Saturday, November 14, 2015

My New Location

Hey, hey friends!

My blog has moved! I finally bit the bullet and bought my own domain and from now on you can find me there.

Occasionally I'm a little more sentimental than I think and this is one of those time. I'm going to miss this old blogger platform; I've used it for almost five years. But there comes a time when you have to move on.

I hope you'll join me at my new space- same topics, same focus, different website.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Pick Your Place

Pick your place. 

I heard that somewhere recently- probably on a podcast- and it stuck in my mind like a fencepost. I think we need those markers for important issues so we can revisit them occasionally. 

I don't mean pick the place where you want to be. I don't mean pick your place like you pick your flavor of popsicle at VBS. (Never mind- they gave you a flavor and you didn't whine. If you were lucky, someone would want to trade for your lime or watermelon.)

I mean pick YOUR place. Pick that place where you are now. 

Of course this is assuming that you are trying to follow God's will for your life. And I assume that most of you are because otherwise I would become obnoxious quickly. 

Pick it. Change your mindset from "I'm stuck here" to "I choose here." And before you tell me "I can't do that; it's not that simple" see me over here nodding my head saying, "Yes. You can do this." 

Do you see the difference that choice can make? Pick your place in your marriage. Pick your place in raising your kids, in your work, in your ministries. Stop fantasizing about where you would like to be and invest in where you are. Do the work in front of you instead of wishing for something different. 

If this is where God wants you, get on board. It's never wise to think we know better than God- that our ideas are better, our plans more established (Isaiah. 55:8-9). We are much better off to get on board with God even if we don't like where His train is going or what car we have to ride in or that there's smoke blowing in our face.

The other night I stood in the kitchen holding a three-year-old who had gotten out of bed to go to the bathroom. He was waiting on my husband to finish some work (some of that IT stuff is time sensitive) so he could show his daddy his pumpkin. Hamburgers were waiting on the counter because my husband and I were going to eat a late dinner/watch a show before he had to work with a consultant. And I realized there was no greater work. There was no greater ministry than right there in my kitchen with the laundry waiting in the washer and dirty pans on the stove and the child that's supposed to be sleeping. 

That can be harder to remember when you're driving down the interstate and someone asks "What's people doing?" about every single car you pass and you answer "They are driving down the interstate too" 52,00 times before you drive the 20 miles to Aldi. Or when you break up the repeated fights, clean up the potty accidents, and roll out of bed to get the crying baby. 

Pick your place. If you can remember that the crying baby, the questioning three-year-old, and the can-I-only-use-scissors-and-nothing-else kindergartener are your place, your ministry, your work, it's easier to do it well. Not perfectly, of course, but well. It fixes a lot of the heart problems that we can carry around that make us act like crazy people. It cuts off the eye rolls and the sighing and the complaining. It brings joy to the midst of the chaos. 

It's not your only work. No one is only a mother. You're a woman. Maybe a wife. You might be an employee, a writer, a musician, a doctor. Your questioning three-year-old may be an annoying co-worker or the group project in the class you didn't want to take anyway. 

Pick your place. If that's where God wants you, you don't want to move. No matter how nice you envision another place being. No matter what dreams you hold in your heart. 

No where is better for you than where you are. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Episode 15: The Pursuit of Purity

Purity isn't just for singles. Of course that's mostly how we hear it addressed and then it's dropped as if it becomes a non-issue once you say those vows. That's not true and Phylicia and I are talking about pursuing purity on this week's podcast episode. 

Pursuing purity doesn't look much different once you're married than it did when you were single. There are different struggles but the approach is the same. Tackle the mind and the heart. Purity begins in the mind: how we think influences how we act. 

Practical tips from this episode: 
1. Guard what you put in your head. 
Develop guidelines but remember that standards alone lead to pride. You're after the right heart. 

2. Don't look for the admiration or attention of men (or other men if you're married). 
"There's a difference between being attractive and dressing to attract."  There's also a difference between being friendly and being flirtatious. 

3. Don't wait for a man to satisfy your need for admiration or love. 
You have value in Christ.

4. Don't base your worth on your sexuality. 
You are more than your appearance. 

Purity is always a heart issue. 

Subscribe in iTunes and leave us a rating and review. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Why We Shouldn't Believe Ourselves at 3 AM

"Yikes! I really need to clean that showerhead." 

"I should eat more veggies." 

"What's a better quiet time plan for my five year old?" 

"I should exercise more than doing yoga once a week." 

