Friday, March 13, 2020

Short term homeschooling advice for all my public school buddies facing quarantine :)

I am starting to see facebook posts/pictures with cringeworthy "schedules"  for those in public school to use over the next couple weeks, while they may be home with their kids,  facing a potential weeks or month long quarantine due to COVID 19.  I say cringeworthy, just because for me personally, I have tried doing schedules like that so many times, and often it has ended with me feeling like a homeschool failure. Sometimes the learning curve for parents with homeschooling can take  a while.  So with that in mind, I thought I would share what I have learned over my time as a homeschool mom, in the hopes that it helps those who are forced for the next couple weeks to join our ranks, and makes the experience more positive and less stressful:
1. First, let me offer this encouragement and thought: My understanding from reading people's posts is that my public school friends will actually still be utilizing classes and teachers through the public school system, just online.  So in that regard, what you may be doing will be done at home, but it will not completely or truly replicate homeschooling.  I only say that to say please, please, please, don't walk away from this experience--if it it wasn't as positive-- assuming that what you experienced is the sum total of what homeschooling could be.  Your experience may be wonderful, or it may be the most stressful time you have ever had, but that doesn't mean if you ever have to homeschool again for a longer period of time, it would be the same as homeschooling during a public quarantine.   

2. Know and accept your personality and how God made you, and how God made your kids. If you are a woman who thrives on structure and you are up every day at 5 am to work out exactly thirty minutes, or all of your day is scheduled to the minute normally, and you thrive on that, then hallelujah, good for you.  Find one of those schedules I think of as stressful and cringeworthy, and rock that bad boy with no shame! Seriously, I think that is awesome and I am a little jealous, because I have always wanted to be as structured as someone like you, but it's just not who I am.  Those schedules are out there because someone is blessed by them, I am pretty sure.  And that is great for them.   That is just not my natural bent. On the other hand, I do love a good plan--it just has to be one with a little less structure and that leaves more room for transition times.  Other people like to fly by the seat of their pants completely.  Fact is, every mom and every kid are different. We are all unique, and that is a beautiful thing. One of the benefits/blessings of homeschooling is that you can CHOOSE how you want to run your educational activities in a way that fits your personality and your family. So if running a tight ship is your style, go for it. I fully support you and say, rock on, my friend, But if you are like me, and your ship is more of a pirate ship mojo, then most likely a schedule of minute by minute activities is just going to stress you and your little pirates out.  In that case, ABORT mission and find what works for you, my friend.  This is one of those things where you can save yourself alot of stress by not comparing yourself to anyone else, looking at your life and the ages of your kids, and pick the level of scheduling that is natural and works for you.  Some people schedule by the minute, or half hour.  When I had babies in the house, their afternoon nap time was prime time for us to get more intensive work with the older kids accomplished.  Nowadays, I try to be consistent at having a flow of activities for my day, but the times they happen varies.  I try to be consistent about when we wake up, lunch, and bedtime.  Point is, figure out what you and your kids need, and do that.  

3.  Don't try to replicate school at home any more than you have to.  Yes, the kids need to get whatever book work is needed done, so I am not advocating they don't do that. I am saying that this quarantine could be an awesome opportunity for your family to grow in relationship together.  Pick some good quality book/books to read aloud together for the next month at some point every day. (There are all kinds of free classic literature online available through Project Gutenberg, that you can download onto your kindles or ereaders.) Schedule some fun movie nights.  Go on a nature walk.  Help your kids put on a "play" or puppet show in the living room. Play some board games.  Bake cookies together.  If you know how to sew or knit or crochet, maybe you could take this time and do a simple project together.  The opportunity that I see in this quarantine is that all of our schedules- homeschool, public schoolers, private schoolers- are going to slow down a whole, whole lot.  Just for a few weeks, the pace of our life is going to give us room to focus even more on building relationships with the people we live with and love the most.  See that opportunity for what it is, and be intentional with it. Have fun with it! When we mommas have joy, our homes are better for it. 

4. Be proactive.  This is going to be a challenging time, I know, for all of us.  Being confined with people for an extended period of time is difficult and will stretch all of us.  But talk to your kids, get them on board from the beginning, that this is a time that our family can pull together and by being intentional about being kind to each other, not pestering each other, giving each other space for solitude or quiet times as well as some planned activities, this time could be a wonderful memory someday.  Sit them down, if they are older, and get them on board. Maybe you could talk to them and find out some activity idea they would like to do, that would motivate them to be considerate, kind, and intentional about making this a pleasant experience from their end.  Clearly define your expectations of what constitutes good behavior, and brainstorm some realistic potential family rewards for the end of quarantine, if you can all pull together and all can go well. It might be a family trip to a favorite restaurant or ice cream shop, or to see a new movie. 

