Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Are We Having Fun Yet?

I was watching Julia Roberts on Oprah the other day. They were talking about her new movie but also about Julia's kids and family life. Julia mentioned a couple of times how much fun they have as a family. She talked in such loving praise of her husband that you got the sense that she is still totally, completely in love with her man. She loves to sew and made her husband a pair of simple pants along with dresses for her daughter. She sounds like the mom and wife we wall want to be. There was no hints at crankiness, irritability or sleep deprivation.

I love Julia Roberts and was at first really enjoying the interview with Oprah. But then I started to feel guilty. I thought about our day and realized I was not having fun. My day was full of spilled milk (literally), tantrums, rainy grey weather, and a husband who was working late and would not be home until well after the kids were in bed. Now I know that I can rise above my circumstances, that I can be content no matter what life has for me as Paul writes in Philippians 4:12.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

And yet, I am not having fun all time. I am pretty content. I know intellectually and even emotionally that my life is good, that I am really blessed, especially comparatively. But does that mean I am having fun with my kids on a daily basis? Definitely not. I am not the fun mom. I have a friend who makes up the silliest, most fun games for her daughters and their friends when they come over for play dates. They all have so much fun together. When my kids have play dates I might make cookies, but after that I am going to use the distraction of a friend to get some important work (kitchen counters or blog surfing?) done. I am not fun. I don't have an active imagination. I am also incredibly selfish and just want to sit with my coffee and book while the kids play together or alone. Being able to entertain yourself is a good life skill right?

So this is what I need to work on this summer, our Phinneas and Ferb Summer Vacation according to Middle Man. Thankfully he provided the inspiration, now I just have to figure out how to make that work. All while having fun.

And not getting agitated by the paint that might spill.

And the togetherness quotient that might be a bit much for introverted me.

And spending time outside, in the sun, where it is hot and might involve getting dirty.

See I told you I'm no fun.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dreaming Big

I heard a great sermon this morning from Ephesians 3:20-21 which says,
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen

The pastor, who has seen the darkest parts of humanity, talked about the importance of dreaming big because we have a BIG God who as the verse says can do so much more than we would ever think to imagine. We cannot do the pastor said until we have a vision, a goal, a plan but that is based on a great imagination not based as we so often do on our limitations. But that we also have to make sure that our goal, our task is firmly leaning on the wall of Jesus Christ because that is why we are here, to glorify God.

I loved his sermon. It not only challenged me but also encouraged me. As I wrote last week I have been wondering whether this is how I should be using my time and if I really have something to say. I was discouraged for a lot of reasons. But I did not start this blog to just yap at people and fill the internet with nonsense, though I do that at times. I really did start this blog to share what I was learning about who God is and also what it means to be a mom who is trying to grow in my faith, become a better a parent and not lose my mind in the process. I love to read other people's blogs and get so encouraged by what they write about their struggles and what God is doing in their lives. And I felt like I should do the same. I love studying. I love writing. I feel productive and engaged when I sit at my computer. I love to learn new things and if I read something really great I want to pass it on. That is who I am, who God made me to be.

So why do I feel embarrassed to talk about writing a blog? I don't want others to think I see myself as better than I am. That is why I loved what the pastor said today about dreaming big. I often feel like I should not dream big, like it is a pride issue to dream big. I don't want to be seen as thinking I have all the answers or that I think it is my way or the highway. So I struggle with whether I should even share my vision, my big dream, to bring more people into Bible Study. I struggle with thinking I might be able to teach on a topic or develop something to share with other women because by thinking that am I trying to raise myself up? I am sure there are so many more people that can talk on that topic or share something far grander than what I might have to say.

I don't want to stand out in the crowd as the arrogant fool, the hypocrite or the know it all. Because I am NOT! I know that deeply within me that I am damaged goods. But I also know that my damage does not define me or define the work that God can do through me. I don't want to drag people down a road to knowing God better, more deeply because I am perfect in that myself. No, I want to walk down that road of learning more about who God is every day with those around me. I want to be challenged to grow more, read more, serve more, pray more. I want to be able to share what I am learning, struggle with hard concepts with those around me, and celebrate other people's triumphs. I want to be a part of a community that is really trying hard to figure out what it means to be a devoted follower of Christ in our cushy part of the world.

I do have a big dream. A huge dream. And it is this. I want to see the women at my church read through the Bible together next year. I want us to do it together because it is hard to do alone. We need encouragement and accountability. I want to do this because I am doing it with a small group of friends and it is providing context and insights for each of us as we see the WHOLE picture. I want to do this because I want each woman to feel empowered to read God's word and meet Him in it every day. I want to do this because the simple act of doing it will bring such joy to God.

