Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Value of "Free" Time



Life can be so fast-paced. Each year I swear goes by quicker than the previous one! Having children and watching them grow up also puts a spotlight on how quickly time goes by.

My family is no different than most other families in the fact that we are busy. Activities and the social lives of growing teens can take up a lot of time. Before you know it, the hours have been sucked away from a day.

I value certain activities. I think sports are great for kids. They get them exercising and focusing more on nutrition. They keep them active and most emphasize or stress working as a team and relying on others. The skills that are gained in sports are very beneficial.

I also value social relationships. Peers are so important to kids. And in the age of texting, I think face-to-face time is really important to remind kids to communicate and verbalize with one another. Relationships are also important for kids to help them form an identity and to bounce things off of each other as they figure out themselves and life.

Church is very important in our family. We desire to be on the mission field and involved in our home church whether that’s giving of our skills, being in bible studies, or in youth group. Our spiritual foundation is the basis for how well we do or don’t deal with the rest of our lives.

I’m also learning just how important I value our free time. Time at home. Time together. Time to putter around, laugh, or even just slowly work through necessary chores together. I love it when we have an afternoon where my oldest daughter can enjoy baking some cookies and my youngest one can write, cut, and create to her heart’s content. 

We can play games together or go shopping for fun together. The key is: together.


When life gets so fast-paced and busy, I tend to feel like I’m in “catch-up” mode all of the time. I can’t be as “in the moment” with my husband or kids as I’d like to be. My presence may be there, but my heart and mind aren’t always rested enough to be. And that’s important to me. It’s important to me for them to know I prioritize them. That I want to listen to what’s going on inside of them and that they aren’t just a “me” but that they are a “we.” We are family. Together.



Dinner time together is great. But free time, when you have hours on end to eat up just the way you’d prefer – those are priceless. Those are the times when you connect emotionally and physically with one another. Those are the times when you can really engage each other and enjoy one another.
 
Some people may feel more valuable by being busy all of the time. They may be in high demand to head up this or that event; but I feel more whole when I’m in sync with my family. I’m more energized and centered as a person when we are all on the same page. That doesn’t get done as often 
when life is rolling along faster than I’d care to go.

For me, our free time together is at a premium. It can’t be bought or sold away. It’s time that we all need together to just be what we were created to be – a family. Learning. Loving. Laughing. And living.

Together.




Monday, April 25, 2011

The Struggles of a "Good Girl"


I’m what people would call a “good girl.” Have been pretty much all of my life. No, I’m not perfect, but I do tend to walk the path that is for polite, good, well-behaved, and obedient people. People pleasers, if you will.

Doing the “right thing” was something that was very important and integral to my life from a very early age. There hasn’t been a lot of “grey” in my world – but a lot of black and white. It’s wrong or it’s right. I tended to always walk on the right.

It’s not been until recently, that God has brought something to my attention. Something that has stunned me and gripped me at the same time. That thing is how I’ve prioritized “being good” and “doing good” in my life instead of simply prioritizing living by faith. That may only click and make sense to other “do-gooders” out there. You see, I never really comprehended just how much being good drove my Christian walk. 


It was unintentional.

I have not struggled with a lot of the worldly temptations that others have faced. But I HAVE struggled with living outside of the box. I’ve struggled with relaxing and allowing the lines to be undefined a little bit instead of having them have to be drawn out in bold black sharpie.

It can be just as hard to accept God’s grace and mercy for who we are in our raw, natural state for a person who is bent on being good…as it is for someone who has a lot to regret in their life. For those who aim to please, it can be hard to drop that striving and simply let ourselves “be.” It can be hard to comprehend (even though we know full well in our heads because we pride ourselves on “knowing” what is right); that God doesn’t value us more or we aren’t more acceptable because we walked a less-blameless path. No, without meaning to or realizing it, we often push ourselves to do more, be more, and make sure a hundred times over that we are walking exactly where He wants us.  We can be a little fanatical about it in a subconscious way. It’s all self-talk, you see.

