Monday, August 29, 2011

Mindful Mondays ~ Lonely

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How do you feel about reruns? I like them. Sometimes I catch things I didn't see the first time through. I hope you feel the same way because today's blog is a rerun. This post originally appeared in June of 2010.


Do you ever think no one knows what your life is like?

Or ever wonder how it is possible to be surrounded by people and still feel lonely?

I do.

And sometimes I get rather grouchy about it. I start thinking that no one should be expected to carry my workload. I fume that I don’t get nearly enough credit for everything I do. My fuming then turns into self-righteous indignation - someone, somewhere, should notice for crying out loud!

I think at a very deep level, all of us want to be noticed. We long to be known. And I’m not sure that in and of itself, the longing is wrong. It becomes wrong when we expect the people around us to fill a hole they can never fill.

There is no husband who can appreciate me enough, no friend who can always be there, no parent/sibling/child who will never leave me.

There is no person on earth who can meet my every need. And no one who can even come close to understanding what my life is like, what my burdens are, what frightens me to the point of tears and what brings me a joy no words can express.

But there is One who can.

El Roi.

The God who Sees.

Oh how I love that particular attribute of my Heavenly Father. When I am scraping puke off a blanket and trying desperately not to throw up, He sees. When I am watching the same episode of Sesame Street for the gazillionth time, He sees. When I have to say no to doing something I would love to do because it’s not the best choice for my kids, He sees. When I see children my daughter’s age doing things my daughter will never do and it breaks my heart but I smile anyway, He sees.

Did you know that the first and only person in the Bible to refer to God as El Roi was a woman? A pregnant slave who felt, and was, all alone. And God revealed Himself to her as the God who Sees.

Sometimes, what I need more than anything else is to remember that the someone, somewhere, who sees me, is the God of the Universe. The One who was, and is, and is to come. The One who has written my story. The One who orders my days. The One who loved me so much, He sent His only Son to die for me.

My El Roi sees me.

And I am never alone.

So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” Genesis 16:13 (ESV)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thoughtful Thursdays ~ Book Review: I Used to Be So Organized by Glynnis Whitwer

I'm a pretty organized person.



I used to be.


Before having a baby. And then another one. And another one. And then moving when the last one was three weeks old.

(Sidebar: I do NOT recommend moving with a newborn. Avoid at all costs).

I miss my old organized self. I miss knowing where everything is.

I had to find my little boy's social security card this week. I won't bore you with the details of the search. Suffice it to say it was long.

Very long.

And it's that kind of thing that irks me most. Wasting time and energy because I can't find something. Or wasting money and resources because I buy something...I ALREADY OWN! Of course, I find the duplicate object a week or so after I've used the new one and can't return it.

So when I had an opportunity to review a new book, I Used to Be So Organized by Glynnis Whitwer, I was all over it.

I Used to be So Organized has chapters on organizing your closets, your kitchen and your toys your kid's toys. There's a great chapter on meal planning and quite a bit of time devoted to managing the technology that enhances our lives and distracts our minds.

If you need detailed instructions to help you tackle your bulging pantry, there's no shame in that. And I Used to be So Organized will take you through it one shelf at a time.

But to be honest, I don't need step-by-step instructions on how to tackle organizing an overflowing linen closet. I'm naturally gifted in that area. (Some might say I'm naturally annoying in that area, but let's not quibble over semantics). I know how to do it. I even - don't shoot me - enjoy it.

Turns out, I'm what Glynnis calls "Situationally Disorganized." My "situation" (new baby, new house) has led to a state of disorder that is driving me crazy. As she puts it, "When I find myself in a place of situational disorganization, I'm usually frustrated. I'm not frustrated with anyone in particular, except myself for not being able to pull it together."

At this point, I was pretty sure she'd bugged my house.

She goes on. "That's when I need to apply God's grace to myself."

That line may be the best piece of advice in the whole book.

And that is what I loved about I Used to Be So Organized. While it's full of organization tips, good for both the situationally and the chronically disorganized, Glynnis Whitwer bases everything on a solid Biblical foundation.

My highlighter got a workout on the chapters about setting reasonable expectations and establishing priorities. There were many "a-ha" moments, but these words had the most impact on me at this time in my life.

