Thursday, October 15, 2015

Day 15 - Spreading Their Wings

Disclaimer: I am by no means a parenting expert (not that I've ever been accused of that anyway). I'm simply a mom who has learned it's best to take it day by day, kid by kid, situation by situation.

I spend lots of time homeschooling the 2nd grade princess and diffusing the very new-to-me girl drama. I also spend lots of time navigating parenthood to teenage boys on the cusp of leaving home. When these things occur simultaneously (and they often do) it's as if my brain begins to short circuit. I can go from teaching simple addition facts to editing college essays in a matter of minutes. And hopefully the appropriate parts of my brain can keep up.

Needless to say with my oldest being a senior this year, the college application and admissions process has been front and center. And my how it has changed since I went through that experience (not sure why - I mean it was only a few years ago, right?). 

But even putting aside all the logistics and paperwork, there are so many other things happening. My first child is preparing to 'leave the nest!' That should probably freak me out, but it really doesn't.

Chances are he'll be going to a school that isn't a 'hop in the car and drive a few hours' distance away but more like a 'hop on a plane for a couple of hours' distance away. That should definitely freak me out, but it really doesn't.

Chances are he'll go from living in a city with 45,000 people to living in a city with 1,000,000+ people. That should send shivers down my suburban mom spine, but it really doesn't.

I've had multiple parents - both of students that have already graduated and those that are in his class - ask me how I feel about him wanting to go to school so far from home and in such a drastically different environment. I really can't explain it except to say that I'm a firm believer that my job as a parent is to raise my children to first and foremost be a follower of Christ and secondly to encourage them to pursue His plan for their life - not mine or even their own. 

If God is leading him to go to school 800 miles away then who am I to stand in the way. That doesn't mean that I won't be sad or that I won't miss him, but if he's following God's plan for his life then I know it will all be ok. 

Do I wish I had a crystal ball so I could see what was going to happen? Yes - and not just with the first one to leave the nest, but with all of them. But that's not how God designed it. I'm excited to see what's in store for each one of their futures - whether they stay close to home (but not in my home forever) or embark on a global adventure (makes for great vacation options). And regardless of their physical location, I'll always have the privilege of being their mom.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Days 9 - 14: Oops, Marriage, Anything

It happened…I fell off the daily posting wagon. But you know what? That's ok…at least for me, right now, in this season of life. I'm choosing to extend a little grace to myself.

After the most awesome weekend at a marriage retreat reconnecting with my hubby, I came back and was mentally overwhelmed by all the great stuff we took in from some great speakers. Add to that the physical overwhelmedness (yes that's a word in my book) of re-entry and any coherent thoughts I might have had flew out the window. 

It's taken me this long to catch up with it all - or at least attempt to catch up. (The laundry piles still rival Everest, but that's a never-ending battle anyway. And what is it with my children wanting to eat three meals a day?)

But I do have a few thoughts I want to share from our weekend at the Lifeway Marriage Getaway.

1) We have never been to a marriage retreat before. We will celebrate our 20th anniversary in December. Why, oh why, did we wait so long? The old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," most certainly does not apply to this. It might not be broken - and that's awesome - but that doesn't mean you can't make it that much better. You need not be on the brink of divorce (and I pray that you are not) to benefit from a weekend like this.

2) Simplify, simplify, simplify. Whether it's your cluttered schedule or your cluttered home, it affects your life as well as the lives of people you could be investing in if you weren't so overwhelmed with coordinating calendars or tripping over actual stuff. We both acknowledge that this is an area we struggle with. So we have committed to simplifying all aspects of our lives so we can more freely reach out to those who need the Gospel as well as those who may know the Gospel but need a little extra encouragement.

3) And while this wasn't necessarily related to any one session, we felt led to begin a book/Bible study together. Bible studies aren't new to us by any means, and in years past we've been in group Bible studies together. But we've never just done a Bible study as a couple. We chose Anything by Jennie Allen. I've had this one on my personal reading list for a while. But after this weekend, it felt like this was something we should do together. The premise of the book is about what happens when we completely surrender every aspect of our livest to God and boldly pray, "God, we will do anything." To be honest, we're a little bit nervous - not about spending time in the Word and in study with each other, but what our ANYTHING might be.

