Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ode to My Husband and Children

This weekend I was reminded for the seven thousandth time, give or take, of how thankful I am for my husband and children.  In a society where there is much mockery and devaluing of men and of children, I want to take some time to counter that with some truth.

"He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge." (Proverbs 14:26)

"But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him." (Jeremiah 17:7)

I am so blessed because my husband trusts in the LORD!  He is a pillar of strength like Boaz, and I am so thankful.  Though he is not perfect, and I don't expect him to be, he is everything I could have hoped and prayed for in a husband.  We do not always agree, but we do usually see things the same way and walk hand-in-hand through life's pastures.  I couldn't imagine a better partner. 

I love how kind he is to others.  He is gentle, but strong.  He is humble, but confident.  His humor is many times dry and sometimes corny, but he very often makes me laugh.  A lot.  We have a lot of fun together, and we also enjoy serious and thought provoking discussions.  I really love him and like him.

My husband is very good at the job God has placed him in, but he is even better at being a great daddy.  My children are so blessed not only with a daddy who loves God and loves their mommy, but also with a daddy who loves them and takes care of them just as much as I do.  I am so blessed with an actively involved daddy for my children.  We are on the same page with parenting, which takes communication and prayer together, and this is a huge blessing for which I am very thankful.

And for my children.  I adore them tremendously, as well.

"Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." (Psalm 127:3-5a)

Children are a blessing.  They are a blessing to be cherished and taken care of diligently.  They are not a financial burden or just another mouth to feed.  They are a precious gift from the LORD!  I am thankful for the blessing of my children.  I know intentional parenting can get exhausting, but it is worth every once of effort.  Furthermore, intentional parenting is my responsibility.  It's not fair if I just get through these first 18 years and then send them out into the world to make it on their own without the proper training and love.

I actually really enjoy my children.  I like bringing them with me places and spending time with them at home.  It's not always easy, but it is always rewarding.  I like to think they enjoy being around me, as well.  I hope we have even more children if the LORD so chooses to bless us more.

My older child is spunky, yet very sweet.  She is learning to do what is right and realizes that she needs the wisdom of the Scriptures to help her.  She does disobey quite a bit right now, but she also responds well to discipline realizing that she has a lot to learn and that we desire to teach her and love her along the way.  She has such a great memory and can learn a song after only two or three times of hearing it.  She also loves to dance and to sing.  Dressing like Snow White she dances around the living room to whatever music we have playing.  I love her. 

I love her desire to learn, evidenced by a million questions.  I can tell she thinks a lot and wonders about the way the world works.  She prays so openly and honestly.  She also loves to be silly.  As she grows, we pray that she will become the woman God wants her to be and that she will fulfill His purposes for her for His glory to bless others and share His truth with those around her and beyond.  It will be fun to see what that will look like.  I love to walk with her holding her soft hand in mine while she jumps along and laughs.  Plus it is kind of fun that she is the spitting image of me, minus the hair color and toes which are from her daddy.  Her smile is contagious.

My little one is most often very mellow, but she does have a temper.  She was born strong physically, and has also shown us that she is smart like her sister.  She is a little cuddler who loves to hug anyone and anything around her, but mostly her mommy.  I love hugging her, too.  She is such a sweet little loving girl whom I love dearly. 

It's so fun to watch her watch her sister and others around her.  She loves to watch and learn, and now she is trying to communicate more verbally.  As an early walker she quickly became a busy-body, and she gets into everything.  However, she is also pretty obedient thus far.  She doesn't always like the word, "No," but she does usually comply.  We're not sure, yet, who she looks like in the family, but she is beautiful.  Both of my girls are so beautiful.  This one might just become a redhead, too, which would thrill me!  I love when she smiles and when she laughs.  We pray for her to accept the Lord as her Savior one day as her sister has, and that she too will become a mighty woman of God.

