Monday, July 21, 2014

The Glass Slipper Blues

A few days ago I was in Target with my daughter. If you had walked past us in the shoe department you would probably have wondered what was going on. She was laying flat on her back and we were talking. She wasn’t throwing a fit and she wasn’t in trouble, we were both growing.

It all started with a pair of shoes.

Hannah came across a fabulous pair of glass slipper(ish) Cinderella shoes. We were shopping for school shoes so these high-heeled head turners were not on the list but I could understand the attraction. They were dream shoes to a four year old, self-proclaimed princess. She desperately wanted to try them on so I let her, explaining the whole time that we would not be buying them. She said she understood but as soon as her foot slid into that shoe I saw the change. She went from casual wanting to an overwhelming need to have them. She strutted around, as much as she could with them being bungeed together, and loved every second of it.

Then it was over. She asked about buying them again and I explained that we only had money set aside for school shoes right now. I told her if they were on sale that we may be able to do both but that we would need to check the price. She said she understood and we went to find a price scanner. They were full price - $19.99. So we walked back to the aisle and put them away. This is when she sat down and then laid back on the ground and we began to talk.

Me: “What’s wrong Bugs?”
Hannah: “It just feels so bad”
Me: “What feels so bad?”
Hannah: “Wanting something and not getting to buy it. I really love those shoes”
Me: “I understand that feeling and that you are disappointed. It is okay to feel that way.”
Hannah: silence
Me: silence

After about a minute she sat back up and we held hands and walked out of the store purchase free. Later as I was tucking her in for her nap and she brought up the shoes again. We discussed how our money isn’t just to make us happy but something we need to be wise with as we spend. We talked about the difference between a need and want. We talked about other real needs of kids in the world. And we talked about how maybe one day she could save and buy the shoes herself.  

For me, this is where minimizing and simplicity can get hard. Gifts are my love language so, of course, I want her to have the best of everything. I want my daughter to not “want” for anything, I want her to enjoy every moment of her life and if I even begin to think that I can accomplish these dreams for her by buying her more stuff, I have missed the boat completely.

Just one day after Hannah had her “it just feels bad moment” I went into TJ Maxx. I fell in love with roughly 15 things there, none of them on the back to school list that was in my hand, so I walked away empty handed too. It used to feel bad when I would do that, and to be honest, sometimes it still does. I even posted about it on Instagram.
(Owning any one of these things will never match the feeling I get from serving God with my whole heart.)
But, when I stop and think about what really matters and where my real investment is, the bad feeling goes away.

So here is what I think is true in the long run, more than likely I will always struggle against the desire to get stuff I like but don’t need and guess what, IT IS OKAY to struggle. The struggle isn’t a sin, in fact, it usually means that God is growing me in that area.

I also think it will always be a struggle to figure out where that line is. You know the one I am talking about, the one that says God blesses me with good things and the one that says that I am called to give it all to Him and choose wisely. I have said it before, I don’t think God cares what we own (to a degree), I think He cares about what owns us. I do believe He would choose for us to live a life that is more simple, simply because He is easier to hear outside of all the chaos “stuff” can bring.

So, do you struggle in this area? Are there times when “it just feels bad?” Let me tell you sister, it is okay. I am right there with you. Let’s struggle together.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Difficulty of a Birth-day

It happens every year around this time. Every. Single. Year.

A heartache begins to develop. A sadness.

It’s my birthday. Now, before you begin to think that this depression is because I am another year older - I tell you that couldn’t be farther from the truth! It seems like each passing year that I experience is more amazing than the next. I look forward to what a new year has and all that God will do to work His plans in my life. I am NOT one of those people that begrudges getting older. There are many in this world that are not afforded that luxury.

This is deeper. It comes from a place that I can rarely reach.

You see, I am adopted. I was born on March 23rd and was adopted on March 29th. During the time between my birth and adoption I was hospitalized for pneumonia (apparently I didn’t know how to keep my mouth shut in the womb either :)). My birthmother, a brave 16 year old girl, and her family chose to come and visit me every day; trying to hold me and love me for the lifetime they would not get to. I can only imagine how highly emotional that time was for them.

Think about the tears, the joy, the heartbreak, the beauty, all wrapped up into six days. I obviously don’t remember those days. However, I believe that something about the deep, heart wrenching emotional experience that my family went through lodged deep within my soul. 

