Stretched and Molded

I’m in the throes of a new normal. Tomorrow signals the completion of two full weeks of preschool and I don’t think I’ve ever felt the intensity of life as much as I have in these two weeks. It’s the first time I’ve made a daily commitment to something and then had to corral, restrain, guide, coax and require my little humans to help me fulfill that commitment.

Preschool itself has been delightful. My children are eager participants (especially at snack time or when markers are involved). They are forgiving and patient, something I appreciate since I’m a first-year preschool teacher. I probably lecture more than is recommended (the secondary ed teacher training I have) and many of my activities are coloring sheets. But learning is happening and it’s intoxicating.

The real challenge is in maintaining a home, keeping up with laundry, cooking three meals a day, brushing teeth and feeding the baby while still making sure preschool happens. I have yet to figure that out and the process is exhausting. I still want to have time to write this blog, keep in touch with people, run my business, work on photo projects and a million other things but when nap time happens I’m joining the slumber party!

As tired as I am with all this stretching, I’m getting up at 5am each morning to meet with Jesus. In those quiet moments I’m assured that He is molding me and I can surrender to the process. Much of my fatigue comes from resisting the change; I feel like I’ve failed if my original ideas don’t work; I feel ashamed to admit that I’ve had to adjust and readjust and then adjust again. But life is in the changing. That is where the discoveries are made and where the experience is gleaned. Last week my tiny students had no idea that the tongue is used to taste but now they know. They still don’t know what tastebuds are or how nutrients are absorbed from what we eat (although they do know what waste turns into); one day they will but it won’t nullify what they know about tongues today. Learning is new knowledge being added to prior knowledge.

And that’s how I need to view this season: adjusting, changing and tweaking is simply evidence of my learning and ability to adapt. Reworking my routines doesn’t mean my old routines were wrong; it just means something new is needed now. Most importantly, it’s yet another chance to peel back more layers of life in order reach the deeper meaning of existence: God’s reason for placing me on this planet.

Readership~ thank you for being with me on this journey called life and for encouraging me by following my blog and commenting. My writing is simply sharing my newest learning with you. Please forgive me if I don’t reply to your thoughtful comments right away. Friends and family, please be patient if I don’t reach out as much as I would like to.

It’s a vibrant season of growth and blossoming minds!

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Adorned

This weekend I was gifted with the opportunity to attend our church’s ladies’ retreat. It was a 24-hour getaway to a beautiful lakeside camp. There was ample opportunity for long conversations with lovely friends, yummy food we didn’t have to prepare or clean up, excellent teaching from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and her ministry, and pleasant games to support the themes we covered. Before I left for the retreat my husband asked me what I hoped to glean from this retreat and encouraged me to attend with an expectant heart. I am glad he drew my attention to that because I otherwise would not have considered it in the flurry of preparation to leave.

As soon as I arrived I felt peaceful and excited. I could sense the same emotions in each lady as we smiled and laughed and greeted one another. It was the first time I had ever been to an event like this and I was touched by the camaraderie of sisters in Christ who were eager to pause, be still and recharge so that we could return to our daily callings with renewed spirits. Everything about this weekend was special and will be treasured in my heart, but here are 3 of my favorites:

*The beauty that is ours~ God designed women for beauty. We are drawn to it, embrace it, design it. We want to be beautiful and that desire should encourage us to seek out His definition of beauty. In Titus 2 the virtues of true beauty are listed; the woman who bears these qualities in her life is beautiful in God’s sight.  Women are especially vulnerable to the comparison game and we often fall victim to the thought that if we are not exactly like “her” then we are less than “her.” The truth is that we are all given a unique life to live except in the virtues of beauty that should describe a woman of God. In this we all share the same calling and should encourage one another in our pursuit of them.

*The solidarity that is ours~ We are not alone in our loneliness. I think that women are also vulnerable to feelings of loneliness and isolation. We pour ourselves out night and day for others and frequently feel that we are alone in our struggles to live well. We feel alone in our search for balance, our efforts to remain positive and our fight to keep going despite the fatigue. But over this weekend I was reminded that we are very much NOT alone; we are all right there together. I have never before encountered such authenticity and heart-wrenching vulnerability as my sisters in Christ and I opened up about our struggles to live in a God-glorifying way. I was comforted to know that my struggles were theirs and theirs were mine and God sees all.

