Thursday, April 16, 2015

My Advice to High School Students

It always amazes me when people say "high school years are the best years of your life." What on earth did they do after they graduated? Life is much better as an adult. But here's my words to high school students because we all gotta be one. 

-High school is just the beginning. It's ok if people don't like you, you don't fit in, or you don't even like yourself. Learn as much as you can. Befriend the new people and the outcasts. Let the teachers help you. Ignore the drama. 

-Take the opportunities that arise. Join that art club. Study a foreign language. Do that internship your senior year. Join the orchestra. Work during the summer. Play sports. You can't do it all but pick a few and stick with them. 

-Don't heed the call of the "cool crowd." They will only take you down. The cool crowd isn't interested in following Jesus. They will take you places you don't want to go and you will leave behind important parts of yourself to be accepted by them. It's not worth it. 

-God's will is happening now. It's easy to think that the mysterious will of God only applies once you're an adult. That's not true. God's will is obeying today. Are you obeying what you know the Bible says today? Then you are doing God's will. You don't have to do weird, mystical things to prove you love God. Just obey. 

-Give grace. You will be surrounded by people who either don't believe like you do or don't believe at all. Let your shine shine and keep your judgments to yourself. Of course stand by your convictions and say it with grace when it's needed. Our Pastor always says that immature Christian go around telling other people their convictions; let them see it in your life. 

-Your body? It's a temple, a tool. Your body isn't for showing off and it doesn't define who you are. Use it; don't abuse it, and don't worship it. (Oh, and put some clothes on it while you're at it.)

-Consider your future wisely. You are hurtling toward it at a speed you can't imagine. College, relationships, interests will all come together and make choices for you if you aren't careful. Find a Christian (I recommend your pastor) who loves you and seek counsel.

-Read. Skip the video games and the internet. Grow your mind; don't waste your time. Do your homework while you're at it too. 

-Love your family. They may not be what you wanted; they may not even be good for you. But love them. You don't have to walk their path to accept that God placed you there in their midst. Respect your parents; encourage your siblings. 

-Work. It's not a bad word. Learning how to work and to love work will benefit your life over and over as you get older. You will get jobs and keep them. You will receive excellent recommendations when it's time to move on. You will accomplish things with your life that laziness would deprive you of. 

-Learn as much as you can. You never know when or how you will use it. What seems unnecessary right now may become a turning point in the future. If someone is willing to teach you a skill, learn it. 

I enjoyed high school but you couldn't pay me enough money to go back. The life ahead of you is much better than what you see now. Use where you are for what you will do later. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

6 Ways I Help My Family Thrive

I recently started a Twitter account for the blog (@delighting_days). I have to admit that I love a love/hate relationship with Twitter like I do with Facebook. But since I'm tweeting for the church I wanted a little more room to play around with whatever it is you're supposed to do on Twitter. I would like to do social media well, both for the blog and for church. But you know what? It's far from being my most important work. 

This family work that happens in our home outside the scope of notice- no likes or favorites or shares- depends on me. Of course my husband is important but I'm the one that's here. I have been given a special charge for loving these people and this home. (Titus 2:3-5, Proverbs 31:27)

How can my family thrive under my care? I don't want them to just "get by." I don't want to only provide the bare necessities for life. I want them to bloom in this home: to develop and grow. I want this place to be more than a hotel would be. Here are a few ways I try to accomplish this. 

1. I must flourish in Jesus myself. If I don't put something in I have nothing to give out. I must have a growing relationship with God myself that I am feeding and developing every day. It is the only way to success. (Joshua 1:8) If I want to show God's love for my family I must know God's love for me. I must live in it. (See Ephesians 3:14-21: I need to be filled with God so that godly things overflow from me.)

2. They must know they are important. I must choose them. Choose them before the television, before friends, before this blog. I want them to know that I love them. I want my husband to know I'm his number one fan. I want my kids to know that they are treasures from God and I delight in them. People don't thrive where they don't think they matter. 

3. They must know they belong. We are all a little weird. I want our home to be a belonging place. Their place. I want to welcome my husband home. I want to make our home a place that reflects him and where he feels comfortable. I want it to be his favorite place. I want to fill it with their projects and loves and interests even if it makes a non-magazine home. I want them to have a spot in our family and to accept one another. 

