Pragmatic Communion

pragmatic living in the presence of God

freedom to be different

Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or fret your children [do not be hard on them or harass them], lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated. [Do not break their spirit.]
Colossians 3:21 The Amplified Bible

My daughter is a free spirit.

She sings. Loud. She sings Disney princess songs and hymns. Praise songs and jingles. She sings her own personal compositions. Sometimes they rhyme, sometimes not. Her own songs are l-o- n-g. She sings about everything. Love. Jesus. Her Heart. Disney. Sometimes she throws in a line about gross bodily functions before cracking herself up because it is SO hysterically funny. (She’s 7.) She sings in the car and doesn’t care who stares. She will climb to the top of a playground structure and sing her songs to an audience in the sky. She doesn’t care if people can hear her. She wants people to hear her.

Please don’t tell her to be quiet.

She dances. She twirls. She vogues. She bounces. She skips. She runs when and where there is open space. She swings. HIGH. She calls out “Watch me!” and wants me to take her picture. This is what happy looks like.

Please don’t tell her to sit still.

She loves to dress up. She can’t watch “Annie” without pausing the DVD player for multiple costume changes. She “invents” outfits and hairstyles. She wears prints with stripes, pink with orange and mismatched socks for “flair.” She loves lipstick and jewelry. She loves pink. Not pastel pink. PEPTO pink! BOLD pink.

Please don’t “correct” her wardrobe selections.

She loves to perform. The fireplace hearth is her stage. She wrote a play when she was in pre-kindergarten. She sat in a chair for hours on a Friday night, writing on one piece of paper after another. When it was all said and done, written on each piece of paper were the lines of each character in her play. When I typed it up for her later, she knew immediately which paper to read from next as she dictated the dialog for me. The spelling was creative, but the play was complete with a hero, a villain, a quest, and lots of songs to sing.

Please don’t tell her to “act like the other kids.”

She finds wonder in so many things. A lizard hiding in the grass. A crushed acorn. The shape of a cloud. She can’t go for a walk around the block without stopping every few feet to pick up a leaf, pet a neighbor’s cat or point out something interesting. She wants to see everything and go everywhere. And she wants to tell you all about it. Because it’s made such an imprint on her, she believes she should share it.

Please don’t make absentminded comments when she’s talking to you. She’s smart. She knows.

Don’t get me wrong. She’s not wild and undisciplined. She understands that she should whisper in a library, sit quietly attentive and respectfully listen to her teachers in class, and wear her uniform to school. She understands that sometimes she needs to follow directions instead of direct her own elaborate scripts. She knows to share and to take something she finds to lost and found. She knows that if we forget to pay for the case of soda under the grocery cart, that we are going back inside the store to make it right. She knows proper manners for the using the phone, how to handle a laptop computer and how to carry scissors. She understands that she can’t break out of line at school to chase a lizard or twirl. She knows not to run in a parking lot and to look both ways before she crosses the street. She knows to wear shorts under her skirts so no one can see “London” and that she can’t wear makeup to school and church. She even knows the only time her belly button should show in public is when she is wearing a bathing suit.

What she doesn’t know yet is that someday she may be too embarrassed to express herself “out loud” like she does now. She hasn’t spent time with “that” person. You know, the person who will try to convince her that her free and confident self-expression is inappropriate or wrong. The person who will introduce doubt and self-consciousness.

I pray that when faced with that person – that criticism – she is confident enough to stand strong and be herself. I refuse to silence her just because of what other people might think. I refuse to force her to wear what I think she should or tell her that she should only wear two braids, instead of six. I refuse to make her sit down when there’s no reason she can’t run. I refuse to squelch her spirit – just because it’s different than mine.

Sometimes it looks like she is dancing without music. She’s not. The music is in her heart. We can hear it if we just listen.

Not allowing your children to do innocent but different things is the logical outgrowth of a belief system that emphasizes the symbols of faith rather than it’s substance. This shallow religion measures success more by the image than by genuine authenticity.
Dr. Tim Kimmel
Grace Based Parenting
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February 19, 2008 Posted by | books, grace, moms, music, parenting | 6 Comments

taking every opportunity

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1

We watch Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel. By “we,” I mean our entire family. Our house is laid out so that the kitchen and the family room are pretty much one big room. So when Hannah Montana is on the TV, it’s difficult to miss. Truth is, I like it. We all like it. We like it so much that we have the DVR set to record all showings. ALL showings. So we’ve watched the same episodes more than a few times. I’m right there with Lysa when she says she turns Hannah Montana UP, and not off, when her daughter gets out of the car!

There’s one episode where Hannah is on a talk show with another teen pop star, named Mikala. Mikala is singing her new hit song and Hannah is clearly enjoying it. Hannah seems genuinely happy for Mikala’s success. Mikala finishes the song, Hannah gives her a big girly hug and then the talk show cuts to a commercial break. That’s when Mikala lets Hannah know she’s not a Hannah fan. Then we watch Hannah change. We watch Hannah do the “right back atcha!” The two girls are bitter rivals instantly. “Harsh words” abound! Take a look at the video clip.