As I boast about my husband and children, I boast in the LORD because it is He who has blessed me with more than I deserve.  I am thankful, and I desire to be the best wife and mother I can with His help and grace.  Thank you, Father God for blessing me with such a wonderful husband and dear children.  I love them, and I am blessed.  I wanted to build them up through this ode today. 

Who are you thankful for today?

"So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another." (Romans 14:19)


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Lost Art of Conversation

Do you remember that song from the 90's by Boyz II Men, Water Runs Dry?  It's starts out with, "We don't even talk anymore..." 

I think of this lyric when I think of all of the texting, social media, and emailing that goes on daily in our society.  At the risk of sounding like a 90 year old woman (with all due respect to the 90 year old women out there who are reading this post), I can't help but wonder how detrimental this lack of conversation is to our relationships, families, culture, and society.

Remember when we used to talk?

I remember when my family first got a computer (which was the same year I got my first CD player).  I was in the 8th grade.  Chat rooms were all the rage, and I loved getting in chat rooms and talking to people, mostly boys, about pretty superficial and not-a-good-idea-to-discuss-with-a-stranger-in-a-chat-room topics.  Thankfully I never had any problems, by God's grace.  There was a sort of ease to being able to "chat" without actually having to "talk" to the person.  I could think about what I wanted to say first instead of being put on the spot.  I didn't have to be a good conversationalist.  I could just be a good writer.

Little did we know that it would go from bad to worse over the years.  Now, you can't even print some coupons from sites online without receiving the code via text.  If you use your cell phone for just simply making calls, people look at you like you are from another planet.  If you don't have a cell phone at all (gasp!) you are even more strange!

I know, I know.  There are some good things about all of this.  I agree.  There are some good things about all of this.  There are more ways to connect with others and texting, for example, helps those who otherwise could not communicate at any given moment.  There is much more information and even a sense of community that has been created through Facebook and blogs.  However, I think much of it has gotten out of hand.

There have been times when I was going to meet a friend somewhere, and we had only been communicating via Facebook or email.  When I couldn't find her or was running late I realized that I didn't actually have her phone number.  I had never actually called her.  I felt like a bad friend, actually.  I don't think there is anything wrong with using email to set plans or communicate, but should it be the only way I converse?

There have been other times when I opted to email someone instead of call them because it would be quicker, and I could check it off of my list.  Also I do enjoy being able to keep up with people through Facebook.  Of course, there are times when this is fine, I think.  For example, if I just have a quick question, and it is midnight I think emailing the person instead of calling would be best.  Also there are some friends that you really are never going to have a phone conversation with and you might not see very often.  Facebook comes in handy for this and helps people stay connected at least on some level.

However, I have noticed in myself that it comes down to my motives.  What's going on in my heart?

People are busy.  I get busy.  Face to face conversation is not always an option. Still I just can't help but think that I never want to be too busy to actually pick up the phone and call someone or sit and skype with someone at the very least.  Am I too task-oriented at times to be a good friend and actually talk with another person to hear their voice and understand them more clearly than I probably would if I were just reading their status update?

I really wonder if this next generation has learned how to have a healthy conversation that requires them to thoughtfully produce words on the spot while engaged in dialogue with another human being.  It seems that almost everyone under that age of 25 texts more than any other method of communication.

Are we avoiding each other or perhaps avoiding connecting on a deeper, more emotionally involved level by relying on texting, emailing, Facebook?

Is there a false sense of friendship, community, and belonging that results from this form of relationship?

Furthermore, how does this effect the way I converse with the Lord?

These are some of the questions I have when it comes to the way we interact in our country and world.  Again, there are many good atributes of technology, but still I do prefer the more traditional art of conversation either on the phone, through skype (okay, so that is not really traditional), or in person.

And by the way, I do not have texting.  I don't want to pay for another way for people to not have to call me, and I cannot stand the fact that so many people text while they are driving!  If you text me, it will get lost somewhere among all of the waves that are flowing through our bodies because of all of the wireless connections we cannot escape.  I will not know you texted me, and you will think I don't want to be your friend anymore which is most likely not true. 

