Live Quiet

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Have you ever had a challenge that goes on for years? Possibly spiritually? For example, struggling to have a better prayer life, read your bible, inviting God into your daily life, etc. At different times in my life all three of those have applied, but mine currently, and for the past few years has been of a slightly different nature…my battle has been against busy-ness.

I am always busy. Part of it is my nature—I have a hard time sitting still, and I thrive on productivity. The other part is my season in life (a very long season albeit), raising three children and all the tasks that come in the instruction manual. The problem is, I am tired of hearing myself answer “How are you?” with, “Good, just busy.” It’s my standard answer these days. Can’t there be a better response than that? Like, just, “Good!” Or “I’m fine. A little bored, but enjoying the simple life.” Ha!

Can busyness hinder our relationship with God? Yes!  In a sneaky way, since we tend to think being productive and busy is a sign of our competence.  Yet, when we move too fast in life, we miss the small things God suggests to us. He does suggest…, in fact, he has a lot to let us in on if we have ears to listen. Like nudging us giving an encouraging word to a friend or stranger, or a conviction to bite our tongue instead of flapping it away in a gust of emotion, or an answer to a problem we just asked but then rushed off without listening to the answer.

We also miss the bigger things. Like His voice guiding our hearts to make a wiser decision when we are barreling toward what we think is best, or not finding peace during a difficult time when it is right there for our taking if only we slowed down enough to grasp it up.

When we live fast we live loud. Quiet is rare and uncomfortable. I know, because I tend to live in the fast lane, always productive, always moving from one thing to the next, with constant noise. Yet, it is in the quiet that we hear God’s whisper of love and joy. Quiet is hard for me. Sitting still is hard for me.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, ~Psalm 23.2

It is to this place of quiet that God wants to lead us! He knows that in stillness there is clarity.

I have been reading a book that is challenging and encouraging me in this area, which I’m sure many of you have read, and if not, may I recommend it as your next.

A Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp.

Ann beautifully pens her thoughts and experiences of finding gratitude in life, and shares how she did so in slowing down, noticing beauty around her, really living in the moment.

Ironically, I have been reading this during an exceptionally busy time of my life. A time where my today’s TO DO list is much longer than it ever should be, and tomorrow’s is even longer.

In the words of the pages I am motivated toward change.

Slow.

Notice.

Breathe.

Quiet.

God is too grand and too wise and too personal not to experience….in his fullest. So I too look to thanksgiving to slow me down—when I am thankful for the miniscule and the exceptional, I am forced to slow the pace, like an eagle soaring above the water looking for his catch. Soaring, not speeding. Watchful in the now, not focused on the next.

Live today in the moment. I’m going to try!

 

What Defines a Good Summer?

Hello! As happens most summers, I disappear off the blogging radar. That is never my intention. In fact I picture, as school ends and summer gently drops its bags inside our front door for a good long stay, myself often sitting on our back patio sipping a cool drink, creatively forming my thoughts into titles and paragraphs while my children are doing something productive but happily entertained.

Why do I picture that which never occurs?

In reality, the transition from school to summer feels more like being dunked into a basin of shockingly cold water. One day our three mostly teenage age children are all very busy with tests and school and end of year activities, and the next they are sleeping until ten…ish, and then needing forty-two rides around town, and eating all the food in the house. It’s normal, and I am happy to stock up on extra food and up my gas budget, but It. Just. Happens. So. Suddenly. And I find that any agenda I had for the quickly passing hours in my day, blogging or otherwise, gets sent to the back of the line. Why do I forget this?

This pace continues for a week or two while I let them catch up on rest and the fun reconnecting of friendships outside of school, and then I introduce what the kids call, “That which no other mom ever does to their kids:”

Chores and some structure to the day.

This requires monitoring and checking on my part, usually a chart and some rewards dangling out there. It also involves a camp or two, a little volunteer work, and lining up some babysitting jobs, etc. This year I spent quite a bit of time before the kids began their occupation of the house, on-line, carefully picking out bible studies for them to work on during their lazy days of summer (I’ll share which ones in another post).  It’s my attempt to infuse some degree of productivity into their days—and to feel better in my mothering attempts.

