Wednesday, February 29, 2012

tick tock, tick tock...

i would hate to think how many times i look at this clock in my kitchen everyday.  

some days i feel so ruled by time that it drives me crazy.

seconds.  minutes.  hours.

time.

that's what i decided to give up for lent this year.  

our family is already in the midst of our february challenge which is seeking to eliminate excess spending and simplify our food consumption so i was looking for something else.
so...for these 40 days i have vowed not to open facebook and generally cut out technology time-wasters.  the irony of it is that by giving it up i am actually getting it back...time.  

more importantly i have a plan for how to spend that time that was formerly wasted with eyeballs glazed over staring at a screen.  

in psychology terms it's called a replacement behavior.  rather than telling our kids 'don't run' we give them a replacement behavior...'walk, please'.  so during this season of honoring my savior's sacrifice for me my replacement behavior is His word.  
reading it.  
memorizing it.  
meditating on it. 
praying it. 
speaking it aloud.  
sharing it with my kids.

practically speaking i have two tools i am using to help me out.  the first one is...get ready...this is earth-shattering...you won't see this coming...
::1:: my bible {i am keeping it handy at all times}
{and from my bible i have chosen a few passages to focus on for memorization...typed them up...and printed them out.  if you'd like copies i'm so happy to share ~ just email me}
:: 2 :: my bible app {which i am hoping doesn't nullify the goal of technology reduction}   - it's from youversion and it has a really cool lent reading plan that sends you daily readings.

i loved this bit by eileen button that was posted along with my scripture reading today...
...it's difficult to comprehend what our continual sense of entitlement does to our bodies and souls.  our culture worships at the feet of pleasure, deeply bowing to all its delicious offerings.  as we 'shovel it in', we can become desensitized to our needs - the real hunger - in our lives.  observing lent can help us wrestle with the reasons behind our perpetual consumption...it invites us to jump off the hamster wheel of consumption and experience the pinch of abstaining from continual, thoughtless indulgence.  it has the potential to give our frenetic material selves a much-needed break.

:: Deuteronomy 8:3 :: 
Yes - he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you.  He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.  

praying God will satisfy you with a 'food previously unknown to you' during this season of sacrifice.  would love to hear from you when He does.

Friday, February 24, 2012

friday faves :: a trilogy

katniss everdeen.
one week ago i wouldn't have recognized the name.  now i can't get her out of my head.


did you ever start reading a book and then find yourself unable to put it down...so desperate to find out what will happen next?

it's happened a few times in my life but i can honestly say that this is a first for me.  i read a lot and can go through books fairly quickly but...3 books in less than 4 days??  i couldn't believe it.  suzanne collins' trilogy captivated me from the first page.  
i began the hunger games last friday night at bedtime and by tuesday afternoon i had torn through all three books {and was left wishing there were more}.


i must say that i had the advantage of being sick over the weekend.  i know that sounds odd but it's true.  since i was feeling yucky i #1 - didn't want to get out of the bed {which is conducive to reading} and #2 - had a good excuse for people to leave me alone so i could wander off into the make-believe world of panem.  


the downside to all of this was that i did, in fact, neglect my family during this reading marathon.  monday morning at our house looked something like this...
{me with my nose in a book}  
kids: mommy!!  mommy!!
me: hold on you guys...i can't help you right now.  they are just about to release the tributes into the arena!
kids:  mommy - we're thirsty.
me:  i think it's time you guys learned how to fill up your own sippy cups...mommy is about to witness an epic battle here.
kids:  mommy - we're hungry.
me: {glancing at the clock} is it really almost 10:00? ok...i guess i can find something for breakfast real quick...but then i have got to get back to find out what peeta and haywitch are scheming.


ok...so that is a tiny bit of an exaggeration but i was obsessed.  how about you?  have you gotten sucked in to the hunger games trilogy?  are you counting down the days until march 23 when the characters come to life on screen...
{or have you been spending your time on more worthy endeavors?}

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

46 days and counting...

