Tuesday, November 28, 2017

being different

Tonight I had the opportunity to hang out with 6 other lovely ladies. Each of us had a different background, married different types of men, had different children of different ages in different schools, and yet it was a wonderful night of fellowship. We chatted about our different Christmas traditions, the education our children were getting, the mutual friendships we had in this itty-bitty town we live in, and our favorite cheeses (in my case: all cheeses are my favorite).

It was fantastic!

When I got home, I realized just how different each of us were from each of the other ladies. But it didn't make any difference in our friendship and how we related to each other. We came into the room with no judgment and mutual respect for one another. We built one another up and no one was torn down in our conversation. We were intentional about our conversation and the topics that were brought up. Some of us came in as strangers and left as friends after knowing each other for just a few hours.

So let me ask you this: Do you think possibly, just maybe we could teach this same sort of behavior to our children?! To learn how to treat each other with respect and love, despite our differences?

My kids are different. Somewhat because they are home schooled... it's hard to get away from the stigmas. (*eyeroll*) But they are also different because that's the way they were created: unique. My husband and I have taught our kids to take pride in who they are and to stand confident in their differences. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. They're kids so sometimes they give in to the pressure of those around them.

But in teaching them to be who they were created to be, we also strive to teach them to appreciate others around them who have unique qualities that make them them. (I know that the two "thems" looks weird, but if you read it out loud in my voice, maybe it won't sound quite as weird. But then again, if you're reading it in my voice, it's probably just weird!) And again, my kids aren't quite perfect yet (we're working on that) so they aren't always good at being inclusive, but if I keep pointing out other people's differences and how cool those differences are, maybe someday they will figure out how to appreciate each person for who they are, despite their differences (I know, I used "differences" 3 times in that sentence! There oughta be a law against that. But then again, that's what makes me me so maybe you can just appreciate that weirdness about me...) (And yes, I'm aware that I used "me" two times in a row. Thank you for putting up with me so far...)

Distractions aside (staying focused is very difficult after midnight), why don't we all just make a concentrated effort to chat with our kids about appreciating the qualities in others that make them different. After all, we can't all be engineers because who would teach our children? And we can't all be doctors because I really appreciate the contractor's eye in creating my kitchen And if everyone was an awesome piano teacher, who would grow us food?  And I'm pretty sure that if Jesus was still walking this earth as a man-God, he would probably hang out with anyone who wanted to hang out with him, no matter what they looked like, what their job was, how perfect their hair was, what disabilities they possessed, and what their family background was.

I kinda like that Jesus guy and think it might be beneficial to follow in his footsteps so that's what I'm gonna try to do. Anyone wanna walk with me?


Thursday, October 19, 2017

in training...constantly

When our big twerps were just little kiddos, learning how to talk and walk and be naughty, we were parents in "training mode." We would encouraged our little ones to crawl and to make cooing noises. We would help them stand up over and over again. We would say, "No-no!" 50 times in a row as they would reach for the remote control or the cat's tail, or crawl towards the water dish. I remember when the realization hit that toddlers are not smart people when it comes to learning how to do something correctly the first time...

Oh man, little did I know! (SMH, which stands for Shaking My Head, but I think if you just make the sound "smh," it pretty much gives the same connotation!)

Now my kids are older and the training process is as frustrating as ever! When I first became a parent, I had NO CLUE that children had to be taught the same lesson 354 times before it stuck! Like manners, for example. I can finally beam with pride now when my kids say "please" and "thank you" without any prompting. And I do beam. Shucks, I put in YEARS of training to get them to remember to say that on their own!

We still haven't conquered how to hang wet clothing on the 12 hooks in the bathroom after getting out of the pool or spa. I guess it is a tough stretch to get the bathing suits and towels from the floor AAAAALLLLL the way up onto the hook. And while we have mastered getting the dishes into the dishwasher (4 out of 5 times - I call that "mastered" in my parenting book), we still haven't figured how to play Tetris with the dishes as we load them. I've already discovered my parenting fail when it comes to getting the toothpaste on the toothbrush. Apparently the mirror, sink, faucet, and wall become appropriate places for the paste when I no longer supervise the brushing of the teeth.

When bedtime hits, we still have to tell our kids: "Pets, pjs, and teeth, please!" as if for the last 7 or so odd years we haven't been saying that. As if we might just decide one night to skip one of those. The socks are in the middle of the floor. The cheese stick wrapper (the utter bane of my existence) also ends up in the middle of the floor. And the littlest Lego pieces...I can't even go there right now.

