The Natural Order of Things

I’ve been doing some reading lately and it seems like every page I read is reminding me to be intentional, to slow down and to savor the little things. I don’t need much convincing, however, as this kind of loving has been the desire of my heart since girlhood. The desire has only intensified as the years slip by at an ever increasing speed.

And so I sit here in my rocking chair, reflecting on how I can lead a less complicated life. I think I’ll take a cue or two from nature. Have you noticed how every season has a focused purpose? Spring is time of energy and new life; Summer is a time of rest and recreation after a job well done; fall has the harvest, a time of reaping from one’s labor and a time of renewed effort in preparation for winter. Winter is a time of reflection and completion; a time to be still and wait. I have written about the cycle of seasons in previous blogs, about the necessity of each one and now, more than ever, I can see how I can benefit from structuring my routines according to the seasons. In this way, I can experience unique layers of living that would otherwise be neglected and no routine will have a chance to grow stale.

This summer I am going to take a slower pace with living. I am going to make time for special projects that I normally wouldn’t get around to doing. There are going to be road trips, water fun, cookouts, berry-picking, tent-building and blank spaces in my planner for spontaneous memory-making. And when the next season rolls around I’m going to be ready for that one too.

Which season is your favorite?

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Dear Lord, Today I…

What do you pray about? Do you talk candidly with Him? This year I have been striving to deepen my prayer life and to live the faith I claim to have.  I suppose you could say that I have been “praying about praying.” Interestingly enough, this prayer is transforming my spiritual life. Biblical truths that have long rested in my head are now settling in my heart.

One of those truths is that sin has no power over me! It might seem obvious, but if it was so simple the struggle to hold on to joy would not be so real. Christ’s sacrifice has freed us from the claim that sin wants to have on our lives. The jealousy, the anxiety, the anger, the bitterness, the urge to gossip, and every other sin that crosses our minds, do not have to linger in our lives. We can say, “No!” to each and every one of them through the power of Jesus. And not only does sin have no power in my life, the sin that is affecting others has no power over me either. I can’t tell you how many times I have let go of my joy because someone else was having a bad day. Sin, once identified, loses its strength, and the Holy Spirit teaches us how to name and refuse sin. I would like to reiterate that the freedom and joy I have is NOT of my own doing or making. All glory goes to Christ alone. It is only by His sacrifice, His grace, His mercy, and His love that I have joy, freedom and hope. He is alive and He is at work in me, continuing to sanctify me for His purposes.

This morning I was struggling with jealousy and insecurity prompted by something I had read on social media. It stewed in my heart for a bit and I could feel my day slipping downward. “No!” I thought. “I don’t want my day to be ruined. These feelings are wrong and I do not want them to dictate my day.” And that is when I prayed, “Lord, today I am struggling with jealousy and here is why…” I then proceeded to tell Him the ins and outs of the struggle within my heart. After I completed my prayer, I went on with my tasks. Before long, certain things about the situation I had seen became clear and I knew what I needed to do next.  After all was said and done, I stood back in awe at that personal, tangible way Jesus had ministered to me today.  I am thankful.

Dear Reader, if you do not personally know Jesus as your Lord and Savior please don’t rest until you do. And if Jesus is Lord of your life but you feel stagnant in your relationship with Him, start talking to Him and reading His Word every day. True freedom and joy are only found in Jesus.

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When my Everything Isn’t Enough

It’s the start of a brand new day. I’m sipping coffee, listening to the clock ticking away, and wondering what this day is going to hold for me. Yesterday was a whirlwind day of Monday mayhem from beginning to end. It wasn’t a bad day-just a Monday kind of day. I did many things but few of them were on my to-do list; my goal for this summer is to put fewer things on my list and just see what happens. It’s a new type of goal for my type-A, get-things-done, always-have-a-list, perfectionist personality, and I’m kind of excited about it! In the process of settling into summer, I am discovering a new sense of freedom.

As mentioned in previous posts, spring was anything but an easy season for me. I was bombarded with much upheaval in nearly every facet of life. At times it was overwhelming; I felt like there was little time to catch my breath before the next change or the next challenge rolled around. I was striving to give my very best to everyone in all things and the results of my efforts only left me disheartened. I planned and analyzed and stayed awake and planned and analyzed some more to make sure that I was being the perfect wife, mom, friend and Christian that I could be in the midst of all the chaos that came with the new year. And I was left burned out, despairing and exhausted by all the ways I failed.

