Choices

I want to write, but the words come slow.  The house lies quiet still.  I will let them sleep a while longer.  Yesterday was a long day.  We all need rest.

One week.  One week until we go.  One week until I meet her.  One week until everything changes.

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Everyone asks if I am excited.  Of course I am excited!  But excited lies beneath busy and half-crazy and slightly stressed out.  Getting six of us ready for a trip of this length is no small undertaking.  The husband, he threatens not to take me on trips anymore.  I will have the freedom to feel excited in a week.  When the house sitter is here and the door is locked and all is done that can be done and good byes are said and we are headed out.  That’s when excitement will hit.

Until then, it’s one foot in front of the other, do the next thing, trying to whittle the to do list down to what is truly necessary, trying to keep it from taking over life and stealing time and stealing joy.

That’s the true challenge this week.  To find joy in the midst of the chaos.  I know this is what God continues to work in me this past year.  He prepares me for something, I know not what, I dare not wonder too much.  But lack of control is a running theme and I’m learning faster to notice it and to not resist it and fight for that control.  But I’m still a slow learner sometimes and will kick against Him for some time before I become too tired to fight any more.

So, joy.  That’s what I choose today.  In the midst of the swirling madness of family life, I choose joy.  In spite of seasonal depression that tries to sneak in and a whole hotbed of other raw, real emotions that bubble just below the surface, I choose joy.  In the face of Satan’s attacks and lists that run long and children that will be children and real life that is just inconvenient sometimes, I choose joy.

I know firsthand that my God is with me.  He is my very present help in time of trouble.  He has made His presence known to me already today.  Right now, this song plays on my computer.  I soak in truth and will cling to it today.  And I will choose joy.

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

A List with Pictures

As I continue to give humble thanks for the gift that was last week and the weekend, and as we prepare to open up a new week of learning, living, and practicing grace, a quick list and some pictures I found yesterday from this past summer.

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1535.  a completely different week – blessing!

1536.  date night

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1537.  family night

1538.  quiet Sunday

1539.  ten more days

1540.  generosity of friends

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Wishing you a week of beauty and thanksgiving….

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Praising in the Storm

The storms they’ve raged.  Every day.  Wild and hard.  Beating.  Exhausting.  They’ve raged not in extreme circumstances, but in the mundane, the every day.  We battle minute-by-minute for grace, strength.

Some of life’s storms – a great sorrow, a bitter disappointment, a crushing defeat – suddenly come upon us.  Others may come slowly, appearing on the uneven edge of the horizon no larger than a person’s hand.  But trouble that seems so insignificant spreads until it covers the sky and overwhelms us.

Yet it is in the storm that God equips us for service.  When God wants an oak tree, He plants it where the storms will shake it and the rains will beat down upon it.  It is in the midnight battle with the elements that the oak develops its rugged fiber and becomes the king of the forest.

The beauties of nature come after the storm.  The rugged beauty of the mountain is born in a storm, and the heroes of life are the storm-swept and battle-scarred.

The wind that blows can never kill
The tree God plants;
It blows toward east, and then toward west,
The tender leaves have little rest,
But any wind that blows is best.
The tree that God plants
Strikes deeper root, grows higher still,
Spreads greater limbs, for God’s good will
Meets all its wants.
There is not storm has power to blast
The tree God knows;
No thunderbolt, nor beating rain,
Nor lightning flash, nor hurricane;
When they are spent, it does remain,
The tree God  knows.
Through every storm it still stands fast,
And from its first day to its last
Still fairer grows.
 
~ Streams in the Desert, January 16 
 

 

1519.  iMac back  (again)

1520.  feeling human again

1521.  sweet, thoughtful text messages

1522.  the blessing of friendship

1523.  knowing who our enemy is

1524.  knowing the victory is already won

1525.  perspective on my own problems

1526.  mini-Maacs

1527.  moving on to Kansas City

1528.  fighting hard against the enemy’s attacks

1529.  relaxed dinner with friends

1530.  pictures from Haiti – such a gift

1531.  a quiet Sunday afternoon

1532.  planning another week of school

1533.  children and their imaginations

1534.  peace in the storm

May you praise Him wherever He has you this week.