What do you think about this?  I would love to hear from others...

End rant.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Refresh Me, Dear Lord

After the move and all that it included, I was feeling the need to be refreshed.  Actually I was feeling that way even before the move, so I was now longing to be refreshed.

It seemed kind of crazy to go on a week-long-family-vacation immediately following a relocation, but the timing became more and more perfect as the departure day neared.  I. needed. a vacation.  So, as the paint was drying and the last box was unpacked, I stayed up late packing suitcases for a road trip to the mountains of West Virginia.

The seventeen hour drive with two little ones was on its way, and my husband began the journey in the driver's seat.  Thankfully I had remembered to go through our CD collection (No, I don't have an iPod or anything like it, and I am okay with that) and pick out a bunch of CDs for us to listen to as we drove to WV and back.  As we started listening and singing along I was reminded of how much I love music.  Music is so very refreshing to me.  Well I guess it depends on the music, but this music was so refreshing to me.  It also brought me back to two other times in my life.

We were listening to Caedmon's Call's 40 Acres, which by the way is one of my all-time favorite albums, and I remembered when I was a new Christian back at the end of high school and beginning of college.  That CD was played so many times as I cruised around in my little black Ford Ranger searching for who I was and who I wanted to be.  I could sing those songs word for word and hum them note for note, and I still never tired of it.

I also thought of my semester in London while I was in college.  It was the fall of 2001, and there was a lot going on in the world.  There was also a lot going on within myself.  I was pretty sure I had met the man of my dreams (I did), I had just been in a bad car wreck (with him) and been obviously protected by the Lord (We totaled my sister's car), I was in another country on the other side of the world away from everyone I was close to, and I was with a group of people that I didn't really know very well, yet.  I grew up there.  What I mean is that I did my growing up there.  As I walked the streets of London either with my friends or alone I could literally feel myself growing up.  By the end of that semester I looked in the mirror at a different woman than the one who first stepped foot on British soil months earlier.  I liked this new woman, and I never could believe that I was actually there.  I had actually done it.  I had ventured way out and learned so much about the world, about God, about myself...  I have such fond memories of that time, and many of them included this same CD playing in my ears as I walked or sat at the park and read or journaled.

Both of these times that came to mind were times in my life where I was maturing, learning, and longing for the Lord's touch.  I was longing for the Lord's touch of refreshment and leading to guide me along His paths for me.  I can only smile when I think of those times when I sensed the Lord doing just that.  His refreshing touch is like wind in a sail or a living breath that fills up the lungs.  I need it.  I must have it.  I can only come to Him to find it.

So here I am again.  Though I am in a much different place than I was back then - over ten years ago - there are still many familiar thoughts and emotions I now realize accompany this time in my life just as they did back then.  A wise mentor of mine years ago encouraged me to not let these cycles of life surprise me.  Instead I must realize what I learned last time and what I missed last time and move on to learn more this time around.  Hopefully these cycles become smaller and quicker as I grow and mature because I recognize them sooner and deal with them more quickly.  In fact these cycles are evidence of God's grace and love in my life and His desire to mature me.

I know how I got here.  I got here by letting my priorities shift just enough to cause inner, and sometimes outer, chaos.  It doesn't take much to rock the boat of order, but I am thankful for that.  Otherwise I may get even more off track before getting uncomfortable again and looking towards my Savior for order and tranquility again.  God is so kind in this.  He carries me toward a sort of holy discontentedness that points again towards my need for Him.  Though I know what I am doing when I neglect my time with Him, I still do it sometimes, and so here I am again - needing His refreshing touch.  Sure I have read scripture, even if just a verse or two, everyday.  I talk with Him everyday, but the quality times of study and prayer have been placed on the back burner lately more often than not.  This doesn't work for long.

