Wednesday, October 1, 2014

31 Days Of Strength In Scripture

I almost took a blogging hiatus.

And then I went the other way and decided to write a post every day for the entire month of October.

I know. It sounds crazy to go from one extreme to the other, especially considering I've barely found the time to write one or two posts a month for the past year, but it's funny how perspective can change things.

I had a lot of good reasons for my initial desire to take a break, mainly because there's just not a lot of time in the day, and I felt as though I could use a little shift of focus to some other writing endeavors, but then I had a dear friend tell me how much one of my recent posts meant to her, and I remembered why I started doing this to begin with.

I truly believe we find strength in each other's stories, which is why those stories are important to tell. It has often been through someone else's words that I have found strength, and hope, and love, and all of those things that we are on this earth to give each other.

Words have the power to give life.

So I want to delve into that story that was written to you and I so long ago about the purpose and meaning that we crave each and every day. I want to share with you how that story impacts my life, how it inspires me, how it encourages me. It's a story that I neglect too often, and I hope that partaking in this challenge changes that.

I invite you to join me as I do a little Bible-studying and share some of my personal experiences in light of key scriptures and spiritual truths. It will be a journey for me just to be more intentional about tuning in to how God is working in my life.
Bible Verses About Strength
"And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." Hebrews 10:24-25
I don't know if I can keep it up for the full month, but I bet you'll have fun watching me try. You may also find many other writers on many other topics for this 31-day challenge here.

Check back, and I will post the links to each of the 31 days below.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Great Penny Rescue

Well, I'm surprised we made it this far into our parenting journey without facing this situation, but it has finally happened.

Abram swallowed a coin.

No matter how many prior warnings your child has heeded about the dangers of putting stuff in his mouth, sometimes the urge to pretend he is an animal and use the object as said animal's 'food' wins out. (There's always a legitimate reason, right?)

He didn't intend to swallow it. Both kids were sitting at the kitchen table while I was preparing lunch, and suddenly I heard him cough a little.

“Mama,” he said. “I got money in my mouth!”

“Spit it out!” I said as I rushed to him. Too late. Panic set in. “What was it? Are you sure it was money?”

Hannah confirmed it was a penny that she had found earlier and set on the table. And so commenced the course of action most parents would take in this situation – a brief freak-out, followed by a frantic Google search.

Thankfully, there was plenty of information on the topic, as “swallowed a penny when will it pass” appears to be a commonly searched phrase for the overly cautious and Google-obsessed moms like myself. The most trusted sources said to wait it out – it would most likely pass on its own. If it didn't after several days, you might want to go in for x-rays to make sure it's moving through the system, but kids swallow stuff all the time. It was a relief to see that a swallowed coin was not a reason to worry.

Unless it was a penny minted after 1982.

Pennies minted before 1982 are completely fine because they're made of copper, but pennies minted after 1982 are made of mostly zinc, which reacts to the stomach's acid and can potentially cause ulcers. (Rare, but a possibility.)

Great. Since I didn't exactly get a chance to check the date on the coin before my child decided to shove it in his mouth, there was no way of knowing if this was just a harmless penny or a stomach-eating death ray making its way through my precious baby's body.

All we could do was wait it out and keep an eye on him. He continued to act normal (normal being the equivalent of a jackrabbit hyped up on a few shots of espresso), so I tried not to worry. I wanted to make sure the foreign object came out though, so I wasn't looking forward to what I would have to do.

The first poop check was awful. It was one of those that looks innocent enough but packs a stench strong enough to knock down anyone within a 20-ft radius. And thank God for disposable gloves because if I'd had to perform that task without them, I might not have ever recovered.

No dice.

I had to wait two more days for another opportunity, all the while thinking we'd have to take him in if we didn't hit the jackpot soon. I was hoping the Raisin Bran was doing its job.

Finally, on the third day after the incident, I found him on the potty once again (he doesn't tell me when he needs to go because he needs his 'pwivacy') and got some plastic bags ready for some more gold panning. You would think that locating something that doesn't belong would be simple, but I almost didn't see the stupid thing. One final mush and at last, there it was – the Lincoln Memorial smiling up at me from a pile of poo.

So relieved, I washed it thoroughly and took a picture on my phone to send to Clint. My dad was at the house visiting, and, having the bizarre sense of humor he does, begged me to first send a picture of a rock and a crayon smothered in peanut butter with the caption “Well, we didn't find the penny, but...”

So I, having inherited the bizarre sense of humor, said “crunchy or creamy?”

After it was all said and done, I was glad to come away with the knowledge that kids really are pretty resilient and a thankfulness that our bodies are so efficiently designed.

And I did send Clint a text of our new keepsake with an important caption.
why must kids put everything in their mouths
1972, baby.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Faith Response

I've been on a trip.

It was a trip on which my spirit was renewed, my soul was encouraged, and I fell in love with the little state of Iowa.

Iowa is not at all what I expected, and what I expected was pretty much fields of corn in a vast expanse of nothing else. No, it's hilly and green, and there plenty of trees, and cornfields, yes, but they give a golden hue to the land and a warmth unmatched by any other place I've been. And the old farmhouses fill that land with a sense of timeless appeal that speaks to a quiet soul such as mine, one that longs for solitude.
And it was there at a little church in the middle of all this solitude where I found what I've been looking for and didn't even know it. I was reminded of what it's like to know the One who gives me the quiet that I seek, along with the companionship that I need.
How To Have Hope In Trials
(Not Iowa, obviously, but taken on the way.)
“Be still and know that I am God.”

Initially, our primary purpose for going on this trip was to attend a bible conference and discuss a new ministry project, but as I quickly discovered, I was wrong about the primary purpose.
Because, of course, He orchestrates all things.