I love that I don’t have a ton of things to regret in my life, although I do have some. I like that I try to do what’s right and I think that’s what God asks of us. But I don’t like that I have elevated being right and doing right to such a high level. I don’t like that without knowing it, I’ve let that “being good” become so important that it has replaced walking simply on faith.

I know that “works” doesn’t get us to heaven. I know “being good” doesn’t get us to heaven. Yet somehow, along the way, I believed that being good made me more acceptable. It ensured my salvation because I was following God’s commands so very closely! When in reality, the only thing that ensures my salvation is my faith. Believing that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do. Believing HE IS. Believing that He loves and accepts me just as much when I mess up as He did yesterday when I walked upright and blameless.

I have to accept that I am worthy of God’s grace and salvation even when I royally screw up. Even when I fall flat on my face or make a choice that I know isn’t in my best interests. You see, for “do-gooders” it’s easy to accept God’s grace and salvation for we don’t often feel that we messed up too badly – we don’t often feel unworthy. But that’s because we’ve prided ourselves too much on our being good and being well-behaved, and obedient all of the time. None of which truly buys us grace, mercy, or….salvation.

I still want to do what is right. I want to be an example to others. But I also need to understand that although my struggle may be different, it is just as much of a battle in life. Being good is still something that can pull me away from God because it focuses on my actions instead of His.

And here I thought I was getting it right all along…..when in reality, the “I” should have been replaced with Him getting it right in my life through my deep and unwavering faith.

What a profound lesson.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pursuing Holiness

I heard someone recently say that who we are here on earth is just as important as who we will be in heaven. I love that. I believe that. I believe that the character I develop here will somehow be used once I get “there.” That’s why I strive so hard to be more like God each day.

I’m aiming for holiness, here.

In fact, I think God asks that of me.

Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." ~ 1 Peter 1:15-16

Pursue holiness and peace with all men, without which no man shall see the Lord."  (Hebrews 12:14) 

Maybe it’s just me – but I think “pursuing holiness” isn’t always in high demand in the life of a Christian. What I mean is, it doesn’t seem to be a top priority to a lot of us.

It’s very easy to go about our days and live life our way. Then go to church on Sunday or Bible Study on Wednesday, do our “duty” of getting filled with the Lord, leave, and go about what we want again.

It’s so easy to not filter what movies we watch. Because we may think we can handle it and I guess because we think we’re saved – we’re okay. The same is true for books. But we forget about being holy in what we see.

It’s so easy to not filter what we listen to. Pop music is fun and it has a good beat. But we forget to be holy in what we hear.

Easy? God never said the Christian walk would be easy. Yet we are still called to live holy (at least try to.) We are called to be holy in how we speak, in what we think, in how we dress or act – all of it. 


Are we? Are we pursuing holiness when we want to look a little bit sexy showing that cleavage? Are we pursuing holiness when we do everything the rest of the world does?

I’m trying so hard to be intentional about where I’m at in life and where I’m going. Sure, I mess up a lot. I get sucked into watching that movie that everyone is talking about. But you know what? Usually when my instincts (or God) were whispering to me, “You know you shouldn’t…” all along and yet I do….I regret it. Always. It doesn’t feel good inside. I feel dirty. Unholy.

And I hate feeling that way.

Just as someone who has diabetes or high cholesterol can’t eat with abandon the way the rest of the world can – so can Christians not consume the culture like the rest of the world.  We are called to be different. To stand out.

To be holy.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What If This Is It?


What if this is it? “THIS.” This life. This spot you are currently living in. This moment of time. The day in and day out routine. What if “THIS” is it?

What if God never takes you to that other spot? That other job. That other life somewhere – anywhere…other than where you are?

What. If. This. Is all you get?

I have dreams. Wishes. Longings. So do you. Some of us are content where we’re at – some of us ….hungering for something else. Something more.

But there’s always that possibility – that where you are – is where you’ll always be.

Some of us refer to it as “waiting.” When in reality, it could simply be “living.”

We don’t all enjoy where God has us. We don’t all want to stay where we are forever.  But we don’t all get a say.

