Longing for another home….

I have a list of characteristics on my “In my next home” list. Do you make those lists too? In my next home, I want room for a play room, space for chickens, space so the geckos don’t have to live in our room, room for a second dog to keep ours company, etc. The secret is in finding a balance between having goals, and being content in your place in life.

The dream gives you motivation to make the most of your season. But I have to remember that I still live in the present, that the dream is ‘not yet’.

When my dog goes crazy because of all the foot traffic on our street, or the neighbor kids ring the doorbell and leave, or I have to downsize the garden because I can’t keep hauling my littles to the community garden surrounded by busy roads, or I keep throwing away produce clippings instead of feeding my dream chickens, or I run out of space to keep the preschool materials organized, or I have to explain to my toddler that the people in the parked car right out side our front gate are making bad decisions, or our firewood is stolen……..then my dream calls me with a fierceness.

But I live in the now…..and how I live now will determine if I will be ready for the dream when it comes to pass. Or if I will look back with regrets at how I wished away the time.

It’s like waiting for this baby to come.   It takes forever!  The sickness, tiredness, emotions, and back pain make me feel like I will finish this marathon crawling the last 100 feet to cross the finish line.  I told my husband that I just wanted to be left alone so I could binge watch shows and eat ice cream for the next couple weeks…because I’m so weary.   That dream of holding our little one calls me with a fierceness.

But I live in the now……where toddlers still need to be raised, dishes washed, people invested in, and social events coordinated. And how I live now affects my life when that dream comes to pass. I don’t want to wish this time away nor have regrets.

Jesus is coming back! Each night I pray with earnestness for that to happen soon. As I see footage remembering 9/11, or hear weather reports for the hurricane hitting the coast line, or even just read the news…I long with a fierceness for Him to return. But I live in the now…where people still need to eat, be loved, encouraged, healed and given the good news of His return. He offers victory over bondage and sin today, and the promise of eternity with Him.

How I live now has an eternal impact. I don’t want to wish this time away.

Let your dream fuel your motivation to make the most of your current season. Do all you can to be faithful in the present moment, here and now….so when that moment comes you’ll have no regrets.  You can embrace that moment knowing you were faithful to complete all you were called to do in your present season.

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The Better Mom: A book review

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I ordered a copy of “The Better Mom: Growing in Grace between Perfection and the Mess” by Ruth Schwenk.  The title intrigued me and I respected many of the ladies who wrote endorsements in the book. Honestly, I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did! 🙂

(Proof of all the pages I loved!)

This book isn’t a ‘how-to’ manual for being a mom or tricks on how to perfect our motherhood. Rather, it deals with our hearts and points us to the One who has power to make us a “better mom”.  The chapter titles were rather fitting!  They included “I miss my friends!”, “No one appreciates all that I do!”, “I need some alone time”, and “I have no idea what I’m doing!”.  I totally understand those feelings! 🙂

One of the sections I love in the book talked about what we feel we are missing out on when we focus on our kids.

“I need the reminder, so well stated by Andy Stanley (cited in book), ‘Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God might not be something you do, but someone you raise.’  At different times and in different ways, God has reminded me of what kind of ambition matters most. Our greatest ambition is not getting the next promotion, the next sale, or another paycheck. Our greatest ambition is raising up another generation of children to live for God’s glory and the good of the world. As moms, we are not just getting by. We are fulfilling God’s mission and purpose by shaping kids today for the sake of the world tomorrow. ……..What we are doing counts both outside the home and inside the home, but who we are becoming is just as important.” ~ Ruth Schwenk

It’s not just being a mom, it’s about contributing to society’s future by investing in it’s future members. It’s the calling given each of us personally by God.

I also loved the chapter I finished yesterday called “I want to make a difference”. We each have gifting/talents that it feels like we are wasting when we are busy with the mundane everyday details of life. I have many dreams including writing books or courses, that simply don’t fit into my dishes, diapers and toddler season. In this chapter, Ruth emphasized that there are seasons to life. The key phrase is “not yet”.  Dreams that don’t fit in this season, simply are “not yet”. God has missions for us to complete today…but they aren’t the only missions God will give us. He has future plans for us as we move into different seasons.