Every year since I can remember I experience an unexplained ache through those days. Then, on the seventh day, it seems to lift and life goes on.

I believe that is because the seventh day is the day I met my forever family. My parents had tried to have children for many years and were unable to do so. They prayed and felt God lead them towards adoption. He knew that He was creating their family by handpicking me to join them. I am their only child. Had my birthmother not made the brave choice of life for me - they may never have known what it was to be parents.

The immediate and overflowing joy my parents had when they picked up their baby girl for the first time was, most likely, a balm to my tiny broken heart. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I knew in those moments how very loved and wanted I was.

When these tumultuous emotions begin to plague me each year I always go back to a few verses that God has used to heal my hurting places.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:13-14

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

I don’t know if you have ever experienced anything like this but I want you to know that YOU are here on purpose. YOU are not an accident. God has a plan for YOUR life. If you are struggling with what to do with an unwanted pregnancy or issue in life - go to the scripture. Search out what God says. Although it may not seem like the easiest solution for you in the moment - it will be by far the best for you, your child and your family.

Lastly, know that there is nothing beyond God’s redemptive love. Nothing. Ever. He can take you and help you find a wholeness you never knew was possible. I am not talking about a puppy dog and rainbow kind of faith that exists because it has never been challenged. I am talking about a deep, rooted in the depth of Christ, kind of faith that will carry you through even your darkest of days. The kind of faith that you will cling to when it seems like there is nothing left and the kind of faith that will guide you back out of the valley so the sun can shine on your face again.

Turn to Him. I know it is the only way I survived 34 years ago and it is the only way I survive now. 

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Thirstier than I Think

As I was praying and reading the Bible I wrote that I was thirsty for God. It was in that moment that He gave me a word picture for how my thirst usually looks. 

I am a big diet soda fan. I know I shouldn't be but I am. I can go off it for a little while but somehow it always finds it’s way back into my refrigerator. When I am physically thirsty I generally have at least two options; water or soda. I am a fairly well educated woman and I know that our bodies are full of water and need water to function correctly. I know that I am supposed to drink around 64oz a day to help my body function at it’s top performance. I also know that drinking more water will help other areas of my life like organ function and weight-loss. I know all of these things, but I will generally still grab a soda over a glass of water. Why? 

Soda has flavor and tastes “better” than water. Not because it IS better but because it covers up all of the unhealthy things about it with sweeteners that will also cause harm. Soda has caffeine. Unfortunately I treat my body in such a way that I need caffeine to make it through the day. Oh, and instead of meeting a physical need to quench a thirst, the caffeine actually makes me more dehydrated and the dark syrups make my organs work double time to process it. Soda COSTS more. I have the blessing of water at little to no extra cost, I have to PAY for soda. 

So, why would I continue to choose soda over water? Maybe partially because I have programmed myself to do so and partially because I want to satisfy an unhealthy desire in me for a flavor, albeit fake. 

Sometimes, this is what my faith looks like. 

As I live my life I have very little “expendable” time. Between work and being the mother of a four year old I am pretty busy. I try, more unsuccessfully than not, to keep up with friends and family members but I even fail in making time for this due to my other responsibilities. However, God should be at the top of the list, right? 

Somedays when I get an hour or two to myself all I want to do is watch TV or read a fiction book. I want to “check out” of the world. I KNOW this probably isn’t the best use of my time in that moment, especially on the days that I have not spent time with God, but I do it anyway. 

I count on the fact that I have the Holy Spirit in me to carry me through multiple days without cracking my Bible or having intentional time in prayer (other than with my 4 year old). Yes, I am filled with God and have that blessing, but just like my body is filled with water, I am thirstier than I think. When I choose soda over water I cause the water inside of me to be in greater need. When I choose wasting my time over seeking my Father I create a thirst in my spirit that makes other areas in my life circle out of control. 

Just like choosing soda hurts me with preservatives, artificial sweeteners and organ difficulties choosing to watch worthless television or waste time on Facebook over time with my Savior causes breakdowns in my faith and strained relationships with my family because I am “off center” and it even effects things like caring for my body. 

Every aspect of my life really does hinge on my relationship with God.

However, just like when I choose water and feel refreshed and clear headed, when I choose to spend time with God, my husband and daughter can literally see a difference in my mood/attitude. I make better decisions and live a healthier life. I am able to recognize and experience “God moments” where He supernaturally intervenes and gives me a chance to share about Him or help someone. Life is better, always.