5.   Get outside daily, if you can, and if the weather allows..  Find time to let the kids run around in the backyard, or take a nature hike.  I know that I find nature to have a therapeutic, restorative effect.  Take advantage of that to restore your sanity when you are at the end of your proverbial rope, and help your kids run off some energy as well.  

6.  If you are like me and you need quiet time, then figure out a time of the day in your home as a quiet time, when everyone retreats to their own spaces for more solo activities, like reading or napping or journaling.  Designate some favorite, quieter toys that will only be allowed out during those times, so that everyone gets some mental and emotional space to restore equilibrium. 

7  When you do that readaloud thing I was talking about, don't make your kids sit and listen.  Perhaps allow them to play with quiet toys on individual blankets in the floor while you read, or doodle or draw at a table, or even work on a knitting or quiet handicraft while they listen.  This is one of our favorite parts of homeschooling as a family, and an excellent way to grow your children's attention span and help them learn to appreciate wonderful literature.  Start with a fun book you know they will enjoy, like The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) by Roald Dahl, or maybe the Narnia stories by CS Lewis, or the Harry Potter books.  Readaloud is fun when kids aren't made to sit unnaturally still, and this is the kind of habit that might carry on in your family well beyond the current quarantine.

8. There are all kinds of educational videos on Amazon Prime, as well as various online learning sites like Khan academy or duolingo. Make use of those free resources as needed, or when the kids just need something different from whatever they're currently doing  Pick a country to learn about, watch videos, and cook a meal one night of simple foods from that country.  Find music on Google music or Apple music from that country, and play it while you eat, to add ambiance. 

9. Make plans, but be prepared for some of your plans to go awry. Know that that doesn't mean you failed; it means you and your kids are human.  Plans are good and helpful, but don't lose hope if things don't go how you planned.  Every good general plans for battle, but they know that once they are on the battlefield, all bets are off , and they have to act based on what is happening in reality. It's the same with coaches on the field of any sport.  And it's definitely the same with homeschooling. It's good and beneficial to make plans, but it's okay to change course when you need to and go in a completely new direction, if that seems to be what will work best.  

10. Begin your day with atleast 10 minutes reading the word and praye, and a short meditation.  I probably should have put this one at the top of the list. I know that I find that beginning my day in prayer sets the tone for my day, and helps me to be more prepared for whatever comes at me. I love using the Lectio 365 app, which is a free app for Biblical meditation, but I also enjoy using the Calm app on my phone, when I have a moment here and there.

Anyway, these are tips/ideas I had, that I hoped might help others.  Here's hoping that with a little humor, compassion, and kindness toward one another, that we can get trhough this trial with grace and aplomb.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

My 500 words Challenge

I just signed up to do a writing challenge, put out by Jeff Goins.  The challenge is to write 500 words every day for atleast 30 days.  This is Day 2.  I want to develop a writing habit; what better way than to attempt this challenge?

In the last two days, my husband and I worked on cleaning out our playroom and changing it over to a home office/craft room.  It had been a complete mess. A while back, I attempted to make it usable for me to paint and craft in, but then everyone else's stuff crowded out my things on the community table in the room, until there was really nowhere for me to be. It was very frustrating.   The truth is, for most of my marriage there has been nowhere in the house that was truly just mine to do with as I wish.  Anywhere I would stake my claim would quickly be overrun with other people's stuff.  My sweet husband could look around and see this was true, so on our date on Tuesday, we talked and he agreed that it would be a good idea for us to each have our own desks and to have the table to be for the kids, for board games, art, and sometimes their sewing projects.  This way, he and I both have one place in the house that is just ours, and we can keep it how we like it.  We talked about fixing the room on Tuesday, but I expected it would take a while to do.  But to my excitement, on Friday, while he was off work, he began rearranging the furniture.  Then yesterday, and this afternoon, we were able to find two used desks that fit the space requirements to go in the room from the salvation army and another thrift store. (One of the desks was only 7 bucks!) We decluttered and sorted, and moved furniture, and now tonight, here I am sitting and typing at my new space for creating.  To say I am excited is an understatement.  I sit here, sipping a decaf coffee, with the smell of toasted vanilla chai candle wafting in the air around me, feeling a sense of accomplishment and peace.  Now I have a sacred space for my writing time.  And now I am on day 2 of the writing challenge. 

