Friday, March 29, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Broken

It's Good Friday, and I'm joining in with Lisa-Jo for my favorite weekly writing exercise:

Today we are writing for five minutes on: Broken...


It is Good Friday and I can’t stop thinking about how in our home, if something is broken the cry rises, “Daddy can fix it!”  Even when things look impossibly broken to me, they merely pose an interesting problem to my husband, who understands deeply how things work and has the patient spirit and gentle hands needed to put broken things to rights.

There at the cross of Jesus, all seemed impossibly broken to those gathered at the cross.  I have been there in my life, the place where I felt all was lost, that everything was so broken and smashed up there was no way through to healing and wholeness.

But friends, there is Easter.  It is coming. The heavy stone will be rolled away and Jesus full of life, the risen Lord, will come out and He will say Mary’s name and she will know Him.

Let us broken ones know Him, today, in the darkness of Good Friday, and wait to see Him, beautiful, in the light of Sunday morning.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

it's not fair! {my first guest post!}

"It's not fair!"

Do you ever hear these words from the lips of your children?  My kids came equipped with highly sensitive radar when it comes to issues of fairness.  Yours too?

Today I am here writing on this subject at my friend Laurie's place.  I would be honored if you would come on over and join the conversation!

I met Laurie through the God-sized dream team.  I was drawn to her encouraging and kind voice in our group.  When you visit Laurie's blog, the first thing you see is her happy, smiling face.  Just seeing her smile will bring a smile to your own face...guaranteed!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

what do you do all day?

For our Tuesday link-up, Holley asked us, "What's a typical day in your life like right now? How can you see God's hand in the "small" and ordinary too?"
It was that Christmas party at the Chancellor’s house that made me realize I needed a different explanation for my life, a different answer to that question handed out to me along with my plate of h’or doevres, “What do you do?” 

I stood amidst the crush of professors and campus staff, all of us juggling small plates of cute food, making requisite small talk.  I think I stood out a bit in my bright red turtleneck sweater from Motherhood Maternity (this was ten years ago, OK?).  My husband and I were invited to this faculty shindig because he was the president of the Graduate Student Association.  We stood smiling politely at one another and eating our meatballs when one of the faculty members in my husband’s department joined us.  They chatted about department things and then, not wanting me to feel left out (no really, I am happy to just stand here quietly munching my carrot sticks, thank you) turned to me and asked, “So, what do you do?”

“I stay at home with our son,” and gesturing to my obvious belly, “and I’ll soon have another child to care for.”

With kind eyes, he then asked, “So, what do you do all day?”

Standing there, my feet aching in pumps I should have left in the closet, I stammered my way through a truly ridiculous litany of changing diapers, doing laundry, and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  In the car on our way home after the party, I told my husband, “I seriously need to rethink my answer to the question that professor asked me…that was embarrassing!”

Ten years have passed since that cocktail party and my grad student husband is a professor himself.  When we attend similar gatherings now, I am more confident in sharing about being at home, homeschooling my kids, and caring for our family.  I’ve become more comfortable in my skin, helped along by my husband who is ultra supportive of what I do, and often lets me know how highly he values it.

So, you want to know “what I do all day?”  Well, let me tell you…

My typical day starts early when the alarm goes off at 5am.  I scoop up my workout clothes in the dark and head into the bathroom to get dressed for the gym.  I have been working out in the early morning for years.  I love having such an important thing checked off on my list before breakfast!

I walk back in my door by 6:40am greeted with the smell of freshly brewed coffee, and by my husband and son who are up and getting ready for the day.  My son has to be at school at 7:00am four days a week for a 0 period band class.  He is already dressed and eating breakfast when I get home.  I practice true love and servanthood, making his lunch before pouring my first cup of coffee for the day!

In the quiet after my guys are on their way, I grab my coffee and Bible study bag and head to my favorite blue and white chair where I spend some time praying and studying Scripture.  My homeschooled daughters usually sleep until 7:30 or 8:00am.  This hour of quiet is a gift, a real boon to the beginning of my day.  I will often use the time to do some writing as well.

