Saturday, May 25, 2013

Good Reads

I'm away this weekend, enjoying my newest niece with our family, but thought I'd leave you some good reads for the long weekend.

When You Sort of Feel Like You're Drowning :: Ann Voskamp. Yeah, I can relate.

A Helpful Guide to Becoming Unbusy :: becoming minimalist

The Single Defining Characteristic of a Manipulator :: Storyline Blog (Donald Miller)

Suburbia Needs Jesus Too :: Her.meneutics

Distracted Parenting :: Clover Lane

Have a great weekend! Leave me a comment letting me know what you're up to this weekend--I'd love to know!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Letters to My Daughters: Choose Joy (Part 2)


Dear Daughters,

Last time I wrote this: A deep, abiding joy will serve you well in life—I encourage you to find it.

Still here.

Still encouraging.

Find joy.

Joy is a people-magnet. Joy is a relationship-builder. Joy is a life-giver.

Find it.

So you’re probably wondering how. How do I find joy when I am feeling so out-of-it at school? How do I find joy when I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my life? How do I find joy when I feel like there’s a limited supply and everyone around me has my share of it?

Some days I feel like I’m not the best person to answer these questions—I’ve asked them all myself. Some days I feel the least equipped to talk about finding joy because I let all of those Cs take over and my soul is sapped.

And on those days, I run, RUN, to my Bible.

Recently I flipped to the concordance in the back of my Bible and looked under the word “joy.” What I found astonished me, I’m ashamed to admit. I should have known.

Nearly every reference to joy in my Bible concordance was tied to God or Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit. Yes, there’s the famous verse in which Paul encourages the Philippians to “make my joy complete by being of like-minded,” but mostly that has to do with their dedication to Christ, their unity in Him.

Do you see where I’m going with this? Joy is tied up with our relationship to God. He is the source of true joy.

I’ve told you this often, but I think it bears repeating here: the only life worth living is one totally dedicated to Christ because only in Him will you find true fulfillment.

Or true joy.

Just check your concordance.

So if God is our source of true joy, lasting joy, real joy, let me be very obvious here and talk about what will not bring you joy.

Money.

Houses.

Cars.

People.

Stuff.

More stuff.

You get where I’m going. Every day you probably see people trying their best to find true joy by pursuing things, but I’m telling you it’s fruitless. The celebrities you see on T.V. can’t find it. People who look to bigger houses or flashier vacations can’t find it. Even we ourselves can’t find it apart from Christ.

Think about the travels we’ve taken as a family. Some of the most joyful people we’ve met have been people who have barely anything that this world would consider significant or important. But they have Jesus, and that makes their lives rich.

Remember Iris in Brazil? This single mom had one son of her own and was hoping to adopt two Brazilian children so that they wouldn’t have to live on the streets.  She didn’t have much, but she had a roof over her head that she longed to share with others.

Iris was also a fantastic baker, and she shared her skill with us when she baked Kate’s birthday cake that year. I still remember the smile on her face when she brought the cake over to help celebrate her birthday. Even though Iris had very little in the way of earthly possessions, that woman knew real joy.

You know this lesson in your heads—we’ve preached it to you your entire lives—but take it into your hearts and know this for certain: true joy can only be found in one place.

Seek it. Pursue it. Find it.

Choose it.

I love you,

Mom

Monday, May 20, 2013

Letters to My Daughters: Choose Joy (Part 1)



Dear Daughters,

Remember this? “Make a good choice, my friend!”

It rings in our ears, makes us smile, and sometimes even makes us roll our eyes. This phrase became a joke in our family, even though it was no joke to the teacher who repeated this phrase over and over again in elementary school.

But, you know, she was right.

The choices you make today will affect how well you live later on. 

Today I want to talk to you about a choice you can make right now that will affect your relationships both today and in the future. This choice will help guide the way you live both now and tomorrow and it will affect every relationship you have.

Choose joy.


Yes, this might sound like a cliché, but I tell you as one who did not make this choice for many years: choosing joy brings life to you and to those around you. A deep, abiding joy will serve you well in life—I encourage you to find it.

First, though, I want to warn you about three joy-suckers that will kill your soul. Watch out for them. Flee any temptation to give in to them. Your life will not be rich and full if you allow these joy-suckers into it.

What are they? Comparison. Criticism. Contempt.

Comparison. This one sucks the joy out of you because it makes you feel less-than. When we look around at what others have or what others have achieved, thinking that we should have the same or better, we assume God has slighted us, dealt us a bad hand.

This is a lie because the Bible tells us that we are His beloved and that He watches over our coming and our going. God also asks us to trust Him to lead us. Why should we want what others have when God has our own best interest at heart?

Criticism. This one sucks the joy out of those around us, hurting our own hearts in the process. It’s a subtle form of comparison that, rather than making us feel less-than, makes us feel superior to others.