"I wish someone had told me that God would not forget me, that I was right where he wanted me and that I should relax, accept my new normal, and see the opportunities he had placed in front of me."

I Used to Be So Organized isn't just about cleaning out from under your bed and there's no call to keep your home in a perpetual state of "photo-shoot readiness." It's about organizing your life. Not so you can check something else off your to-do list, but so you can fulfill the calling God has laid on your heart.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mindful Mondays ~ Morning Glory

I miss sleep.

Oh, how I miss it.

I miss going to bed and having every expectation that I will not be disturbed until my alarm blares. Or the neighbor’s rooster gets cranked up. Whichever comes first.

I miss waking up refreshed.

These days, when I wake up—never of my own accord—every cell in my body joins in a protest march.

I picture them with tiny picket signs as they work to put my sleep deprived body in motion.

“More sleep!” “Two more hours.” “Stop the madness!” “Are you crazy, woman?”

Their threats are simple. They want more sleep, but if I refuse, they demand an immediate caffeine infusion or—and they’ve made good on this threat—they will shut me down.

To make matters worse, I’m not a morning person. If I had my way, I’d go to bed around midnight and sleep until eight.

And all would be right with the world.

Instead, I go to bed sometime before midnight if I’m lucky, get up at least once or twice to soothe the baby, sometimes once or twice to feed the baby, and then somewhere around 6AM, I hear tiny feet approach.

“You still sleep mommy?”
“I want Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in mommy’s bed.”
“Of course you do.”

Somehow, my two-year old misses the sarcasm and climbs in the bed chattering at full volume about rocket ships and jet packs and requests for milk and a banana.

Once I’m awake, the demands of the day invade my mind and while a permeating exhaustion remains, sleep flees.

In an unexpected and stunning development, I’ve discovered that, once properly “coffeinated” (I made that up—do you like it?), I enjoy watching the day begin, especially if I can be outside as the sky fades from gray to blue.

And there’s an intangible delight in spending time with the Lord before the insanity that is my daily life begins.

So much so, that I find on the rare day when I get to sleep in and start my day a couple of hours later, while my body appreciates the sleep, my spirit misses the atmosphere of the earlier hours.

I’ve always dismissed those "morning" verses. You know the ones I’m talking about. Psalms is full of them. Not to mention the example we have from Jesus (and no one's "busy" life can compare to His). So much talk about “early in the morning” and “rising before dawn” — it’s enough to give any self-respecting night owl nightmares.

But I’m starting to wonder if they were on to something. 

If maybe getting up early and spending some time with the Lord as the day is dawning has advantages I’ve never fully appreciated.

It means sacrificing some sleep (I can feel the picket line forming), but the benefits are worth it.

Give it a try . . . you just might like it. And if you do, tell us about it in the comments.

Psalm 5:3 ~ O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. (ESV)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Thoughtful Thursdays ~ Book Review: A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World

Prayer is not my specialty.

I believe in it.

I'm a big fan of it.

At least, I think I am.

The harsh reality is that while I have good intentions, my follow through leaves a little, something, a lot to be desired.

I find myself wondering if it really makes any difference? If God is sovereign (and He is) and He's in control (and He is) then what exactly is the point of spending hours in prayer? Or minutes?

If you've ever asked the same questions (or would have if you weren't afraid of being struck down for your heresy) then please read on.

This summer, I read A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul E. Miller and it is reshaping the way I think about prayer—the why, the how, the where, and the results or lack thereof.

Paul Miller asks the same kinds of questions I've asked. He has some great answers. And they might not be what you're expecting.

This isn't a book about how you need to get your act together, develop some self-discipline, wear holes in the carpet and rub callouses on your knees.

In fact, Miller argues that instead of trying to get it together, we need to come to God as we are. To “come messy” and see what God does with our mess. As he puts it, “We look at the inadequacy of our praying and give up, thinking something is wrong with us. God looks at the adequacy of his Son and delights in our sloppy, meandering prayers.”

He tackles tough questions about prayer using examples from his family and personal life and then he gives practical, real-world examples of what a praying life looks like in our frenzied society.

Whether your prayer life is robust, scattered, or on life-support, A Praying Life will open your eyes afresh to the wonder, the mystery, the gift, the joy of prayer.

