Monday, April 26, 2010

Balance, Passion, & Purpose

I'm struggling today with finding time to do it all. You a good friend, mother, wife, memory maker, etc. It seems like life is flying by, and I'm not living it so much as just making it through. We went today and celebrated the life of an amazing friend, Eric Fox. This last statement is definitely NOT something that can be said about Eric. He didn't just live his own life to the fullest, he touched as many lives along the way as possible and encouraged everyone he met to live their lives to the max too. Someone said today at his funeral that he probably touched more lives in his 40 years on this earth than most people do in 80. So very true. I'm a better person for having known him and am blessed to call he and Lori our friends.

So, I guess, nothing like the death of an amazing man to make you think really hard about your own life. Dave and I talked about this some yesterday, and we're both feeling the same about this. Feeling like we're just going through the motions of life and we're so busy yet we aren't accomplishing anything. I know that many people in our similar place in life feel much the same way as we do. So busy with raising the kids, paying the bills, and doing all the day-to-day "stuff" that life entails, that you lose your passion and focus. But when you see someone like Eric who seemed to make an amazing difference in SO many people's lives, you certainly begin to evaluate your own priorities and your own level of passion & purpose. You don't want another day to go by without making a difference too.

How do we do this? How do we live a balanced, prioritized, purposeful, passionate life in our short time here on this earth? That's what I'm contemplating today.

I know one thing that hinders me in this area: over-analyzing too many things. My tendency to be an analyzer often means that my "thought life" slows me down...or just downright stops me right in my tracks. I think the #1 area I over-analyze is the relationships in my life. I'm a quiet person by nature, but around those I really know I can be quite outgoing. To be outgoing in large groups though, wears me out. I like to be social, but I think the over-analyzing of it all is what stresses me out. Yet, I want to be the little social butterfly and be included in everything. And, even though my schedule is busy and the thought of too much socializing wears on me, I still get upset when I'm not getting included in things or the phone's not ringing. Thankfully, I have a few close friends who are great at making me feel loved. I'm just one of those people who wishes I could be friends with everyone and included in everything. I guess I am not good at social boundaries...which is probably why God has kind of handled that for me. He keeps my social calendar to a tolerable level of busyness (as much as I sometimes try to make it busier on my own...and then wonder why I'm over-stressed and worn down...duh). Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of great people in my life that I'd consider to be my "friends." I just too often feel left out of those close inner-circle-friendships. And, unfortunately, Facebook has NOT helped me out in this area. I definitely have to limit how much time I spend online because too much reading of other people's posts can throw my social insecurity into the craziest of a crazy cycle. Not good. So, you get the gist of this one. Desiring those close friendships, but too often feeling like a loner. Dave feels the same way, which is probably why this one area is so often a struggle.

Then the other thing that I know is a big stumbling block for me on the road to balanced/purposeful living is not following through on disciplines that I know would help me. I feel like the Apostle Paul in the book of Romans where he says:

Romans 7:15-20
"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it."

Why does that happen so easily? I hate it when I know what I should be doing, I just choose not to. I always hear Dr. Phil's voice in my head when I get on myself for doing the same things and continuing to NOT get the results I want: "How's that workin' for ya?!". Seriously. You'd think I would have learned better by now.

So what's it going to take? What's it going to take for me to live each day without regrets? Live each day full of the passion and purpose that only God can give. Be the best I can be on each day...and not live with guilt for the things I didn't do as I'd hoped. That's what I want! No more guilt. No more over-analyzing the why's and what if's. No more just wishing for things to be a certain way. I want to be like the one quote I've seen: "I want to be one of those women that when Satan sees my feet hit the floor every morning, he says: Oh No!!" (That's not exactly what the quote says - I had to modify it for sensitive ears.) I want to NOT have the same conversation a year from now that Dave and I had yesterday. No more wishing for balance and purpose and passion. Time to make it happen.

What's it going to take for me? It's going to take the discipline of morning devotions and exercise time. It's going to mean taking EVERY thought captive and filtering it through the truth of Philippians 4:8 (thinking only on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy). It's going to take choosing each day to do my best to glorify God in all I think, say and do. And even the simple truth of counting my many blessings each day, and not allowing the enemy to make me think I'm somehow lacking or missing out on something. Fact's not going to be easy or without effort. But it's going to be unbelievably worth it.

One day at a time. All with the power of God. All with His purpose. Thanks again Eric for setting such an amazing example on how to live your life. You've inspired me to do a better job on how I'm living mine.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Eric Fox Living With ALS, from You Tube

Heaven Welcomed an Amazing Man Yesterday...

