Monday, October 28, 2013

20 Years From Now

Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?  

It’s a common question.  It is asked in job interviews and performance reviews.  It is asked by financial advisor, head hunters and maybe even real estate agents.  There are have been 3 distinct times in my life that I have been asked this question and the answer literally changed the trajectory of my life.

The first time was when I was in college, maybe my first or second year, and my college advisor asked me the question where do you want to be in 5-10 years?  That was easy, I wanted to be out of college, have a job and be earning a living!!  "Yes but what do you see yourself doing?", my advisor pushed.  Well, that question wasn’t so easy.  It is hard at the age of 18 to decide what you want to be for the rest of your life.  But slowly we carved out an answer, and I selected the classes that were needed for my major.  I managed to get a couple of undergraduate degrees, make my way into graduate school and earn a master’s degree in Speech Language Pathology.   Seven and a half years after that conversation I was working in a job I loved and earning a living.  But that may not have happened if my advisor hadn’t asked the question.

The second time I was asked that question I was expecting my second child, Nate, just a short 18 months after having Isabella.  I was a little overwhelmed with everything, Erik had just returned to work maybe 6 months prior after being laid off for 15 months. I was working as a Speech Language Pathologist for the Kansas City KS school district.  We had a one year old baby and another on the way.  I was trying to decide whether I should return to work after our second child was born or stay at home.  Could we balanc the high cost of day care with my meager salary, we were still at the penny pinching stage of life and money was beyond tight.  A dear friend asked me, “what do you picture your life like 5 years from now?”  That was easy, I pictured myself walking my kids to school each day, being there when they got home, volunteering at their school, and being there when my kids needed me.  “You can’t do that if you are working full time.” was my friend reply.  She was right, the next day I turned in my resignation and have been a stay at home mom ever since.  Loving ALMOST  every minute of it.  That may not have happened if my friend hadn’t asked the question.

The third time was just a few years ago, and I was the one asking the question.  This time it wasn’t about work, or money, or any of the traditional life plans.  This time, the question was far more important.  I asked myself where do you want to be spiritually 5 years from now? 10 years? even 20 years?

The picture I saw in mind was me as a older, yet still amazingly stylish woman (hehehe), who knew the Bible by heart.  Someone who had scripture carved onto her heart and on the tip of her tongue.  A wise woman who knew what God had to say and had his words constantly running through her mind.  It was a beautiful picture.  The only problem was I didn’t really know any scripture by heart.  There was no way I could be this wise old woman, if I didn’t start learning God’s word.  So I got out my Bible, I grabbed some index cards and I went to work.   And the simple task of memorizing scripture has forever changed my life.  

I worked on memorizing scripture, while I washed the dishes at night, while I waited in the car for my kids endless activities, while I cleaned the house, even while I lay in bed at night, any chance I got.  And slowly it started to penetrate, not only my incredibly thick head, but my very soul.  His words, his spirit started to filter into all parts of my day.  My attitude changed, the words I used changed, my desires changed.  I was finally starting to become the woman God has always wanted me to be.  And no, I am not there yet, but God is so very, very slowly using his word to change me.  And it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t asked the question.

So I ask you, where do you want to be spiritually 5 years from now? 10 years from now?  Even 20 years from now?

And how are you going to get there?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Good For My Soul

Every once in a while I have one of those runs that is simply good for my soul.

Most of the time I hesitate to even call myself a runner.  Because I'm really not.

Yes, I do run, but typically only when I am training for an event.  And I dare not call these events "races" lest you think I actually ever beat anyone, because I don't.

But non-the-less, I sign up for these events once or twice a year and this forces me to get outside and actually run.  Some days this is excruciatingly painful, other days it just sucks a little, and some days, not very often, but occasionally, it is a joy, and I come back filled deep in my soul.

Today was one of those days.  My neighborhood sits a top a hill.  So the first mile of my run invariably is down hill.  As I started out today, I knew it was going to be a good run.  It is easy running down hill, the weather was perfect, cool air seeped into my lungs, it was in every sense of the word "a breath of fresh air".  One I desperately needed.  