I am not sure exactly what direction I will go in with this writing challenge.  I have said for a long time I would like to write a novel.  I also ordered a writing planner online, that should come while I am attempting to do this.  When it gets here, I may blog less and work instead on attempting a novel.  Of course, I would love to think it would be a GOOD novel, but in reality at this point, I think I would just feel good if I actually finished one, even a terrible one.  I am over forty years old; that means a good bit of my life is past.  I hope to be around for a long time, and to live a full life, but no matter how long I live, I know life is short.   I want my life to count for something.  Not with people, necessarily, but with God.  I believe God put me here, with things to do, and maybe some things to say, and a voice to say them with.  I want to find that voice, and use it, while there is still time.   I don't want to waste my life just trying to make everyone happy and coming to the end and finding I wasted my time, and missed the point.  I am not sure if writing figures into this or not for me, but I will never know unless I try. 

I will probably go through my Scrivener tutorial tonight or tomorrow, just so I understand how to use the writing software. 

Friday, January 25, 2019

I am not "successful", and that is okay.

Well, I am trying to build a new daily writing habit.  I am not sure what will emerge or come from this attempt; perhaps it will fail like other attempts I have made.  So much fear of not being enough has honestly always held me back.  I heard a podcast by Jeff Goins, called The Creative Portfolio, entitled The Most Transformative Year of My Life, or something like that. It is an awesome podcast, and I highly recommend it. It resonated with me on so many levels, and the words that came out of his mouth could easily have been mine.   He talked about how all his life, he felt like nothing he had done had been a success.  How he had this core issue of feeling like he was never enough. This was man making a six figure income as a writer, who is living part of my dreams.  It's hard for me to understand someone I view as being so successful feeling that way, honestly.  Maybe when you look at my life, it makes more sense.  I don't know.  But the truth is, it's how I have felt too.  I look at my paltry efforts in life, and feel sad.  I have lived half my life, doing the best I can, giving all I have, and it just seems insufficient.  It's like there is this emptiness inside me, that as much as I have tried to assuage and repair, it's always there. I have run from it, tried to hide it, tried to make up for it, worked harder, pushed harder, made checklists, anything and everything to "fix it".  But yet it has remained.  The emptiness and fear and uncertainty.  I know people see it in how I talk.  In my almost frantic search for answers, for a relief from the pain of not being enough.  From not being sure of who I am and what God put me here to do, and this horrible feeling that I am botching things all up.
Maybe this sounds strange for a person of faith, but it is my struggle.  And it's NOT because I am not a person of faith.  I am a Bible believing Christian.  I had an awareness of my sin at the age of six, and I understood intuitively I could not come to God on my own merits.  On one level, from an early age, I have known peace with God.  I have understood that Christ was my mediator because of the cross and Resurrection, and I willingly and gratefully accepted that truth and embraced it wholeheartedly.  I longed for His holiness and His love, goodness, and purity to cover me, and to radiate outward from me to others.  I have spent my whole life trying so hard to "be good", not to earn salvation, for I knew I already had that, and yet, somehow, what God had already given me, I was trying to prove worthy of.  Yet when I looked at my life, it is filthy rags.

And as I listened to this man's podcast, I understood how I had known spiritual truths in my head but hadn't let some of them get to my heart in a way that they would change my thinking.  I realized I have lived for so long in fear of what others will think of me, even in fear of being such a colossal disappointment as a daughter to God,  that it had robbed me of  the joy of knowing Him at times, and even of knowing and loving myself.  I am over forty and I honestly don't know that much about myself.  I have waited for God to come down on a cloud, or speak to my heart in a way that would let me know what He expected out of me.  Because I don't know.  Now, don't get me wrong. I know His moral law.  There are things I do know he expects out of me as regards morality, and I do my best to live according to His will in that.  But there is a whole lot of life that I have no clue what He is wanting. And the truth was, there have been times in my life where I failed in living His moral law out.  I was the youth pastor who got pregnant out of wedlock, and I knew what it was to feel like a bunch of God's people had turned their backs on me.  Now in all fairness, there were also believers and friends who stuck by me, and loved me.  But it was harder to see that, when I was so focused on those who rejected me and didn't stand by me.  Who didn't even want to acknowlege me or my failure.  And it seemed I have lived this rejection over and over, confirming my unworthiness.  Confirming my lack.  Confirming that I was not enough.

 I have all these decisions I am trying to make, truly wanting to please Him, wanting to do what is best, and I honestly have no idea.  There has been no Jesus coming down on a cloud to speak with me, as much as I would like that.   And all this time, there has been this fear in me, that doing the things I enjoy might lead me to sin yet again,  or to go against God's will.  Since I didn't know what He wanted, I was afraid to pursue what I wanted, lest I fail and He abandoned me.

