Thursday, April 21, 2011

Professional Planner

"I love it when a plan comes together." - The A Team

I agree. I am a planner by nature, a professional planner - unpaid of course. I like to think about the future and start lining things up. I like to plan and then re-plan. I like to think of all the contingencies and then make plans for those. It is how I deal with the stress of the unknown. I plan for any possible outcome.

Let me clarify though before you ask me to plan the next women's tea at church. I like to plan my family's future. I like to plan vacations. I like to think about what I would write or say in a given situation. I do not like to plan meals, find volunteers, or decorate anything. I like the big picture, defining a vision, but I am not in the details. I get lost in the details. I have learned that about myself this year.

I used to think that someday I would maybe go to seminary and possibly work in women's ministries. I can still see me going to seminary. I love going to school and learning. And I can still see me teaching in women's ministries. But after a year of being behind the scenes at my church, I have learned that I am not made to work in women's ministries. I am not made to run any program. My body, mind and heart are not wired for that kind of work. The kind of work that requires attention to detail, lots of relationships and meetings, and follow up emails.

I so love women's ministries. I love being with other women who love God or are just learning about the joy of being in relationship with God. I love women's Bible studies and retreats. And a part of me I think, was trying to figure out a plan for my life that involved me working in an area I love. Working in an area where I saw a need. I was trying to plan.

But what I have seen over the last few months is that God has a plan that does not have to involve me. He is at work in other people's lives, not just my own. He is calling other amazing women to serve Him. He is preparing hearts to take on new tasks, new challenges, new responsibilities apart from me. He does not need me here.

I have been blessed these last few months to be in a few different circles where people were separately seeking God's purpose. God's purpose for our church. God's purpose for our women. And God's purpose in some individual lives as well. Completely separately I have seen God at work in these circles. I don't know how God's plan is going to work out. I think I see glimpses of amazing things ahead. I think I see the threads binding together. But what I know for sure is God has a plan. He is at work. I don't have to rush around trying to make things work out. I don't have to plan for every contingency. I don't have to figure it all out. God has a plan.

I love it when God's plan comes together.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Prayers of a Child

So the whole moving thing is obviously on my mind a lot. And the biggest weight right now is finding a place to live.

We recently told the kids about the move and they took it in stride. We are professional movers after all. They have been down this road before. I did find the first question they asked very telling. "When will we move back?"

We plan on this move being permanent. Not so much a permanent spot in the Bay Area because I have learned to stop saying that, but we really don't think we will be coming back to the Pacific Northwest again. This time we are selling our house. This time we are not saying, "see you in a few years." We really are saying goodbye.

The next thing they wanted to know was where would we live. Middle Man wants a three story house with an elevator. Hockey Boy really wants to be near his old friends from when we lived there 2 years ago. And that is our hope. Not necessarily the three story house but moving back to the same school.

I talked to Hockey Boy the next day about God having a plan for our lives. That God is directing our path and because He is God it will be good. And then I suggested we pray about God helping us find the "right" house. The house that God wants for us even if it is not in our old neighborhood. So we prayed and continue to pray each night before bed.

This would be a great story if it were not for the little voice in the back of my head. The voice that thinks, "Yes, let's get Hockey Boy to pray. God won't break a little boy's heart and move us away from his friends would He?" The voice that would love for God to show up in a very tangible way for my son. Part of this is a desire for my son to learn that God hears our prayers. This is a good lesson for him to learn. So am I manipulating God to have to show up by having Hockey Boy pray? Or am I really trying to turn this into a great spiritual lesson for Hockey Boy?

The great thing about God is that He will show up for Hockey Boy either way. Hockey Boy and God have their own relationship. God is taking care of Hockey Boy often through me but sometimes in spite of me. Hockey Boy is praying to God, sharing his real heart's desire. He is learning to call out to God in a time of need. And I really think he is starting to understand that the house God finds for us really will be the "right" place for us.

As I write this though, I am realizing that I need to learn that lesson. I need to know that God not only hears my prayers but that He really does have a good, kind and loving plan for my life. I need to trust Him like my little 8 year old is, no matter what answer comes.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

It's just...

My husband has started his new job. He will be working from home and traveling to the Bay Area until we can move this summer. So on Monday, he got on a plane and headed off to his new job.

Later in the day we chatted about how things were going. We were texting actually, the modern version of a midday chat. He was happy. I think his exact words were, "Best work day in a long time." And I was happy for him. Really I was.

It's just...

Well it's just...

okay, the truth is a little part of me resented his happiness. A little part of me resented that he had found a job, working with his friends, doing something that he really enjoyed. A little part of me resented that he had work he loved.