I’m thankful to Zondervan and Booklook Bloggers for letting me receive a complementary copy of “The Better Mom” for review purposes. As you can tell by my folded corners, there were many loved pages! This book will definitively go on my recommended list, and in my collection to loan out to others!

936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting (a book review)

When you start a new book, it’s a risky relationship. I hesitantly turn the first couple pages as I decide if this is my new best friend or if I’m going to hurry through it just to mark it off my list.  Well 936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting is my new best, best, best friend!

Look at that!  See all the dog-eared pages?  (PS. why is it called dog-eared?) There were literally tons of quotes and thoughts I wanted to remember and be able to come back to.  As I read through the pages, I got so excited about this vision of intentional parenting and really…intentional living. Parts of it I read aloud to my husband or simply gave him my summary of it.

Eryn Lynum writes 42 mini chapters revolving around a life event that showed her an eternal principle. She discusses topics such as spending time in nature, dealing with anger, having a house filled with laughter, helping kiddos learn to entertain themselves, setting boundaries between work time and play time, being mindful of what our kids observe us holding the most (our phone, a book or their hand), investing in a child’s dreams/interests, building memories, and many other topics.

The premise of the book is that with each child we are (ideally) given 936 weeks from birth to age 18, and our question is: “How will we spend them?”  I say ‘ideally’ as time is never guaranteed to us.  Some may only have one penny or 237 with which to invest. The author was given a jar of 936 pennies at her son’s dedication, which started her journey of being intentional as she transferred a penny each week from the future jar to the ‘time spent’ jar.

I love her perspective at the beginning of the book.

“As I counted them out, I placed them into the new jar, and this is when it hit me-we had not lost those weeks. We had used them We were using them for the creation of something beautiful. These pennies, and the weeks they represent, were not being cast to the wind. They were being invested. And we wanted to invest them wisely.” (Counting Time, pg. 18)

I haven’t been on this parenting journey very long, so I have much to learn. I’m thankful for books like this one that give me vision for how it could be. This book gives me goals and dreams for how I want to intentionally invest each one of my pennies. Things like listening carefully to my children’s dreams and taking steps to help them pursue them, recognizing the beauty in the simple moments such as our “Poetry Tea Times”, setting down my adult tasks or goals to enter into their world, and being careful what I communicate through actions, what’s constantly in my hands, and through my words so they hear my love for them loud and clear.

How will you invest your 936 pennies?

I was given this book by Bethany House Publishing for review purposes as part of their blogger program. However, all of the opinions were completely mine.

All my friends are superheroes: the importance of being faithful today.

What if I told you I was friends with superheroes in real life?  They can’t shoot webs out of their fingers, nor do they wear red capes or battle aliens trying to take over our planet……though I’ve seen some children who strangely resemble aliens trying to take over our planet. No, my superheroes are a little more ‘normal’ looking.  They are the quiet unsung heroes who were just trying to survive and somehow did it marvelously.  And if I were to tell them that I have figured out their secret super hero identity, they would laugh it off and quickly list their personal faults.

They are the moms who managed to keep multiple children alive through the toddler tantrums and potty training years, and who are still smiling.

The friend who has four boys (3 running and climbing, and 1 baby), yet still manages to surprise me with flowers and chocolate for my birthday, and invite people over for supper.

The friend who welcomes and mothers four foster care children, pours out her life for them as if they had been hers since birth, and bravely raises them through the drama ridden preteen and teenage years.

The friend whose children receive complements from strangers at the zoo, because they treat the other children with such kindness.

The friend who tirelessly works to provide healthy food choices for her family, has has volunteered in the classroom/fieldtrips, and still has a heart for lifting the burdens of her neighbors.

The friend who graciously provides respite care for foster parents, dog sitting for people on vacation, and who is willing to help anyone out day or night.

The friend who raises a plethora of children, enough to fill her own sports team, yet her kiddos are know for their sweetness and obedience.

The friends who have spent years doing foster care or investing in area kids and teens through church ministry.

The friends who work full days, then come home and pick up a book, ball or start wrestling with their kiddos instead of picking up their phone or remote.