"Would we ever adopt?" "Should we really start each morning with old Mickey Mouse cartoons and pancakes?" "I need to finish that newsletter subscription resource." "I need to make that phone call." "Do I read enough to the boys?" "What difference can I make?" "Did I switch that last load of laundry to the dryer?" "I should be more patient." 

These thoughts can crowd through my mind in a four second span of time. And I can go from one simple observation of "there's a cobweb in that corner" to "I'm the world's worst fill-in-the-blank" in a five-step process. 

Ever noticed this is especially easy at night? I don't know about you but when I'm up feeding the baby or putting a child back in bed if I'm not careful my mind drifts. I go from seeing that pile of unfolded laundry I left on the way to bed to realizing that I need to redo my whole schedule to contain my superwoman efforts. The problem is I'm no superwoman. 

Between the things I need to start doing and the things I need to do better is a tiny road that leads straight to exhaustion and discouragement. I start there in my mind and gallop ahead with my heart. This is not the best use of my mind. 

The Bible encourages us to love God with all our minds- not just our hearts or our souls, but with our minds as well. Mark 12:30 states: "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment." God cares about we do with our minds. He also gives us guidelines for what to think. Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. (Tell me you didn't have a teacher that told you that!) God bought us with salvation and has the right to all of us- including our minds. 

So what can we do when we realize we are staring at defeat because of one dirty showerhead? 

We take our thoughts captive. We are in charge of them; we aren't at their mercy. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;" 

"Every thought to the obedience of Christ." 

Instead of dwelling on the questions or the list of "shoulds" (although we should definitely pray about both) let's replace that with God's truth. When I start to feel like a failure for not exercising enough or being the world's best mom or always having all the laundry clean and folded and put away, I should instead remember the truth about God. 

-God loves me. John 3:16 
-God is working in my life right now. Philippians 1:6
-God has all the wisdom I need. James 1:5
-God is gracious and longsuffering. Psalm 103:8
-God gives peace. Philippians 4:6-7
-God establishes boundaries for my protection. Proverbs 8:32
-God uses the hard things to draw me to Him. Psalm 119:67
-God's Word shows me the path to follow. Psalm 119: 105

When I start reflecting on the truth I realize it's not all about me. In eternity it will not matter if there's a pile of unfolded towels on my couch when I go to bed. There is certainly no need to be the "world's best" at anything as that could only exalt me and not Christ. So often my heart craves validation instead of desiring to exalt Him with my life. 

Now you know me. I'm not suggesting that we don't do the work. We need to take care of our families and clean those showerheads and ask the hard questions. We need to fold the laundry and exercise. But we shouldn't beat ourselves up over the fact that we can't finish all the work every day. It's never ending. 

Who actually fixes all the things they realize are wrong with them at 3 in the morning? Let's remember who God is instead. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Forming Worldviews as a Christian: A Manifesto of Sorts

I miss the boat most of the time when it comes to current events. I know they are happening but I don't share about them here because by the time I've found a position and a good way to share it the internet has moved on to the next topic. 

Trending topics on Facebook don't tell you much. I don't even believe what I read on most news sources anymore so I like to read widely and discuss the events with a few close friends before I start talking about where I stand. 

If people are listening to my words (and someone is listening to you too) then it's worth the time and effort to be deliberate with what I say. I always want to clarify if I'm sharing my own opinion or the truth of the Bible as well. There's a big difference between "God says" and "Lisa thinks." 

Christianity must engage with culture. I don't get a pass because I want to be careful. That's only admirable as far as it doesn't take me out of the game. We must stand for what we believe. But the way we do it matters. 

As I thought through my process I realized that I have a manifesto of sorts about how I form worldviews and opinions and express those to people who don't agree with me. 

-I try to think long and write slow so that I can carefully craft what I'm saying. This is actually just in line with my personality. I'd rather you sent me an email so that I had time to think about a response rather than have to answer you on the spot. It's not that I don't want to talk to you; I just want to think about what I'm saying. 

-I try to look at the ramifications of the situation instead of just the one part that is black and white. That's like saying that abortion is wrong and never attempting to assist in the situations that lead to women choosing abortions. Of course it's wrong, but what are you doing to help? I don't want to just point out problems and never the solutions. 

-I try to present my viewpoint with intelligence and compassion to foster conversation and relationships with people disagree. There is never a place for name-calling. I don't need to have a superiority complex even if I'm standing on the truth of the Bible. It does not help the Christian position if we fly off with hot words- calling people names and never listening to what others are saying. 