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Walking the Talk

Overwhelmed.  That’s where I’m at today.  The to do list grows ever-longer, never shorter.  We haven’t done history or science this week because I’ve either been sick, catching up from being sick, or driving somewhere.  I finish a project in one room, walk into the next and see a whole new project left behind for me by someone else.  I forget meetings and agree to be in two places on opposite sides of town at the exact same time and I get kids to practices late.

I text the husband a plea for prayer.  He responds:  Abide.  Yield.  Enjoy.

Yield.  This is where my faith grows legs.  Where I practice what I set out to do this year.  How is it honestly easier to trust God about big things like missions trips and ministry decisions and provision for work and adoption details, but so hard to trust Him that my to do list will get finished?  Honestly it’s because I have absolutely no control over those “big things” and so the simplest thing is to trust Him with it.  But the “little things” like cleaning out storage areas and catching up on laundry and keeping the kitchen clean for more than 15 minutes…those are under my “control” and I’m afraid that if I yield them, He may ask me to learn to live with mess, with (more) unfinished projects, in a constant state of undone.  And that scares me.

And so here I am….choosing to yield, choosing to slow my roll (as Jon Acuff said today in a timely post), choosing to trust in a God that has proven over and over that He is in the small things and that He does care about my details and that He loves me.

And as I hear Blessed Assurance echo up the stair case from the piano below, I smile and I feel peaceful for the first time all day.

To God be the Glory ~

~ Sara

The Stack

I love books.  I love looking at them, smelling them, perusing them, buying them, and, of course, reading them.  One could say I’ve even been doing a bit of collecting them over the past several weeks, as the stack of books by my bed has sort of taken on a life of it’s own lately.

I have posted a summer reading list the past few years.  But the months of January and February often rival summer in my ability to burn through books.  The cold weather makes me want to just crawl in bed and read.  This year is a little different, in that the weather hasn’t really been cold and February may not lend itself to much reading.  Nevertheless, I’ve got to do something about this pile.  🙂  Here’s what’s in it:

The Winter of Our Disconnect – I started this book (ironically enough) in early November on the very same week we turned our cable back on.  🙂  It is entertaining and humorous and very interesting.  However, it also seemed a little long.  I made a note on my iPhone (also ironic) of what page I stopped at and finally ended up returning it to the library because there were other books that I wanted to read more.  Perhaps I can finish it this summer.  Or…maybe not.

Choosing to See – A really good book about the Chapman family, their loss of Maria and their navigation of the process.

The Family – recommended by a friend who has some really incredible children, I’m planning to read this to see what wisdom can be gleaned.

Kisses from Katie – I am reading this one right now.  It’s a very quick, easy read.  My favorite quote so far (and I’m fully intending to use it in the future; in fact, I’d love to print it, frame it, and hang it above our coffee maker), “It’s just a little bit of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus.”

Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman’s Battle – another girl in our house has turned ten, so later this spring she gets a trip with me where we discuss those things she needs to be prepared for in the coming years.  In a house with so many people and so many voices, we have to be deliberate about these things.

Bringing Up Girls – We need all the help we can get.

I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist – our Sunday school class just finished this video series.  It was really interesting and I’m looking forward to reading the book.  Slowly.  And someday.  🙂

The Whole Life Adoption Book – one of many that fall under the adoption category.  Again, I’m looking forward to reading this one – someday.

Grace Based Parenting – still a good reread that I want to get to.

Adopted for Life – another adoption book that I want to read.

Dog Problems – borrowed from the vet, being returned to the vet.  🙂

Strong Willed Child or Dreamer – I read this one a long time ago and need to reread it.  I’ve got a couple (or three) that could fall into this category.

Writer’s Inc and The Well-Educated Mind – let’s be honest here and say those are never getting read all the way through.  Both sit there as reference material.  And to make me look brainy to people that may pass by our bedroom.  😉

Large Family Logistics – a friend was reading this a few months ago and it looked interesting, so I picked it up online one day when I saw it on sale for half price.  I’m really enjoying it.  So far, just the encouragement to persevere has been very timely.

Not in the picture because it was taken before Christmas and I have since added to the stack – Age of Opportunity.  We loved Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart and I’m really looking forward to this one by his brother, Paul, that is geared toward parenting tweens and teens.