*The enabling is ours~ In the midst of the sharing of weaknesses was a vibrant hope because we recognized that everything we need to be the women God has called us to be is within reach. We don’t have to be victims to our emotions or our very bad days. Fatigue does not need to dictate how we respond to our loved ones; busyness does not have to steal our joy. Depression does not have to conquer. God equips and enables so that we can live victoriously for Him.

I left the retreat with a desire to linger more each day. I determined to change my approach to each day from what I need to do to how I am going to do it. The virtues in Titus 2 are not Sunday accessories; they should adorn my heart night and day of every single day. When they do, I am a lifegiver to those who cross my path.

Have you read Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s Adorned?

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The Fulfilled Life

According to Dr. Caroline Leaf a meaningful life is happy one. Humans want to know that their lives are making a difference. Happiness, she declares, precedes success; it is not derived from success. And so I wonder how I can have a meaningful life.

I notice that when people appreciate my writing I experience a sense of fulfillment. When others are influenced by my ideas I feel confident. When my family feels content at home or friends feel welcome it gives me purpose. But these alone are not enough to give meaning to my life. Making them the sole focus of my time and energy will only lead to burnout and disappointment despite how noble such priorities may seem.

2 Peter chapter 1 describes the qualities that must be present in a Christian life: with diligence apply to my faith moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. If they are present then my life will be “neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Meaning in life doesn’t come from my plans coming to fruition but from God’s will being accomplished in my life.

Psalm 139:1-6 capture the essence of the fulfilled life, the life that is formed, seen and known by the Almighty God:

“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely O Lord.

You hem me in-behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”

How would you define a fulfilled life? Is it yours?

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About a Puppy

I have missed a few blogging days because of a puppy. He is all paws, ears, curls and is literally love on 4 legs. We drove for nearly 10 hours one way to bring him home and I was stifling the urge to panic whenever I thought about driving those hours home with a rambunctious young canine. But it proved to be the journey we needed as a family and this puppy is proving to be just the addition our family needed too.

People think we are just a smidge crazy to add a puppy into the mix. It really is #5under5! But we view it as an investment into our family. Shaka is bringing our family closer together as we all brought him home, are all training him and are all loving his puppy antics. He has been especially good for our 4-year old who needs projects and active playmates. Shaka is right there, ready to run and chase until they both can’t move anymore. I also love the idea of a 90-pound dog loving our kids and guarding our door.

There is no denying this puppy is a lot of work. He needs potty-training, etiquette lessons and routine so that he will sleep through the night. But these are familiar paths for me and I am noticing that I find puppy-training less intimidating as a mom of four than I did as a middle schooler training a dog for the first time. I also think being a puppy-mom is helping me be more patient and soft-spoken with my 4; I’m also taking notes on how Mochi interacts with him too. If he invades her space or annoys her she puts him in his place and moves on with her plans while he jumps back and waits for her approval. Maybe I could learn from this. I tend to overthink things too much.

I think it’s neat how God never stops finding creative ways to teach us new things. He is the best role model a parent could ask for. It makes me excited to see what other joys and lessons this furry family member is going to share with me in the years to come.

Have you ever learned something from your pets?

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In the Know or Not

My children love their routines and the security they bring. They like knowing that there will be homemade bread with jam, fruit and individual yogurt cups for Sunday breakfast; floor cleaning days mean getting to watch Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and The Donut Man; they get to pack their own backpacks when we go on outings or road trips; they will get to eat snacks when we go to the park; Friday is Family Fun Night; there is usually popcorn that accompanies Family Book Night; they can shout “Brefaassss!!!” when I carry the breakfast-laden tray to the table as they eagerly watch.

They love their routines but in the process have the false assumption that they know everything since they know their routines so well. This can lead to an offsetting of their equilibrium when something changes, resulting in them lashing out at what they hold most dear: their routine. They will firmly declare, “No Mr. Rogers!” or “No, we’re not going to Costco!” as if this will suddenly make their frustration go away. It’s comical because it is nonsensical but at the same time I inwardly blush for I see myself in their limited knowledge of life. I assume that because nothing has changed in a while that things will always be the same. I get cocky in the familiar or anxious when unexpected change happens. I am confident that my well-laid plans will play out and get angry when they don’t, like today.