Now let's go finish laundry and cook dinner. And hopefully I'll make it back here again tomorrow.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Day 8 - Couple Time

Let's face it - even the best marriages have areas for improvement. Our marriage is pretty great but there are definitely things we need to work on. 

We would probably both agree that the area we struggle with the most is making time for just the two of us. Whether it's a date night on a semi-regular basis or a weekend away, we always have a million and one reasons why they don't happen. 

It's not that we don't like spending quality time alone together; it's just such an ordeal to coordinate schedules. One would think we had it made with built-in baby sitters since we have the two bigs (who can basically fend for themselves) and then Princess Mia. But the problem is the two bigs have much more active social lives than we do. Coordinating everyone's schedule to find a night that no one has 'organized' activities (games, meetings, rehearsals, etc.), Tim is in town, and the bigs have an open social calendar is like trying to negotiate an international trade agreement. It's so mentally exhausting we've kind of just given up trying (unless you take into consideration our random late night strolls through Target).

This is why I was quite shocked when Tim came to me back in the spring and said we were going on our church’s annual fall marriage retreat in October. This was very out of character for him - he's an engineer who likes to have a plan and know all the details before he commits to anything. Well there was no way back then that we would know what everyone's schedule would be now, and that’s probably a good thing.

Tomorrow morning we’ll leave behind a weekend packed with football and soccer games, SATs, and I’m sure lots of other things that I’m forgetting (but have written down for the grandparents who are graciously coming into town to temporarily manage the house) and head to the mountains for two and a half days of ‘just us’ time.

I pray we return refreshed and committed to making regular quality time for us a priority – no more overthinking the logistics, no more excuses. Don’t get me wrong – Target date nights are awesome and they’ll make do in a pinch, but it’s time to start setting the bar a little higher.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Day 7 - Do I Have What It Takes? Or Does God?

Not long ago I was asked to write something that was a bit out of my comfort zone (right now it seems writing in general is out of my comfort zone because it's been a while since I've done it with any regularity). This was a genre and style that I didn't have a lot of experience with, but I really felt God nudging me to give it a shot.

Of course no sooner than I said yes did the doubts come flooding in…maybe someone else is better equipped to write what is neededwhat if I didn't do a good jobwhat if it wasn't what they were looking for…and on and on.

For the next few weeks when I wasn't staring at the flashing cursor on the computer - frozen, I was honing my procrastination skills. And these are not skills that need help even under the most ideal circumstances. I mean I can find the most unnecessary task and elevate it to levels of national importance to delay what I know will be inevitable failure.

But God has this funny way of telling me what I need to hear exactly when I need to hear it. I happened to be studying women in the Bible and their individual fights for faith during my morning Bible study time. In each situation, the women had their doubts but God bolstered their faith and used them for His purposes. So I fervently began to pray that God would do the same for me.

One Sunday afternoon I somehow managed to push everything else aside - the dishes in the sink, the laundry piles in the hall, the hungry teenagers - and sat down with my Bible and the computer determined to put something on paper. And the flood gates opened - characters were developed, themes were woven, and stories were told. And none of it was me…

When I finished I was still quite reluctant to share with others, but I gave it to my resident editor to review. (There are advantages of having a high school senior who is potentially looking at writing as a career. And I wasn't sure what to expect because he is not one to hold back what he really thinks.)

So when he came back and said he liked the way I had modeled the characters after such and such, I honestly had chills. I simply nodded - because what he noted hadn't even entered my mind until that moment. It was just more proof that God was doing the writing.

It's very easy for me to believe that my gifts and talents aren't enough. And they aren't in my own strength. But when I'm obedient to God's calling, He can work it all to His glory despite my overthinking and insecurities.

Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus - the great Shepherd of the sheep - with the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip you with all that is good to do His will, working in us what is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ. ~ Hebrews 13:20-21

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Day 6 - Another Challenge - Dressember

Why me?

What did I do to deserve to be born into the life of freedom that I have? Nothing. What did the woman (or child or man) who becomes a victim of human trafficking do to deserve the life of slavery that they have? Nothing.

Their worth as a human is just as valuable as mine. After all we all created in God's image. Yet they find themselves in circumstances that are beyond my comprehension.

As I sit here in my comfortable house going about my comfortable life, it's easy to become oblivious to devastating injustices such as human trafficking. But it's real.

When I see articles or news stories or posts from organizations working to stop this horrific practice, I start wondering what I can do to help. But then I think, I'm just one person - just a stay-at-home mom in suburbia at that. I have no real influence. I don't have wads of extra money to donate. I guess there's really nothing I can do.

But there is. Thanks to the creative minds of people who decided that they could do something to help.

I first heard about Dressember last year when some women I follow on social media began posting about their participation. As I learned more about the movement, I thought that it would be a great way for someone like me to be able to contribute to the fight against human trafficking right where I was.

So when registration for this year's challenge opened, I didn't hesitate to sign up. For the 31 days in December, I along with many other women (perhaps even you reading this) will commit to wearing a dress every day to advocate for the inherent dignity of all women. 

This means I will forgo my yoga pants and sweats (this is a big deal for this homeschooling mama) as well as my favorite jeans for the entire month of December. But the discomfort this will cause me is virtually non-existent to what these enslaved women must face every day.

I'd love for you to join me in this challenge - the more the merrier and the more we can accomplish. Don't over think this - visit Team Sunshine Stories and sign up today!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Day 4/5 - Overthinking Others’ Words

I like words.

I like speaking them. I like reading them. I like writing them.

But to be honest, I don’t always like hearing them.

Sometimes it’s because I don’t like the truth that’s being shared, even though I need to hear it. But sometimes it’s because I mistake lies that I hear for truth.

Nothing sends me into serious overthinking and second-guessing mode more than the harsh judgments or the overly critical words of another person. Maybe their words aren’t technically false – at least not completely. But if they’re delivered in an accusatory tone or in a super critical way they are still lies because they were intended to deliver a false impression.

And many times they make me believe that false impression of myself – I’m not good enough, I didn’t do enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m parenting badly, and the list goes on. I’m guessing I’m not the only person that allows this to happen.

Why do we let ourselves cling to these hurtful statements? Why do we let these lies take hold in our hearts and grow? We’re basing our self worth on what others think of us.  We’re desperately seeking the approval of those around us especially if they’re important to us.

We’ve temporarily taken our eyes off the only One whose opinion really matters. This allows our ears to hear the lies that penetrate our hearts and edge out the truth that God loves us just the way we are. We’re enough for Him.

The next time someone’s words leave you feeling like a failure and you begin second guessing your worth, measure them against what God has to say to us through Paul in Ephesians 4:8:  

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, 
if there is anything worthy of praise, think about 
these things. 

Any words that don’t meet this criteria simply aren’t worth overthinking.

The only words we should ever overthink are the words coming out of our own mouths. Let’s remember that  “gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” (Proverbs 16:24)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Day 3 - My New Fall Go-To Outfit

Tonight's post is short and sweet but possibly helpful. 

I had a wedding to go to and help out with today. I wanted to look nice but be comfy. Thanks to a little retail therapy yesterday, I succeeded. I now have a new fall go-to outfit. No more overthinking what to wear - and it works for casual to dressy depending on your accessories. 

(Disclaimer - I have no actual photos of me wearing said outfit because I was working behind the scenes and never managed to get a photo.)

I paired the dress and leggings (both Old Navy) with black riding boots then accessorized with some awesome Noonday Collection pieces. You could easily dress this outfit up or down by adding a chunky scarf or changing the boots out for cute flats. I'm sure this outfit will become a staple for me this season.