-I want to always be able to admit that I'm wrong, that I changed my mind, that I don't know the answer, or that I'm not sure where I stand yet. Some things are hard to work through. They are multi-faceted and the answer might not be readily apparent. I do not have to have all the answers, even for myself. 

-I want to ask the hard questions. That's the only way to make progress even though it's uncomfortable. It's easy to just keep repeating the easy stuff and never delve into the issues that the lost want to discuss. Why should they be more intellectually sound than we are? 

-I want to stand my ground. Once I have a Bible-based opinion, I want to stand on it (again compassionately and intelligently) regardless of disagreement. 

-I want to avoid calling others names or presenting myself as an expert. Everyone can teach me something. 

-I want to recognize that we are each the product of our environments and education (and I don't just mean formal education) and that we are works-in-progress. As stated above, we should be able to change our minds and grow. We should disagree with some of our positions from five years ago (without compromising Biblical truth obviously). 

-I want to be able to disagree well. I will disagree with people I respect and that's ok. There are friends that I don't always agree with but I like their input. They always bring up something I hadn't considered before and push me to back up my position with something besides feelings. To not talk to them would be a loss to myself and my credibility. 

Some things I make myself write about and hit publish even though I feel like I could write another 1,000 words about the topic. I have to give you enough credit to believe that you understand where I'm coming from, especially if you've been reading here for a while. I'm always open for polite dialogue on post topics. I want you to be heard. 

Some things aren't for the internet, at least for me. There are many topics that I think are better suited for a face-to-face conversation where body language and tone come into play. It's a lot easier to speak the truth in love over coffee with someone you care about than it is to accurately represent your whole heart in text on a screen. 

What I don't want to do is just blather on all the time, foaming at the mouth about what the world's coming to. We Christians ruin our credibility when we leave our intelligence behind in considering and presenting our positions. Sometimes I'm not sure that our beliefs are as offensive as they seem. I think it's us. I think it's the careless way we wave the name of God over positions that we can't back from the Bible or if we can, we don't do in a way that represents the heart of Christ as well. 

We should challenge ourselves to a little more than that. After all, are we here to win the lost or are we trying to pick fights? We can't do both. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Uniquely Woman Episode 14: Schedules and Motherhood

This week Phylicia and I chat about scheduling life as mothers. We're both Type A women and we like our lists and plans and schedules. Those are harder to maintain once your home starts filling up with little people who cry and have accidents and love to snuggle.  But as I said on the podcast, "You can accomplish a lot even when you're home with small children." 

1. Give yourself grace. Everyone's story is different so your life as a mom may not look anything like another mom's life. You are adjusting to having a brand new person in your family and it takes a while to find your sweet spot. 

2. Embrace rhythms. Time-bound schedules don't work as well for getting through your typical day with kids. Put the most important- not the most impressive- things on your to-do list. 

3. Manage your expectations. Leave a cushion and set realistic goals. You can shower and do the laundry and a multitude of other things but it might not be at the time you want to do them. "You'll schedule what's important for you and your family." - Phylicia 

Also- we discuss the benefits of babywearing and possible (humorous) options for renaming the podcast.

Subscribe in iTunes and leave us a rating and review! 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

When Motherhood Isn't All You Hoped

"And just like that- he's one." 

That's what I posted on my personal facebook last Saturday. My baby turned one and this time it really was "just like that." It seemed like I turned away and that first year had just disappeared, faded between night feedings and chasing two older kids. 

I love the baby stage. I love a tiny newborn, although I'm more than happy to get out of that newly postpartum stage myself. I love a baby to cradle in my arms and wear in wraps and that starts sitting up and then crawling. I love it when he starts to grin at me when I walk into the room and the way he crinkles his nose when he smiles and tries to climb up my leg if I've been gone for a while (or if it hasn't been that long- getting snacks takes a long time in baby time). 

With this third child I even enjoyed night feedings because it was the one time I could be still and just enjoy the baby without needing to care for older children. I could stroke his head and let him snuggle against me and sleep. I had finally hit a stride nursing and wasn't as freaked out by every little thing that happened with him. It wasn't all new and that was much more comfortable. 

But it's not always "just like that." I've had other children and each experience with each child is different. Your perspective as a mom is different because you grow and change as you progress in your mothering journey. My first child was not "just like that." Looking back from here it seems like it went quickly but it didn't then. As much as I loved my baby I was overwhelmed with his care and adjusting to motherhood. 

