Saturday, November 26, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Surrender


Humperdinck: Surrender!
Westley: You mean you wish to surrender to me? Very well, I accept.
Humperdinck: I give you full marks for bravery. Don’t make yourself a fool.
Westley: Ah, but how will you capture us? We know the secrets of the fire swamp. We can live there quite happily for some time, so whenever you feel like dying, feel free to visit.
Humperdinck: I tell you once again, surrender!
Westley: It will not happen.
Humperdinck: For the last time, surrender!
Westley: Death first!!
Buttercup: Will you promise not to hurt him?Humperdinck: What was that?
Westley: What was that?
Buttercup: If we surrender and I return with you, will you promise not to hurt this man 
Humperdinck: May I live a thousand years and never hunt again.... I swear it will be done.*

I, too, am asked to surrender.

At times I too want to make deals, like Buttercup, with the One asking me to surrender, "If I do surrender, will you promise that no harm will come to us? Will I always have my husband? Will my children always walk with You?" and so on...

The One asking me to surrender makes no such promise not to allow harm to come to us but instead He gives better promises like "In this world you will have trouble but be of good cheer because I have overcome the world" and "when you pass through the waters, I will be with you" and "I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

And so I surrender. Not because I have confidence in myself, that I "know the secrets of the fire swamp," though I have been in the school of learning to be "content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want," but because I know the One who asks me to surrender. He is nothing like Prince Humperdink who has no intentions of keeping his promises. The One who asks me to surrender keeps His promises. I know that when I surrender all to Him whatever He allows to happen to us He will use for our good and His glory because He knows best.

He does not promise safety or ease but He does promise His presence, which is better by far. I know I can trust Him.

And so... I surrender.

* Quote from The Princess Bride by William Goldman.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

5 Minutes in October: Paint

We don't paint much around here. Occasionally the girls will ask to paint and collect a bunch of old grocery flyers and head out to the back yard to paint a picture on a piece of paper but it doesn't happen often.

Confession: we've never painted a wall in any house we've ever lived in. I've often heard friends talk about needing to paint before moving into a place or seen the before and after pictures of the walls in their homes. I've helped others paint but I've never painted any of the 20-ish places we've lived. Most of our landlords would have been fine with it but I have always figured our time here is temporary and I can live with the white or ecru or random color from a previous tenant walls for the time we are here.

Whoever painted our house before we moved in did a poor job and even painted all of the windows closed (we figure it's a security feature along the busy sidewalk on the bedroom side of our house so we haven't pried them open.) There is definitely touch up work that needs done around here. I'm not sure if we'll get to it or just let the landlord repaint after we move out.

5 Minutes in October 2016: Walk

I've decided to try 31 days of 5 Minute free writes again this year. So, with my last few minutes of the 1st, here goes...


Sometime earlier in residency Glenn got a Fitbit through work. The band broke so he stopped wearing it for a while.

When we found bands at Goodwill we bought a couple but he still didn't start wearing it so he said I could and I did.

It was a good motivator for a while. For a few days I'd take a walk before bed to get my steps up but then the charger stopped working.

After buying a new charger my cousin invited me on some challenges. They have been a good motivation for me. I've never won but it's encouraged me to increase my steps. Most evenings you'll find me wandering my house reading Perspectives on my nook, getting more steps in, trying not to trip over the dog or the kids.

Today, ironically, is the first day I haven't gotten 10,000 steps. Yesterday was day 25 of my streak.


Friday, September 30, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Collect


When I saw the word "collect" earlier today I thought of all of the things that we collect around here: books, papers, legos, games, legos, nerf guns, socks, legos, pens, cameras, flip flops, legos, bikes, light sabers, legos... you get the idea. We have a lot of collections. In the upcoming months we need to purge a lot of collections.

As I wrote the subject for this blog though the first thing I thought of was collect calls. Kids don't know what those are any more. A few weeks ago I tried to explain to them what a collect call was but they didn't really get it. There was a day when everyone didn't have a cell phone and when you needed to call home you hit "0" and asked the operator if you could make a collect call.

