Prince Charming does the dishes

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Today is my 13th wedding anniversary. My marriage is a teenager now. This year I have the gift of words for my husband. And maybe a card. 

A truth I have come to realize over the last thirteen years is that marriage isn’t about grand gestures, there may be times when those are necessary, but it is about the daily sacrifice. Fairy tales and princess movies lead us to believe that the perfect guy is Prince Charming riding up on his noble steed, but the truth is most of us don’t often need to be rescued from a tower where our evil “stepmother”, who really has no relation to us, has locked us for the last two decades of our life. Most of us just want some help with the dishes.  We want a guy who will come along side us. We want a guy who is there in the daily grind. We want a guy who is willing to be on our team and has our back. We want a guy who calls us out on our issues. A prince charming who only shows up in the grand ways misses the connection and beauty of the small moments of life. This is where a bond is forged, where relationship is built, where trust is deepened. Sure there are the romatic dinners and cuddling during a movie, but what I have come to realize is I am so thankful for a Prince Charming who does the dishes. 

Sometimes Staying is Hard

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Change is hard. Moving, leaving behind the familiar in exchange for the unfamiliar, is daunting to say the least. Taking a new position can be scary. It requires you to learn a whole new system, build new relationships, take on new challenges. Often the first few weeks feel incredibly disorienting. Change is hard.
Change has its upsides too though. It is a new adventure. It is the opportunity to start fresh, to recreate your circumstances. Sometimes change can show you strengths you never knew you had. Forging a new path can bring excitement and revitalize you.
I have some friends who had major life changes recently, including two new jobs and a move. I gained a new perspective through my experience of traveling this journey with them: sometimes staying is hard.
A few months ago it looked like we might move to a new job and a new church. My husband was in the interview process and it looked like he was going to get a job offer. I was ecstatic. I had felt like my heart had disengaged at church (can I say that? I’m a youth pastors wife!) and this change promised to be the jump start my heart needed. I was excited about new opportunities, new surroundings, and even new challenges (okay new challenges sounds ridiculous when you say it out loud…). Needless to say some circumstances changed and the job opportunity fell through. I was left to go back. Back to where we were, back to the same, back to what felt like a prison to me.
A few months later a few of my friends, also in full time ministry, had the chance to move on to something new. I was happy and excited for them, but to be honest, a little jealous (okay there were days where I was A LOT jealous, okay it was more than a few days…). I wanted change, I wanted something new, something to revitalize me, something exciting to tackle, but the answer was no, stay.
I find myself after they have moved on still here, same place, same challenges, same routine. There is hope. God has been gracious in providing me new perspective, the hints of changes to come and the possibility of opportunity. I am so thankful for that, but I still have days where I feel frustrated, because sometimes staying is hard.

Little Gifts

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I just finished Jen Hatmaker’s book Interrupted yesterday. I had read 7 (also Jen Hatmaker) at the beginning of the summer and loved it. God gave her and her husband a very clear passion and vision to serve the homeless, poor, and marginalized in South Austin, Texas. In her book she talks about the overwhelming statistics of those who are poor and in need around the country and around the world. These statistics and facts can be really overwhelming. I always read them and feel like “Where do I even start?”. Then I have an idea, like making mittens for kids or saving change to give to local ministries, and it feels so small and insignificant when compared to the problem. I feel like I am offering a plastic dollar store sword to a soldier about to face an army of 10,000 tanks and a million soldiers all armed with rocket launchers. So I am left feeling like “should I bother?” (I know the answer is yes, it just feels a little ridiculous).

So that brings us today. A friend of mine was having a garage sale. There were no prices on anything, it was come, take whatever you want and leave whatever amount you want. All the donations were going to a place called Mully Children’s Family (they rescue and adopt orphans off the the streets in Kenya). I went to take some of my stuff and to take some money from our Christmas Jar (we stash cash in this jar and then use it to serve others… something we started with the kids… another post for another time). I sat with my son and counted out $9.36, all the money we had saved. I sent my kids to get ready and I thought about what a small amount $9.36 was. It feels so insignificant, so small, especially when it was stacked up against the needs. As I got my things together I was reminded of the widow in the Bible and Jesus telling the disciples to look at her two mites she gave and how important that was to God, how much that sacrifice meant. I also thought about the boy who offered 5 loaves and 2 fish. The amount of people to feed was well over 5,000. His offering must have felt small and insignificant, much like our $9.36. God reminded me that He uses the little gifts, in His hands it becomes so much more than we could imagine. Thousands were fed that day. I don’t really know what happened to the mites but God used her example to teach the disciples something incredibly important.

It was the perfect reminder for me. I have opportunities to do little things, to give little gifts. If I shy away from them believing that they are too small and they won’t do much in the face of the problem, I will miss out on the opportunity for God to do so much more than I can imagine with them.

I’m Back

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So if you thought this blog had been left for dead, it was. I was recently inspired by a few things to “get back on the horse”.

