Thursday, June 30, 2011

Battle for Contentment

Mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as they are. (Webster)
Strong States:
1) a perfect condition of life in which no aid or support is needed
2) sufficiency of the necessities of life
3) a mind contented with its lot 

Gulp.... I've never been satisfied with the way things are. In fact, I'll be honest, I am rarely satisfied with anything. Sad, but true statement. I am a recovering perfectionist after all  - in my mind nothing is ever perfect so there are always things to change in every realm of my life. When I was 6 I went to the Rogue Valley musical and told my momma I was going to play the violin because it played such  beautiful music - I thought all about it and when I was in 4th grade I started lessons and played through my college years.
When I was 6 I also told my momma I wanted a horse. She mistakenly said if I saved enough money then I could buy one - oh the hopes and dreams I gained by that one statement. So, I saved and saved and rolled newspapers and babysat and finally leased a horse in 6th grade. By 8th grade I had saved the 1,500 dollars to buy my beloved horse. That sweet horse came with me to  Texas and is living out a lavished retirement in McKinney as a pasture ornament. From a small child I always had plans - or made plans or dreamed of plans. The word impossible wasn't in my vocabulary.

Think about it, as little  girls we dream about our prince charming, college, babies, homes, more  babies, new cars, etc. Then we pursue those dreams.  I've got my prince, we live in a great castle, with two little princes and a princess, we drive a mini-carriage and often play out on the lawn until sunset. My life is wonderful yet I'm still discontent - my whole life contentment has been a goal ahead of me instead of a state of mind.  I have accomplished, with the Lord's blessing and provision, all that I desired and now I sit and wonder - what is next?  Even writing that out makes me feel totally selfish - I mean those are great goals but David Livingston greatest dream was to bring the name of Christ to Africa and persevered amidst drought and plague and disease. Now that is  kingdom goal! I can't  remember dreaming about my life past babies? Now I'm there and am struggling with discontentment and purposful vision (aside from raising great godly kids which is my primary focus)? I want more babies or I want to move or I want to ........ (fill in the blank). I think the Lord,  in this still quiet evening, is bringing me to a place where I am content with the  earthly life he has bestowed upon me. The vision God is painting for me weaves in a heart of contentment that focus intently on eternal life goals - those David Livingston or Charles Mueller type dreams that reach beyond today and impact eternity.

I am on a sweet yet hard journey with God, digging into the crevices of my soul, asking God why he made me with such a drive to overcome the next challenge, why He created me with this idea of perfection even being attainable? Then I'm asking  - what is next? What will God do with that crazy God given personality that will humbly impact the kingdom of God for all of eternity?  In the scriptures, I've been journaling and re-reading the life of Paul - you know the Apostle who said while in prison, that he could be content in all circumstances? He also wrote,  ... I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 
 ~ 2 Corinthians 12:10 ~

God made me with a determined personality, but he also made me weak. It is through these weaknesses that God will be  glorified. So, in my weakness of discontentment and perfectionism and lack of control,  I'm memorizing, re-thinking, slowing down, practicing..... Contentment. 

Here are a few things I've been working on the month of June to work on contentment:
  • Driving in the slow lane and going the speed limit (which means leaving with 5-10 minutes to spare incase the train comes and thus arriving early to places).
  • Removing all expectations and just enjoying the journey (mainly in our trip to Colorado which was a great get my hands dirty lesson). We had no agenda - no reserved hotel rooms or scheduled attractions - yikes!
  • Stopping in the middle of tasks and leaving them undone (crazy I know) and choosing not to think about it. Instead I'll grab a book and my kiddo's and spend some one on 3 time reading together.
  • Playing on the floor with my kids for a fixed period of time without any goal or purpose on educating or cleaning. I am so bad about turning a fun little thing into a school lesson that omits the playing and leads to cleaning up.
  • Not doing school - I look at summer as a great time to get ahead in school work for next year, after all you don't want to forget anything. We are working on Math this summer, but aside from that I'm choosing (nail bite!) not to push anything else formally. When I get the bug to grab a workbook or handwriting page I grab a book and read to them instead. 
  • Putting Abby to bed and doing the whole process of cuddles and Goodnight Moon and singing and praying. Slowing down time and savoring the moments really helps me with contentment.
  • Contrary to above, I'm working on not biting my fingernails - a bad habit I do when anxious.
Areas brought to light :
  • Not planning ahead or dreaming of long term plans which leads me to be unhappy with where I am at this exact moment.
  • Pestering my husband about adopting a child
  • Praying diligently when times of discontentment come
  • Encouraging my husband verbally and giving him a lot more hugs and smiles and touches which force me to slow down and forget my agenda.
In the Quiet morning or evenings I am content, when I journal I am content, when I rest and meditate on scripture or sit with my children on the floor, I am content. I am filled with Joy. 