So that is my huge dream. And already I want to discount it and dismiss it. I want to make is smaller or push it off into the distance. But the thing is, that God really can do immeasurably more than we could ever imagine. So why do we continue to limit Him?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thin Skinned

Last week someone said something to me that stung. It was completely unexpected which I think made it hurt more. I think people have the impression of me that I am strong which I guess I am, at times. I can roll with the punches. I have been well trained to take the sarcastic and hidden verbal attacks and let them roll off my back like water off a duck's back. But somedays, I am thin skinned. I am vulnerable. I have grown up enough to know there is a time and place for emotions, so no one saw the tears I shed on the way home that evening but they were shed. I cried which does not happen often. I was so hurt.

And then I was angry and indignant. When telling my story to my husband, I said things like, "Who does she think she is?" "What a *&)#^" I said mean and hateful things. I was ready to cut ties and never interact with this person again. "I don't need this."

And then when I was calmer, I wanted to check in with our mutual acquaintances and get them on my side. I wanted to tell them what happened. I wanted them to boost my ego and assuage the insecurity I felt. I wanted to build up Team Jen.

But then I stopped and tried to think and act like a grown up. Yes, my feelings were hurt by a mean comment. And while I still believe that what she said was completely out of line, I also recognized that it seemed out of character. Though I do not know because I am slowly getting to know this person. But I do think I know her well enough that even if what she was saying in a joking manner was true, that I was becoming a pain in her *&^, I doubt she really wanted to say it out loud. She is normally more controlled than that. And so when I let my grown up self, instead of the 9 year old girl in me that was seriously wounded, I realized that I needed to allow her the grace I would hope others would grant me when I stick my foot in my mouth, which is often. I did not need to align a Team Jen, because we are part of a bigger team working together for a larger, well deserving group.

Sure I could call or email and discuss the situation, but honestly that is not offering grace as much as seeking restitution. Grace requires me to let it go, without any requests or amendments. It requires that I see the other person as valuable, facing her own challenges and maybe I did push her last button that day. We all have those days. I had at least two last week when I was horrified by my behavior.

While I was determined to be a grown up and let the whole thing go, it still does sit in the back of my mind at times. When I knew I might see her the other day, I was a bit anxious and a little sad. When I did see her I was able to be genuinely friendly. There was no big showdown. No great intervention or discussion. Just two grown ups, being grown ups, and moving on.

I just hope I don't end up walking around armored for my protection at every future interaction. I don't want to be that way. I don't want to live life trying to protect myself because in doing so I end up not being fully engaged. I end up wanting to go hide in my cave.

Monday, May 17, 2010

My Cave

Lately I have been joking with my husband about just wanting to go back into my cave. Because we move a lot, by the time anyone trusts me enough to give me any responsibility, we are getting ready to move again. I get to sit back and enjoy the work of others in the church, having free time to read and write and think, and then just as I start to get involved and asked to step up a bit, the moving truck pulls up to the house to take all our earthly positions to our next location.

We are now planting our roots deeper. We have lived in our current town since our eldest was born, but have moved away for short stints during the last seven years. And we have no intentions of moving again. I have learned not to say never because then the moving trucks start circling but we really do want to stay put now that the kids are in school.

While I love getting to know people past the initial friendship dating phase, there is a very real responsibility that comes from being a member of a community. I have always said it takes a village to raise my boys which is so true. My boys lives are touched by amazing teachers, babysitters, friends, Sunday School teachers, coaches and PTA members every day. There lives are richer because people give their time and talents to the community.

It is now time for me to pay the piper as they say. (Actually I'm not sure that is the right saying but I think it works.) It is time for us to start taking on more responsibility. People are getting to know me better and seeing where I have time and talents to share and I have been asked to take on some more responsibility. I have said a heartfelt YES to those things that are a good match, and have tried to help as best I can in those areas that are not my strength but still need people. I do know how to say NO and have been able to avoid being overcommitted. I believe in saying YES early to the job you want to avoid being stuck having to say yes to a job you hate. But once I have said YES to the right things I have no problem saying no to the rest.

Getting more involved can be a huge blessing. You get to know more people, people you might not ordinarily meet. You get a chance to be involved in the planning process and have your voice heard. You get to feel like you are productive and contributing something to the world which is nice after all these years of my kids being my only contribution. But there are also some frustrations that come with participating. There are meetings. People let you down. There is always that negative naysayer in the bunch. You open yourself to criticism and having to decide if it is worth the fight. You have to check yourself and your ego. Are you pushing the "right" agenda or your agenda? Do you really know best?

