Monday, January 30, 2012

Mid-Life Crisis In Marriage




I’ve seen it happen time and time again. Once a couple hits their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s – something changes. WE change.

We’ve lived some of life. We’ve seen what we’ve gotten out of life and what we still want. Sometimes we grow disillusioned with our spouses and where we are in our life. We look out “there” and see what we think are greener pastures.

It can happen so easily. So quickly. We’ve been with our spouses long enough to know their flaws. To realize how human they are. We see that they aren’t as perfect as we once thought they were. But then, they see the same thing in us.

We start hanging out with the girls (or the guys) and we like the freedom. We like the looks and attention that we might get when we are out and about in town. So then we start looking at our home life. We take things and highlight them in our minds making the problems bigger in our hearts and minds than they otherwise might really be.

We decided we want out. After all, we only have so much life left and ours just isn’t going in the direction we want it to go.

It breaks my heart.

I’ve witnessed this on many levels with many different friends. I see the kids struggle and grapple with a parent’s decision. One that they see is wrong.  And I see a spouse struggle wondering why they weren’t good enough. They feel like a failure and begin to doubt and struggle with everything about themselves.

Our marriages are priceless. They are treasures.  When we invest 10 or 20 years into something, it’s worth fighting for.

When we choose to abandon a spouse, a relationship, a LIFE built together – we choose to abandon part of ourselves. For when we got married, we became “one.”  Part of who we are is forever wrapped up in the other person.

Marriages have lulls. They have times where neither person seems to understand the other or communication seems to just be “off.” But these times are normal. Sometimes even cyclical. You don’t give up on your child when they are going through a rebellious stage or a rough patch, so why would you give up on your spouse?  Yourself?

Nothing out “there” is better than investing, nurturing, and growing what you have at home. Yes, your spouse may have issues. YOU have issues. You can choose to love someone through those issues, or in spite of them, and find something richer, deeper, and more satisfying than any temporary satisfaction you find outside of your marriage.

Stick it out. Hang in there.  Regrets often come more from bailing out on a commitment than they ever come from staying the course.

Your marriage CAN get better.  But not if you sail alone. Don’t give up on it or yourself and you’ll save everyone involved a lot of heartache and grief. For even if you do find something “better” out there? Trust me, some day you’ll discover they too have flaws and humanness that can’t be avoided and you’ll be right back where you started.

The temptation to step out from your home life is a lie. A trap. Don’t fall for it. Or you just might find that you’ve ruined not only the lives of very dear people, but your own as well.

Friday, January 27, 2012

It's a Sign



It seems as if I’m always looking for “signs.” You know, those clear flashing lights that show you what it is that God wants you to do? Those blatant happenings in life that guide you and show you whether to go through door A, door B, or even close door C all together.

Signs.

God gave us the rainbow as a sign.  And I’ve always wanted something that obvious to be revealed to me as I seek out the answers to my deepest questions.

Usually, I sigh. For it seems as if I never get the sign that I’m truly looking for. Maybe that’s because I’m looking for the wrong size of a sign. I’m looking for that distinctly-written-out sign that leaves no room for error or wrong interpretation. I’m looking for that sign that says, “Turn left” or “turn right.” When in reality, the signs God may be leaving me may not be up in the sky or on the corner, but down at my feet.  For I see in retrospect, that many times I may not have seen that blatant “rainbow” in the sky, but there was definitely a trail of signs left at my feet.

A trail.

God often shows us what to do many times and in many ways. He gently whispers. He lovingly prods, He leaves little nibbles of suggestions all around us. And we look away because we expect something big and lavish. We are too focused on what we want to see that we don’t see that He’s left us signs everywhere.

So many times I can look back and see how God has closed doors or opened them – in turn shifting my path and direction as I walked towards a goal or destination. I didn’t even know it. Didn’t even realize that He was guiding me around obstacles, or veering me away from a different outcome. But He was.

Oftentimes, I’ve discovered that the catalyst comes through transitions. Transitions that naturally happen in life. God uses those to channel us towards (or away from) something so that we don’t grow lazy and complacent.

Transitions may be hard and uncomfortable, or they may be exciting – but still they come whether we ask for them or not. They come in a season and at a time when God is ready to move us. 