a friend and i joked this morning that this day sneaks up on us every year.  you're in the grocery store or coffee shop and look up to see someone with this strange black mark on their forehead and just as you are about to hand them a napkin to kindly save them the embarrassment of walking around looking 'dirty' it dawns on you that the mark looks an awful lot like a cross...hmmm...isn't that interesting...then all of the sudden it hits you...


it's ash wednesday.


ash wednesday is a moveable feast {which means it can be on different days...no wonder i miss it!}.  it always occurs 46 days before easter.  this day marks the beginning of a season called lent.  since ash wednesday {and thereby lent} snuck up on me again this year i have not yet developed a plan for how i will be observing it.  


there's nothing magical about lent in and of itself...for me it's an opportunity...a chance to prepare my heart for one of my family's favorite celebrations of the year - easter.  just one way way that i can be intentional in the way that i am seeking God and the work he wants to do in me during this season.


i love ann voskamp's words on the subject...


It is an irrefutable law: one needs to be dispossessed of the possessions that possess - before one can be possessed of God.
Let the things of this world fall away so the soul can fall in love with God.  God only comes to fill the empty places and kenosis is necessary - to empty the soul to know the filling of God.
Lent gives me this gift: the deeper I know the pit of my sin, the deeper I'll drink from the draughts of joy.
Grief is what cultivates the soil for the seeds of joy.
His rising will be all my joy, because I know it in the marrow of the bones: He is all my hope.




she also has an easter devotional book that i am going to check out.

and here is a really comprehensive list of 40 ideas for lent.
i have to say that i have not had much luck finding many fun and useful ideas for preparing for easter with young children...i'm going to see if i can pull something together that i can share over the next week or two.  send me your ideas!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

taste and see...

some experiences are hard to put into words…even for a word-lover like me.  i have something i’d love so desperately to share with you but i haven’t had the slightest inkling where to start.  in situations like these there’s only one thing to do…start writing.  
here goes…
over the past week I’ve been asking myself – ‘why?’.  when sentences and paragraphs so often fill my brain with ease - why can’t I even begin to wrap my mind around how to tell this story? i think i may know the answer...   

a lot of life happens in a predictable way…just as expected.  we anticipate how a day at work will likely play out.  we meet a friend for coffee and have a good idea of how the hour will be spent.  we grab a grocery cart and walk the aisles knowing where to find the food and what we’ll do with it once we’ve made our selections.  sure…our days hold surprises {lots of them if we take the time to notice}…but it’s rare that you experience an entire weekend that not only exceeds your expectations but completely erases them and leaves you with something better than you could have ever imagined.

the truth is…i knew it was a divine appointment from the moment the ‘planning’ began.  one month ago I sent an email to a handful of girls who expressed an interest {at one time or another} in a girls weekend retreat…something intimate…something to renew our hearts.  the response…oh my…

i intended for this to just be a preliminary email to get the ball rolling and i had expected to open the opportunity up to others once the conversation was started.  within days i had 12 commitments…a completely full trip.  let me emphasize the importance of this.  12 women…with children, jobs, busy husbands, lives that are moving at a fairly rapid pace suddenly had their schedules cleared, their childcare lined up, and their responsibilities covered so that they could leave town for 3 days {on less than a month’s notice!}.  i’m sorry but this is nothing short of a miracle…and that was just the beginning…