This is a lie, too, because the Bible says that no one is perfect, that all have sinned. When we criticize, we act as judge—a job we have not been given.

Contempt. Contempt can be a two-pronged problem because we can view either ourselves or others in this way. Contempt says that God made a mistake when He made us or those around us.

What a lie! God says that His creation was “good” and that His people are His delight.

So how do we find joy?

Joy comes, I think, when, rather than compare ourselves to others, we join with others, seeing the good in them, seeing potential for a bigger life and a greater adventure.

Joy comes when, instead of criticizing, we choose to build someone up in love.

Joy comes when, instead of treating someone with contempt, we choose to treat them with kindness and that kindness is returned.

Joy comes when, rather than sneering with contempt at what God has made, we choose to rejoice in His blessings. Even something as simple as the weather (which I do tend to complain about sometimes) can be a good indication of where we are with God. Are we saying, “This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it”? Or are we grumbling and complaining, when all that really does is tell God that we think he could do better?

My dear girls, today I encourage you to choose the path of joy because this is a path that leads to contentment and peace. Trust me, your life will be richer and the lives of those around you will be blessed if you choose joy over comparison, criticism, or contempt.

I love you,

Mom

P.S. I have more to say about joy, but I’ll share it later this week. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Grace at 2:15


She steps toward the car and reaches for the door, sunlight splashing over her shoulders and across her wavy brown hair. I look, smile, then look again.

She’s changed.


School’s almost over for this one, and I see, in that brief moment, a full year’s growth.

Her face, more mature (goodbye, babyface!).

Her legs, definitely longer.

Her hair, styled rather than simply cut.

Her clothes, carefully selected, reflecting her sense of herself.

Her gait, assured.

All of this just in a quick glimpse as she ducks her head into the car.

She smiles from outside the window--a slight upturn of her lips, that quick connection that says, “I’m so glad you’re here.”

(O.K., if I’m really honest, she was glad I was there to drive her home so she didn’t have to walk. But still, she seemed glad to see me.)

It was a smile that said, “I’m good.”

I noticed today that my baby girl is growing up. Oh, sure, I notice it most days, especially as she very nearly reaches my height, but today it took me by surprise.

The end of the school year makes you take note of the changes, doesn’t it? With all three back under my roof for the summer, I’ve been thinking a lot about the past year and how it has changed them. Changed us.

It’s been a good year. Not without its challenges, this year, but good, overall.

And while the physical changes aren’t as pronounced in my girls anymore (I still remember the years of amazing stringbean growth, the too-short pants), the character changes are still coming, probably faster than ever before. Lifetime prayers for my girls are being answered.

And I like what I see.

I see confidence.

I see intelligence.

I see curiosity.

I see humor.

I see wisdom.

I see discernment.

I see girls who are ready to follow wherever He leads and to lead wherever He wants.

I see young women who are growing, changing, accepting, even though it’s painful at times.

I look, I see, and I wonder, How did we get here?

Only grace.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Good Reads

In honor of Mother's Day today, I've collected a few of my favorite parenting posts as of late. Enjoy!

Parenting is Kingdom Work || (in)Courage. Such a good reminder!

Intention in the Morning || Clover Lane. Get your head ready for the game. Every day.

Weary of Sin || The Good Enough Mom. I could so relate to what my friend, Nancy, wrote here.

The Gift of a Long Life || A Deeper Story. This really spoke to me, and it might speak to you if you're (ahem) older.

It Matters Whom You Marry || The Christian Pundit. And if you're younger, or if you haven't yet married, this is absolutely wonderful. To the young women I know: read this.

20 Things Every Parent Should Hear || Five Kids is a Lot of Kids. Funny, wise, and true. One of those posts I wish I had written.

Parents: A Word About Instagram || Life as of Late. Someone posted this on Facebook, and it was so good I thought I should share.

OK, this last one isn't about parenting, but since today is graduation at the place where I teach, I thought I would also post this one for the grads. Some great advice here, even if you've already graduated.

12 Things to Do After Graduating || The Gospel Coalition blog.

Happy reading!!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Just a Day


Today was, well, just a day. 

I walked with a friend for an hour this morning. (Therapy, first thing.)

I did too many loads of laundry to count. 

I cleaned my oven. (You know you want my life.)

I baked cookies for Teacher Appreciation Day tomorrow. 

I ran Julia all over Kingdom Come. 

I loaned my van to a college student friend so he could move some furniture.

And I sat glued to the T.V. for the Benghazi hearings. (C-SPAN3 = Channel 105.)

It was just an ordinary day. Only it wasn’t so ordinary because it was MY day. A day I kind of liked. A day that made me happy and brought me joy (quite possibly a direct result of knowing we would be eating leftover hot dogs for dinner).

Yesterday Julia got into the car after school and, after I asked how her day was (this was at 4:20 in the afternoon, after a full day of school and play practice, while on her way to driver's ed--the poor girl hadn't been home since 7:00 a.m.!), replied, “Great! I had a great day.” 