Prayer is hard.

But prayer is worth the effort.

“Regardless of how or when you pray, if you give God the space, he will touch your soul. God knows you are exhausted, but at the same time he longs to be part of your life. A feast awaits.” (A Praying Life, page 51)

This book has been in my "being read" stack for a couple of years. (I started it. Just never finished it.) I wish I'd read it sooner. If you've read it, or choose to read it in the months ahead, please let me know. I'd love to hear from you.
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Monday, August 15, 2011

Mindful Mondays ~ A Little Too Soon?

Slow slowImage by via FlickrAs I ran a few errands last week, a car pulled out in front of me.

He could have waited, but it wasn’t close enough to warrant laying down on the horn, so I let it go. (As if I could do anything about it in the first place).

But then things got a little . . . disturbing.

First, the driver didn’t seem to feel the need to pick up the pace. He meandered to the next road and turned right.

Too bad for me, I had to follow.

For the next mile, the driver developed close relationships with both the middle and right lines. His speed alternated between negative - ok, so that’s not possible - we'll say really, really, really, really slow (happy now?) and very slow.

It didn’t take long for me to decide to maintain a healthy distance from this moron, idiot, individual. Especially since his head would, for several seconds at at time, disappear from view as he reached for some lost object which seemed to be in the floorboard of the passenger seat.

In dismay, I watched as he turned onto the interstate, and once again, I followed.

We survived a dicey merge into traffic and then the debate began. Should I stay back or should I take the first opportunity to weld his doors shut in my 2001 minivan?

After observing his driving prowess, I knew there was a chance he would choose to use the left lane while I was in it, but decided it was safer to get around him than risk being involved in the multi-car pileup this guy was prepping for.

As I pressed my flipflop to the floor and zipped (yes, you can zip in a mini-van) by, I couldn’t resist taking a peak at the object of my derision.

I can’t tell you much about him.

I sorta panicked when I realized the guy was cleaning his glasses.

Sweet mercy!

After I’d put a few miles between us, I started wondering about him. If he’d taken a few more minutes to prepare, he would have been ready for the drive. He could have retrieved the lost object from the floorboard, cleaned his glasses, waited for me to drive past before pulling out, and still arrived at his destination with time to spare. And without putting everyone in his path in danger while he was at it.

It made me wonder about myself and my journey.

Am I rushing into things I’m not ready for? If I took a little bit longer to prepare, would the way be smoother, for me and for those who are with me on this road?

Is it possible that what I see as a closed door, God sees as a speed bump?

A little hindrance, not to stop me from reaching my goals, but to slow me down so I have time to learn and prepare for what He has in store for me?

Instead of fighting the limitations inherent in my current stage of life, I’m trying to embrace them. (Hey, I said trying.) Instead of wasting energy plotting ways to escape, I’m trying to enjoy where I am. Instead of moping over each rejection, I’m trying to rest in His timing.

How about you? Do you feel like you’re spinning your wheels?

Maybe God’s holding on to your bumper.

Maybe He’s planning to let you go, just not yet.

Maybe it’s just a little too soon.

Psalm 25:1-5 ~ To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. (ESV)
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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thoughtful Thursdays ~ Book Review: Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver

I am a total Martha.

Not Martha Stewart. Trust me. The decorating gene chuckled, laughed, snorted hysterically as it skipped by me.

I’m talking about Martha. From the Bible.

I am often “anxious and troubled about many things” and I am not above pointing out to God that “Hey, I’m busting my tail here and some people aren’t pulling their weight. Why don’t you make them step up?”

(That last part comes from the LSV—Lynn’s Satirical Version—I think Luke may have been a friend of Martha’s and was cutting her a little slack).

I’m a total Martha.

But I long to be a Mary.

I want to sit at His feet.

I want Jesus to say about me “She has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

If you can relate, then you need to read Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver.

I read this book six or seven years ago. It stomped my toes then. I re-read it this summer and once again, found it both convicting and encouraging.

In fact, it was while reading this book that my “quiet time” took on a consistency and meaning that I have never experienced before. (I put quiet time in quotes because with three children, quiet isn’t necessarily the most accurate word…I’ve blogged about this here).