during the weeks leading up to our retreat on the river i consistently felt moved to pray and to encourage the girls to be led by the Spirit as our departure day grew closer.  note that I did NOT feel moved to micro-manage, schedule pre-retreat meetings for the speakers, put together a detailed agenda, assemble reading materials…i did NONE of that…and it was hard.  it was so much harder for me to NOT prepare for that weekend because i have such a tendency to plan and control all of the details of events.  in my pride i want to work hard to make sure everything goes perfectly.  something pressed into my busy, over-planning spirit and told me that i didn’t need to take charge of this one…someone else was making the plans…and so they unfolded…
a picture perfect setting so generously offered...
a scripture breathed into the heart of a friend became our focus…
specific people nudged to lead our sessions…the flow of their messages appearing seamless without any group meetings or discussions ahead of time...
specific songs of praise brought along by two sweet singing, guitar-playing friends led our hearts to worship perfectly...
and i haven't even mentioned the best part...the connections...
i know the weekend was truly about the connections.
the connections that link us to one another and to the God we love and serve.  
but oh the serving...the constant pouring out that each of us was created for...that each of us lives for...it sometimes leaves our own souls dry and empty.  but the river washed over us {not literally...i mean, come on...it was 13 degrees and snowing}...but it did wash over us.  it seeped down into every crevice of our being.  the chill of it brought dead places back to life.  the clarity of it washed the dirty spots clean.  
and as that river flowed so did our tears {would you expect anything less from a group full of girls?}.  and they didn't taste salty but sweet...the sweet liquid that pours from a heart that is heard, a heart that is surrounded by kindred spirits, a heart that is reconnected to the source of it's constant beating.

and so for 3 days we followed David's simple instructions.  the ones he likely gave in response to God's deliverance during one of the most trying times in his life...
we tasted...
and we saw...
that our Lord is good.

we shared story after story of how we have each found refuge in him...
through the loss of children
and adoptions
and marriages
and divorce
and betrayal
and shattered dreams
and resurrected dreams
we accepted the bitter and the sweet of the life we've been given because we all believe it is held delicately in the hands of a God who is good.

it's been exactly a week since i left the river...but its waters haven't left me.  
despite all the 'thank yous' i received from my friends...the magic of that weekend didn't happen because of me.  it happened because 12 girls said 'yes' to a divine invitation...

what is God inviting you to right now?
i will praise the Lord at all times.
i will constantly speak his praises.
i will boast only in the Lord;
let all who are helpless take heart.
come, let us tell of the Lord's greatness;
let us exalt his name together.

i prayed to the Lord and he answered me.
he freed me from all my fears.
those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
in my desperation i prayed and the Lord listened;
he saved me from all my troubles.
for the angel of the Lord is a guard;
he surrounds and defends all who fear him.

taste and see that the Lord is good.
oh the joys of those who take refuge in him!
psalm 34:1-8



Wednesday, February 15, 2012

a love worth fighting for...

valentine's eve...dizzy with excitement...
i know, i know.  for many it's unimportant, unnecessary, a sorry excuse for a celebration...
around here it's a big deal.  
around here it's about love {or is it?}.
monday night i floated down the stairs after children's bedtime...pulled all my pink and red and glittery treasures out of hiding...went to work.  i even took pictures for you...
hearts and love notes tucked in my guy's gym bag.
craft preparations for lucy's preschool party.
sweet custom cookies from milk and sugar cookie company for some of our favorite friends.
it was joy for me...all the preparations.

before i laid my head to rest that night i thought of one last thing i would do.  during morning bible time with the kids we would read paul's words to the corinthians on love...the ones about patience, kindness...  yes - that would be a good start to our day.  a good reminder that when we choose to focus on love we focus on Him.  when we receive love well we can share love well...
in between scrambling eggs and placing them on heart-shaped plates and putting on socks and shoes and packing backpacks and loading cupcakes into car  - 
remember that...don't forget.

but the morning got away from me.  the time i had seemed not enough.  little legs moved too slow and breakfast preparations took too long and mommy patience started to wear thin.  if one more person ran giggling in the other direction when i said 'come HERE'...were we really on our 3rd time out before 9am?  we should have been out of that door 10 minutes ago but i'm setting another 3 minute timer.  
it's valentine's day...we are supposed to be focusing on LOVE here people!

 i felt it well up in me...that anxiety, that stress, that feeling that begins to shellac my heart turning softness into stone.  i kept it inside...that's where the damage is primarily done.  deep breaths and the little ones won't really see the monster under the surface.  
grace enough for them...but not for me...why can't i accept it for me?
loading everyone in the car.  double checking my list.  going back for things forgotten.  isn't there something else i'm forgetting?  all the while the fire inside is burning me...it's painful.  why can't i fight it off?
keep fighting...for the softness...the love that must still be there somewhere...