I haven't made a collect call in years. When I made them they were always to home. That 315 number forever ingrained in my mind that connected me to my mom and dad no matter where I was. I don't know who has that dear old number now. If I tried to call that 315 number collect today they would not accept the charges from "Sonja." Oh, how I miss calling that 315 number. I didn't do it nearly often enough.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Five

And for the real prompt for this week.... 5

Yesterday at our Thursday school we were reminded once again to sign up for a performance that a couple of the students from the school are performing in late in October. The tickets are only $5, the kids are friends of our kids, and I live the closest of anyone to the place where the performance is being held so I put down my name and contact information and the number 5.

When I had a free minute later in the day I texted Glenn asking what his schedule was going to be the day of the performance to make sure that he didn't randomly have the day off. He texted back, "Probably not. Clinic all day." I told him, "OK. I just put 5 anyway." Then he replied, "So you are saying we have met before?"

Yes. We've met before. I love the random days when we get to be 6 but, during residency, more often than not we are 5.

Five Minute Friday: Listen (Take 2)

We're finishing up week 4 of school for the year. School is going pretty well this year. There are still the sinful people reacting sinful when sinned against issues that come with living and learning with sinners but... overall things are going pretty well.

One of my favorite things that I've added to our school year this year is Friday one-on-ones with mom. They came out of a suggestion from a friend who meets with each of her kids on Fridays to talk over what their goals are for the next week.

I schedule appointments with them and they report to the back room and sit on the couch, eat a piece of chocolate, and tell me about what is going well, what isn't going to well, and what they would like to change. It has been such a privilege to just listen to them one-on-one with no interruptions and get a glimpse into their hearts.

The number of Friday afternoons I have left that to spend with these precious ones in my home is getting smaller and smaller and I'm so thankful for the encouragement to just sit with them and listen.

Five Minute Friday: Listen

Hannah, a few other teens from church, and I have started volunteering leading Kids' Praise (the opening 15 minutes of SS). This fall the kids in Sunday school at our church are studying 1 Peter for the months of September and October. I love the book of 1Peter and I have given the kids a "First Peter Challenge" to read or listen through 1 Peter every week for the whole two months. I told them if they read or listened to or had their parents read them one chapter of 1Peter every day Monday through Friday they would get to read through 1 Peter 8 or more times and it will help to get more out of what they are learning in Sunday School. The first week I had 2 participants, last week there were 10-15 (I'm rewarding them with candy...).

Since I gave the challenge I decided to take the challenge as well, even though we're in the OT in my class. I have loved listening to 1 Peter through the Bible app. It's a book I've always wanted to memorize and I'm starting to be able to quote more and more of it along with the reader.

I usually listen to sermons while I run so that I can do something I enjoy while I am doing something I have to do. I think that God wants me to work through 1Peter even more because something happened to my podcast app one day and it jumped me ahead a couple of weeks ago to the first sermon of a series on 1 Peter. I figured it was appropriate so I've been listening to it as I run and I've loved hearing about a proper response and perspective on suffering and the reminder that we are strangers here and need to live on mission because we are not home yet.

(This is actually last week's prompt but, on my run today,  I was thinking about how much I am loving listening to 1Peter and this series that I needed to write about it.)

Monday, September 05, 2016

Five Minute Friday: Path

On Sunday at the end of the service we sang the song, "I Surrender All." That song always makes me think of a young man from Nigeria who was a student with us in college. He told us he didn't ever sing that song (though it was often the song that closed the church services at that time) because he didn't want to lie.

We don't sing it often but I think of him whenever I do and I sing it as a prayer asking for help to surrender more.

Our path has had many detours along the way but all along the way there has been a call to surrender our goals, our plans, our timing, our independence, our self-reliance, our pride and so much more. It's not easy to surrender those things but He has been faithful and I'm so thankful that He continues to invite us to be a part of His story.

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.