I think of the Israelities who wandered in the desert for 40 years. 40 years, people! I can only guess that they wondered – “Is THIS it?”

We so often plan for what we’ll do and who we’ll be once we get to THAT point – that destination – that dream in life. We’ll start such and such…then.  We’ll do this and that…once it happens. Waiting. Hoping. Dreaming.

Wasting time.

God doesn’t promise me tomorrow. He gave me today. And whether or not I like where my today is located --- it’s still a gift from Him. And I need to LIVE today. Fully. Abundantly. With all I’ve got. I need to begin such and such….TODAY. I need to do this and that….TODAY. No more waiting. Wishing. Hoping for the perfect situation, location, timing.

It won’t happen.

What IF this is it? What if THIS is all I’m given?  Then I’ve got to seek out what it is that God is showing me here and now. I need to search my heart and His heart for the blessings and opportunities He has in front of me in my “THIS.”

I don’t believe in waiting for another place or time. Oh yes, I still may dream for one. But I don’t believe in wasting the “THIS” that I have in front of me. I believe in being all I am, giving all I’ve got today. HERE. NOW. In my “THIS.”


If God seeks to send me to another “THIS” – fantastic. But if not? Then the “THIS” I’ve got – has to be the “THIS” I somehow grow to love. I’ve got to find the hidden jewels. The unseen beauty. And the riches that only God can give me.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rise and Shine


When I was a young girl I had the opportunity to spend the night at my grandparent’s house a few times. When morning would come, my grandma would always come in to wake me up and she’d say, “cock-a-doodle-do, rise and shine!”

I loved it.

There was something so cheerful about the way she greeted me. Something that made me want to face a fresh new day.

My youngest daughter is NOT a morning person. Sadly, she gets this from me. But it can be a task to get her moving on school mornings. So this year, I dug back into the archives of my mind, and instead of hollering at her to get moving from my room as I tried to also get ready for the day, I started crowing to her. “Cock-a-doodle-do! Rise and shine!” I’d even add something from her childhood. I’d say, “Rise and shine and kick down the glory, glory!” --- an adaptation of a Sunday School song that she mis-sang as a child.

She usually groans.

One morning, I was just about to holler “Cock-a-doodle-do” and I heard her get up. So I refrained.

A little while later she came into my bathroom all clothed for the day, and she looked at me and said, “Why didn’t you try to wake me up this morning?” I explained to her that it was because I heard her get up. Then I looked at her and said, “You kind of missed it didn’t you? It grows on ya!” And she let out a small smile.

You never know what tradition or legacy you will leave to your children. It can be the way you call them in for dinner or the way you wake them up in the morning. It can be the way you snuggle in for a movie, or how you console them after a fight. But oftentimes, it’s the “constant” of those things – the reliability that creates a sense of familiar and security in them. It may start out as something they didn’t quite enjoy, but over time, it becomes something they cling to and hold onto as identity. The ordinary becomes something cherished. Something they will call back on and hold close to their hearts years later when they no longer are able to partake in it day in and day out.

I’m thankful that this little cheerful way of waking up my daughter is something that began as an innocent welcome to me from my grandma, and then travelled down to become something passed down to my own daughter. A legacy. A tradition. Part of our heritage.

Words draped in love.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Learning To Let Go


I think one of THE absolute hardest things for us in life is learning how to let go.

It’s hard for us to let go of relationships. To let go of dreams. To let go of our beauty. Or our youth. It’s hard to let go of injustice done to us.  Hard to let go of our kids once they grow up.

Letting go = hard.

We seem to fight against the very cycle and circle of life. Everything ages. We all will die. Everyone gets hurt and life is unfair to them at times. 

Are we not prepared for these things to happen? Do we feel we will not be complete without them?

Just as changes are bound to happen in our lives – so will we be asked to let something go. I think if we can release our grip, and let God work in us through the sacrifice involved (pride, loneliness, loss of health, image, change of relationship) then we can learn more about ourselves and the kind of people He wants us to be. We can use what we’ve learned as a ministry to help those who follow in our footsteps. Those who haven’t yet had to let go of so many priceless, precious things to their heart.