Joanna Weaver writes from the position of a fellow “Martha” and she asserts that God doesn’t expect all of the Marthas of the world to change into Marys. On the contrary, we Marthas are key servants in the Kingdom.

But we need to learn when to serve and when to sit. When to work and when to worship.

We need to have a Mary heart in a Martha world.

Luke 10:38-42 ~ Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (ESV)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mindful Mondays ~ Future Fears

Port-42Image via Wikipedia
Deuteronomy 31:8 ~ It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. (ESV)

Some people wish they could know the future.

Not me.

If I spent too much time thinking about my future, I’d lose my mind.

For one thing, there’s so much cancer in my family, I’m a statistic waiting to happen.

Then there's the fact that my husband is a financial advisor. Yes, you read that right. So don't even get me started on the stock market.

And while you may fret over your empty nest—either current or future—I don’t expect my nest to ever be empty. Instead, I prepare to care and provide for a child for many years after my own passing.

And those are just a couple of my “biggies”. You have your own.

I try not to dwell on what my life will look like twenty years from now, but I recently heard about a situation that terrified me. It's one of those things where the consequences of other’s actions could have a significant impact on my life.

My stomach clenched into a knot that I couldn’t shake. I spent an embarrassing amount of time allowing my mind to wander into the future. I imagined one wretched scenario after another. (This is a problem with being a writer—I spend a lot of time making things worse and worse for my characters. When I start doing it to myself, it’s scary).

I eventually gave up and started praying about it. (Yes, I realize I should have started there. And yes, I should know better by now).

As I prayed, these words flew through my mind.

"It is the LORD who goes before you."

I clung to this truth and as I focused on Him, anxiety lost its grip. The potential calamity didn’t change but my fear of it lessened.

In Deuteronomy, God didn’t say the conquering of Canaan would be easy. He didn’t say the Israelites would never face difficulty. He said He would go before them and never leave them. And after He said that, He said, “Do not fear or be dismayed.”

I don’t know what’s looming in your life.

It may be scary. You may be terrified.

But you are not alone.

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mindful Mondays ~ Retail Therapy

Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!Image via Wikipedia

I love my children.

I do.

But some days, by the time Brian gets home, I need to get out. And by out, I mean out of the house, by myself.

Brian learned this long ago, when Emma was still a baby. Sometimes the best thing he can say to me is “Go”.

So a few weeks ago, he said “Go” and “Go” I went (Marvin K. Mooney anyone?).

It was already after 8PM so I made two necessary stops for groceries and then decided to hit Kohl’s for a little retail therapy before they closed.

Now, admittedly, this was a dangerous move. I’ve just had my third child and I wasn’t skinny to begin with. Who knew what size I’d have to buy? But sometimes, a new outfit can put a spring in my step and I decided to risk it.

I meandered through the limited petite section—I’m not skinny but I am short—and picked up a few shirts and a couple of capris that looked promising.

Just as I started for the fitting rooms, my phone rang.

When I answered, I didn’t need to ask why Brian was calling.

I could hear Drew.

Brian’s no wimp and he’s more than capable of taking care of our children. I knew he wouldn’t have called unless Drew was inconsolable.

But I was still ticked.

All I wanted was an hour to myself. Maybe a new outfit. Instead, I stopped where I was, put the clothes on the nearest rack, race-walked out of the store and sped home.

By the time I walked in the door, Drew was asleep.

I felt cheated.

The next morning, after getting up three times during the night to feed Drew, sending Emma off on the bus and dropping James at preschool, I decided to try again. Maybe, since I’d already looked the night before, I could find the clothes quickly, try them on, and get out of there before Drew needed to eat again.

I pushed the stroller to the Petite department and as I turned the corner, I couldn’t believe my eyes. All the clothes I had picked out the night before were still together, hanging right where I had left them.

Now, you might think it was a coincidence. But you didn’t hear the little voice that whispered “I know, honey” as I stared at my selections, waiting on me to come back for them.

Sometimes, motherhood means sacrifice. Big things and small things. And it’s easy to think no one notices or cares.

But God is always paying attention.

I thought I’d been robbed of my “me” time. But God used it to remind me that He’s always watching. He always sees.

It was His version of retail therapy.

And then—and really, I think He was showing off with this one—the clothes fit.

I bought them all.

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