Now, our family has watched this particular episode a number of times, but this time, I say:

“pause” (don’t you LOVE DVRs?)

“what?”

“Did you see what happened there?”

“what?”

“Did you see how Hannah changed?”

“how?”

“When Mikala was singing, what was Hannah doing? Was she happy for Mikala?”

“yeh.”

“And what did Hannah do after Mikala was finished with her song?”

“hugged her.”

“But then Mikala was really mean to Hannah.”

“yeh”

“So what did Hannah do after Mikala was so mean?”

“she was mean back.”

“What do you think would have happened if Hannah had still been nice to Mikala, even when Mikala was being mean?”

“I dunno.”

“I wonder if maybe Mikala and Hannah would have ended up friends.”

“Mom. It’s just a tv show.”

“Oh no it isn’t babe. Its an OBJECT LESSON.”

(loud groaning in stereo)

FirstHusband and I were talking to FavoriteSon about object lessons later that day and he said, “Mom, it’s just that you do it SO much!”

We cracked up! (It’s working! They’re paying attention! Wooo Hooo!)

I said, “You better get used to it buddy, because you are going to be getting them your entire life. You’re going to be 38 years old and I’m still going to be saying, ‘If you think about it this way . . . ‘ “

FirstHusband said, “No, no, no, no, no. You’re going to be 38, talking to YOUR kid, saying, ‘If you think about it this way'”

Yeah, he rolls his eyes NOW. But he uses object lessons with his 7 year old sister already. He can’t help it. He never stood a chance. heh, heh, heh.

With a new attitude everything can change,
make it how you want it to be.
Stayin’ mad, why do that?
Give yourself a break.

Laugh about it and you’ll see.

Life’s what you make it, so let’s make it rock!
Life’s what you make it,
so come on come on, everybody now!
Hannah Montana (Life’s What You Make It)

February 11, 2008 Posted by | grace, moms, music | 3 Comments

i want no regrets.

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites. But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.
Philippians 3:12-19, The Message

“Dear Eliot, today you went to be with Jesus. An undeveloped lung, a heart with a hole in it and DNA that placed faulty information into each and every cell of your body could not stop God from revealing Himself through a child who never uttered a word.” Eliot lived 99 days.

Sweet Tristan went to be with Jesus today. He was 56 days old.

“The Lady had hit a cyclist before she hit our mailbox. But nobody had seen the cyclist and the lady had no clue she’d hit him. She just knew she was sleepy one minute and hit our mailbox the next. This biker was just out on his bike and he got hit. They pronounced him dead at the scene. He died! O my gosh I cried and cried. My heart not only was crushed for the lady but now for the guy and his family!”

“Empty shell are the words that came to my mind today as I laid my eyes on Julian’s so very still body. It made it so real, so final… I felt like I was at the wax museum, it looked like Ju but it was just a cold, hard ,wax copy of Julian . It wasn’t him , how could it ? Surely I left him at home playing with the boys… Seeing him laying in his casket was unbelievably painful, my heart cracked a little more, a little deeper. I won’t EVER get to hold my child again, EVER… Nothing is more final than that.” Julian was 4 years old.

As a Christian, what I do with these stories? Stories. It makes it sound like fiction. Literature. My sister, a writer, once told me the difference between fiction and literature. In literature, there is always an obstacle, a tragedy to overcome. But this isn’t literature. It is real life. These things actually happened. As a Christian, what thoughts do I wrestle with?

I don’t know these families personally. I’ve only read about them. But I question, if I did know them personally and was involved in their daily life, what words would I speak? What actions would I take? What possible comfort would I be in the face of such senseless tragedy? Senseless to us. But not to our Lord. The promise is, that one day, we will understand. One day. Eventually.

But what about TODAY? What do I do with this in MY daily life? What does God want ME to do? HERE, in my circumstance. NOW, in this time?

I doubt I understand all that God is saying to me right now. I’m still working on it.

But I do understand this: I need to live with intention EVERY DAY. I know it sounds pious – and impossible – but the truth is I have an acute awareness that life is short. There’s an actual urgency in my day sometimes. I understand my priorities. I strive for no regrets. I don’t want to waste a moment of this gift of time that I’ve been given. When I begin to get overwhelmed with the mundane, I am humbled and reminded when I hear of what we here on Earth regard as such senseless tragedies. But again. Senseless to us. But not to God.

Today, we have faith and comfort in the knowledge that there is a Master who will provide all we need. We need to live in the world, not of it. Today, I will hug my 7 year old daughter a few more times than she thinks is reasonable. I will read her a bedtime story when I could be loading the dishwasher. I will walk around the block with her (again) as she rides her bike and sings her happy songs, stopping to look at every acorn, pet every cat and collect every leaf. I will listen to my preteen son and accept his thoughts and feelings as valid – even when they differ from mine. I will toss the football with him instead of read a book. I will have a night time devotion with him when I could be checking email or blogging. I will scream with excitement at every basketball game and take hundreds of photos to get one “great” shot. I will understand my husband’s travel in the private defense industry as our family’s small contribution to families of those serving in the military – those making a much greater sacrifice. I will forgive him when he’s late without calling, encourage his stress-relieving diversions and love him unconditionally.