Once the girls are up, I shower and get dressed while they get themselves ready.  We eat breakfast together and afterward they take care of their guinea pigs while I do my kitchen chores and prep for our homeschool day.

The girls and I will work together on science, math, language arts, history, piano and chores throughout the morning.  We break for lunch and some time to play outside.  I try and finish our school day so that they have at least an hour or so to play before we have to go pick up Stephen from school. 

If I’ve prepped dinner ahead of time and the house is not a huge disaster (a slight disaster is fine, though!), I will take an hour or so in the afternoon to write.  During that time, my son is doing his homework and my daughters are playing.

The evening finds me in the kitchen where I love to play Mumford and Sons or some other great music while I cook dinner.  When dinner is ready, our family gathers around the big pine table in our eat-in kitchen, talking over the day, making plans, sharing the meal.

Besides that morning hour of quiet, my favorite time of day comes near its end, when the kids are bathed with jammies on and teeth brushed. Our family settles in the living room to listen to my husband read aloud.  We have enjoyed countless books together this way.  The kids will often play quietly with toys or draw, or if they are really tired, just snuggle under a blanket to listen.  I may crochet or knit, or simply sit and soak in my husband’s voice, the story he is reading, and the rare time to sit still.

So much ordinary in these days of mine.  Messes made and cleaned up.  Laundry sorted, washed, folded, dirtied again. In the homely, quotidian activities of homekeeping and homeschooling I have learned about that servant-love he showed us when He rose up from the table after that last supper, wrapped Himself in the towel, and knelt to wash the feet of his friends.

Linking up with my God-sized dream team sisters over at Holley's blog.

Monday, March 25, 2013

serving joy

Holley asked us to write this last week about what brings us joy.
 Sunday night I stood at the sink, rinsing dishes to load into the dishwasher.  Brownies stood on the counter waiting to be served.  The coffeemaker hissed and spluttered, its delicious steam mingling above my head with steam from the warm water washing over my hands.  I luxuriated in the waves of laughter and conversation from the group of people gathered around our dining room table. 

In a serendipitous collision of events, my in-laws had called in the middle of the week to say they would like to drive down, accompany us to church and hang out on the same day we were hosting a family dinner for my Aunt’s birthday.  As my friend Michelle says, "The more the merrier!"  

Our large rectangular table was heaped with the goodness of Ree’s Bow Tie Alfredo Pasta with Chicken, caesar salad and sliced tomatoes with balsamic vinegar, basil and feta on the side.  A feast.  And brownies still to come.  Mercy.

After serving brownies and coffee to my loved ones, I took my own plate and coffee and sat down, marveling at this mixing of personalities, families, and histories.  As families do, we laughed, told stories, ate brownies.

My style of hospitality will never be catalogued in any magazine.  You will most likely not find me giving tips to would-be hostesses. 

But having a group of folks crammed around my table eating, talking and laughing brings me a great deal of joy.
 Tomorrow is Thursday and we will host our college Bible study for a finals week meal.  It will be a simple affair, with hamburgers and hotdogs along with all the fixings.  I will cook and do dishes, refill glasses and serve up dessert. 

And at the close of day, when I lay my head down, my heart will be full of the unique joy that comes with extending hospitality.

The clock is relentlessly marching us into the day as we inch our way forward and it is then that she asks me, “Can we use the colorful teapot, Mama?  Can we have a tea party breakfast?”

The daffodils are blooming bright on the table, the sun is shining, and even though math will start late, I say, “Yes.”

We brew a pot of Earl Grey and serve toast and smoothies for breakfast.  She pours milk in the small pitcher, finds the tiny spoons, refills the sugar.

And though time marches steadily on, I am no longer paying it any mind.  I am listening to the happy chatter of little girls, planning birthday parties, telling stories from their charter school classes, sharing heart-dreams, giggling.  Between sips of Earl Grey, I notice a peace has spread over us.  We are smiling into each other’s eyes.  And joy is spilling over.
Linking up with m God-sized Dream Team sisters at Holley's blog.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

a review and {a giveaway} first!!

I admit it, I’m a piler.  You don’t know what that means?  Neither does my computer apparently, since it has put a red squiggly line under it.  Well, being a piler means that throughout my house, on the kitchen island, on top of my computer printer, inside of and on top of my kitchen hutch, I make piles of papers.  I try and contain them, organize them, make decisions about them. But inevitably there is something that I need to keep handy, so into a pile it goes.

My friend and fellow God-sized dreamer, Kayse Pratt, just might have the cure for this habit of mine.  As a busy working Mom with an equally busy toddler to keep up with, she is familiar with the daily grind blessing of homemaking.  She has written an ebook called, Getting It Together, which is equal parts practical genius and simple loveliness, filled to the brim with excellent tips and tools for homemaking organization.

Getting it Together is a step-by-step guide to making a useful and lovely Home Management Notebook.  Kayse begins by giving five reasons why we need one.  This sentence leapt off the page at me from reason #5:

“You’ll have access to all the important information in one easy peasy location.  Your home is run by YOU, rather than you being run by the demands of your home.”

Ahhh, that sounds lovely!  No piles shouting out my glaring lack of organization for all to see.  No rifling through several piles to find that one, usually tiny, desperately needed piece of paper.  Just grab the binder, turn to the right tab, and there it is, right where it should be.

Getting it Together comes with over 30 printables that can be used to create your very own Home Management Notebook.  Kayse has thought of everything from organizing the take-out numbers you use most to a pretty cleaning schedule to help keep us on track.

I have started my journey toward eliminating my piles by laminating five of the thirty printables included in my copy of Getting it Together

Here are my first five laminated worksheets...on my way to being organized!!
My husband and I have plans to talk over the family budget soon, so the Family Budget and Financial Goals worksheets will be extremely helpful.  As a new blogger, I seriously need to get organized!  The Blogging Calendar that Kayse provided looks like the perfect tool to get me on track.  I already make a weekly menu for our family, and now it can look pretty with the This Week on Our Table worksheet!  The last worksheet I laminated is called Emergency Information.  I plan to fill this out and place it in a central location in my home.

Maybe you are glancing around your own kitchen like I am, lamenting your piles and wishing for a pretty and organized Home Management Notebook of your very own.  

On Monday March 24th, I will be giving away a free copy of Getting it Together by Kayse Pratt!

Here are ways you can enter the giveaway: leave a comment on this post, share with your social media friends on Facebook and Twitter by clicking on the button below and using the buttons at the bottom of the page, like Kayse on Facebook here or follow her on Twitter here.

You can also purchase Getting it Together as a pdf for just $3.99 here or formatted for kindle on Amazon here.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Five-Minute Fridays - Rest

My alarm jangled like it always does, at 5am.  As I turned it off and rolled over to sink back into sleep, this thought flitted through my exhausted brain, “Maybe Lisa-Jo will pick REST for Five Minute Fridays today because I could definitely write about that.”

Then I proceeded to sleep for three more hours!

My girls were already giggling in their beds as I made my way to the kitchen for my necessary coffee, which I had to heat up because the pot my husband made had long since gone cold.  I read some things online and when my brain was finally awake enough, I clicked over to Lisa-Jo’s. 

And read that today’s prompt is: Rest

I smiled, laughed, and started to write.
 Last Saturday night we walked around the house re-setting our clocks.  It was time to Spring Forward.  After a long weekend of sleepovers and late-night teen birthday parties, every one of us was ready right then at 8:00pm to go to bed.  So we told ourselves it was already 9, set the clocks ahead and went to sleep.

After a long weekend of sleepovers, late-night teen birthday parties and losing an hour on Saturday night, I was already less than rested as the week began.  I still kept getting up at 5am for my usual gym time, but every night my body wouldn’t relax until after 11pm. 

On Wednesday afternoon the girls and I were reading outside enjoying the sunny weather, but my eyes refused to stay open.  I finally said, “Girls, I need to just close my eyes.  Why don’t you go play for a while?”  And I proceeded to nap for 30 minutes right there in a camp chair on my driveway.

Last night during Bible study with the college students, who come over every Thursday, I was literally falling asleep, trying desperately to keep my brain engaged in the saga of David and Joab and Asahel.  It wasn’t working.   I finally had to get up, splash some water on my face and eat a cookie before I could rejoin the conversation.

Resting even when I need to often can make me feel lazy, like I am perched on a slippery slope and taking this time to rest will be the first in a long line of actions that will leave me sleeping in til noon everyday, neglecting my children, and becoming terribly unproductive and useless.

I am not listening to that voice today!

Appropriate rest is a gift, as it says here in the second part of Psalm 127:2, “…he grants sleep to those he loves.”

So instead of berating myself, I am thanking Him for the extra rest this morning.

What are you thankful for today?  I would love to hear from you!

Do you struggle with that negative voice in your head too?  My friend, Elizabeth Anne, wrote a beautiful post this morning about this very thing.  It was exactly what I needed to read this morning.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

he loves me well

One morning, stumbling my way into the kitchen on my way to the coffee pot, I noticed something propped up against the vase in the middle of the table.  Upon bleary-eyed investigation, I saw it was a CD.  Mumford and Sons, the new one. 

More effective than the shot of caffeine I had just been going for, surprise and delight shot through my veins as I picked it up, turned it over and read the list of songs. 

Still holding my CD, I grabbed my mug, pouring half and half then coffee into my cup, all the while wondering to myself, when had I ever told him I liked Mumford and Sons?  The band had just come on my radar.  Maybe I had recently listened to them on Spotify while cooking dinner?  Perhaps he had heard me gushing about them to a friend on the phone? 

One of the many things I love about my husband is that often I don’t have to tell him the desires of my heart directly.  He is lovingly listening, watching, caring for me in tender, behind the scenes ways that melt my heart. 

Recently, when my pastor said that the new sermon series would be on The God of Abraham, I had to laugh.  This past summer I went through the study guide of Anne Graham Lotz’ book The Magnificent Obsession with some ladies from my church.  The study focuses on the life of Abraham.  This year I am also studying the book of Genesis with Bible Study Fellowship.  More Abraham! 

I have started to pay close attention to what God is saying to me through the life of Abraham, because apparently He really wants me to hear it.

 Our family has been waiting for an adoption placement now for over a year.  Actually for a year and four months.  As the year anniversary of our adoption certification rolled by on the calendar in November, I started getting a bit antsy.  This waiting game is hard.  Living day by day and not doing anything active to achieve this thing that I want so desperately, this simply trusting God…well, it is not for the faint of heart. 

This fall my heart was getting faint. 

I began thinking about other routes we could take with our adoption, ways we could make this happen faster, so that we would no longer be waiting but would instead be living this dream and promise from God.  I felt so ready to welcome another child into our home and to write the next chapter of our adoption story, the chapter that comes AFTER the chapter on waiting.

In the middle of this internal storm, I opened my Bible to complete my weekly Bible study homework, and there was Sarah offering Hagar to Abraham.

Oh, I know this story.  It is a story of a woman taking matters into her own hands.  It is a story of a woman who is done with waiting, a woman who can see no way that God can come through on His promise and so when she sees a way that seems right to her, she takes it.

Like with that CD on the breakfast table, God listened to the turmoil in my heart and with perfect timing, graciously reminded me of the value of waiting for His timing.

I love what Holley Gerth says in her recently released book, You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream: “Perhaps our idea of waiting is too limited.  We think we have to be still and do nothing at all.  But what if waiting is more about the attitude of our hearts?” 

This resonates deeply with me because I can see, looking back over this yearlong wait, that the attitude of my heart has indeed changed.  Coming to adoption through the door of my own grief has meant that I have needed to be reminded that our adoption is about so much more than satisfying my deep desire for more children.  Yes, through adoption God can meet and fulfill my desire, but He is also working out His plan in the life of the child we will adopt.  Our adoption will involve many other stories, many other lives, and there will be a moment in time when it will be right for our stories to merge, but only God knows when that time will be. 

