Friday, December 28, 2012

You know the nights when you remove all your make up (or the days you never even bothered to put any on), change into your jammies so your tummy can expand a little more, put on your glasses, and veg on the couch? And then you stop and do a double-take in the full length mirror when you pass by because you don't quite recognize yourself?

Yup, that's me!

And enjoying every comfy minute of it :)

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Slender. Skinny. Tiny. Slim.

No matter how you put it, the thing that I want above all else is to be thin.

And I'm ashamed to admit that.

There are lots of things I want. Take, for instance, the new light fixture I found for my dining room. I saw it, I knew instantly that I loved it, I really wanted it, and I got it for Christmas. Sometimes the things I want can't be qualified, like peace or love.

But, sometimes I think that in my heart, the thing that I want, like really, really want, is something that is risky for me to have. Risky because it's the basket I put all my eggs into. It's the thing that trips me up every single time, the thing that makes me change my diet over and over again, the thing that I think about the most, the thing that drives me to exercise, the thing that pushes me to count calories in excruciating detail, to examine my body in front of the mirror from every angle, to compare myself to the unrealistic, to set elusive goals--this is the thing I want the most. This is what I think must define me, what other people see when they look at me. This is how I define myself.

Thin.

A small word. A nearly insurmountable mountain that glares at me with accusing eyes yet beckons me with it's Cheshire cat grin.

Skinny.

It's what everyone says you need to be. It's what experts say is healthy. It's what magazines say is pretty.

Slender.

It's what I want to be. It takes my thoughts away from a fun dinner and puts them on fat and carb content.

It takes time. Dedication. Determination. Grit. Willpower.

But when is this much too much?

When it takes up all my thoughts? When it's the first thing I think about when I wake and the last before I go to sleep? When I cave from the pressure I put on myself? When life becomes one big calorie-counting funfest?

Trust.

Five. Little. Letters.

Huge implication.

To trust Him means to let go of that basket of eggs. Nearly a year has gone by since I began this journey of exploring what trusting God is all about.

Sometimes, it's like two steps forward.

Sometimes, it's like three steps back. Or three hundred.

Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.
{Zechariah 1:3}

I'm never too far gone that I can't return to Him.

Monday, December 24, 2012


And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;
he is the Messiah,
the Lord.
This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
{Luke 2:8-12}

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hope

I was expressing what a difficult time I've been having trying to process the unspeakable tragedy that happened in Connecticut on Friday to a friend of mine. She listened intently to my words as I talked about my fears, my sadness and my doubt.

The only thing I could think of was those parents who had to go home and face the bedroom that belonged to their slain son or daughter. Who had to go home to face the Christmas gifts they had already bought. The booster seat they had to take out of their car. The art work that still hangs on the wall. It's gut wrenching to think about. And selfishly, I can't think of these things without thinking about my own son and daughter, and how I would feel if they were taken from me.

This particular disaster has also caused me to wonder where God is in all of this. Where was He? Why didn't He stop it? Why didn't He do something? Anything?

My friend looked at me and said this: God was there.

 I'm sure my face reflected what I was thinking: Really? Doesn't seem like it.

She went on to explain herself. Simply put, God was there. For every minute of chaos that was happening at that school, God was there.  She said that people are not puppets on a string but rather human beings with a free will and the ability to exercise it as such. A free will to make choices. Even bad ones. He will not force people to do exactly what He wants. We have to make that choice on our own.

I've mulled over her words since yesterday. I still have more questions than I do answers. In my world, God should give free will to the people He knows will make good choices and take it away from those who will not. But, that would be putting God into a box that He doesn't fit into, and taking away His ability to work in people's lives in a personal and unexpected way, redeeming them out of the pit of despair that we find ourselves in when we cannot seem to find Hope.

I should know. I've been in that pit myself.

Hope.

He is the source of Hope.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Please join me today in saying a prayer for those families affected by the tragedy in Connecticut.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The twinkling lights of a Christmas tree.


The spontaneous, joyous laugh of a good friend.



The soft cheek of your child resting against you after a long day.



A hug from your true love.



The sparkling stars in the sky.


The excitment in the face of children as they count down the days left til the big day.

 
 


Even though this is an exceptionally busy time of year, I hope that you'll take a few minutes with me and just take in the sweetness of life. The joy of Christmas can be ours--we just have to know where to look for it :)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Lack of Perspective

"Young man, you see only the sand at your feet and what you are eating that you wish was something else. I don't tell you this as a rebuke; you are very ordinary in your views. Most people are just like you, disgusted with themselves for what they are and what they eat and what they drive. Most of us never stop to think that there are quite literally millions in this world who lack our blessings and opportunities, have no food to eat at all, and no hope of ever owning a car. The situation in which you find yourself is fraught with difficulty, yes. It is also piled high with benefits...a grateful perspective brings happiness and abundance into a person's life."
--Andy Andrews, The Noticer


On page 13 of the book The Noticer by Andy Andrews, I read the above quote, then read it again, and then again. It's not like I've never thought of these things before. It's common knowledge that people are literally starving because they can't afford to put food on the table. We've all seen the devastating pictures of sick children and the parents who can't afford to treat them, and we are well aware that many of us who live in this country are much better off than those who do not. So I couldn't figure out why I found this particular passage so fascinating until I sat down here to pray and write. And then it dawned on me: I know all these things, but I still have an ungrateful heart.

Don't get me wrong. I am thankful for many things. I say a blessing before I eat, I bow my head in prayer at church, and I mind my P's and Q's. I'm doing the "right" things, but the heart behind it is in need of some perspective.