Then, somehow, it’s the beginning of August. We have traveled as a family, gone to the pool, driven miles upon miles to activities and friend’s homes, grocery shopped, traveled some more, navigated how to get along, mowed lawns, BBQ’d, worked at our jobs, roasted marshmallows, water skied, done countless loads of laundry, dropped off at camp, picked up at camp, hugged, walked the dogs, and dealt with spiders (my summer nemesis).

And it’s already almost over?

Here is a snapshot of some of the things we’ve been up to!

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Dinner On A Restaurant Patio–one of our favorite things to do in the summer!

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Hiking in the Weminuche Wilderness with Family and Friends

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Hunter’s Baking Skills

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A Sweet Church We Toured Outside of Lake City, CO

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Camping with Friends

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A little Summer DYI Project—New Backsplash in Our Kitchen

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Picking Up Kids From Camp–this is Maddie and her wonderful leader Maddy!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                                                               My Husband and Son on Mission Trip In Albania

In the end, what defines a good summer? I think a little bit of all of the above. Some new experiences, some regular life, some structure, some fun and just doing all this together.

….And we are making our school supply shopping list in just a few days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mature and Complete

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Last night as I tucked my thirteen-year-old son into bed, we talked about his disappointment in not receiving an academic award at school that he had missed by a hair.  Getting this award was a goal he set several months ago, so as you can imagine, he was feeling pretty low.  “Why even try next year, it won’t happen for me again,” he mumbled. I totally understand that mentality, yet as his mom I wanted to say, “No, try again!  Keep trying until you succeed!” And I did say something to that effect, but truly, when we take a step backward, meet with failure in our lives, don’t we sometimes just want to throw in the towel?

Here is a poem/saying I came across today (serendipitously, and will share with my son) that eloquently spoke to this topic:

Our entire life is made up of choices,

What we decide,

the action we take,

the attitude we display

All represent the steps of life.

 

Sometimes we take two steps forward

And one step back.

Some of us take baby steps

Some of us take giant steps

 

But the secret is not to let that

One step back turn into a failure.

Learn from the backward steps.

Step forward again.

 

~Catherine Pulsifer

God speaks to this topic also:

 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  ~James 1: 2-4

It’s difficult in the midst of failure, unachieved goals, disappointment to feel like it is a “good thing,” but God assures us it is, and that the development of our character, that we are mature and complete,  is one of his highest goals, at which he will not fail!

The Mom List

I was talking to another mom the other day and she was commenting on how parenting is just so darn hard.  And that it doesn’t end when they walk out the door at eighteen.   I silently nodded my head in agreement.

As a parent of two teens and one almost there but thinks she’s 32, I can honestly say that parenting has been the hardest job I’ve ever had (to which my 12-32 year old said, “It’s not really a job, mom, since you don’t get paid for it.”  “Then why does it feel like so much work?” I retorted.  Chuckles and a “good one” from her.

It’s not because of who my kids are that make parenting so hard–they are wonderful people who I am proud to call my children, but because of the fact that they are human beings who my husband and I are in charge of raising and launching into the world as confident, independent, spiritually grounded, kind, loving, merciful, generous, responsible, serving, educated, and oh, did I mention full of self-control and the ability to respond maturely in all situations?

Is that unrealistic?  YES!imagesO3KLQAFT

Yet, if I examine what I wake up each day wanting to instill and teach in my children, this is the list.  Even as I write it out I realize that this is why I go to bed some nights feeling discouraged as a mom. Why do I have such high expectations?  Because as Moms, we just do.  We feel incredibly responsible for raising these little people who have it all together. The more my children grow, the more I realize that they are imperfect people and I am an imperfect mom.

Not that I didn’t know about the imperfection on both ends.  It’s just a short trip down memory lane to remember the exhaustion and the crying and the fits and the “mine!” of three children under the age of five.  And the “holding it together” as a mom as long as I could and then either doing deep breathing exercises in my closet or just throwing all self-control out the window and yelling “Stop pulling your sister’s hair!!!!!”  But what I didn’t know then, was that I wasn’t going to yell or calmly speak them into perfect children, ever.  I know that now.

And I am never going to be a perfect mom.