The friends who live with chronic or terminal illness/pain, yet still ask how you are doing.

They would all disagree, and probably point to someone else as the hero. But being a hero doesn’t mean you have some supernatural ability to go through tough things without being affected. Rather it’s continuing to choose what’s best, even when it’s hard. Simply put, it’s putting one foot in front of the other to keep walking even when the way is stormy.

It’s being faithful today.

Honestlyright now it’s easy for me to feel overwhelmed by a number of situations. I feel too weary to keep walking (both figuratively and literally). But I’m trying to remember that I don’t have to handle everything in front of me yet.  I just have to be faithful…today.

One day, all of the today’s we were faithful in will fulfill all of the tomorrow’s  that overwhelmed us.

Today, let’s do two things.  First, look around and notice how many of your friends or coworkers are ‘super-heros’, and sent them a note/text to let them know you notice.   Finally, let’s just put one foot in front of the other and be faithful in our current situation. For you never know when you may be someone’s super-hero.

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Mat. 6:34

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing”  

1 Thess. 5:11

Pace yourself: ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’

I often get too impatient and feel like this exact moment determines my overall success or failure as a human being. Because I didn’t work on “_________” project today, then ‘I will never finish it’. Or because the dishes aren’t done, and the floor is not swept, then I’m a ‘failure’ as a homemaker.  I tend to jump to dramatic conclusions, and have to take a moment to step back and reevaluate my perception.

Take our road trip home on Sunday, for example. My children don’t nap much in cars on long road trips. It makes no sense!  Take them to the grocery store or zoo, and they will nap the 5 min drive home. But take a 4 hour road trip during normal nap hours, and they will cry, sing, whine, ask for snacks, ask for books, whine, play with a toy, ask for snacks…….and maybe nap 20 min. Meanwhile, I’m trying to stay awake (because I want to nap) and keep them calm enough to not bother my husband (so he can drive safely).  It would be easy to think in that 4 hour moment, that life stinks, that nothing we are doing as parents is making any difference, or that we should never make a trip again.

If you throw in “Mega Meltdown Wednesday” (that’s what I’m going to call last Wednesday at our house with a 3 year old), then you especially feel that nothing you are doing is making a difference.  But then I would be forgetting all the progress like her helping little man with his shoes, making sure brother has enough food, cleaning up her toys for papa, and helping to clean the table after supper.

You can’t compare how much water is in the bucket compared to the ocean, but rather how much water is in the bucket compared to the water the bucket held before. 

 

Being prego, energy and stamina are two longed for friends that I hope return someday. Even after just climbing our stairs at home (albeit they are steep), I have to sit and rest a minute. It’s easy to see all that is lacking in homemaking, instead of all that has been accomplished that week.

I’m not sure how the phrase “Rome wasn’t built in a day’ came about, but it’s true. They didn’t just build Rome on Monday and move in on Tuesday. Rather each day they went out and laid another brick or poured another layer of concrete.

Remember one of my favorite phrases “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”  If we don’t take that first bite, we’ll have just as many the next day. But if we keep taking a bite each day, or laying a brick each day, eventually we’ll reach our goal.

Masterpieces are painted one stroke at a time. 

One of the main lessons I learned as a teacher, is the importance of celebrating any progress no matter how small.  I (or the student) may not be who I want to be, but I’m not who I was.  Progress is made in the every day action of taking bites and laying bricks.

Let’s encourage each other when it seems overwhelming, when we come to drastic conclusions about our success/failure in a certain area, and when everything that is yet to be done clouds our vision of all that has been accomplished already.

Let’s lay another brick, eat another bite, teach another lesson. Let’s remember today is not the finish line, but just another step in the race.   Some chapters may be frustrating or overwhelming, but the book is not complete yet.

I’ll remind you if you remind me. 🙂

Remember the goal, hold on to your dream!