pull out of the driveway {20 minutes late} and the song begins to drift softly...bursting up underneath the noisy ruckus in the backseat...volume up...
{warning :: if - like me - too much movement/activity can distract you from the lyrics of a song you might want to close your eyes for this one}

and there it is...
it's not my love i'm fighting for...it's His. 
mine is so easily angered, so fleeting, so conditional.  
His is strong, gentle, unchanging.
it doesn't start with me.  it starts with how HE loves us...
oh...how he loves us...
radio off.
quiet.
i knew i was forgetting something.
the bible lesson.  
it wasn't for the kids it was for me.  so as i teach it to them from behind the steering wheel...the patience, the kindness, the slowness to anger, the truth to be rejoiced in...the words needed for me today as much as they were needed for the corinthians all those years ago.
i re-teach it to myself.
these afflictions eclipsed by glory.
oh...how he loves us...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

friday faves :: late again

ok...so maybe i should change the name to 'saturday faves'.  i'm a day late 2 weeks in a row.  you'll find my latest excuse in the faves i share below...

…purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.  Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. 
james 4:8-10

i tried to take a picture of the view from here...this sacred spot where i sit warm and cozy giving my undivided time and thoughts to jesus...long overdue...


the picture didn't capture the movement...
i realized the beauty was in the movement


so i tried a video.  i'm not going to win any awards in cinematography {where are the haun guys when you need them!}


swirling, dancing, frozen fluffs...found tucked away here in the tennessee mountains.


you'll have to wait until next week to hear the story of where i am and what i'm doing...it's almost too amazing for words.  it's been only 24 hours and my cup has long since been spilling over...rest, renewal, truth, community, worship...God's goodness in abundance.


as i write, a few of my faves sit quietly next to my busy fingers on keyboard.


God's goodness...this is my heart's focus this weekend.  
tasting and seeing it as David suggested in psalm 34.  i 'taste and see' in these things...
a warm cup of decaf {bitter cold outside calls for heating up from the inside}, the juicy flavor bursting from a blood orange {countering bitter with sweet}, the grace words of ann voskamp {food that never grows stale}...if you haven't read this book...YOU MUST.

Monday, February 6, 2012

vous etes un bon parent

i've been to france.  twice actually.  
i've heard all the stereotypes about the french being snooty american-haters.  i didn't find that to be true.  
i don't speak a word of french {i looked up the translation for this blog title on-line...there's no telling if it says what i meant for it to say!}  during my trips i walked around paris with a gigantic backpack on my back as i checked in and out of hostels...  

i was clearly american.  

no one appeared to behave in a prejudiced manner towards me.  i don't remember getting any intolerant glares or tight-lipped looks of aggravation. {but maybe i missed them because i was too busy gawking at the sights along the seine or sticking my nose in my 'let's go: europe' book planning my next move.}

over the weekend i read an article from the wall street journal entitled why french parents are superior.  the description of this article read - 
secrets for avoiding tantrums, teaching patience and saying 'non' with authority
...so of course i read on!  for heaven's sake...why would someone keep such knowledge a secret?!

before i get to the part where i tell you what i took away from this piece let me ask a question.  please tell me that i am not the only one who finds myself reading parenting books and articles 'on the defense'.  {ok...that was more of a pleading than a question...but are you with me on this?}  seriously...i find myself throwing on some chain-mail, pulling down the faceplate of my supermommy helmet, and securing my hand on the plastic golf club weapon on my hip at the first mention of something that seems personally convicting to me.  if you say something that makes me feel like i am doing something wrong as a parent you better duck and cover cause that weapon will be drawn.

