Friday, August 12, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Lift

There are some people in life that no matter how much time passes between visits you can spend time with them again and connect in a deep, meaningful way and walk away humbled and encouraged and lifted up. We are not good long distance people. If we don't live near you, you know this. Honestly, we're not great nearby people either, unfortunately.  

Last night we flew into Charlotte for an interview today. It was a great day and we met some really great people that we'd love to work with and follow each other's paths from near or far. It's funny how many of them we already had mutual friends with.

One of the unexpected blessings though was that the shuttle driver last night told us he actually lives in SC, just across the border which immediately made me think of friends who I know live in a border town somewhere and live and work on opposite sides of the border so I immediately jumped on Facebook to message them to see if they were indeed close by and if we could meet up. We were able to go out for coffee with them tonight and catch up on their lives. Though we've never lived close they are some of my favorite people because they have shared hard stuff they've gone through with us and shown us a glimpse into how He has used it to crush them and transform them. They are blatantly honest with their struggles and how hard Kingdom work is. Many of the things they have gone though I think would have destroyed me but they are still seeking Him and His place for them and they still know He is good. I love to talk to others like them who don't have it all figured out and to end our time lifting each other up to the One who knows. 

I don't know what the outcome of today's interview will be. I don't know what our next steps are. I don't know what is next for our friends but He knows and for that I am very thankful. 

A bit longer than 5 minutes... Thanks, friends. 

Monday, August 01, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Hidden

Since we've been in TX my blog has been pretty silent. There has been a lot that we have gone through. Many struggles I have had but they have been hidden. I used to use my blog as a way to walk through and think through my struggles but I've avoided it for several years now. I don't know if I'm afraid of what will be revealed to me by going deeper, too many distractions, or what it might be.

This morning after finishing my scripture writing I glanced back through my journal as I sat at our campsite's picnic table. It was humbling to remember some of my struggles and faith bolstering to know how He brought me through those struggles. I guess I have avoided evaluating what I'm going through openly but there have definitely still been seasons of seeking Him in struggles in that hidden place. It's just not as easy to navigate and search back through as on my blog.

When blog posts come up in my memories I'm always convicted that I should start writing again. So, I've decided to start blogging again on Fridays (or sometime shortly thereafter) with the Five Minute Friday prompts. Maybe it will prime the pump on my writing and I will resume blogging more regularly. Maybe not.


Until next week

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Conflict Happens... I'm thankful for grace

This morning I was upstairs doing something in the kitchen when I heard angry noises coming up from the basement and saw a shot from a play doctor's kit go shooting past me very quickly. I knew that the conflict in the basement was not going to resolve itself and I ran downstairs and had everyone sit down in a circle.

There are currently 8 sinners living in this house in a situation that is far from normal for any of us. Some have parents and baby brother far away getting a new sister, some are far from home and far from their dad. The one thing we all know is there is just 3 more sleeps until our situation changes and 4 more people come/ come back to live in this house. We are all excited for that day, for "Mommy and Daddy and Si-Si" to return and to meet Haddy in person. Many of us are also excited for the day not too long after when we will no longer be homesick because we will be home.

We've had a lot of fun and made some fun memories and gotten to know each other in ways we have never had the chance to before. I'm grateful. Our time together has gone well, better than I expected really. These three precious kids have gone through a lot of change in the last few months - a new house, a new baby brother and now their parents have been gone for longer than they have ever been gone before and very soon a new rambunctious 2 year old sister will be living with them. I think of those stress level quizzes and their levels would be off the charts. They have done really well but everyone is getting weary and I figured this last week would get progressively harder on everyone.

This morning was a prime example. It was not the first conflict we have had but it was definitely one of the biggest.

I knew I had a group of sinners, few (if any) who were innocent in the conflict. Rarely is it just one person's fault as we sinners tend to respond sinfully when we are sinned against. After sitting down with the kids in a circle on the floor I gave them the opportunity to confess their sins and ask forgiveness from whomever they had wronged. I started with the oldest. They all admitted what they had done wrong (with some reminder coaching to not use the "but" word because an apology with a "but" in it is blame-casting not a true apology, taking responsibility for wrong done) and asked for forgiveness and forgave. We then moved on to confrontation of any wrongs that were not confessed using OIC (Observation - just the facts, Interpretation - how I view the facts, Confirmation - did I miss anything?) and some things were cleared up that were not clear before. Everyone wasn't completely happy after our confessing/ confronting exercise and some people were still not thrilled that those people didn't want to do the activity that they really wanted them to do with them but things were returned, relationships were restored and play resumed after a quick prayer of thanks for forgiveness.

"Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake has forgiven you." Ephesians 4:32 is quoted at my house pretty often. In every conflict people have opportunities to be kind or opportunities to forgive or both.