That’s it for me.  For now.  So, what are you reading?

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Counting Again

Monday.  The second one of the new year.  Last week slipped by, still a holiday.  Today tries to get away as well.

Sick this morning with a stomach bug generously shared by my beloved (he’s a giver!), I didn’t get up early and the whole day has felt behind and as I look again and again at the to do list on my phone I feel heavy and frustrated that so little has been accomplished.  And my spirit reminds me of my desire to yield this year, to put my own agenda aside and trust Him with my days and my to dos and some things will just have to wait.

But He still gives generously, even when the task list runs long and daunting and the stomach turns and discouragement threatens nearby.  So in these few moments before dinner, before ballet and gymnastics, and a couple of hours in the car, I begin again to list the gifts.  I pick up where I left off, but I take Ann’s challenge to list 1000 in a year. A new journal, fresh pages to list the love gifts, both laughter-filled and cried over, because if the easy things He gives are gifts, aren’t the hard things too?

 

 

1496.  a week of slow

1497.  crafts

1498.  baking

1499.  movies

1500.  girls afternoon out with Grandpa

1501.  impromptu dinner date with the hubs

1502.  working iPhone

1503.  Christmas weekend – so many good gifts!

1504.  a slower week

1505.   he’s 35!

1506.  celebrating the gift he is to me

1507.  home office, 3.0

1508.   quiet New Year’s Eve at home

1509.  the end of a wonderfully long, much-needed break

1510.  one month until I meet her

1511.  four days without a computer; realizing how much time it eats

**1512.  a new year, a new list

1513.  the challenge to count 1000 gifts in one year

1514.  an afternoon out with the oldest

1515.  Sunday

1516.  thing checked off instead of put  off

1517.  sick on a Monday

1518.  continually yielding my schedule to His

Will you join me this year in counting the gifts?  Will you take the challenge to count 1000 before the curtain closes on 2012?  It’s not hard.  His gifts are all around us, if we will only open our eyes to see them.

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Getting Some Words Out….

Where do I start?  So many thoughts have been in my head for so many days.  My computer remains in the shop, so my opportunities to chronicle our days have been limited.

The break from the computer has been incredibly refreshing and eye-opening.  Two weeks without it at the beginning of December was just frustrating.  But the past ten days of it being buggy, unreliable, and out of commission have actually been kind of nice.  Freeing, almost.  I have realized how much of a habit my computer had become; an incredible time-eater.  Having it out of the house and not even as an option to go look at has made me aware of just how much of my time and attention it was getting.  Clearly, I need to redefine the relationship.  As part of my goal setting and planning for the new year, I have spent some time making up an early morning schedule that (in theory) should allow me to get the bulk of daily computer work done in the morning, before the girls get up.  After that, I think I need to just turn it off.  I can do just about anything I need to on my phone, but it’s small size and touch-screen keyboard prevent me from wanting to do excessive browsing and time-killing on it.  I have realized that I am very tied to my computer. It is an incredible asset in helping me keep our family running.  Menu planning, list making, calendars, bill paying….almost everything is on that machine.  But so are a lot of opportunities to be distracted from that which is most important and real.  And I need to have my attention here, in real life.

Which brings me to something new for this year.  I am doing something I have seen others do; I am choosing a word or a theme for this year.  My word is attentiveness – showing the worth of a person or task by giving it my full concentration.  My mind is always going, always moving (albeit, sometimes very slowly), and typically it is on the next thing that needs to be done.  I am task-oriented to the core and I can go all day without noticing people.  I go through WalMart and never notice those around me, except to think that there are way too many people out.  I want to pay attention this year.  Pay attention to my husband and children; not just what they’re telling me, but what they’re not necessarily telling me, to hear their hearts.  I want to pay attention to those around me when I am out.  One of the most convicting things I read last year was in Francis Chan’s book Erasing Hell, where he talked about sitting in Starbucks and stopping to look at all of the other patrons and began to wonder about the eternal destination of their souls.  I see and encounter people every day.  They are not just the cashier at Aldi, the drive-thru clerk at Wendy’s, or the frustrated driver in the other lane.  They have real lives, real stories, real hurt, real joy.  And the least I can do is notice them and interact with them and (even without words) share the love of Christ with them.  And most of all, I want to pay attention to the voice of God.  I want to be attuned to that still, small voice.  I want to hear Him when He leads my heart or my day in a direction I hadn’t planned.