Today was supposed to be the first day of preschool. I have been planning it for months and was eagerly anticipating a fun-filled morning started off with a tasty breakfast and deep conversations. Instead, frustration and discouragement greeted me as soon as I woke up. Things went from bad to worse and I knew my heart was not in the correct posture for introducing my little ones to structured learning. With great sorrow I postponed preschool. Inside I felt crushed and kept asking myself what went wrong? What am I supposed to learn from this?

It took me a while to regroup and salvage the day but in the process of cleaning my floors, rescuing laundry from the thunderstorm and helping my kids make birthday and thank you cards I was reminded of why we homeschool. God doesn’t wait for a scheduled time to sit me down and teach me something; instead, He weaves His character-shaping lessons into the course of daily life. That’s exactly what happened today. We read alphabet books on the floor; talked about social etiquette and sentence structure while making cards; practiced forgiveness in sibling squabbles on the couch; and encouraged initiative and helpfulness when one child ran errands with my husband and another helped me get dinner in the crockpot.

Just like I see my children’s immaturity in their assumption that they know it all because they are masters of their routine, I see that I need to trust God with the ins and outs of my own plans. I can prepare for the unexpected when life is going on placidly and when it takes me by surprise I can adapt and embrace the growth it causes. Peace comes in knowing that my understanding is limited and tomorrow will always remain a mystery. I guess preschool happened after all! For me and them!

Have any of your plans been upset recently? Are you satisfied with how you responded to the change?

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The Shark Cake

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The Clock

I find myself glancing frequently at the clock throughout my day. It tells me when to gather everyone for the next meal (if their tummies haven’t already brought them to the table); it reminds me to start prepping dinner once everyone is settled for naps; it cautions me to not spend too much time working at my desk since life consists of other things besides blogs and my Thirty-One business; it encourages me to put my feet up for the last 15 minutes of nap time so that I can catch a second wind; soon it will send me outdoors every two hours or so once our new puppy has joined the family; it reassures me that there is always a little extra time for snuggling with my husband before the day bids us goodnight. But there is something the clock never tells me.

It never warns me of how quickly time passes despite never changing its pace; it never reminds me that I too often take time for granted, always assuming that tomorrow it will be there; it never cautions me to spend my minutes like I would one hundred dollar bills rather than pennies in my pocket; it never prompts me to bite my tongue when I say I want those hands to move a little faster. Instead, it keeps ticking the minutes away, one at a time, just as it has done for millenia. And as it ticks…

Hurricanes blow by

Nations rise and fall

Presidents come and go

Possessions shine and crumble

Loved ones breathe for the first and last time

Friendships fade and renew

Ideas flourish and wilt

And tomorrow my oldest son turns 4 years old! There is something about this age that makes my chin tremble with emotion. Perhaps it’s because I remember my fourth birthday party. It was held in the doctor’s office who saved my life by accurately diagnosing the leukemia I had and connecting me to the best doctors in the country. Now my son is at the age of one of my earliest memories. That seems significant to me. Perhaps this birthday is also significant because of how fast it seemed to arrive. I so clearly remember those two pink lines declaring his presence and now he and I share the most heartfelt conversations about dragons and pirates and Jesus and fire trucks and missionaries and Europe and the States of America…

In one breath this baby I held in my arms is now holding the door open for me while I squeeze the stroller through the doorway. As a baby he crawled up onto the open dishwasher door and sat on it; now he is unloading it without being reminded. As a toddler he enjoyed sitting on the dog and now he can let her out when she needs to use the bathroom. He would tear up paper as a little guy but now I entrust him with putting the mail in the mailbox and making sure the flag is up. And that’s merely a brief glimpse of all he does which amazes me.

As often as I can I try to put my ear on his chest when I kiss him goodnight so that I can hear his steady heartbeat. It always takes me back to the first time I heard it. The sound never ceases to fill me with wonder that God would favor me with this child. This child who can’t hug his baby brother enough; who stood outside with our old dog while she ate this morning because it was still dark and he didn’t want her to be scared; this boy who ponders and reflects and declares and hugs with an energy that is unstoppable.

Ah, the clock is telling me I must conclude. A baby is stirring and I have a few pictures to frame. Time slows for no one – not even a busy mom who must set aside reflecting just long enough to prepare for a birthday party.

Is there anything about this blog post that most resonated with you? Please share in the comments below! I would love to hear from you.

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