Friday, May 31, 2013

Lessons From the Edge

Some people are impossible to please.

OK. I just need to vent for a minute.

So, there's this woman, V, at Edgewood - about whom I have never said, "She's my favorite." Because, well - she isn't.
Recently she was complaining to me because we weren't going to Walmart this month. (Low attendance on this trip the past few months, the distance between Walmart and Edgewood, and the fact that we make two trips to Meijer every week played into that decision...) She told me "everyone" was upset about not going - and pointed out that sometimes people like to go to Walmart just for an opportunity to "go" somewhere.
OK, V. I hear you. But the decision isn't mine, anyway. I just listened and smiled.

Fast-forward to last week.
I was in the dining room making announcements - which included an invitation to everyone to attend "coffee time" with me at a local restaurant later that afternoon. As I was putting the microphone away after announcements, I heard V say to one of the ladies at her table, "Why would we go out for a cup of coffee when we can have coffee right here?"
I bit my tongue and pretended I didn't hear her, but part of me wanted to march right over to her table and remind V of the complaining she did to me. I wanted to ask her how I could possibly please her. You're upset about not going to Walmart for an opportunity to "go" somewhere, but you don't want to go "out" for coffee (or dessert, or whatever else you might get...) because you can get coffee here? What gives???
Indeed, some people are impossible to please.

Even so, I realize I need to love on V. She is a difficult woman - often grumpy, and hard to please. That's just how she is. Yet, she is loved by God and I trust HE has put me at Edgewood for her, too. Father, give me the grace to love - even when it's hard.

Do you need grace to love a difficult "someone", too?


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Corrector for Eyes?

I was putting on my make-up the other day when I noticed something different on my tube of concealer. I recognized it as Spanish writing, and I chuckled as I "read" it.

corrector para ojos

It's been about 26 years since I've been in Spanish class, but I still remember "para ojos" means "for eyes". And I don't know about you, but to me "corrector" in Spanish looks an awful lot like "corrector" in English. And I wondered at the literal translation for those words, and the implication for my make-up.
Corrector for eyes? Is that what I'm doing when I put concealer on blemishes? Correcting your eyes? Now, I don't wear much make-up, but the thought of "correcting your eyes" made me feel a little vain. *blush*

And then I began thinking about the rest of the day. You know, those hours we spend out in the world after we have corrected what eyes will see on our faces? And I asked myself if I was applying corrector para ojos to anything besides my face.
When I go out, am I concealing the real me?
Am I correcting what other people see, so they believe what I want to portray?
These are hard questions for me, because my heart's desire is to be authentic - to be REAL. But it is so tempting to put on a mask and act like everything is always great.

The truth is, everything is NOT always great. My circumstances can get me down and discouraged. But God is always faithful. ALWAYS. And that is what I want people to see.
If I apply corrector para ojos to my life, I fear I will block the ability of others to see God's faithfulness in the midst of personal trials. And concealing God is something I NEVER want to do!
So I pray God will give me the grace to keep my corrector para ojos in my make-up bag.

How about you? Are you allowing God's faithfulness to show through your life?


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Her Horse, My Son

I needed her to listen to me, and she needed me to get off her back.
We all laughed when Kris made that statement.
Kris was one of the speakers at the Captivating Retreat I attended last month and she was telling us a story about an adventure she'd had with her horse. As you can guess based upon what she said, Kris and her horse were having some challenging times. They were both frustrated, and though they obviously understood one another - their own desires were too great to give in to what the other wanted.
As she spoke, I could feel the tension in Kris's heart because I'd just experienced a moment, er - a few days - like that with Joshua. So when she made that statement, "I needed her to listen to me, and she needed me to get off her back," I felt like God was speaking directly to my heart.
Suddenly I was transported back to one of the episodes with Joshua when he wouldn't listen to me; when I was simply trying to show him the right way to do something, and he wouldn't listen.
And I - in my *righteous* desire to have him obey, because that's what kids are supposed to do(!) - wouldn't let go. I kept riding him.