Well as we drove and listened and sang along He did refresh me.  He stirred in my heart and my spirit a quiet contentedness and peace and anticipation that can only come from Him.  It's a comfort knowing that He is in control and that I can run to His open arms any time I feel weary - whether it's my own doing or not.  And there He reminds me of His truth that sets me free and brings life.  Then I am again equipped for the day ahead of me.  Then I can carry on again with the strength I need and the resolve to make the most of what He has given me.  Then I can spur others on, as well.  Then I can remember what His word says:

"Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD.  He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes.  He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.  But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him.  He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."  (Jeremiah 17:5-8)

When I trust in myself I get very thirsty and in need of refreshment, but when I trust in Him, the LORD Almighty, I am satisfied and content able to rest and to bear fruit that glorifies Him.

With only a couple of days left of our trip, I want to be intentional to listen as He directs me and brings me to His refreshing streams.

Are you thirsty today? 

Call on the name of the Giver of Living Water and be refreshed. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Moving On Up: Part 2

After a lot of packing, the actual moving day, and then the unpacking, I crawled out from the rubble of 96 boxes and over 25 pieces of furniture of various sizes moved and realized that I really don’t want to move again for a long time. 

Moving is kind of like child bearing.  It’s really a lot of work, somewhere in the middle you want to quit, there is some pain involved, but in the end it is more worth it than imagined.

I would love more babies in the future, but I do hope to keep the moving down to a minimum.  Having babies is much more fun.

Anyway...

I learned a lot through this process.  I learned a lot about myself, my family, my friends, moving itself, and life in general.

About me, I have learned (perhaps again) that I can be way too consumed by a goal and get very task oriented to a fault.  There are pros and cons to this because, hey, we moved only a week and a half ago and everything is almost all set up.  A few more curtains, frames, cushions, and rugs, and we are done.  Now we can move on from the moving process.  However, my over-ambition can also be detrimental to my family life and health.

My children have gotten pretty restless, especially my older one, because Mommy has been very preoccupied with unpacking and setting the home up every day – day and night.  Of course we did have times of reading together and playing together and eating together, but I really had to focus because my mind kept wandering to what paint color I wanted to use in our bedroom or if I should place two or three plates up on the dining wall for d├ęcor.  I really struggled to get to bed at a good time because I just had one or two (or three or four) more boxes that I wanted to unpack before tomorrow.  As a result I was pretty tired a few mornings when my children were up and ready to start the day. 

I don’t know the answer to my question: “Do I push through this and get it done quickly or do I take it a little at a time in order to not put other things and people aside?”  Maybe it’s a little of both?

Also I have been thinking a lot about renting versus owning.  I originally had the idea that we would rent for a couple of years in order to buy again later after saving some money up first.  Now I am not sure I want to move for years.  I’m not sure I mind it if we rent for a decade even.  Seriously.  Why the pressure and mentality that buying is best?  We bought into that (literally) five years ago, and that is why we were stuck in a 1/1.  We didn’t want to “throw away” our money every month in rent.  You know what happened?  We threw our money away every month in a mortgage that we ended up making nothing on.  In fact, we are short and waiting to hear what the bank has to say about that after our sale closes.  Was that worth it?

We absolutely love, love, love our new home.  We are so thankful to be here. 

Now that the dust has settled, I can go to bed much earlier at night, and we hopefully can move on from the moving, I am really looking forward to the future.  I look forward to meeting our neighbors, exploring our area, and enjoying all of this space!  I feel like we live in a mansion after moving from our tiny home.

Another cool thing is that I have totally detached emotionally from our old home.  I have had to go back a few times since, and I am so glad to not be there anymore.  I am thankful for that because I was at first a little sad to have to sell the home where my babies were born (with the help of a midwife). 

As a good friend said, though, “You bring your home with you.  This is just where you lived.”  Now we live in a new place, but our home is one of those things we brought with us when we moved.

Thank You, Lord.  You are so kind to us.  Now, please help us bloom here where you have planted us.  Amen.

Also...I need a vacation.