12 weeks. Just 12 more weeks. But honestly I’ve been counting down since I still had over 20 weeks to go. Today I’m sick again. My husband told me he understands if I don’t want any more, since pregnancy is so rough on me. But I would do it all over again……

Some goals are so valuable, that we press forward no matter the struggle.
I’m part of the lucky few who get to be sick all nine months, whose toddler gets accustomed to praying for “mama not be sick” and who has googled all the remedies. I don’t enjoy the pregnancy process……but I would do it all over again.
Some goals are worth any struggle.
My dear friends who foster parent, don’t do it because they love the hard conversations about birth families, the tears or anger the kids feel, or the stress of bringing someone new into their home.  Rather they see the potential to provide those children with a safe and loving home, to help them learn boundaries, morals, good decision making, responsibility, to succeed in school, etc.
Some goals are worth sacrifices.
Most teachers don’t work long hours because they love sharpening pencils, correcting papers, writing behavior plans, or typing up one more lesson.  They do it for that look in a child’s eye when they accomplish a personal goal, or for that squeal when kids get excited about a topic.
Some goals require you to wait for them.
The other night I told my husband that “I missed my chickens”. He looked at me funny, and said “you don’t have any chickens.”  I shared how I was tossing out bad lettuce in the trashcan earlier, and thinking if I just had my dream chickens all this old food wouldn’t have to go to waste. So I ‘missed my future chickens’……my dream that is yet to come.
Some goals may make you feel like they will never happen.
Remember my garden pictures? How all the bare dirt and scrawny plants made me discouraged, and wondering if they would grow?

 

Some goals feel like they will never happen, they require sacrifices, struggles, and waiting. But those are the goals that are worth it! They are worth waiting and struggling for!

 

 

 

 

Hebrews 12:2 says, “For the joy set before him (Jesus) he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  He pressed forward no matter the struggle.  He decided his goal was worth any struggle, any sacrifice, any wait time, and that He would do whatever it took to accomplish it even if it looked hopeless. His goal was ….us. We were and are the joy set before Him.

May that give us courage and strength, to remember that Jesus pressed on to accomplish His goal in us! So we can likewise persevere in our goals to serve others.

Let’s press on with our most important goals.  Keeping our eyes on that target.  Reminding ourselves of what’s at stake, and what’s in store for us if we persevere.

Some goals are worth everything.

PS. What are some of your goals that you are working hard towards?  Leave a comment, I’d love to hear!

Tea Parties and the power of words

It was just a simple tea party…with milk and cookies for all. We sat around, drank our milk and marveled at the beautiful birds in our poetry book. Yet, that moment stood out in my dear daughter’s heart as the moment Mama invested in her.

It was just a simple comment, made by a mother of eight, who looked at me with my baby and toddler and said, “you are in the hardest season right now”. Yet, that comment has stuck with me and given me courage to press on for there is hope in future seasons.

It was just a simple statement, when another mom friend called me a “super mom” (only because they don’t see the inside story). Yet, that statement was food for my soul, words to affirm that I wasn’t as messy as I thought in this new mom job.

Simple gestures, simple words that we casually express, with no thought of what a difference they would make. How many comments, or kind acts that inspired you, can you remember over the years? Little things forgotten by the giver, but to you they became a lifeline, a moment that gave you courage.

It wasn’t my simple cookies that made that moment special, nor the candle burning for ambiance. Nor was it the beautiful poetry book filled with gorgeous pictures of birds in flight. Though, Sweep up the SunAmong a Thousand FirefliesStep Gently Out, and Wake Up! are among our favorites!

When she is older, she won’t remember all the books we read or what we ate. But she will remember that ……we were.  It is the sitting, the being, the shared moment that makes all the difference. No one asks for our most clean house, or eloquent speeches with perfect grammar, or a polished gift. Rather people just want to be noticed, to be recognized, to be affirmed that they are not as much of a mess as they think. They just want….us.  That shared moment where one soul affirms another.  Where a person’s simple presence or words can breath enough courage to withstand the day or season.  Where words become food for the soul.

They just want us to invite them to tea. 

It may be ‘good’, but is it ‘best’?

This year of gardening, I’ve done some weird things. I’ve been pulling out the sunflowers, morning glories, and broccoli raab like weeds and leaving them to die. I know….sounds awful and drastic. And totally goes against my normal nature of cherishing and protecting every form of plant and bug life, even to the point where I can’t throw out a house plant till it’s good and dried up, with no hope of recovery. So, why this drastic action?