So I followed up: “What made it a great day?” 

And she said (this is the part I love), “I don’t know. It was just a day, but I’m happy.”

Just a day, but I’m happy.

What if we took all the average, ordinary, cleaning-my-oven kind of days and turned them great only by changing our outlook? 

What would happen then?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Monday Musings

Borrowing the format from my friend, Lisa, because I like it so much. Thanks, Lisa! 

***

Sitting . . . in my comfy writing chair.

Drinking . . . water, in hopes that it might kick the dull ache in my head off to the curb.

Feeling . . . physically tired from a busy weekend, but excited to be finished with classes and officially on summer break!

Cooking . . . salads and burgers and dessert for a group of Kate's friends who are coming over tonight. One last bash before they leave for the summer (although some are sticking around this year). I really love these kids and will be really sad next year when it's time for them to graduate.

Reflecting . . . on the past semester. Things I could have done differently, some things I could have done better, and some I'm glad I did the way I did. Teaching, I have found, is a constant evaluation of myself and my students.

Looking ahead . . . to summer. Oh boy, is it going to be a busy one! All three of my girls will be home for most of the summer, which is awesome to me because it very well could be the last time all five of us live under the same roof. Not going to cry about that . . . yet.

Devising . . . a scheme to fix up the town home that B and I bought this year as a rental for college students. My summer involves painting, fixing up, decorating (on a very limited budget!), and furnishing (again, the budget) that place. If you need to get ahold of me this summer, chances are very good I'll be over there.

Enjoying . . . warmer temperatures. Finally!

Getting excited about . . . a trip I'm taking with my mom and sisters this summer. More on that later. (Just to keep you in suspense.)

Thanking God . . . for the way He has grown and changed all of us this year. The school year was not without its challenges for each one of us, but God has been so faithful to use each experience as a way to draw us to Him. It really is a wonder that He loves us so much.

Musing . . . about the blog . . . again. Some changes are coming that I'm really excited about! Hoping that will motivate me to keep going. More on that soon.

So tell me, what's on YOUR mind?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Paying Attention


A friend shared the most wonderful quote from Anne Lamott the other day. Anne said, 
"That's all you have to do today: Pay attention--being a writer is about paying attention."
So, in honor of Anne, here’s what I noticed today.

This morning I had a doctor’s appointment, and as I sat in the waiting room—just for a minute, it didn’t take long—I reached for my phone in the pocket of my bag. It wasn’t there. I knew exactly where it was--beside my bed where I left it this morning.

I surprised myself by noticing even the slightest feeling of anxiety that I had forgotten my phone. As if I had become one of “those people” who cannot be without their phone even for a few hours.

I thought about going home to get my phone immediately after my appointment, even though I had planned to run a few errands after the doctor and my house was completely on the other side of town, which would mean that I would probably waste a good 30 minutes in a fairly busy day.

My slight anxiety rose as I wondered if I had any emails. I wondered if my girls would need to get ahold of me. I wondered if B would need me. I wondered what I would do while I waited for the doctor, a certainty, if I didn’t have my phone with me.

And then, just as quickly, I sat back and chastised myself. Good grief! I couldn’t make it even a couple of hours without communication? That’s ridiculous. What happened just a few years ago, before the iPhone, when we didn’t have constant access to the internet, and we went to the doctor and read magazines for an hour?

What happened when my girls were little and I left them with a babysitter for a few hours while I happily trotted out the door with NO PHONE AT ALL? Back then, I just had to trust (!) that they would be fine.

And they were.

So here’s what I noticed today. I’m tethered. And I don’t like what that has done to me. Not that having a phone has made me a bad person, but inwardly, I wonder what it has done. 

It has made me more available. All the time. Do I want that?

It has caused me to be less “in the moment.” My thoughts turn from what I'm doing presently, concretely, to what I might need to do virtually. I hate that.

It has made me just a little less trusting that God would take care of things. Like I said, there was a day when I just had to "trust" that all would be well when I walked out the door. That my children could cope without me for a while. They did.

And it has made me restless, bored without something to look at all the time. This almost bothers me the most. Why am I anxious without something to DO? What ever happened to down time?

You know what turned out great, though? After my exam, the doctor left for a bit, but needed to come back to talk to me about a few things. While I sat in the room waiting, that’s all I did. 

I just sat there. 

There were no magazines available--only children’s books (another interesting thing I noticed!)--so without my phone I just sat. 

I leaned my head back against the wall, and I thought about things. I let my mind wander, and my thoughts took me to my husband and my kids. I took a quiet minute to pray for them. I thought about my parents. I thought about the fact that tomorrow is the last day of class.

I just thought. In the peace and quiet of the doctor’s office.

Without my phone.

So tell me, how do you feel when you forget your phone? Untethered? Or free?