During that time of confusion, we may ask and seek Him for a sign of what to do and where to go, but He’s already moving and guiding us forward on His agenda.

Yes, I may still hope for that neon flashing sign at times. I may still feel like I need things spelled out for me. But even if I don’t find it, I know that God is still leaving me signs of direction. It’s just that because I may be looking for something bold that I overlook the personal and private sign that He’s left only for me to see.

The next time you are looking to the sky for that big sign……try dropping your head and instead look all around you.  I’m willing to bet there are little trail crumbs that point the way.  For God never leaves us lost.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I Struggle


I struggle.

I struggle with bitterness when someone hurts me over and over again. I struggle with jealousy when someone continually gets the “good” things in life – especially if I feel they don’t deserve them or haven’t worked for them. I’m human.

Sometimes I struggle with pride. And selfishness. I struggle with wanting more attention than maybe I ought to get. 

Sometimes my heart can be ugly. It’s not always pure, kind, and thoughtful. No, sometimes it’s vindictive and vengeful.

I struggle. I struggle to keep my thought life pure. I struggle with not thinking about just “me” all the time.  I struggle with gossip and with whining and complaining.

Yes – these are common struggles in life for me. Not all at once – and not all pull as strongly as the other. But struggles they still are.

I have to constantly evaluate my heart and ask God for forgiveness, humility, and perspective. I have to ask Him to show me how to see with His eyes, love with His heart, and think as He would.

When I can catch a glimpse of what He would see – even if for a brief second, it’s amazing how that impacts me. How it turns my issue around and dumps it upside down. 

I usually beat myself up for my “wayward” moments. Wondering how I could get so lost in letting something so dark take me over for a time. But it happens. All too often.

My deepest desire is to see like Jesus, though. To grow to the point where the ugly emotional struggles don’t get at me so easily. I want to grow immunity.

I want to be like Jesus. And I will keep striving to model His example and to become more like Him so that instead of merely hiding what’s in my heart – I can be proud to live it out in the open.  I won’t have to watch what I say. I won’t have to worry about having to make things “right” for I will never have had them go wrong in the first place.

What will I be like when these goals are truly achieved? Maybe somewhat of the person He’s always seen me to be. That will feel so good. I can’t wait to “touch” that part of me and know that Satan is truly losing his grip on me – forever.

Monday, January 23, 2012

You Can See It In the Eyes





One thing I love about children under the age of 5 is the innocence and sparkle that lives in their eyes.  There is so much that you can tell about a person from their eyes. And a little one hasn’t been tainted by the world yet. They haven’t been betrayed by someone they trusted. They haven’t seen things they wished they hadn’t. They haven’t been disappointed by dreams that didn’t work out or burdened by responsibilities that they wish they didn’t have to bear.

They are untapped.

I can always see it in a child’s eyes when they get to that age where life has entered in a not-so beautiful way. That sparkle, pure joy, and innocence is gone. Forever. And it saddens me to no end. I can always see the pain that has seeped in. The knowledge. The change.

If only we could tap back into that child that lives in each one of us. The child that believed the impossible. Forgave the unforgiveable and loved the unloveable. The child that didn’t care if people watched while they danced or if they said something incorrectly. The child that loved with abandon and trusted with a completely open heart.

That’s how God wants us to come. As a child.

It may be hard to protect our children from letting life seep in and take that innocence and complete happiness out of their eyes – but we can walk with them through it. We can restore it whenever possible with the joy that only God can give us. We can give them confidence in deeper things. Love. Acceptance. And understanding.

And the next time we see a little one – maybe we should take a few extra minutes to look into their eyes and catch a glimpse of their heart.  If we’re lucky, some of their optimism, belief, joy and innocence will rub off onto us…if only for awhile.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Staying On Track


I often ask God to help me know His voice. To help me stay on track and not sway from His direction in my life. You see, I don’t want to get lost in the world.  I know I’m human and I’m not too big in my own britches to think that someday I might make a terribly wrong choice that could mess up everything I’ve worked so hard for in my life.

Integrity and honesty are important to me. My values and morals are something I take seriously. I love my God and I love His commands. Yet the world has a very strong pull. And all it takes is one little concession on my part that will lead to a bigger concession and a bigger one. I have to be intentional and vigilant about the choices and decisions in my life.