Because the ‘good’ had taken the place of the ‘best’. 

Morning glories, sunflowers, and broccoli raab are all wonderful plants! The picture above is from my garden last year. They are gorgeous! But they also self-seed very well, which means they like to come back…..everywhere!  The morning glories were planted three years ago, the sunflowers were planted by the birds or some unknown person, and the broccoli raab was added last year. Someday, I dream of having a fence line covered in morning glories, and a field of sunflowers.  They could grow to their full potential…..because they would be in their proper place.

Proper place…..I started thinking about that as I was pulling up all the little seedlings this year. A sunflower in it’s proper place is a thing of beauty, gathering all the butterflies and honeybees to itself. But those same sunflowers also have the power to choke out cucumbers, green beans, summer squash and the things that are ‘best’. They also are not a good choice for when I’m nine months pregnant trying to clean out my garden, and I have to pull out those stalks by hand.  So they may be ‘good’, but they are not the ‘best’ for me.

How many other things in my life are ‘good’, but not ‘best’?  I thought about that this morning as my scattered brain was in the middle of trying to get soapy water to wash the floor, the littles were hungry and required food, I found a bag of potatoes going bad that needed me to cut them up, and my flower vase was asking for more water. Truely, for a moment, I tried to do all of them at once. (clearly that didn’t work)  They were all ‘good’. But then I had to step back and decide what was most important for me to finish…what was ‘best’.  Feeding the children obviously took first place, then cleaning the floor since that was the job I had first initiated before everything else called my attention.

I’ve been trying to apply the mantra of “Focus and finish”, something my husband has been trying to remind me of and also something I picked up from Crystal Paine in her post, “My New Mantra: Focus & Finish”.  My scatter-brained way of doing things, running around trying to keep up with everything ‘good’ leads to me not getting the ‘best’ things done and leaves a trail of half-done projects behind me.

Here’s a list of questions I ask myself:

1. What must be done today? (a similar question: If I get nothing else done today, I will feel successful if _______ is completed.)

2. What must be done now (the kids’ nap schedules often dictate my list)

3. What have I already started, but not finished? (Focus and finish)

4. What one thing will make the biggest difference in our home, life, etc today? (example: clearing off the table makes a much bigger difference than going through one box from the closet)

5. What will make a lifetime impact? (usually soaking up extra snuggles from the littles outranks most things)

You don’t have to learn from my example, like I said…I’m working on this. Just offering the things I’m learning, and in turn I’d love to hear from you what you find that works.

We all hope for ‘fruit’, the accomplishment of what is ‘best’. But it will require us to narrow our focus, not getting caught up in the million ‘good’ things calling to us.  But instead to focus on what we most want and need to cultivate/grow/accomplish/do.

Even flowers can become ‘weeds’, if  not in their ‘best’ place.

Being faithful in the small things sometimes means getting rid of your stuff.

Small things……small children, small projects, small books, small houses, small dreams, and small victories. There are many ‘small things’ in life that call for our attention, yet may not excite us. While we believe they are worthwhile, essential to life, enjoyable, and necessary, they may not feel as adventurous as the daring dreams we long for.

Today I’m thinking on this phrase ‘being faithful in the small things’ (taken from Luke 16:10).  It will look different to everyone. To someone learning to read, being faithful in small things will look like continuously practicing smaller books until they are equipped to pull out the larger ones. At times, small children may seem less exciting as we dream of future days of road trips, camping, and board-games with older kids. But unless we are faithful in those small projects, small people, and small dreams, we will never be ready for the big ones ahead of us.

This is my “small things”.  Simplifying, minimalizing, cleaning out…call it what you want. I call it ‘preparing for our next baby’, ‘minimizing what’s not important so I can maximize my home and time for what has value’, and ‘preparing for future adventures’.

If you dream of sailing to far off places, 

then you must ready your ship 

so you can pull up anchor at a moments notice. 

 

Athletes don’t just decide to run a marathon. They run around the block, lift the first five pound weight, kick the first ball….everything has a small beginning. One of my favorite phrases from a high school graduation card given to me, says “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

When I was venting my overwhelmed feelings to my husband and wondering how to tackle each thing on my heart, he reminded me of that phrase.  I can’t accomplish the big dreams today. But I can be faithful in the small things. Each day, I can take another ‘bite’. I can do this small project, small dream, small step that will eventually lead to the big things I hope for.