I am very ordinary in my views.

There are many times in life where I choose to look for the negative instead of the positive. Where I stop at the "fraught with difficulty" and don't see to the "piled high with benefits".


There are several things that I've always wanted from life: peace, happiness, and love. I always thought those things just kind of...happened to a lucky few who seemed happy and at peace with life.

I've rarely stopped to consider that I have a part in getting from life what I want.

My own unhappiness and discontentment has always been someone else's fault. I've even blamed God for not filling me up. I've argued with Him, pleaded with Him, and resolved to work harder for this elusive thing called Happiness. I suppose I could even say I've asked Him on an occasion or two to just zap me with Happiness so I could move on. But, it seems, God is not in the business of zapping people, and I am no exception. He is, however, in the business of refining His children, using even the most difficult of circumstances to create in them a grateful and content heart.



This makes the passage that I've heard a thousand times mean so much more to me: "...for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength." {Philippians 4:11-13}.

The strength is Christ's. The perspective is mine.

No, I'm not saying I have found all the secrets. There are mysteries that people will search for forever and never find. But I do know this: the secret of being content in any and every situation begins with a grateful heart.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Beautiful For Me

There are no words to describe the following song. Just listen with an open heart and soak it in...

Beautiful For Me by Nichole Nordeman

Friday, December 7, 2012

Faith Builder by Lynn Cowell

I got the following message in my inbox this morning, and after some thought, I came to the conclusion that it was just too relevant not to share. So read, enjoy, and share with someone else who may be struggling in this area :)

Website banner


 
Faith Builder: Day 3
Priceless
I paid a huge price for you...that's how much you mean to me!
That's how much I love you! I'd sell of the whole world to
get you back, trade the creation just for you.
-Isaiah 43:1, 4 (The Message)
devotionsforarevolutionaryyear
When Prince William and Kate got married, it was like watching a Disney fairy tale movie in real life.
Except, perhaps, for all the press. Reporters commented on the price tag of everything-Kate's gown, shoes, ring, flowers, etc. Until they came to the tiara.
"Priceless."
That's how they described her gorgeous headpiece. Given to Queen Elizabeth as a gift for her eighteenth birthday, this diamond tiara was on loan to the princess-to-be.
No price tag could be put on the brilliant crown; it was impossible to replace. If it should somehow disappear, Scotland Yard would be all over London in a heartbeat.
In the end though, the tiara is still just a super fancy hat. A thing that can be lost or stolen.
That's so very different from you.
Why?
Because Jesus gave his everything, his very life, to
make you his.
The girl who understands just how much she is wanted is a girl who can be fully confident-empowered to make every decision a wise one, because she knows her decisions matter. A girl who knows that she is priceless is a girl who will never settle for anything short of the best from the one who loves her the most. A girl who is sure
that she is cherished and adored is a girl who no longer worries about herself; her focus is on sharing this radical love with all those she comes in contact with.
You can be that girl.
Jesus, I love the sound of being a confident girl. I know it doesn't come easy like popping something in a microwave. Help me do what it takes to grasp hold of the confidence that comes through getting just how much you love me! Amen.
The Bible says we are the bride of Christ. Think we'll wear wedding gowns in heaven? If so, what would your perfect gown look like?
 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I was watching E! News while I folded the laundry yesterday (no one answered my FaceBook plea for a laundry fairy), and the newest, most exciting up-and-coming news, besides Marissa Miller's pregnancy, was the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. I can tell everyone reading this is thrilled beyond words at this arresting news.

The thing that bothered me the most about the upcoming Angels Fashion Show was, well, not the fact that women are being paraded out in their underthings for the entire world to ogle over. The thing that bothered me the most about this particular show is that Justin Bieber will be performing. Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few years, you probably know who Justin Bieber is. And if you have a girl between the ages of 5 and 15, you definitely know who Justin Bieber is.

And if Justin Bieber mainly appeals to girls between the ages of roughly 5 to 15, and he is scheduled to perform at one of the most celebrated and sensual fashion shows of the year...then what exactly are the targeted audiences for the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show?

This bothers me. A lot.

I know that on the surface, it would be frowned upon for this company to directly market their products to little girls. They are, however, looking for ratings and money. And if Justin Bieber brings ratings, and ratings bring money, then so be it. I suppose our impressionable little girls are just collateral damage.

And to take it a step further, I may not be a little girl anymore, but I am still an impressionable woman who (even though I know better) sees these images of perfection as something to attain, some sort of unachievable goal to constantly strive for, knowing all the while that I will never measure up. Which leaves me feeling a little less confident. A little less secure. A little less beautiful.

Victoria's Secret will probably never stop putting on a fashion show, because the world embraces this as the ultimate prize. The absolute definition of beauty. But I can stop myself from believing the lie that beauty is only in what a person looks like and how sensuous they can be.

And I can begin telling my daughter the truth about who she is and what true beauty really means by looking to God for the real story.

Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
{1 Peter 3:4}


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wednesday is finding me slightly stressed over several (inconsequential) things. However, I am still anxiously spinning my wheels as I try to accomplish 10 things all at the same time. I'll leave this thought with you before I run back to my chores:

Beware. This is what stress will do to you.

"I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once."

-Jennifer Yane

Happy Wednesday!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Queen of the World!

It's always something, isn't it?

First, it's the duvet cover. Then it's the gingerbread cookies.

I'll tell you something, if people don't start listening to me, I'm going to have one royal fit...



