Thursday, February 27, 2014

Passion In Life

Until I was aware of the Holy Spirit, I never truly understood passion.  Sure I had strong feelings and opinions about varying subjects but I never felt an intense obsession (not in a creepy way) with something beyond myself. 

Even once I knew the Holy Spirit, I still couldn’t explain what it really feels like.  All of the Christianese descriptions are foreign and to some degree ridiculous sounding to most people.  But then I read John 4 and found the perfect description.  Jesus was traveling through Samaria and had the audacity to speak with a Samaritan woman he met while resting at a well.  As if it should be surprising, his own words gave us the perfect description of what it is like to be nourished spiritually.

John 4:14 “Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

That my friends is what the Holy Spirit and passion feel like.  Deep within you feel pressure building.  The more you listen, learn, see, and do, the more the feelings grow.  Eventually, even though fear may still try to restrain you, your passion cannot be contained.  It permeates your life—saturating your thoughts and refocusing how you see the world around you.  Everything changes because just like a river naturally continues to flow, your passion flows and reaches others.

That is why I’m not afraid to fly to Guatemala by myself.  That is why I’ll take my daughters to inner city Philadelphia to feed the homeless.  That is why we take Christmas cookies to our kids who live in government housing. 

My passion is for people who need to know that they are loved, even in difficult circumstances where others would be afraid to go.  The Holy Spirit shows me the path and gives me the boldness to do what I may otherwise miss by being focused on myself.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Not a Valentine's Kind of Love

Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a day to express your love.  But do roses, gifts, and fancy meals really define your love?  I have spent some time this morning making arrangements for my upcoming trip to Guatemala and it made me think about what my love really looks like.

After I put the kids to bed last night, I worked to make small gifts and treats.  I snuck a card and some of Brandon’s favorite candies into his briefcase.  I put little bags at each kids’ place setting with special treats picked just for them.  I cut Aubrey’s brownies into hearts and dipped peanut butter covered pretzels in chocolate and sprinkles as a surprise.  Small, inexpensive gifts to let family know that I was thinking of them. 


But my love became more real after Brandon finally finished plowing the neighbor’s driveway late last night.  The tractor had started to slide and almost went over the edge.  In that moment I realized that I could have lost him.  On that narrow, steep driveway in the dark, I almost lost my stability and life.  Our love is not that youthful, lustful infatuation.  It is a long-standing trust and commitment.  Our love is knowing that we are living in ways to honor each other.  Losing that would have crushed my soul.  Our love is not a Valentine’s kind of love.


God orchestrated a call with a friend in Texas this morning.  She was feeling confused and needed to be encouraged.  I had been bogged down searching for answers within foreign regulations.  She was able to give me a contact that can help answer my questions.  My heart belongs in Guatemala.  We have family in San Antonio Aguas Calientes that we love.  This little bit of information gave me hope that I can help make one of their dreams come true.  We have children in Guatemala City.  They are the reason I need to go back next month.  I miss my kids.  This love isn’t described on a Hallmark card.


My love is not cupid’s love.  My love is for my family to know that I am trying every day to honor God and show them his love.  My love goes beyond our home, our family, our friends.  My love crosses borders to children who have suffered great loss, to families who have great love and faith in the face of hardships, to those I have yet to meet.  My love should be on display every day, trying to mimic the greatest love of all.

1 John 4:11-12 “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
1 John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us.”

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I Can't Do It All & That's Ok

During "flu week" at our house I was able to catch Maria Shriver's "Doing It All" series for women on the Today Show.  I'm sure the premise of the series was well-meaning but I believe that the title itself perpetuates long-standing, unrealistic expectations for women. 

I can't speak for anyone else but I know that I CAN'T do it all.  As hard as I may try, I will never be able to do everything.  Believe me, I've tried and every time I end up with the same results--failure and disappointment.  My "Doing It All" looks different that everyone else's but it is unrealistic nonetheless.  I keep setting expectations for myself that are not humanly possible.  Even if they're physically possible, they don't help me maintain my emotional and physical health.

My craziness has snowballed over the years to where I sit now.  As the snowball got bigger, the to-do list got longer and I started to shed activities that I had once enjoyed.  If you look at just a piece at a time, it looks simple but put all the pieces together and it's chaos.   I mean who doesn't agree to buy another business, in another state, the day after you find out you're pregnant with your third child?  I knew that it would mean Brandon would be away for days at a time and my workload would increase dramatically.  Then just one week to the day after that baby was born, I was back to work, with him in tow.  Within 2 months, I was up to 50+ hours a week working.  My work hours have varied, topping 60 at one particularly difficult point, and I can't seem to make the changes that would keep them consistently lower than 40.  I'm supposed to work part-time?!  That hasn't happened in years.

All the while, I have struggled to maintain the other parts of our lives.  The house has to be cleaned consistently, completely.  The laundry needs done because we're not nudists.  Obviously, we need to eat, so I keep cooking.  The kids go here and there.  Homework gets done.  And somewhere in between we try to be involved in projects at church.  It has led to years of short nights and short tempers. 

I'm finally to the point where I can acknowledge that I can't do it all.  I might even stop trying to do it all. There was a time when I cleaned the whole house every Monday to start my week off right.  I'm figuring out that I really like my house to be cleaned but we aren't going to die if it goes longer than a week.  Those nights when I really don't feel like cooking, cereal works just as well and the kids think it's a treat. 