Maybe, writing it down makes it all sound silly.  I do know some doctrines, like God's Sovereignty. I regularly read and study my Bible.  Still, it brought me only a little peace.  I was never worried, mind you, that I was going to mess up God's bigger plans. The concern was always that I would make choices that ruined my own world.  Even the fact that God would use my mistakes for my own good, if I trusted Him, wasn't much comfort, since I was struggling to know if I was trusting Him that well, even though I was trying so hard.  I just felt like God's problem child.  I knew I was His, but others around me were the sons and daughters that made Him proud.  I was the black sheep, the woman with a scarlet letter,  Because of past sins, and even just my own lack of "success"- which was always that nebulous, unattainable thing that others had and I didn't- I felt like an outsider among God's people.  Even though I loved them.  Even though the deepest longing of my heart was fellowship with them.

The funny thing was, I could get alone with God, and things would be okay. I would feel peace.  I would experience His love.  I would know for a brief moment that I WAS enough in His eyes, and because of Jesus, I could have relationship with Him.  But as soon as I was back out in the world, all the doubts and fears and realities of my insufficiency would overwhelm me like a tsunami of grief and loneliness.  And when I talked to people, I could see they were trying to help.  But their words felt like platitudes.  Like bandaids on a mortal injury.  Just as insufficient as I felt.

But then I have realized some things recently.  Yes, I am broken.  There are definitely parts and things about me that still need redemption, and need to change.  I openly admit that.  But there is some fundamental part of me that God also loves, as I am.  There are things about me that God made, that are how God meant for them to be.  I can trust Him, and by extension of that, I can trust that He will lead me using that part.  It's okay that I don't have all the answers.  I can learn.  I can grow.  I can make mistakes and keep learning from them.  So I have tried to acknowledge my fear, to feel it, to accept that I struggle with it, and to move forward regardless.

I have tried to start this year, with what I know about God, about my relationship with Him, and about myself.  I know a few things. I know that I love Christ, and more importantly, HE LOVES ME. I am not the black sheep, even though some people might see me that way.  I don't have to be successful according to the world's standards, because, according to what Christ did on the Cross, while I may be broken and insufficient in many ways, He doesn't see me that way anymore. I am made ENOUGH. And I can trust, because of what He is doing in me, renewing a right Spirit in me, that He will lead me.  Failure isn't fatal anymore.  In fact, if my motivation is right, failure is irrelevant.

I don't have to apologize anymore for being emotional, or making people uncomfortable because of being essentially who God made me to be.  I can choose things for myself, based on listening to God's moral law, and when that is unclear, then I can trust Him to lead me from the desires of my heart, out of good things.  Because I do want many good things.  I want to be a vessel of honor for God.  I want to be used by Him to love on other human beings. I desperately want my life to count for eternity.

I have tried recently to consider what things I actually enjoy, that I would do whether I felt compelled to do them or not.  What would I do, if there was no other agenda and no fear of failure holding me back?  If money were no pressing concern?  I think I would still homeschool my kids, because I value my relationships with them so much, and because the honor of discipling them and coaching them is something we as parents only get for a limited time.  Having a grown daughter has made that all the more apparent to me.  I think I would also choose to teach classes to other older students, because I love teaching.  I love history, and literature, and science, and writing. I love seeing kids wrestling with great ideas.  I love seeing a kid's face light up when the see a truth for the first time, or fall in love with a great author or great book, or a science concept makes sense and excites them.  I think I am someone who loves to facilitate connections.  I love helping connect people in ways that bring healing, and build community.  I love writing poetry , and ministering to people with my words.  I love that by sharing my story, someone else can understand that they are not alone in their struggles, and be encouraged to press on.  I love to create art that ministers to someone.  I love to run, even though I run slowly.  I feel powerful when I push my body and accomplish goals.  I love God's word. I love discipleship with individuals, and encouraging others to run their race, especially women and young people.  I know too, that I love spending time with my Savior in His word, and beholding His face.  I think maybe I am beginning to know myself.  And this person I am, because of Christ, has some redeeming qualities, despite my fears.

I still have alot of things I am unsure about. I am not sure where God is taking me.  I have many decisions I am praying about right now, but I have more peace than I have had in a long time.  And I believe it's all going to be okay.  I have decided to focus on building habits, rather than punishing myself for all my mistakes.  I set my first priority as being in God's word on a daily basis, and am working my way though a plan on my Bible app.  Then I decided that I want to write, and I need to just do it. I may look stupid, I may be ridiculous to anyone else and it may be a pipe dream, but I have decided the attempt matters more than the result. My husband has encouraged me to follow my dreams, whether they are financially prudent or not.  To do what I love, and quit worrying so much about having enough or doing enough.   Or even being enough.  To accept that I AM enough, and I have nothing to prove anymore.  So here I am.  I plan to get up at 5 am each day just to write for an hour each morning.  Today was the first day I did that.  It's time to see if the dreams I have are truly my dreams, or it's time to dream new ones.

For too long, I have stared at the road less traveled, afraid to take the first steps.  But now, it's time to begin. 