I sweetly suggested to my husband that he use my method for using the blankets on our bed at night. Why, pray tell, should he use my method? Well, for starters, because it works for me. We have a duvet cover (which I love) on our bed, and yes, of course it's filled with the fluffiest down alternative (real down makes me sneeze) blanket I could find. It just also happens to be the hottest down alternative blanket I could have possibly chosen for our bed. And for two people who don't like to sleep when it's hot, it's not really the best choice. But my husband knows me well enough to know that often times this girl chooses form over function, much to the dismay of the people who appreciate function. (Just as an aside, I used to hide the alarm clock under the bed or behind a plant on the bedside table because I couldn't find a suitable way to display it. I cannot justify my actions, since having an alarm clock that you cannot actually see isn't very beneficial.) So, my solution is to only cover my feet and lower legs with the blanket so I don't get too hot. It actually works pretty well, and the added bonus is that the covers don't get too messed up so that making the bed in the morning is not so bad. 

He, on the other hand, completely folds said blankets over on my side so that not only are they not touching him, but they are doubled up on me. This does not make me especially happy. This does not stop him.

{Sigh}

I think it's because he's not doing it my way.

I'm sorry to have to admit that. But it's the cold, hard truth.

It happened again while we were baking gingerbread cookies. This time it wasn't my husband who was offended by my bossy-ness, but my daughter, who isn't afraid to tell her mother to step off. (No, it's not always respectful. Yes, we are addressing this lack of respect. No, it doesn't always stop her.)

Photo

{Deep sigh.}

The thing is, I like to be in control. I like to do things my way. I think everyone should do things my way, and when they don't, I tend to get a little...miffed. {ahem}

Oh, if only the world did things my way, then...

Then what? I don't suppose I'm the only one out there who has the audacity to presume that the world would be a better place if people would only do things my way...(maybe I am, and in that case, it would make me feel better if no one reading this pointed that out to me).

Okay, so I admit it. I have a control problem. I think at the center of this little issue of mine is an issue with perfectionism and self-centerness. When I take the time to step out of myself and see the world from another point of view, then I'm able to understand that my perspective isn't the only one that is, nor is it the only one that counts.

Even more than that, though, I'm able to see that the relationship I have and can be building is much more important than getting my way. When I'm in the moment, I can't see that as clearly...but with a little lot of prayer and recognizing my own selfish habits, I am able to start focusing on the relationship rather than the habits of the other person. I love my husband. I do want him to be comfortable at night and get a good night's rest. I love my daughter, and want her to learn how to read a recipe and bake. And I want them to love me and enjoy spending time with me. I want us to enjoy spending time together. I don't want to be seen as someone who is constantly telling other people what to do and how to do it.

The Queen is officially resigning from her Control-It-All Duties. Effective tomorrow today :)

 
Photo: Baking gingerbread men :)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Five Minute Friday: Wonder

I'm linking up with Lisa Jo Baker over at tales from a gypsy mama, and today is the last five minute Friday for the entire year! So get out your pens, pencils or keyboards, and join me. And remember: no editing, no overthinking, no backtracking.


Wonder...

I've always wondered what my life would be like if my mom had fought her cancer successfully and lived. Or if she had never gotten sick at all. Would I have finished out my 4 years at Lynchburg College? Would I have met my husband? Would I still live in my hometown? Would I have my precious babies?

Would I have gotten to know my God?

The only reason that I began to turn to Him in the first place was because losing my mom was one of the most traumatic and gutwrenching things I've ever gone through. And He's been there for me, every step of the way.

If I hadn't had to deal with that hardship, would I have had the chance to experience His sweet grace and mercy the way I have in my most vulnerable and despondent moments?

I wonder...

My mama  and me :)

 
 
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
{Proverbs 3:5-6}

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Flatter Me



Me: I think I'm going to return my shirt.

Dear Husband: OK. If you want to.

Me: Well, really, I mean, I don't think the color is right for me.

DH: OK.

Me: So, look at this. (I proceed to hold the new shirt up against my face and wait for his reaction.)

DH: I really think it looks fine.

Me: Really? Compared to this?? (I then proceed to hold up a dress that is an approved color for me and wait for his reaction.)

DH: (At this point, getting slightly annoyed at my insistence, and probably wondering what I really am looking for him to say. What is he supposed to say at this point? That one shirt actually looks bad? He is totally stuck, and he graciously said the right thing. Hopefully it was his true opinion.) I don't think that either color looks bad.

And off to work he went, while I spent several more minutes laboring over my decision: Return? Not return? Does this color make me look washed out?

And then a new thought: Why do I still operate under the assumption that beauty is only skin deep?

While I do try to wear colors that flatter my complexion (just as an aside, I recently had this conversation with my hairdresser, and we are in agreement that I can never go gray because gray does not flatter my complexion.), but I'm not sure that it's worth all the brain power I put into figuring out all the colors that are just right. Somewhere (a place that I have yet to discover, but am trying really hard to get there), there is this thing called BALANCE, but so far it evades me. So for now, I corner my husband and demand that he tell me the truth. As long as it's flattering.


Finding my security in Christ is important to me; otherwise, I live like a beggar, asking for money in the form of compliments to fill my soul. The problem is, those compliments will never completely satisfy what it is I'm truly looking for: confidence and security. There is only one place that those things can be found, and while I've spend much of my time and energy looking for an alternative, I'm discovering (over and over again, because I have yet to stop trying so hard and just rest in Him) that my security in Christ is everlasting. He gives me what no compliment could ever accomplish: a lasting confidence.

So the next time I see you out and about, do me a favor: go ahead and give me a compliment (because what girl wouldn't want one?). And I'll give you one, too. But be assured that I won't put all the pressure on you to fill my soul with confidence. He's filling it with the finest form of flattery that there is.