I've also talked to other ladies. It wasn't "just like that" for a lot of them. They dealt with health issues themselves, a baby with an unexpected diagnosis, family situations, postpartum depression. As much as they desired that beautiful first year with their newborn it didn't happen. I have friends who haven't been able to have babies. I have friends who have lost babies. I have friends who have walked the darkest valleys with their kids.

It can feel like a betrayal of motherhood to admit that it's not always positive or good or easy. 

Society portrays the beautiful pictures you see on commercials for diapers and baby cream. A well-rested mother with beautiful hair is smiling at her sleeping baby who hasn't been up all night crying or nursing or spitting up.  Or society presents children as a drag, a burden that holds you back in life, and in light of that you don't feel comfortable presenting the problems lest you perpetuate that belief. 

There must be middle ground. We love being mothers. Motherhood is important. But negative emotions abound in motherhood. I talked to another mom at the library and we agreed that no matter how much you treasure your kids there are unenjoyable parts. There's a great saying- and excuse my language- "Everything sucks sometimes." It's true. Regardless of how great it is and how much you wanted it, motherhood sucks sometimes.  Sometimes we are sleep-deprived with a newborn and nothing runs well through that filter. Sometimes we are mourning the loss of our pre-baby body with no stretch marks or scars or saggy skin. Sometimes we feel the loss of our spontaneity and our freedom to run to Waffle House at midnight. 

Sometimes it's the deepest things that wear us down. Motherhood can be agony. If you've ever watched your child cling to life in the hospital you know that. In your innermost heart you've wondered if life wouldn't have been better/easier/happier if you had never had that child. You wonder how you can live if the worst does happen and your arms are empty. That's agony. It's agony to watch your child struggle with problems and differences and not know how it will turn out. There is only so much you can do as a mama. Most days it seems like there is so much you can't do. 

Emotions don't come one by one. They are a package deal and each positive one also has a negative flipside. Pregnancy is a time of beautiful expectation: planning a nursery, shopping for clothes, feeling baby kicks. It can also be a time of great fear as you wonder if the baby is ok, if you will have complications, how birth will go. Birth is miraculous and yet totally insane and usually nothing like what you expected. 

Motherhood is amazing and exhausting. There's nothing to compare to it for the good or the bad. I've gone through situations with mothering that I thought would never end and I just knew at the time that I wouldn't make it. (Obviously I did.) 

Even those milestones- just like that, he's one- are bittersweet. He'll never be that tiny baby that I held in my arms at his first doctor's appointment. That's tucked away forever a memory no matter how much I would love to pull it out and replay it. Some women find they don't even like the baby stage that well. Have you tried admitting that to someone? "I don't really like having a four-month-old; I'm glad to get that first year behind us." That's a hard thing to say; people don't always take it well. 

There is freedom in knowing that no positive emotion comes alone and rarely do the negative ones come to stay. They will roll in and out of your life depending on sleep and the day and how many people unfriended you on facebook (no, really, you shouldn't care. Let them go). 

When you are disappointed with mothering, don't give up hope. God made you a mama. He gave you that child. And while you might not like that right now- you might not like the story you are living- you are not without hope. Christ is our hope; mothering isn't. He is our promise, our anchor, our grace for a new day. 

Whether you have the life you imagined since becoming a mom or you can never picture getting that back, motherhood is not the answer. Motherhood is not your happiness. Jesus is and He can handle all the emotions that come with what He's brought you. 

Seasons change. We grow and learn. And next month motherhood will take us on a different journey. 

When I say, "just like that, he's one." I really do mean it. It feels like I barely turned around twice since I gave birth last Halloween. Yet there he is, crawling across the floor fulfilling his self-appointed job of being the human vacuum cleaner. But even in this year I've been in other stages of motherhood that weren't "just like that." They were "this feels like forever" and "I have no idea what will happen here" and "this will never end." 

If you are in one of those stages of motherhood don't give up on yourself. You're not a bad mama. God has a plan that's beyond what we can imagine. He promises that He will never quit working in our lives- or in the lives of our children. 
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:     Philippians 1:6

Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Winter Wellness Plan for Winter Haters

Fall has a few bright spots: football games, scarves, changing leaves. It stops about there. Let's face it. Fall is just the harbinger of winter and I hate winter. 

Winter should come for one week a year; the week of Christmas would be ideal. Let's have some snow and hot cocoa and bundle up in cute coats that are a pain in the car and take twenty minutes to outfit our children in cold weather clothes to go outside. Clothes that they can't wear in the car so you take it all back off after you walk the fifteen feet to the car door. 