I'm sitting here right now, full of tears, thinking of a dear friend who went home to be with the Lord yesterday. If you know Eric, you are probably feeling much the same way. He fought the good fight with ALS, but at age 40 the horrible disease took him up to heaven. The fact that he's now in heaven, no longer in pain and laughing with Jesus is hard to imagine...yet a relief to know it's true. What stinks are the people left here on earth to live the rest of their lives without this amazing man. Particularly his wife and their two children. Their two young children. I think Zach is 13 and Maddie is 7 (or something close to that).

Even though Lori and the kids had plenty of time to know this was coming and to try to prepare themselves for this day, I'm sure the reality of it is just unbearable. I mean, even I was tossing and turning most of the night, trying to process this. Then this morning as soon as I sat in front of the computer and started reading more Facebook posts and the little note that Lori sent to the church prayer chain...the waterworks ensued. For a brief moment, it makes you mad. It's just not fair that things like this should happen to such amazing people. It's not fair that Maddie and Zach should have to have said goodbye to their Dad already, or that Lori is left without a husband. It's just not fair!

Yet, God knows. He knows it's not fair to have horrible things happen to someone you love dearly. He had to watch unthinkable things happen to His one and only Son. I mean, not just Jesus' crucifixion...but all the people who treated Him so horribly during his time here on earth (they mocked Him, spat on Him, plotted to kill Him, etc.). God had to endure it. And then on the cross, when Jesus had taken upon Himself all of our sins...Jesus, the perfect One. Then it was so unbearable, that God the Father had to look away. God Himself. So, yes, God knows.

Last night when I found out (from a Facebook post of a mutual friend) that Eric had died, I immediately went out and told Dave. Of course, he was just as shocked as me. What was so precious was that after I told Dave and then came back to sit in front of the computer, Hannah followed me in here. She came up to me with wet eyes and a gentleness in her voice, and she said, "Mommy, you're going to miss Eric, aren't you? And you might even cry about him being in heaven, won't you?". I was then able to take her in my arms and tell her how wonderful it was for Eric that he was in heaven now. He was no longer in any pain and he was probably running around with Jesus. I told her that we don't have to be sad for Eric. Eric is so lucky to be in heaven right now. But, I told her, we definitely need to pray for Lori and the kids because now they are the ones who are really going to miss Eric. They are going to need our prayers for peace and comfort for a long time to come. After that, Hannah asked a few more questions about heaven and about Eric dying. It was just a precious moment to see her process it all. A couple years ago, Luke had a little friend from school (also named Eric) die of leukemia. We all regularly talk about little Eric up in heaven running around with Jesus. Hannah now has two Eric's that she talks about being in heaven and being able to see someday. They both left an amazing legacy behind here on this earth. Both are greatly missed.

So as all of us who knew Eric continue to process his we all continue to lift Lori and the kids (and the rest of his family) up in prayers...I'm comforted by this picture in my head. I'm picturing Eric in heaven with that amazing smile on his face and his exuberant personality, running around full speed taking in all the sights. Much like I remember Eric only a few short years ago here on this earth. It wasn't any fun the last couple of years to see what ALS took away from him. Oh, but what a joy it is to imagine him in heaven taking it all in with the same zest for life that he used to display here on earth. Heaven got quite the angel yesterday morning. Quite the angel indeed.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Joyful in the Mundane

(This picture was taken by the kids when we all went to DeVos for the Hope College Musical Showcase. The kids thought it was the most boring thing ever...but at least Dave and I sort of got a date night out of it. The "mundane" was made fun to us...and how can you not enjoy our smiles.)

I should be cleaning...but instead I'm in the mood to write. I think it's the cloudy weather. It takes away my ambition and makes me very contemplative all at the same time. It's just amazing what a difference the sun makes! And the "Son" makes.

You know that feeling you get when you first fall in love? That butterflies in your stomach kind of excitement? Well, thankfully I still get that way when I think about my husband. Which I think is pretty awesome after almost 10 years of marriage. But, that's not what this post is about. No, lately I've felt that way about my relationship with the Lord! God has been so alive and real and present in my life lately, that He gives me goosebumps. And, hey, when you think about our God and Who He is and all He's done for us...we should always feel that way about Him! Unfortunately, it's too easy to lose that feeling. So I'm praising His mighty name all the more right now. It's just so incredible to know that the God of the universe, the God who tells the sun when to rise and the Who hung the moon and stars...that SAME God loves me enough to have a personal relationship with me!! Oh, my friends, THAT is amazing.