"...for the Lord will be your confidence
and will keep your foot from being caught."
{Proverbs 3:26}

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Spread The Love

Spread love
everywhere you go.
 
Let no one
ever come to you without leaving
happier.

-Mother Teresa
 

 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Madness

Good news!

I am still here.

I took some time off from blogging (actually...if the truth be told, I took some time without really meaning to. I intended to write last week, and then I would come to the end of the day and realize that I had not taken the time to write again, so by Thanksgiving day, I gave up and decided to start fresh today). But! I'm back!

I hope everyone had a great holiday, and that you were able to celebrate with family and friends. We did the Drumstick Dash on Thanksgiving Day as a family, and then we were able to celebrate with family all weekend, which was really nice. We ate, we talked, we laughed...we enjoyed.

The Drumstick Dash. 16,000 participated on Thanksgiving Day to support our local Rescue Mission.

And now, we can get all geared up for Christmas.

Yay.

Can you hear the enthusiasm?

You see, I am a total Scrooge when it comes to Christmas. A curmudgeony old lady. A grouch. A bellyacher. A griper, a whiner. A complete killjoy.

Yes, of course I annoy my very own self.

I sent my sister a text last night stating the fact that I am in need of help around the holidays so I don't totally ruin it for the people in my life who happen to be excited about Christmas. Like the under-10 (and the over 39) crowd who live with me. She responded that I only have a few more years to enjoy the magic of Christmas with my babies. The magic. That must be what you have before the 24-hour Christmas music, the obnoxious crowds, the suffocating traffic and the over-priced toys made in China get to you.

Craaa-zy!

As I've pondered this idea of magic, I wondered aloud what happened to my own sense of magic. Where did it go?

John 10:10 says that the thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy, while Christ came so that we could have life and have it abundantly.

Does this abundant life include the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas?

I believe that I've totally missed the mark when it comes to enjoying the holidays. I've allowed the all the hype that surrounds Christmas to put a black shroud over the true meaning. I've allowed my joy to be stolen, but that doesn't mean that I can't take it back.

Christmas. It goes beyond the crowds, the stress, the finding-the-perfect-gift, the I-ate-too-much-food, the traffic, the noise, the parties and the ornaments. It goes all the way back to a quiet night where a baby was born. And He brought with Him a peace that transcends understanding. A joy beyond what we are capable of producing. A love that cannot be taken away.



So as I kick off the Christmas madness season, I have a choice to make. I can continue to live as a disgruntled old troll, or I can take back what is rightfully mine. Peace can be found in the middle of the chaos. There is a sweetness that cannot be duplicated in the excitement of decorating the tree with your family, while you reminisce over old ornaments and share hot chocolate.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Chasing Freedom

The devotion I read this morning was quite appropriate for me. The title was The Place Where Disappointment Grows by Lysa TerKuerst, and it was about the space between our expectations and our reality. A place where disappointment often grows, especially when expectations are high and reality...is reality. The devotion offered some great thoughts on adjusting expectations, looking to God, and even learning something from the situation. What it didn't address (for me) was the anger I feel in the space between my expectations and my reality.


People will disappoint, that is a sure thing. I know this because people are people, and I probably disappoint even more that I'm aware of. My problem right now is that I am so disappointed with a person in my life that my disappointment has turned into anger. I thought I had controlled my anger for awhile, but as it turns out, I'm a really good emotional stuffer. I don't see this person very often, but when I do, I put on a fake, plastic smile and pretend everything is A-OK. I do this partly because I know that they don't really give a rat's behind whether I'm angry at them or not. Which only fuels my anger even more. "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned"--well, those are strong words, but I have discovered, the more I look inward, that I am hurt, bitter, disappointed...and I'm furious.
I don't want to look like this all the time :(


I know this partly because I think about the things I would say if I could (you know those conversations you have in your head that you always win every single time because you are so eloquent that the other person is completely speechless? And mine always, always, always include me having the last word, swishing my hair and turning on my heel in total victory). I woke up this morning at 2:28 and couldn't fall back asleep because I kept thinking about all the disappointments, all the times this person has shown a complete lack of interest, all the times they were supposed to care but didn't, all the times they let someone else say something mean and didn't protect me, all the times they've said something nasty behind my back...and then I knew. I knew right away. My anger, my fury, my utter outrage is beginning to get the best of me, and if I don't deal with it immediately, I'll come totally unglued. And when I come unglued, my family gets the brunt of my bad moods and dreadful attitude.


It doesn't seem fair. The person who I want to verbally vomit on doesn't care, and it's me who's feeling the effects of the bitterness and disappointment that has taken root in my heart. It has happened without me really noticing, but it's obvious to me now that I have left my heart unguarded and have allowed that vile and corrupt feeling of animosity to come in, take root, and grow.

And now {inward sigh} I have to deal with it.

I guess the choices are two: keep being angry, or deal with my anger. I can't change the other person, so that only leaves me. And I don't want to (insert frowny face here, because I really don't want to. Like at all.). My anger feels justified, and if anything, the other person involved should see how wrong they are. And they should definitely apologize.

Right?

The problem is, my own unforgiveness, my own bitterness, and my own anger are all holding me hostage to my emotions. I'm like a slave to them, replaying old movies in my head of all the times I've been hurt, and getting more angry every single time. I keep saying It's not fair!, and it's probably not. But this is my reality. And I can choose to release my emotions to God, who can take the noxious emotions and replace it with His peace. I know this. I know this. The hard part is L-E-T-T-I-N-G G-O. If I let go, the other person wins.

