time, attention, or love, and ultimately, misses out on a rich life. I'm obviously not talking about money here; I'm talking about a life made rich by experiences that stretch us, relationships that require the best of us. What could be a rich tapestry of relationships woven together by mutual respect ends up tattered rags. And all because we didn't take the time to look beyond the simple labels and get to know the people underneath. We are far more complicated, and infinitely more valuable, than a label could ever express. 

So, what do we do with these labels?
I could say trash them, but let's face it, that's not realistic. We will always attempt to label, quantify, and classify things, ideas, and people. It's in our nature. Instead, I propose that we should use labels are a jumping off place. Instead of seeing them as boxes that contain us, why don't we use them as engines to propel us onward?

What are the labels you've adopted for yourself or assigned to others? Are they accurate? Do you need to re-think how they apply to you? Are there new labels that would be more appropriate to your value system? Take some time to evaluate the labels in your life and decide if they're serving you or enslaving you. If it's the latter, it's time to let them go.


Friday, January 27, 2017

Defining Your Core Values

I used to be a member of several groups on Facebook with topics centered around minimalism. There was one devoted solely to mothers attempting to live a minimalist lifestyle, one for families, one for homeschoolers...basically, if there's something you're interested in, there's a group for that on Facebook. 

Regardless of what type of group it is, there is always a question that surfaces: "Is this ok? Is this _minimalist/artistic/healthy/whatever_ enough? Am I doing this right?" And if translated correctly, what they're really asking is, "Am I enough?"

Fluid Definitions

Like anything, minimalism can get tricky when we try to define it. To define something is to draw the boundaries of that thing, and it's hard to do that when the thing you're trying to define is fluid. Minimalism is a very fluid concept; it can mean very different things for every person who claims the label. (I should write a post on why I despise labels so much. But that's for another time.) 

These are all ways I've heard people define minimalism:
  • Owning a set # of items 
  • Being able to fit the items you own in a duffel bag/suitcase
  • Living in X-amount of square feet (36, 100, 240, 600....)
  • Having an intentionally uncrowded schedule
  • Zero waste
  • No furniture
  • Not owning a car/home
  • Not having children/limiting the number of children you have

And that's where that fluid definition comes in...all of these are legitimate ways to define minimalism for them. It certainly doesn't have to be how you define minimalism for yourself. When I first stumbled onto the idea of minimalism, I realized how freeing it could be to own fewer items. I realized how much of my time was spent simply maintaining my stuff. I remember hearing the phrase, "Our stuff should serve us, not the other way around." And I was hooked.

So, what's important to you? Start there and that will help guide what your process looks like. One of my core values was that I want to spend quality time with my family. So I began looking critically at what I was doing that was making that harder to achieve. Since laundry was a huge issue for me, I immediately donated tons of clothing. I do less laundry, we spend less money on clothing, and getting dressed is a lot easier because I'm developing a wardrobe of only things I enjoy wearing. 

What's your Why?

You have to know why you're doing something or you won't stick with it. Defining your core values helps you live purposefully, not being pulled here and there by every wind of consumerism, but intentionally creating the life you want to live. You don't have to ask others "Am I enough?" if you've already defined "enough" for yourself. You can easily look to your core values and determine if you're living in alignment with those. 

No one else can tell you if you're living the life you were made to live. That knowing comes from deep inside, and one of the best ways I've learned to hear that voice is to quiet the noise from the stuff I own, create literal and figurative space in my life, and listen. Minimalism hasn't been a cage, but instead the key to the lock on the cage of consumerism.


Monday, January 23, 2017

All That Remains

In the last week I've watched the film Minimalism: A Documentary About Important Things twice. I've been so moved by what I saw portrayed in the film: people coming from places of deep, profound pain and dissatisfaction into a life of contentment and great joy. And how? By shedding the excess weight of material things. By choosing simplicity.

The other day while scrolling through Facebook, I realized just how much of my newsfeed is dominated by marketing. There's not a single day that goes by that I don't see post after post trying to sell me on the latest essential oil blend or eye cream or lipstick or fashion item. And if we're honest, every single post is a form of marketing. We carefully curate what we share on social media because we're marketing a certain version of ourselves. We want to people to "buy" the best version of our lives.

And it's certainly not just my newsfeed, it's the side bar, it's every website, every blog. Search for a specific item on Amazon and they're quick to suggest 15 other items that other customers bought at the same time. Don't you need all of those too? Don't you want all those too? How will you read that book without this state of the art book light, this neck pillow, that throw blanket, this stainless steel coffee mug, the espresso machine, and the "book lovers" coffee blend?  How have you existed up to now without all this stuff?!

We're chasing something that doesn't exist. The advertisers and manipulators dangle the carrot in front of my face, saying if you just buy this, own this, have this, you'll be happy. But the carrot is plastic, and even if I caught it, I wouldn't be satisfied.

I'm not interested in working a job, pushing a business, just so I can buy the next upgrade for a life I don't want. It's ok to say I don't want the McMansion, the third car, the Disney vacation. Henry David Thoreau said, "I make myself rich by making my wants few." And what I want lately is pretty simple:

  • I want to spend time with my family. Not just time in close proximity, but focused, quality time. That means saying no to anything unnecessary. It's ok to say no.
  • I want to pay off debt. Yes, that means we need an income. But I still don't think that means working a job my husband or I hate. Our time NOW is just as valuable as our time when we're debt-free. We can talk about the hustle all day, but what if I died in the middle of the hustle? Would it be worth it?
  • I want to homeschool my kids well. I want to do the absolute best job that I am capable of, and nurture who God created them to be.
  • I want to write a book. (Yikes. Did I say that out loud?!?!) And not just any book, but one that adds value and brings solutions.
  • I want to love people well. Right now, that means some specific people God has dropped into my life, as well as searching out those that I know he's calling our family to serve, in some hard places.
  • I want to travel with my family. And not to the glossy magazine vacation spots, but to places that nurture my soul in the deepest ways...mainly, places where nature is wild, and my family can roam free. Some of those beautiful spots are right in my own backyard.

The thing is, I don't want to wait until...until the debt is paid off, until the kids are older, until we've reached some arbitrary measure of success, until we live the life we want to live. I want to live a life of value now. I want to live a life of meaning. I know that when I pass from this earth, people won't say, "I'm really going to miss her, she had a really nice sofa." Or "Do you remember those awesome shoes she wore?" ( one would ever say that about me anyway!) ;) But, I HOPE they'll say things like, "I'm going to miss her. She really loved well." "Do you remember how she poured her life out in service to others?" I hope they remember that I saw this life for what it really one and only beautiful life, and that I didn't just wait for someday.

So I ask you: