Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Simple Plan for a Simple Christmas

I have such a dysfunctional relationship with this season.  I mean, I really love the holidays... The decorating, the music, the memories we make each year... But I really do not like the "busy".  For most of this year I have been working hard to simplify my life.  You know, prioritize.  Some things have been easy to let go of, others harder to walk away from.  BUT, I've done it, and I've really grown accustomed to the slower pace.  And then December.  If you were to look at the calendar on my fridge, you would not think "simple".  You would, however, understand my anxiety-driven urge to shut down and hide for the next 30 days. Or 31.

Hiding isn't an option.  And truly, I want to go to the band concerts, the parties, the programs, the services, the dinners and other festivities.  And I don't even mind the shopping.  I just wish it weren't all crammed into the next three weeks!  I get tired just thinking about it all.

If less is truly more, then I have to find a way to simplify this busy season, right?  A way to cut out some unnecessary stuff, some "fluff"... So here's my plan:

1. Embrace the "white space".  Those few remaining empty boxes on my December calendar will be protected and enjoyed with some easy, relaxing family time.

2.  Let go of the "perfect Christmas".  We all do it.  You know, we want the perfect pictures with the perfect matchy pj's and the perfect decorating and the perfect menu.  Not this year.  We'll just call it a "Candid Christmas".  The real us, in our real un-matching pajamas, and normal recipes that don't have 25 ingredients.

(on a side note, here is a picture of my "simple" wreath... Those of you who know me know that I am NOT crafty, so I was pretty proud of myself for even attempting this.)

3.  Don't budge on the budget.  We have spent the same amount per kid for the last several years.  I was soooo tempted to increase that amount this year, since my hubby has worked super hard to provide well for our family.  But I know that if we stick to what we have always done, it will leave us more room to give to those who are truly in need.  Our kids' character will not be improved one bit by getting an extra gift.  I'd much rather teach them to give one away.

4.  Keep Thanksgiving going-  right through Christmas, and every day after that! We have enough. We are abundantly blessed.  I want to spend everyday being grateful for what I already have.  It is a choice to be grateful, it is not a feeling.  I sometimes need to be reminded of that. (Especially when I see the sale prices at some of my favorite stores...."I have enough" will be my mantra!)

5.  Focus on Jesus.  I guess it may sound almost cliched... "The Reason for the Season" and all that.... But really, if we are more focused on how many presents we place under our tree, or how many lights we put on our house, or whether we have the right thing to wear to all the parties, or even how busy our calendar looks... Aren't we missing the whole point?  Ouch. This one hurts me to type because here it is, staring me in the face.  I get so distracted by insignificant things.  There is only One thing.  And when we focus on Him, everything else tends to fall right in its proper place.

Since this is one of those "brainstorming" kind of posts, I'd really love to hear how YOU keep Christmas from becoming something it was never meant to be... I think we all have to make a conscious effort not to be swept away with the culture on this one.

Simple is our goal.  This is the hardest time of year to be simple.  We can do it! Who's with me??

Much love, til I'm up late enough to blog once more,


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Obsessing, Blessing, and a Little Insanity

Hello blog-world.  I have missed you!  Life gets a little nuts, I get a little nuts, and I sometimes want to disappear for a little while.  This holiday season has kicked off with a bang, beginning with a trip to see my husband's family in Mississippi.  It really did feel like I was disappearing... There is not a whole lot to look at in the Mississippi Delta.  Well, except for fields.  Lots and lots of fields.

I like all kinds of people.  Really, I genuinely appreciate almost any personality type, even if it is very different from my own. The challenge is learning to appreciate them all at the same time, like when you go to your in-laws for Thanksgiving and there are about 40 people there, most of whom you have never met.  In these situations, I tend to get a little self conscious, and then I either put on the sugary-sweet-beauty-walk smile and do my best to present myself as adorable, or I don't say a whole lot and find stuff to do to keep busy.  I wasn't feeling too terribly adorable this past weekend, so I kept to myself a little more than I probably should have.

Some people have told me I am a natural with people, and I believe they are assuming that means I am comfortable in a crowd, when in fact, quite the opposite is true.  While I do consider myself a "people-person", I am not comfortable in a crowd at all.  I'm always worried I might come across the wrong way, or say something stupid, or just say the wrong thing... So I will typically find a quiet place and a book to drown out the nagging fear that I have somehow blown any chances of being really liked or accepted.  (I always take a book to family get-togethers.  My planned escape route, if necessary.)  Or I find someone that I am comfortable with and hover close to them so I don't look as out-of-place as I feel.

Getting ready for the trip, I was worrying (more like obsessing) over all the things that could go wrong and mentally preparing myself for every worst-case scenario.  Don't get me wrong... I absolutely love my in-laws. At least the ones I already know.  They are affectionate, generous and fun.  But you see, there were a lot of "unknowns" this trip.  First of all, we were staying in their brand new home.  And I worried about things like kitchen utensils, bath towels, and whether the twins would sleep.  Then there was the fact that the whole extended family was joining us on Thursday, and I worried about things like what I should wear to blend in with the crowd (which I found amusing later, since we saw a little bit of every style you could possibly imagine), what I should talk about, or whether I made enough mac and cheese and chocolate cake.  (The answer to that last part, by the way, is NO.)  I could keep going with this list of worries, but you probably already get a picture of my insanity, here.

On Wednesday morning, getting ready to leave, I read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18- "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." followed by a friend's Facebook comment, "Be blessed today, but most importantly, be a blessing." Ouch.  I was not gonna bless anybody with my neurotic attitude.  And I knew it.  So I started thanking God for the blessing of getting to travel to see our family.  And for our abundance of food and supplies.  And for a lovely home to spend the weekend in, and so on and so forth.  Counting blessings is a miraculous cure for crazy.  Try it.  I then started praying that God would help me to be a blessing to those around me.  Now, I have no way of knowing if I was or if I wasn't, but the mantra in my head "Be a blessing... Be a blessing... Be a blessing...." carried me through the weekend without a single meltdown.  So I guess that was at least a blessing to me! And to my dear husband.  Bless him.

We enjoyed our time in Mississippi (especially the outlet shopping in Tunica) and were a little sad to leave everyone behind.  But we brought our thankfulness home with us, and I am doing my best to maintain that same goal of being a blessing as we race through the rest of the holiday season.  I know it won't be easy all the time.  But nothing good is ever easy, right?

So, Happy Thanksgiving, and may you each be blessed AND be a blessing to those around you.  It is, after all, why God blesses us in the first place.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Imperfect Progress

I am a door-slammer.  Big doors, small doors, car doors, cabinet doors (a personal favorite).  It is my favorite way to say "Back. Off." or "I'm MAD" without actually having to say it.  Very little room for misinterpretation.

I just returned home from Kroger where I bumped into a dear friend who asked me how I managed to be there alone.  I said that I just kind of ran screaming from the house.  I think maybe she thought I was joking. I wasn't.

Retracing the events of the day to see where I began coming unglued, my thoughts zeroed in on the first door slam.  It happened after my son's baseball game, where I had done my very best to maintain control of two very busy preschoolers, which is about the equivalent of trying to contain two squirrels.  A little stressful.  I walked into the house to find my husband and 2 boys laying around, watching tv, and relaxing.  Which was not a problem until I walked into the kitchen to find the mess they had left, presumably for me to clean up. Empty juice bottles, pan on the stove, dishes on the counter and sink, and then (gasp) trash on the floor???  I held up the piece of trash to my husband like he had somehow desecrated a holy temple by allowing this to happen.  I proceed to rinse out the empty juice bottle, march to the door to take it to the recycling bin, and that's when it happened.  SLAM.  I wish I could say that I stopped, took my thoughts captive, and allowed the peace of God to rule in my heart and home.  I did not.

I made the twins a snack, and began washing the dishes and wiping the counter tops when I heard the splash of juice hit the floor. It was V8 Splash, to be specific.  A very aptly named beverage.  And this was the kind of spill that defies gravity and goes up the wall as well as all over the floor.   As I am getting towels out of the cabinet to clean up the sticky mess, another kid shoves a pair of athletic shorts at me and says "Can you wash these tonight?"  Friends, it is 8:30pm. Those are dangerous words to say to a mama at 8:30pm.  And so it happens again.  SLAM #2. Timing can mean the difference between life and death, people. Seriously.

Juice is cleaned up, with a little help from the dog, and I go back to the dishes.  Glad, really, to have something to do with all the negative energy.  But I can feel the pressure and heat rising.  And I know I am about to blow.  So, I decide that now is the perfect time to go Krogering.  And I might have made it out the door without slamming it if my dear husband had not chosen that moment to call me out.  Again, TIMING.  Never mind that he may have been totally right.  I was over-reacting.  We both knew it.  But that is WHY I needed to get out of here.  To calm down, gain some perspective, and really take my thoughts captive.  It is hard to think straight with so many demands being thrown at you at the speed of light.  But, that is life for moms.  It is messy and relentless.

So now I am back at home, calm(er) now that kids are tucked in bed and the kitchen is somewhat clean.  But still there is the regret... I might not have done any screaming out loud, but all those slamming doors can be pretty noisy.

In her book, Unglued, Lysa TerKeurst says that "Imperfect changes are slow steps of progress wrapped in grace... imperfect progress."  And the only way to make progress at all is to retrain myself to think differently... to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).

I actually won a bracelet at a women's event last weekend that is engraved with the words "true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy."  (Coincidence?  I think not.)  And I am discovering that it's not enough to just try to not dwell on things that do not meet these qualifications.... I must think on things that do measure up to this standard.  Lysa says it this way, "We won't develop new responses until we develop new thoughts.  That's why renewing our minds with new thoughts is crucial.  New thoughts come from new perspectives."  I need a new perspective.  How about you?

Progress, not perfection.  I have said it to myself so many times.  I don't have to get it right every time.  You don't have to get it right every time.  But we can train our minds to respond and not react.  We can allow Christ to transform our thinking.  It is a process, not a one-time fix.

I'm gonna watch out for that urge to slam doors.  That is an "unglued" indicator, for sure!  I'm sure I have others, but I like to start out nice and slow.  Imperfect progress, remember?

I'd love it if you would share your "unglued indicators" with me! Leave a comment here, or on facebook and we can encourage one another. Good night, girlfriends. You are loved.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Meltdown Mama

"Do what you can do, and God will do what we can't do." I read this Joyce Meyer quote on Facebook this morning.  (Yes, I do my own reading, but sometimes I just copy and paste someone else's. Don't hate.)  And it was kind of neat because I was already on the verge of a meltdown this morning, even AFTER spending some time studying real joy and where it comes from.  The reason for my anxiety?  A packed schedule for this weekend, a house full of kids with various activities to go to, and every room has at least a half inch of dust collecting on the surfaces.  Not to mention, a three-yr-old on a prescription laxative, another who is having nosebleeds every half hour, and a teenager who neglected to tell me he would be staying at a friend's house last night, nearly causing me a heart attack when I awoke to find him gone. Sometimes I look around and think to myself  "This is too much for anybody."

The word "meltdown" takes on a whole new meaning after age 35, ladies.  The minute a situation starts to get a little bit stressful, I feel the heatwave rising up and all of a sudden, I am sweating as if I were in gym class.  (Not that I ever did much sweating in gym class, mind you.  I somehow managed to avoid anything that might cause me to do anything more than glisten.)  So meltdowns are actually just as literal as they are figurative for me these days.  Melting makeup, melting mascara, melting hairdo.  You get the picture.  My vanity rages against this post, I should probably admit.  It is like hanging out a sign over my head that says "Old lady.  Right here." with arrows pointing down at my melting face.

While being a "hot-flash mama" (in the words of a friend) is bad enough in itself, it is nothing compared to the herculean task of trying to muster up enough self-control to not explode in those moments.  I mean spew like a volcano.  All over this precious family who probably wonders where the heck their mommy/wife/stepmom is and who is this crazy alien being who has taken over.  In fact, I have proof they are wondering.  This is a conversation from the van (where all the best conversations happen) yesterday afternoon:

Going to get the big kids from school, I was singing to Gracie, "I love Gracie, yes I do" when she stopped me and said "No. But you like me a little bit." Ouch.  Then Hudson chimed in and said "I love the real you, Mommy.  But I like you too." What??  The"Real Me"??  Then who the heck is driving this van? I tried not to let it bother me too much, but it kind of lingered in the back of my mind all day.

Truth is, I don't like me some days either.  And I wonder where the "Real Me" has gone to and whether she plans to return. And that is depressing enough to make me forget a few things. Things like the fact that I have  a really blessed life.  A husband who loves me even when I'm not so lovable, kids who are quick to give me grace... I went to bed early last night because I was sick of myself.  I fell asleep with the light on and my book on the bed.  Lexi came in to say good night, she put my book away, kissed my cheek and turned off the light.  I don't want to forget that sweet moment, or trample on it by exploding on her today.  So I pray.  And I pray.  And I pray some more.  And I often don't feel that it does any good in the moment.  But I know it is changing me.  Teaching me to be a little less independent, a little more dependent on His Spirit at work in me, Christ in me, the hope of glory...

I have high hopes for the hormone balancing meds I start this week. But, if they fail, and I have to live with myself just like this, I pray that God will use even this to make me a little more mature, a little more complete in Him.  What a comfort to know He can redeem anything.  Let me say that again in case you missed it.  He can redeem anything.  The hard things that happen to us, the painful consequences of our own choices, and even the mutiny of our own bodies against us.  I believe that. More than believe, I know firsthand.  This is just another opportunity to find Him at work, if I will seek Him with my whole heart.

Can I just say, for the sake of whining to you gals, that getting older really stinks?? My friend BobiAnn says that if we say it once, it isn't complaining, it is simply stating a fact.  If we keep on saying it then we are complaining.  So I guess this post is my one chance to state the fact without being guilty of complaining and grumbling.  That is NOT in any way a promise that I won't bring it up again.

Stay cool, all my "meltdown mamas". You are loved. :)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Dirty Dishes

My mom came to pick up a few of my kids for the day yesterday.  I am still not sure if she was rescuing me from them or rescuing them from me... Anyway, she stayed to visit for a little bit and as she sat at my kitchen table, with the coloring pages, books, sticky smudges and a cereal bowl or two, I felt compelled to say "Sorry the kitchen is such a mess."  Like I was gonna get grounded or something, I guess.  She just laughed and said it didn't bother her in the least.  (She never really minded having a messy kitchen when we were little, either.)  But I still felt the need to explain that I had run the dish washer twice the day before, and what was in the sink was just what wouldn't fit in the last load.  Because, really, I just couldn't face the thought of washing a few by hand?  Seriously.

It has occurred to me on more than one occasion, that if I had worked this hard when I only had 3 kids at home, I would have had an immaculate house.  But I didn't.  And I have come to the conclusion that there is just a level of "messy" that we are all comfortable with, and we will work as hard as we have to in order to maintain that level of messy.  We live with and tolerate what we are comfortable with.  And then feel the need to apologize or rationalize when we fear it might not measure up to someone else's comfort level or expectations.  Interesting.

This isn't really a post about dirty dishes and tables... I am just wondering this morning how to go about raising my own standards... You know, what I am comfortable with.  Because frankly, there are a few things in my life that are cluttering it up, and I have become very comfortable with the mess.  At first I might have known something was out of place, but I have walked by it so many times that I barely notice it anymore.  I want to find a way to be comfortable with being uncomfortable because I know from experience that nothing will change as long as I am feeling comfortable and ok with things the way they are.  Isn't that true for most everyone? We don't really work on positive change until we feel the negative effects of something unhealthy... I'd rather not wait until the clutter is out of control and taking over my life to do something about it.  (Still not talking about dishes, here...)

I have, in the past, made a whole bunch of rules for myself... Which is really pretty funny, since I'd be the first person to tell you that I don't like rules... But I do like lists.  So I list all the things I will or won't do anymore, and then almost immediately I am breaking my own rules.  (Not talking about big stuff here, just daily stuff.)   Like, "I will never-ever-no-never go to bed with dishes in the sink." And that's a great rule.  But then the night comes when it is 10pm, and I am just getting all the kids in bed and finally have a quiet moment to myself, and I think there is no way I'm spending those first quiet moments I've had all day doing the dishes.  No. Way.  So I break the rule, because I can. Right? I'm the mom, I can do whatever I want. I'm thinking maybe a list of things-I-need-to-rid-my-life-of would probably have about the same effect.  So I need a different approach.

The cool thing about my walk with God has been, that when He wants me to let go of something, or add something, or change something, He just works on that one area until I am on board with Him.  No pressure... He sticks with me as long as it takes to get the job done, and then we move on to something else.   So I figure this whole restlessness and discomfort I am feeling is just the beginning of Him showing me something... A way to do something differently maybe... A way to do something better.  Or maybe even something new altogether He wants me to do.  Or something He wants me not to do anymore...I don't know yet.  And that's ok.  As I was trying to articulate this to my mom (after half a pot of coffee)  She simply said "Kari, you just need to rest.  And wait."  I think she probably knows a thing or two about that.  (She probably also wanted me to take a breath and let her catch up to my caffeine-induced overflow of words.)

So I am resting.  And waiting.  And ok with being uncomfortable for a change.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Thank-You Notes

My oldest son, Chandler, sat at the kitchen table yesterday writing "thank-you notes" on postcards he bought in Ireland.  So many family members and friends contributed to sending him on that once in a lifetime trip.  I was laughing at him because he kept writing his message in the place where he was supposed to put the address.  And  while I was laughing at his mistake, I realized that there were some "thank-you's" of my own I needed to write.

"You are so funny."  I hear this a lot.  I have tried and tried to get people to understand that if I have a funny thought it is because I was initially really irritated, or even angry about something.  Apparently I don't like to feel irritated or angry, so my brain uses humor to cope.  It seems ironic to me that humor is usually born out of some kind of darker moment of my day.  The moment when all I really want to do is scream, that moment turns into a story that is cracking everyone up. Including me, once I put it in writing.  The truth is, very few of my funny stories seem funny when they are happening... Only in the telling do I see the humor in it.

So really, when you sweet friends get a chuckle out of my misfortunes, mistakes, and frustrations, you help me to get outside of myself to see the humor in it too, which just makes me feel better.  So I write about what seems like nothing, you laugh about it and encourage me, and I have a little better perspective to deal with daily life.

All I really want to say this morning is thank you.  For being friends who care enough to read about my very ordinary life, and for always being such an encouragement to this weary mama. It is really you, not the writing, that make this little blog worthwhile.  To know I am not alone. Consider this post a great big bloggy hug from me to each of you. :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

When You Have a Bad Day

One of those days.  It happens to be Monday, but for this SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) it can (and does) happen any day of the week.  The day that starts at 2am with a three-yr-old climbing into my bed, who announces at 6am that her pull-up has leaked and she is wet (in my bed, remember?).  Which to be honest, I am just now really remembering that 6am announcement with a little shock and horror that I haven't washed the sheets (the only "good" set I own) and it is now 8:43pm and I might want to crawl into my bed soon.  Also at this moment there is another three-year-old (who should be in his bed) saying, "Mommy, I want to sit in your lap." But since I have had some person or another literally attached to me all day long, I am not really wanting the company.  This is the stuff my days are made of.

Our trip to the pool (usually the highlight of the day) was torturous for us (and everyone around us) because my little ones were tired and whiny and I was just out of grace.  For them, for me, for anyone.  And now I am thinking I can't, I just can't get up and do this all again tomorrow.  But I will.  And the next day, and the next... For what looks like forever from where I sit.  But really, I know it isn't... I only have to think of my oldest, driving around in his own car, being his own person, not needing to sit on anyone's lap anymore to remember how fast it went by.  But still, even knowing this, it seems like the days are so long and I am so out of patience, out of grace, out of gentleness...

Some moms appear to really thrive in this environment, and I usually watch in amazement as they smile and say something soothing that actually calms their screaming child.  I am not one of those moms.  I am the mom who is talking to herself in soothing tones saying, "It's only 3 more hours until bedtime.  You can do this for 3 more hours" like a crazy woman.  And at the end of the day, I really wonder if I am cut out for this.

So here are just a few things I am trying to remember when I have a bad day:

1.  Don't be so hard on yourself.  Motherhood is the most demanding and exhausting job on earth.  Give yourself a little more grace.

2.  Don't be so hard on them.  They are little, they are learning, they need grace too.  It is hard to teach a child self-control if you are yelling at them and pulling your own hair out. :)

3.  Pour out your frustration to God and let Him carry the burden.  It's too heavy for you.

4.  Smile. Just do it.  Even if you have to force it.  Put on your happy face.  It does wonders for everyone around you.

5.  Most importantly, remember that tomorrow is a new day, with a fresh start and a clean slate.  For you and for them.  Start out on a cheerful and positive note, no matter how tough the day before was.

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning.  Great is your faithfulness."  Lamentations 3:22-23

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Call Me Gumby

*This post is actually a continuation of the marriage study series, but I simply had to give it its own title.  Because using the same one felt too confining and also boring.  (Does that give you some insight into my personality? Lexi and I have coined a term for our shared personality type: EDEB- Easily Distracted, Easily Bored.) Now back to the post.

Upon further review of our couple inventory "report", I found some hidden treasures, for which I am very thankful.  I was thrilled to see that in spite of having "low couple agreement" in many areas, we still scored well in "connected-ness", which indicates that our relationship is a healthy, interdependent one.  As opposed to a dysfunctional, codependent one.  Some of you know my personal struggle with codependency, and will understand why this was such a victory for me.  I did wonder how it was possible for us to have such different perspectives on so many things and still maintain that connection.

In my reading for this week (Chapter 3, The Remarriage Checkup) I came across the answer to my question:

"The difference between people who become overly stressed by unforeseen circumstances and those who thrive in them is the ability to adapt. Such persons are able to discern what they cannot change from what they can control and then make the appropriate adjustments."

Interestingly, in our individual profiles, I scored high in the area of "flexibility"... The ability to adapt and change, the willingness to grow...  The key here, for a recovering codependent, is to keep those adjustments "appropriate". Setting appropriate boundaries, even while we compromise.  And strangely enough, we seem to be doing that.  I can only say that it is by the grace of God, because neither of us have experience in "healthy" relationships. We are living proof that the cycle can be broken.  With God's help.  Lots and lots of help.

I tried to think of ways that we are flexible, and really, I can't take any credit... I think I just realized early on that it was the only way to achieve any sense of peace with this many kids, ex-spouses, and ever-changing schedules.  There was nothing to be gained by insisting that everyone accommodate my desires.  In fact, that approach would only serve to bring me massive amounts of frustration.  I did have to pray a lot and grow into it, but I practiced being accommodating without being a door mat until it came more naturally.  ("Sticking up for me without stepping all over you" is a good way to sum up my attitude about boundaries.)  There are still days when I feel I am at my limit.  And there are days when I dig my heels in and say "enough!".  But for the most part, flexibility is coming more naturally, since I get opportunities to exercise it every day.

All in all, I was just thankful to uncover some areas where God has already grown us up a little bit.  Mostly through trying, failing, and trying again.  I am beginning to have hope that He will do the same in all of our "growth areas"... Even the ones we didn't know we needed growth in.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Remarriage Checkup: Part 2

"He remembered us in our weakness.  His faithful love endures forever."

I thought about this verse today, after our life group met at church... Never have I felt more inadequate to try and "lead" a class than I did this morning, after the whole relationship inventory disaster.  (I say that with a chuckle in my spirit, because it really did occur to me that I may have overreacted just a little bit to our less than stellar scores.)  I woke up this morning feeling resigned to the fact that I would, indeed, have to humble myself and share the fact that we don't have it all together and indeed, have zero qualifications to help anyone muddle through this mess called marriage.  Not that anyone really thinks we do, mind you... But that doesn't stop me from wishing we were better equipped!  So I prayed and told God if He didn't help out then I was pretty much sunk.

My plan was simple.  Pass out my neatly typed up fill-in-the-blank page.  Watch video workshop.  Ask for feedback from video.  Guide the other couples through the questions in the workbook.  Simple.

The video this morning covered conflict resolution, humility and couple flexibility.  Note the term in the middle.  Yeah, the "H" word.  Humility.  And it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, if Michael and I had scored in the high range on our relationship inventory, I would have walked into class this morning feeling pretty confident.  In me. In us.  I might have even thought I had a thing or two to boast about.  Hmmm...

Now, thankfully, our class is made up of some truly insightful people who love to discuss the principles in our study.  So I really don't have to do much more than keep us on track.  I could have probably breezed through the class time today without revealing much about our own personal scores.  That was my plan.  But with the whole "humility" theme running through my head, I felt compelled to be a little more authentic and open than I originally intended. So, without sharing all the details, I let them know that we didn't really pass with flying colors, and that yes, I spent 2 days crying about it, and that if they, too, were not thrilled with what they saw in their reports, not to be discouraged.  We are all in the same boat, here. So we took turns sharing only strengths, and encouraging one another. And it was wonderfully positive and uplifting.

See, this is exactly why I am a God-girl, Jesus-freak, or whatever you want to call it.  I can't help it because He is so compassionate and kind and ready to rescue... And I so often need rescuing.  And this morning, when I knew I did not have what it took to "lead" anyone, He stepped in and showed me again that I don't have to.  He doesn't need the smartest girl.  He doesn't want the best public speaker.  He just wants a willing  and obedient me.  And sure, I am not always willing, and I am not always obedient.  But He is always Himself.  And He gives grace when we humble ourselves.  Oh, how thankful I am for that.

More to come, maybe about the actual study itself...  But not this evening.  I have a relationship to go work on.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Remarriage Checkup: Part 1

Typically, when I start to read a marriage book, or take a marriage study at church, I am really super-excited about all the conversations Michael and I will have about our relationship and what we are doing right, and what we can improve on.  I consider us to be a happy couple, we truly love one another and generally enjoy one another's company.  So imagine my surprise when an online relationship inventory we took as part of our new study (which we are helping to lead, ironically) pointed out that the only strength (out of 20 categories) that we have as a couple is our shared spiritual belief system.  Ouch.  Ok, well, what now?

My initial response was to laugh.  Then I got really depressed about the whole thing.  Michael was rather amused by how hard I was taking it, which really did NOT help.  I talked to another woman in our class, and was kind of secretly hoping their results had been like ours, but no.  They scored above average in all 20 categories.  So, what did I do?  I cried, of course!  I sat at my kitchen table with the corresponding marriage book, and tried to read the first few chapters in an attempt to rescue the doomed relationship that just yesterday seemed to be going ok... But the words were a little blurred by the tears pooling in my eyes, as I considered the overwhelming work ahead of us if we were to have any chance of "making it".

Michael heard the sniffling, and asked if my allergies were acting up.  "Yes, honey.  Allergies." I put the book down, went to the bathroom to compose myself so as not to alarm any small (or not-so-small) children.

I do realize that these profiles, these studies, are meant to be tools...  But in a season of life that already feels completely overwhelming, I am just nervous to see the warning flags waving over the one part of life I thought was going pretty well.  Because I feel I don't have the energy to even figure out where to start working on it.  And I wonder (as I always do) if I can just be someone different... someone who occasionally gets it right...

That's where I am.  I write this knowing full well that it is not encouraging, uplifting, or even funny... But I plan to write about this throughout our study.  And maybe we'll get to the encouraging uplifting part eventually.  Praying today for some perspective, and some supernatural help.  And for something funny...  Yes, I pray for that.  I need to laugh like I need chocolate!  Dreading Sunday morning, when I will have to share with the class that their leaders are, according to the relationship experts, miserable failures.   Clinging to the promise that when we are weak, He shows Himself strong!

Curious to see how you score as a couple?  Here is the website with the inventory and corresponding resources:

And, if you have a near-perfect score, please don't feel you have to share it with me.  Please. :)

Monday, July 2, 2012

One More Cup

I am definitely NOT a morning person.  This morning began at about 6:30 with Hudson climbing into my bed and digging his little feet into my back, pushing me over in between the pillows.  We were joined a few minutes later by Gracie, who proceeded to climb on top of Hudson, which caused a little scuffle and consequently MORE little feet digging in my back.  All the while, I am thinking to myself, "Why don't I just get up?  They aren't going to stop until I do..." But no, I squeezed my eyes shut and mumbled something to the effect of "Please stop kicking me."  Finally, after about 15 minutes of futility, I gave in to shouts of "Yay! Yay! Mommy's up! Let's go downstairs!"

Make a cup of juice, a cup of chocolate milk, a bowl of cereal, turn on cartoons, start the coffee.  Empty the sink that somehow magically fills up while I sleep... Sit down to check email/facebook/twitter and wait on the  coffee that takes entirely too long to brew on Mondays.  Gracie starts yelling something about her wet pull-up (potty training is a "whole 'nother" story altogether, and I will NOT be writing about it today.) Hudson starts whining about the dart gun (one that is entirely too big and too difficult for a 3 yr old to operate, which is, in fact, why he loves it so much.) And I just want to scream "Can all of this just wait until I've had at least 2 cups of coffee?? Please??" And I am really tempted to go down that irritable path.  Really.  Tempted.

I stop myself  just long enough to think of what I want them to remember about Mom when they are grown... And I don't want their description of me to be "She was definitely NOT a morning person."

So I am deciding right now that at least for this morning, I will be cheerful.  I will be fun.  I will play with dart guns and baby dolls and maybe even play-doh.  Maybe. After one more cup of coffee.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Child Called Grace

When she was born, 6 lbs of intensity, I marveled that such a tiny new baby girl could be that alert... Particularly in contrast to her twin brother, who preferred to sleep the day away and remained in that drowsy state for the whole first month of life.  She eyed me with suspicion, watching every move I made, like she didn't quite believe I knew what I was doing.  She never slept more than a few hours at a time, afraid she might miss something important, I suppose.  She resisted any attempt at scheduling or even a loosely defined routine, and insisted that we all follow her lead. As a newborn. My husband said often, "It's Gracie's world, we just live in it."

Fast forward 3 years...

This morning, Gracie has been in the time-out chair twice, sent to her room once, and it is not even 9am.  This is a typical beginning to our day.  And I am, as usual, already longing for bedtime. Don't get me wrong, I adore this child.  I love her spunk, her mischievous grin, the way her long blonde hair is always a mess in the morning... But she flat wears me out.  Our days are peppered with battles, some I choose to avoid, some I insist upon winning, and some that I lose hands down.  Sure, there are moments of fun and laughter, but at the end of the day those moments often seem eclipsed by the difficult ones.

I have said this before, but in case you didn't know, I am not exactly good at dwelling on the positives.  I tend to be a little cynical in my thinking, and can easily get swept away by negative emotions.  I work on it.  All the time.  And I know God gave us Gracie for that very reason.  She makes me face my own heart-issues every single day.

When Michael and I were discussing baby names, we would often text options to one another during the day while we were both at work.  During one of those "baby-naming sessions", we volleyed a few ideas back and forth.. Emma Claire? Ella? How about Analise?  All beautiful, but they just didn't feel right... So we took a little break.  A little while later I was sending a text to him at the exact same moment I was receiving one from him.  Both texts read the same:  "Gracie".  Coincidence? No way.  I am convinced God gave us her name.  And now I know why.

The joke I have made for the last couple of years is that we named her well, because she requires a lot of grace.  But as I have struggled through trying to be the mommy God calls me to be to a child who truly believes she should be in charge of the world, I have come to realize that her name is a reminder of how much I need grace.  Grace to parent beyond my comfort zone, grace to cover where I fall short as a mom, grace to give to a child who is so much like her mother in so many ways.  Her name reminds me of how I can not only help her become who God created her to be, but also how I will become the Mommy he created me to be.  It isn't just about how strong-willed and stubborn she is... It is about revealing all the yuck still in my own heart.. The pride, the temper, the lack of patience and self-control... The need for grace.

Being a mom is not for wimps, for sure.  But I am beginning to see a bigger picture... A beautiful portrait of how God uses all things to accomplish His purposes.  Even time-out chairs and potty training.  And I, for one, am so grateful He works in even those fleeting moments and seasons of our lives that seem more tedious and mundane than eternal.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Simply and Honestly

An author I respect once said "Write in a way that scares you a little."  That is how I write.  I can't help it, it is just what comes out.  But it is also the reason I don't post or publish as much as I would like to.  Because it scares me a little.  More than a little, really.  I have no desire to write what someone else wants to hear.  I have no desire to try and pretend I have it all together and know all (or any) of the answers. I do have a compelling desire to be real, authentic, and at times, painfully honest in my writing.  The problem with that is that once I click "publish" it is out there.  For anyone and everyone to see.  And that is when the fear sets in.  Some toxic combination of my old fear of rejection, need for approval, and desire to just be "liked" that halts the flow of words and leaves me unsure.  Because maybe I'm not as cheerful, or as funny, or as smart, or as "glass-half-full" as I feel I should be?  I know this is a result of unhealthy comparison... A trap that gets me more often than I like to admit.

I compare my writing style with other bloggers.  I compare my outlook on parenting with other moms.  I compare my attitudes with other sisters in Christ.  I compare my home with the one across the street.  I compare my body type with other women at the pool.  And somehow, someway, I always come up lacking... And I already know that comparison is a trap... And it is an area of my life I have actually experienced some victory in over the years... So how does it slip back in so silently and trip me up?

To choose to be real and authentic in my life, my writing, and my relationships, I have learned, is to leave myself open to criticism.  It is far safer to play along with everyone else and pretend... So it is fear that keeps me playing the game.  And fear that drives me to compare.  And the enemy of my soul pounces on that fear every time.

In my writing, it is easy to try so hard to be encouraging that I stop being honest about how hard life can be sometimes.  I want to be uplifting and positive, but ya know, some days just don't leave me in that mindset.  It is often the writing, the spilling my guts for the world to see, that transforms.  The words have power.  But only when they are real words.  Not something I concocted to garner praise or admiration.  The passage that comes to mind as I think about this is in Matthew 6... Where Jesus warned us not to do or say things just to gain man's applause, pretending to be good or compassionate as long as someone is watching (or reading).  Verse 6 says it this way: "Here's what I want you to do:  Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God.  Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage."  (And here's the best part) "The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace."

Of course I realize that He probably was not referring to blogging.  I get that.  It is a passage about honest prayer.  But His Word is alive... and this is what He showed me this morning as I prayed through the restlessness of knowing that this silly little blog is His place for me right now, and not knowing how to approach it in a way that somehow reflects not only the real me, but Him in me.  "Just be there... as simply and honestly as you can manage."  That is where He changes my focus. That is where I find grace.

So, you brave readers, I ask that you read and give grace... To a girl who just struggles to find the answers like everyone else, and who sometimes will get it wrong.  I am no theologian.  I am no teacher.  I am no expert on anything other than failure.  I make no claim to have a clue about anything other than what God does in my own life.  And I am so thankful He even reaches down to work on this broken vessel that should have been tossed out with the trash a long time ago.  He is good at that, you know. Taking something that others would have discarded and making something beautiful.  Reason enough to stop playing the comparison game and just let Him continue working on me, right?

(And now I sit, wondering if it is bad form to end a blog with a question.  Sigh.  Progress, not perfection.)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Let's Be Weird

Busy.  We all are, aren't we?  I refuse to make to-do lists anymore, because frankly, they make me cry.  If you have kids your day probably looks a lot like mine, even if you don't have 7 of them.  Wake up by 6am, try and get everyone fed, clean, dressed, and out the door by 7:15, then you go to 2 or 3 (or 4) schools to drop them off, head back home, turn on Disney Jr. for the little ones and try to get a shower.  Unload the dishwasher, start the laundry, clean up the make-up that 3 yr old darling got into while taking said shower.  Try to get some make-up on my own face in the process. Ok, now it is 9am, I am already exhausted and ready for a nap that is definitely not going to happen.  You get the idea, and I bet you can relate. But I just figured out something that kind of rocked my world.

Our women's ministry director recently gave me a book called "Weird:  Because Normal Isn't Working".  I started reading it and one of the first things the author talks about is being "addicted" to adrenaline.  Ok, when I think of adrenaline, I think of sky diving, roller coasters, and riding in the car while my husband is driving (haha).  I don't think of car lines, laundry, errands, homework and ball schedules.  But as I read on, I realized that I kind of run on adrenaline ALL DAY.  Every day.  I can't be still, slow down, or relax because there is always the next thing to do, the next place to go, the next mini-emergency to tend to.  Now, this is probably true for most of us moms, but some of you know how to turn it off.  I don't.  Case in point:  My mom got the twins yesterday and took them to spend the night at her house.  And I was thinking "Yes! I get a break! I can relax while the big kids are at school."  And now it is 8:25am and I have been just as busy as I am when they are here... What the heck??  So, I think I may be addicted to the busy. Like I don't know what to do with myself if I am not meeting every urgent demand all day long. One of the exercises this guy (you know, the author of the Weird book) was asked to do by his counselor was to be still.  For 5 minutes.  Without doing anything.  He couldn't do it.  Neither could I.  I don't mean wouldn't do it.  Could.  Not.  Do.  It.

In fact, this morning, while I sit in an empty house with nothing on my calendar until school gets out, my mind is racing with things to fill the hours.  Hours that seem wasted if I am not "doing" something.  But I am wondering if I shouldn't just make another cup of coffee and go outside and sit on the swing and read a book?  (maybe not the Weird book, I don't need any more paradigm shifts today.)  Maybe I'll try it.  It will be "step 1" of my recovery process.  Sit.  Relax.  Listen to birds sing.

Let's be Weird.  Because normal isn't working.  (book by Craig Groeschel, also author of The Christian Atheist.)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Afternoon at Costco

Yes, this could be a book in itself.  But since I only have a few minutes, I will keep it concise.  My husband and I will often brave the crowds at Costco or Sam's Club on Sunday afternoon with the kids.  After all, who doesn't love cheap pizza and countless aisles of everything you never needed?   Today was particularly interesting because I noticed something I had never noticed before... That everyone there is just like us.  I was literally laughing out loud in the dining area listening to all of the dads fussing at their children to stop whining, be still, eat his/her lunch, leave their brother/sister alone, share their drink, etc.  And I watched with amusement as all the mommies did exactly what I was doing.  They calmly ignored their own unhappy and noisy children in favor of the people-watching that I myself was indulging in.  I would occasionally make eye contact with another mom and she would grin, and I would grin back, as if to say, "Isn't this just infinitely better than making sandwiches at home while daddy watches tv or naps on the couch?"  It was like a secret telepathic language, I tell ya.

So we eat, and then my husband says to me "Why do we ever think this is a good idea?  They act like this every time we bring them."  To which I reply, "They act like this 100% of the time, no matter where we are...  they are 3.  This is how 3 year olds act." The thing is, for me, just a change of scenery can make it more bearable.  Plus I didn't have to cook or clean up after lunch, which is really nice on a Sunday.  Because frankly, by the time we get to church in the morning, I feel like I've worked an 8 hour day already.  So I will gratefully endure an hour or so of walking through Costco looking at garden hoses and rechargeable batteries and tools and flashlights and patio furniture and sunglasses.  In heels.  And I will happily ignore my 3 year old shouting ugly words (his favorites are booty and doody) and the sideways glances I get from shoppers with no children in their cart.  (The ones with kids of their own usually just chuckle sympathetically.)  I did have to intervene when Gracie decided to bite Hudson on the arm.  But I did it quietly with the "inside-of-the-arm pinch" that my mom used on me when I was acting up during church. Along with a very scary whisper, "We. Don't. Bite."

And now, we are home, with our new garden hose, and the children and Daddy are napping peacefully in their beds while I sit here and write about nothing, which, in reality is everything.  I would call this SUCCESS.  

Happy Sunday, friends.  Peace, love and Costco.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Two Years...

Long enough to learn that we are not perfect, after all...
Long enough to see that we are going to get it wrong more than we get it right,

Long enough to know which buttons NOT to push (but not long enough to resist the urge to push them anyway)...

Long enough believe we have what it takes to beat the odds...
Long enough to realize there is no one I'd rather fight with, play with, relax with, cuddle with, work with, build a family and life with, or be in love with...

Long enough to know without a doubt there is only YOU for me...

 forever and always.

Happy anniversary (April 17) to my wonderfully simple and straightforward man... You are amazing in your quiet way.  I am truly blessed to be your wife, and to share this messy life with YOU.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How to Fight

I don't know about you, but I don't like conflict.  I hide, run, over-react, shut down... Sundays always bring some kind of conflict, it seems.  I guess it  is just a hectic day, from the time the alarm goes off until we go to bed, and usually it is the day that my husband and I will find ourselves at odds.  Not every week, but if it is gonna happen, it is gonna be on Sunday.  Kind of sad, too, since we spend Sunday morning at church helping to lead a marriage class. But, hey, we never claimed to know what we are doing.  That's why we use a dvd and a study guide written by someone else.

So, tonight I am hiding.  Behind the computer.  Nothing major going on here, just the tension of trying to raise kids and work and keep our sanity and our sense of humor (which seems to disappear around 5pm most days).  And I know with a simple acknowledgement, just a few words, maybe a touch, I could make it right.  But I don't want to, at least not yet.  Not because I like the tension.  I just don't want to be mature.  I want to be selfish and tell myself all the reasons I am right and he is wrong.  

Sounds pretty silly and childish, huh?

Maybe instead, I will sit here until I can see clearly what is important.  Because even now I know it probably has little to do with whatever we argued about...  This is God-designed, this conflict... this constant problem of just being so different.  Yes, marriage was designed to have conflict.  Otherwise, why would He have made us so differently??

How do you fight fair when you just want to be heard and understood by someone who just wants to be heard and understood?  When you both talk, you both shout, and no one is listening?  The simple answer is to just stop... To stop talking and just listen... to the words, yes, but more than that to the heart behind the words.  I am so bad at this.  I have good intentions, always.  But in the midst of hurt feelings and harsh words my good intentions fly away like dust.  And my only intent becomes to protect or defend myself.  In defensive mode, I am really not hearing anything other than the voice of my own fear.

Yes, this is all stemming from a very minor argument, but the principles play out in every conflict, large or small.  Sometimes I wonder if God just gives us these "opportunities" to practice the stuff we learn while leading these marriage studies.  If so, I guess I should be grateful for the hard moments.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others, 
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Perspective is really everything, isn't it?

Marriage is not easy.  (Is that an obvious statement, or what?) But it draws us closer to the One who created us male and female... And if we really strive to serve one another as unto Christ, won't the small things be just that?  Small?  And won't the motivation to love remain even when the conflict comes?  A theory worth testing...

I should be fighting to hear and understand... not to be heard and understood.  Why do I always get it backwards?

Getting it right is always a choice that requires caring for someone else more than I care for me... And trusting in the only One who never fails when failure seems to be my middle name.  To drop the self-protective defenses and just love from the center of who I am.  It sounds so easy and so pretty. But it seems to come forth only from tears and ugliness.  This whole transformation process can be pretty painful to a stubborn, prideful girl like me.

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents.  Mostly what God does is love you.  Keep company with Him and learn a life of love.  Observe how Christ loved us.  His love was not cautious but extravagant.  He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of Himself to us.  Love like that.  
Ephesians 5:1-2

Friday, April 6, 2012

Teenagers, Tweens, and Toddlers... Oh my!

Some days I really don't like my job.  I mean, I love the people I work with, although they do tend to be a little demanding, and rarely show any appreciation.  Also they are a little on the whiny side.  They stress me out and worry me to death and almost never do what they are told.  Yep, I am a MOM.  And I wouldn't change a thing.  They are imperfect little reminders of my own sin nature.  Yes, they are imperfect.  Just like their mom.  So the things that make me the most frustrated with them are the very things that frustrate me about ME.   And trying to get to the character root of the behavior issues requires time, consistency, and patience... All areas I am sorely lacking in.  But it is their hearts I am after, not just "good" behavior.

So, when the 3 year old darling starts picking fights with me, I must discipline myself to remain calm, loving, patient, and firm....

And when the 13 year old beauty acts like a beast to her little brother, I must remind her to be kind, and that words are for building, not tearing down...

And when brothers fight and aggravate (a constant in our home), I must not allow my own anxiety level to rise with theirs...

And when the 16 year old drives away I must remember Whose he is and turn my worries into prayers instead of lectures about speed limits, school zones and crossing guards... (I actually gave the same lecture to Chandler 3 times this morning, and even followed him to the car.  He just grinned in that "Ok, Mom, I got it." way.  He seems more grown up than me somedays.)

I guess this morning, what I am thinking about is this: It is Me, Myself, and I that need the discipline... Because if I can discipline myself, then cultivating their character will come a little more naturally.  If I can choose a God-parent perspective instead of a Kari perspective then the heart issues are clearer and the less-than-perfect behavior is recognized as a mere symptom.  Maybe by the time they are grown I'll have it all figured out.  With this many kids I'll have plenty of opportunity to practice!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Update on my Facebook recovery...

Ok, so I re-activated.  Once I figured out that all I had to do to re-activate was log in, I kind of thought going cold turkey seemed a little extreme.  My dear husband mowed over the cable line on Saturday, so I went 2 whole days with NO internet or cable tv.  Now, the "no tv" meant nothing to me, because I rarely watch it.  (although I am developing a love for "Duck Dynasty".  Very incongruous with my personality but I do love those redneck millionaires.)

I was surprised at how nice it was just not to have the distraction of any of it... Facebook, email, tv, etc.  So when the cable guy showed up Monday morning, I was determined to only check email.  No blog stats, and definitely not Facebook.  Then I realized I needed some info from a person I usually only communicate with via Facebook.  And then I got a text from a friend saying "Would you PLEASE just resign our game on Words with Friends??? It is just sitting there driving me crazy and I can't do anything about it!"  And then I got a phone call from a friend my daughter babysits for (arrangements usually made via Facebook messages) who said she had to hunt down my number because she didn't have it saved, and THEN the icing on  the proverbial cake.... My dear mom let me know that my dad was disappointed that I wasn't going to be posting about the kids.  Because that is how he keeps up with us, and no girl can stand to disappoint her Daddy!!  I know.  Excuses, excuses, and more excuses.  But I did it.  I re-activated.

Here are the changes I am implementing to help me control the time spent on Facebook:

1.  I updated my email preferences so that private messages would be sent to my email as well, so that if someone needs to reach me who does not have my email/phone number, it is still possible to do it via Facebook.

2.  I am not staying logged in after I post something to see if anyone comments.  In some cases, I just turn the whole computer off so that it isn't luring me to the desk with that little green light.

3.  I am only logging into Facebook when I am truly on a "break"... Meaning, my kids don't need me, there isn't a pile of laundry screaming at me to be folded, and my husband isn't around to hang out or snuggle with.

4.  No games.  Period. (no judgement if you play them, I just think this is where my downward spiral began!)

5.  I am not mindlessly scrolling through my newsfeed to see what my friends are all up to. This was a huge time waster for me.

In true addict fashion, I am telling myself I can do this, that there is no need to give it up entirely, and that my reasons are valid.  But I am still praying about whether I am walking in freedom, and exercising self-control, or if I am tiptoeing up to that line of disobedience.  I never want to be legalistic about anything.  But I do want to be in the center of God's will.  So I am praying for discernment.

I really, truly, whole-heartedly welcome your comments and thoughts, particularly about this post.  And I welcome the accountability... So if you see me hanging out on Facebook a little more than usual, you might just send me a friendly reminder of my commitment to cut back... (you Truth-loving friends of mine will have no trouble with this, and I am thankful for you!!)

So, don't be alarmed or surprised if I do the yo-yo thing with this for a while.  (I have the old song playing in my head "I don't know why I go to extremes...")  That is the problem with sharing my struggles with whomever chooses to read about them... You get to watch me try, mess it up, try again, and possibly fail... And then try to make sense of it all! Humbling, indeed.

That's all folks.  At least for today.  Stay tuned for further developments.

Friday, March 30, 2012

To Post or Not To Post?

All who know me know that I am a Facebook fan.  Being at home with children so much of the time, it is nice to have a connection to the outside world at my fingertips.  I used to log on maybe twice a day, for 10 to 15 minutes at the most.  No games, no lengthy conversations, no "stalking".  And now, a few years later, I seem to have let it get a bit out of hand.  My life does not allow me to sit for long periods of time, but I find myself leaving my newsfeed pulled up on the screen and then checking it every time I walk past the computer. You know, just to make sure I haven't missed anything urgent since I last left the room.  Oh and I also discovered Words With Friends.  For a girl who loves word games, particularly Scrabble, this was like stumbling upon Utopia right here in my living room.

I prayed about giving up Facebook for lent, but reasoned in my mind that since I am Southern Baptist this was not really necessary.  Then I prayed about just taking a break, and reasoned that my out of town friends and family would be miserably unhappy if I did not post adorable pictures of my muddy children.  Then I prayed about just giving it up entirely and reasoned that I might lose my sanity if I don't maintain some sort of connection to life outside the walls of my home.  Obviously, God is pricking my heart about this, but I have been reluctant to obey.  Which is, in fact, disobedience. Ouch.  I do not want to play with disobedience.  I know the end result of that choice all too well.  So what now?  I wanted to write this post just to see for myself in black and white text the negative effects of this growing addiction that I am already aware of:

1.  Comparing myself, my life, to others on Facebook is breeding discontent.  I do NOT do this intentionally.  In fact, I intentionally try NOT to compare my real life with the highlight reel of someone else's... But I will read about someone's wonderful vacation, or see a picture of the huge flower arrangement a friend's husband sent for no reason, and it will just stick in my mind.  I don't mean for it to stick, but it does.

2.  I have replaced "real" reading with reading snippets and blog posts and quotes via Facebook.  I used to read voraciously.  Now I am lucky to finish a book every 6 months.  There is nothing wrong with the inspirational quotes and messages I find on Facebook, but those things alone are not enough to drive truth deep into my soul.

3.  My quiet times aren't really quiet.  I often sit at the computer desk to read my Bible and devotional, and it  is nice to be able to look something up online. ( I love BibleGateway, by the way.)  But inevitably I read something profound and my first thought is, "I need to post this on Facebook!" So instead of just spending time with God, listening, I am spending time with God and 540 of my closest friends. Sharing. (If you call it sharing it sounds so much more spiritual, doesn't it?)

4.  I am not really being real, at least not all of the time.  I have some tricky relationships in my life, just like you do.  And I have been called out a couple times for saying something (unintentionally) that offended someone else.  I am an approval junkie, so this kind of thing can throw me into a tailspin, and make me feel the need to measure every word and possible response before I post something.  I still haven't fully conquered my "need to please".  This makes Facebook dangerous territory at times.

5.  Quite simply, it is a huge distraction.  I have a large family.  And a big, old house that needs constant attention.  But instead of working on those little projects that could make my home more lovely, more comfortable, (or just CLEAN), I spend what little free time I have with my butt glued to a chair and my eyes glued to a screen.  And then I feel the dreaded GUILT.   I really hate that emotion.  Hate.  It.

Ok, there you have it.  Five of the many reasons I feel God is asking me to "de-activate".  I don't want to. But this is just another way I need to die to myself... It might seem silly, but God works even in the smallest parts of our lives, right?  And even a small disobedience can turn into a BIG consequence.  This I know.  I believe if He is asking me to do this then He has something GOOD in store for me that I will miss if I choose not to obey.  And I have really missed my blog, so this will free me up to write and post more here!  So come visit me here, comment, and let's hang out.  Just not on Facebook.  :)

Monday, January 2, 2012

To Say Thanks

No resolutions this year.  Not that there aren't some things I'd like to change, do differently, do better... Just thinking I'll take it one day at a time and see where God leads.  I did, however, spend some time yesterday reflecting over 2011 and all the countless ways God blessed us.  This post is just a record of some of the "big ones".  No particular order, just making sure I get it in black and white for those days in 2012 when I need to be reminded.

1.  I got to spend all of 2011 with my best friend.  Michael and I have had a lot of storms to weather together, and he has been a rock. I am so grateful for that man.

2.  All of our kids have been healthy and injury free, and with 7 children that is no small miracle!

3.  After two years of job-searching, Michael got a great job with a great company, and God has truly blessed his hard work.

4.  Somehow, like the loaves and fishes, we had enough. Every month, every week, every day, God provided what we needed and more.  I am continually amazed at how He provides for His children.

5.  We were able to keep our home, despite being on the very brink of foreclosure.  God provided the way out of this near disaster just in time! I don't think I will ever take these four walls for granted again.

6.  We got the blessing of being involved in ministry at our church to other blended families seeking peace in their homes, and God has allowed us to grow and serve at Willowbrook in ways I never could have imagined.  He truly uses ANYBODY with a willing and available heart!

7.  Despite our tight finances and large family with an impossible budget, we have been able to give... I am so thankful that my frugal husband has a generous heart and is faithful to tithe and give even when we can't see how the numbers will work.   This is God's grace at work in our lives.

8.  We have watched our family truly start to "blend", seeing relationships deepen, seeing our kids take up for each other, enjoy each other, and our house has truly begun to feel like our home.  We still have some growing to do, but we are on the right track, and I am so thankful.

9.  Friendships.  I never could have imagined that I would have the kind of friends that God has blessed my life with.  My life is rich and full because of the women God has placed around me.  All different... some wise, some just so infectiously FUN, some that are so much like me, and some who are just plain sweet.  I pray that I will be a good friend to each of them in the coming year!

10.  Our families.  Our parents have all been (relatively) healthy, with only a few scares...  We are so thankful God has been gracious and allowed us to enjoy our parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews.  Life is short...

These ten, all gifts from God, are the tip of the iceberg, really... but are definitely among the the blessings I am most grateful for.  I don't know what this new year holds, thankfully.  But I know I serve a God I can trust to make my path straight.  I pray I will not fail to say thanks, everyday, for every gift of grace.  I am well aware that I deserve none of it.

Happy New Year!