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
By what my eyes have seen?

Have I been wrong
Have I been wise
To shut my eyes
And play along
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 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 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.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Food for Thought: Trust

10-11 Who out there fears God,
    actually listens to the voice of his servant?
For anyone out there who doesn’t know where you’re going,
    anyone groping in the dark,
Here’s what: Trust in God.
    Lean on your God!

Isaiah 50:10

I'm taking some time off from blogging to spend with my family. Have a great weekend and I'll see you back here on Monday:)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Announcing: Chaos

I have this feature on my house phone that will announce the name of the person calling when the phone rings. It's a nice feature to have, since I don't always get up right away to answer the phone (especially right now, what with all the political calls...ridiculous). Most of the time, it doesn't bother me so much. Today was a different story!

I had already fixed dinner for my kids, so their dinner dishes were still on the table. My daughter decided that today was the day to clean out her bookbag--much needed, but she decided to dump the entire contents of her bag out right beside the table. Right where I needed to walk. My phone was beeping, letting me know I had a text message about my husband being on the way home, so I started his dinner. Both kids had homework books and sheets of paper strewn across the counter tops, and I had started unloading the dishwasher so the clean dishes where mixing with the dirty ones. My son was talking to me (Mom, what if we walked 10 miles--no, mom-mom-mom--what if we walked 20 miles--no, wait--mom-mom-mom-mom--hey, mom, what if we walked 20 miles in our bare feet...). That's when the phone started ringing, announcing loudly "Call from Richmond, V-A" (another political call, no doubt). So my daughter starts asking me "Mom, where's the phone? Mom, hey Mom, Mom! Mom! Where's the phone?" She's talking, he's still talking, the phone is ringing and announcing, the grilled cheese I'm making has been on the griddle a minute too long, there are dishes and papers and books and bookbag paraphernalia that hasn't seen the light of day since last year spread from one end to the other...and all of the sudden, I feel like I'm going to scream. I could feel that familiar feeling rising up in my chest, ready to snap at the next person who crossed my path...

...when this occured to me (thank God it did): the people who are getting ready to cross my path are people I love very much. They are innocent bystanders, simply talking to me because they like to talk (sometimes a little too much, but it's better than having a silent house. Trust me, my house is silent most of the day.), and I'm getting ready to bite off their heads because I happen to have become suddenly and swiftly overwhelmed with circumstances.

I don't do well with chaos. Visual chaos, mental chaos, auditory chaos--I don't deal well with any of it. Maybe I need a zen garden. Maybe I need a mental break, or do more yoga. Or maybe I need to learn how to deal with chaos because life happens to be a little chaotic, and I don't think that's going to change.

Recognizing that I don't do well when overwhelmed and I need a better way to deal is an important step for me, because then I begin to see what I'm reacting to and be proactive instead of just reacting.

Today, when my mind felt like it was going to explode and come out of my mouth, I was able to recognize what I was upset about and stop myself from getting angry and snappy with my kids. I quickly said a little prayer that basically asked God for a little help. It wasn't perfect, and I'm sure someone felt ignored in the process, but I'm seeing progress in the way I choose to handle myself, and that's a step in the right direction in my book.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Lasting Impression

It all started because I wanted the TV in my keeping room moved to the basement.

I thought about the TV I was getting rid of, thought about how when we got it, it was the newest thing out. Now it's just an old castoff, its years showing in the age of plasma and flat screen. I thought about how I wished I could move it on my own, which I can't because its a behemoth and weighs about 800 pounds. Which reminded me of the guy at Best Buy who loaded that thing in our car all by himself (I still don't know how he did that!). Which made me wonder if he still worked there (probably not), which made me think about all the people I've come into contact with over the last few decades. Those one-time, 5 minutes interactions where you use your best manners, or maybe you don't because you know that you'll never see that person ever again in your whole entire life. Which made me wonder this: what kind of impression do I leave with other people?