I would say that I resented that he was off in the grown up world of business lunches and meetings that actually challenged your mind except I don't really want to go off to work. I like my flannel pants and having time to keep up with Hoda and Kathie Lee on the Today Show. I just wish I was enjoying the job part of my days, the taking care of my kids part.

But honestly when my four year old is telling me he hates me and is going to kick me tomorrow (why tomorrow I will never understand) I am not really enjoying my job. When Middle Man misses the bus again because he can't seem to stay on track when I go off to take a shower, I don't really like my job. And when Hockey Boy falls apart at practice because I put the wrong shirt in his bag, I don't really like my job. And it is not because my kids are being pains in those moments. They are supposed to be difficult. That is their job as kids, at least some of the time. Some of the time they are supposed to assert their desires (demands in Little Ones world). Some of the time they are supposed to lose it because they are kids.

No the part I hate is my response.

My reaction.

My frustration.

My harsh words.

I hate the person I become in those moments.

I find that I am most reactive when I am not engaged in parenting, when I am not intentional about being a mom to my boys. I have been finding myself going through the motions a lot lately. Making the breakfast, doing the laundry, helping with the homework, but part of me is distracted. Distracted by a desire for more, a desire for something of my own. Distracted.

And that is the sad part. I really do want to be engaged. I really do want to be home with my kids. I don't have any desire to go out into the world and get a job. I want this job. I just don't really like all the work involved. I don't like the hard parts. But as I spent the last two years reminding my husband, "that's why they call it work."

So yes, I am happy for my husband. I just wish I felt the same way about my job.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Is it too Early for an Ethics Class?

I was volunteering in Middle Man's classroom today. I love first grade. The kids are still so cute but they actually can have some good discussions and are able to do more on their own. It is a great age.

One of the things I love about volunteering in the classrooms is seeing what my boys are doing in school. Today I sat down next to Middle Man who was working on a special packet of work his teacher had created just for him. The worksheet he was doing involved hypothetical situations and Middle Man was supposed to figure out how he would handle the situation.

Question #1 - Your friend's pet died yesterday. What would you say to him?

My son's response - Nothing. He is not a talker. Nor is he empathetic. When I suggested he write, "I'm sorry" he looked very confused and did not want to write that because then his friend might think it was his fault. I guess "I'm sorry" is the same as saying, "I'm guilty."

Question #3 - A friend has offered to pay you to do his homework for him. What do you say to him?

My son's response - "How much will you pay me?"

I am not sure if I should be proud of his business venture or worried that he may be kicked out of school someday for breaking the honor code.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Trusting God isn't for the Weak

We are moving this summer. Moving back to the Bay Area. And I really, really, really want to move back to the same town and in the same school zone as we lived last time. It would be so much easier for all of us to have friends we already know and who already love us as we are. No making first impressions, which I am horrible at. No trying to figure out who I can put down on my emergency contact sheet. No wondering if it is okay for my kid to go to that boy's birthday party because I don't know their parents. It would just be so much easier and I also believe so right. So right to reconnect and build deeper friendships. So right to be authentic and real and invested.

We found the perfect house within a few days of making the decision to move. Right neighborhood. Right number of rooms. Right price which is incredibly helpful when housing is so incredibly expensive down there. So expensive that I don't usually mention how much we used to pay in rent because people make weird choking noises when they hear. We applied for the house, sight unseen, hoping we could all our ducks in a row right away. We waited, trusting that God would work it all out, and we waited. Finally after a week we heard that the owner decided on other renters. My heart dropped a bit at the news. Tears wanted to flow out of my eyes. I thought it was all going to work out perfectly.

But here is the thing, the thing I know from years of experience. Things will work out perfectly in God's time and God's time is usually about 3 seconds before you absolutely need it. Meaning that since we don't want to move until mid-July, the perfect place will not become available until early July.

I could stress about this. I could worry that we won't find a place. And there are moments when I do. But somewhere along the way, I have really come to understand that God is going to work things out in His time, in His way, and for His glory. And it is always GOOD. He has never let me down. I can trust Him, even when I wish He would hurry up a bit.

So when those thoughts pop up and start to take hold, I remind myself that God is good and His plan is perfect. I remind myself that worry will not change anything, well it will make me crankier and less fun to be around, but it won't find me a house any faster. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." Worry that God will provide goes against my knowledge of God so I will take that worry captive and focus instead on how God has provided in the past and how He will in the future.

And then I pray. I pray for God's guidance. I pray for God's peace. And I pray that God would find my family the perfect place to live, even if it ends up not being in my perfect neighborhood.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Living on the Mountain Top?

I love retreats. I love the time away, away from the distractions of life, away from the chaos of my house, away from the schedule and to do list. I enjoy the rest and reconnection with God. I enjoy sharing those moments with women I love and women who love the Lord. It is a sweet, sweet time.