So while I am happy to participate most of the time, there are days, when I just want to crawl back into my cave. Where there are no expectations, no dissenting voices. Where my time is my own and I am responsible only to myself and my family. And yet that is not really a choice, at least not according to God who made us to live in community, to love one another, encourage one another, carry one another's burdens. No we are called to live in community and not a community made up of likemindedness. No we are community of very different people. Sometimes our only unifying factor is our faith in Jesus Christ. I love what Don Carson writes in his book "Love in the Hard Places."
Christians come together...because they have all been saved by Jesus Christ and owe him an allegiance... They are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus' sake.

I don't have a hard time building community with likeminded friends. People who share my morals or my values on education, parenting and life are easy for me to be with. It is those that share the most core part of who I am that I often struggle with loving and building community. Sometimes I just want to crawl back into my cave and disengage from the hard work of loving one another, encouraging one another, challenging one another to grow better.

Where have I been?

It has been a while since I last blogged. There are a few good excuses I can give:

1) Mothers Day, as I wrote last year, can be hard for me and leaves me a bit emotionally drained. True. Though this year was easier. Not at all emotional, though still not as full of joy as it should be when I have three amazing boys loving on me. Or more importantly, spending time with Daddy so Mommy can do what she loves which is lie in bed with a good book before spending the evening introducing them to the joys of the Sound of Music.

2) I ended up doing two short speaking things last week at church. Nothing big, involving lots of preparation but still draining. I think I am realizing the weight of responsibility for being a teacher. Not sure why I am feeling this now but think it may have something to do with #3.

3) I started out pretty confident with my blog and teaching. I felt like I had a unique voice and perspective to share. But lately I have been wondering if I really do have something worth saying and even if it is worth saying, should I be the one writing. There are so many amazing mommy bloggers out there and also some amazing Christian devotional style blogs. I have a friend who writes amazing posts that really challenge me. I like to be challenged. I like to think beyond myself and my experience. Most of the time. And then every once in a while something hits a little too close to home. And what has hit home this past week is my pride, my thinking I have something worth writing for the whole world to see. I still think somewhere deep inside I am meant to write my thoughts. But I don't know. I also wonder if by posting this I am just cluttering the internet. But then I also wonder if I am meant to write, if only for myself, and that what is holding me back is a lack of confidence, a lack of pride. A real deep understanding of my failings and inabilities.

So I am not sure what to do. But I felt compelled to write. And I hate saying that because there are so many people out there who feel compelled to share THE truth. And I don't want to be one of those loud, discordant voices that shouts about my accomplishments and my knowledge of exactly what God is saying to everyone around me. That has never been my agenda. I just want to share what is going on in my head. I want to share what I am learning. I want to be a part of meaningful conversations around the internet and within my community. I want to challenge and be challenged. But from a place of love and hope and a genuine joy in seeing myself and those around me grow.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


I was reading in the prayer book I am S L O W L Y working my way through about intercession, praying for others. I loved what Andrew Murray wrote in describing intercession as part of faith's training school. He writes,
O what a deep heavenly mystery this is of perseverance prayer. The God who promised, who longs, whose fixed purpose it is to give the blessing, holds it back.

He writes of the prayer of a parent for a child as persevering prayer. Which is both encouraging and frustrating at the same time. I am slowly learning that parenting is a very long process. Just as we get one problem behavior or attitude under control another new more annoying or destructive one takes it place. There is rarely a moment when all is well in our household. And I am also learning that my parenting is not going to work. Even the best parenting on my part is going to fail part of the time. My kids are all very different and I get tired, selfish and lazy at times and don't always (at this moment it feels like I rarely) parent well. But it seems in those moments when I feel most like a failure I actually remember to turn to God in prayer. Prayer for patience. Prayer for wisdom. And even prayers that God would work in my child to change him because I cannot take another minute of his (fill in the blank).

I need to work though on praying for my kids on a more regular basis and not just in moments of distress. Though moments of distress lately have been on a daily basis. That could be though because I am doing it backwards. Trying to parent and then when I fail turning to God. I should probably try turning that equation around and seeing how that goes. Though reading what Murray wrote, I am thinking that my kids will still be a challenge, a work in progress. But then so am I.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Too Many Balls

Yesterday, I was a little stressed from lack of sleep and my husband being on a trip, but all would soon be well because I was almost done with the week and he would be home that night. I was minding my own business in the school work room cutting construction paper for some kindergarten project when I got a text from my husband that our local bank account was overdrawn. I, of course, immediately panicked and then in my mind blamed my husband. He must have taken too much money out without checking the balance first. Brownie points for me.