I've noticed when the busy and hurried and unknown part of life comes at me -- I become anxious and that supernatural joy dissipates. In the hurried I loose sight of my Savior and the plans He has for my life. I get caught in the trap of planning out my future and missing out on the joy of today. 

As a recovering perfectionist, who has spent most of her life wounded by a discontented spirit - I'm choosing joy and contentment in this place called Today.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Lover: A Girl After Momma's Heart

 My little book worm - I think she might take after her momma when it comes to loving books.

I just love this little girl and all her spunk!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Summer Blessings ~ Vacation Edition

 "Be like a postage stamp, stick to one thing until you get there."

960. We made it safely to Colorado and back - stuck together in the van for 30+ hours, we truly grew as a family in faith, in love and grace and maturity. We had a  blast!

961. First family road trip - the books on tape were great, momma's singing  was fun and the fast food was tempting!
962. Family time at the park in Colorado Springs - we saw tons of  homeless people and it just broke my heart to see them watch our family running all over the park looking at trains and chasing squirrels. What must their childhood been like? I am so blessed by God to have been given three little blessings and a husband who would conquer the world for us. God has bestowed on us a great blessing and with it comes great responsibility.

963. Playing at the Focus on the Family visitors center ~ we spent hours playing in the rooms and going down the slide. Abby loved the toddler room with lots of room to play and run!
964. Pilot Drew and his adventurous spirit. Drew is always imagining crazy adventures so the Focus on the Family welcome center was just the place for him!
965. Pretty girl in a pretty room having tons of fun!
966. Eager children to play dress up? No, not really my  boy's style but they humored their crazy momma and had fun!

967.  Beautiful, Majestic mountain view greeting me each morning as I rose and spent some time with the Lord. I spent so much  time journaling and writing out prayers - the scenery was the perfect ambiance for deep spiritual intimacy!
968. Rushing rapids and waterfalls ~ God your creation just screams of a Creator. There was so much beauty in Colorado!
969. My mountain climber - Drew loved climbing on the rocks and cliffs.

970. Little boys with sticks -  they just go together and make me smile every time I see boys and stick or rocks. There was lots of rock throwing on our trip too!

971. Picnic lunches in the mountains with blow torched grilled cheese sandwiches!

972. Time with far away family.

973. Aging dog who made the trip with a sweet spirit despite her aging hips and shadowing eyes. Our Lab loved to be included and see her old handler Scotty. She even enjoyed the train ride up the mountain with our family and sleeping in the van two nights while we all slept in the hotel.

974. Girly smiles covered in dirt and mud! Abby loved all the fresh air and time with family.
975. Afternoon hikes with Daddy!
976. Time with Grandma who just returned from China!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Colorado Trip Summary

What a wonderful vacation we had! I think Colorado is as beautiful as Oregon. I greatly enjoyed waking up most morning and sitting out on the deck, spending time with the Lord over some Joel Clarkson classical music and the magnificent snow peaked Rocky Mountains towering over me. The boys were so spent most nights that they slept well past 9 AM, which gave me some quiet mornings to set my pace for the day.