Being kind and forgiving do not come naturally and I'm thankful for tools that I have been given to use in conflict. Rarely does a day go by that I am not thankful that we didn't get into medical school starting in the fall of '08 (as painful as that was) so we were still in Rochester and going to Northridge for the Fighting Fair series and for all the helpful relationship tools I was introduced to as a result of that series. I am a different person and my family is different because of the perspective we've gained about conflict through that series. If conflict is a part of your everyday life or even if you don't encounter conflict often I highly recommend a listen through either the 2008 or the 2014 version of Fighting Fair. (Yes, it's so good and so important that it was repeated. I listen to it at least once a year.)

I'm thankful for the conflict the kids had this morning. I've had neat conversations with many of them as a result of it and it makes me so thankful for God's grace and forgiveness.

It's funny, as I was starting to write this Abigail saw what I was typing and said, "Mom, you know, I actually didn't even remember about this morning. See? Forgive and forget."

Thank You, Lord, for opportunities to grow through conflict. I love You. Please help these 7 little and not so little ones to grow in their love for You and their love for each other as a result of trials in their lives and may they not become bitter, may they be kind and quick to confess and quick to forgive. Me too. Thank You for forgiving us.
My cute, crazy companions.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Focus

There are lots of distractions around here. From 4 kids to a dog to piles of stuff everywhere to never ending homeschool plans and teaching and questions and grading to this handy little device that I am writing this post on. It's time to eat again already? Squirrel. 

The idea of multi-tasking is a lie but I try. I try to get multiple things done at the same time but it doesn't work. 

The key to effectiveness is focus. I truly need to learn to focus on what is most important but it is so hard. 

"Martha, Martha... one thing is needful. Mary has chosen what is best and it will not be taken from her." Luke 10

Oh Lord, please help me to be more like Mary.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Review: Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World

It's amazing the difference gratitude makes.

Yesterday in my Timehop there were links from two of my blog posts 4 years ago. It was obvious from reading them that I was really struggling with depression which is pretty common this time of the year for me. Between Thanksgiving and the end of February I often live under a cloud of depression that makes it hard for me to come out from under the covers for days at a time.

I was really struggling with depression earlier in this month as well. Glenn is gone this month and add that to my normal propensity toward depression, things were not going well for me emotionally or in any other way.

But God (don't you love those words?) had a plan.

When we got home from Christmas with Glenn's family there was an envelop in the mail with a Gratitude Bracelet on a card like this one.

It was my first clue: I WAS IN!! I had requested to be on the launch team for Kristen's new book, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, because I have loved so many of the posts that Kristen has written on her blog. Her kids are close in age to my kids and they live counter culturally, help refugees and women overseas and I have learned a lot from her. I also really do want to raise grateful kids in this entitled world and could use any help I can get in doing so. I really didn't expect to make the cut because I don't have a huge following and somehow I had missed the email telling me that I was on the launch team so when I saw the bracelet I was so excited!
 This book is a great read. Kristen doesn't sugar coat how hard it is to be a mom.  It's not written from an "I have arrived do what I did" standpoint. She is still in the trenches of this parenting thing. She shares some successes and some failures. Some things she shared made me think, "I'm glad we don't struggle with that" but so many other things she shared about made me think, "I'm right there with you" or "Oh, we need to get there." In many areas her family has had to back track and make changes in their family which has not been easy but gives me hope because my children are no longer babies either and there are some changes we need to make around here.

In the book she navigates some tough waters: child-centered home problems, selfishness, delayed gratification, comparison, complaining, technology choices, relationships, responsibility, obedience, gratitude.

There are so many great quotes in the book but one quote that stuck out to me was: "Here's the simple truth that isn't so simple: Raising kids to be different from the world really does make them different from the world." We have this discussion around our house often, about how weird we are. We're weird on purpose and they like being weird most of the time (I think). We're trying to raise our kids to think differently about the world, to see the needs of others and to help, and to think of others more than they think of themselves. We are not always successful but occasionally my kids are praised by people who are amazed at them when my kids just feel like they are doing something normal, something that everyone should be doing. This is often hard for my kids because they have seen the blessings of serving, of giving, and of reaching out to others and looking for the good in every situation and they can't understand why everyone wouldn't want to do those things.