This time of waiting is like water that drips, drop by drop over much time onto a rock face, and though at one time it dripped onto solid rock, over time it creates its own space, so that now it has become a pool where water collects.

This waiting is creating space in me, sacred space, open-handed space. 

May it be filled in His time.
linking up here today...Click on ever to Jennifer Dukes Lee's place to join us.  You can participate on your own blog, or tell your story here in the comments.  I love what Jennifer says, "Your words matter to God.  They matter to people.  And they matter to me!"

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

jars of clay

This week our God-sized dreams question from Holley was, What do you really want more of in your life?  Will you dare to say it out loud?  Hint: it probably means having less of something {ex: more joy, less stress}. 

As I quieted myself to listen to the answer to Holley’s question, this verse came to mind:

“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” Isaiah 30:15, NIV

In the quietness of my heart, I realized that I desire more quiet confidence, less fear of failure.

I do not desire a confidence based on my own abilities, but confidence that God has made me who I am for a reason and that He has blessed, disciplined and loved me into someone who looks a little more like Jesus today than I did yesterday.

I remembered this awesome quote from Holley’s recently released book You’re Made for a God-sized Dream that I highlighted on my Kindle:

You are who you are for a reason.  God could have designed you in any way that he wanted.  After all, he spoke the world into being.  Customizing you wasn’t a challenge.  So why would he create you in a way that didn’t match up with the biggest dreams he has for your life?”

…You are who you are for a reason…really, God?  I am fearful, I am not naturally thin, I say stupid things, I am prone to doubt…

It does not come easy for me to believe good things about my self or my abilities.  For years after we married, I would periodically and very seriously ask my husband to remind me again why he married me, what he possibly saw in me, because I had no eyes to see such things in myself.

This whole God-sized dream thing has pressed hard into this area of my life, helping me to cautiously believe in the good things God has put in me, and reminding me that God is doing a good work in me that He will bring to completion in His time.

I may no longer pigeonhole my husband monthly to ask him why he married me, but I know that I do not regularly living out of a quiet core of confidence.  And I still have a tendency toward fear of failure.

God doesn't want me to gain confidence so that I feel good about myself.  No, His plan is much better, much greater.  His plan is to bring glory to Himself, and the truth is that He uses folks just like you and me to do so:

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

Friday, March 8, 2013

Five Minute Fridays: Home

Joining in this morning with Lisa-Jo, and a whole big bunch of other writers, for Five Minute Fridays.

Every Friday I think, "The prompt for today is my favorite."  And then the next week I find myself thinking the same thing.

But I really do think this one might be my favorite...Home.

No matter where our travels take us, to Boston or the grandparents’ house, on a camping trip in the mountains or a week’s vacation at the beach, our family loves coming home.

Once the tires of our minivan come to a stop we all pile out, everyone heading off in their own direction, happy to be in an utterly familiar place, where everywhere we look, we see a reflection of us, what we value and prioritize as a family.

The kids always go see the dogs first. 

My husband goes through the mail, checks the computer, makes sure all is right with those areas of our life.

And I will often take a minute before unpacking and just walk from room to room.  We try and leave the house tidied when we are gone for a few days, so before the chaos of unpacking begins, I let my eyes and heart reorient themselves to our own space, filled with family pictures, a pile of memories and the deep peace of hearts turned toward one another in love.

I may be munching on a cookie as I go through the rooms since my Mom lives here with us and she will often welcome us in sweet ways, with a note on the white board or fresh baked cookies on a plate…she’s awesome like that!

Click on the Five Minute Friday button at the top of this post to head over to Lisa-Jo's site.  Visit some of the other writers' won't be disappointed!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

a letter to the God-sized Dreamers

Our assignment for this week is to write a “Letter to the God-sized Dreamers” telling our sisters why who they’re becoming and what they’re doing matters–even when it’s hard.

My dear friends,

Although the truth may be that I am sitting in my bedroom, surrounded by heaps of sorted laundry piled on the floor, hearing the sound of my neighbor’s hardworking gardeners outside, I am imagining a different scene: all of us dreamers gathered together, shoulder to shoulder around my large kitchen table, because at my house everyone ends up in the kitchen!  I hear the heart-warming hum of honest conversation, laughter bubbling up, words of affirmation shared, stories being spun that hold our attention fast.

