Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Really? So soon?!

Can I just vent for a second? Why is being a responsible adult so...so...full of responsibility?! My quest to be Miss "Planned & Organized" for the start of the New Year is pressing all the anxiety buttons from within. I'm realizing, I guess, just how many areas we have to improve in! Kind of depressing. I thought it's rather interesting how I was so gung-ho about this yesterday, and now the wind has already been knocked out of my sails. Of course, I guess there's nothing wrong with just floating here for a little while.

Hah. That's actually not a bad idea! Just float around in this spot of acknowledgement and stay focused on God until He shows me the next step in the process.

Floating. Now that makes me think about sunshine and swimming pools. At first I smile as I think about being in Florida in March. Just chillin' with the family and enjoying the warm sunshine and relaxing pool. Then I start to get those same anxiety buttons pushed as I remember that we bought a used pool this fall that will require a LOT of work (and more money) to get it up and approved by the Township and ready to use next summer. Ugh. Why does my brain do this to me?!

Have you heard of the book: "Men are Like Waffles Women are Like Spaghetti"? The book description says: "Bill and Pam Farrel explain why a man is like a waffle (each element of his life is in a separate box), and why a woman is like spaghetti (everything in her life touches everything else)." I think that's why my brain jumps from the blissfulness of a family vacation in Florida, to the stressfulness of installing & paying for said installment of our pool. And probably also why I need this blog to spew all the thoughts out and then have the ability to process them clearly.

Hmmm. Waffles. Those sound really good right now...
(See, my brain really is like spaghetti! And, no, I'm not going to eat any...it's past 7PM so the only thing passing my lips is water).

I do feel a bit better after venting. I kind of laugh though at the enemy's attempts to squelch my momentum. I might be floating around a bit right now, but it's not without a purpose. (And, yes, I know it's been less than 24 hours...I just hate losing steam so quickly!) God is just giving me a chance to wait on Him. Goodness knows that's something I'm not always so good at. Funny, though, how I never looked at the wind being knocked out my sails analogy quite the same way before. But then, this is a time in my life where God is giving me LOTS of new perspectives.

Praise the Lord for THAT one! Watch out 2011...HERE I COME!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Purposefully Planning

I'm purposefully taking time this week to prepare for the New Year. The busyness of Christmas has passed (sigh), and the schedule has lots of "down" time in it the next few days. For the first time in quite a while, I'm actually excited about the New Year ahead. Normally, it's a time where I regretfully look back over the last twelve months and all of my un-reached goals. This year was different though.

I read something on a home planning blog that may help explain why 2010 has been a more productive year. This particular organizing dynamo reminded her readers that in order for any home planner to be useful, you need  to take regular time to pray and ask for God's direction in your life. Take regular inventory of what you're doing well, and in what areas you need improvement. Ask God to help you make the best decisions. As parents (or just as "people", for that matter) we can't just "make it through". We have to be purposeful about our actions. Purposeful about our life's goals and priorities. Purposeful about making a difference in the lives of those we interact with. Well, for the first year in a long time, this was one area I was VERY purposeful in.

Maybe it was the fact that our first year of homeschooling last year allowed me to have the time to do this. Or maybe it was that our first year of homeschooling REQUIRED that I do it. There is no way we could have taken the journey into becoming a homeschooling family without regularly turning to God for direction, encouragement, and strength. At least not if we wanted this journey to be a successful one. It may sound funny to those of you who don't homeschool to hear me say that homeschooling has acquired me MORE time. I think before I was a homeschooling Mom I would have thought just the opposite would be true. But it's amazing how much time is opened up on your schedule when you're not tied down to the traditional school's timeline. All that time I used to take getting the kids ready for school, taking them there, picking them up, fulfilling my role as a good parent by being involved with their classes, and attending all the school-related activities...is now put to good use at home. AND (this is maybe the best part), me and the kids get to explore God's Word and His will TOGETHER! Homeschooling has actually de-stressed our family.