And because I can’t ever do the simple thing, I have a second word and it goes with being attentive to God.  That word is yield.  It came to me this morning as I looked at my calendar and saw another day filled with crazy.  I’ve written about this and fought this for the past six or eight months.  No matter how hard I try, I cannot get our schedule to behave itself.  And I know God has some purpose for taking my scheduled self through this and as I said before Christmas, it’s time I stop fighting and learn to yield to it.  Yield to the interruptions, yield to the constant going, yield to the fact that my time is actually His time and I am simply to do with it what He tells me to.

Attentiveness.  Yield.  My words for the year.

I have read some incredible quotes this week.  Quotes I want to remember…

First, this one, from Ann

“Contentment isn’t a state of organization, a weight on the scale, a state of better: better kids, better marriage, better health, better house. Contentment is never a matter of circumstances; contentment is always a state of communion — a daily embracing of God. A thankfulness for all the gifts – and moments and life, just as He gives it. Trying harder may only bring harder trials and contentment, it won’t be be found in the resolutions, but in the revolutions – in the turning round to God.”

And this one, the same day, in my quiet time…

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]” (John 16:33 AMP)

And this blog post today, shared by a friend on Facebook.

 Momastery:  2011 Lesson #2:  Don’t Carpe Diem

I love it.  I have so long wanted to write something similar, but could never find the words.  I, too, have struggled with the well-intentioned grandmother-types in the grocery stores telling me to “Enjoy every minute!”, “These are the best days!”, “It goes so fast!”.   Yes, that is all true…these are the best days and it does go so fast.  But let’s be honest, it’s really, really hard.  And some days you just want to make it through to bedtime without losing your cool or running away to Jamaica.  I’ve often wondered how much we gloss over the hard days as time goes by….kind of like pregnancy and child birth.  Although, I still remember both of those very vividly and there’s a reason why I really don’t want to do either again.  I equate it more with running, actually.  I love running.  Rather, I love how running makes me feel.  There are days when I love the action of running.  But most of the time I hate it.  It’s hard and I can’t breathe.  I have to get out of my warm bed on dark, cold mornings and it’s highly inconvenient.  But I love finishing the run. I love how I feel afterward.  I love time with my friends that run with me.  I love that post-run feeling so much that every once in a while, I’ll go crazy and sign up for a half marathon which only multiplies the hard and inconvenient.  And for 13.1 miles (not to mention the countless miles of training), I will ask myself Why in the heck did I do this to myself?  And then I cross the finish line and it feels amazing and I ACTUALLY THINK OF DOING IT AGAIN!  I think that’s what these older women do in the grocery stores.  They are trying to encourage us by telling us how great it is.  But like the author of this post, I would rather they be gently honest.  Not dumping on me about every bad thing ahead, but just empathize – These days are hard, but you will get through and you will look back on them fondly.  Take a moment to enjoy this season a midst the crazy.

Well, it’s time to go pick up my oldest from art.  Here’s to a wonderful 2012 – filled with paying attention and yielding to the will of God.

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

A New Year, A New Start

It’s January 3 already, and so many thoughts run through my head. I have so many hopes and desires for this new year. This is the first year that I can recall sitting down to set specific goals and creating a plan to achieve them, chief among them – my relationship with my computer – but more on that later. I want to share what I’m thinking, hoping, planning, and I will, but not tonight.

Tonight my thoughts and prayers are with a team of friends, loved ones, and a few strangers that just boarded an airplane that will eventually take them to Haiti. There they will minister to and love on the orphanage children, our girl included. Today I have been far too busy trying to get back into the routine of school with the girls to really think about this, but inside my heart is with them and I would be lying if I said I’m not jealous of my sister-in-law who will get to meet and hold my daughter before I will. 😉

And whether it is in thinking about Haiti or thinking about my goals for the year, I am reminded about practicing contentment and trust and patience and resting in the One who knows the future and has a plan and is worthy of my trust.

For His Glory ~
~ Sara