Certainly  getting together with family is stressful and it was so difficult to get 13+ people to decide on a  common plan for the day, but overall we had such a great time. The evenings were spent with cards and cribbage and canasta! The days were relaxing with a few adventures thrown in. Our vacation began on Thursday afternoon, we drove to Amarillo and spent the night, then on to Colorado Springs for  two days. We visited the Focus on the Family visitors center and we all played at Wits End! Then on to Breckenridge for a full week in a 4 story cabin - thanks to Grandma Patti and her adventurous idea! Here were some other highlights once we arrived at the Breckenridge cabin - some were planned, others not so much!

  • Swimming in the hot tub overlooking the Rocky Mountains
  • Leadville train ride into the mountains, overlooking 4 aspen groves, we also met a group of older ladies who fell in love with our kids and bought them each a special train and sugary sweets.
  • Swimming in the Hilton pool in Colorado Springs - meeting some nice firemen and playing with all their equipment.
  • Drew's fort below our cabin that he spent hours imagining and inventing in.
  • Taking the pack of dogs for hilly walks!
  • Falling down the slippery stairs (who puts tile on stairs?) and  getting a 6 inch bruise on my bottom that is completely  black - ouch!
  • Sliding down the giant twisty slide at Focus on the Family and drinking soda's at the soda shop!
  • Evening canasta tournaments - John and I won and didn't have any arguments!
  • Walking around down town Breckenridge, eating icecream and watching the river flow through town.
  • Date Night at  Bubba Gumps Down Town with my sweet husband.
  • Gabe throwing up all over the McDonald's lobby in Childress, he proceeded to vomit every 30 minutes until we arrived home 4+ hours later.
  • A random horse visiting with us in the Pueblo Colorado rest stop - malnourished and covered in tumors. I felt so  bad for the horse, I wish I could have taken him home,  but ended up calling animal control. I hope they found him and gave him some food!
  • Driving to the top of  Mt. Elbert at 14,440 feet which is the highest point in Colorado.
  • Tons of mountain sickness - the kids would vomit at the oddest times and we couldn't figure out why. Turned out  it was from the altitude!
  • Going into the mountains off-roading in Uncle David's truck.
  • Seeing a beaver.
  • Beautiful rivers and lakes and mountains wherever we looked!
  • Sledding and playing in the snow.
  • Awaking at 6AM to the fire alarm going off in the hotel - it  went on and off for 2 hours!
  • Cleaning out Abby's car seat 4 times while we were gone due to unexpected vomiting.
  • Playing at random parks so the dog could get out and run around and the kids could let off lots of pent up energy.
  • Book time with my kids and by myself!
  • Ton's of great food - especially Howard's ribs and Kessa's orange salmon!
  • Starbucks Runs!
  • Singing my kids to sleep in the car on our way  home.
  • Stopping at Walgreen's and spending 30.00 on various carsickness cures - ginger, ginger ale, migraine medicine, sinus buster, etc. We arrived  home very tired and very sick
  • Somehow the stomach bug found its way home with us, but we're finally all well!
Our family vacation was a success, it was the first we've taken as a family of 5 and our very first road trip with kids. We enjoyed the time with family and grandma and aunts and uncles. Most of all we enjoyed the chance to push out of our normal routine, embrace each day as an adventure (which is hard for me when things aren't planned) and go with the flow. It was a nice reminder to me that the best moments in life are rarely ever planned and a "go with the flow" attitude is contagious and fun to be around.We had a wonderful  trip to Colorado, the boys can't stop talking about it!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Vacations - More Like Trips!

We're back from our Colorado Vacation - but I feel like I need a vacation! As a friend told me today - vacations are when you don't take children, otherwise they are called trips! We had a wonderful time in Colorado - so many pictures, so many memories, so many adventures! There is so much I could share, but I feel totally overwhelmed with my mail pile, bills that need to be paid, sickies all over the house, and tons of laundry. So I thought I'd share a few pictures from our trip and write a little more later, as the house gets back in order, my sleep improves, our sickies heal and life gets back to its calm normal.

Pool time at the hotel

Dressing up before we left for Colorado.

Playing in the forest with sticks on a wet and cold day at 10,000 feet.

Time with Grandma!