Friday, May 4, 2018

Living the Good Life

Well, t minus one day to the wedding, and I just feel like I have reached such a good place in my life.  And not because life is perfect. It's just good, ya know?

As I am typing this, the sounds of someone walking on my roof were what woke me up this morning. At first, I couldn't figure out what the sound was.   I laid in bed and contemplated the possibility of a raccoon. lol I wondered WHAT on earth my father in law, who is visiting for the wedding, was doing in the next bedroom.  Then I remembered our roof, and that the repair guy had said he would be here sometime this week.  Our roof has been leaking for a while, but money has been tight.  So for a while, we put buckets in the attic, just trying to make do until we could save the money.  But a bucket in the attic just wasn't going to cut it anymore. There was a storm last week, and the ceiling in the boys' room was soft, and now there is a HOLE in the ceiling of the boys' room, where my husband's foot went through.  Anyway, it was past TIME to repair it.   And it's costing us money I wasn't anxious to spend while also helping to pay for a wedding.  So when I say life is good, I am not referring to the roof repair.

There are, if I look for them, still a thousand and one reasons in my life I could find, if I wanted to, to say that life isn't good.  (Although even those frustrations have their blessings in them.) But there are also a thousand and two reasons why life is good.  Today, all the reasons why feel larger to me.  More important.

I think I have had YEARS of my life I have wasted, so consumed with pain for the rejection of people that I wasn't really put here for, and all this time there have been people around me that I WAS. Put here for, I mean. That's what I am feeling and seeing today.  It's okay to grieve for the people you love that didn't really love you back, but it's a wonderful thing to recognize the people you ARE here for, and to be brave and vulnerable enough to receive their love.  I think I have wasted years of my life trying to please others, afraid of the rejection I would feel if they saw my true self, my struggles, my hurts.  Actually, I have experienced a lot of that rejection.  So it's not just theoretical.  But I am also at a place now that I can even see the benefit of those rejections, and the way they shaped me to be a more compassionate person than I would otherwise have been.  I have come to the place that I wouldn't undo my wounds, because the scars are becoming my greatest places of healing.  It's become the part of my journey where God entered in, and did His greatest works in my heart.  I found out that I was ENOUGH, because HE IS.

My marriage is at a good place.  And that has been after several really hard, really painful years.  We still argue sometimes, of course, but there is something very powerful in knowing there is truth in our relationship between us, and in being accepted and loved as you are by another person.  There is a mutual respect there that wasn't there years ago, in our immaturity and youth.  I feel secure in our relationship in a way I didn't before.  I see the hurts differently.  I can recognize the filters I have used in how I see my husband, and sometimes, I discard those filters, if they are faulty.

I have friends I LOVE.  And I believe they love me too.  And I am working on being better not just as giving what I think others need from me, but in RECEIVING from others, and allowing my true self to show.  I know this means that some people won't receive me, but I remind myself that's okay, that I'm not here for everybody, and I want to be KNOWN by others.  I don't want a facade of knowing.  I want the messy, beautiful reality of truth and love all mingled together.  I am learning more and more that authentic friendships  are worth the risk.

My daughter is getting married.  And the young man she is marrying- well they just both make me so happy because of the people they are, and the beauty inside them put there by God.  I see two joyful, imperfect but beautiful young people so well suited for each other, and I see the love they have for Christ first, and then each other, and I have hope. I see God bringing them on a journey together with Him leading and guiding them, and I wish that every marriage could have such a beginning.  I have no idea what challenges they will face in the future, but I have hope for the road ahead.  I know the God who has brought me and Joe through so many trials will walk faithfully with them.  So I suppose, ultimately, my hope is in God.  My prayer is that His love --the abiding, eternal love of Christ---will be the rooting and grounding that establishes their love for each other, and that He will use their marriage to teach them what love is, and also to give and receive that love with kindness, respect, honesty, gentleness and authenticity.

Anyway, this is where I am today.  It felt like such a good place,  I just wanted to share my joy today.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Some thoughts on the free press and truth telling

I was reading this article tonight ( about the real Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, because I was curious if a movie about them was actually historically accurate. From what I read, the movie actually seems to be. However, as I read the article about what Marie Antoinette and Lousi XVI were actually like, what was really disturbing to read were all the lies the press of that time told about Marie, and how easily the public in France just believed it. I am not saying Marie Antoinette was an angel by any means, but nor was she a devil. All of this made me think of President Trump. Honestly, I don't agree with the way the man often communicates nor do I hold him up as a paragon of Christian virtues. He is a man with both virtues and vices, just like Obama was. What really bothers me is how willing people- and most especially the press-- seem to be to not just to report the true facts of what happened, but to exaggerate facts to suit political agendas. Marie Antoinette never said "Let them eat cake" but unhappy people were swept into a fervor of emotion, accepted it as fact that she did say that, and used it as a contention point against the aristocracy. What resulted from all that fervor was the French Revolution, both bloody and cruel. Reading this article and finding disturbing similarities in America's political climate gave me pause. I have come to a place that I would wish that all of us, whether Republic, Democrat, or Independent, will strive not to just post angry rants, and not to use anger as an excuse to stretch the truth into lies which suit our own agendas.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The end of 2017, Contemplation of 2018

WARNING: This is a rambly post.  I have had many thoughts running through my head.  I am writing them down so that I might consider them better, and be able to look back at them in the future.