So for 2011, I am hoping to take this home planning thing to the next level. I am spending time between now and January 1st to pray over and plan everything from our weekly cleaning schedule and daily to-do lists, to our family menu and memory making moments. I don't want to look back a year from now and see all the ways I could have been better. I want to look back and see all the ways we were purposeful about living. Purposeful living doesn't mean there won't be mistakes or not-so-successful moments. But it does mean that we can live without regrets. Live knowing God is right here with us...even in the mundane.

As I sit here typing this, I'm watching Luke play with one of his new games he got for Christmas. I look at him now and see this remarkable young man. The character traits that I've seen develop in him since we started our homeschooling journey are truly remarkable.  Thank God we had the courage to step out on faith and bring our kids home! God has blessed us beyond our wildest dreams. The ways God is working in my children's lives is astounding!. Breath-taking. I know that one of my goals for 2011 is to be more purposeful about praying specifically for my children. The power of prayer is an awe-inspiring thing. To see the God of the universe touch our lives on such a personal level is humbling. What a shame it is when we don't take time to pray for our children. I hope to make that a much higher priority next year.

I'm excited for the ways God is going to inspire me as I take this time to pray over the New Year. God-directed goals are the only ones I hope to have for 2011. What about you? I hope you have time this week to pray about where God wants to lead your family next year. We can pray for each other to cling closely to God and allow Him to use us to further His kingdom in awe-inspiring ways!

Happy New Year friends!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mary Did You Know - Clay Aiken

Merry Christmas!

Ahhhh...can you hear it? That's the sound of serenity. Christmas vacation has officially started at our house, and I think I'm even more excited than the kids! For the next two weeks, the title of "homeschooling Mom" is not on my wall. Of course, there are others that take its place: Santa's helper, baker, "hostess with the mostess"...you know, things like that.

This time of year is full of extremes. Have you ever noticed that? It seems that no other time of year can make us this blessed, this stressed, this happy, or this sappy. We're all kind of living life on full throttle right now! It's funny how my opinion of the Christmas season has changed since I was a kid. Then I was all about the fun and magical feeling of it all. Now I see all the work that goes into the fun and magic...and I'll admit it stresses me out! Not to mention the togetherness of family. That's not something I really want to discuss at the moment, but I'm sure you would share similar feelings. Oh to find reason to be thankful for all the little blessings even in the midst of chaos. I'm making sure I take extra B-Complex as needed this week. (It's the stress vitamin.)

So, I have to share a fun experience I just had. As part of one of my presents from my parents, I was sent on a mission to find a piece of clothing for them to wrap. Most women may get excited about such a thing - the trying on of new clothes. For me, it's usually an experience I don't enjoy. Well, I knew that this would be a slightly more enjoyable experience than last time, since I am down 20 pounds...but I still wasn't getting my hopes up too high. Turns out it was actually an encouraging endeavor! I liked what I saw in the mirror (comparatively at least) and was also happy with the size I was able to fit into. In fact, I even had a hard time narrowing down my choices! (Gasp!)  It's usually more of choosing the lesser of two evils, if you know what I mean. Of course the enemy quickly pointed out all the things I still dislike about my body (as I was standing there seeing myself from WAY more angles at one time than any woman should EVER have to do)...but I could respond to the enemy's feeble attempts at discouragement and confidently say: "I'm not there yet, but I'm on my way!". It was a little pat on the back experience that I needed to have. How fun that my parents' generosity allowed me to have it!

I want to take this moment to wish each of you (whether there are 5 of you reading this or 50) a very blessed and Merry Christmas! I pray that each of us will make time (notice I didn't say "find" time) these next few days to really appreciate the fullness of what Christmas means to Christians. Without the baby in the manger, there would be no Savior on the cross. This time of year the song that captures the moment for me is always "Mary Did You Know?". Just imagine holding your precious newborn baby boy and knowing that He's going to someday save the world! Gives me goosebumps every time. I'll post it on here so you can hear my favorite version.

Merry Christmas, friends! Enjoy yourselves and all those wonderful treats...but not TOO much. ;-)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Unwrapping...Me?!