As I finished mile one I turned the corner and there I found the first of several hills I would have to run to make it back home.  The problem with living on top of a hill is that though the first mile is a nice easy down hill, you inevitably have to, at some point, somehow, make it back up to the the top of the hill.  And there was hill number one right in front of me as soon as I turned that corner.

Has that ever happened to you?  You are cruising along enjoying life, thinking things don't get much better than this.  And then you turn a corner and all the sudden right before you is a big ole hill.  Sometimes the hill before you is manageable.  You know it will take your full concentration and a lot of work and sweat, but you know you can make it up it.  But sometimes the hill seems insurmountable, and you want to quit without even trying.  Because it's going to be impossible, it will take your blood, sweat and tears, and even then you probably won't make it up it.  

I have been there.  I have faced some pretty insurmountable hills in my life.  And let me tell you what I have learned.  In the running world there are a couple tricks to running hills.  First, tuck your head.  Look down, not up.  Concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other and put your focus on your arms.  Because your feet will move at the same speed and motion as your arms.  And don't forget to breath.  Although my mind typically tends to wonder as I run, sorting out all the clutter stuck in my mind.  When I am running up hill, that is no longer an option.  It takes all my energy, all my focus. And when it gets to hard to keep up the pace that has been set, shorten your steps, slow down.  There may even come a time when you simply can not run up that hill anymore and you have to walk.  That's okay, just keeping moving forward.  Because trust me, the bigger and the harder the hill is, the better the view once you get to the top.  

Whether or not you are a runner, these same principles apply to the hills in your life.  When you are facing a hill, tuck your head down, close your eyes and pray.  Don't look up at how impossible that hill is going to be, put your trust and your focus on God.  Concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other and put your focus on the one who has immeasurable strength.  He will neither leave you nor forsake you.  And he is enough to get you up this hill.    And don't forget to breath.  Never under estimate the power of a big deep breath.  And when the time comes that you simply can not run up this hill any longer, it is okay to walk, take baby steps if the need be.  But keep on, keeping on, don't give up.  You will get there.  Trust me.  And once you are there, once you reach the top, enjoy it.

Take the time to enjoy the top of the hill.  Look around you and take in the view.  Look back and see how far you have come.  Celebrate the blood, sweat and tears you have shed, you are now stronger than you were when you were at the bottom.  Celebrate that.  Then enjoy the run down the hill.  Even when you see the next hill on the horizon, enjoy the down hill.  Take the time to soak in what you have done, get your breath back.  Enjoy your new strength.  

The thing about hills is every one you face, every hill you run, makes you stronger and it makes the next hill you face that much easier.  

Today I ran a hill I had been unable to complete thus far in my training.  I had attempted it 2 other times and both times I ended up walking.  But today I ran it.  That doesn't mean I will be able to run it as successfully next time, but today I did.  And I will celebrate that.  

Today my run was good for my soul.

"Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us"
Hebrews 12:1

Monday, October 21, 2013

He Sees You

I spent this last weekend in Minnesota cleaning out my husband Erik's paternal grandmother's condo.  She moved into an assisted living center in January and now it is time to put the condo she has lived in for the past 38 years on the market.  Though it is a small condo, this was not a small job. 

Grandma Edna's primary care provider is her daughter, my husband's Aunt.  Erik's dad passed away a few years ago, leaving the care of Grandma to fall on his 2 sisters.  One lives in California, the other lives right there in Minnesota, just 30 minutes from Grandma.  You can guess which one does the brunt of the work.  

