Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Spaghetti Thinking....

There are times I envy men and their compartmentalized, waffle-way of thinking. I wonder if they even know how complicated life is when you are a spaghetti-thinking woman. Here is an example:
It's 4:15 a.m., much too early to be awake...
But my stomach is growling....
I can't sleep...
Maybe I should get up now and take a nap later...
But that would mean re-doing my hair & make-up...
My hair sure is getting long....
When is my next trim?...
Haircuts sure do cost a lot these days!
Come to think of it, so do eggs....
What should I cook for dinner?
I am sooo hungry!
I really need to get to the grocery store soon....
And the gym....
Maybe after my nap!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Saving" Time

If someone happens to know where the month of January went could you please let me know....

Seriously, this "flying time" thing is out of control!

Unless I stop and think about it I can even forget what season we are in:

~ The weather is unpredictable (snow then sun then rain....)

~ I just got the Christmas decorations put away but a recent visit to the mall revealed that winter coats have already been replaced by bathing suits.

~ While I should be focused on "My Valentine" advertisers have me pondering my garden and landscaping plans.

~ Spring sports sign-ups have already begun for the kids and summer camps are filling up fast.

While it often seems like living in the moment and focusing on today is impossible (and much of the world would have us think it is irresponsible) the bible teaches that "here and now" is exactly where God has placed us and what He wants us to focus on.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34
Of course this doesn't mean we shouldn't plan for the future (that WOULD be irresponsible) but not at the expense of forfeiting our peace and purpose today.

"You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in You." Isaiah 26:3

How many of us spend so much time focusing on what we expect and want for our future that we miss out on what we are blessed with right now? We carefully map out our lives, planning and preparing for events that may or may not ever unfold, and in doing so we neglect the precious gift of "this" moment.

"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."
Psalm 118:24

Our calendars reveal commitments and schedules that have been set weeks or months ahead of time and literally rob us of time to rest, relax or refresh. In many ways it can feel as though we are on the fast-track to burnout, both physically & spiritually. But as we find ourselves living in a culture that values "busyness" and "scheduling" what can we do to slow the pace in order to live our lives to the fullest? Look at how Jesus answers this question:

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me --watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace." Matthew 11: 28 (The Message)

There may be "no time like the present" but I am a firm believer that "there is no present like time" and that is a gift I find myself craving more and more.

So beginning today here are 10 ways I want to be intentional about "living in the moment" and making the most of my time in 2010 (in no particular order):

1) Build boundaries around my time. Give up the idea that I can do it all and prioritize what I am called to do. Be careful of time drainers, especially the television, telephone & computer!
2) Spend time reading books with my kids. Unlike watching TV or movies, reading together invites physical contact, stimulates imagination and initiates conversation & laughter, all of which create lasting bonds and memories.
3) Be "present" in conversation. Look people in the eye, listen closely and talk less (ok, I know that will be a struggle for me but I'm gonna try, lol).
4) Plan more "lunch dates". My goal is to have lunch with (one or more) girlfriends at least once a month (more if it's in the budget). The point is to stop saying "let's get together" and just do it!!
5) Kiss my husband every evening after work and every night before I go to bed. It is so easy to take each other for granted and overlook those displays of affection that are so important in a healthy marriage!
6) Carve out DAILY quiet time with God. Many days I do but I still haven't gotten to where it's EVERY day.
7) Cook more and eat out less. Nothing brings a family together like sharing a home-cooked meal.
8) Re-incorporate family prayer time. We did this for awhile but it is definitely time to bring out the prayer journal and start lifting each other up again!
9) Reach out to others. Follow through on those "notes I meant to send", "hand-me-downs I wanted to pass on" or "meals I intended to deliver". In other words "put my good intentions into action!"
10) Build boundaries around my relationships. Being a "people pleaser" by nature nothing drains or wearies me more than trying to please the "unpleaseable". As much as I want to be loved and accepted by all I am painfully aware that I will never be able to please everyone and the harder I try the less effective I am. Unfortunately this may mean there are people in my life that I will have to "love from a distance" in order to successfully make the most of my life, fulfill my purpose and be the woman that God has called me to be.