I can remember saying that 2011 was going to be better than 2010, but everything was the same.  The problem is that I wasn't ok with not doing it all.  Instead of looking for the elusive "better" in 2014 I've changed my way of thinking.  Now I'm looking for just one word--Healthy.  Healthy in all ways--more sleep, reduced work hours, less stress, and realistic expectations.  Creating time to do what I really want to do--exercise, learning more Spanish, not being grouchy with my kids, having more fun. 

I know that there will still be times of stress and disappointment but I need to take back my life for myself and my family.  We need a better balance.  Please pray that I can follow through. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

7: Becoming One of Those People

I'm starting to get used to the weird looks from people.  As we move through each month of this fasting experiment, there are little things that change in my life.  Slowly, my life is starting to look different.  We're becoming "those" people.

Our lives are becoming less about things, more about memories and people.  We've cleared out a lot of things from our home and life, leaving room to breath and appreciate what we have.  It's harder than you'd think to maintain space in your life.  Some people just don't understand that we are happier with less things.  Even with our trimmed down home, I still managed to fill a hamper with clothes just today from the kids' closets.  Luckily, I know some children who will love to receive them.

As we ventured into Waste Month, the changes kept coming.  I'm trying to make choices that lessen our impact.  I've joined the ranks of those people who bring their own reusable bags to the grocery store.  You'd be amazed how much they can actually hold.  The clerk didn't know what to think about my bag of loose vegetables last time.  I just didn't think that I needed all of those individual bags anymore.  Why get them just to throw them away?  We're keeping the cloth napkins too.  More than once this month I've picked things out of the trash to put them in the recycling bin.  It's second nature now to look for ways to use less.

I really hope that people see our differences.  I want our family to be a subtle example of awareness for the world outside of America.  I hope that we do a better job of caring about people instead of things and become better stewards of everything we've been given.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Best Vacation Ever!

A week ago I returned from the best vacation ever!  It wasn’t the longest, not the most expensive or exotic, but the best.  After years of failing, Brandon and I finally figured out how to get away and enjoy time to ourselves.  We, just the two of us, spent 4 days in Las Vegas.  It’s probably not many “church” people’s first choice for a restful vacation but it fits us well. 

What was so wonderful about the trip was that we were able to turn off all of our stress and responsibility for a couple days to have fun.  It’s not that we can’t have fun at home, it’s just different.  At home there is always pressure to work on this project, clean that part of the house, make a meal, be on a conference call…  It’s impossible to sit down and not feel guilty about what I should be working on instead of relaxing. 

In Vegas, we were able to do anything we wanted, whenever we wanted.  Watch Nitro Circus Live—sure!  (because if I had no responsibility and was younger I’d want to do FMX)  Go to a movie at 4:00 in the afternoon—why not?   Play cards for a couple hours—any time of the day.  Walk down the block for ice cream at 1:00 am—no reason not to.  It was like being in college again without the barely scraping by checkbook. 

Just like college, Brandon and I were together.  It was and is one of the things that is most attractive to me about my husband—I enjoy being with him.  It hasn’t really mattered what we were doing as long as we were together.  So this trip allowed us to do what we enjoy most. 

Valley of Fire State Park

It probably sounds selfish but I really just wanted time away.  Away from work.  Away from home.  I love my children dearly but I needed rest.  I needed a little bit of quiet time without being questioned every 3 minutes, with meals where I only cut my food, and where I could sleep whenever I wanted.  I guess that is selfish but it is also self-preservation.  If I continue to do without rest I’ll eventually transform into the overwhelmed, grouchy shell that is just surviving life.  A few days away helped me to feel revived and renewed—able to return and feel excited about normal life again.  Being away helps me remember all the things that I miss about normal life—hugs from the kids, playing board games, riding four wheelers in the mud and snow.

As we travel through parenthood, we need to remember that although our time raising our children may be limited, our marriage is long lasting and can’t take a backseat.  When we have successfully raised independent adults I don’t want to look at Brandon and wonder how we will go on.  I want to high five for a job well done and plan our next adventure. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

7: Month 6: Thou Shalt Not Spend

This month focuses on where we spend our money.  We are supposed to choose only 7 places.  Here are our 7 for this month:  Martin’s, Target, AC&T, Online Banker (because we will teach the children nothing if the mortgage and electricity aren’t paid), school, doctors, and River City for pet food. 

That’s right—no restaurants, no online retailers.  I really wish I had planned a little better.  I should have paid for school yearbooks and lunch accounts last week and sent in the registration for Isaiah for preschool as well but I didn’t.  I’m holding out that Target might have rabbit food but I’m a little doubtful.  Rabbit food at Target would mean that we free up a spot.

This may not sound hard to some people but it really takes away some of our ability to indulge ourselves.  No random lunches just because I didn’t want what I packed.  No really cute shirt from the Sevenly site that was on sale only last week but I didn’t see it until Saturday, February 1st.  No free with purchase of a sandwich pastry from Panera Bread.  No snow tubing or Frozen Sing-along.   

As Brandon said last night, this is all well and good until life happens.  On Saturday, February 1st, my washing machine pump decided to stop working so we’re already making a bill to someone not on the list.  One new pump ordered to be installed next week.  Although the bill is much smaller than the cost of a new washer, which seemed to be the repairman’s suggestion.  I do feel guilty though about how not having one appliance can disrupt my whole life.  As I was whining about hand wringing a load of towels, going to the laundromat, or waiting more than a week to wash clothes again, I thought about Dona Chica washing her clothes in a pila.