(see my decluttered and dusted shelves from today’s project?)

 

If my dreams of having a place where I can garden at my own house were to be fulfilled, then I must be faithful to be a good steward of my current home.  If my dreams of creative, thoughtful, and ‘self-motivated to learn’ children will happen, then I must invest the time now to cultivate those characteristics.

Do you ever have those ‘zinger’ conversations? Where you are talking with someone and ‘zing!’, their comment hit you right where you needed to hear it? Last night, my husband and I were discussing his methods of cleaning out the laundry room and what to do with the unneeded items in there. He wanted to get rid of a certain item and I said we had to keep it (though we have no current need for it) and then he said it…..’We have to be faithful in the small things. If you ever expect to get another place, then we need to be faithful with the house we have. There, that’s a word from God for you!”.  I couldn’t argue with that. Indeed, that very phrase ‘faithful in the small things’ had been whispered to my heart at least a month before.

How about you? What are your little things (that may not seem exciting) that you need to be faithful in? What ‘bites’ of the elephant do you need to take? Leave a comment to share! I’d be interested in hearing!

When growth looks like a wasteland: or how to encourage yourself when your goals feel like they will never happen and your seeds will never sprout.

You see that? That looks depressing. I may be an avid gardener with a house full of plants, flowerbeds in the yard, and been gardening since I was a bean sprout, but waiting for seeds to germinate is one of the hardest things ever. They take soooooo long!! It doesn’t help that many of the people where I garden are retired so they can spend as many hours as they wish making their plots beautiful.  Most of them also don’t drag little ones along with them, and they plant full size plants instead of seeds. All of that makes my garden plots even more depressing.

Often our dreams and goals feel like my sad plot. We perform duties and make investments in what we believe to be noble things and we hope for great returns on our effort, but instead we find ourselves looking at a barren plot waiting for the seeds to hint at new life.

As a mother, I feel this when my toddler throws a screaming tantrum, or when I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing else besides changing diapers. As a homemaker, I feel it when I see the dirty dishes where it had just been sparkling clean yesterday. As a teacher, I’ve felt it when you work hard on a unit and feel so sure it will be the magic to help a certain student move forward, but you are still waiting for that magic to happen. In the business world, it may be a quiet faithfulness to your job, wondering if it will ever be noticed.

The ground still looks barren. 

This week, I found a gentle word of encouragement in a children’s picture book. Bring me some apples and I’ll make you a pie, tells some of the childhood of Edna Lewis, a famous southern chief. To be honest, I was jealous of her orchards, berry bushes, garden, and the ample produce they found in nature. The book shared how they gathered each fruit, vegetable, and nut in turn, and how they preserved it so they could keep a bit of summer sunshine for the cold winter months.

It made me reflect on how many years those trees must have grown without any produce, before the family was able to have enough to harvest. How many hours were spent preparing those bean and corn fields, before the big gathering celebration began? It wasn’t always harvest season. Some days it was planting season.  Other days they worked to preserve the joy of their goals being accomplished, so they could hold on to that bit of sunshine when the cold barren season came.

And just like their orchard planting, walnut scavenging, bean/corn field sowing, eventually culminated in a grand harvest to be preserved for the cold winter months, and made into apple preserves, cherry pie, canned green beans, corn pudding, etc, so my little seeds will eventually germinate and produce new life.  Every year, they eventually grow, (well, most of them) yet every year it’s the same discouraging waiting process.

And just as my seeds require time and patience, so do my dreams and goals. They will not happen this week or maybe even this year, but they will happen. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18)

Can you promise me something? Promise me, that when I start to despair over my garden or over my children or over ___________ (fill in the blank), that you’ll remind me that the harvest will eventually come?  In turn, I’ll do the same for you.

Robert Louis Stevenson is accredited with saying, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”  Each towering tree came from a single seed that was simply planted. Robert H. Schuller said, “Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the apples in a seed.”

Let’s keep planting, and trust HIM for the harvest.