Winter is dark and gloomy. The sunlight is gone by five and you can't go play on the playground after dinner and it's too cold to romp back to the cemetery and collect walnuts and leaves and rocks and sticks. You can only run around the circle between the hallway and living room so many times before you start to go crazy and your hip starts to hurt so you have to at least run the opposite direction. 

The holidays are a bright spot in winter. I'll admit before someone accuses me of being a Scrooge. But there are a good three and a half months of winter after my birthday at the first of the year. Then there are no more parties and excuses for cookies and people turn off their Christmas lights. We should just make the lights a thing all winter. Can we agree to that? 

Since we can't just have that one week of winter but must endure months of it, I'm developing a plan. Don't worry, the plan definitely includes not whining about winter to everyone who sees me. I think I've gotten it out of my system now. 

Time is changing this weekend; to me that signals the start of winter (I realize that's not the official sign). I do have one advantage this year over last because I am not having a baby this weekend. But I made a few of these notes last year when winter was ending: I worked hard to make winter work for me even with a new baby. I plan on doing the same this year- just without the new baby. 

First two guidelines and then a few ideas I've been compiling. 

1. Move to somewhere warm and tropical.  Nice thought though. 

1. You choose your attitude. Even when it's cold and gloomy outside you get to choose what's on the inside. I help myself by staying in my Bible and exercising regularly. Also not literally becoming a hermit because winter coats are a pain. 

2. Have some goals. Give yourself a purpose. Don't flitter around the house all day doing nothing. Write the words, do the homeschooling, practice the instrument, read with the kids, draw the pictures. Whatever your thing is, do it regularly. Keep yourself in a good rhythm of life. 

I've been making a list of winter activities that will get us out of the house some and keep us focused when we're home. Here are a few of them: 

-Make a list of activities for the evenings: playdough, play ball, kindergarten games, coloring

-Bake bread or donuts or cookies (also- avoid the scale or workout more)
-Share the baked goodies with others
-Pick a "donut breakfast" morning- bonus points if you invite friends
-Complete a few home projects
-Eat out a few times a month
-Try one new recipe a week
-Invite people over for dinner
-Go on dates (without the kids)
-Set some winter goals (This was crucial last year and really jump-started the work I've done this year.)

Justin is coaching a basketball team this year and we'll be going to practice and games with him. The boys love it and it occupies those long evenings. Double winner for a winter activity. 

Do you like winter? How do you manage if you don't? 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Uniquely Woman Episode 13: Favorite Books of the Year

In this episode of the Uniquely Woman podcast Phylicia and I discuss our four favorite books of the year. Because we both love to read so much we needed up listing more than four apiece.

Phylicia no longer reads fiction so to satisfy her desire for a good story she reads a lot of memoirs.

I don't read a lot of fiction because I don't have the emotional energy for imaginary people. I use it all up on the people in my life.

As a part of #personalgradschool I have been reading a lot about creativity and work this year as is evidenced by my book list.

Lisa's Books
Favorites of the Year:
Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

What I'm Reading Now:
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
For the Family's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
Hoodwinked by Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk

My favorite classic:
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (I am unwilling to evaluate what that says about me.)

On a side note: I am on the launch team for Hoodwinked so I am already reading the book. It's one of the best books on motherhood that I've read. It addresses the myths we believe about motherhood and they are so relevant. Some of them I already knew were myths and others I'm so glad to hear someone else say. If you're a mom, you should go preorder it. You won't have to wait long, it releases next week!

Phylicia's Books
Favorites of the Year:
Romancing Your Husband by Debra White Smith
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan
Glimpses of Grace by Gloria Furman

What She's Reading Now:
Hyper Grace by Michael Brown
The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow
Please Excuse My Daughter by Julie Klam
Islam Unveiled by Robert Spencer

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Recovering the Princess: What Royalty Really Means

Everyone loves a Disney fairytale, right? I do but I don't. I actually have considerable problems with fairy tales- starting with how some of the princesses are spoiled brats. Jasmine anyone? (Although Alan Menken's music is fabulous in that movie.) Not to mention that I listened to a Popcast podcast about fairy tales and most of them come from very dark stories.

I don't have any daughters so I don't have to worry about the princess obsession. I'm not sure how I would handle it but I do know part of the problem is the "princess mindset." You're not here to be waited on. Royalty doesn't mean you get everything you want or do whatever you want and people just fawn over you and life's great. 

