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.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

When You're "Just" at Home

Unfortunately I don't wake up with an eternal focus. I wake up wanting to go back to bed. So I try to start my day off with Jesus- reading my Bible, praying, trying to refocus my heart and mind into the framework of how He views life. I want my days to matter for eternity and I try to pray, "Lord, use me!" every morning. 

One morning I prayed that and immediately thought, "I'm not going anywhere today so I guess He can't."

Did you catch what I said? "I'm not leaving the house so God can't use me." God can't use me inside these four walls with this family. That's what I thought to myself and sometimes that's even what I believe. 

Maybe you've thought it to. You've thought that real life, real ministry, real purpose was found somewhere beyond the walls of your home and the (relatively) few humans that live there. (Although there are times when it feels like they've tripled in number, right? Don't leave me hanging here, mamas.)

One of David's prayers was that he would "walk within his house with a perfect heart." Ps. 101:2 states his desire to live a life that honors God and it starts at home. Who we are at home is who we are; we can't hide there. The ugly comes out because it's where we are tested beyond any other situation. 

Home is a place where God can use us.  1 Timothy 4:10 gives us a list of accomplishments of the godly older woman. "Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work." 

I don't believe all of that took place at home and it won't in our lives either. But surely some of it did. She brought up those children at home. For one thing, it's much simpler to do some of that work (potty-training, anyone?) at home. Necessity also demands it. Little ones need to eat, sleep, and play in a familiar, safe environment. Home is best for most of that. 

Lodging strangers took place at home. I don't think putting them up in someone else's house would count. "I'd love to serve you. Please rest over here at my neighbor's where they can care for you." At the very least it would involve an exchange of money like in the case of the Good Samaritan. She was out something for this service.

Washing the saints' feet was an act of service. There were no paved roads and cars in Bible times. It was dirty roads and probably sandals. It was a blessing to enter a home and be able to wash that dirt off your feet before you ate and rested. It makes me think of the countless times we wash little hands and give baths. Relieving the afflicted could be as simple of wiping your child's head with a cool cloth during a fever. It could be an encouraging word when your husband is discouraged. 

Every good work. Civilization used to be much more home centered. The work was focused at home with a knowledge that the work mattered. There was no social media with likes and shares and follows. There weren't airplanes that carried people around the world to speak to crowds. There weren't high-rise buildings with corner offices and raises to earn. 

Life was consumed simply in surviving. Food for this meal followed by some clean laundry and then more food preparation. They didn't buy already diced veggies from the produce section of Fresh Market. (I don't either, come to think of it.) Feeding people was a huge work that took most of the day. It exhausts me to simply think about the amount of work that they had to do to just exist. And then these godly older women served others too. Not just their own families but these others- strangers, saints, the afflicted, children (it doesn't say her own). 

She was a woman that gave of herself sacrificially to serve others. She worked hard to provide what others needed. She served invisibly- in hard work, manual labor, demeaning tasks. 

God can use me, even if it's "just" at home. Every day that I spend with my children I am shaping them. I am telling them of their value. What do they hear if I say they aren't part of my real work but simply a distraction from anything that matters? What message do we pass on to our daughters about motherhood if we chafe against the confines of raising small children? And it is confining. There are things that I would love to do that I simply cannot do while I am raising my babies. But I choose this now because it's time for it; there are seasons of life. Those other things will still be there in five or ten years and my children will not be little. 

Of course God can use us other places. And He does- even if we are mostly at home with small children. I'm not talking about that because few people dispute that. It is hard to remember that God is using us when we are doing life with littles, changing diapers, teaching letters, and tying shoes. 

"Lord, use me!" is still my heart's cry.  I'm almost to the place that I believe it's possible- even if I'm "just" at home. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

When Culture and Truth Collide

Christians are supposed to be counter-cultural. As our nation and world (at least parts of it-let's not be so America-centric) drift further from the Bible we are going to stick out more and more. Our ideas, character, motives, and lifestyle should be notedly different from our unsaved neighbors. We must realize when we are hearing truth and when we are hearing popular ideas that masquerade as truth. 