4. I must have the right attitude, not a "well, I have to do this" attitude. I don't want them to think that I'm always slaving away to care for them. It's work but it's priceless work. Everyone works and we get to choose who we work for and how we do it. I want to work enthusiastically, sacrificially. I choose to put my lifework into this family. I could go get a job but that's not what we want for our family now.  

5. My words and my tone matter. What do I tell these precious people? Do I build up my husband? Do I look him in the eye when he talks? Do I speak life-giving words about him? Do I care enough about my children to correct them properly? To speak kindly? Do I affirm the way God made them? Proverbs 16:23 is a great starting place for this topic. I can't just babble out anything I think. 

6. I need to recognize each member as an individual. We are all different and need different things. I need to meet them where they are and not where I would like for them to be. I don't want any of these men to feel like I'm not proud of how God made them. Or that they need to be someone else. I want them to grow in confidence in who God made them to be and what He wants them to do. Not in what everyone else is doing. 

I want to do everything I can for my family and pray that God does the rest. The fact that so much of it is beyond me does not release me from the responsibility of what's in my grasp. 

How do you help your family thrive? 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Real Life Pretending

When I was little I was always pretending. I was Laura Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie. I was a pirate on a ship at sea. I was fighting off the bad guys that attacked the fort. Always the heroine of course, because who pretends to be the bum on the couch who only plays video games?  No one wants the uninteresting life until they realize how much work an interesting life requires. There are many struggles because the struggles make the story. 

An interesting life involves a lot of learning and sometimes in the least desirable way. An interesting life is uncomfortable. You can't just coast through on what you already know how to do or sit in an easy place emotionally. You will constantly be pushed and pulled out of your comfort zones. You'll carry emotions that you would rather not and you'll learn to keep working while you figure it out instead of putting life on hold until everything is right again. 

Pretending isn't gone once you're an adult. There are bad kinds of pretending. The "pretending I have it all together." No one does. The "pretending I'm in control of my life and what happens." Even you know you're not. Pretending can show up in a bad way that keeps us from being authentic and real and genuine. When we are inauthentic we lose credibility. Instead of someone looking at our lives and seeing the work and the effort and the ache of living they see an unrelatable pretense and it turns them off. We can't teach them anything we should be learning. We can't encourage them where they are. We can't even direct them to other people who can. We have no influence in pretense.

Pretending can be a very good skill to keep cultivating once you are grown. Our words speak life or death into our own lives. What we say becomes part of our reality. That sounds spooky, doesn't it? It works like this: what we say is what we think about. What we think about becomes part of who we are. What do you say to yourself every day? Do you complain about the work your children require? Do you continually sigh that your children will never learn and the effort to teach them might be a waste of time? Do you tell yourself that your life and your work doesn't matter, like you know more than God? If you tell yourself those things you need to try pretending. 

Use pretending to your advantage. If you've never tried this, you're going to write me off as crazy. Don't. Try it for a week and see what happens. And know that the more you do it the better you get and the more it helps you. 

This works for big things that are true even though we don't always see them. And it works for little things that just aren't true even if we believe they are.

Pretend you got enough sleep. (All the mamas laughed!) This means you don't whine about how little you slept. You don't stop and think, "Oh, if only I were sleeping more" or "I can't do that until I'm sleeping more." No, think about what you would do if you were getting enough sleep and then do that. Of course take the practical measures to get more sleep. Grab a nap when the kids are napping. But quit handicapping your thought process. Pretend. 

Pretend that you are a professional writer/artist/musician/whatever you love. How would that change how you approached the work? Would you get up early and write before the kids got up if you were a professional? Would you make time to practice if you were a professional? Would you change how you thought about yourself and your art if you were a professional? You can even take this a step farther in determining how to act. "If I were the best mom that God would have me be, how would I act?" "If I were glorifying God with my words, what would I say here?" It can change your life. 

Pretend that you are doing important work and that lives are depending on you. (Oh wait, you really are!) Pressure isn't always a bad thing. If I'm being operated on, I want my doctor to feel pressure to do his best and do it right. I should feel pressure to lean into God's strength and wisdom to work with this family. I should feel pressure to learn time management so that I can do the things God has called me to do. (Not everything; just God's work for me.)

Pretend that you matter. Because you do. God created you on purpose with a purpose. Don't speak death words about your life not mattering and no one seeing you and how you only have 15 Twitter followers. Don't worry about that. Realize your life is important if you are glorifying God with it. Do your best work. 