Letting go can be freeing. It can be painful. But if we choose to let it be a learning and growing experience, we can become so much MORE through those times in life. We can become more than we would’ve originally been without the tears.

Friday, April 15, 2011

13th Birthday Scavenger Hunt


When my oldest daughter turned 13 she had a slumber party with about 8 of her girlfriends. We wanted to make her birthday special and yet try to keep it as low-cost as possible. One thing we decided to do was send the girls on a scavenger hunt. 

We had a twist with our scavenger hunt. It was a VIDEO scavenger hunt. We divided the girls up into 2 teams and sent each one of them with a scavenger list and a video camera. The rules were that they had to get all the items on the list on video and every team member must be in at least 5 of the shots. Each shot had to include at least 2 team members and they had to get permission from the homeowner before recording them on camera.  We also told the girls that they had to stay together at all times and that since these were our neighbors, they had to be respectful, courteous, and remember their manners.

It was a huge hit.  They had so much fun. My daughter’s birthday was close to Christmas so we were able to include some holiday items in the hunt, which made it fun as well.  And when the girls returned, we watched the video. Afterwards my husband threw the video all together and made a DVD of it for them to take home with them. 

Fun – at no cost with great memories.

Below, you will find our list so you can use it if you want to adapt it to fit your son or daughter’s birthday. I think the one advantage the video scavenger hunt has over a regular scavenger hunt (in addition to getting to watch it afterwards and see how the kids acted) is that the homeowner doesn’t have to give anything away. They just need to show it to the camera.  I have to say my favorite segment was seeing a girl show a man how to do the Macarena! I was laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes.

Have fun with it – but remember to have your children be polite and respectable. What a great memory they’ll make.



VIDEO SCAVENGER HUNT



Identify yourself and who you are with
Every Team member must be in at least 5 shots
Unless otherwise stated, each shot should contain at least two team members
Get permission before recording anybody
Entire team MUST stay together at all times
Be courteous and responsible with people and their belongings
No more than 3 shots from any one house

Standing by a Christmas wreath WITH home owner

Christmas cookies or Christmas cookie recipe

A green napkin

13 birthday candles

A can of COKE

A bag of Doritos

Someone in animal or fuzzy slippers

A pet that is NOT a dog or cat

Cartoon Band Aid

Chop Sticks

Flexible/Bendy straw

Get somebody to use YOUR cellphone to call the house phone and ask for the birthday girl

Team members spinning under a street light (bonus if you have a non-team member with you)

A garage door opening

On a slide (with homeowners permission)

With a Disney Princess character

Something red you can hold in one hand

Dribbling a basketball (OUTSIDE)

Somebody saying "Get off my property"
     (NO team members in this shot, and hopefully, you asked them to say it)

High five a child under 10 (they must state their age)

High five someone 10 or over

A piece of Christmas stationary

Tinsel

A team member wearing a BSU hat

A team member wearing a wig

A team member getting perfume sprayed on them

A bar of soap from a hotel

A balloon

One or more people (along with 2 team members) signing "Happy Birthday Kamica"

Bag from mall store

Sticker on team members forhead

Team jumping in the air simultaneously!

Team in someone's car (YES, with their permission)

Someone doing the Macerana

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mis-Marked


Sometimes you just have to get a little mad. You have to say, “Enough!”  If you don’t get mad enough to fight, you’ll get swallowed – by labels that is.

Labels. Those things that show how people define you. They mark whatever label they feel fits you best (or the one they WANT to fit you, because you fit better in their world with that certain label marked upon you.)  I get so fed up with them, don’t you?

I don’t like to be labeled. I’m a free spirit. Yes, I do have certain tendencies and things about me that people can rely on. I feel passionate about certain people and things and those probably won’t change. Yet, I’m also open to life. I’m open to God teaching me new things about myself and others. So I’m constantly evolving….changing, as it were.