In Isaiah 30, verse 21, it says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’

That is my heart’s plea and desire. That God will be ever-present in my heart and life so that I will hear His voice when He speaks to me and tells me which path to walk on. And if I don’t? If I should get on the wrong path? Then with everything in me, my prayer would be that God would direct me back to the right path.

You see, I pray for myself AHEAD OF TIME. I ask God to help me and to hold on to me. For He is faithful and I know that a prayer I say today, He will remember a year from now when I’m struggling or feeling rebellious.

I pray that my ears will hear my God when He speaks. That my heart will feel Him and that my mind will know Him. And may my lips only speak from a soul that is consumed with His love.




*Published June 2011 - DevotionalChristian.com

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Feeling Melancholy


My youngest.  She’s been holding onto her childhood for quite awhile. She’s never been like her big sister who wanted to be an adult at the age of 11. Nope. She loved being a child. Her imaginative play has always astounded my husband and I.

My youngest is one of those children who can’t just play with her Barbies or PetShop toys alone. No, she’d have to get books out to spread all out as bridges or driveways, blocks to build garages, and paper to make trash for them. Her play would usually end up incorporating her whole room and then when it was time to clean up, I’d get a woeful, “But mom! I just got it all set up!” And since it was usually so dang adorable and creative, I’d let her keep it up – resulting in a mass mess for weeks on end.

Thinking about it now just makes me smile. It’s so endearing.



My youngest is the kind who has a name for every stuffed animal (buddy) she owns. She sees one on vacation in a shop, and literally has come to tears at the thought of leaving it and not bringing it home with her.

Endearing.

Near the end of her 6th grade year – she suddenly (and I mean ‘suddenly’) almost overnight – had an explosion of maturity take over her. She started taking showers. On her own. Without me telling her to.  She started wearing lip gloss and bigger earrings. She started wearing trendier clothes and actually wanted to start straightening her hair. This is a girl who would hardly let me brush her hair! I was impressed. Excited.

Then the clincher happened. When all of the above took place, I was on board. It was time. She was starting to pay attention to her looks, and I loved it. But then, she looked at me and said, “I’m thinking of putting my Pet shop and Barbie stuff in the playroom.” Gasp! What? Your beloved girl toys? Yep. She was ready to remove them from her room.

I was shocked.

I was impressed.

Then when the very next day she removed them out into the hall and I came up the stairs to see them all awaiting my attention – I felt like crying.  Again, as I strategically found homes for them (for even though they are out of her room, she was not quite ready to remove them from our home altogether!) I found myself growing more and more emotional.

My baby. My baby was growing up.

Oh how we long for things. We complain about all the toys that scatter about or nearly break our feet as we tread over them. We long for cleaner rooms. At times, we even wish our children could do certain things for themselves. Then when they do, our heart yearns and pines for those childhood years that are gone…..forever.

I did everything I knew how to do to relish, soak in, and enjoy every minute of my kids’ childhood years. And somehow, they still blew by me like a freight train.



I love the ages they are at. I love to shop with them, and start to share jewelry and clothing. I love that they can actually give ME advice on what I’m wearing! But oh – how I miss the times when I could sit and brush or braid their hair, read them a book at bedtime, or have them run to me so excited to see me with their arms stretched open!

Growing up. It has to happen just like everything else in life. And I will be thankful for the years I’ve been given. Every second.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How Much of What We Do Is Motivated By Peer Pressure?




I was thinking this thought one morning…the thought of how much we do in life that is really for us because WE want to do it, and how much we do because we are motivated by what others will think or by what others are doing.

In a nutshell: how much of what we do is from peer pressure?

I remember when I was younger and I thought that peer pressure mainly centered around teens. But I was wrong. Peer pressure exists in all stages and walks of life.  And if you’re ready to raise your hand and say that you don’t personally deal with it in your life…let’s take a closer look.

*How many of us focus on the appearance of our homes in order to maintain a certain “standard” that is pleasing to guests? How many of us don’t have guests over at all because we think our homes aren’t nice or fancy enough?

*How many of us enroll our kids in camps or clubs because “everyone is going” or we are told that in order for them to maintain a certain level of play that they have to invest in this camp or club?