Right?

Reality is hard to accept, especially when expectations are high. I'm not a fan of letting go, but I'm also not a fan of being miserable. Of letting my emotions control me. Of becoming unglued and acting out. Those things make for a sad life. And I was done with a sad life a long, long time ago.

Going to God is hard. I'm going to Him anyway. Releasing my anger is hard. I'm releasing it to Him anyway. Forgiving is waaaayy hard. I'm forgiving anyway. I'm not living in a prison cell I was never meant to inhabit, especially when it's one of my own making.

I'm chasing freedom.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Better Place to Be

I had a few friends over today. Not really for any purpose, just to get together and enjoy each other's company. I really love this part of my life; the part that gets to entertain, the part that gets to sit back, relax, and have a cup of tea with friends.

I made sure the house was spotless. Okay, I take that back. I made sure the main floor rooms were presentable and not noticeably dirty, and because I didn't have time to clean the rest of the house, I just left it as is. What is your "as is"? Because my "as is" can get kinda...untidy. Bedraggled and grimy, really.

It is not usually my intention to show the worst side of myself, as I doubt it is a side that most people really want to see or know. I'm the same way about my house. I feel like it reflects poorly on me when the dust makes the table that should be a warm walnut look worn and gray, when smudges and fingerprints on the refrigerator show, and the crumbs on the kitchen counter outnumber the crumbs I just put in my mouth (I think that crumbs multiply while I'm not looking. Where do they all come from? Why do they all stay just under the edge of the counter so that just when I think I'm done sweeping, they show themselves like some sort of rebellious hooligans?).

I cleaned. I showered and put my make-up on. I attempted to tame my hair (no such luck there). I organized and swept and made beds and dusted and made sure everything, including my outfit, was perfect.

Unfortunately, perfect is only in a magazine advertisement for cologne.

When my friends got here, they weren't expecting perfect (good thing, because they didn't actually get perfect). Before the day was all said and done, though, they did get to see me. They saw how I hung 12 birthday decorations with double-sided tape to my basement ceiling (not recommended), which promptly all fell down in a heap on the floor (except for the tape, which stuck nicely and is still there). They saw how messy the kids rooms are, plus the playroom, and they saw my son's bathroom ('nuff said there ;)).

Why did I expect perfection when perfection doesn't exist? Why do I hold myself to such a high standard that I get anxious about exposing the real me?

I think people appreciate transparency. They appreciate an open and warm countenance. I know I do. It's hard to get to know someone who keeps a plastic smile on their face and who keeps others at an arms length away. I've been there, and it's an exhausting place to live. I struggle with perfection. It seems so...perfect. Nothing in disarray. Nothing out of place. It's a place of control, of discipline. A place I can admire my togetherness, where I can look with pride upon the perfection I have single-handedly created. But it's a place that breeds anxiety and stress, exhaustion, tension and worry. It's a place I was never meant to be and it's a place I know I don't have to stay.

Sometimes I say things that I wish I had worded differently. Sometimes I show up to my kid's art class with no makeup, fresh (and sweaty) from a gym class. Sometimes I look in the mirror and I don't like what I see. Sometimes I look around my house and wish that I could just keep it together. Sometimes I look at my kids and wish I was a better parent. Are all these things me? Sure, but they don't truly reflect who I am. Untidy house, messy hair, misbehaving kids...my life isn't perfect, no matter how hard I try to make it that way. But I am confident in this: my place of anxiety, stress, tension and exhaustion is a place in the past, because I am a new creation in Christ. The old has passed away, and the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Monday, November 12, 2012

Love Language

The conversation started as a comparison between the two couples: my sister and her husband compared to me and my husband. We were discussing the infamous "love languages" developed by Gary Chapman, and we were talking about which ones fit us the best. We had to laugh, because when both people in the relationship have the same love language, expectations can begin to be...a little off. I jokingly admitted that I have excellent intentions of figuring out my husband's love language, but very often life has a way of butting in and ruining all of my most praiseworthy of intentions. So, I asked my sister and her husband, do thoughts count?

My sister's husband countered with this: are these intentions ever actually communicated? Do you ever actually act out what you think? Because, obviously, if those things never get said, then it's as good as never thinking them at all.

Our wedding day

I know this. But...ironically, I do expect my husband to read my mind. I do think that he should know how much I love him without me ever saying a word. But does he, really?

Our 10th Anniversary

Probably not. I mean, I hope that he knows how much I love him, but every good intention I have is simply a good intention unless I take the time and the effort to express what I'm thinking.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

"...let your adorning be
the hidden person of the heart
with the imperishable beauty of a
gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is
very precious."
1 Peter 3:4
 
 
 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Midweek Confessions

It's been awhile since I've done Midweek Confessions, so today I'm linking up with E over at E, Myself and I for a healthy dose of things that make you go hmmm...or at least things that I've done over the past few weeks that might make you glad to be you and not me ;)

-It's been a few {ahem} weeks since I've cleaned those blasted bathrooms. I have had every good intention of getting them cleaned, but things just keep popping up (darn). I decided it was high time I clean my bathroom today, and during the course of scrubbing, wiping and de-gunking, I decided that someone else would probably do a much better job than I do at cleaning (any takers? Please??? I can't pay you but I'd be very good company while you clean.). I'm ok at cleaning, but I hate doing the bathrooms the most, and so I get in a hurry and don't do as good of a job as I should. You'd think that since I am aware of this flaw, I would change my ways, but alas, here I am blogging when the bathroom is still not completely done.

