Making room for the new

My violets have been in desperate need of trimming off the old blossoms and dead leaves, and I finally got around to it this week. You know those tasks you keep rewriting to the next day’s to do list? Now I can officially mark it off. As I was pulling the dead leaves off one of my larger plants, my daughter asked me something like, “Mama, why you pull those off?” It must have seemed strange to her to see her mama pulling leaves off a plant after all the lectures she’s heard about looking and not touching, being careful with flowers, etc.

“I have to pull off the dead stuff to make room for the new”, I replied. 

Then I thought about my response more, and marveled at how true that is in all of my life. How many times have I heard God say lately, “You need to clean out the old stuff, so you can make room for the new seasons I’m bringing you”.  Any gardener would laugh at the thought of that African Violet tenaciously clinging to it’s dead blossoms despite the promise of new, fresh blossoms and baby leaves.

Yet, how often do I hold on to stuff, memories, old dreams, etc despite God’s whispers to me of new seasons with new life.  

As we prepare for our next little one to arrive this year, my mind automatically starts wondering about space.  Where will they sleep? Where am I going to fit his/her clothes? How do I keep track of multiple sizes of diapers? Though I haven’t gotten it done yet, I’ve mentally been making a list of areas that need to be cleaned out and stuff donated so I can fit in our new blessing. And not just ‘stuff”, but there is a letting go of activities or old manners of doing things as our family grows.   I’ve been volunteering at Good News Club at the Elementary school for 6 or 7 years, and my littles have attended with me. But with our new addition coming, I’ve said farewell to that season.

While there may be grief in letting go of the old, there is also excitement in looking forward to the new. 

Without winter there couldn’t be spring. Without a seed giving of itself, we could not have fresh growth. I’ve been processing what it means to minimize what is not essential, so I can maximize space and time for those people and activities we love most. I have so far to go, so don’t look to me for solutions. If anyone has this all figured out, please share your ideas in the comments. 🙂

And while it may be a slow process to trim away my old blossoms, I look forward to the new seasons promised me. 

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When you have to forgive the violet thief…

There are two treasures that you don’t touch in our house. You don’t touch Papa’s board games and you don’t touch Mama’s plants, specifically my African Violets. I’ve been raising them for probably  over 15 years and I constantly marvel at their delicate flowers.

Most of mine are this deep purple color, but at least one is pink.  In the past, I’ve had some mostly white ones, with just a touch of pink in them. Currently, I’m raising babies from my own plants to transplant and gift to friends and family. Since most of my violets are purple, I’m especially fond of other bloom colors.  My favorite lately was my pink one in full bloom.

I say was…because forgiveness was needed last week. While a friend was visiting on Monday, I showed her this pink one in full bloom.  My daughter asked to see it, so after giving her a reminder of “Don’t touch the flowers, only look”  (which is the reminder I give her with our tulips outside) I turned back to my friend for five minutes.  Yes, I’m sure you can guess what happened.

My heart was crushed and I didn’t know how to process it. There’s no way to predict when it will bloom again. And clearly, they can’t be glued back on.All I kept thinking was how this week’s Bible study lesson was on forgiveness. What timing!  As our lesson clearly stated, I knew out of the vast ocean of forgiveness I had received, that I must forgive her too. (And compared to marker on the wall or chopping off her hair, this wasn’t so bad)

My struggle wasn’t  in if I could forgive her, but how to help her understand the cost of that forgiveness.  Forgiveness costs the giver something.  God’s forgiveness of me cost Jesus his life.  My forgiveness to others comes out of the great storehouse of forgiveness I have received from God.   It is the relinquishing of a debt.

As I layed her down for her nap, I sobbed.  My heart was crushed, and she needed to know that though I still loved her and forgave her, my heart was still sad over her actions.  There was still a cost to her actions.  At her age, she is only sorrowful that our friendship is broken.  She tries every technique she can think of to make us “be friends” again. “I still love you mama”. “Mama, your heart changed?  You’re happy again?” “I’m sorry mama”.  She is sorrowful that we are not friends, but not repentant over her actions.  She can recite back her wrong doing, but I wonder how much of it her heart understands.

So much of parenting has given me a living picture of my relationship with God. How many times am I sorrowful that I disappointed Him, without grieving my sinful choices?  How many times do I say I’m sorry, but yet that action may happen again? How many times does He faithfully forgive me, though I don’t fully grasp the true cost of that forgiveness?

Ahh, my dearest daughter, you and I have much to learn in this area of repentance and forgiveness. Together, we will learn to admit our wrongs, ask for forgiveness from the heart, and be deeply grateful when that cost is paid in the form of forgiveness.

We’re in this together.

PS. Let me know in the comments if you have any tips on helping children understand apologies, admitting wrong, forgiveness, ect.