Today I only want to talk about two slogans. Partly because they are so popular and partly because these affect our lives daily.

The first one is this- "Do what you love." I recognize that most people are saying to pursue a job or a career that you love. That's not necessarily bad if you are privileged to do that. Sometimes though you just need to pay the bills and put food on the table. 

To be honest, I do a lot of things every day that I don't just love doing. Ever potty-trained anyone? Not a love. And while I've cultivated a good attitude about housework (most of the time anyway) I don't just love washing dishes or doing the laundry. I don't just love getting out of bed every morning or going grocery shopping in the rain with three children. 

So what's the antidote? What do we pursue if it's not just doing what we love? 

Instead of doing what we love we need to do what needs to be done. Then learn to love that. Goethe said, "Cease endlessly striving for what you would like to do and learn to love what must be done."   That's not a topic applauded in our world. Ephesians 2:10 says that we are "created in Christ Jesus unto good works." And  1 Timothy 5:10 gives a list that ends with "every good work." That list includes things like washing the saints' feet and bringing up children just in case you thought that work didn't qualify. 

I spend my days doing things that I'm learning to love. Or at the very least learning to love for what they do for my character and my family. It often helps to look at the results of the work or the reason for the work instead of the effort of the work. 

I'm learning to love getting up at night with babies. I'm thankful for them and that's just part of it. I'm learning to love training my boys because the results are going to be men of character (I hope.)

Sure that's a time to pursue what you love. But there are plenty more times to knuckle down and do what needs to be done. 

There's another saying that is just as dangerous to our lives. I cringe when I hear it (but that's it; I really don't lecture people in person regardless of what I say here). You've heard it too- "Follow your heart." Really? In some ways this is just another way of saying, "Do what you love." Pursue what you're interested in; consider no one besides yourself. This is erroneous advice. 

Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Our hearts are the last thing we should follow. I don't want to look for guidance on the inside of me because I know what I am. And you know what you are. 

We don't need to look deep inside us for truth because it's not there. We don't need to examine our hearts and use that as an excuse for flitting through life committing to nothing. We don't need to use our flighty emotions as reasons for abandoning our families, hurting the feelings of others, and ignoring our responsibilities. 

Don't worry; there's an antidote here too. Instead of following our hearts we should follow the Bible. I guess that's not as catchy of a phrase; you probably won't see that one waved around on the banner. But what if we tried it? What if instead of doing whatever our heart wanted to- whatever felt good- we did what the Bible said to? How much trouble would that save us? 

How much sin would we leave behind if we made the Bible our standard? We might even cast off a few things that aren't sin but that hold us back from fully serving God. Doesn't He deserve that from us? 

Not sure you believe me? We can evaluate our hearts quickly. Matthew 12:34 states: "O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." That's enough to tell me that my heart is not what I want to follow. But if you still need more convincing try this one. Proverbs 23:7, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:" You might have cleaned up your speech but I doubt anyone has cleaned up their thoughts enough to be impressed with themselves. 

We know what we are. We know our hearts will not lead us to truth. Let's depend on the Bible to show us the way instead. Psalm 119:105 says, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." God gave us His Word to show us how to live. Let's not bumble along on our own. 

We don't have to accept the world's slogans as truth. We do need to be able to evaluate what's being said in the light of Scripture.

What other popular sayings would you add to this list? How do you remember the truth when you are faced with lies?  

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

How I Stay Inspired

With small kids, everything happens at once. Sometimes when I start cooking lunch I spend twenty minutes alternating between fishing some scrap of paper out of the baby's mouth, taking a child to the potty, correcting another child, changing a diaper, getting someone a drink, and moving the baby away from whatever "dangerous" spot he's found. And all I've done for lunch is turn on the stove. 

It's easy to feel overwhelmed in a house full of small children no matter how much you love them. As my children get older and I've been mothering longer (funny how those two go together) I'm learning ways to stay filled up instead of just pouring out all day. 