*How many of us shop at certain stores or wear certain brands because that radiates a certain acceptable image in society?

*How many of us rush out to see the latest movie because we know everyone will be talking about it and we don’t want to have to say, “I haven’t seen it?”





Read the rest of my post as I'm "guest posting" over at Leigh Gray's blog today. Read more here!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

10 Things That Make You Uniquely Beautiful


1.     Your smile. No one has a smile quite like yours and it makes your whole face light up and shine.

2.     Your eyes. The eyes are an opening into the heart and soul. So much is said in someone’s eyes. How much they’ve been hurt, the sparkle of joy and happiness; love…. Your eyes speak for you. And what they have to say is a beautiful part of your story.

3.     Your mind. No one can think quite like you do. Those things your mind comes up with – the way you can create a beautiful piece of artwork, or write an encouraging note – or even the way you figure out how to fix something that is broken – that is a gift. Not everyone has it. Not everyone can use his or her mind in the way that you do.

4.     Your touch. Do you pat someone on the back when you hug? Do you rub their arm in support and love? Do your hands help a child up when they’ve fallen? Your touch shows your heart. And it’s a loving, beautiful heart.

5.     Your sense of style. Do you like elegant clothes, or hippie chick? Do you live in jeans or love long skirts?  Your sense of style makes you beautiful, because it’s unique to you. It says a lot about your attitude and outlook on life. It helps you stand out instead of blending in.

6.     Your laugh. One of the most beautiful things on a person is to see joy and happiness in their heart spill out. Whether your laugh is high-pitched, loud, or full of repetitions – it’s  a reflection of all that is good and merry and right.

7.     Your heart. Oh – yes, your heart makes you beautiful. The heart that is sensitive to injustice and cutting remarks. The heart that desires to please or wants to change the world. The heart that can’t stop dreaming, giving, or loving. The heart that has been wounded and hides. It’s the core of who you are.  It’s so tender in there. So authentic. Beautiful.

8.    You are beautiful in your natural state. Hair undone. No makeup on. That is how God created you. Your authentic self is beautiful. Authenticity is ALWAYS beautiful.

9.     Your personality. That sweetness, diligence, tenacity, patient and forgiving heart….that bubbly outlook on life, that inquisitive nature  - those are beautiful. God wants to use those in you – let them flourish.

10. Your flaws. What are those things that you feel like are flaws? Is it your hair color? Freckles?  Short legs? Big feet? Are you going through something right now that has changed you? Maybe cancer treatment that has cost you your hair completely or an accident that’s left a scar? God has scars. On both hands. And to me those hands are beautiful. Just as you are – you are valuable, worthy, and wanted.

You ARE beautiful because you are unique. God made you just the way you are. Go out and be all that you can be today; knowing that there is beauty woven in every fiber of your being.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

You Will Not Steal My Joy!


I can’t tell you how many times lately, that I’ve been in a fairly good mood and then dwelling on something in particular, has made my joy evaporate into thin air. Before I know it, I’m downright bummed and blue.

And I did it to myself. Sort of. Satan started it, whispering his negative, unwelcome thoughts into my head. I just ran with it.

I sat one day at the computer and realized how many hours of joy he had stolen from me. And I had let him. I just sat there and listened to all the “woes” and “why not’s” and “it’s not fair” thoughts that he was gushing into my brain and heart.

My glad far too easily turned into sad. I quickly lost sight of my smile and found a frown with the things that weren’t quite “right” in my day; my world.

I’m so glad I have a rock to stand on. If I had built my home on sinking sand, I’d be in extra double trouble. For I’ve clung to that rock so many times. Every time I turn around to grab onto it, I’m quickly reminded of who I am in Christ. Where I’ve come from, and how blessed I am. How loved. How listened to and valued. Complete contradictory thoughts than the ones that Satan spews into my ears.

Spiritual battles are very real. I’ve lived them. I’ve felt them. I know that we cannot be complacent about having our armor on or being aware of what is going on with us and around us.  Joy is not something that our enemies want us to live out.