So why do I keep ending up here? Like Paul says in Romans 7:19-24 the things he wants to do, he doesn’t; the things he does not want to do, he keeps doing. Even though he loved God and delights in him, sin is present in his body and at war with him. 

This is exactly how I feel. At war. 

If you feel this way, I totally understand you. I am living it too. It doesn’t mean we are “bad” christians. It means we are human ones. One day we will be free from this diet soda craving flesh but until then we need to keep fighting the good fight and seeking God with all our hearts. Matthew 6:33 rings true every moment of every day. 

And just so you know I really mean all of this, that I have heard from God and that I do want to make a change, I have committed to not purchase any non-water drinks for 2014 through a group called The Yes Club. The Yes Club encourages us to say NO to ourselves so we can say YES to clean water for someone else. So, anytime I would have normally bought a diet coke or a Starbucks coffee, instead, I will be donating that money so that someone can receive clean water, the thing I have so freely and yet don’t appreciate. 

Would you join me? Would you be a part of The Yes Club and make a difference all while giving yourself a chance at a healthier you? It may be that your vice isn’t soda or coffee but reality TV or pizza or donuts. Maybe it is a stream of fast food when you know you should be feeding your family healthier food. Whatever it is, we can give it to God and help others receive life-saving clean water with the money we would have wasted on it. 

Are you willing to make a change for this year?

Click here to get started. 

"For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
     Romans 7:19-24

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Doll Named Mina

The Life Of Faith

Anytime you ask my 4 year old what her dog or cat or baby is named the answer is always the same, “Mina”. Mina the dog with her little puppy name Mina who is friends with a cat named Mina...

I don’t think our family and friends really know where that name came from - but I do. Every time I hear her say it I see the face of the woman that bears that name (well, one close to it).

It was a normal Fall day for us. We had just finished our grocery shopping and were about to head home when we drove past a homeless woman sitting in the grassy area behind the parking lot. We pulled over because we keep “blessing bags” in the car to give homeless people as we encounter them in our city. I positioned the car where Hannah could see me easily and I got out and talked to this woman named Nina. She was dying of cancer that she could do nothing about. She lived in her dirty, 1990ish van and due to other medical complications constantly had accidents on herself. She had a scruffy little dog and a skinny cat as her companions. We talked. No deep theological discussion, just life. I let her talk mostly because I wasn’t really sure what to say and she seemed like she needed to talk to someone. Then I had to go because we had appointments to keep.

We pass out blessing bags pretty regularly but for some reason this one stood out to Hannah. Once I was back in the car she asked questions about Nina.  Where does she live, why does she look like that, what kind of dog did she have, is that her kitty, and on and on as 3 year olds do. I answered to the best of my ability but couldn’t shake the feeling that I should have done more than just give her a small
bag filled with things that will get her through maybe the next half day. However with the thoughts of cooking dinner, finishing a work task and cleaning up my house looming in my mind Nina all but disappeared.

However, that one encounter had a deep impact on my daughter. Since that day she has called all of her babies, pets and friends “Mina”. When I asked her where she got that name she said, “remember the lady that lived in her car with the doggy and cat?” I was blown away. I had already gone back to
my normal life and honestly, unfortunately, I didn’t have space for Mina. It isn’t that I don’t care. My heart for the homeless and hungry is still there but between the practical day-to-day living as a mom/wife/employee thoughts of others outside of my immediate sphere tend to all but disappear as the oven beeps, the phone rings and I have little hands pulling on my pant legs.

But every time I hear her say the name Mina it is like a little jolt of electricity in me and I am reminded that others should be on my mind and that perhaps I should be living with a more sensitive heart, like my daughter. So, I am choosing, once again, to learn from my little girl.

I am learning that when I stop to speak with someone it should stick with me. 

I am learning that these people are on God’s heart and so they should be on mine. 

I am learning that it is okay to let myself get connected with someone like that - that I am supposed to - even if I don’t know what to do or say.

I am learning that it’s okay to trust God with my heart and my thoughts even if He fills them with things that are hard to look at sometime. 

I am learning that I need to find a way to not make it easy to disconnect and walk away while Hannah fully engages and fully receives a person into her heart.

I hope that one day I can love and serve and live with the same heart as my little girl. I also pray that as she grows up that I can help her not lose the love, grace and compassion that overflows from her every day.

May I care, with passion and abandon, about the things that are near and dear to my Father’s heart every. single. day.