As I'm getting ready to start wrapping Christmas presents, I have to share this with you: I'm feeling a bit like a Christmas present myself. I know, I know. I have lots of splaining to do on this one. Check it out:

I'm on an incredible journey right now. Not only am I losing weight (which I've done before to certain degrees), I'm also changing my thought life. In particular: my personal self-talk. God is not only slowly transforming my body, but He's doing a BIG work in my head as well. This is where I'm starting to feel like a Christmas present. Maybe the image should be more of comparing my journey to the layers of an onion (or an avocado, or a rose petal), but for the current time of year a Christmas present just seemed more appropriate. Let me continue...

What is it about opening a present that we all get so excited about? It's finding out the surprise within the wrapping paper. Right? Finding out the unknown (and knowing that most likely you're going to be VERY happy with what you find inside) is very exciting! That's where I feel like I am with God on this health journey right now. I am slowly being introduced to a new me. A me that I've always hoped was in there, but just never could seem to get all the necessary elements to align themselves at the right time to find her!

I am someone that has been overweight (literally) my whole life. Picture my little Hannah but with a chubby face (and chubby everything else, for that matter) and you have what I looked like as a little girl. There has never been a time in my life where I could be considered thin. Never. In fact, even the thinner times of my youth where I look back now and wonder why I thought I was overweight...I was TOLD by others (many within my own family) that I WAS fat. Along with never being thin, I've also never had a healthy self-image. It was learned behavior from my Mom as well as acquired because of how I was treated growing up. Both of these things combined to make one pretty messed up adult! In the past when I've had minor success at weight loss, I've never had much success at overcoming the head stuff. I've always been my own worst enemy. I've always spent the whole weight loss journey telling myself all these lies...and then proceeding to make the lies a reality. But THIS time, things are different. God has lovingly gotten ahold of my head. He's gently pointing out the areas that I need to improve on. He's graciously allowing me one-step-at-a-time victory. This time IS different!

So as I walk through this journey with myself and God, every little victory - both in my body & my head - is cause for excitement. It's God revealing a side of me I've never met before! It feels very much like I'm slowly unwrapping the best Christmas present ever...me!! Shedding the pounds and the emotional baggage is so incredibly freeing. In fact, shedding the emotional baggage is WAY more freeing at this point than the weight is. God is getting some very huge monkeys off my back! He's truly done a 180 transformation in the way I treat myself.

I know that the road ahead to my goal weight is still very long. But as I watch my total weight loss hit 19 pounds (hoping for 6 more down by the end of the year), I can actually start to imagine myself at that goal. There are many small goals between here and there: things like being down to what I weighed when I got married before we go to Florida in March, building up enough physical endurance that I can run the 10K with my husband in May, seeing the 50 pound mark by Memorial Day, fitting into a gorgeous new sleeveless dress (in a MUCH smaller size) for my nephew's wedding next July, etc. Each of these goals is exciting! And scary. And filled with a lot of hard work between now and when they're achieved.

For today, I'm just so thankful for the success of the journey so far. I've had my many bumps in the road so far and know that there are certainly many more ahead. But God is doing a BIG work! And this girl is excited for each new thing He reveals!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Deep Water Faith in the Shallow End

What do you think about the title of today's post?  If you listen to the Casting Crowns song I posted under this, you'll hear that line. It's another one of those songs that is on my MP3 player and I hear it regularly when I'm working out. That line keeps rolling over and over in my mind. The gist of the song seems to be someone who is on fire for God...but only so hot. "Somewhere between the hot and the cold."

When I first think of having deep water faith in the shallow end, I think of someone who is ready. Ready as they'll ever be (until they actually GET into the deep end). But they think they're ready for whatever life has to throw at them. They're in the shallow end only because they just don't want to be anywhere else right now. But they're ready for the deep end. Or so they think.

But I don't think this is really what the song is getting at

I was reading in the book of John today and I was struck by just how often Jesus was scoffed at. For the most part, it seems that people walking the same ground as Jesus were more apt to think He was a crazy lunatic, than to believe He was the Messiah. Normally, when I think of all the stories of Jesus' life, and how I would have behaved if I were there, I always pictured myself as one of His followers. I mean, knowing what we know now, how could that not be the case...right? Well, today I was struck by the opposite. I was thinking what I would think now if someone were to walk next to me, and say the kinds of things that Jesus said to them. I'd think he was crazy! How in the world could I have had Jesus as my next door neighbor, known His parents and His siblings, watched Him grow up, and yet believed a word He was saying when He started talking about being the "Son of God". I am sure that even to walk beside Jesus, it took some deep water faith to truly believe.