Well, it's been a difficult year in many way.  Joe's mom passed away earlier in the year from brain cancer, and that has been a very difficult loss.  She was such an anchor and gift to the family, and not having her with us has left us feeling adrift, with a great ache and void in our hearts. The dark cloud of that loss has loomed in our lives this past year, so much of 2017, even the good, has been saturated with a sense of that loss.  I have had bouts of sadness and grief this Christmas season, when I feel the loss most keenly for her and for my father, who also passed away 8 or 9 years ago of Leukemia.    I have also felt anxiety thinking about goals I have not met for myself.  I am ending this year weighing the same amount as when I started my health journey two years ago, and that is frustrating.  I have given my best efforts this year at fitness, and still am not really where I want to be.  And in that regard, Facebook is both a blessing and a curse.  It's really nice to see others meeting their goals, and to receive prayer and encouragement when you are down, and even get help from people who know more than you and are further along on the journey.  However, I find it difficult not to compare myself to others on health journeys of their own, and not feel inadequate or even ridiculous. I have not progressed very much with writing or art, and every year with homeschooling brings its challenges that often cause me to feel out of my depth..   I am not where I want to be in really any area of my life, and currently I feel overwhelmed contemplating where I should actually put my focus for 2018.  Should I focus on healthy eating and exercise?  Should I not worry about that so much and just focus on improving in art? Should I not do that and focus instead on actually writing a book of some kind? And how do I do any of those things and still do a good job homeschooling and parenting my kids?  What about my marriage? How much time and energy does it require?  What are the boundaries I should set for myself and with Joe to be both loving and healthy?  And over and above all of that there is my relationship with the Lord.  I confess that I am over 40, a Christian, and I am not sure if I read the entire Bible or not.  I start plans to go through it all, but usually stall about halfway through and end up not finishing.
On the other hand, maybe I have learned somethings this year.  No, I am not where I want to be.  But I believe I am better off than if I had not tried.  I am learning that "Progress is a process, not a destination."  (Someone else shared that on fb in the Run Peaker, Run! group, but now I don't remember who, or I would credit them.)  That was a timely encouragement I needed.  So maybe the scale has fluctuated, but I have had more energy this past year  and I did do some races and just getting out there is something.
I am learning it's not being a "poser" to allow someone else to know your identity as something you love but aren't good at yet.  For me to say "I am a runner" or "I am a writer" or "I am an artist" or even "I am a Charlotte Mason homeschooler"  when I struggle and feel so small and insignificant in my abilities takes courage.  What it really means is not that I have arrived at some destination, but I have atleast opened the door and begun the journey.  For some people, this is probably no issue at all.  But for me, it has been.  I felt like acknowledging that I am in these groups or even want to be opens me to a new level of scrutiny by others, and breaking free from the fear of what others think of me has been a challenge.  I am a woman who has struggled with so many insecurities, which makes the fear of rejection or humiliation feel so powerful sometimes.  It's easy to say and know that I shouldn't care so much what other people think, but it's another thing entirely to act on that belief and follow through with actions, especially when you feel as if you are standing alone.
So about 2018.  What do I actually want for 2018?  Well here's what I want, just thinking as I type:

1. I want to read my Bible all the way through.  For real  I want to be still and hear God's voice, and obey Him.  I want the advice and wisdom I give others to be more than just my "good ideas"; I want to be so in tune with the Holy Spirit that His voice speaks through mine to other people, so that the words I speak are truly life giving. 
2. I want to look in the mirror and finally be happy with what I see.  I want to learn to love the best of the person God made me to be, and yield to God to change the parts that need to change.
3.  I want to not just say I am a runner. I want to believe it and feel it.  Same for being an artist and writer. And even a teacher.  People tell me I do a good job at that, but often I doubt it's true.  I don't want to become arrogant, but I want to see all of who I am accurately, and be able to know myself well, both good and bad.  So often I have seen the bad in myself, and I don't deny that side of myself.  But I would like for 2018 to be a year where I can also see and accept the good, in myself first, but also in others. 
4.  I do want to move forward in the areas of growing as a mom, teacher, artist, writer, and runner.  I want to learn new things and be farther along by the end of the year.  I am still not sure how to judge that, but it's a desire I have to grow and have marked changes that affirm that growth.  I know that one goal I have is that I would like to be able to run an entire 5K and to interval run/walk a 10K this next year. 
5.  I want to be joyful and peaceful with my children at home.   I want my children to remember me as a joyful, loving, fun momma who loved them well, not a sad, depressed mama who was always afraid and let fear control her.
6.  I want to read lots of good books, books that are classic books, books on self care and self improvement, books that speak to my heart. 
7.  I want to invest time and energy in relationships with other women to build friendships.
8. I want to invest time and energy in relationship with my husband to build a better relationship.
9.  I want to invest time and energy in relationship with my children to disciple them and to communicate that I value and love them.
10.  I want to help my daughter plan a wedding, and it to be the most beautiful and wonderful day for her and Jacob, and to know that the memories of that day will always be special and sacred for them.
11.  I want to be more present in my day to day life. I want to put my phone away, and be engaged in what's happening around me.  When I am not, I want it to be because I have been intentional in my choice of what I am doing, and have peace that it's the right thing for that moment because it was made by choice and not by accident.
12. I want to continue to cut sugar from my diet and minimize junk food.
13. I want to build back up our emergency fund, and get to a place where we are consistently spending  less than we make.  
14. Practically speaking, we need to get our roof repaired this year.
15.  I want to take a family vacation.
17.  I want to own my feelings and behaviors as my own, and allow other people to have their feelings and behaviors, without taking responsibility for how others feel. I want to show empathy and respect for myself and others, but also accept the "separateness" of other people.  I want to own my own stuff, and apologize for my mistakes and wrongs when appropriate, but I want to not take on the burden of other people's happiness as being my responsibility.  I want to make decisions based on what's best and right and true and is what God has ordained for my family, not based on whether someone else approves or not.  The only approval I should seek is that of Christ. 
18. I want to get away privately at least once this next year with my husband.
19. I want my home to be a peaceful place. I want to own our stuff and not be owned by it.   To that end, I will endeavor to declutter our home in a way that is not traumatic for my family. I want to show my children respect in my parenting, but model to them that people and relationships matter more than things. I want to teach them to be good stewards of all that we have and own. I want them to learn to take good care of what we have, but also to recognize when to let things go that are no longer blessing us or even just could bless someone else.  I want to be thoughtful in how I even bring more things into our home, so that decluttering becomes less necessary.
20. I want to be a support to my older kids, as they grow beyond us and the structure of our family.. I want to build friendship with them and be the kind of adult who respects them as adults but also challenges them in healthy and loving ways.  I want to be a friend with them who listens more and offers advice less.
21.  I want to be active and vibrant in my local church family. I want to support missions work both financially and with prayer.  I want to be obedient and faithful to God's call to edify believers around me and to be salt and light to hurting people around me.  I want to do this with prayer, but also with my talents, time, and resources.

Maybe much of this just sounds like pretty words. My hope is that it's so much more than that.  It's the truth of what I desire, and honestly, one reason I get so discouraged this time of year because I see such little growth some years, even with doing my very best.  But I am reminding myself today that I am on a journey, and I am moving forward, though slowly. I am giving grace to myself and others.  Failure is not the end.  I can fail, and keep trying and going, and hopefully getting better.  If you are reading this, I would appreciate prayer that God gives me greater wisdom, discernment, and direction in 2018, and that I am quick to be a doer of that wisdom, that it would bless me and others. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