Only half the picture: or when the obedient children of today turn into tomorrow’s drama

This last Wednesday, a random stranger stopped me at the library to marvel at the obedience of my toddler. Yes, let’s stop to wonder at that for a moment……for it may never happen again. We had pulled up to the library, and my toddler was waiting for me to get the little one out. This gentleman stopped to complement me on how she stayed right with me, and asked how I trained her to do that. He explained that his own children usually bolt in a million directions. Caught off guard, I initially responded, “lots of prayer!” But then followed it up with something about clear directions, follow through, consequences, and timeouts to think about what a better choice would be. My answer may have sounded a bit mixed up as I was completely caught off guard.

I went home feeling validated that at least a small part of my work had payed off…for a moment.

But the man only saw half the picture. He never saw the next morning as she cried and whined, and complained about everything. Or heard my desperate prayers for God’s help. Or saw how much I just wanted to put her in timeout and shut the door for some moments of peace. He never saw us Friday morning when I had to hot glue the bear she broke back together, or when she had to clean up the cats’ water she spread all over the floor.  He only saw half the picture.

How often do I look at someone’s snapshot and immediately judge that their whole life must be as marvelous as this “half picture”.   Seeing Instagram pictures, smiling children on Sunday, or seeing a person in public vs. as they really are at home, gives us only half the picture of their life. My obedient child of Wednesday turned into my drama child of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  I know I often fall prey to feeling like I don’t measure up after viewing other’s shining moments. But it’s because I don’t see their sink of dishes or toddler tantrums.

Equally wrong is when I only look at a snapshot of my life, and believe that to be the whole picture. If I only look at her tantrums this weekend, or the Cheerios on the freshly swept floor, I quickly feel exhausted.  But I would miss our tea parties and nature hikes. I would miss our morning devotions, and night time songs. I would only see half my picture.

So if your day feels like a cracked bear hot glued together….

Or like you’re living the dream……

Remember, that moment is only half the picture.  Let’s celebrate moments in our friends’ lives….while remembering they are real people with messy moments too. And let’s hold on to the memories of strangers complementing our child’s obedience to get us through the days of wet floors and tantrums.  Let’s look at the whole picture. Let’s live in grace.  Grace for ourselves, and grace for others. Let’s celebrate the moments in each of our lives that are beautiful.  And cheer each other on, on the days when the only thing we are thankful for… is that not every day is like this.

We’re in this together.

Precious Treasures

Your heart pounds as the king solemnly explained his mission to your surprised ears. You, an ordinary person of a humble lineage, were to carry one of his crown jewels through treacherous forests to be received by the king’s son when he reentered the kingdom. “It will not be an easy journey,” he continued.  “Many will seek to disorient you, and turn you toward another kingdom. You will hear naysayers, and voices of doubt and fear. There are those who will question why you would risk your life and lay it all on the line for me, when you could be back in the comfort of your home, in the land of self indulgence. 

I did not choose you because you were the most brave, wise, noble, affluent or strong. I chose you because I know your heart…that you are loyal. A man or woman who has crossed the line, signed the roster, pledged his/her allegiance without looking back is worth more to any king, than any special ‘gifts’ one may have.”