This picture has nothing to do with this blog. I just looked at it and said "WHA? How the heck to you wash your hand?"

Ok. I feel better. My bathroom will always look better than this.
 

-A few weeks ago, I was at the grocery store, and I had gotten dressed up (read: jeans and Danskos instead of sweatpants and tennis shoes) and I had my hair did on top of all that. So, I think I'm not looking too shabby. I was walking towards a man who was looking intently at me, and the closer I got, the more he stared. I mean, yes, of course I looked good, but honestly, he needn't stare. I had almost passed him when he stopped me. "Ma'am," he says to me (honestly--ma'am?) "You have something in your hair. I think it's a fruit sticker." I looked down, and sure enough, I had a big 'ole sticker from a piece of fruit stuck in my hair. Brilliant. That'll take the wind right out of your sails for sure.

-Since many of my mishaps tend to happen at the grocery store (I spend a lot of time there...), I had to roll my eyes at my self for letting this happen...again. We cancelled the credit card I normally use at the store, and my husband reminded me that I needed to take the new card in. I got all my groceries, went through the entire checkout, and swiped my card. DENIED. What?!? Oh, then I remembered that I had just swiped the card that was just cancelled. Duh. So, the check-out girl is staring at me, the people behind me in line are drilling holes in the back of my head, like "Get on with it!", all my groceries are packed up and ready to go, and I'm dumbfounded. So, I say, "Oh! I've used the wrong card! So sorry! I've just got to run out to the car and grab the right one! Back in a flash!" And there I was, running across the Kroger parking lot for my card while register 7 waited patiently. As it turns out, the woman behind me was having quite the friendly chat with the check-out girl when I returned. A benefit of living in a smaller town. (Just as an aside, I did the same thing at Wal-Mart about a year ago, except that I had just forgotten my whole entire wallet at home while I went off merrily shopping, only to pick out a bunch of stuff, have it bagged up, and then have to leave my entire basket full of stuff sitting at the end of the register because I had no way to pay for it. Yes, my face was red on both accounts.)

Remember: they only take money. Not smiles.

-I'll let this be last for know, since I could write a novel on Unfortunate Heather Events. My daughter has to do a science project on the solar system. Most of the time, I am involved in the projects that come home from school. I don't have the creativity it takes to come up with any other solar system project than of the Styrofoam ball variety, so while at AC Moore, I discovered that there was a Styrofoam ball solar system kit! Hooray! We bring it home, we put it together. The project is in the bag! Except for these few unfortunate words my daughter said after school today: "Mom, my teacher says that we cannot use a kit for our project."  Yes, I am making a face right now... >:/

Who has time for this??

Monday, November 5, 2012

alluring beauty

The little girl across the waiting room from me today was cute as can be. She was around 7, waiting with her mom and her older sister for a doctor to see them. Her little round face was framed by dark brown hair, and her brown eyes looked shyly at me from time to time as I studied their family from behind my magazine. She was doing some studying of her own. She had picked up a magazine and had begun leafing through the pages, ooohing and aahhing over the pretty pictures, occasionally lifting one up to her mother. "Look at that dress, mama, it's pretty, ain't it?" Her mother looked at the picture, wrinkled her nose, and shook her head, probably willing herself to remember what I try to when I see those pictures: They aren't real. They are airbrushed. It's makeup and lights. Baby girl tried a few more times to show her mama some pretty pictures, and her face showed the delight of a little girl discovering something beautiful: "OOOoooo, look at her lipstick, mama" and "Ooooooh, shiney!" were just a few of the words she was exclaiming as she looked at the pretty magazine, full of pretty people in pretty clothes with pretty makeup in pretty poses.

While I watched her, I could see myself in those brown eyes, first discovering what the world called "pretty". It made me sad, as delighted as she was, because I knew that the wheels in that sweet little brain were turning as she absorbed what allure magazine called "pretty". And as she also absorbed the very message that many of us do from an early age: that she will never measure up.

While we were sitting there, an older woman came in to see the doctor. She had to have been in her late seventies or early eighties, but she was poised and pulled together, her white hair in a smart bun and her lipstick a carefully applied coral. Her skin was a smooth porcelain, and although she bore the obvious signs of aging, she showed wisdom and grace in her blue eyes and wrinkles. I was astounded by her beauty and grace. She was living proof that beauty is ageless. I wondered if she had ever felt beautiful, because if she had not, it would only be because she didn't believe it herself.

That woman would never be in allure, because that magazine, like most, has a very narrow and exclusive definition of what beauty is. But I saw today what beauty really is: a sweet young girl's expressive eyes and careless brown hair, her mouth formed in a perfect O as she delighted in pictures; a mother's wrinkled nose as she rebuffed, if only for a second, the world's pronouncement of beauty; a woman's white hair and thin, wrinkled mouth with carefully applied coral lipstick; and blue eyes that revealed a grace and a wisdom that only time can give.

Truth, and goodness, and beauty are but different faces of the same all.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, November 2, 2012

5 Minute Friday: Roots



Its Friday! And today I'm linking up with Lisa-Jo over at
lisajobaker.com for 5 minute Friday, where you write for 5 minutes. No overthinking, no editing, no backspacing.

Today's word prompt is ROOTS:

All I want to be is summed up by these simple verses:

Blessed is the man...
    [whose] delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

 
{Sigh.} Now I feel like I can breath. I know where my roots truly lie.
 