We all have a hard time being an encouragement to others if we ourselves are not encouraged, but that has been a problem lately – there is little out there to find very inspiring or encouraging.
I can't hardly get on social media – or any media, really – these days without becoming incredibly sad, or angry, or overwhelmed. I don't know if you've noticed or not, but things in this world are not alright. Maybe they've never been alright, except in the Garden, but the tension seems greater now, the circumstances particularly more dire.
But what I learned from the hearts that I connected with on this trip is that there are others like me. We are not alone in this world. We're together in the fight.
I am not the only one who has been looking around at everything that is taking place and wondering if the whole world has gone mad.
I'm not the only one who gets angry, who sometimes wants to punch some sense into people.
I'm not the only one who has allowed it to weigh me down, who has wondered if it's all completely hopeless.
I'm not the only one with fears.
And I'm not the only one who is resting in the hope that comes from Him.

That's a big one – the key issue. It's the one we're not supposed to talk about, you know. You're crazy if you mention anything about the forces of good and evil – call it anything but a 'spiritual issue'. But what is evil if not the absence of good? And darkness, if not the absence of light?

What is the absence of God?
I don't know how people remember 9/11 and still don't believe evil exists. I don't know how they mourn beheaded children and still don't believe evil exists. The only answer I can come up with is – because evil exists.
So if there is anything that can at all be an encouragement in these uneasy times, as we reflect on 9/11 and everything that has happened since, everything that has happened before in the course of human history and everything that waits for us in the days to come, it's Him. It's the fact that His presence resides in other souls, in the cornfields of Iowa, in the house down the street. He surrounds us in ways we could never dream.
We are not alone in the fight.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Camping With The Kids: Big Lessons In Little Adventures

I considered making up my own word and titling this post Camping and Creeking With The Kids (as in, playing in creeks), but then I discovered that according to Urban Dictionary, creeking is also a term derived from the 90's teen drama Dawson's Creek that means overthinking a situation or feeling until it becomes more complicated than it really is, and I thought that would be just a little too ironic because, let's face it, I do that.

I overthink because I want to overteach. Lately at home I haven't felt I've been doing the best job of giving my kids what I feel they need – a mom who is not stressed, who is patient, who is living by example. We all have a little mom guilt now and then, right? Lately I've allowed some of the pressures of life and the crushed expectations and the self-loathing thoughts to stand in the way of me doing my most important job, and I've been struggling to figure out how to get back to the basics.

I've been hurting, and I've needed to heal. For me, yes, but also for them.

Spiritual Healing Found In Nature
Life Lessons Found In The Wild
During the past couple of weekends we spent some time 'getting away'. It should be clear to all of us by now that in our world, it's hard to escape all the wrong things that get thrown at us everyday.

More is Better. Beauty is Success. Life is about ME. Don't think – just fill up your mind with everything that can distract you from how miserable existence is.

So the thing we need to do is take the time to escape it.

This is what I learned (and re-learned) by 'getting away from it all' with my family:

What I Learned Beauty Is Found In Simple Pleasures

When we go on camping trips, my husband brings way too much food. He says camping is for eating lots of delicious camp snacks, and and he also claims that while camping, calories don't count. (If only that were true...) But food really does seem to taste better in the outdoors, after working up an appetite in the water or on a trail, and feeling the warm sun on your face and the lake wind blow through your hair really is better than any movie you'll ever see.

Less Is Better, By Far

I read a few articles about camping with kids before we went on our trip, and though many of them had some great ideas, I decided that taking a giant tub full of toys to make sure they stayed entertained was not the way to go for us. I spend so much of my time at home cleaning up toys or supervising the cleaning up of toys that I was determined to get away from it for a while. And guess what? They made their own fun, and there was nothing to fight over. My determination to simplify has been renewed, and I once again remember the significance of packing light, in all types of baggage we may carry in life.

The Importance Of Sacrificing Comfort

Too much comfort results in too much expectation. When you go without life's little luxuries, you remember to be thankful, and you are better equipped to teach that thankfulness to your children.

And one morning around 4 am, when you need to pee and leave your tent with your flashlight and walk off into the darkness, you will remember what it's like to be brave. You might choose your spot, shut off the flashlight, and just as you squat, hear a growl behind you. You may think, that was probably a snore, not a growl, and glance toward the direction of the tent, but then you will hear it again – the low, guttural sound of a nocturnal animal – and realize it's definitely behind you.

As you try to mentally will yourself to pee faster, you might also talk yourself into believing you are not terrified, but your heart's thudding in your chest and the speed at which you approach the tent while yanking up your shorts mid-stride will say otherwise.

And then you will be really, REALLY thankful that you have a shelter to go home to and don't usually have to worry about being mauled to death in the middle of the night by a wild beast.

(Or maybe you will get lucky, and that won't happen to you at all, since it already happened to me, but the key is that these kinds of adventures teach you to handle whatever comes your way.)

Having Gratitude When It's HardTo See It All Through Their Eyes 

Every adventure, no matter how small, is grand in the eyes of your children. If you fall off the inner tube, you can still remember how fun it was to ride. You can look forward to the s'more at the end of the day. You may trip on the rocks, but your toes still never felt so good than when the creek was rushing over them.

You can be thankful for the experience, all good and bad of it. When it's all fresh and new, the gratitude comes easy.
Connection Is Healing
The experience is only what it is because you're together – the bonds you create with your family and with your Creator are more meaningful than anything else you could ever do.

When the trip is over, you may have to come back home to 'reality', but maybe reality wasn't what you thought it was. And maybe it's good to do a little 'creeking' now and then...because maybe you'll realize that it's all just one small part of one great big adventure.