As you set out on your journey, his words echoed in your head….’loyal’. You knew that you had nothing to offer to your king….except loyalty.  That though this treasure didn’t belong to you, nor was any reward promised, you would live or die to deliver it to the Son.   You would guard it with your life, surrendering comfort and ease for a journey of servant-hood and trials. Then, when you met the King’s Son, as he returned home, you would present this treasure joyfully into his care. You would simply state, “I have simply done my duty, as a servant of my King.” 

~~~~~

Last weekend, I was discussing education choices with a dear mama friend, and I made the statement “you have some precious treasures”, to which she obviously agreed. As I thought about this statement later on, I processed how true it is.  How often have you seen a parent give all they have so their child could have a better education than they did?  How often have you seen teachers bend over backwards to help a struggling student?  Children are our ‘precious treasure’, for which we gladly pour ourselves out. Even in exhaustion, a mother still rises in the early morning to feed a crying baby.  Even in weariness, a teacher still plans interventions to meet each level of students.

But in the end, they are never really ours. They are lent to us by our King. And in the end, when his Son returns, we will present these precious ones back to him and say, ” I have simply done my duty, as a servant of my King.” And He will respond with those words we have eagerly desired to hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)

All He asks for is our loyalty, He will take care of the rest.

May your seconds feel like minutes and your minutes like hours…

As I sat and rocked her…again…all while wishing I was the one to be heading to bed, I began thinking of this moment.  This perfect moment. Her warm body snuggled to me as we rocked in the antique chair passed on by great grandparents, never mind that her leg hurt or I was anxious to head to bed myself.  In that moment, it was just us. Her soft breath on my neck as she slept on my shoulder, unaware of her leg pain anymore.  And in that moment, I wanted the seconds to feel like minutes, and the minutes like hours……so when that time is gone I could hold on to that moment.

You don’t have to tell me how fast time will go. It feels like only yesterday that she was my baby (I often tease her that I’m going to squish her up again to be my baby because she is too big), but yet it feels like tomorrow she will already graduate high school.  You never seem to understand your own parents’ sentimentalism until you have your own children.

One of the reasons I love my husband is his sense of urgency with time.  Having lost his sister and dad too early, and lost contact with different close friends, he doesn’t take time with those closest for granted. He is very aware of not letting anything take him away from our family, and very mindful of being intentional with the moments with our kiddos. At this moment, he’s out working in the yard with his little shadow, whose heart was crushed when she thought she may not be able to join him.

Time waits for no one. I don’t take any day for granted with these little ones, for I know none are guaranteed.

I read or heard once about someone who rocked their baby just one minute longer or snuggled just one minute more for they knew that season would soon be over and they would hold to those moments.  Psalm 90:12 (NIV) says “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Today, lets be intentional.  Let’s hug one more time, call just because, “be” in the moment, and reach out again.

May your seconds feel like minutes and your minutes like hours…so when that time is gone, you can hold on to that moment…..and know you spent it well.

When your dreams for others feel as elusive as the hope for spring

This past weekend we had a blizzard…yes, a full on record breaking blizzard with over a foot of snow dumped in one day. Yet, the calendar says it’s spring. My heart is anxiously waiting…

I have hopes too for my little ones, dreams for their future, hopes for their character. Sometimes, those dreams can feel as elusive as my hope for spring. But I must remember that good things start small. If someday I hope for them to wash the dishes along side me, today I must submit to water spilled on the floor, dirty dishes “washed” and placed still dirty in the drain rack, and a constant begging for more water, more soap, and the other scrub brush while she stands next to me to “help”.   I wait….

The snow covers my dreams of spring, and makes me anxious for how planting will happen next month. I wait….

But I must remember to look for the ‘spring’ moments mixed in with the waiting. Though her “But I don’t want to!” and her pushing her brother show me her rebellious nature, her “I’m sorry, mama. Please forgive me for not listening to you” shows me her heart softening. She may kick, scream, or protest when she doesn’t get her way, but she is one of the first to show compassion when you are sick, to pray for Jesus to heal you, and to pray for the sirens we hear. Spring is coming.

“While the earth remains, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” Genesis 8:22 ESV   It is promised. We won’t be stuck in an endless winter.

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 NIV

Whatever your elusive dream is for your child, friend, or loved one, trust that God is working. The spring blizzard may come and all may be buried under 13 inches of snow, but spring will come. The best things start small. As you wait, pray and patiently do your part to model and instruct, God is working to bring forth His new work.  He has blooms and blossoms planned out that we cannot dream of on our own. And one day, the snow will melt away and we’ll see the fruit of our prayers, investment……and waiting.

Spring will come. 

A million ways to say “I love you”

Love is said a million ways. We most often think of the big dramatic first “I love you”, which signifies this is more than a simple friendship. I remember standing outside my parents’ house with my now-husband, and hearing him ask, “What would you say if I told you ‘I love you’?” It was a defining moment in our relationship, but even more importantly, he had backed up those words through months of invested friendship (getting to know my family, figuring out my favorite coffee, texting me Scripture verses, etc).

In the last couple months, I’ve been thankful for the many ways I’ve heard “I love you” through special actions of friends when I’ve needed it. I suppose this post is more of a gratitude journal coupled with a personal challenge to love others well.

Love looks like getting a text message from a friend just to ask how you’re feeling that day.

Love tastes like chicken strips sent home with you by a friend because it’s the exact food you’ve been craving for four days, and you quickly devour that bag in three days.

Love sounds like the quiet prayers of a two year old pleading with Jesus to help mama not be sick.