But he needed me to get off his back.

And there - in the unscheduled bliss of the retreat, where I was able to slow down and think - I could see the reality of that situation with my son. I realized my desire to have him "listen" was really a reflection of my desire for perfection.
*I wanted him to do the job right.
*I wanted Joshua to acknowledge that I know better than him how to wash greasy pans (or whatever it was we were bickering about that day...).
*I wanted him to do the job the way I do the job.

But he needed me to get off his back.

And there - again, in the unscheduled bliss of the retreat, where I was able to slow down and think - God moved my heart. He convinced me to get off Joshua's back. Because my pride is NOT worth driving a wedge between my son and me. Ever.
Thank You, JESUS, for opening my eyes!


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Finding a Rhythm

One month ago I had the opportunity to spend an extended weekend enjoying a wonderful women's retreat. It was the Northern Michigan Captivating Retreat.

(PSA: If you ever have an opportunity to attend a Captivating Retreat, do it!)

At first, I thought someone had it in for me and was attempting to ruin my weekend.
You see, there was no schedule in the packet of information I received upon arrival. And I was told there would be NO schedule provided for the weekend. At.all. As in, I had nothing to look at which would tell me where I needed to be at 6:00, 7:30, or 8:42. I didn't know what time breakfast would be served, when I would have time to use the bathroom, OR when I could schedule in a walk around the lake.
Now, for a control freak person who lives her life by a schedule - who even sets alarms on her phone to remind herself when to run errands and taxi her kids various places - NOT having a schedule for the weekend is NOT GOOD.
But there I was - three whole days without a schedule.
And, I'm telling you, the person who came up with that plan? Is brilliant!
By the grace of God, I adjusted very quickly - and learned to go with the flow. I didn't worry about when to be where, because at the end of everything we did someone told us when and where to be next. I wasn't concerned about what to do, or if we were running according to schedule. Because there was no schedule! And with that burden lifted, I was able to fully immerse myself in the content of the weekend and to allow God to hold and heal my heart.
One morning, I just sat with Jesus for a while and cried. And it was glorious! I realized I was actually slowing down enough to have feelings. That's something I hadn't experienced for much too long.
What a gift it was to have that weekend away!

But then I got home, and I don't feel like I've stopped moving since. There were speaking engagements, birthday parties, prom, events at work, gatherings with friends, and on and on. All good things, but so much of it!
And this feeling - that I haven't stopped moving for the past month - has convinced me I need to follow through with the plan I felt God leading me to when I was at Captivating. Once a month on a Wednesday I am going to go straight from work to a retreat center not too far from where I live, and I am going to spend the night there. I'll stay there until Thursday afternoon. And for that 24 hours, I am going to be completely un-scheduled. (Did anyone else catch the irony in that last statement? I didn't do it on purpose. Really. It's the control freak in me, fighting to not be forgotten. *wink*) I am going to allow God to make all the plans for my retreat time. I am going to trust Him with the outcome.

Ahhhh, yes. Once a month I am going to take a very needed rest. I realize a schedule is necessary in life and in the working world, but I also realize I have gotten too tied up in mine. And I am soooooo looking forward to finding a rhythm between following a schedule and NOT.
*happy face*
By the way, this retreat thing means a new rhythm for my blog, too. Since I do the majority of my blog preparation on Thursdays - my blog will take a monthly break, as well. That is, I will not be spending my retreat time blogging. So the week after each retreat, this blog will also be resting.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013

Lessons From the Edge

Powerful doesn't always look like it.

Picture this:
A room full of thirteen people.
Only two of the heads are not completely gray - mine, because I'm only 41 (the next youngest person in the group was in his 70s); and D's, because she colors her hair.
There are five walkers, four replaced knees, eight hearing aids, eleven pairs of glasses, one hip which needs replacing, and probably a couple of pace-makers, too.
Two people have Parkinson's Disease and cannot control their shaky hands.
One person recently suffered a mini-stroke and is still dealing with tingling in his face and hands.
Everyone has memory issues of some sort (myself, included!), but one woman in particular often needs to be reminded of things as simple as sitting down in her chair.