 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

From A to Z

I have several grandiose ideas for my house I'd like to accomplish. Like: I'm going to paint the entire basement, I'm going to paint the basement kitchenette cabinets, I'm going to hang shelves in my daughter's room and in the basement, I'm going to hang gallery walls in the living room, and I'm going to turn the playroom into a music room. Then, I look at the project as a whole and I am immediately overwhelmed. Before long, I get distracted by the more pressing issues of running a household, like dirty dishes, dirty laundry, dirty floors, dirty bathrooms...and before I know it, my projects are just a memory. I'll never get started on them unless I'm willing to do the work to complete them, but sometimes it's so overwhelming, and I know the work won't be easy, and worst of all, it will take time to complete the things I want done, so I stop before I even have the chance to get started. And then that little feeling called defeat starts to sneak in there, and I know that I don't have what it takes to get what I want done. I think I've gotten worse as I've gotten older, too, because I feel like any project that takes time and effort may not be the project for me.


The playroom. I can't even begin to think about tackling this right now...or ever...
So it is with change in my life as well.

I know there are things about myself that need to change, and that I'd be better off if I did change. But when I look at where I am now compared to where I want to be, I immediately get overwhelmed. Half the time I don't even know how I'm supposed to get from point A to point Z, and there are too many letter in the in between for me to even consider going there. So, I continue to stay stuck. I know it's going to take lots of work, even more time, and a commitment to change, and most of the time,  so it's more comfortable to stay right where I am. Not better off, mind you. And anyways, all those pressing issues that life presents often get me so sidetracked that I can't concentrate on change even if I wanted to. And I begin to feel defeated.

God doesn't ask me to come up with a plan. He only asks that I depend on Him for my steps (the steps of a man are established by the Lord, Psalm 37:23) and that I trust Him. He has a plan for my life (Jeremiah 29:11), and He is asking that I give my anxious, overwhelmed heart to Him so that He can do His work in my life. If I allow His work in my life, then I will be transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2), and I won't have to try so hard to even get from point A to point B. He's there to guide me with His light (Psalm 119:105) so that my paths stay straight (Proverbs 3:6).

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Have I Been Blind?

The world certainly takes it toll on us, doesn't it? It seems like the harder I try to stay true to what I believe, the harder the world pushes against me. My eyes have seen too much. Things don't even shock me anymore; the daily news, TV shows, and the media have made us a jaded people.

Do we even realize it?

Carnival by Natalie Merchant makes me think of the way video games hypnotize, the way self-centeredness causes us to turn a blind eye to the plight of others, and how social media, reality TV, and Hollywood has us mesmerized by it's smoke and mirrors.

 

Have I been blind
Have I been lost
Inside myself and
My own mind
Hypnotized
Mesmerized
By what my eyes have seen?

Have I been wrong
Have I been wise
To shut my eyes
And play along
Hypnotized
Paralyzed
By what my eyes have found
By what my eyes have seen
What they have seen?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Do I Have To?

Is it because Justin Bieber is being streamed in every room in my house? (In my defense, my daughter turned on Pandora while she was cooking. I just didn't argue about what station she chose ;) )

Or because my mind is really on those picture frames I want to hang and the refrigerator I have got to clean out?

Any way you look at it, my mind has not been on writing. Correction: is not on writing. I'm sitting here staring at the screen, silently singing "Never say neveeeeerrrr", watching my kids be-bop around the kitchen. I haven't been concentrating on Scripture, I haven't been looking for ways that He's working in my life, and I certainly haven't been talking to Him like I could be.





Huh. Like I could be. It just occurred to me, right as I wrote that, that talking to God by praying isn't a chore, and shouldn't be just another line to cross off on my daily to-do list. I don't think about it often, but the fact that my country allows me the freedom to worship my God, and choose the way I worship Him, is really special. And the fact that I can talk to Him when and where I want to is such a privilege. Why do I rarely see it as one?


He abandoned baking in favor of the puzzle
Usually I do my quiet time more out of obligation than anything else, usually because I am aware of the benefit of spending time with Him. The problem is that I'm also aware of how much other stuff needs to be done, and I have a hard time putting God ahead of my schedule. But if I were to see every moment of my quiet time (maybe even see every moment outside my quiet time, too) as the greatest opportunity I have instead of something I have to do...



Sunday, October 28, 2012

Food for Thought: Kids

[You can] be particular about what you allow into your home; it is your right and responsibility to protect the innocence of your children.

--Vicki Courtney, 5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Daughter

Friday, October 26, 2012

Five Minute Friday: My Inner Voice



I'm linking up with Lisa Jo over at lisajobaker.com for her weekly 5 minute Friday. I love the concept of this, as it gives you a chance to write without overthinking. Today's writing prompt is VOICE. Join me!


I make an effort to be sure my voice is calm when someone else messes up. My inner voice screams at me when I make a mistake.

I try to carefully choose kind words when I talk to others. My inner voice doesn't keep her mouth shut.

My voice is even painstakingly politically correct. My inner voice doesn't even try to speak PC.

If my thoughts matched my deliberate actions...if I tried to make the effort toward being more positive...if I made the effort to tame my inner voice...

My life would probably more positive without me really even having to try!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Inner Calm

When I was elementary age, my school had this really fun tradition of buying balloons and putting students' name on each one. Then we would all go outside and release them at the same time. The idea behind it was that as the balloons popped and landed, the person who found it was supposed to contact the school so we would know how far our balloons went. I think some of them went pretty far! That was one thing I looked forward to every year in elementary school. I loved watching all the different colored balloons float off in the sky, wondering where each one would land.