And then Jesus opened my eyes to the truth: “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are…And you know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.” (1 John 3) No matter how hard I strive to live well and with the best of intentions, I will always come up short and always be left with a longing to do more and do better. Jesus is the One who accomplishes what I cannot. When I strive for patience, He takes me that extra step; when I want to forgive, He fills my heart with the compassion I need to do so; when I yearn to love more and better, He prompts me to take action; when I seek joy, He shows me how to rest; when I long for a peaceful heart, He reminds me that sin has no power over me; when I am searching for answers, He teaches me through His Word; when I feel lost, He speaks to me and I remember who I am. It’s a dance: He moves and I follow.

This summer has begun well. I am eager to simply sit and watch my children play. I am ready to settle into a relaxed pace, to get distracted, to follow rabbit trails and to laugh every day.  And most of all, I am ready to abide in Jesus and follow His voice wherever it leads me. This summer I am thankful that my everything isn’t enough; Jesus is.

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I Think…

I think we take pictures to capture moments in life we may have missed.

I think we share our joys and sorrows with others to gain fresh perspective: perhaps our joys are greater and our sorrows less than we perceive them to be.

I think children encourage us to be creative and to take time to play.

I think we all crave an uncomplicated life but the pursuit of simplicity can get pretty complicated sometimes.

I think love keeps no record of wrongs because if it did there would no longer be space in our hearts for love.

I think there is always enough time; how we spend it needs to change.

I think spending time outside allows us to regain our equilibrium.

I think that it requires strength to be authentic and courage to speak with candor.

I think books can take us more places than movies can.

I think the world is grander than our screens depict.

I think that if we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, we need to do a better job at loving ourselves (1 Corinthians 13).

I think that a day that begins with the Bible is a day that will end well.

What do you think?

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The Good Life

Have you ever wondered why people are fascinated with other people? Take social media, for example. Enough followers on Instagram, for instance, can make you a minor league celebrity.  The royal wedding made major headlines because, well, it was a royal wedding! Who doesn’t dream about palaces and horse-drawn carriages and cathedrals at one’s wedding, especially if you are female? I am right there with you.  I get excited every time I get a new follower on Instagram, am always hoping people won’t just like my posts but will also comment on them, and will unabashedly say that Princess Kate is my favorite celebrity. But why?

I think it is because we assume that these people, these popular or wealthy (or both) people, have figured out how to avoid the human struggle and are now living the good life. Based on the pictures we see, the descriptions we read and the details we hear, we think that they achieved self-actualization, that place where they are perfectly content with life as it is. We are intrigued by their smiles, their apparel, their accessories, and how they spend their free time. Perhaps if we study them enough, follow them long enough and model our lives after theirs our lives will be a bit more satisfying; perhaps our struggle to be content, joyful, peaceful and more secure in our own identities will subside just a little. These assumptions are probably subconsciously thought, but they are thought just the same and in the process we forget that rich and famous people are people too. Their humanity just happens to be missing from their posts and pictures.

But the good life isn’t found in a life free of hardship but within it.  It’s found in accepting the human struggle as a necessity in shaping our identity. It’s found in embracing the roller coaster of human emotion and experience as an opportunity to encounter the grace and mercy of God and testify of His reality to those with us on the ride. I believe that the more difficulties we face, the more hardships we endure, the more struggles we encounter, the more well-rounded and mature we become as individuals. We can better empathize, support, listen, and rejoice.  As the Apostle James reminds us, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

This past year has not been without hardship, sorrow, or difficulty for me and mine. My first instinct is to complain and despair; but over and over and over again, Jesus guides and provides. Looking back, I am thankful for each trial and how it shaped me as an individual. I am not planning on removing myself entirely from social media any time soon or catching up with the Royal family when I have the chance, but ultimately I want more of Jesus in my life. I need to love His voice more than ever so that He can help me lead a balanced life; one that is filled with hard work, sincere service, a readiness to rejoice, and adequate time of resting at His feet, basking in His love. That is the best part of a good life.