Now, with this image in your mind, how crazy do you think it is that I sat in this room, looked at this group, and proclaimed, "There is a lot of POWER right here!"?

We'd just been looking at 1 Samuel 16, when little David was anointed king of Israel. We talked about how unlikely of a candidate David was - according to the outside - and the reality of the power of God's Spirit to do things we could never imagine. And that's when it occurred to me: I was surrounded by a lot of POWER in that room full of wrinkles, arthritis, and back-aches.
I said, "We may not look like much - and our problems may make us look like even less - but if you are a believer in Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit lives in you. And His POWER is more powerful than anything else in the world!" And, together, we realized God could use this motley crew - empowered by His Spirit - to do amazing things. Just like little David slayed the giant by the power of the living God, so we can do big things by His power.

Are you feeling small and insignificant today? Powerless to do much of anything? Remember, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, His Spirit lives in you. And His POWER is more powerful than anything else in the world!

The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.

1 Samuel 17:37


Thursday, May 23, 2013

I Think Mrs. Proverbs 31 Probably Struggled with Motherhood

And I think the title of this post probably has some people thinking I'm a little heretical.

I hope you'll keep reading, anyway.

I've been thinking about Mrs. Proverbs 31 quite a bit recently, and the more I think about her - the more real/normal/relatable she becomes to me. I think in many ways, she was a mom just like me. Her children were probably pretty normal kids. They probably were needy and whined now and then. And she probably got tired of hearing the whining.
I imagine she got frustrated on occasion and had to take her own "time out" to get herself back under control.
Verse 16 of Proverbs 31 says she planted a vineyard, and I wonder if now and then she might have lingered a little longer than necessary in the vineyard - just to enjoy the peace and quiet. You know, the same way you and I have lingered a little longer than necessary in the bathroom?
C'mon. Admit it. You've done it, too! *wink*

And as I read about all the amazing things she did, part of me has to believe there were probably nights when she fell into bed exhausted, crying herself to sleep at the thought of going through it all again tomorrow.

I can hear your question now. It's the same one I had. If this is true - if Mrs. Proverbs 31 struggled at times with motherhood - why don't we read about it in Proverbs 31?
That's a great question.
And I believe the answer is: Because she was not defined by her struggle.
Mrs. Proverbs 31 didn't focus on her challenges. Rather, she feared the LORD. That means she had a profound trust in God. Everything about her revolved around her faith in the God who loved her, and that impacted who she was and what she did. I believe she saw her struggles as opportunities to grow closer to God, rather than as reasons to despair.
She was defined by her faith in God - and that made all the difference.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Beauty and the Beau: Prom 2013

Elizabeth attended her first-ever prom Saturday night.

And I have pictures for you.

First, a look at the Beauties.
Elizabeth's friends Michaela and Brianna came over to get ready for the big event. They were all lovely. *proud momma smile*

Beau looked great, too!

And, just to keep it real - see Beauty's shoes?
Yes, she wore her black Converse tennies. And she didn't have to kick them off during the dance. *smart girl*

After dinner and pictures at our house, the kids and Beau's mom and grandma went to our church for more pictures. Formal pictures were taken in the gazebo.

Then it was time for "fun" on the Noah's Ark structure on the playground.

And then, Beauty and the Beau and their friends went to church before going on to Prom. Because they were going to attend Post-Prom which lasted until 3:00a.m.(!), and they knew they wouldn't want to get up for church Sunday morning. And they didn't want to miss it.
They're just awesome like that. *proud momma smile*


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What Do Moms Need?

I had a great conversation with a few moms after I spoke at a MOPS meeting last Friday. And the things we talked about reminded me so much of the devotion I recorded for yesterday, I felt I needed to do a follow-up post to keep the conversation going.