We, however, can live joyful lives even in the midst of not-so-perfect situations. We can reject the whispers and times we are tempted to dwell on those things that bring us down or pull us away from what is positive in our lives. We can refuse to allow any time in our lives to be stolen away in this quest of ours where we demand fairness in our “why not” or “it’s not fair” situations.

When things aren’t quite right, we can still tilt our head upward and smile – knowing the One who has it all in His capable hands will walk through every detail with us.

I don’t want to be a victim to Satan’s attacks or his tricks. I don’t want to be an easy target for him to steal joy or happiness from my heart, life, or face. It may be a fight at times, but I’m in it to win it. Are you?

Satan, you will not steal my joy. You will not steal my blessings.

For they are gifts from God.  Gifts I have every intention of keeping.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Responsibility of Raising Children



Raising children is hard. It’s a deep joy, an unending blessing, and a gift…but still hard.

The responsibility and weight that is on my shoulders never strays far from my mind. When something comes up, I have to look at the big picture. I can’t just look at today, or “now.” I can’t just wave away an issue as a “small deal” when I know that in the big scheme of things that “small deal” is not so small at all. It was a beginning. A change.  A win or a loss for their very souls, sometimes.

You can never take the easy way out when you are raising kids.  “Easy” at the time ends up to be heartache later on. “Easy” never wins. Intentional effort, time given, commitment, stamina, staying the course….those win.

Raising children is life changing. Nothing may ever quite humble you the same, like a child. Nothing may ever break your heart the same way a child can break your heart. Nothing may ever give you deeper joy – than your child.

As my children get older, I see the clock ticking away. I see the time and how it was so short. It IS so short. I see how the window is closing in on how I may influence them and mold them. And I see their own personalities, character qualities, and vision developing and taking hold of them. I see just how important and crucial every day is. How the words I use, the thoughts I process, the reactions I give, and the love I lavish on them, is affecting them. They are either stronger or weaker because of my direction and my choices as I’ve parented them.

When you first look down at that little baby, you think you will do anything for them. Then when that first hurdle comes into your life, it’s so tempting to give in and let it go. It’s “nothing” you think. They’ll overcome. They won’t be affected by it. They’ll turn out okay.

Life shows you differently. Not everyone turns out okay. Not everyone escapes unscathed.

No, you have to be intentional. Responsible. Visionary. Loving. Forgiving. Humble. And you have to learn when to let go. When to let go and when to hold on. Maybe one of the toughest lessons of all. When to say ‘yes’ and when to (more importantly) sometimes say ‘no.’

This is the world and the responsibility of a parent. Finding the strength to know how to play it right.   Easy? No, no one ever said parenting was easy. But if you invest your heart and stay the course even when it’s tough….it’s worth every second.

No, you can’t become a parent on a whim. It takes great strength. But out of strength comes beauty.

Always.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Until.....


I had a thought recently about an attitude of mine. I was hoping for some changes to happen in a certain area of my life.  God had been speaking to me about being content in the situation I was in and where I was currently at.

I thought I was content.

I realized, however, that I was telling myself I wouldn’t be content until….such and such happened.

I will be happy right now until that moment in time…

I can hang in there until…..

I’ll love my life/situation until it changes….

Until.

That was wrong of me.  Yes, it’s good to be happy and content and to allow myself to be used by God, “until.” But it’s not enough. God wants ALL of my heart. He wants ALL of my obedience. He wants ALL of my pride. So, I have to be content and happy PAST the until. Because sometimes the  “until” never happens.

I may never reach the point in time where the “until” transforms into the change I’m seeking.

I may have to hang in there not longer – but for forever because there is no “until” there is only “always.”

I may need to make the choice to love my life/situation not “until” it changes but in spite of it NOT changing.

Yes. Sometimes the “until” doesn’t happen. It doesn’t come.

That is true commitment. True faith. True obedience.

We can still hope for a change and pray for a change. But we need to make the choice to be joyful knowing that a change may not come.

If we wait “until” we are limiting ourselves. Never completely submitting all of ourselves because we know we only have to give so much until something better (in our mind) comes along.

That is true sacrifice and humility. And only true joy and happiness will come in the midst of that kind of a heart’s willingness to be the best we can be for God whether or not we ever get our “until’s”…..

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Christmas In Las Vegas


Our family escaped this year. We took off for Christmas and left the icebox that I call Idaho and flew to Las Vegas.