Take Princess Kate, for example. Oh wait, I mean Duchess of Cambridge (how awesome of a title is that?). Princess Kate does not get to do whatever she wants, go where ever she wants, say whatever she wants. She is well aware that everything she does reflects on the royal family and she conducts herself in a way that honors them. Her concern is for the reputation of the royal family and for the good of the British people. (Either that or she wants to keep the Queen off her back but let's give her the benefit of the doubt.)

We don't have to claw for the status of princess. We are royalty. 1 Peter 2:9 says, "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. " We are a royal priesthood; that's what God thinks about you. You are chosen and royal- peculiar too, in case you were getting a big head (that just means different, not weird. Don't be weird and blame it on Jesus). But that royalty doesn't mean that we are to be waited on. We are to be following the example of Christ who came to serve. "But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant." Matthew 23:11. 

That means it's not about us. We aren't waiting for people to make a big deal over us. We aren't waiting to be recognized or applauded. We aren't demanding our way. Instead we are forgetting self. 

As royalty, everything we do should go through two criteria. 
1. Does it honor God? Does this make the royal family look good? When the world sees me do this do they know I'm a Christian? And if they do, how does that change their view of God? Titus 2:10 admonishes us to adorn the Gospel or make it more appealing. Do we? Do others want our lives, marriages, families, work ethic, attitudes? Obviously these things are never perfect but do we offer anything different than what the world does? 

2. Does it help others? Just as royalty is supposed to look after the good of the people of their country we are to serve others. Jesus came to serve: He washed feet and touched lepers and had time for the least of society. Our desire as Christians should be to love these around us that Christ loves. If it doesn't help anyone, maybe we shouldn't do it. Our motivation shouldn't be applause or fame but a genuine desire to point others to Jesus. 

Royalty means you work hard. You deny yourself for the good of others. You screen what you do through the view of representing someone else. You hold yourself to a higher standard. It's not just about us.  Let's act as princesses today. (Actually I like queen better, don't you?) 

Do you have daughters? How do you handle the princess issue? 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

When You Feel Smothered by Your Limits

When I started my art project back in January I planned to dedicate twenty minutes once a week to art. Previously I have said that I didn't have time for art because twenty minutes wasn't time for anything. Instead I did nothing with that twenty minutes (or least not art). Time that's not allocated to something is typically wasted. 

That art project has grown. I'm doing a ten minute sketch most days of the week. And I'm still doing the "big" piece once a week that takes at least an hour and not that twenty minutes I decided I could scrounge up back in January. 

So what changed? 

I learned to embrace limits. Before I fought against them, believing that they were keeping me from doing the work that I wanted to. Now I realize that they enable me to do my best work. 

Limits do the same for you. 

-Limits remind you of what's important. This is all based off your beliefs. What's important to me is that I'm doing life with my family and still pursuing a vibrant version of me. I don't want to neglect what God's given me to do with either my family or other work. Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., used to say that "duties never conflict." God's not going to call me to stay home with my kids and homeschool the one in school and work three part-time jobs and volunteer twenty hours a week. We need to let go of our expectations for ourselves and find God's design for our lives. 

-Limits make you choose. Once you know that's important to you it becomes a lot easier to choose what you are going to do. What you do will change based on seasons of life. Sometimes you have to choose things that aren't your heart's desire. That's ok. There may be an opportunity you want to take but you can't because of the season of life you are in. That's ok too. Seasons of life change; what you can do with your time will change with them. Saying no now doesn't mean saying no forever. Opportunities that God wants you to take will come around again. 

You also have to choose based on what you are gifted in or called to. I didn't spend that twenty minutes a week learning to rewire electrical outlets. That would be a valuable skill but I only understand how electricity works on a surface level. I could tell you but it doesn't really make sense to me. Not everything that's available is for you. 

-Limits enhance your focus. Once you know what you are doing, you can focus on those things. I don't spend my art time wondering if I should be cleaning my house. I don't spend my writing or blogging time wondering if I should be doing kindergarten with my oldest. I don't spend the time that I have with my family wondering if I should be blogging. Find what God wants you to do and then do that. (Of course we question those things in an effort to stay where God wants us but it doesn't have to linger in the back of our minds every minutes of every day.) 