Maybe some don't think about it, and maybe some don't care, but have you ever thought about it before? One of the instructors at the gym I go to used to say (as an encouragement to work harder) that our rear ends were the last impression we made when we left a room. I laugh, and honestly it does make me work a little harder, but is that the only lasting impression I leave? Or could a positive attitude, a genuine smile or a kind word make an impression that will last longer than a picture of my tush sashaying out of a room?

I fear that in the past, I've not worked too hard on making a lasting impression on others. I've been so involved in me, in my issues and my schedule that I didn't worry too much about what others really thought. Of course, I want to make a good impression, so I always wear make-up, do my hair, and use my manners. But I think that I have an opportunity to share a little more than my latest make-up technique; I have the opportunity to let Christ shine. To do that means I need to worry a little less about me, and allow Him to work in all those hurt and dark places that need His love so I can shine, but when I allow Him to, boy will He ever make an impression on other people. A lasting impression that they won't soon forget.

Friday, October 12, 2012

5 Minute Fridays: Race

Today, I'm linking up with Lisa Jo Baker at Lisa Jo Baker: tales from a Gypsy Mama
 for 5 Minute Fridays, where we are all encouraged to write for 5 minutes flat, with no editing, no over thinking, and no backtracking (yikes!). I am excited to be a part of this, and even if you didn't think about before now, take 5 minutes with me and just write what is in your heart.

Ready? Go!


I feel like I'm always racing. Always rushing. Always spinning my wheels in that proverbial sand. Go here, do that, finish this, rush past them, no time to talk, no time to do anything...only to get back where I started.

But what am I racing against?

There is more than the race. There is also life.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


A friend was telling me about a movie she watched called Taken. The basics are that this guy who has worked for the government allows his teenage daughter to go to Europe with a friend, and they get kidnapped (or taken, hence the title of the movie). I won't tell you the rest, just in case you want to watch it, but I can assure you of one thing: from the little I heard, that movie would scare the tar out of me. I have similar reactions when I read the paper or watch the news, or hear of an Amber Alert. It's all very scary and too real.

My friend's take, and she was of course exaggerating to a certain degree, was that 1) she was never letting her children go to Europe by themselves and 2) she was never letting them out of her sight. I whole-heartedly agreed. How else would they possibly be safe if I wasn't there to protect them?

But, I've written about this before, and honestly, who am I kidding? Do I think that I can protect the ones that are close to me from every bad thing that happens? I'm not a superhero, and I don't have special powers. Part of me wants them to be tough so they can handle what the world throws at them, and the other part wants to put them in a protective bubble. Maybe forever.

Thinking about this just made it that much more obvious how much I need Someone who can handle my fear and my angst, and who I can also trust to take care of me and the ones I love. The more I thought about always being around to protect the ones I love, the more the fear and the pressure built up inside. It's too much for anyone to handle. I've got to let it go or risk letting the pressure build up to dangerous levels. But I have a hard time letting go. I know God is good, but...can I really trust Him with the things that are the most important to me?

Jack woke up last night with a bad dream, and was too scared to go back to sleep in his room. As he was lying beside me, I knew I was supposed to be his comforter, his protector, yet I couldn't protect him from the fear he was feeling. I wanted to say some comforting words about how he can trust in God when he's scared, but I couldn't find the words. How could I explain to him how to trust in a God I'm not so sure I trust entirely myself?

Doubt is the first weapon in an arsenal pointed right at me. If I can be convinced to doubt God's goodness, and to even begin to wonder if He can be trusted, then my relationship with Him is broken.

My first line of defense is to recognize my feelings and pray about them. Yes, I feel fear, yes, I feel doubt, yes, I wonder if He is as trustworthy as He says He is. Then, I make the choice to trust Him anyway, despite the fact that I am wavering and unsure. It's not the first time He's dealt with it, and it won't be the last. But He is merciful and full of grace, and He's not going to just leave me hanging. Lastly, I need to dive into His Word with a passion. The Bible is the complete truth, and by recognizing that, I'm able to balance my fear and my doubt with His Words of Truth and Life.