Now, lest you think that I let these things go buy without some kind of discipline (because, afterall, I am trying to teach my children to BE disciplined), there are a number of "training tactics" I employ on a regular basis. If I see and incomplete task, I track the culprit down and make them take care of it. I have been known to yell at my kid who is outside playing with the neighbors to come in the house to do something as simple as pick up the stinking cheese stick wrapper from the middle of the floor. I have also started charging my kids for leaving electronics on the floor. I pick them up and put them in a basket and charge them rent to get it back. We've made them do pushups and jumping jacks and have taken away privileges. We make them do chores for us in addition to their own if they fail to do what we asked of them. Nothing wrong with doubling up on their responsibilities to teach them...well...responsibility.

And yet. And yet, people. Here we are, 12 years into parenting, still training. Does it ever end?!

And then last night it hit me: it doesn't. It doesn't end. Ever. You know why? Because I reflected back on myself and all the things that God is working on in me. I see how many times I have tried and started and then made absolutely no progress. I am constantly being reminded by God of the things He is trying to teach me. Over and over and over again. (SMH again).

I think that God must experience that same frustration (if He deals with frustration...does God get frustrated??) when we as adults cannot get our stuff together. We try to get it right but then quickly go back to old habits... Poor God: As a parent, I understand a smidge of what He feels.

Yet, He still loves me. He's still patient with me. He gently reminds and directs me. And is patient with me. He doesn't yell or stomp his feet. He doesn't criticize. He shows me grace. He helps and is patient with me. Did I mention that He is patient? Because He has to be when He's dealing with me!!

I guess I know what that means: I need to practice my training techniques. I'm not necessarily a yeller...all of the time, but I definitely express my frustration, often. And the patience is definitely lacking. And grace, well, if I'm going to be an example of Jesus in my kids' lives, I suppose I should be showing grace a bit more. I guess you could say I'm a parent in training. Ha!! (Unfortunately, that doesn't make me feel very confident in myself...) (SMH)


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

good enough

There's this battle that I fight every single day, every single morning, pretty much every single moment. It's like a mantra that reverberates through my mind: "I'm not good enough."
I don't know why. It's not like anyone is standing next to me, judging my every action and every word that comes out of my mouth. But that feeling is always with me: "I'm not good enough."

I'm a mom. I read articles about how to be a better mom. And it just makes me feel like a terrible mom because there are 1,000 things I could be doing to be a better mom.

I used to be in shape. I used to work out regularly. I want to be in shape and work out regularly. I could give you 45 excuses as to why I'm not in shape and don't work out regularly. But it wouldn't change the fact that I want to be, but am not in shape.

I have a minimum of 75 projects around the house that scream at me every time I see them. Each room has at least one. "Paint me!" "Put curtains on me!" "Purge all these clothes out of me!" Those are all fabulous reminders of how great I am not.

I won't touch much on the topic of being a wife because I'm awesome at it and our marriage is perfect. Just ask my husband.

Sometimes I watch Netflix and I don't know whether to tell myself, "Good job! You deserve a little break!" or "You are the laziest sack of potatoes. Do you remember how many things you put on your To Do list today?!"

I teach a grip of kiddos piano lessons on a weekly basis. I will never stop feeling like I could be doing more to get them to understand or to practice more or just to love it so much that they want to play EVERY SINGLE DAY!! And that's why I'm no longer a school teacher - it consumed me. I could always do more, do more, do more!

I adore the friends that God has put into my life. But I cannot remember birthdays in a timely manner to save my life. Literally, if my life depended on it, I could not remember enough birthdays to save it. Sometimes not even the correct month! (Maybe this is why I struggled in History so much: remembering dates is not my strength.)

I'm super organized! ...when I want to be and when I have time and/or make it a priority. Which is not as often as I would like.

Finances. There's a good reason why my patient and flexible husband handles the finances.

Are you getting the picture?
(I know someone out there must be on the same page I am. Because when I sat at my computer and thought about what to write, this topic was brought to the forefront of my "squirrel!!" brain, and it stayed there. Someone needs to hear this as much as I do!)

Now that I've dragged myself through the mud (which is not unusual, hence the topic for today's blog) let's get to the upside!

A while back I had a conversation with a friend who was struggling with an upcoming event the following day. This friend felt unworthy for the role that they had been asked to play. I very politely said: "DUH! If you had all your ducks in a row and were perfect, then God wouldn't ask you to play that role. He wants you to do it BECAUSE you're not perfect." That is how He is glorified and we can prove his awesomeness, his God-ness (I think that is a word, or should be a word).

God doesn't ask us to be perfect. He asks us to be willing. He wants to use us in our roles as spouses, parents, friends. teachers, and whatever else so that He can do amazing things through us.

AND when you relinquish your imperfections to God, do you know how much pressure that takes off of  you?! The other day, I was sitting on the edge of my bathtub in the morning, putting on my socks and thought, " I don't have it within me today. You do it, God. Because I can't." (I wasn't asking Him to put on my socks, it was more like a whole day that I didn't feel like doing!) And I immediately breathed a sigh of relief and literally felt the peace go through my body.