I have been thinking about death lately.  Happy thoughts, right? I mean, I can't imagine why my blog is not that popular, with all the awesome topics I choose to write about.  Seriously, though, that's okay with me. I don't really do this for most people.  I am thankful for being a nameless face to most people.  Mainly, when I do write, I write for my own kids someday.
Anyway, I have been contemplating death.  I suppose the reason is the recent health issues I have been having.  Nothing like health problems to bring you face to face with your own mortality, and how out of control you actually are.  I am doing my best with diet and exercise, to give God as much help as I can give him, for me to be around for a long time for the people I love.  But the truth is, all of us will die.  Every last one of us, unless the Lord Jesus comes back and we see him face to face before we die.  But for most of us, that won't be the case.  I can't say I want to die, although sometimes, I admit, it's difficult in trials to continue having the courage each day to choose to actually live, to keep going and pressing on in spite of pain or sorrow. I can say there is heaven, and the thought of seeing my loved ones and friends there, that I look forward to seeing.  The process of death, itself, is not so appealing.  And I still feel like I have so much I need to do.   But it's not my part to determine when I will die. It's my part to obey the Lord Jesus, and to try to live my life in glory to Him, day by day.
I have many things I still want to experience in this temporal life. If I had my way, I would be here to see all of my children, my grandchildren, and even my great grandchildren, serving the Lord.  I want to be faithful to my husband, and see us celebrate many years together.  The first many years of our marriage have been hard, honestly, as we are both so stubborn sometimes, and it seems that we are only finally now  learning what it truly means to walk together in life, though we are both messy sinners.  I want to travel and be involved in missions work, and still do ministry in a church with young people.
I want to write a novel. I don't know why that's so hard for me, but it is.  I have ideas in my brain, but disciplining myself to write and bring the ideas together is difficult.
I want to paint something beautiful.  I know I have painted things, but I don't see them as great things.  And  I have so much to learn still, and so much growing to do in art.
I want to get to a place with my children that they will be able to say, when they are grown, that though I was imperfect, I loved them well.  That I taught them through my life and actions what humility, and service to others, and compassion, and deep, abiding joy look like.  I want to celebrate when I come to the place that my children are grown that we can sit as friends.  I love my children, by the way.  I don't ever think I can say that enough. 
I want to be a faithful friend to my friends.  I want to be a prayer warrior and someone who will rejoice with them in their joys, and sit in the dust and love them in their sorrows. 
Today was  a tough day.  My  migraines were bad, and the anxiety I battle was at an all time high.  My children had an activity tonight, that I wasn't able to go to, because I felt so poorly.  My dear husband had to take off work again today to run our home. I struggled with feelings of worthlessness and failure, because my health prevented me from being the mom I desperately wanted to be, for my kiddos.   I was not in control. I had to depend on others, which I don't like at all. I felt weak, and helpless, and so unnecessary. It was a serious hit to my pride, honestly, that the universe went on without me, and a great comfort as well.  I suppose I am flawed and selfish like that. I want to be needed, but not indispensable.
I know all the things I WANT.  But I cannot say what God's plans for my life will be, sitting in this moment.  I can pray for many fruitful years, and commit myself to the Lord, who is wise and good, but I cannot make him grant my request.  I believe He is sovereign over all, though how that plays out in smaller ways, I am unsure.  I don't think God is the one who does evil, but He does allow it, and He takes horrible situations and redeems them.  I don't think I can grasp all of that even yet.
Like I said, I want to be around for many years. That is what I hope and pray for, and pray even more ardently so for my family, and my friends.  But  every moment is a sacred gift.  I recognize, even in this moment, how many of those sacred moments I have squandered.  And I don't want that.  I want to live every moment in light of eternity, in light of the Cross of Christ.
I want the moments that I have to be used and spent in the worship of my King, and in discipleship to others.  I want my life to be salt and light, pointing others to the truth of God's love for them, and the peace found in serving Jesus.  I never want people to walk away from me saying how great a person I was, but rather, how great a God I have served.  That they will see Him in me.  And I want this most not for strangers to see, but for my kids, my husband, and my closest friends to see.
It's difficult to look at your life and see all the imperfections and flaws, the broken places.  It's tough to look at your life and see so many ways you have not measured up as a disciple. To see where you DIDN'T love someone well, maybe an unkind word you spoke, or a time you sat idly by while someone else perpetrated hurts upon another. I can see places like that in my life, and all I can do is pray for God to be bigger than my mistakes and inadequacies.  For Him to take the broken places, and make something beautiful.
I look at other people's lives, and sometimes it seems I can see a pattern of a story God is writing in their life, which is a lovely thing.  Sometimes it's a story of redemption, or healing, or what it means for God to be a father. Sometimes it is how God is shining in someone else's life through their talents or giftings, like the gift of writing or painting or science or math.   So many lovely, beautiful stories. I have loved them all.  But when I look at my own life, it seems so plain.  It's difficult for me not to compare, and feel frustrated or like I have failed.  I have not "done" that much.  I am a mediocre artist.  I write poetry.  I love my kids.  I teach them. I have tried to be faithful in the smaller opportunities that have come my way, in teaching co op classes or praying for friends, or even just trying to learn to be a better listener.  But it's mundane stuff really.  And I often worry how I would handle true trials of faith, like standing for Christ in a time of persecution.  My hope is that I will not have to find out, but my prayer is that no matter what, I would stand firm in Christ.
These were the rambling thoughts I was having tonight.  I felt like I needed to get them out of my head.
 I will close with Psalm 6, a cry of my heart tonight:

Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
    nor discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
    heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled.
    But you, O Lord—how long?
Turn, O Lord, deliver my life;
    save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
For in death there is no remembrance of you;
    in Sheol who will give you praise?
I am weary with my moaning;
    every night I flood my bed with tears;
    I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief;
    it grows weak because of all my foes.
Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
    for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my plea;
    the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled;
    they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.