I love having the freedom to change my mind. I love feeling something new or deciding that I want to go after something that I ‘once upon a time’ didn’t. Labels don’t often work for me. Unless you want to label me something like “compassionate,” “honest,” “warm”…those labels are things that I could live with and wouldn’t mind being stuck with.  The thing is…I’ve found that when most of us decide to label another person – it’s in a not-so-kind way. We label them as “slackers,” “selfish,” “bitter.”  And they may have only been true in a single moment – yet somehow, we let them grow and become who we believe we are.

Sometimes you need to get mad. You need to stand up, face the world, and say “I will NOT be defined this way!” Then, prove it. If you don’t, those labels will soon say, “For sale” because you will have sold your heart away to what other people believe about you.

I’m not sure why we so easily believe the bad stuff about ourselves. Maybe it’s because deep down, we all know how unworthy we are. But that’s why God’s grace and love are so powerful. None of us is more worthy than another and we are lying to ourselves to pretend that it is. Whether someone is prettier or more talented than we are, doesn’t make them more worthy. It doesn’t mean they have the right to label us whatever they want and then we are stuck with it for life.  We can reach out and remove that label at any time. It’s simply a choice.

I think we forget who we are far too often. We forget how powerful we can be when we simply grab onto God’s strength and say “no, I reject that!”

Oh, how many of us are mis-marked with the wrong labels?

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Critical Spirit

It happens quietly. Like a whisper. We don’t even see it creep into our hearts.

We start to become critical of others.

I’m not sure why. Maybe because of a few situations that happen, or because we feel taken advantage of…for granted. There may be hurts that never quite healed. Regardless of the cause, criticism invades our hearts and our minds.

If we aren’t careful, if it grows – criticism also starts to come out of our mouths.

God recently drew to my attention that I was becoming overly critical of others. I’m so thankful for His prodding on this issue. I do NOT want to become a critical person. I want to be gracious. Forgiving. Merciful. Understanding. Critical is the exact opposite of the kind of person I want to be. Yet there it was – seeping into my world; my heart.

People are so fallible. So flawed. I am. I put my foot in my mouth. Regret actions and attitudes.  Yet my soul is tender. I hate it when I feel others are being critical of me. I try so hard. So who am I to be critical of another? I don’t know their heart. I don’t see their efforts internally. I don’t know how far they’ve come.

Resentment, bitterness, and a cold, aloof heart; those are not traits that I want to take up home and residency in my life. Yet they sneak in when I allow myself to judge others with my critical spirit.

Hey, we all need grace and mercy. We all need forgiveness. We all need a fresh start.

Let’s give each other a break. Soften our hearts, our spirit, and our tongues.

Each one of us could use a prayer, some support, and love instead of condemnation and criticism.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Man of Few Words



I love words.

I love how my daughter  says, “I took a tumble” instead of “I fell down.” I think she loves words too.

Truly though, I love words. I love words that not everyone uses – but everyone knows.

Stunning instead of beautiful. Extraordinary instead of terrific. Crushed instead of simply hurt.

Words create an image and lend a feeling. They say SO much.

Sometimes we are too wordy. We say too much when so little could get the same message across. 

We waste our breath – possibly because we like the sound of our own voice.

The older I get, the more I realize how few words can say so much.

I’m sorry.

I love you.

So much is said with such few words – so much is felt and portrayed.

When God died on the cross He said, “It is finished.” Three words that said something eternal.

I think we are too careless with how we speak. Not just the length and duration in which we speak, but the words we choose to use within that speech, as well.

Silence also speaks. It doesn’t always need to be filled with words.

It sounds so trite – but less truly is more at times. The simpler we make something; in a strange way, the more deeply it can connect. The stronger its message can mean.

Let’s not waste our words. Let’s not waste our breath.

Our words can have a deep impact.

Truly.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Good Mom, Bad Mom


At my daughter’s last Academic Fair, I noticed the differences in all of the class projects. In my daughter’s class for example, they had to do a country and then bring a food or make flags for 24 people. Some people went all out. They had elaborate dishes from their country. My daughter? Well, we cut up some tortilla and slapped it on a plate for her chosen country. I was thinking, “Do they know how busy I’ve been?”