In addition to time alone with God, we moms most certainly need time alone with one another. And by time "alone" with one another, I mean - time with one another sans kiddos.
We need time when we can just be women who share our hearts, our joys, AND our hurts so we know we are not alone in the things through which we're going.
We need to be able to be real with one another.
We need to listen and share, to support and encourage.
And no matter how good we all are at multi-tasking, this level of intimacy can really only be accomplished when we are able to get away with friends. Throwing kids into the mix - even if they're happily occupied in the other room - significantly impedes a mom's ability to be fully present with other women. Thus impeding her ability to share deeply and support whole-heartedly.

The problem - as I was hearing it Friday - is that, too often, moms just can't get away.
*We talked about the feelings of guilt they have over leaving hubby alone to do bedtime, or dinner, or any number of things he is perfectly capable of doing alone.
*We talked about too-busy schedules which prevent anyone from planning much of anything when it comes to getting together to just talk.
*We talked about not realizing how important it really is for moms to take off the mom-hat just long enough to get re-fueled.

So, if you fall into any one of the camps mentioned above: feeling guilty, being too busy, or not realizing the importance, may I implore you to hear me right now?
*For "feeling guilty" and "too busy", I hereby give you permission to let go of your feelings of obligation. Please consider yourself FREE to get away and be REAL with your friends.
*For "not realizing", I'm telling you now - it is important for you to have that time away, to deepen friendships and be encouraged. So often you feel like something isn't worthwhile if it doesn't directly benefit your family, I know. Trust me, friend, your time away will directly benefit your family. You will come back to them a better woman and a better mom.

Here's to a world full of better moms!


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I Am NOT Perfect

I've been working on a talk I'll be giving for a MOPS group this Friday. The talk is inspired by the devotion I wrote for the new NIV Mom's Devotional Bible, and has the same title: I Will NEVER be that Perfect!
Thinking about how NOT perfect I am gave me the idea to create this post. Not that I need to prove my imperfection. But I thought it would be fun to display it. *wink*

First, I'm sure you've seen the beautiful pictures of food perfect some women have posted, which highlight their culinary skills. You know - those pictures that look so lovely you can almost taste how wonderful the food is?
Well, here's my NOT perfect picture:

I grilled the pork chops and it was raining outside, so I didn't keep a very close eye on them - and they got burned. (The one pictured wasn't the worst!) I told my family it was a good thing they were thick pork chops, because it would be easy to cut off the burnt parts. They tasted great. Just didn't look very good.
If you look closely at the bread, you can see the top portion is a little gooey. The bread didn't bake all the way through. And to be honest, I knew it wasn't completely done when I took it out of the oven. But I didn't have time to wait any longer...So I just told my family to not eat that part. Problem solved! I may not be perfect, but that isn't the end of the world.

OK. On to other NOT perfect examples.
I'm sure you've seen pictures of interior decoration. Perfect Some people do a lovely job putting together wall art and other displays and then post their pictures on the internet for all the world to see. So here, for your viewing pleasure, is the wall of my guest room:

Oh, I have finally purchased some decorations to enhance that plain white wall. But they are currently sitting in bags in the corner of the room.

I am lacking in confidence for how to hang them. And I am lacking in time and energy to do anything about my missing confidence. So, for now - the decorations remain in bags.
The good news is, a plain white wall does not seem to impede the ability of guests to rest well in the bed beneath the plain-ness.

And, now, let's take a look outside.
Ever seen those beautiful pictures of someone's amazing landscaping?
Well, I am NOT perfect, and at my house there is no amazing landscaping. We have a couple areas which are nice, but nothing amazing.
And the walkway to my front door (which we don't use, anyway...) looks like this:

Kinda over-grown, pretty much un-kept, and way too green. But people feel welcome when they come over, anyway. And that's really what matters.

I hope you have enjoyed this tour of my NOT perfect-ness. Maybe you even had a laugh, or two?
But my greater desire is for you to believe and embrace the truth that we do NOT need to be perfect. And maybe, just maybe, we can learn to be comfortable enough with our imperfections that we're able to be who we are - unashamed.

Now that would be a beautiful thing!