When it came time to clean out the condo, Aunty called for back up, she needed help.  So we went.  Erik, myself and 2 of the 3 kids.  And we helped.  Because she needed it.  But what she needed even more than the physical help, which she honestly did need.  Was for someone to say to her, "I see what you are doing.  I see the burden you are carrying and I see all that you have done for Grandma.  I know that she doesn't say thank you.  But what you are doing has not gone unnoticed.  We have noticed.  And we so sincerely thank you, and we love you so very much!"  Erik's Aunty needed to hear that.  She isn't married, she doesn't have children, there is no one in her corner cheering her on, recognizing the good things she does.  She cares for a women who rarely thanks her for all that she does and Aunty simply needed to hear the words "I see what you are doing, it hasn't gone unnoticed, and you are dearly loved!"

I'm sure you can relate, it is something we all need in life.  So let me encourage you, whomever you are and whatever you are doing, it hasn't gone unnoticed.  There is someone who sees you everyday.  He knows the good things you do for others, for the people you love and for the strangers you meet. 

He sees you, stay at home mom who just cleaned up yet another mess that somehow no one made.  It didn't go unnoticed.  He loves what you are doing for your family and He loves you.

He sees you, the one who made the dinner the kids complained about eating.  Your work did not go unnoticed.  He loves the meal you prepared on a rushed schedule and He loves you.

He sees you, mommy who showed immeasurable patience to her child today, and you too, mommy who didn't.  He loves you both equally, your work has not gone unnoticed.

He sees you, woman who longs for a mess to clean up and a nose to wipe, but whose arms remain empty.  Those arms have not gone unnoticed and He loves  you.  

He sees you, man in the grocery store who was so kind to a stranger today.  It didn't go unnoticed.  He loves what you did and He loves you.

He sees you, the one at the gas station who let the other car go in front of you.  It didn't go unnoticed.  He loves what you did and He loves you.

He sees you, dad who travels all week long or juggles multiple jobs just to provide for your family.  He loves how hard you are working, it hasn't gone unnoticed and He loves you.  

He sees you, single person longing for someone to share your life with.  He knows what you long for, you have not gone unnoticed and He loves you.

He sees you, one whose reality is so hard, for whatever reason, that you choose to do anything you can to numb the pain.  You have not gone unnoticed and He loves you.

Whoever you may be, whatever you might be struggling with  or whatever you might be doing that you feel no one notices and no one appreciates.  I promise you, you have not gone unnoticed.  He sees you.  He loves you.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Watching Your Babies Grow Up

It's a hard thing on parents to watch their babies grow up.  

I knew the letting go phase would be difficult but no one told me it would feel like my heart was being ripped out!

I know in my head how important it is for kids to learn independence, for them to spread their wings and do new things, things that don't always include you.  But try telling that to my heart.

Tomorrow Erik and I and the two boys will head to Minnesota, and Isabella will not.  She will be staying here.  No, she isn't staying home by herself, she will be with friends and family I completely trust and who love her as much as I do.  But she won't be with me.  And that is hard.

It's not like it is the first time she has been away from me.  It happens quite often.  She has even gone all the way up to Minnesota with Grandma Jeanne while the rest of us stay here.  So we have been this far away from her before.  We have also been a family of four with her somewhere else before too.  But somehow this one feels different.  

This is the first time that her schedule and her desires don't work with the family's schedule (or ours doesn't work with hers - I'm not sure which).  Either way, she asked if she could stay behind when we left town.  I know this won't be the last time.  My kids are growing up, against my will, but they are still growing up.  And I need to let them. So we called up Grandma, we called some friends, and we made it work. And I was okay with it.  Until today.  And then it hit me.  I am leaving her behind.  And she wants to be left behind because there is something else she would rather do, somewhere else she would rather be, and someone else she would rather be with.  

And that tears out my heart.

Tomorrow my husband, my two boys, my body and 4/5 of my heart will head out of town.  But 1/5 of my heart, a very large part of my heart, will stay right here in Kansas City.

It is a hard thing to watch your babies grow up.

Monday, October 14, 2013

When God Gives You the Desires of Your Heart

What happens when God gives you the desires of your heart?