Time with Aunt Kessa getting very dirty!

God's character just sang from the mountains in Colorado, everywhere I looked creation sang of God's glory.

Playing in the snow at 13,000 feet!

Rock Climbing!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Math U See: Alpha

We love this hands on, base 10 math approach. I did not received a great Math education, the teachers were always boring and typically my middle/high school math teachers also taught sports, so Math was their secondary job. I did not had the privilege of learning math holistically and at my own pace, having one skill build upon another. Often I would get lost and couldn't keep up with the new skills because I didn't know how to implement the materiel from the prior week. The years I  was in school, curriculum changed often, so it was hard to figure out what I was suppose to be learning. It wasn't until college that I discovered the uses for math, I went back to the basics and gradually built one skill upon another. I ended up loving statistics and felt like the college years truly taught me the purposes for math. I hope my son discovers that long before college!  Both John and I researched the Math U See curriculum for a year before we purchased it. 
We both appreciated the fact that Steve Demme is a Christian, has taught math to all ages in the  public and private schools and  homeschooled his own children - well his wife did most of the daily work!  We went and heard him speak on parenting at the Arlington Book Fair last month, he spoke on the role of fathers in training children and John just ate up all the biblical advice he provided. He is really a fascinating man with great godly wisdom for homeschooling moms and  dads. His youngest son has downs syndrome and he spends a lot of time volunteering/speaking at the Joni and Friends family camps. We appreciated his humility and the way he shared about the pitfalls' he had as a father and how the Lord changed his heart.

The Alpha kit comes with a DVD that is suppose to help the parents teach the material, but Drew loves watching the video with us,  since he is very visual and learns best watching something. The curriculum also comes with the manipulatives, which are great because Drew is very tactile - they look a lot like Lego's. There is also a lesson book for teachers - their theory is to meet all learning styles - which they do. Best of all - it doesn't take a lot of time! We looked at Saxon Math, but the time invested and all those math problems just made me think we'd both be tortured trying to get through it all. 
Drew loves the Math U See program and has flourished. Each concept builds on the other and some concepts taught at the basic level will follow the child into pre calculus. They won't have to re-learn anything when you start from the beginning. The worksheets are short (4-8 problems) and involves using the manipulative, which makes for a change in the worksheets - they don't just sit there and do 6 problems, there is a lot of different skills covered. They also stress story problems, which I  really could have used when I was learning Math! 
John did a ton of research on this program since he loves math and really wants our kids to love math - he thought this program was the best for our kids and their very short attention span. In fact, Gabe was so envious that Drew was doing math that we bought the primer and Gabe is already 4 lessons in and begs for his "math" time. There are video's online which also helped us with our decision. They also provide extra math problems online in case a concept needs to be worked through longer. I loved all their additional support and free printables, if you subscribe to their newsletter they normally send some free stuff in that too.
We also supplement with Xtra Math - it takes about 5 minutes a day and works on quick math facts - best of all its FREE. The program sends a parents update each week and just repeats the  math facts at the child's independent level. As the child gets more accomplished it adds a few new problems into their drills. It is very simple, easy to do and doesn't take much work on the parents part.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Final Days of School

First, they imagined they were on a ship in the middle of the ocean.

They needed sleeping bags, a gun, walkee talkee's, and hats... oh, couldn't forget Puppy!

Then we did Art and Math and made a big mess ~ this is what the table looks like most afternoons.

 We made owl's and learned about being nocturnal and owl pellets!

Abby Had many questions!

Mommy's completed Art assignment, Drew is going to glue his owl on my drawing. I'm learning along with them, since I flunked Art in 7th grade,

Outside for Nature fun -  Drew found a frog and inspected all its parts.

Said Frog wasn't enjoying the experience and escaped.