What about you? Do you pretend in order to teach yourself truth? 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Survey 2015 Observations

You all were so kind with your open-ended responses! I wanted to sit down and chat about some of the things you told me and asked me. But since that's not possible I do want to answer some of your questions and mention a few things that surprised me. 

Some random observations: 

1. I was surprised at how many men read the blog. I never considered you in my target readership (sorry!). I haven't decided if this will change content or not but I'm leaning toward no.
2. Marriage topics are one of your favorites! Who knew? This is one I don't write about a lot. That will change. 
3. A lot of you don't use social media. Also a surprise. And if you do and don't follow me you'll get a more "inside" glimpse at life from it. Twitter and Instagram- @delighting_days
4. It was also interesting to guess at a few surveys that came from, I think, people I know in real life. Some were obvious (dear husband whose questions I'm not even going to answer since they regarded dinner) and some were just good guesses from the answers as a whole. Yes, I know that ruins the point of an anonymous survey. 
5. You were pretty equally split between people who had only been reading a few months and people who had been reading for several years. 

On to the questions: (the rest I'll answer in separate posts)

Q. When did you discover you could draw and paint so well? 
A. (I told my husband this was going to give me a big head.) I've been drawing and painting since I was little. Most of the things I'm "good at" and enjoy doing I've been doing in some form my whole life. This is one of those skills that gets shelved and then brought back to the table depending on my life season. I think it's one that will have it's time once my children are older. I'm just trying to sharpen my skills a little now. 

Q. Has being such a creative cook always come so easy for you?
A. Background on why I can cook first: my mom has taught me to cook since I was very young. I think that accounts for most of this. Cooking doesn't scare me because I know the basics. That's why I'm comfortable playing around with what I'm doing. I have a general idea of flavors that will taste good together and how to combine different ingredients. But I think if you don't know the basics you can't move beyond that. 

Q. What Bible do you use? 
A. King James Version

Q. Do you like staying in a college town, or would you have rather moved on after Cumberland? 
A. I like the people. I get attached to people and they make the life for me. I do enjoy being able to raise our boys "in the country" but I wouldn't be opposed to living somewhere bigger. Let's face it, there's nothing in Williamsburg. Or at least an hour in any direction.

Q. How do you handle practical, but beautiful modesty on a daily basis? Resources, styles, building a wardrobe as a SAHM, etc. 
A. Thanks for the compliment. Two things to give you a better idea of how I do clothes. It's hard for me to find clothes that fit; I'm too tall for most clothes with the length I'm comfortable with wearing. And I rewear a lot. I have friends and know of people who try not to wear the same thing in a year. That is not me. I find an outfit that works and I wear it to death. And this answer got really long so I'm going to do an entirely separate post on this to answer your question more fully. I'll try to even take some pictures. 

Thanks for participating in the survey and thanks for showing up to read! If you have any other questions or thoughts please share them in the comments or use the Contact Me form. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Our Present Mission Field

It's easy to glamorize anything you aren't doing presently while the work before you seems routine and dull.  We would all like to say we would go as missionaries if God called us. If we were on the mission field we would deal with the uncomfortable, the disruptions, the rude questions, the heat or the cold. We would love the unlovable, open our homes to strangers, preach Jesus in the streets. We would sacrifice sleep and our own desires. We would hold back the rude comments and the complaining. We say we would do those things if we were on the mission field. 

Who says we're not? 

Why isn't this place before us a mission field? Are we supposed to represent Christ any less here? Here in our homes, at our jobs? Here in America or where ever you are? Are we supposed to hold our lives of less worth because we don't have a title? Because we aren't in "full-time Christian service?" Does that make us only part-time Christians? 

I would say that I would calmly love the unlovable but how do I respond to my children when they are acting in unlovely ways? Do I act in a way that represents Christ or a way that satisfies my flesh and keeps me awake at night? 

I say that I would deal with the disruptions and the waiting but how do I act when my my schedule is interrupted or I have to wait at the doctor's office? How do I act when I've gotten my three children out and am then told we'll have to come back another time? Do I represent Christ less in that instance than I would if I were in Asia? 

Do people in other countries need to see Christ more than our neighbors do? 

I'm in no way discounting foreign missions. A good chunk of our monthly income goes to supporting foreign missions. But what's our excuse? Those of us who haven't gone. Are we giving ourselves a blank check that our place doesn't matter? Our testimony doesn't matter? That our families aren't worth the work that strangers would be? 