These ideas are just a starting point and though they may not succeed in actually slowing down time, they can help me make the most of the time I have been given!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Different Kind of Garden

AHH, January in Kansas. There is nothing quite like extreme cold, bitter wind, ice under snow, snow melting into slush and then turning back to ice again.
It's times like this I envy people who live in milder climates. Don't get me wrong it's not the cold that bothers me, and I really do love the snow, but for the most part winter is just a downright ugly season!

Today the view out my kitchen window is last summer's planters filled with the dead remnants of what were once thriving flowers and plants. With the arrival of freezing temperatures the colorful view quickly became a distant memory and we were left with a brown and barren landscape.

On the other hand, I did bring some of the larger, more expensive plants indoors for the winter. The problem is, they must struggle to find the sun and I don't do a very good job remembering to water them so although they are alive, they are far from healthy.

I think its safe to say that Kansas winters are not very conducive to growth! In fact, January can be as dreary and depressing as the gray sky.

We may even discover that our hearts (blooming with love, joy and thanksgiving just a few weeks ago) have become hard, gloomy and discontented. Like the sickly plants I brought inside for the winter, our hearts are in desperate need of a good fertilizer that can sustain us until we are in a season when we can once again thrive.

But, like tropical plants in Kansas winters, how do we promote growth in difficult or uncomfortable conditions?

We start by tilling the soil of our hearts with gratitude.

We remember and remind ourselves of what God has:
blessed us with,
brought us to,
delivered us from,
promised us...
And then we cultivate that field of thankfulness by sharing His kindness and compassion with others.

When we spend time with our Creator regularly, thanking Him for all He has done, the hard soil of our heart begins to loosen. Seeds of thankfulness develop roots and begin to grow into what God created them to be. Eventually the ground softens enough that the tender shoots of new growth are able to break through the top layer and bask in the full glory of the Son!

Galatians 6:7 says "we reap what we sow" and it's only when we are sowing seeds of gratitude and praise that we can hope to reap a harvest of blessing. Eventually, if we are diligent in cultivating gratitude, we will find an abundant harvest of the "fruit of the Spirit":
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Long suffering, Meekness,
Gentleness, Kindness, Faith and Temperance.
So where do you find yourself today?
  • Have you been hit by a sudden "hard frost" or "long winter" that has left you weak and hopeless like the flowers left outside?
  • Or are you more like the plants that were moved inside? Hanging in there, surviving but just going through the motions; doing OK but far from healthy and thriving?

Well the good news is that, unlike gardening in Kansas, we don't have to wait for a change in the weather to plant a garden of gratitude. That can be easier said than done in a culture built on personal comfort, excess and entitlement so this year I have made it my goal to teach my children how to reap a harvest of blessing that comes from cultivating gratitude.


I purchased an inexpensive weekly calendar and keep it next to the computer where each day everyone is invited to write 1 to 5 things they are grateful for. When some of the family (mainly teenagers) balked at the idea I appealed to their sense of competition and offered a prize for whoever wrote on the most days of each month (ice cream or candy should work well). It may sound like a bribe but I like to think of it as a short term reward that will have long term effects. As they try to "win" the meager prize I offer they are receiving something much greater...a grateful heart!

Personally I hope they all "win". A family ice cream night is something to be grateful for indeed!!

So in closing, here are a few of the things our family is grateful for in January 2010....

  • Home
  • Jesus is the Gate!
  • Memories of good times
  • Siblings
  • No school on Monday!
  • The people trying to help with the Haiti earthquake
  • Education
  • Our dog Maggie
  • My sister making my bed for me.
  • All the people on earth

That is just a sample of our "garden of gratitude", what does yours look like??

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Bloggers Tale...

Once Upon a Time....there was a woman who wanted to start a blog.

Through the blog she could stay connected with family, make new friends, express her creativity and develop her writing skills.

Much to her delight Blogland turned out to be an encouraging place filled with lovely ladies and the woman made many new friends, both online and in person.