-Limits give you a time to work. I know the time I have to write and draw and work on this blog. If I don't do it then, it doesn't happen. That's powerful motivation to do the work when I'd rather not; often the couch seems more appealing. Find small pockets of time every single day and work on the passions God has given you. Work furiously within those bounds and see what happens. It's easier to not try than face the fear of failure but then you'll never accomplish anything. 

-Limits prevent comparison. When you know your limits you only have to focus on your work. There's no need to look at your friend, your co-worker, or your sister and wish you were doing her work. Or worse think you should be doing your work and her work too. Pull yourself back into your own lane and live there.

I've reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (mixed reviews: definitely a worthwhile read for me, not a complete recommendation). She tells a story about Herman Melville writing a friend (Nathaniel Hawthorne!) about desiring large amounts of time to write his book: time freed from responsibilities and stresses where he could focus completely on his creative process. He never got that time but he still wrote Moby Dick

Because I can't not say it, let's quit with the "motherhood martyrdom." That's the "everything I want to do would be easier if I did something besides mother." That's not true. I know it would not be easier for me to blog if I had a full-time job instead of or in addition to my three children. You find the time for the things you want to do. It takes some discipline. Excuses are a way to rationalize our lack of self-discipline. 

You can't do it all, but you can do something. Your limits will help you decide what your "something" is. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Why We Don't Have to Believe in Typical Motherhood

A few months ago I read an article on Scary Mommy (which I'm not typically a fan of) that really disturbed me. The title of it was "Being a Good Mom is Making Me a Bad Wife." She described how often, when her husband comes home, she's exhausted from the work of the day and still wearing sweats. 

I felt sorry for the writer. She seemed genuine in her concern for her marriage: she wondered what it meant if her children were getting her at her best and her husband always at her worst. She mentioned how much she loved her kids and all the "good mom" stuff that she did for them throughout the day. But...

There's where I want to stop. I get frustrated when we complain about problems but aren't willing to fix them. Mothers have been raising kids for years. And before someone says that mothers had less to do then because there was no internet and no outside jobs, let's consider that they had to grow their own food and make their own clothes. I think we have it easier all things considered. 

There are two extremes in motherhood: neglecting your mothering and making your motherhood first in your life. Both are problems but we're focusing on the second one today. You are not a mama first. You are a woman, a Christian, a wife first. Your children should not be your life although they take up a good portion of your time when you are raising them. 

Life and motherhood can coexist. But it's work. We don't like work; we like shortcuts. We want a shortcut that doesn't involve slowly training our children to engage in activities that don't lead to pandemonium at dinner time. (It helps that they outgrow some toddler behaviors.) We want a shortcut that doesn't involve reigning in our own emotions and not melting down when things are overwhelming. We want a shortcut that doesn't involve taking ten minutes to change clothes and brush our hair so we feel refreshed. 

We don't have to believe in typical status quo motherhood. We don't have to make our children the center of our world, let ourselves go, neglect our marriages, and always be knee-deep in some sort of accident. Well, we might be physically but we don't have to be mentally. 

When we put our eyes on Christ, we start to remember that while we are admonished many times to teach, train, and love our children, we are not instructed to make them the center of the universe. We are not instructed to drop every bit of work to focus solely on mothering; we find no example of that in Scripture. 

Friends, I believe in the importance of mothering. You know this if you've been reading here. Hear what I'm saying: we don't have to do motherhood that way. 

We can develop an eternal perspective. Then when we are knee-deep in accidents and messes and frustrations (and we will be) we will remember that we are raising humans and this is part of the process. We will also remember that we're growing ourselves and this is part of the lesson. 

We can train our children and ourselves. We can train our children not to cry over every little thing (and yes, some kids take way longer than others). We can train ourselves to only use our phones when it's time to. We can consider alternatives when we are having problems with our schedules and rhythms of life. We can develop some rhythms of life: how do you think I write this blog? 

Pick one thing. Work on that for a week. Then the next week add something else. 

Set meal and snack times. Establish nap/quiet time. Fit everything else around those. Teach your children to help you clean for fifteen minutes right after breakfast. Teach them to sit and play with specific toys for twenty minutes while you make phone calls or update your budget or plan an instrument. 

Get out some coloring pages or play-doh or paper dolls (maybe not in my case but I loved them when I was little) and sit your kids at the table when it's time to cook dinner. Or use the Crock-Pot and go out and run around in the yard when your husband arrives home. 

Slowly teach your non-napping children to have quiet time (Pinterest is full of ideas) so that you can dabble in a project that interests you

Determine an amount of time you want to be on the floor playing with your kids and do it every day. Read out loud to your kids every day. 