By building on the solid rock foundation of truth, I won't be taken by the waves of uncertainty and doubt that are sure to come as life happens.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Wax On, Wax Off

Are you thinking about The Karate Kid? Because every time I hear those familiar words, I think of Mr. Miyagi and the dreamy Ralph Macchio (just as an aside, I just looked him up and did you know he's FIFTY????) practicing one of the most important (and one with lasting impact on viewers) lessons the Karate Kid ever had.

We just watched new version of The Karate Kid (a 2010 version with Jaden Smith), which was based on the same basic premise as the "old" Karate Kid. Instead of "wax on, wax off", the main character Dre had to take his coat off and put it back on. Over and over. And over again.

Neither one of these movies was about Karate, really, they were more about discipline and focus, which was really obvious to me as I watched through the eyes of an adult instead of a kid. The master couldn't get the student to really learn until he was disciplined enough and focused enough to do it. After we turned the movie off, I couldn't get the idea of discipline out of my head. Is discipline really that important? Can I even be more disciplined? What does that mean in my life?

I want to learn how to do this!

Obviously, I'm not going to meet the next Mr. Miyagi and suddenly turn into the next Karate Kid (although I think I would be an excellent candidate for such a position--ha and double ha!).

I've never really thought too much about discipline in my life until now, and it's become more and more obvious to me just how undisciplined I really can be. I tend to go for what is easy over what works, and it's an example that I've been showing my kids for years (and is now being evidenced by the fact that they throw their coats on the floor when they walk in the door instead of hanging them up, and then I walk over said coats for a good 30 minutes after I ask them to pick them up. Good grief.). My behavior on most days isn't what I would call unsatisfactory; I have fairly good manners, I don't cuss (at least not out loud), I don't do anything illegal (except speed-see below), and I attempt to be a good friend, neighbor and citizen. So far so good on the surface, but when it comes down to it, I don't make myself do what I know I should: I run late 90% of the time (hence the speeding), I will step over something in the floor a thousand times before I pick it up, I don't plan well (or at all), I have deplorable time management skills, I get distracted easily and will subsequently have 18 projects/chores going on at once (and if they ever actually get 100% completed it's a miracle), and I am only a so-so listener.

I used to think that I simply couldn't focus. It just wasn't part of my DNA, so why even try? I'm beginning to see that God gave me a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7), and He means for me to use it. I used to think that because I couldn't focus and I seem to have what I'll call a "faulty" memory, that I couldn't memorize Scripture. I have let myself off the hook so many times because I just told myself "I can't", and let that be that. But I'm realizing that the reason I couldn't is partly due to the fact that I never made myself. I never made myself memorize Scripture, or even remember people's names.

God is kind of like my own personal Mr. Mayigi (if I may have the liberty to say that here). He tells me what I've got (a sound mind), and how to use it (Titus 2:1-3, Philippians 4:8 for just a few examples--we should read the whole Bible to learn how to use what we've got!). When I'm willing to line up my life with His will, He shows me where I need to go, what I need to do, and how I need to do it, and He gently admonishes me along the way when I lose focus. Just like most things, it's a daily choice (and it's not easy) to become more disciplined and focused in my life--even in the smallest little things--but I'm ready to try.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Food for Thought: Confidence

Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. 

Inaction is not only the result, but the cause, of fear. 

Perhaps the action you take will be successful; perhaps different action or adjustments will have to follow.

But any action is better than no action at all. 

-Norman Vincent Peale

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Battle

I talked yesterday about how I struggle with "feeling" pretty. It's a daily battle to put my confidence in God instead of in the scale.

I woke up today with a blemish. If there is one thing on this entire Earth that I absolutely hate, it's blemishes. I see no redeeming qualities about them whatsoever. I don't know anyone who actually likes blemishes, but I do know people who aren't bothered by them. Or at least who aren't as bothered as I am about them.