It was a little embarrassing to see how we didn’t quite measure up.

So did that make me a good mom for not stressing about the project, or a bad mom for doing so little?

I observed the same thing as I went from classroom to classroom. Some of the children had so obviously attempted their projects all on their own. They were simple. Small. Not quite beautiful. Others had so obviously gotten help from their parents. Or perhaps it ended up being the parents project in the child’s name. They were well-crafted. Beautiful. Elaborate.

What makes a good mom? A good parent? What are the qualifying factors? Are we a good parent to let our child struggle on their own and look less-than great in front of their peers? Or are we a good parent for diving in and making something that is outright stunning and good for their image? Good for OUR image?

I think that was the main thing for me. Slapping some tortilla on a plate didn’t bother my daughter in the least. She roamed the room and happily snacked on everyone’s treats; never giving her plate a second thought. I, on the other hand, was eyeing everything and comparing it to what I had and had not done for my child.

I HAD been super busy that week. I was very tired. I prioritized. And at the time, I just didn’t feel that investing more time into an elaborate food dish was beneficial to our family in that time frame and in that moment.

It was a good decision.

Still, I felt a little sheepish.

In the long run, I don’t think we can evaluate good or bad parenting on how well a mom does certain things. Just because a mom lets her child run and play in the mud doesn’t make her a bad parent. She possibly is a good parent for not worrying about a mess or intense clean-up time. A good mom may not be the one who makes sure her child only eats organic and all-natural food. For she may neglect to teach her child how to enjoy ALL foods and relax and have fun sometimes. But it doesn’t make her a bad mom, either.

We judge each other – and ourselves – much too often and far too easily.  We judge based on our perceptions of an event and on an image we see reflected when the real judge is often our children.

Do our children feel stressed? Criticized? Like they can never quite measure up? Are they embarrassed? Hurting?

Do they feel joy and laughter? Do they love freely and give generously?  Are they compassionate and forgiving?

I know there will be many more times in life where I will feel like “bad mom.” There will be times where I will feel like I sacrificed sufficiently and dub myself “good mom.” But it doesn’t really matter how I view myself. What matters is how my children view me.

Nobody gets it perfect all of the time. Especially not me.  We’re learning as we go – my kids and I. When all is said and done, I just hope they tell me, “You were a GREAT mom.” That we can laugh at our missteps along the way.

And when I bring up the plate of tortillas at the academic fair? I’m hoping my daughter won’t even remember a thing about it, but will instead remember that I was there.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hit Me With Your Best Shot

When I was young, one of my favorite songs to “rock out” to was Pat Benetar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”  I would belt it out as I drove my red and white Chevy 7-10 around town.  My heart would belt out to the world, “Hit me with your best shot!” It was a challenge. To them. To Satan.

I had the mentality of a typical youth.  I was ready to take on the world.  I believed I could handle anything.  “Fire away.”

It’s funny. That song is still on my I-pod playlist. But there’s a difference now.  I tend to skip it sometimes. I don’t feel it all the time anymore, ya know? I don’t want to issue a challenge to the world and I certainly don’t want to invoke Satan to aim more fiery darts my way than he’s already done!

Am I right in feeling that way? Justified? Maybe.  But, oh what I’d give to go back to the emotional state of that young girl in her pickup truck! The one who believed she could take on the world.

The one who believed.

And there it is.

The scrapes of life have rubbed some of the belief out of us. We’ve lost some of our fight.

Is that what makes us easier victims?

I believe I still have some fight in me. I believe that “if God is for me – who can be against me?”

So it’s time  to sit up and dust off a little bit. Grab some band-aids for those wounds and prepare to get back in the battle.

For there IS a battle going on.  A huge war is waging against us.

But it’s okay. I can confidently belt out “hit me with your best shot” – because I’ve just remembered… I’m on the winning team.

My side wins.

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