In the beginning, similar to a new relationship, there seemed to be no loss of ideas and topics to post on. God, family, activities, history, beliefs, travel, problem-solving.....there was so much to write about and the woman was inspired and energized by the writing!

Not only was she encouraged as a writer but by visiting the sites of other women she was able to give and receive encouragement from others.

On top of that the woman discovered how to create new designs for her blog. Playing with the look and layout became part of the fun and she even made a little profit by helping other ladies update the look of their blogs.

But then one day the woman realized blogging wasn't fun anymore. Life was busy & stressful and her blog was an added pressure and deadline in her life. Writing was no longer creative and energizing, it was forced and draining.

Besides not having time to write she also felt guilty for not visiting the blogs of her new "friends". As for creating blog designs, they became more of a business than a passion.

Finally the woman did what anyone would do when they are overwhelmed. She turned her back on her blog and went on vacation (a LONG vacation) away from Blogland. Thanks to Facebook she didn't have to completely sever her ties to the online community (and many of her friends in Blogland) but conversing on Facebook doesn't carry the same "commitment" as blogging.

Still though, when other people would talk about writing a post or someone would ask about her blog she would get that itch to write again. Every once in awhile something would happen to get her "creative juices" flowing and the woman would think about returning to Blogland.....

The question was: "did she remember how to get there? What if she couldn't think of anything to write about? And what if she got overwhelmed by the time commitment again and had to leave?"

Then she got a grip and remembered, "life is about living in the present".

The past is behind me,
tomorrow is not guaranteed,
today is what I have to work with.....
and today I am feeling the urge to connect with friends, express myself and work on my writing skills...so today I decided to blog!

Monday, August 17, 2009

When You Wish Upon a Star.....

Did anyone see the Perseid Meteor shower last week?

I really wanted to see it for myself but according to internet reports it would be best viewed in a dark sky around 4am and since our suburban neighborhood is fairly well lit and I am "out like a light" by 10:30 I decided to forego the shower-show this year.

My family, however, was a little more adventurous and as I headed to bed they planted themselves on the deck in hopes of catching a glimpse of a falling meteor.

Just as I was about to doze off Quin ran into the room, and with the enthusiasm unique to a 7 yr. old boy, he told me he had not only seen a shooting star but he had made a wish upon it! His wish (also unique to 7 yr. old boys) was that he would have "super powers". I asked which super power he hoped for and he listed 3:

1) Speed

2) Moving things with his mind

3) Super strength

He went back to re-join the family and I turned the light off again to go to sleep. A few minutes later he was back and this time his little lip was quivering. Apparantly his older brother and sisters had informed him that because he had "told what his wish was" it would not come true. His hopes for super powers had been crushed by his (evil) older siblings and this "mother's heart" broke to see him so sad.

I pulled him onto the bed next to me and as we lay there in the dark I told him that he already had super powers. Because he has accepted Jesus as his saviour he now has the power of God living inside of him through the gift of the Holy Spirit. This means that he "can do ALL things through Christ"!

What better power is there than that? And unlike wishes made on a shooting star the power of the Holy Spirit just gets stronger (and shines brighter) when you tell others about it!

I was feeling really good about this lesson (and being able to put a smile back on my son's face) when suddenly I felt more than a little convicted:

--What kind of powers are important to me?--money, material possessions, status....
--Am I "wishing upon a star" (worldliness, others, self efforts...) or am I placing my hope in God alone?
--What kind of witness am I to the power of God in my life?
--Do I share with others where my help (power) comes from?

Quin has spent the last few nights looking up at the sky, just in case he sees another shooting star to wish upon but this morning, as we prayed, he "thanked God for the Holy Spirit and the power it gives him. Now that is what I call an "Aroma of Joy"!

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Shark Story!

One thing I love about travelling is the different perceptions people have about places and things unfamiliar to them. For instance....

I have noticed that many people outside the south or midwest are often terrified of tornados. Of course tornados are frightening and potentially devastating but being from Kansas, my experience has been that a tornado warning is really just code for an impromptu party in the basement.

On the other hand you couldn't pay me enough to live in California because I have known since I was a child that any day now there will be a massive earthquake and the whole state will fall off into the ocean!