having said all that, the fact remains...i am a knowledge hoard.  i love to learn new things, gain different insights, challenge my thinking.  i have just learned to limit myself on such things when it comes to parenting.  not because i don't want to be a better parent but because i've learned that there are a gazillion different approaches to parenting and if i read all of them 1 of 2 things happens...
(1)  my head starts spinning and i feel completely and utterly confused which translates over to multiple-personality-parenting because i start trying all kinds of new stuff out.  chaos for my poor kids.
OR
(2)  my heart sinks into discouragement and failure.  my mind goes wild with all the ways that i am potentially screwing up my kids for the rest of their lives.  this translates over to guilt and fear and hopelessness. again - chaos for my poor kids.
so...in an effort to keep the chaos to a minimum for my poor kids...i limit my reading on parenting.

but this article intrigued me. 
{and it was relatively short so i could read it while i was sitting on the side of the bathtub waiting for some little unnamed person in my household to 'take care of business' on the potty}

in the end i didn't feel as yucky as i thought i might.  

the main points {that i gleaned} from the article were...
1 :: teach your children the concepts of patience and delayed gratification.  in other words - not giving into the 'i want this right here and right now' rantings.  good one...i like it.  this is actually a value for me as a parent...that my kids wouldn't become whiny little brats who expect others to drop everything for them.  do i always stand firm on this?  no.  but i try.  sometimes i'm tired or i'm sick or i'm busy and in my laziness i give in.  instead of feeling bad about that i am choosing to let this be a reminder and an encouragement to me.

2 :: encourage playing alone.  this is a tough one for me simply because i really enjoy hanging out with my kids and i find the things they do fascinating.  however...i know the value of them learning to do things on their own and i want to encourage that.  i don't want them to grow up thinking that i exist solely to do crafts and play princess make-believe games with them.  so what's my solution for this?  my original idea of having 10 kids {so that my attention was so divided that none of them would ever feel like the center of the universe} didn't go over well with my husband so instead i work.  i have a job that i love that requires my time and attention which means sometimes the kids have to wait {hey...that helps out with #1 too!}.  i also make sure my sweet husband gets at least some of the attention that he deserves which means occasionally shooing the kids off on their own so that we can have some quality time.

3 :: speak with authority...let them know who's in charge.  this one is huge.  it's also a delicate balancing act for a passionate person like me.  i walk that fine line {and sometimes fall off} between speaking with authority and yelling at my kids.  it may be one area that i have grown most in as a parent.  before i had kids i wielded my authority like a master around the kids i worked with.  i did it in a composed and effective way.  pulling that off with your own little ones is slightly different.  there is something about looking into the eyes of a human being that you are solely responsible for and for whom you perform sacrificial acts on a regular basis...man...there's some emotion there.  and in the instances when a mommy roar comes out of me, the anger behind it is usually directed at myself for some perceived failure in my role...oh boy...i've just crossed into an on-line counseling session with you...let's save this for another post shall we?  

so today...the day after my reading and my self-evaluation as a mommy i chose to feel encouraged.  encouraged that i am doing a good job...the best that i can.  and encouraged to renew my commitment to some important values as a parent.  
and this monday...at home all day with my two little ones...was one of the best days we have ever had...seriously.  no monster mommy, lots of patience {on all sides}, time together and time alone...all with minimal moments of drama.  i think that's what happens when we choose to be encouraged rather than discouraged.  so go give yourself a pep talk...you've got this thing.

{for those of you wondering how our february experiment is going...it is not a complete failure but it is definitely not going according to plan.  this may have been the worst possible month - besides december - to attempt this thing.  i have already decided that i will carry much of it over into march.  i will say that cutting out some of my wasted web-surfing time and window-shopping has allowed for more time for things like reading the aforementioned article.  we'll see how all of this shakes out in the budget too}
  

Saturday, February 4, 2012

friday faves :: a day late

i didn't get to post yesterday because i was too busy experiencing my 'friday fave' for the week...
...experiencing mary poppins live with my 'spoon full of sugar' singin' girl...we loved it!  if you haven't seen it - you should!
even with a 30 minute technical delay {which got us out of there at 11pm...4 hours past her bedtime!} we had a blast.  i wasn't sure she would make it through the late night...
she did...
...but as you can see some less enthusiastic young tots didn't have the same level of endurance.

{more to come on our theatrical experience as well as an update on our february experiment}