But... Drew re-captured him and had a great time showing him off to his siblings and watching him swim in the water - then mommy made Drew put the frightened frog back. Then Drew journaled about it in his Nature journal and drew a picture of a frog - which he named "Jumpy.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Do You Struggle With Reading Your Bible? (Part 2)

I journaled a little bit about the lessons God has taught me these last few years, the lessons that brought me out of being luke warm and into the furnace of refinement:

  • It all begins with Prayer - radical prayers bring radical change! * Not only radical change in you, but in those around you. My husband would say he grew more in the last few years than his entire Christian life put together.
  • Getting to know God is a journey that grows through experiences and faith lessons. Be prepared for a great ride!
  • Diving into God's Word is more exciting than I ever imagined, each precept builds on another and the scripture is illuminated with new discoveries about God's unwavering character. It is like falling in love one page at a time. It just takes time, prayer and daily renewing of the mind. Each passage can be read over and over and yet there are new treasures to be found.
  • Left to my flesh and my own feelings, on any given  day, I'll fall into the happiness cult, or become an angry mother, wrought with guilt which will end in laziness and depression. That perfectionist in me would rather give up than get up.  I've finally  become dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit, there is no going back. God brought me to the end of myself and I realized I can't do anything without Him.
  • God is always faithful, but I must be faithful to accept hard work, conviction, and life altering change that isn't always conducive with societal norms. God's faithfulness also provides thick skin and a love for mankind that is unexplainable.
  • Daily renewing my mind releases the Holy Spirit to recalibrate my thinking and expectations - He aligns them with Christ's agenda and channels them through my actions.
  • When walking in the Spirit I'm reminded daily of  what really matters.
    When I walk in my own flesh my mind constantly reminds me what the world thinks is important.
  • This is a journey that will leave lots of bruises and bumps - plan for them, plan for the failures, plan for the days I'm not walking in the spirit, then when failure happens, realize its all part of the journey, get back up and try again. God wants our messy, he wants our flesh and never expects perfection, in fact he planned for our imperfections before the foundation of the world!
  • Intimacy means revealing my most sacred and off limit feelings and failures.
  • Immersing my mind for an entire  evening, through various pod-casts (John MacArthur, Focus on the Family, Family Life, Chip Ingram), quiet reading times with great books by authors like Richard Foster, A.W. Tozer, and Francis Chan, and then sprinkle with tons of worship music. I try and do this at least once a week, it is a simple and great way to renew my mind and provide wisdom and insight from believers farther along in this journey. It is normally on a day when I stay home, we turn off all television and internet and create an atmosphere of peacefulness - which is hard with two boys! The boys are actually getting into it a little and enjoy listening or at least enjoy playing quietly and having mommy read them tons of books. Then I tell them a few little lessons  I learned. I hope they catch onto this one day!
  • The power of God is beyond words
  • Living out my identity in Christ results in thanksgiving and rejoicing -  even amidst trials
  • God's Word won't return void - it is my weapon which needs to be exercised daily.
  • There is no  quick fix - just daily disciplines!
  • Change isn't visually seen for months and months and months or even years.
  • What I dwell on in my mind - each moment of each day, either builds me up or tears me down. I had to choose to take every negative thought captive and dwell on God's gifts, searching for things that are noble, right, pure, lovely, & excellent (Phil 4:8).
  • Television gets cut most evenings when God is my first priority - shows I use to watch no longer seem appropriate and what I use to justify watching becomes shocking and undesirable. Warning - it doesn't make you not very sociable when groups begin talking about the latest TV show.
  • An expository Bible study that shows you how to study the  bible,  is great for accountability - this was key for me, probably the most important thing I did! I knew that there were others counting on me to get all my homework done and there was so much of it I couldn't wait until the last minute - I had to be disciplined. I've come to love looking up Greek and Hebrew words on Blueletterbible!
  • A mentor or mentors are vital - someone who will encourage and build you up with the greatness of God.
This journey is sometimes weary. Drew and I read through the Dangerous Journey this past month, I couldn't help but parallel my own  Christian walk to Christian's journey to the Celestial City. His battles were difficult, temptations so great,  but his passion for God was greater. Christian even teamed up with a man named faithful who was his companion when the battles became too great!  God is faithful - He was faithful to send me into the Valley of the Shadows of Death to refine me. Then God showed me how beautiful this Christian life is when Christ lives through me, not just within. I have wonderful days  - they always include early mornings with my Papa. I have bad days - they normally happen because I overslept, didn't read God's Word before my kids woke up and then I play catchup all day.  Thats ok, those bad days just remind me why I am so committed to walking in the Spirit. There is no more guilt and no more duty - just a sinful girl who can't do this life on  her own and knows the recipe for a faithful life in Christ.