I think maybe we need to come up with a new mantra, something that can be made into a poster or a cute little plaque to hang throughout our houses. Something we see everyday that will remind us that we are good enough.

And it should say: "God thinks I'm enough."

I don't know about you, but if God thinks I'm enough, that's a pretty big WOW right there!!


Monday, October 16, 2017

because God said so

I got to meet with one of my favorite gal pals for coffee last evening. I just love when God puts real people in my life, friends who aren't afraid to share the truth of their lives, people with whom I can share my heart, my fears, my desires and weaknesses.

One of the topics that came up a few times was the "letting go" topic. I like to think that I can just let things go. You know, make a decision and be fine with it. Do something (or not do something) and not think twice about it.

But that's not really the case with me. I tend to be an overthinker.
I worry about my kids when they get sick and how serious things need to get before we need to consider Urgent Care (as my husband gives a dose of Ibuprofen and sends them off to bed).
I think about conversations I've had. Did I explain myself clearly? Did I say everything as I meant to? Could I have hurt someone's feelings? Did my foot ever enter my mouth?
I stress about what people think about me and my decisions. Seriously, I'm out here on this blog and I totally worry about what you all think of me! No lie!
I worry about decisions we have made for our kids.
I worry about the future for our family.
I worry about my mom and my brothers and their families.
I think about my friends and wonder what more I could be doing for them. And how horrible of a friend I am and how much better I could be. (People, I rarely get birthdays remembered...)
I even stress about what other drivers on the road think of me!

I know that one of the root causes for this is my people-pleasing personality. I'm not saying I'm really good at it, I just really don't like upsetting people and I really like to have good relationships.  And I just want there to be peace everywhere I look! Because anything else is stressful. And dramatic. And awkward and overwhelming.

But lately God seems to be sending me some kind of message. It's the kind of message that He's already told me numerous times but I decided I would ignore it and so He decided that He would just keep pointing it out to me until I got it through my thick skull. He'll win, I know it because, well, He's God. But: thick skull.

When God makes it very obvious that I am doing what He has called me to do, I need to do it and let it go. He gave me the direction to go. My job is to follow that direction and stop stressing about it. He didn't call me to that direction because I'm amazing and going to do everything perfectly. (Bwahahahahahahahaha!!) No, He just said do it.

Apparently I am a bit of a control freak because when He tells me not to worry, I'm really good at worrying. If He could just let me see the future and could give me all the reasons I shouldn't worry or stress, maybe that'd be helpful.

But nope. He's too big for that.
And I need to rest in that fact right there: He's bigger than me and He's got this all in His hands.

Let go.
Let God.
(Four little words of truth).


Thursday, October 12, 2017

look for it

I know it's hard to see.
But it's there.
The good.
It's there.
You know how I see it?
God keeps pointing it out to me.

I'll admit that over the past few months I have lived in survival mode more than I ever have in the past. There have been a variety of things happening around here that have just overwhelmed my soul.

{Currently, my heart is overwhelmed by the fires of Northern CA. There's been a lot of devastation in the US these last couple of months, (or maybe it's only been weeks). But these fires are in my backyard and members of my precious family have been evacuated.}

And yet, I am constantly seeing light and hope.
I am constantly seeing things to be grateful for.
I see it because it's there.

I know that I have always been that way, looking for the good in people, a hopeless optimistic (or maybe I should say "hopeful!") I can almost always put a positive spin on a negative situation. And my coping mechanism is humor....if you haven't been able to tell from most of my posts!

So maybe I see the good because I'm used to looking for it.

But I think I see the good because it's there. God points it out. He makes sure that there is hope to grasp on to in every evil and devastating situation. Yes, the devil is working over time these days, it seems, but that doesn't mean that God has stopped being involved in this world of ours. We might just have to look a little harder.

And if you can't see it, maybe that means that He is calling you to be the good.


Monday, October 2, 2017

you are hope

Try as we might, we just can't do it.
We can't stop the evil that is so abundantly prevalent in our world.
We can't agree on politics and see eye to eye on how the world should be run.
We can't cure every disease.
We can't rid the world of mental illnesses.
We can't get rid of the violence, the greed, the selfishness, the desire for power.
We can't feed every hungry person or completely eradicate poverty or homelessness.
We can't force people to get out of their own way or to make good and moral decisions.
We can't make every person care about the environment or the animals that are going extinct.
We can't find a home for every child who doesn't have a family.
We can't create equal rights for all or convince everyone to set aside their biases.
We can't eliminate fires or hurricanes or tornadoes or earthquakes.
We can't.

Because this world is riddled with sin. Every person you meet on the street is sinful. We are surrounded by evil on a daily basis. There is absolutely no way we can get away from it. It started way back when we thought we needed to know everything, gained our free will and started making stupid decisions. This world is full of violence, ignorance, selfishness, and greed. That will never go away.