Over the weekend, I came across an article in Better Homes and Gardens called Switch on your brain. I became intrigued as I read the subtitle: New advances in neuroscience are shedding light on what it really takes to head off cognitive decline. As I feel I am often heading straight into cognitive decline (for instance: I went to the grocery store specifically for 3 items. I came out with 10; however, I was missing one of the 3 that I originally went in for. I have to roll my eyes at my own self sometimes.), I immediately read the entire article. According to these experts, exercise, eating a diet rich in seafood, fresh veggies, whole grains and plant-based oils (referred to as a Mediterranean-style diet), monitoring your blood pressure, learning-and trying-new things and taking care of depression are all big factors in healthy cognitive function. But what really caught my attention was one big factor in cognitive decline that I seem to carry around with me every where I go: stress. It can come in many different forms: anger, frustration, anxiety, bitterness, unforgiveness, sadness, worry--the list could go on. But the significant thing to me is that stress in my life causes my brain to suffer.

"You can't always avoid tense situations, but you can control how you respond to stress" says the magazine, and I believe they are absolutely right (you can read their in-depth guide at BHG.com/InnerCalm). The experts suggest yoga or mediation for longer-lasting stress protection. I'm all for that, but I have a hard time meditating. I do think that it is valuable, and I think that meditation and the Bible have a place together in my life. But when I actually take the time to sit down and meditate, all my other thoughts knock each other down in their efforts to sabotage my quiet time. Then I end up more stressed, which defeats the entire purpose and wastes my time, which frustrates me. Ugh. So when I read this tip from Giuseppe Pagnoni, PhD (a neuroscientist at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Modena, Italy), I had to take note: If a stressful distraction pops into your head (Did I remember to mail the car payment?), don't try to squash it; instead, allow it to drift through your thoughts like a cloud in the sky. This is a new concept for me, since all the 8 times I've tried to seriously meditate, there are more stressful distractions than peaceful moments.

I've talked a lot about how God is able and willing to take on all my "stuff": my stress, my anger, my sadness, my depression, my anxiety. And he's willing to replace it with His peace, grace, love and joy. As I sat down to meditate the night I read that article, my distracting thoughts immediately took front and center stage. But instead of ignoring them or trying to squash them, I imagined them in one of those balloons from elementary school, with God's name on it. It may seem like a crazy thought, but imagining Him gathering all my balloons and knowing He can take care of those things brought such a peace to my mind.


Every day is a challenge in the "I'm-in-a-constant-state-of-panic/frenzy/anxiety" department, and I know I don't handle things as well as I could. But meditating on God's Word (a good place to start is Psalm 131:2: "But I have calmed and quieted my soul") is a great way in the middle of a hectic schedule to calm my spirit take in His peace.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Food for Thought: Gifts

Children are precious gifts from God and bear the indelible stamp of God's image.

--Michelle Anthony, Spiritual Parenting

Monday, October 22, 2012

Vacation Blues

When I was young, my parents didn't vacation much. Our normal vacation, if we took one, was a trip to the campground with friends, and our "big" vacation was a trip to Myrtle Beach. It didn't happen every year, but when a beach trip did happen, it was a big deal. My mom did most of the planning, and nothing could take away the excitement that my sister and I would feel leading up to the trip. We thought we were big stuff because we were lucky enough to stay in a condo instead of a motel. The big day would come, we would be packed with enough stuff to do in the truck on the way down, and off we would go. And everyone would stay in good spirits until the inevitable happened: my parents would get into a fight. Maybe it would be in the car on the way down because mom didn't like the way dad was driving. Maybe it would happen when we got there and dad would be frustrated because the directions weren't clear on how to get there. Maybe it would happen a few days in because mom would burn dinner and set off the smoke detector, leaving an unfortunate odor in the awesome condo (true story). But, no matter what, they would get into a argument, putting an ugly blotch on a great family vacation.

 

This past weekend, my husband and I had the awesome opportunity to create beautiful memories for our own kids as we traveled to the mountains of North Carolina for some much needed rest and relaxation. But on the way there, we took a wrong turn, making what should have been a 3.5-4 hour trip into a 6 hour trip. My husband and I had had enough of being in the car on narrow, twisty backwoods roads with no cell service (tragic), and before I knew it, terse, sharp words were said. I felt frustrated, but not necessarily at my husband, and in the silence that filled the car, I flashed back to my own vacations when my parents did the same thing. Suddenly I knew something I couldn't have known as a kid: some of the reasons why they argued. But I know something now that they clearly were not able to get a firm grasp on: negative thoughts lead to negative words and actions.





As I sat there in the car, I could see how over the past couple of months I've slipped and allowed some negative thinking back in to my mind. It's a slippery slope when negative thoughts are allowed, and before I knew it, my negative thoughts had become negtive words and actions, and not just on our drive, but in everything I do. I could see where I had become just a little more reclusive, a little more irritable, and a little less cheery. Maybe it wasn't obvious to anybody else but me, but deep down, I knew.



At that moment in the car, I made a vow to myself to start thinking more postively, and I said a little prayer along those lines as well (i.e. "HELP!"). I think recognition is the first, among many, baby steps that I have to take. And you know what? Nothing changed instantly. But I was immediately aware of just how negative my thoughts were, and of how many negative thoughts I had. It felt like all of them were negative.



Sometimes, it's hard to think that I can ever change. It's overwhelming when I suddenly realize where I am and I have to squint my eyes to see where I want to be. But that's the beauty of my relationship with Christ. Just when I think that it's hopeless to even think about changing, He comes in to fight. He promises that I can be transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2) so that I don't have to stay in the rut of negative thinking. All I have to do is call on Him.

Baby steps.