Here are a few more quotes that stuck out to me:
* "When we have everything, we are thankful for nothing. When we have nothing, we are thankful for everything."
* "All that time I thought she wanted to be rescued, and instead she just wanted to know that I would rescue her if she needed me to. Part of our job is to reassure kids that we will be there for them, and we are, but the rest of the job requires that we walk away. Kids will continue to let us rescue them if we continue to rest in their side."
* "most kids will let us continue to solve their problems if we play along. I'm obviously not against helping my kids out. Mistakes happen and we all get busy and forgetful, but when it becomes a habit and we consistently bail our kids out, we are entitling them to continue the pattern. And this mentality has produced a society of adultolescents."
* As a parent, more than anything else, I want my kids to follow Christ. It’s higher on my list than success, happiness, financial stability, and education. I don’t want them to attend church out of habit or duty. I want them to have a deep, abiding relationship with Him because I’m convinced this is the only road to contentment, true success, and happiness in life. I don’t know what the future holds for Madison, Jon-Avery, and Emerson. I can’t foresee the joy and pain they will find on life’s path. I can’t predict the victories and the earth-shattering defeats. I can’t always protect them, but Jesus can. He can be with them in life when I can’t be. And He will walk with them in every season. At the end of my life, I want Psalm 127:1 to be my legacy: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain”
*  "The humble person says that life is a gift to be grateful for, not a right to be claimed."
* "If we are going to compare ourselves to those who have more, we must also compare ourselves to those who have less."
* "But I learned it's never too late to apologize. And that's what I did. I confessed my wrongdoing to my child and asked for forgiveness. I would give anything to go back and change what transpired if I could. But I learned something valuable from it: "Winning" a fight with our kids only makes two losers. We have the opportunity patiently walk with them through their pain and try to understand the root of their attitude or negative behavior. But we have to take it."
* "When hands are busy serving others, we aren't thinking about what we don't have. Instead, we are thankful for what we do have."

There is so much more good stuff in Raising Grateful Kids but one thing I love about the book is that at the end of each chapter Kristen gives 2-3 quick, practical, age appropriate suggestions to try to apply what she talked about in your life as parents, with your toddlers/preschoolers, with your elementary kids, and with your tweens/teens that you can try right now.

I really feel like reading this book and being on the launch team has helped me get through this month. It helped me to think of others and not to wallow and get lost in my cloud. One of the biggest blessings was the Instagram challenge that we were given to post about people we appreciate, things that made us smile and how God has been good. As a family we have always done "thank Yous" at night before we go to bed but having that challenge helped me to focus specifically on being thankful more and encouraged me to really look for and think about and truly be grateful for things and people in my life more than just the for the few minutes when I'm desperately trying to get my kids to go to bed at the end of a long day. I've always known gratitude was important but this month I was able to see it actually break through the fog of my depression and for that I am very grateful.

There are so many things I need to grow in as a mom and in this book Kristen has given me many ideas, challenges and so much encouragement. I highly recommend it.

One final quote:

"Our kids are watching us. And when we feel like we are failing or we don't know what to do next, the answer is always to get closer to Jesus because when we do, those around us just might inch closer too."

Monday, January 04, 2016

Grateful for the Scenic Route

This morning I was given a glad reminder about our good Father. We were reading about the Israelites leaving Egypt and we were handed a map (pictured below) and we read:
"When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, "Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt." But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea..." Exodus 13:17-18
Looking at the map it would make the most sense to take the route from Goshen to Canaan that I traced in pink. It's short, easy, a couple of weeks max. That, obviously to me, is the best route but it isn't the route He led them on. He led them on the long circuitous route traced in blue through the wilderness because He knew them and He knew what was best and that they would learn so much along that route that they would never learn if they took the short cut.

This map is a great picture to me of the path we have been on. Back when we were first married at the all knowing ages of 19 and 21 we thought we knew the path we were going to take and just how long it was going to take and what it would look like and that we would arrive at our planned destination quickly and easily.

That is not how it has ended up. He knows us and He knows what would have waylaid us had we taken the quick, easy route so He, in His wisdom and grace, has granted to us the scenic route. It has not been easy. It has not always been beautiful. There have been many painful experiences along the way but He has proven His goodness and His faithfulness to us time and time again through it all and I love Him all the more because of what He has taught me about Himself (and about my own sinful self) on the scenic route He has led us on. I am thankful for the wilderness because I know that I have learned so much in it that I would never have learned had He granted to us the easy way.

Related side note/ example: Time and time again I have thanked God that I didn't have my babies during med school and residency. He knew that I wouldn't have been able to handle that well and sometimes I feel bad that med school entrance may have been delayed as a blessing to me as but it has been so nice to be able to sleep through the night and have "big people" to talk to during the countless hours Glenn is away. He knew best.

One more kind of silly example from today: Tonight I was able to Facetime and text through Whatsapp with Glenn though he is on a rotation on the other side of the world. It made me think: had we been on our plan and our timing he would have been at this point in his training seven-ish years ago and I don't think such opportunities for easy communication existed back then. I'm thankful for the technological advances that allow us to keep in touch.