There are some years when I am at a turning point in my life and the retreat comes at just the right time for me to really grapple with some tough things. I come home changed. But often, as was the case this year, I was not changed. It is hard to write that down because there is an expectation that I would be changed by God at the retreat. One of the retreat leaders even ended the retreat by asking if we were changed and said if we were not we needed to spend some more time in prayer asking God to change us. And I get that. I get that we should be asking God to change us daily. We should be constantly on the sanctification road. But I also resented the idea that I had to feel changed by the end of the retreat.

Retreats are often a mountain top experience. They end with everyone having a spiritual high. And this can be good if it motivates people to spend more time with God once they get home. Giving people of taste of true fellowship with Him and His people is a huge blessing. Spending time on the mountain top can rest our souls and also remind us of how much God loves us and wants to spend every day with us. Mountain tops give us a clearer view of the world below and a better understanding of our place in it. There is a reason people climb mountains.

But we spend most of our lives on the ground. And if we stay too focused on the mountain top, we can get lost when our real lives crash back in on us. We often meet God on the mountain and then accidently leave Him there as we drive home. Cell phones start ringing with news of sick kids. Emails start showing up in our inbox about the PTA carnival and the next women's event at church that needs to be planned. Laundry is piled up and work awaits.

Life is where we need God. It is when we turn to God in our daily lives that we are truly changed. It is when our pressures lead us to prayer, our worries lead us to trust in Him, and our relationships lead us to understand Christ's love for us, that we are truly changed.

I am all for the mountain top experience. This was the most restful and restorative retreat I have been on. I needed that time away. But I brought God with me and I took Him back home with me. The mountain top did not change me. God does every day, in little ways.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

He Still Shows Up

I spent this weekend with some amazing women at our church's women's retreat. It was a sweet time with dear friends and new friends who all love the Lord. It is always a privilege to hear how God is working and speaking in other people's lives and retreats allow the time and quiet to really have those deep conversations with one another. It is also supposed to be a time to reconnect with God. And it was.

On Saturday morning, after our morning meeting together, we were scheduled to take a one hour quiet time. Now normally I would love to sit with God for an hour. But after being up until 2 am the night before laughing and talking with my roommates, I was tired. Tired to the core of my being. I may have been able to pull that off in college, but I am old now. I need my sleep or my body starts to shut down. So I decided to take my quiet time in my bed, with my eyes closed, rationalizing that I would get more out of the rest of the day if I got a little sleep.

I am a rules follower though so I made sure to put some JJ Heller on my iPod. Listening to Christian music while resting my eyes is quiet time right? I say to myself while rolling my eyes to myself.

As I wrote recently, we are relocating (again) to the Bay Area this summer. I can give lots of intellectual reasons why the move makes sense because it does. But then the song Everything is Changing by JJ Heller started playing in my ears and pierced straight to my heart.
Everything is changing all around me
Is this the ending of a dream
I thought I was doing what you wanted
It isn’t as easy as it seemed
Those lyrics matched something my husband had said about all the things I am doing being a distraction from what I (and we) thought God wanted me to be doing. I don't always understand the why's of God's direction. Often I find out later. But I do think that this move will help me refocus on what God has planned for me. I have learned a lot from the times I said yes over the last few years. I found my strengths and my weaknesses. I found what made my heart sing and what distracted me and weighed me down like a heavy blanket. The yeses were good. The things I did these last few years were good but I am realizing that they are not necessarily where God has me, not what He made me to do. I needed to hear the words to this song.

Turns out God will show up even when I only give Him a small part of myself. He will whisper to me what I need to hear. He will use what I have given Him to take me one more step along the journey.

If you want to hear the whole song you can hear it here.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Headphones for Silence

As I was driving around today with all three boys in the minivan, I was accosted by crazy voices as my kids became different Pokemon characters. If it is not high pitched Pokemon conversations, then it is fighting over the armrests or the inevitable "he's touching me" "no I'm not" tattling. My minivan is noisy and the noise seems to echo even louder in that small space.

Amidst all that noise, I have started dreaming of the day when they are teenagers. Teenagers who are wearing headphones and listening to their own music on their own iPods. I can see them all in my rearview mirror in hoodies and big headphones, tapping their knees to different rhythms.

No fighting.

No loud silliness.

No interruptions.

Just silence.

Headphones and iPods might be the price for quiet in my minivan. And while it will limit conversation and connection, it is a price I might be willing to pay.

Maybe when we are not together all day, every day. Maybe when the kids are all in school all day and then at activities all afternoon and evening. Maybe when Little One stops shadowing me wherever we go. Maybe then I will miss the noise. I will miss the conversations.

But right now, I am dreaming of headphones and silence.