We have done this, haven’t we?  We have gathered around the table together, of blogs and facebook and comments and prayers, and we have become a community of hearts knitted together through encouraging one another in this holy task of listening and responding to the dreams God has given each one of us.

For me, this process of moving forward as a God-sized dreamer in my real, everyday, feet-on-the-floor life has been intricately connected to having a place to share the ups and downs of my journey, a place to find hope and encouragement, and most importantly, a place to be reminded of the ultimate purpose of these dreams within me: to glorify God.

On the hard days, when I’ve been too sick to write, or the words just won’t come, I have thought of you, you sisters who are on this journey with me.  I know you are also dreaming your dreams while folding your laundry, saying hard no’s to make space in your life for your dreams, and balancing the heart-soaring nature of dreaming while still being present with your family.  Knowing you are doing these things along with me has helped me to climb back up on that horse!

Friends, I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6).

Thank you for being you.  Let’s keep moving forward together, one day at a time.

With deep gratitude for each of you, and with joy,


Friday, March 1, 2013

You're Made for a God-Sized Dream

Is there something stirring in your heart, a dream seed planted by God that is waiting for the light and warmth it needs to begin to grow, to push to the surface and find the light of day?  

My friend Holley Gerth has written a book that releases today which will meet you right there in that place of waiting dreams and give you the tools and truth you need to help them begin to grow and flourish. 

Click here to find a discount code for 20% off!

Throughout the pages of this book, Holley writes about how we can know that we have a God-sized dream, she sheds light on the lies we tell ourselves, and obstacles we might face, and she gives practical tips and tools along the way.  She also consistently reminds us that our dreams are not ultimately about us, but about our relationship with God and about His glory and His work in the world.

“Every dream or desire you have that comes from God is an invitation for more intimacy with him.” –Holley Gerth, You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream

As I read these words, with my own seedling dream in my heart, I felt a joy and freedom spring up inside.  Intimacy with God is a deep, bedrock desire of my life.  So if pursuing the dreams He has given me will ultimately lead to more intimacy with Him, definitely count me in!

This book is inspiring and wonderfully practical with journal prompts and tools to help us really dig in to who God has made us and what He is doing in our lives.  But for me, the real beauty of the book is this focus from which the author never wavers:

“Why are God-sized dreams so compelling?  Because we powerfully experience God’s presence in our lives through them.  It’s not about the destination.  It’s not what we will get if we complete the dream.  It’s about a relationship.” –Holley Gerth, You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream

In addition to all this goodness, Holley is also seriously funny! She can paint a word picture that will stick right with you.  I will never think of my fears in quite the same way, thanks to her! 

You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream is a book that, along with time in God’s Word and in prayer, can help you see those dreams of yours grow and flourish.
The post on Holley's blog today tells a bit about where the idea for this book came from.  It made me should read it!

Five Minute Friday: Ordinary

Five Minute Friday is, in Lisa-Jo's words, "where a brave and beautiful bunch gather every week to find out what comes out when we all spend five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing'em".

Today we are writing on: ordinary.  Here goes my five minutes:

An ordinary sunny, Friday morning in Southern California.  My son is at school, my homeschooled daughters still sleeping (lucky girls!).  I am sitting here near the French doors in my living room, afghan on my lap, coffee close at hand wondering, “What does this day hold?”

The fact is that all of us who have decided to follow Jesus carry within our ordinary selves the very extra-ordinary, the Spirit of the Living God, the gift He left for us when He went to be with His Father.

That is quite a game-changer, my friends. 

Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.  Against such things there is no law.”

The fruit of a life lived by the Spirit is extraordinary.  May we be fruit-bearers today, and may our ordinary days be opportunities to showcase the greatness of our extraordinary God.

Funny, this is not what as initially in my head to write about.  That is what makes Five Minute Fridays so much fun, that we write for these five minutes, the words may take us to places we never imagined!