And what can I do? I'm one person in a world of many. I can't make a difference. I can't stop the hurt or the pain. I'd love it if I could solve every problem that this world faces, but even if I could, not everyone would agree with my solutions.

It feels pretty hopeless.
And I feel helpless.
And many of you probably do too.

But that's a lie.
It isn't hopeless and
You are not helpless.

See, God created you with amazing gifts and and a wonderful heart. You already have the capabilities to make a difference. I don't know what that means for you. But I know what that means for me, at least on some levels.

It means raising educated and compassionate kids who step in to help when needed and think outside the box to come up with ways that can contribute.

It means sharing my heart and the words that God puts upon it here in my blog and when I speak to others.

It means donating time or money or goods to the tragic events happening across the world.

It means bringing a bright spot to someone's life by sending them a card in the midst of their devastation.

It means random acts of kindness and compliments, encouragement and smiles. You just never know how you will affect someone's day or month or life with a simple act.

It means researching an issue dear to my heart to find out what I can do to help.

It means being a good friend when a good friend is needed.

It means respecting different viewpoints, even when I don't agree with them.
(Respect = not belittling).

It means volunteering my time to be a positive influence to the kids and teens in my community.

And although it might not seem like much to some people, it means praying. Because I'll be honest: I'm limited, but God's not. My prayers, your prayers: they are important.

Maybe for you it means making a meal for someone or writing a letter to your congressman about something that's important to you. Or traveling across the country to help victims of a natural disaster. Or maybe it's volunteering at an animal shelter or being a foster parent to a child (or kitten!)  Maybe it's going the extra mile for a co-worker or showing up when most people wouldn't.

Seriously, people, the possibilities are endless! Take a look at who you are and use your gifts to make a difference!

This world is ugly and is covered in scars.
We humans put them there.
But this world is also beautiful because of our hearts and our desire to make a difference and because of a God who can bring beauty up out of the ashes.

Don't give up hope amidst the darkness.
Just let your heart shine brighter.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

peace that passes

There's a fun song that I learned in church when I was a little kid. I don't remember the name of it, and it was a very simple song, but little did I know how those words, repeated over and over would come to minister to me on a very regular basis.

The first verse went like this:
"I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.
Down in my heart.
Down in my heart.
I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.
Down in my heart to stay!"

Eventually, we got to the tongue twister verse...well a tongue twister for a little kid, anyway. The faster you sang it, the harder it was! You try:
"I've got the peace that passes understanding down in my heart."

When I finally accomplished that verse, I didn't really care what it meant. I was just proud that I could sing it all without messing up! But having sung it over and over again, the words were ingrained on my heart.(And thus is the valuable part of repetitive choruses.)

Let me take you through the non-peace-that-passes-understanding parts of my life real quick. I suffered from shyness, stomach aches, and anxiety from a very early age. This eventually turned into an anxiety disorder with full-on panic attacks that affected my life for about 10 years. And by "affected" I mean that it totally disrupted all I had going on. It pretty much ran my life.

After a while (again, 10 years), I had a good understanding of my anxiety disorder and my panic attacks had pretty much subsided. My dad was diagnosed with cancer and our family walked a pretty distressing road with him. He passed on to be with Jesus a little over 10 years ago and that was heartbreaking. I struggled on that road, but it was my first glimpse of that "peace-that-passes-understanding."

Jumping ahead 10 years....

And here we are today. My mom just (on Tuesday morning) underwent surgery to have a large malignant tumor removed from her large intestine. It was less than two weeks ago that we even knew it was there. Do you know how crazy it is to go from diagnosis to surgery in that amount of time? Do you know all the appointments and prep that has to happen? I mostly watched from the outside as my incredible mom went to every appointment and prepped for surgery, which is no easy task. And tonight she is sleeping (hopefully!) in the hospital, recovering from surgery and I'm going to go ahead and call her a survivor because as far as I'm concerned with what I've seen her go through over the past 8 months leading up to the diagnosis: she has survived much already!

But you know what I understand more clearly now? The Peace That Passes Understanding. From the beginning, from the moment the doctor told me that he was 90% certain that my  mom had cancer, God has wrapped me in a warm blanket of peace that I cannot explain. Me: a stress-case from a very early age. I used to worry about answering the phone! (Ridiculous, yes. But that was the reality of this shy girl's life.) But I have not freaked out once. And that is not like me at all.

And my mom, I know that she has had moments of fear, but there is an undeniable, underlying peace that is completely in control of our hearts right now. I have no logic for it.

But God doesn't just work in the world of logic. He works beyond that. And if you've ever experienced this peace, there is no way you can doubt Him. Praise God for being beyond our understanding!

(And I'll tell you something else: God knew what He was talking about when He told us all to pray for one another. But I'll save that awesomeness for another blog post.)

Much love from my family to you all,