Love smells like your husband faithfully cooking supper each night because you’re too tired to do it all.

Love feels like your bed when you are sent upstairs for a nap, when your eyes just can’t stay open anymore.

Love tastes like Juice Stop picked up by your husband on the way home, because it’s the only thing you can eat.

Love sounds like washing the dishes, because he knows you hate the dishes. And you simply say, “I love you too.”

Love looks like flowers given just because.

Love sounds like prayers on your behalf being sent up.

Love looks, feels, tastes, sounds and smells like many things. The words may be great to hear, but the actions give it power.

Today, how can you say “I love you” without using words? And perhaps, start recording how often you “hear” it too. You may be surprised by the number of ways you’ve heard it just this week.

The book that read my mind: Decluttering at the Speed of Life

Have you ever read a book that seemed to have read your mind?  Somehow the author had thought of all your reasoning, excuses, fears, or imaginary scenarios and answered each one.  As you read through the book, you chuckled to yourself wondering how the author knew you.

Or perhaps you’ve had the opposite reaction to an informational book, where you wonder if the author has ever really struggled with the issue.   While they seem to have great ideas or even great photo proof of their successes, they seem to fire off good ideas and new solutions without any acknowledgement of the struggle to implement them. You may pick up some good ideas, but you’ll never feel like a team member with them.

Deluttering at the Speed of Life is a book for real life people. Dana K. White is a real life messy house person who simply tells her story.  She shares real examples of stuff she’s collected with grand dreams of marvelous projects or things she’s stored for the possible ‘future need’….for years.

Dana shares on the value of breathing room vs. the cost of storing something (your mortgage payment divided by the square feet of your home), our emotional attachments to things and dreams, and how to just start…even when we only have five minutes.

One of the best parts?  She writes it all with humor, grace, and a realness that makes it clear she’s right there with you.

I bought her first book How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind and loved it for all the same reasons.  Her podcasts are also pretty simple, practical and humorous.

If you are a ‘real life’ person, who just wants another ‘real life’ person to share your journey, this book is for you. She will not share some fancy new organization system she invented or tell you how many shirts you should own.  Dana just lays out basic principles for simple home management in an easy to relate to way.

I was super excited to see this book available on the Booklook Blogger review program, and thankful to receive a review copy.  All of the views in this post are mine, and are not affected by receiving a review copy.

How to be the Spring for someone’s Winter

Spring…that elusive, teasing, bi-polar season that likes to pop in and out for weeks until it finally decides to stay. I get so hopeful waiting for the ONE day this week the sun will shine, but then sad again as I read of the chance for snow. When those few days come where the sun finally breaks through, the kids and I hurry outside to catch the sun’s rays, if only for 15 minutes, to last us through the cloudy days to follow.

Spring reminds us that winter is not forever. The season of barrenness and waiting is not our future, but will eventually be in the past. Hope beckons us forward with promises of warmth, and sun rays to brighten the dark corners of our weary souls.

For the last nearly month and a half, I have been so sick that I’ve felt the ‘winter of the soul’.  Yes, it’s been winter outside, because winter here in the north lasts…..FOREVER (with some repeat appearances made as it fights it out with spring).  But it’s also been a soul winter as I have felt like a prisoner in my house, unable to leave till late in the afternoon, and always afraid that my stomach contents would make a guest appearance in public.

In this season, I have been immensely grateful for dear friends who have brought moments of ‘spring’ to my soul.  Never underestimate the power of your words, texts, visits, etc in the life of another. It may be the moment that they look forward to all day.  It may be the word that drives the storm clouds away and gives strength for the day’s tasks.

Getting a text message that said, “Hey, how are you? Thinking of you and praying for you today”, felt like a warm sun ray just passed through the clouds.  Getting visits was my motivation to get something done, and also helped the days not drag on.  And getting a surprise bouquet of flowers reminded me that I was not alone in this rough season.

Often people just need you to ‘be’ the spring. When some of my friends offered to pick up my kids so I could rest, I responded with “I don’t need someone to watch them, I need someone to ‘be’ with me and remind me this won’t last forever and that I will make it through.”  When our hope runs low, we need others to share their hope with us.

Let me encourage you to ‘be’ the spring for someone’s winter season of the soul.  The power of your words, visits, and presence will be like the daffodil stems peeking up through the dirt.  They give hope that this cold season will not last forever, but someday in the (I hope near) future the sun’s warm rays will be given free reign.  And when your ‘spring season of the soul’ comes, (be it next month when it should be warmer or in 28 weeks for me), may it cause you to rejoice with even greater gratitude because of how long the winter was.

And may it remind you to in turn….

Be the spring for someone else.

God made the World: a book review

 God made the World

I  was pretty excited to see this little treasure arrive in the mail!  Now I just have to keep it tucked away till some dear toddler’s birthday this summer. 🙂 I can’t wait to see her light up when she pulls it out! It’s a board book, so it will even be safe from her not so careful younger sibling. (always a plus in this house).

The illustrations are simple, yet in beautiful full color. The book goes day by day through the six days of Creation and God’s final day of rest. (I still love that He modeled rest for us, because He knew we would struggle to sit still)  Each pages illustrates the next step in Creation through artistic renditions of the sea, moon, trees etc. And it typical children’s book fashion, each set of pages ends in rhyming words (made/played, kind/find).

This book is perfect for preschool age children.  My only wish was that it had the number of the day on each page so she could connect what God made on Day 1, Day 2 etc. Now I just need to find a good hiding place to stash it away for her birthday. 🙂

I received this book as part of the Tyndale Publishers Blogger review program, however all of the views are mine.  And I specifically requested this book, because I thought I would enjoy it.