The first of these circumstances has to do with a couple of family members who shall remain nameless (my grandma and uncle *cough, cough*). One who subtly and one who not so subtly mentioned that I don’t write anymore. Okay they didn’t use those words but I did think that it has been a really long time, which leads me to my second prompting.

Recently, I feel like I am coming out of a fog. Many years ago I was talking to a mother of four, three of whom had just gone back to school and she said to me, “I feel so good. I feel like I am coming out of a fog”. Being a fresh out of college, newlywed I smiled a “knowing” smile and nodded my head. I couldn’t have been more clueless as to what she was talking about if she was explaining the science of jet propulsion (#idon’tgetscience…#idon’tgethashtags). I totally understand what she is saying now. Last year I sent my older two off to school… all day, every day school, two of them… every day… did I mention all day? It was incredible. So why didn’t you start writing again last year? you ask… well that brings me to my third prompting.

I feel like I have something to offer again. I went from having zero children to having three in 31 months, no that isn’t a typo. Yes you read correctly. There were days I couldn’t even find a clean shirt to put on (and believe me I tried but seriously a clean shirt was like a target in our house- “Who can be the first to pee, poop, spit up or throw their food all over mom’s shirt?” I swear it was a game they were all secretly in on). At one point I had all three in diapers. I would give my husband TPRs (The Poop Report) when he got home. I had days were the changing table became an assembly line. Needless to say, the end of the day came and I was tapped out. Being an introvert I recharge from quiet and solitude and there was very little of that in the house. I felt frazzled, fried and at times inhuman. This past year has given me time. Time to sit, time to think, time to contemplate, time for silence. Granted I still have one at home whose favorite activity some days is chattering, but I found more than I had before. So as the fog lifts and the cobwebs and dust are swept from my head, I’m back.

More Babies

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My daughter said to me the other day, “Mommy, you know a lot of people having babies.” She’s not wrong. This seems to be the season when many of my friends are having babies. I love making gifts for baby showers. There is something that feels so good to create something special and let my friend know how much they are loved. While working on knitting or crochet projects in particular I take some time to pray for the new little one and my friend and all that is to come. I am so thankful to have the opportunity to be a part of my friends’ lives during these special times.
Here is the latest baby project. It is for a special little guy named Lincoln, whose mom happens to be a huge baseball fan.

A Lesson in Trust

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Our previous attempts to berry pick this summer had been foiled by one more pressing activity or another, so we decided last week was the time to go. We found a farm that had blueberries and raspberries and we were very excited. As we pulled into the farm my husband and I looked at each other with the “oh no” face (Parents… I think you know what I mean). In the yard was a large black dog. It was a lab and seemed to be a calm and gentle dog but these facts make no difference to my 5 year old.
For some reason, unbeknownst to my husband or myself our daughter developed an intense fear of dogs a few years ago. It seems rather ridiculous because my parents had a dog when she was young and this didn’t seem to be a problem.
Whatever the cause of this fear may be, she freaks out about dogs. I had to pick up some papers at a friends home one day and I told the kids we were taking a ride to their house and the first question my daughter asked was, “Do they have a dog?”
The usual symptoms when a dog makes its appearance are jumping, shrieking, trying to climb the nearest parent and uncontrollable sobbing. My husband and I have tried to reason with her. We have talked about how the dogs are friendly and how there isn’t anything to be afraid of. Our next tactic was to talk about how mommy and daddy are there to protect her. We will watch over her and we won’t let anything happen to her. We will keep the dog away from her. This didn’t really seem to help and over time her fear and reaction seemed to get worse.
So back to the farm, of course our daughter noticed the dog as soon as we opened the van door and she burst into tears and her usual freak out routine. I found myself really frustrated with her and I asked her why she didn’t trust mommy and daddy. I felt like that was the root of the issue was that she didn’t trust that we would keep her safe.
As I was thinking about this incident on the way home I started to think about the Israelites. I guess this came to mind because my husband and I just taught about them at camp. God desperately wanted His people to trust Him and to believe that He truly wanted what was best for them, but over and over again they didn’t trust Him to watch over them or to do what was best for them.
Of course, I couldn’t leave that thought there. What about my relationship with Him? How often do I question whether or not He will really protect me, or whether or not He has my best interests at heart? Unfortunately, I am a lot like my daughter in that respect. I don’t trust Him, or I say that I do, much like my daughter does, but my actions tell a different tale.
I am just so thankful that God is gracious and He is so patient as I continue to learn to trust Him.