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It’s Aloha Friday

Let’s talk relaxation. I don’t know about you, but it takes work for me to relax, have spontaneous fun or move at a leisurely pace. Thankfully, I have play pros living with me! They know how to turn every task into a game, sleep deeply after playing hard, and live life slowly. I’ve been taking copious notes as I study how these little people live and here’s what I’ve noted:

  1. Don’t miss the details. On walks they notice cracks in the sidewalk, holes in the ground, water pooled up on sprinkler heads, and the color of the sky. When we read books they study the tiniest of details in the illustrations so they can recount the story by themselves later on. Their playtime is filled with intricate discussions built with bits of life gleaned from observing the world around them. They don’t rush and their lives are rich from the slower pace.
  2. New isn’t necessary. My children don’t have many toys and what they do have is simple. I have avoided screen devices and a lot of the plastic toys that make noise. Instead they have things that fuel their imagination and provide endless possibilities for stories and adventures of their own making. I often slip into thinking that i need to replenish their toys with new items but rarely does that prove necessary. Simply rotating toys from the toy box to their shelves is all that is needed. Contentment comes with the familiar.
  3. Responsibility makes playtime more fun. In our home, morning chores must be completed before the day’s play begins. It’s not unusual for me to hear, “But I don’t want to do my sweeping right now. I want to plaaay.” Needless to say, when the reply to that complaint remains consistently, “you may play as soon as you have finished sweeping,” and the sweeping meets mom’s approval, playtime is more satisfying and holds little minds’ attention much longer than if it had been entered into at their first whim. All work and no play may indeed make Jack a very dull boy, but some work makes his play much more appreciated.

This weekend I plan to slow down, revisit some old pastimes and relax, knowing that my responsibilities for the week have been completed with satisfaction. How do you plan to savor your free time?

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Writing Honestly

This Mother’s Day weekend I am sitting here munching macadamia nuts, sipping water, and writing.  It’s not been the most stress-free of all Mother’s Day weekends; quite frankly, the past two weeks, make that 8 weeks, have had an extra dose of stress heaped upon them. Going from 3 to 4 children while my husband has been away for nearly half of those 8 weeks has antagonized my postpartum emotions more than I would prefer. Friends and family have graciously pointed out all that I am doing and assured me I am shouldering the responsibilities of motherhood very well. I am not so sure.  On the surface it may seem like I’m staying strong and managing decently, but I am all too aware of the intense struggle within me to smile, speak gently and do the next thing. And far too often I lose that struggle. I speak harshly, lash out at my husband, bemoan my life, and sob in the shower.

Recently my husband selflessly took all of us with him on one of his work trips. He knew the change of scene and pace would do us all good – and it did. The spontaneous getaway provided me with a chance to try out this “Mommy of 4 under 4” title somewhere other than the house and it gave me some fresh opportunities to reflect on my life as it is.  I came home revived and breathing again; my mind and heart had new skips in their steps and a refreshed outlook on how to live well.

I realized that I needed to define my roles rather than letting them define me. I am a woman who is a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a writer etc., but first and foremost I am myself. I have a personality, interests, and needs that actually enhance my roles rather than harm them, as I had subconsciously assumed. From now on I want to bring my own personal flair into my roles rather than attempting to do everything perfectly by the book. I may not do everything perfectly, but I am perfect for those who love me.

Defining my roles led me to the realization that my peace of mind is essential to a peaceful home.  I have been struggling because I believed that the more drained and frazzled I was, the better mom I was being. I thought that my exhaustion was proof I had given all of me to my kids. I also realized that I was taking ‘me’ out of motherhood under the assumption that always sacrificing my interests so I could give 100% of my attention to the children was the best thing for them.  This mindset was leading to a subtle resentment towards my marriage as I felt like I needed to choose between investing in it or investing in myself once my responsibilities for the kids were done for the day.  Identifying these tendencies in how I viewed my roles as wife and mom is helping me to make some needed adjustments. Some of these adjustments include setting and keeping more personal boundaries for the children;  simplifying housekeeping routines to make them more pleasant and reducing how much stuff we have so there is less to maintain; taking time to pause or even follow a few rabbit trails in my day to do something spontaneous, fun or relaxing by myself or with the kids.   I am also implementing  a morning routine I complete before getting the kids up. This routine pours into me and caters to my personality by allowing me to begin my day with things accomplished.

It goes against my grain to talk about me, myself, and I. It sounds self-focused at best, selfish at worst. However, if I want my loved ones to know they matter, I have to remember that I, as a person created in the image of God, matter too. And because many depend on me, I need to be strong, peaceful, and fully alive. These improvements are fresh off the press for me, but I sincerely hope to be diligent in applying them.

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