This account is our local cash account. We use it for the ATM and to deposit checks. It has a very small balance but since it is just cash I have a really good idea what is in it. Or so I thought. It is with the same bank as our credit card. Long story short, when I went to pay our credit card online I kept hitting next like I always do without realizing that this cash account had somehow become linked and yada, yada, yada, our account was overdrawn because of a fee we were assessed when the credit card tried to pull from our local account to pay the balance.

I figure this should be easy to fix since it was a simple error and I had a check to pay the full balance from my other bank account. So I walked into the bank, with all three boys, and started talking to a nice lady who was trying to help figure it out. But somewhere after hearing that the credit card company would not waive any fees and her saying she was going to talk to a manager and call me back later when he got back into the bank, I started to get really agitated. "How dare they treat me this way? How much are they going to try to charge me? I'm going to take my business elsewhere..."

And then I got really defensive. "I'm a good customer. I always pay my bill (and in full). I have the money right here."

I was surprised at how agitated and defensive I got over a mistake I made that at the most was going to cost me some money. And if I was calm and listened to the banker, I would have realized she was trying to help me but that after all the banking problems of late, grace was no longer an automatic. It was going to take some time to solve.

But I didn't have time. My reputation was at stake.

Wait, a minute. My reputation? My integrity? Really. I was taking this all very personally. But to me it was personal. Because for me, a woman who used to be able to balance four different bank accounts and multiple online payments, always reading the fine print and making sure to copy down my confirmation number, I felt like I was failing. I used to pride myself on my ability to juggle and now I had dropped a ball. In my head and heart this was a huge big deal. But in reality, not so much. A mistake that could be fixed. A fee I would have to pay but I have the money to pay it. Then all in our financial world would be well again.

Though maybe I need to consider how many balls I try to juggle at one time.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bound to Disappoint

Do you ever say yes to something feeling pretty confident that you can handle it and then a few minutes or days or weeks later realize you are in way over your head? Not only in over your head but you are bound to disappoint, annoy or agitate someone no matter what you do?

I am feeling that this week for a lot of reasons. I am tired but then I am always tired, heck I am a Mommy. I have a bunch of stuff on my calendar and a few double bookings in there as well. My self control seems to be so frazzled that I am winning the Worst Mommy of the Year awards left and right which is really bad considering it is coming up to Mother's Day weekend.

I really thought I had it together today. I spent a ton of time with Little One, taking him to music time and then playing board games with him for a whole hour. I bought him a new book, read to him at lunch and even let him have a quiet time, which he loves, before putting him down for a nap. And yet it was not enough. Not enough to counter the expletive type afternoon I had where my frazzled self control snapped and ugliness ensued. We, the boys and I since my husband is traveling, eventually pulled it all together and everyone was fed, clean and in bed with kisses and prayers at a decent time.

But that is only my primary job. I am also part of different teams at church and the kids' school, all having some event this week involving trying to find babysitting for meetings, volunteering with a three year old and missing out on some things because said three year old cannot handle being dragged too many places in one week.

I am also a friend trying to schedule play dates and girls' nights out with my crazy schedule which makes me look like I am always busy but really I am not. Seriously I can get together next Thursday afternoon or some Friday evening, but not that Friday evening since my husband works late and I am already using the sitter the next night.

I guess I should really be thankful my husband is out of town this week because it means I can cheat on cooking dinner. I can leave the clean clothes unfolded on his side of the bed another night. And I can watch cheesy, girly shows while typing emails and notes late at night without feeling like I am neglecting him and also hogging the remote.

I am making it sound worse than it is. It is really not that much stuff and it is all manageable, except for the people part. The part where people have expectations of my participation that I may not meet. The part where there are underlying agendas that I don't even know are there but walk right into with my big mouth. The part where someone feels slighted because I am not giving enough of myself to some project or person.

See. I know I will disappoint this week. I don't know what to do about it, or if I should even care. Sometimes I disappoint people because of my very real, bad behavior. My harsh word or quick dismissal. But sometimes, I am going to disappoint people in spite of doing or saying what I really feel God is putting on my heart. For having priorities that are reflective of God's hand in my life but may not be the priorities the people around me have or deem right. For following a God given agenda as best I can, though in doing so will still falter and mess it up at times.

I don't think there is one right decision for every single choice. I doubt there is one right way to communicate a message or manage money or parent a child. The world loves to celebrate our differences, but at the same time, we expect everyone in the church or in our lives to be on the same page. And the reality is we are not. I don't even think we are meant to be.

So I will disappoint some this week. Some of these disappointments are from my poor choices. But some of these disappointments will be the result of my good choices. Doesn't make it less disappointing to the other person but makes it easier to let go a bit for me.