Thanks to TV, movies, old-wives tales, history books and the evening news everybody knows that ships sink, fires burn, boogie men exist, bad guys wear black, there are snakes on planes and sharks in the ocean.

So the other night when emergency vehicles appeared on the beach, my husband and I watched from our balcony as our girls went down to get the scoop. Nobody around us seemed to know what was happening and my husband suggested we might want to go with them ("just in case it's a dead body") but then we heard a conversation that caused us to run in their direction.

Southern Lady #1: "Do ya think it's a shark?"

Southern Lady #2: (very nonchalantly) "I don't know..... Probly."

Now I have seen Jaws and have spent more than 30 years getting to where I can swim in a swimming pool (much less a lake or the ocean) without hearing "nana nana nanananana" so why were these women walking and chatting like it's a day at the park? Why were they not running for their lives?

As we got onto the beach I heard a policeman make a comment dripping with sarcasm, "Wow, that was the biggest shark I ever saw."
Come to think of it, people in the Jaws movie were pretty non-chalant too as Roy Scheider begged them to listen.

I may be from the plains but it would seem to me that joking about sharks on a beach would be the equivalent of discussing firearms in an airport, but then again I am from Kansas and am just as likely to watch the storm clouds from the deck as to run for cover.

After further investigation it turned out that a woman had seen "something" floating in the water and called authorities who assured us there was nothing to worry about.

Hmmm.....isn't that what they said to Roy?
When a crowd gathered again today the last thing I would have expected to see was a shark washed up on the beach.

By the way, the next time there is a tornado warning in Kansas I will be in the basement!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Our Very Own Fan Club...

You would think by now I would be leery of "letting my guard down" and actually getting comfortable on vacation. After all the last time I did that we found ourselves facing a hurricane in Mexico!

Never-the-less that is exactly how I was beginning to feel on Monday. The sun was bright, my hubby and kids were playing in the sand and I was alone in the condo, enjoying my morning cup of coffee and finally writing on my long-neglected blog. Could life get better than this??

And then, as if on cue, someone knocked at the door......

It was "Building Management" and they wanted to know if we were having any water issues. "no, other than the toilet seems to run quite often." He shrugged that off and asked if they could come in and look around?

(now why exactly did I want to be ALONE in the condo?)
Immediately they started looking at the walls. From my view this is what we saw:

(many of the walls are covered in hand painted murals)

But they were looking through a different lens, specifically the lens of an InfaRed Water Detection camera. None of the pretty pictures painted on the walls impressed them at all but what was behind the wall had them very concerned! There was water and if left untreated it could turn to mold and eventually destroy the entire structure.

After discussing it among themselves for a few minutes the man turned to me and said:

"I'm sorry Ma'am but we are going to have to bring in some equipment that will impact your stay. If you can, you might look for somewhere else to move to."

"WHAT? But this is our vacation" I whined.

"You must understand that salvation of this building is our first priority. I am very sorry but we will be in touch."

Apparently the "building manager" trumps the "condo owner" in the heirarchy of decsion making and the comfort of a guest is not their main concern.

Later that afternoon we returned from the beach to find our very own "fan club" waiting for us in our "not-so-perfect" condo.

(a giant de-humidifier & 2 of the 3 very loud fans that must run continually)

It is a good thing we are a family who is no stranger to inconvenience, LOL!

All of this has made me think...... what is hiding inside our walls?

In our culture we tend to focus on outward appearance ("working-out", what we wear, the cars we drive, where we live, spending a fortune on skin-care...) but we are slowly being destroyed by what's inside; bitterness, unforgiveness, greed, lonlieness, insecurity, fear....

Fortunately we have a "building manager" who is able to detect and fix the problem before it is exessive and visible to the naked eye.

If we let Him, God will shine the "infa-red light" of His love on us and not only expose those areas that threaten to destroy us but He also promises to help us repair them. He doesn't promise it will be comfortable but our comfort is not His first priority, our salvation is.

So in the inconvenience of struggling to be heard over the fans I take comfort, once again, in the fact that God is with us and at work in our family....