I give Him all the glory. He is faithful. You can trust Him. Even when the way is long and hard and doesn't make sense.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

We have (another) van

We have been looking for a replacement vehicle for a while (since, you know, May of 2013 when the rear subframe of our van snapped on our way up to NY for graduation).

We said goodbye to Winnie (our '02 Ford Windstar) back then but while we were on our graduation trip in a rental we decided to have mechanic our tow driver recommended put a used piece put on her to fix her to sell her. She wasn't fixed exactly right but she got us from point A to point B (she mostly went from home to the hospital). We decided she should be a Metroplex only vehicle because we didn't trust her frame and rented a van for vacation though we have taken her to Louisiana twice to visit Glenn's parents.

God gave us Ghana ('97 Ford Taurus) when our friends moved to Ghana in the spring of '14. She has taken us to New York twice, Wyoming once, Louisiana once (?), up to Ohio in early November, and all over the metroplex. She's been a huge blessing because she sits 6 so we can all fit in her. She started making a funny noise last Thursday and I mentioned it to Glenn. When he mentioned it to his dad his dad recommended not driving it because it might be the rod. He drove it home from work anyway and had a friend who has mechanic training listen and he shouted, "Rod, rod, rod rod rod," so Glenn would turn her back off. I honestly have no idea what that means but, from what I've gathered, it's bad. Like don't drive her again bad. :(

We (really Glenn) had already been looking for vehicles more lately anyway because he wants us to have a reliable vehicle when he's gone next month and I wanted something with at least 8 seats so I can cart all 7 kids legally in a few weeks when the kids and I go up to watch my nephews and niece while my brother and sister-in-love head off to get the little girl they're adopting. The "rod" thing and the fact that Winnie seems to be having possible transmission issues and the fact that Winnie's frame is just bits of rust kind of stuck together made it more of a priority.

On Saturday Caleb had a birthday party up 199 and there are lots of used car lots up that way. While he was paint balling the rest of us used car lot hopped. We met several nice used car salesmen, figured out how to have the kind of conversation we wanted with used car salesmen (after a few mistakes), looked in several vehicles, and made Hannah get in the back of lots of vehicles to check leg room. It was helpful as we were able to cross several types of vehicles off of our possibilities list because there was not enough legroom or not enough storage space for us.

After looking at a minivan at one of the lots we noticed an old conversion van and asked about it. It had been a trade in and he didn't know much about it but let us check it out. The legroom was enormous and the seats were comfy. Hannah was in love.

After picking up Caleb, Winnie choked a bit and we kind of seriously joked about seeing if the guy would give us an even trade for her. Instead we continued to the mall and watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens (a special thanks to our dentist, Dr Tillman, for free tickets).

After church on Sunday, Glenn and I sat on our bed and compared craigslist ads for various vehicles we were considering, most of them being big vans (conversion or other passenger vans) and contacted a few owners.

After looking and talking for quite a while we decided to move to the urgent/ not important quadrant of our to do list and go to Six Flags to use Glenn's pass before it expired (the urgent part) and continue our conversation while in line for rides. It was so nice to just get out and have fun as a family and enjoy the pretty lights of Holiday in the Park.

While there we missed a return call from one of the owners but we got home too late to call him back so we called him on Monday afternoon. The van had 10 seats, which fit our "8 or more" desire so we decided to go check it out. The owners have 7 kids and replaced her with a newer van that seats 15 so they can bring friends along. We totally understand that since we can only fit one extra person in Winnie so if we have more than that someone has to sit illegally. Driving to the northeast corner of the metroplex during rush hour was NOT fun but we got there and checked her out. After checking her out and talking to the owner about the price we decided we would chat about it on the long drive home. Four and a half hours after leaving home we got back to Fort Worth and chatted with friends from our small group about whether we should buy her or not and decided to do so.

Tuesday afternoon we drove back out there and picked her up and, while the dads worked on paperwork and talked about more of the van's idiosyncrasies, I had a great conversation with the wife (another homeschool mom) and our kids had fun playing with each other. I think that our families would be great friends if they didn't live on "the other side of the world."

Welcome to the family, Black Beauty (her given name) or The Beast (what I think we should call her) or something else... we haven't come to an agreement on her name yet. She may not be our forever car but she has room for more than just us and we are grateful for her and I guess I will be getting used to driving a big van. We get to try her out for her first #wanderingmaases adventure today as we go to Lake Charles to visit Glenn's family for Christmas.
It has 4 captain's seats and a bench that sits 4 in the back (that also folds down into a bed). 
We could live in there or at least use it as a play house (which the girls did yesterday with a friend).
Now, to decide what to do with our other 2 vehicles...

Thanks, God, for providing a vehicle for us. Please help us to use it for Your glory.