Kind Words

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The end of the school year is often times a mix of emotions for me. I push and push to get there and most of the time feel relieved that the end is in sight. However, there is another part of me that feels burned out and discouraged. It probably has everything to do with being extra tired and having a lot of extra activities added to the schedule. Whatever the cause I find myself, what seems like every year, questioning if I really am good at what I do or if I really make any difference. I was feeling this more acutely this year and went into the last day of class just wanting the year to be done.
On the last day of class I had two students hand me notes and one of them handed me a bag with the note. Their notes expressed how much they had enjoyed my English class, how much they had learned and how much they appreciated the effort I put into making class fun for them. I was blown away by these gestures. First, these students are Jr. High students who- to grossly overgeneralize- rarely think of others. Second, it was the students themselves who wrote me these notes of appreciation, not their parents.
These words of kindness were so healing to me. I have always struggled with self-esteem issues and doubt (although if we are going to be truthful, who hasn’t?) and I think the enemy knows when and how to kick me when I am down. God is so good and He knows me so well. I hadn’t even really turned these thoughts and feelings over to Him and He already had encouragement waiting for me.
I have these notes saved in a special spot and in the bag was a beautiful pair of earrings. I will take the notes out again and read them and I will wear the earrings and when I do I will remember how gracious God is and how kind words can bring healing and encouragement.

Mother’s Day and Our Strawberry Patch

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This is our strawberry “patch”. Our family had such a great experience with our garden last year we decided to expand this year. My hubby did quite a bit of research on how to successfully grow strawberries. We learned quite a bit. First of all there are two different kinds of strawberry plants: June bearing and ever bearing. Just as the name implies, June bearing strawberry plants produce strawberries in June (or around there). Ever bearing will produce throughout the summer. We also discovered that in your first year if you pick off all the flowers and don’t allow the plant to produce strawberries it will come back the following year and you will get a huge crop. The same is true for the ever bearing. If you pick off the flowers until July you might get some in August but you will really reap the benefits (pardon the pun) the following year.
We have put A LOT of time into planting these strawberries and getting everything set up and ready but to be perfectly honest I haven’t really felt upset about not having strawberries this year because I know that next year it will so be worth it.
Mother’s day was Sunday. I had a nice Mother’s Day, my husband did an incredible job of making me feel so loved and so special. My parents were here and treated me to a special dinner. To be honest though, my kids fought during the day, I had to ask my son for the millionth time to put his clothes in his laundry bag and not on the floor, my youngest was getting over being sick and was super clingy and I still did 3 loads of laundry. Some days motherhood is just hard. Some days it feels like I haven’t accomplished a single worthwhile activity. I feel many days like I am talking to three brick walls that make an immense amount of noise. There are just those days where it is all work and I don’t reap anything. It struck me today how much motherhood is like my strawberry patch. It is a ton of work and you don’t reap much some days, but with patient perseverance there will be so much to reap later and it is worth the work.

A Disciplined Life

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I teach on Mondays and I am having one of my classes read The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. I read this story once when I was in 8th grade and then skimmed different parts of it over the years. It is interesting how a story takes on a different life depending on the stage of life you are in. The first time I read it I was struck by the fact that Corrie and her family had boldly and bravely hid Jews despite the danger. I liked the part where Corrie is freed and had a sense of relief that everything worked out okay for her.
Now that I am older with a little more life experience I realize the horror of the things that she saw. The great pain of losing the people that she loved and then being the one left to go on. I have also been struck this time by her faith and the faith of her family. They trusted God, deeply and unwaveringly. The first part of the book is about Corrie’s early life before the occupation. I didn’t understand the first time that I read this why it was included in the book (besides general background information), this time through I realized that the family didn’t just stumble into doing the “right” thing. They didn’t all of the sudden trust God implicitly with their whole lives. They lived disciplined lives. Each morning and each evening they read the Bible together as a whole family, they spent time praying and making God a consistent part of their lives. They practiced kindness, compassion and generosity as a family. It was the consistency of their relationship with God that allowed them to have such an extraordinary impact on others.
I feel like winter can bring such a funk in my life, unfortunately even spiritually. I have been motivated and inspired by her story to be more disciplined in my relationship with God. It sounds so mechanical and so blah but the older I get the more I realize it is the discipline in the relationship that
causes it to grow and the feelings come with it. I don’t know that I will be asked to serve others the way the ten Boom family did during WW2, but I hope that people can look at my story and be inspired by my consistency in my relationship with God too.

Serving until it hurts

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I have been thinking about service lately. I think that sometimes I get in my head that service should give me something, some kind of high or some kind of deep down feeling of satisfaction. When I say it out loud is sounds completely ridiculous and totally self serving, which it is. I think I forget that serving costs something and ultimately if it takes my mind off of me and my needs that is a really good thing.
I have been reading through the Gospels recently and I have been struck over and over again by the way that Jesus served others. He served with patience and without expectation. I think if I am truly honest my service doesn’t look like that at all. I always expect something, even if it isn’t tangible. I expect a good feeling or a good attitude or some gratitude from the people I’m serving and the truth is that it’s not about what I get.
I am positive it will be a hard thing to break myself of this pattern and these motives but most of the tasks in life that are truly rewarding and worth undertaking are also hard.