Here's what I know very clearly about our awesome God right now: when we take the time to have a personal relationship with Him, He overflows into our lives. Into every aspect of our lives. Not just the "big deals" or the "high profile" areas, but the everyday, mundane kinds of spots. I used to think that the Lord of the universe didn't have time to waste on such trivial aspects of my life. I thought that I was supposed to "handle" the small stuff and give Him the big stuff. And then there's the saying that "it's all small stuff." Well, you can imagine how this can set a girl up for some major spiritual issues. But lately, I've found that I don't have the energy for even the small stuff. I've been feeling very burnt out and run down and overwhelmed. Because I didn't have the strength to keep holding everything up on my own, I began to turn even the small stuff in my life over to God. Wow. What a blessing my Abba Father has been to me! He is opening my eyes to His ways and His will so much more. It's pretty amazing what can happen when I give full control over to Him! What about you? Are you just turning to Him with the big stuff and figuring you're supposed to handle everything else? Are you feeling run down, stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed? It's time to realize that God wants it all. He wants every little bit of us. He wants us to want Him exclusively. Passionately. With every ounce of our being. Oh and when we do, the blessings are too many to comprehend!

God is giving me a huge amount of clarity in what my focus should be right now. He's helping me sort out all the extra stuff (that I might have to let go of) and figure out just where my time and energy should be spent. I don't want to waste time on things that God wouldn't have me be doing, do you? The only way to know what He's have us do is to ask Him (sounds too simple, I know). And then (the real key here) is to wait for Him to clearly show you His answer. To be quiet and listen. To let Him speak in your life: through quiet direction, through others, through song, through circumstances, through whatever it is that gets your attention. And, here's the best part...when we ask Him for guidance like this: He always answers! When we ask God to make us more like who He'd have us to be, He ALWAYS answers. Always. Why wouldn't He?! We're asking Him to do in us exactly what He wants us to be doing in the first place! It's like a no-brainer. "Lord, please make me more of who You want me to be. Take away all the things that are displeasing to You, and fill me up with Your fruit." Would God say no to that? No way!

So today, on this gloomy day, I could be dwelling on the things in my life that aren't the way I want them to be. Or, instead, I can choose to focus on what God wants me to. What He'd have me to do with my energy today. Yes, it still includes housework. After all, He's called me to be a mom and housewife. But I can choose to do it joyfully. My desire is to please the Lord in ALL that I do. And today (and most every day for that matter) that includes dishes and cleaning and other not so fun things. But with that also comes some very wonderful things: blessing my children, sharing in life with my wonderful husband, socializing with friends, etc.

Psalm 34:8 ~ (NLT) Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fools!!

OK, so I'm feeling really guilty right now. The kids and I are playing an April Fools' joke on Dave...but he's so excited about what I told him that I can't bear to tell him it was just a joke!! He's a huge MSU fan, so I told him I got registered on a radio station's Final Four give-away. I think he's been thinking about how cool it would be to go ever since I e-mailed him. I'm going to let the kids shout "April Fools!" when he gets home. (Both so they can have the fun of saying it and so I don't have to feel so bad when he gets all bummed.)

The kids enjoyed the one I pulled on them this morning: Jell-O posing as juice. Luke noticed his first and then couldn't contain his laughter as Mikayla sat down at the table in front of her glass. It was pretty hilarious to see all 3 of them react. Is this day "celebrated" in your house? My Mom was always pulling pranks on her friends growing up. And her Mom did too. I guess it's a family tradition.

So this post is less about what God's speaking to me and more about the huge guilt trip I'm on for pulling a joke on Dave. I hate to tell a fib and hurt his feelings! I have a feeling he's not going to find the humor in it quite yet. At least this isn't as bad as the year my Mom called our neighbor and pretended to be a lady from the lottery commission. She pretended that our neighbor had won money...and she was screaming with excitement on the phone! My Mom just hated to have to tell her it was just an April Fools' joke. But I guess she didn't mind too much...that was about 30 years ago and the two of them were just laughing about it on the phone yesterday. Hope Dave gets a kick out of his (at least a little).

I guess my words of encouragement to everyone today is just to lighten up and have fun. Life's too short not to! It seems that recently, many people I know have died. This life is just a's going to be gone way too fast. So try to not get too caught up in the busyness and worries of it all, and make it a point to laugh a little each day. Have fun. Be silly. If you haven't played an April Fool's joke yet today, I encourage you to before the day is done. Even if it's just a little one...laughter is good for the soul.