I know this is a touchy topic. Should moms pursue "me time"? Do we spend every minute in service to our family and think we can do it happily because we love them and love Jesus? Moms are still women first. It's hard to nurture anyone else when you are running on empty.

Of course there's a caution in this. When I want to run away and escape I have a problem. No rest will be enough, no vacation will cheer me up if I want to be released from the responsibilities that God has given me. 

Carolyn Mahaney said that the point of rest was to strengthen ourselves for service. And the point of this recharging is to better steward the talents and opportunities God has placed before us- whether it's motherhood or some other work. 

So how do I recharge or fill back up? 

1. Spend time in the Word. Read it. Soak it up. Let God speak to your heart. This is what I need more than anything. 

2. Read good books. I'm always reading books about marriage, mothering, homemaking, writing, creativity, and sometimes even business. I need that spark of ideas and the reminder of why I do what I do. 

3. Write. Even if it's not for public eye writing helps me understand my beliefs. Writing about my thoughts helps organize them and captures a fleeting picture of life. 

4. Have real conversations. Real conversations preferably aren't interrupted by texts or Twitter and center on more than the weather or the latest trend in scarves. 

5. Do focused work. For me this looks like piano lessons and my art project. Just getting out of the house to wander around Wal-Mart wouldn't be as helpful. 

Tomorrow on the Uniquely Woman podcast I'm interviewing Tori Gillit and we discuss inspiration and social media and how she stays inspired. Be sure to download the episode and leave us a rating and review once you listen! 

What do you do to recharge? How do you stay filled up in the midst of your responsibilities? What are your thoughts on motherhood and womanhood and managing both?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Embracing Discomfort

I've been introducing myself to strangers lately. It's not something I really enjoy and even the fact that we have mutual acquaintances and purpose to the meetings doesn't really help. But I have learned to do it without choking, physically at least.  

God has intentionally been sticking these opportunities in front of me- opportunities that I really want to take- so that I have to step up when I'd rather not. I'd rather not make a phone call. I'd rather not show up when I don't recognize any faces. I'd rather not offer my skills when I'm afraid I'll be laughed at. But I've been doing it anyway. 

Most of it has come from doing what I'd rather not in everyday life. I'd rather not clean up another accident, draft that email, get out of bed. But I do because God tells me to. The little work has been training in obedience for when the harder things arrive. As I learn to obey today I'm preparing myself for what's down the road. Even if I clean up cheerios three times today I know that I can do it again tomorrow. And then I learn to do it with a smile, teaching the boys how to help me with a good attitude. Hard things becomes habits and I find they don't take the mental effort that they used to. Then I can tackle another hard thing. 

Sometimes it goes really well with strangers and with the obedience. We hit it off; I find a place to assist with the work; I clean up the spill without losing my temper. Sometimes I'm left relieved that I did what I was supposed to and I didn't turn my back on uncomfortable opportunity. "All opportunity is uncomfortable. That's where you have to live life."  It's easy to believe that on those days. 

And other times it's everything I fear it will be. I leave remembering all the things I said that perhaps I shouldn't have or I fall asleep at night wishing I could take back those words or that wasted time. I would rather curl up on the couch with a book instead of writing my own story because I'm very likely to embarrass myself. If I don't do anything I can at least avoid that. 

That's not entirely true. Once I've wasted my life I'll see all the things that I could have done if I had lived in that discomfort. I'll see the people I could have helped, the places I could have served, and realize that all the potential embarrassment in the world shouldn't have been enough to stop me. The point of life isn't to avoid mistakes or humiliation. The purpose of life is to pour myself out serving God and helping others. The purpose is to empty myself every day for the people that God places in my path instead of trying to keep it all in my grasp. 

And yes, sometimes that means I mess up. But I'm going to keep introducing myself. I'm going to keep cleaning up the messes, filing the papers, folding the laundry. I'm going to get off the couch and live my story.