Friday, May 10, 2013

Lessons From the Edge

Unconditional love.

Those are the last words I heard her speak.

And those are the words I witnessed her living out every day.

Gladys was my favorite at Edgewood.
And when I say "favorite", I don't mean one of my favorites.
I mean favorite. In every sense of the word.
As in, there is no one more special to me at Edgewood than her.

Last Friday morning, Gladys went to be with Jesus - where she'd been longing to be.
I am so happy for her! And so sad for those of us who are still waiting.
Because we will all miss her deeply.

I remember the first time I talked with Gladys.
It was my first glimpse at her life of unconditional love.
I was eating lunch at Gladys' table shortly after I started working at Edgewood and asked about her family. When she told me about her son, I remember tears flowing down her cheeks as she recalled the time he said to her, "Mom, thanks for never giving up on me."
I have often thought of that moment when I'm "in the middle" of something with my boys, and I listen to her encouragement. Don't give up on them.

I remember the story she told about the time her granddaughter mentioned that she'd put her husband "in the doghouse". And with a passion all her own, Gladys said, "I told her, 'You go get him out of that doghouse. You should never put your husband there. You LOVE him!'"
Gladys was married to her precious husband for 73 years. She knew what she was saying!

And I will never forget the moments I, myself, was the recipient of Gladys' unconditional love.
Somehow she always knew when I needed encouragement.
I am certain it's because she listened to God so well!
I could be having a rough day, or might be feeling discouraged about something, and then I'd see Gladys and her uncomparable smiling face. Without exception, she had an uplifting, heart-soothing word for me. I always left my interactions with Gladys feeling loved, encouraged, and precious. That's just the effect she had on people.
So it makes perfect sense to me that when I visited Gladys in her dying days, the words she kept repeating were, "Unconditional love. Unconditional love. Unconditional love."
Because that's what she experienced from God, and that's the way she lived.


Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Loosening My Grip

It isn't quite time to "let go", but I think I need to start loosening my grip.

There are just a few weeks left in Elizabeth's junior year of high school. Next year at this time we'll be in the midst of graduation plans. *yikes!* And soon after, my baby girl will be headed off to college, and then - if she's anything like me - she'll never really "live at home" again.
*mix of excited-for-her-but-sad-for-me feelings in my tummy*

So last Friday I came to a realization when Elizabeth told me about plans she'd made with friends. They were all going to meet at a local park and hang out for the evening. Ride bikes, play on the swings, talk - just doing things teenagers like to do.
That was all fine with me, until she mentioned they were planning to meet about 5 or 5:30, and I said, "What about eating dinner?" Elizabeth said she would grab a snack "or something" before she left. And that's when my control issues flared.
I immediately thought, You can't just grab something and go. You need to be here for dinner. We need to eat together as a family. Doesn't all the latest research point to how important it is for families to eat dinner together? We have to do things right. We must eat together.

Because it's important to do what the researchers say is important, right?
I mean, if I let her go hang out with her friends instead of staying home to eat with her family, I might be viewed as an unloving mom who doesn't care about the well-being of her daughter. Right?
And I certainly don't want to be viewed that way. Because I do love my daughter. And I am concerned about her well-being.

But then something happened.
I asked myself, Why?
Why do I think it would be better for Elizabeth to stay home and eat dinner with us, than for her to go spend time with her friends? Because I'm concerned about what other people would think of me? Because I'm afraid of letting her go???
That's when the reality hit me about her moving on in the near future. And I realized letting her go hang out with her friends didn't mean I was "letting her go", but that I was loosening my grip.
My baby girl is growing up, and she will leave the nest one day. I realize I can't change that fact. And, honestly, I don't want to. Rather, I want my baby girl to grow into the young woman God has created her to be. To live for Him and honor Him as a mature, independent adult.

So, with the knowledge that she would be back in a few short hours, I sent her off to be with her friends. And when she got home and told me about all the fun they'd had together, I was so glad I'd loosened my grip. She would have been totally bored if I'd made her stay home. *wink*


Monday, May 06, 2013