Blessing Bags:

Here are examples of things that work well in a Blessing Bag. You may change up what you would include due to your area and conditions. Mine shift with what I can get on sale and what will fit in the bag. We generally use quart size bags. I have underlined the things mine almost always have in them and then add what else is available at the time. 
  • granola bars/cereal bars
  • snack crackers/cheese
  • peanut butter
  • beef jerky
  • raisins
  • peanuts
  • applesauce cup/fruit cups
  • Capri Suns/juice boxes
  • trail mix
  • gum/mints
  • hard candy
  • bottled water
  • hot drink mix
  • canned meat or sausages
  • hand sanitizer
  • baby wipes
  • toothbrush & toothpaste
  • wash cloth
  • soap
  • comb
  • nail clippers
  • deodorant
  • socks
  • sun screen 
  • flip flops (depending on the region)
  • gloves (depending on the region)
  • chapstick
  • lotion
  • travel-sized tissues

Monday, December 09, 2013

Shelves, Elves and Walking Wise Men

First let me say this is not a “hating on the Elf on the Shelf” post. There is a blog post I read recently that I think explains why we don't do it and if you would like to read that visit this blog

This post is about a new Christmas tradition I am putting into place in our home. I think the Elf on the Shelf is a really cute idea but I also think that between elves, Santa, presents, marketing and debt that you not only have to be incredibly deliberate for the real purpose of Christmas to be the focus but you have to be consistent. every. day. So, as I was trimming my home for Christmas and getting out my 2nd nativity (don’t judge, I may even have a third) I thought of a fun way to involve my 3 year old in the story of Mary, Joseph and Jesus.

I prepped our dining room table for the Nativity and put down the moss/straw stuff I use every year for the floor of the stable and put the donkey and the cow in place. Then I asked my daughter what she thought the shepherds were doing the month before Jesus was born and she said tending sheep. So, since they were near Bethlehem I put the shepherd and his sheep just a little ways away from the stable sitting on the dining room table.

Then I talked to her about the three Wise Men. I told her they were traveling from super far away to visit Jesus (yes, I know they probably got there when He was two but we will go with the creative license that has them included in the nativity scene). So we decided the bookshelf by the front door is the farthest place in our house where the Wise Men could begin their journey.

Next came Mary and Joseph. We talked about how they had to leave where they lived and go to Bethlehem because King Herod demanded it. Since they weren’t traveling the same distance as the
Wise Men they got to start their journey on our kitchen countertop.

As we were talking about the King Herod I saw the 3 Nutcracker soldiers in my Christmas d├ęcor. Seeing a chance to share even more of the story I pulled them out and borrowed one of her play castles and I setup Herod’s castle since the Wise Men will go to it on their way to worship Jesus.

Next we had to place the Angel that would be part of the Heavenly hosts that would announce the birth of the Savior. We chose the china cabinet because it was high up and would overlook “Bethlehem”. When I put the Angel up there it was next to a decorative cross and my daughter asked if the cross was up in Heaven too. I explained in many ways it was because when Jesus decided to come to Earth to save us He already knew He would have to die on the cross for our sins. (Sidenote: I am thinking about letting her color a picture of Jesus and putting it up in Heaven for right now too since that is where He was before He came to the Earth.)

Then she asked about Baby Jesus.

I explained that He wasn’t born yet and that Mary and Joseph would be traveling to Bethlehem and that right when they got there that Mary would give birth to Jesus. I said we would have to look for Him on Christmas morning and join the Angels, Wise men and shepherds celebrating that He was born. She got so excited and my heart leapt at the fact that on Christmas morning we would run into the dining room to find Jesus!

I did start to wonder if she was just mimicking my excitement or if she was really getting the idea but much to my surprise when I went into her room later in the afternoon she had taken her Fisher Price Nativity scene and put the different little people around her room. The she explained to me what they were doing and why she chose that spot for them, oh and that Aladdin is an honorary Wise Man.

I love that everyday we are going to move each part of the Christmas story closer to the stable. I feel like this gives our Christmas a grounding because each day we draw closer to the day Jesus coming to Earth we will be talking about it as a family.

I would love to hear any other Christmas traditions you have that help point the season back to Jesus! Please leave them in the comments and I will share them on my blog!

Here is my table... it looks so funny without the full Nativity but I even love that because I get a chance to share with people about what we are doing!