There is no greater place I'd rather be than where I am right now...

Friday, June 3, 2011

Do You Struggle With Reading Your Bible? (Part 1)

Four years ago I sat humbled after a convicting sermon at church - I wasn't growing because I wasn't consistently reading God's word. I wasn't seeing life change because I wasn't madly in love with the Lord. That day I remember committing to the Lord, out of my helplessness, to renew my mind daily, I determined to grow more intimately with the Lord and meet Him regardless of whether He showed up or not. I didn't want the mundane, I didn't want the duty, I didn't want the guilt - I just wanted to know God.

Jesus says, "“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you.”  ~ John 15: 7

All I wanted was intimacy with the Lord - I knew I had salvation, I knew I had eternal life, but at that moment all I wanted was to know God more deeply. I wanted to want to read God's word, I wanted to want hours and hours just Him and Me. I knew there was more to be had and I was finally willing to sacrifice time and excuses to go get it.

I think that is when this Christian life begins to turn radical - at least that is where radical change began for me? 
I wasn't a new believer, I had been a Christian for well over a decade, I had struggled with quiet times my whole Christian life: many I did out of duty, some out of guilt, some for the right reasons. Some of my quiet times over those years were awesome, I'd hear a great sermon, be challenged, grow, mature and start out committed to being more faithful - I knew that being faithful was necessary to this Christian life, I just couldn't seem to will my flesh into seeing it that way. I was growing, but somewhere along the way I became complacent and lazy.

Six months after my bible study plan, mentioned above, was executed  and high hedges were planted to keep me on the right path; I sat at Starbucks early one morning and noticed all the moms and kids who came in to get drinks. I heard from the crowd that it was the last day of school for most of the children. I remember thinking that  day, "I wonder if I'll still be faithful in daily communing with the Lord this time next year, or the year after that? Is this just another short term fling or is God going to help me make this a permanent lifestyle change? Will this get easier, will I ever know what it is like to love reading my Bible, love meeting with God? Will God reveal Himself to me more intimately?"

Soon after that memory, my second child was born and I felt like I was in the fire. Actually, I was in the fire, I just didn't know it. The Lord, in answer to my deep prayers, had positioned me in a place where I was under pressure, I  was being "refined by fire, like in 1 Peter 1:7 which says, "These ( my pressures) have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." My time became a pressure and I really struggled to get into God's word daily, I was reverting back to that old life of excuses and I heard myself justifying my actions with, "I just had a new baby, I'm tired, I just can't today....."

God was sending me on a journey to find something even greater than gold  ~ Himself. He was answering my prayers through the pressures of life's circumstances. Not  exactly  what I thought I was praying for! God began to use the pressure of being a mother - forcing me into dependence on God. I resisted - for about 6 months and I went through the second deepest, darkest depression I'd ever known. This pressure finally got to me. I remember that cold February day thinking - "I can't do this alone? I can't parent and be a wife and work from home and read my Bible and exercise and journey through my day with joy - unless God lives this life through me!" I'm sure some postpartum depression was also involved!

Fast forward about 3 years - I sat in Starbucks this morning - reading in Revelations about the luke warm church ~ I sat and thanked the Lord for not allowing my faith to become luke warm. See - today was the 3rd year in a row that I sat at that little table in  the corner of Starbucks, reading my Bible on the last day of school. I was humbled, what great  joy the last few years have brought.

I am so thankful that the Lord heard my longing and gave me just what I needed. I am thankful for God meeting me where I am on any given day, for covering me with His spirit and allowing me to walk consistently by faith not by sight.

Tomorrow I'll share what I scribbled down on my pad of paper - the sweet lessons learned so I don't forget!