When the desires of your heart are answered, it almost always means sacrificing another part of you so that this desire of your heart can grow, mature and develop.  

There have been many times in my life when I have desired something with the deepest, strongest desire you can imagine. 

I deeply desired to be Erik's wife, even before he was ready to ask me.  God granted me that desire.  Eventually Erik did ask me to marry him, and I became his wife.  But it turns out that being someone's wife requires sacrifice.  I wasn't able to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to do it.  I had someone else I had to make plans with, agree on a budget with and make decisions with.  I didn't always get my way.  My selfish nature had to be sacrificed so the desire of my heart, my new marriage could grow, mature and develop.  

Even more than being Erik's wife I desired to be a mom.  After a couple of miscarriages and LOTS of tears, God granted me that desire (x 3)!  And it turns out being a mom requires even more sacrifice than being a wife!  Some days even more than the 3x's the sacrifice basic math would infer!!!  When God grants you the desires of your heart it almost always leads to sacrifice.  Being a mom, for me, meant not only once more sacrificing my selfish nature, but also my career and some financial resources.  But I had to sacrifice these things so that the desires of my heart, my children, could grow, mature and develop.

I have desired for some time now for God to use me to encourage, inspire and teach others.  And slowly, in his timing, he is answering that desire as well. And guess what, it turns out that is too has taken more sacrifice than I anticipated.

I have had the opportunity recently to write for another blog (more details to come at a later date), I have been invited to start teaching at a house church connected to the church I attend, as well as increase my teaching to the middle school kids I have worked with in the past.  I am LOVING every single one of these opportunities and I am SO excited about what God is doing and so thankful to be used by him.  But it comes with sacrifice.  My free time isn't mine anymore.  Truth be told I no longer have much "free time".  But I have to sacrifice my time if I want this tiny little ministry of me to grow and mature and develop.

What happens when God gives you the desires of your heart.  Sacrifice.

What is it today that God is asking you to sacrifice?  What are the desires of your heart?  And what would need to be sacrificed in order for those desires to grow, mature, and develop?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Who Is Your Master?

It's been over a month since we became a pet free house, and the adjustment hasn't always been easy.  We miss our pets, especially Hank.

The kids often ask for Hank stories and Erik and I have loved telling them all about his puppy days.  Just recently I shared one of my favorite more recent memories with them, hopefully you will enjoy it too.  

Each year since my older kids have been in school, going back to their preschool days, they have taken Hank to school for show-and-tell at least once during the year.  When Nate was in the 1st grade his teacher absolutely loved dogs so JT, Hank and I walked down to school for show and tell.  Of course Hank was just wonderful and the kids loved having him in class.  JT was only 3 at the time so he just wondered around, exploring the room, not really paying attention to what we were talking about...or so I thought.

I was telling the first graders about how important it was to properly train Hank.  We knew right away he was going to be a huge dog, so it was important that he know who was in charge and that he listened and obeyed what we asked him to do.  One of the ways we showed Hank that we were the master and he was the dog, that WE were the ones in charge was by making sure we walked out the door first and Hank followed us.  To dogs, the is a sign of dominance or submission, the dominant person - the master, the one in charge- gets to walk through the door first and the submissive one - the follower- goes through second.  This was a small but important way we showed Hank that we were in charge.  

We finished up show-and-tell and as we were leaving, I ushered JT out the classroom door, then I followed and of course Hank came last.  Once we entered the hallway, JT lifts his arms, fists raised in victory and declares, "YES!  I am in charge!"

Huh, didn't really think he was paying attention!

It's a subtle thing you have to admit.  But it makes a huge difference.  The one that comes first is the master, he is the one in charge.  

The same thing is true in our life.  We might say that Christ is our master, that he is the one in charge.  But if we don't let him go first, if he isn't the one we are following when we walk out the our wallet...make our to do list..schedule our day, can we really say he is in charge?  Can he be our master if we don't follow him?

The one who goes first is the master, he is the one in charge.

So my question to you is who is your master?