It was my husband’s idea. To go somewhere not too far away – but somewhere where we could be a little bit warmer.


I have never ever gone somewhere for Christmas before and it was such a blast. Our family always has a ball together, but I felt so relaxed! It took some burdens and responsibilities off of my shoulders for the holiday and it was wonderful.

We packed some stockings and a few stuffings, a couple of gifts and we were off. We didn’t go “all out” for Christmas because the trip was a gift in and of itself – plus we knew we’d come home with a few souvenirs of our time there.


We did a ton of walking and a ton of browsing. We laughed. We ate. We took a couple drives. It was so refreshing.



I think we are all going through withdrawals being back home in the bitter cold. But we have to focus on our blessings. And Las Vegas (as strange as it may sound) was a blessing. The sunshine, the palm trees, the gorgeous view from our motel deck, the rest, and exercise – the time away from demands and responsibilities – so wonderful.



Sometimes it just takes a different location and change of scenery to help clear your focus and sift out priorities in your heart. That happened for me. And as I enter 2012, I’m asking God for some BIG answers.



Are you? Go ahead – ask Him. He is a BIG God with a BIG heart. Together, we can seek His guidance and watch expectantly for His love and favor to bless us in ways we couldn’t even fathom.


I’m ready to see His hand move in my life. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Full Of Life



My oldest daughter loves her music. When we get in the car and are going somewhere, usually she will grab the controls of my Ipod. She will play her favorite “rockin’ out” tunes. And she makes me smile. I look over at her and her mouth is singing as wide as it can belt the song out, her head is flippin her red hair back and forth, and she is dancing as much as she possibly can in that seat with her head tilted back taking all the “vibe” of the music in.

How could you not smile watching that? She is so full of life. So full of excitement. She is ready (as most teenagers are) to take on the world.

Do you remember that feeling? The feeling that you could go out and do anything – be anything?  Why do we lose that as we age? Why do we get so jaded by life?

Life is tough. It can deal us some nasty blows along the way. But life is also so full of – LIFE! It has so much adventure in it! If there’s one thing I’ve learned by being around youth it is that they help keep me young. They help me feel youthful even though I keep getting another year older. They have so much to teach us – or maybe just things that we need to relearn!

We are alive for a reason. We are breathing for a reason. Who cares if someone in another car sees us jamming out to our favorite song from the 80’s? Who cares if we attempt to ride a scooter and fall miserably on our behind? Laughter is good for the soul. Teens know that!

A big part of life is about trial and error. Something that our youth are constantly involved in. They are experimenting with who they are, what they like, and what they want out of life. They are vibrant, active, and energetic. I admire them for that and I want to help them embrace that.

If I can rediscover that part of me from years ago – that part of me that had endless dreams, optimism galore, and fun around every corner – if I can do that despite the demands of parental responsibilities, financial obligations, and the problems of life…I think I will have discovered something timeless. I think I will have truly tapped into something special that most people somehow lose as they grow up.

And then, I will know how to live life with my arms wide open – saying “come at me world!  I’m ready to take you on!”

This is real living! And I want to feel full.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Just To See a Smile



Do you know how wonderful it is to see someone smile?

I was reminded of this today when a perfect stranger held open the door for me as I was leaving Target. And she smiled a genuine, friendly smile. It was so wonderful.

I see so many intense faces these days. A smile is like light.

When my children have been battling challenges and trials of their own at school or during sports – when something works right or they are able to overcome – and I see that smile on their face? Oh, how healing and magical it is!

I’ve found that when I’m especially grumpy and something makes me smile; it immediately lightens my heart and my mood. Don’t think so? Try it. Smile. You can’t help but feel it. It doesn’t solve everything and it doesn’t heal everything – but it helps.

Just to see a smile…some days it’s the best thing ever. To see children smiling in pure content and happiness. To see a baby smile for the first time. To see an older couple smile at the memory of something that you know brings dear feelings to their heart. To see a young couple smile in love at one another, or to see a stranger smile as they help out their fellow man. Smiles bring something to the table that is needed. Wanted.

Look around you. Don’t get so busy that you forget to smile. Or you forget to see someone smiling at you.

For it may just transform you.

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