Perfection is for one person, Jesus Christ.  The rest of us are on journey to grow, fail, succeed, fail again, learn, un-learn, and more growing.  Can we embrace that truth for ourselves and for our children?

I believe that God says to me, “Amy, you are my child.  And while I teach you and move you to be a better person every day, it is a life long journey.  Just remember yesterday when you made a judgment about someone (in your head, thank goodness)? Life-long-journey.  It is the same for your children.  I have entrusted you to raise them, teach them, love them, and give them everything you have while they are under your roof, but their journey as my child is also life-long.  I have GRACE for you, Mom.  You can have GRACE for them.”

Grace for me. Grace for them. Grace for me. (I can throw an extra one in for me (and you)  since it’s Mother’s day).

Can we walk in grace Moms?  Can we stay true to the boundaries we give our children, teach them in the way they should go, invest countless amounts of time and energy into correction and guidance, but at the end of the day, know the list, the character journey for our children, is life long.   Letting our children make mistakes and learn from them is not a reflection of bad-parenting, but quite the opposite. And we can be at the other end with open arms of grace and love.

And we can give ourselves grace and love when we mess up too.

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms out there, who tirelessly sacrifice themselves for their children.  Press onward in this amazing journey!

Our Seder Meal (The Christian Version)

A couple of weeks ago, 18 women gathered in our home for a celebration dinner called the Seder Meal. 012b0460bba202fc2008e14eb82bacb2b74da8cd2d This was the culmination of an offer my mother-in-law, Liz, gave to our Monday night bible study group two months ago—to come and preside over a beautiful time together, remembering our history as Christians through a Seder meal.  The Seder is a traditional Jewish meal, eaten during the Passover Celebration which is one of the most important traditions of the Jewish religion.  Seder means “order,” and the meal is such–done in a specific order, with meaning and symbolism connected to each bite.

Why celebrate as Christians?  Because the Passover event is a significant piece of our history too, as is all the content of the Old Testament.  To understand our history only magnifies the impact of Christ and his redeeming story.  So, we can participate in the Seder, and then 6 days later celebrate Easter!

You can find a Seder Meal Script here.  It will take you step by step through the entire ceremony.  Here are some pictures of our time together with brief descriptions, however I have only scratched the surface with my notes–there is deep and rich symbolism and “order” to this time of fellowship and remembrance.  I encourage you to look at the script and see if you would like to do one for a group of people in your life!

Our evening begins….

Before the guests arrive, Liz, my sister-in-law, Jennifer, and I finish preparing the table.

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We have laid out the Haggadah book, or “Story of Passover” from which we will read during the meal, and some matzah, or unleavened bread. The parsley is something we dip in salt-water and then eat–it is bitter!  This is to remind us of the bitterness and tears the Isrealites experienced during their time if slavery in Egypt.

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The guests arrive and take a seat.  Some of the women have been asked to do part of the “reading” during the meal, so they have place cards to spread them out around the table.  The “Lighting of the Passover Candles” is one of the first parts of the ceremony–we are getting ready to do this.  Also, notice the cups of wine–this is even a plan and ceremony with the wine–no sipping out of order!

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Liz begins.  As the leader, she has the main role of guiding us through the Seder.  She did a wonderful job of teaching and leading us through the intricate parts of the Seder story.

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This is the Haggadah.  It depicts the story of Passover, and in the Christian version, ties the symbolism to our journey with Christ.

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Liz models each step for us–this is the breaking of the bread.

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See how hard we are trying to follow directions?  It is a time of laughter and fun!

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There are some significant elements of the dinner–this plate represents a few.  The “lamb bone” represents the Passover Lamb that was sacrificed to save the first-born sons.  The egg represents new life, the Charoset, the sweetness that God brings after a time of bitterness in our lives.

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After we walked through the Haddagah, we ate a full meal filled with friendship, fellowship and remembrance.  We finished back in the Haddagah to wrap up the night.

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I think it’s fair to say we will all remember this special evening for a long time.  The experience added another layer to the Easter tradition–one of remembrance, history, and foundation in who we are as believers in God and Jesus.  I only hope you can enjoy the experience someday too! God Bless!

 

 

 

 

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