I'm not interested in telling you how to do motherhood; I don't care if you don't follow any of my suggestions. I am interested in your considering how God wants you to do motherhood. This isn't about neglecting your children to just work all day and it's not about neglecting your responsibilities to be drug around by your kids. This will look different for each family and possibly each day. But if we're erring too far toward either side, change is possible. 

These are not easy changes. But it's too easy to complain and never change. If you aren't willing to change, stop complaining. 

We don't have to lose ourselves in motherhood. Motherhood makes us better people when we don't quit or give up. Approach motherhood with the same grace and grit you would an outside job. Would you show up in old, dirty clothes? No, you wouldn't, because that makes you feel horrible about yourself and no one takes you seriously. Maybe you have to change clothes twice in one day. Do it. Take five minutes and braid your hair or pull it up in a cute topknot. Put on some concealer and mascara. Life's not over because you have small children or children in general. This is the best training ground for yourself that you could possibly have. 

Does this mean you'll never experience frustration in motherhood? Please, do you have kids? This isn't a magic pill that will fix all the problems and create smooth sailing. But it might keep you from giving up on a life that matters

This isn't just me. I'm not anything special; motherhood is not naturally easy for me. I have friend after friend after friend who excels at this. They aren't perfect but they attempt change when they need too.

You can too. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

You Are A Teacher: We All Start Somewhere

"You could teach piano, especially to beginners. I turn away students all the time." 

My piano teacher's comment left me stunned as I remembered all the times that I wanted to bang my head on the piano keys in frustration. But she's right- I could teach beginner's piano. I don't have time to right now but it's on my "work bucket list" for the future. 

It's easy to think that because we don't know it all we can't teach anything. 

I've been watching Michael Hyatt's Influence and Impact Summit this week. I've been taking lots of notes; it's material that qualifies for personal grad school (and it was free!). In her interview, Lysa TerKeurst described the different types of content creators- you know, blogger, podcasters, speakers, authors- and I realized that I am the "in your field" type of woman.

I'm not an expert. That's how I always think of bloggers/podcasters/teachers and I don't want you to ever think that about me. 

I don't know it all; most days I feel like I don't know anything. I'm constantly asking for forgiveness in my walk with God, my marriage, and my mothering. I spend most of my time asking God exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. I write about things that I'm only slowly learning myself. Those things may save you a few steps along the way. So why should you still read? 

We all start somewhere. You can't have grown kids unless you raised your kindergartner. You can't be married thirty years until you've been married seven. You can't be a great writer unless you were once a mediocre writer who kept writing. 

Sometimes you need someone to come alongside you: someone is who is where you are or just a few steps down the road. 

I can encourage you to do the little things
Or read the Bible for learning and not a to-do list. 
I can remind you to manage your expectations because life isn't what we expect

For all that I'm sharing, I'm reading and learning at least twice as much. I'm revealing the things that I'm working on to encourage you to be about the work as well, even if your work is different than mine. 

This doesn't just apply to me. You are someone's teacher. Maybe you don't feel like an expert either. You think you don't know as much as she does. Or you can't do that as well as she can. But the people you influence may not know her. Or they might not have a relationship with her. (And quit comparing yourself to "her" while you're at it.)

You do know that woman. 

You have that opportunity to speak into her life. You have the opportunity to love that woman and remind her that God sees her. You have the opportunity to bless her family and encourage her in her mothering, her work, her singleness. 

It's not because you're the expert and you have no questions. Often it's simply because you can walk up and say, "I know how you're feeling. I also know what God says about it. Here's the difference." 

God never asks us to wait until we feel qualified to serve Him and help others. No one gets to that point. We will always be aware of our faults and problems but we can't refuse to serve God because of them. 

There are people coming along behind you that need you. It may be one kid in your Sunday School class or one hundred Twitter followers. It might be one mom that you meet, a younger colleague in the office, or a teen girl at church. It might be your little sister, a family friend on Facebook, or a college freshman who watches you in class. 

Don't feel discouraged that you're not farther down the road than where you are. There's someone two steps behind you and you're pointing the way. There's a woman running beside you and she needs you to come alongside and say, "Keep your eyes on Jesus and keep running." 

John Maxwell said it best this week, "If you won't give three people 100%, you won't give 3,000 people 100%."

Don't disqualify yourself from serving. Extend what you do have and keep learning. Serve Jesus where you are and you'll serve Jesus wherever you are.