When I look in the mirror and I don't like what I see, I am once again putting my trust in something that will ultimately fail. Who I am cannot be defined by what I see, because there is so much more to life than what I look like. And I'm pretty sure that my friends aren't going to bolt in the other direction simply because I have a blemish on my face. The point is, I need to develop my beauty in my soul so that as the outside fades away (which it is guaranteed to do), I will have things like depth of character, inner beauty, and creativity to show who I really am. Is it a struggle? Yep, as I've shared before, it's a daily struggle for me to not believe what the world says is true: that physical beauty is everything. I have recently learned what Jehoshaphat learned all those hundreds of years ago, though:

"Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed...for the battle is not yours but God's...You will not need to fight in this battle.
Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:15, 17).

The battle has already been won.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Our Eyes Are On You

My days don't feel complete if I don't exercise.

We are probably all aware of some of the benefits of exercise, like weight control, mood enhancer, and energy booster (visit the Mayo Clinic website for more benefits of exercise). I honestly feel better after I exercise. But, sometimes I think I take it too far. Most days, I quickly pray and get my quiet time out of the way so I can exercise, because my whole day revolves around my exercise schedule. Exercise should be a priority, only because we know that it's a good thing to take care of our bodies. But for it to be my No. 1 Priority? Above all else, including my time with God?

I think the problem is that I exercise to stay thin, and I equate being thin with being beautiful.

My heart desperately seeks this elusive, intangible thing called beauty, and most of the time I have many questions (see Tuesday's post), but I rarely feel like I have any answers. And all those open questions in a person's soul can cause one to go to dangerous places to get them answered. One of my dangerous places is overexercise and incessantly tabulating my calorie intake in my head. Another is seeking affirmation from other people. Much of life seems to exist on this fine, narrow path, which I can't seem to stay steady on. It seems that if you swerve too far to the right or to the left, you end up in a ditch. I don't want to end up there, but I also don't feel like I can consistently stay on the straight and narrow. That leaves me with the feeling of being very...stuck. And afraid. And very anxious.

I end up wobbling and unsteady on this narrow path because I don't know what else to do.

I was reading a passage of Scripture (2 Chronicles 20, suggested in the bible study I'm currently in) this morning about King Jehoshaphat, who is going to be attacked by some other armies. It turns out that kings sometimes are afraid, too, because the Bible says that Jehoshaphat was afraid so he turned his face to seek the Lord (vs. 3). Then, he says these words that caught my attention: "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you" (vs. 12).

When I am feeling unsure, wobbling to and fro, I very rarely lift my eyes and look to Him. When I don't know what to do, I tend to look to those dangerous places. I say to myself "I don't know what to do to feel pretty, so I'll exercise as much as I can", or "I don't know what to do to feel beautiful, so I'll depend on other people to make me feel pretty", or "I don't know what to do to feel pretty, so I will let the number on the scale determine my worth." All of those places are dangerous places to be. I will surely end up in the ditch of anxiety and fear if those things are the things that I am depending on to build me up.

Jehoshaphat's words are simple, yet powerful: "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You."

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Beautiful Questions


What comes to mind when you hear that word?

I think of elegance, grace and charm. I think of other people who I think possess beauty.


I wonder why beauty is so elusive. Why is she within sight but so far out of reach?

And why does my desire for beauty outweigh my desire for a calm, peaceful existence?

What am I seeking from trying so hard to be beautiful? Is it a feeling I'm trying to capture, or is it a look I'm trying to achieve? Can beauty span the decades or is it something a person can only hold onto for a fleeting moment before she fades away?

What does beauty really mean to me? A pretty face? A beautiful physique? Charm, grace, elegance? Confidence? Or all of those things wrapped up in one, big beautiful package?

Is it possible to possess inner beauty and confidence without being traditionally beautiful on the outside? How does a person attain this goal?

Why does the girl who looks back at me never measure up to my standard of beauty? Where did that standard of beauty come from? Why have I never questioned that standard before?

Is it possible for me to change my expectations? Is it possible for me to accept myself for myself, and not who I want to look like?

Is it possible to find beauty in me despite myself?