THAT'S the kind of deep water faith I think the song is talking about.

I think it's talking about someone who is so passionate about their faith that nothing they experience on this earth is going to dampen it. They have full-on faith. They are sold out to the Savior. When you look at their life, it doesn't mean it's all a cake walk. But no matter what life throws at them, their faith does not waiver.

There's also the whole idea of having deep water faith out of necessity. You know like...being thrown in before you're really ready but you VERY quickly acquire the faith you need. Kind of like arriving in the deep end of a pool without willingly putting yourself there. Or, you put yourself there willingly...and then the waves come.

Kind of like this:  I was at Michigan's Adventure several years ago and, even though I'm not a very strong swimmer I thought, "I can handle the wave pool. It's not so bad." Mind you, the waves were turned off at this point.  Also a key to this story: I was in the pool with a friend who was a trained lifeguard. And he knew I wasn't the best swimmer. But he let me do this anyway. What a friend, huh? Anyway, I was swimming in the deepest end of the wave pool with the waves turned off (i.e. calm water) and I was thinking I was actually doing pretty good. (Well, duh!) I thought, "Hey, this isn't so bad! I am a better swimmer than I thought!" And then they turned on the waves. Ruh!-roh Raggy! This girl went from "I'm OK" to "HELP ME!" instantaneously. And my lifeguard friend was of NO use to me at that point. He actually told me to let go of him when I tried to use him as my life preserver. So, I frantically got myself to the side of the pool and started to climb up the ladder. The lifeguard on duty told me, "Sorry, you have to exit in the shallow end." Uh, not if you don't want me to drown I don't!

That was the last time I was ever in a wave pool.

Did I learn something about deep water that day? I learned that I was an OK deep water swimmer, as long as I was on calm water. Me in deep water and waves? Not so much.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to be caught in the middle when it comes to my faith! I don't want to be flapping my arms in the deep end of life! I want to be fully prepared AND fully willing. I pray we can acquire a deep water faith without having to spend too much time in the wavy deep end. But I also know that when life throws us there, we can count it pure joy.

James 1:2-4 ~ Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

"How close can I get, Lord, to my surrender, without losing all control?
Fearless warriors in a picket fence.
Reckless abandon wrapped in common sense.
Deep water faith in the shallow end.
And we are caught in the middle.
With eyes wide open to the differences: the God we want and the God who is, but will we trade our dreams for His...or are we caught in the middle?"

Let's not get caught in the middle, friends. Oh, and I promise I'll throw you a life preserver if I see you flailing around in the waves.

Somewhere in the middle - Casting Crowns

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fresh Snow!

The first snow. That's what we're enjoying today. And enjoying is really what it is. There's something quite special about that first snowfall, isn't there? The kids couldn't wait to go outside for recess all bundled up in their winter weather gear. By the time they came inside, there was barely any spot of snow in the backyard that didn't have a footprint in it. They were enjoying every snowflake that fell on their noses and melted on their snow pants.

Fresh snow is just one of the many special gifts from heaven. Each flake is unique. It's as if God is having art class and sending His creations down for us to enjoy.

Fresh snow does everything from put you in the Christmas spirit to remind you of the joy of a clean slate. We get one of those every day, you know. But I think it's all too easy to forget it.

Lamentations 3:22-23 ~ "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."

His mercies are new every morning. A clean slate He offers us...every single day. Isn't that refreshing?!

Today as I enjoy this first snowfall, I am treasuring God's mercies. Lavishing in His grace. Loving this new day. Clean slate. It's not that yesterday had anything wrong with it, mind you. There's just something really refreshing about a clean slate.

May we each take this opportunity to let go of all of yesterday's disappointments, failures, and regrets. Grab ahold of this fresh start today. Enjoy the beauty of God's creation. Oh, and go ahead and play in the snow today. Show God how much you appreciate this day.

Blessings friends...