If it's about the name, give yourself one. Call yourself "resident mother missionary" or whatever you need to to make yourself see the work in light of eternity. 

My work is right here in rural Kentucky. This work with no title, no salary, no temporal compensation is just as important as serving in Africa. Why? Because this is where God has put me. How you are doing your work is much more important than where you are doing it. If you do it the right way God will put you where He wants you to be. 

If you won't love the unlovable in your home, you won't love the unlovable in Argentina. If you won't speak gracious words when people are rude and insulting in Wal-Mart, you won't do it in the market in the Middle East. If you won't give your time to the service of cleaning toilets and grocery shopping and changing diapers with running water, refrigerators, and diaper pails, you won't do it with brown-outs and trips to crowded markets. 

If you can't do it here, where the work and life is filled with conveniences, how can you do it somewhere where it's harder? Don't flatter yourself. You'd still be the same person if you were transported to another country and given the title "missionary." You'd still lose your temper and get frustrated with your kids. You'd still roll your eyes at your husband. You'd still stiffen up at the preaching instead of responding with a soft heart. 

Be it here. Tell yourself that you're a missionary because you are. Represent Christ where you are now and you'll represent Christ wherever you are. 
Do not waste time bothering whether you love your neighbor; act as though you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love them. C.S. Lewis

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Where Motherhood Intersects with Creativity

(This, shockingly, is not going to be a post about being creative with your mothering and how you can draw your children into enjoying the things that you love. All of that is true though and you can find plenty of it through google.)

I have three little boys. -Newsflash in case you haven't been reading here long.-  Little kids require a lot of work. Not overly complicated work but very busy work. It's easy to think sometimes that if I didn't have to wipe noses, change diapers, read books, and buckle shoes so often then I could be more creative or get more work done. What a harsh attitude to have toward my children and to this calling that's been put before me. (And if you have kids God put it before you too!)

 This family is my first work. Outside of my relationship with Jesus these people inside the walls of this house are the most important. They should get my best. Then, as seasons change and time allows, there is room for other things. Time to help others and serve the needy. Time to pursue a passion, sharpen a skill, and use those abilities to help others. Life is certainly not just about "mine" because I realize that God sees all of these as "His" and therefore they matter to me. But when it comes to my attitude toward my little loves and things I love to do, the little loves have to win. (And yes, there is typically time to do both.)

It's a matter of the heart. Our heart shows up in our priorities and how we live. Do I put more effort into planning my social media and blog posts than I do into planning for my boys education? Education about God and preschool work and habit training and skills developing. Do I guard my time to write more than I do my marriage? Do I spend more time squeezing in making art than I spend at the feet of Jesus?  

Do I believe God wants me to write? Yes, I do. Does it really matter if I post on the blog this week? In the light of maintaining consistency, sure. But in the light of eternity probably not if I'm neglecting my first work. When I look at what really matters, I see people. I see my husband and our children. I see our families and friends. I see our church and the people there. I see the people I come across every day. I even see the people who read this blog. That's why I do the work, whatever it is. I want to point others to Jesus, whether it's my husband or it's you. 

The work of the home is little noticed. But it is essential. People need a place. People require food.  I want to do these things well. Our home matters. It influences many more than just the few that live here because it shapes all of us and how we impact others. The laundry, the cleaning, the food prep, the discipline- it's real work that matters even if it doesn't come with a paycheck, promotions, or retirement. 

I'm not just marking time through motherhood until I can do something else. Twiddling my thumbs, sighing, and rolling my eyes as I care for these little people thinking it's all a waste. I'm not running from the hard- and sometimes it is hard. I'm not looking for easier work- calling from God or not, it's still work. This- these little people, the supper table, the nightly prayers with the husband- this is the work that will mark eternity. It will settle into the grain of our marriage and the people our children are becoming. Don't view motherhood as the enemy. It is a battleground, yes, but with ourselves. It is the Potter's wheel where He rubs off our rough areas. It's our learning center, where we learn about God, ourselves, and how to relate to others. Motherhood doesn't keep you from what you want to do. It makes you who you want to be. 

Don't forget!! If you haven't taken the reader survey, hop on over and fill it out please! 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Reader Survey 2015

So I write and jabber here about twice a week (and occasionally more over the years) and you so graciously show up to read it. It's about time I gave you a chance to talk, don't you think?

Please take this ten-question survey so I can better understand you! Thanks bunches! (And no, it's not an April Fool's joke.)

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