I want to see the bigger picture. I want to choose on purpose. I want to respond, not react. I want to show grace, not indignation. I want to spend time making memories, not beds. I want to notice the silent boldness of a sunset, instead of the back end of the car in front of me. I want to try out the possibilities, instead of complain about the obstacles. I want to be still and abide instead of filling my entire prayer time with petitions and thanks.

I want to live intentionally, making the most of this precious, precious blessing of time.

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.
Elie Wiesel, October 1986

January 29, 2008 Posted by | comfort, god's will, gratitude, moms, spiritual growth, women | 1 Comment

sweet honesty

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)

We must be doing something right! Check out this recent conversation with my 7 year old daughter:

“I accidentally lied to Mrs. L today so I sat out 5 minutes in recess.”

“You lied to Mrs. L?!”

“Accidentally! I didn’t mean to. I thought she was asking me if somebody else was talking, but she was asking me if I was talking and I accidentally lied.”

“So, you had to sit out in recess for lying?”

“No. Mrs. L didn’t know I lied. I just knew I lied. But it was an accident.”

“I don’t understand. Why did you sit out in recess?”

“Mom, I made myself sit out because I lied!”

“So does Mrs. L know you lied?”

“No.”

“Did she see you sit out at recess?”

“Yes.”

“Did she ask you why you were sitting out?”

“No. She doesn’t care.”

“So why did you sit out?”

“Because I lied!”

“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”
Thomas Jefferson

January 20, 2008 Posted by | moms, spiritual growth | Leave a comment

collect them all


Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 (NIV)

“Collect them all” is the answer I gave my daughter when I asked her if she knew the three most hated words in a parent’s vocabulary.

Her guess for a parent’s most hated words? “Own it on DVD today!”

We were introduced to Webkinz in November when my daughter got some from her friends at her (early) birthday party. Then, almost everyone who gave her presents for her birthday (on her actual birthday) AND for Christmas gave her a Webkinz (some gave her two). We gave her one and her brother gave her one. Total number of Webkinz currently registered on http://www.webkinz.com?

23.

and we haven’t collected them all.

23.

At first I was embarrassed. What does it say about me as a parent? I have a kid with 23 Webkinz. There are the comments: “How many does she have anyway?” and “She sure has a lot of Webkinz.” (You overindulgent, irresponsible parent, what’s wrong with you? You’re raising a greedy, selfish child.) I’m raising Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!

Then I took the board out of my eye and looked around my house. What do I collect?

BOOKS!

By far the biggest of my collections. I love books. love. Love. LOVE. books. While I keep most of my fiction books at the library, I do have more non-fiction books than I have had shelving for. I just bought two new bookcases for my office. Cubby type shelving which I’ve placed on top my desk. I ran out of floor space for conventional bookcases and had to go vertical. We went to a friend’s for dinner and they had a LIBRARY! Later, on the way home I poke at my husband “Hey, honey why don’t we have a library?” “Our whole house is a library.”

True enough.

What else do I collect? Unusual cobalt glass containers. Snowmen. STOP. If you know me personally and have any reason to give me a gift, STOP. Do not buy me a cobalt vase. Put the cute little snowman figurine down. Step away from the cobalt glass snowman. (hmmm. that would be interesting . . . ahhh! NO!)

My cobalt and snowman collections are currently manageable, but some people have seen them in my house and have taken to giving me more. I have limited discretionary time and don’t want to spend more of it dusting stuff. I’m getting rid of stuff. I actually took a large snowman wreath holder to Goodwill recently and called my dad:

“Dad, I’m taking a snowman wreath holder to Goodwill. I just wanted to call you and tell you . . . Please DON’T buy it for me when you see it there.” (yes, we both shop there. I love the book prices!)

But I digress. Back to Veruca Salt. I thought about it for a few days. For all the things Veruca has, she lacks a very important thing. And my daughter has it.

Gratitude.

In the book “Simple Words of Wisdom” Penelope Stokes writes,

“We become happy, spiritually prosperous people not because we receive what we want, but because we appreciate what we have. What does it mean to cultivate a heart of gratitude? It means opening our eyes, looking around at the multitude of gifts and blessings that fill our lives. It means recognizing our family, friends and loved ones, as aqueducts through which God’s great love flows out to us. It means rejoicing in all we’ve been given rather than resenting what we lack.”

When I hear my daughter’s nighttime prayers – the sincere, heartfelt prayers of a 7 year old who LOVES Jesus – I am assured. When her prayers go on and on at mealtime, I am reminded. She understands and is genuinely thankful for her blessings. For our family’s blessings.

Yes, my daughter has a lot of Webkinz. I have a lot of books. Many of us have a lot of something. Maybe too much of something. But are we grateful? Do we thank God and enjoy his blessings? Do we thank others? Penelope Stokes reminds us:

“But gratitude doesn’t end with our private thanks to God. We need to show gratitude as well to those who touch our lives, who love us, minister to us, and make the world we live in a warmer, safer, kinder place.”

So I’m not going to stress about 23 Webkinz. Or about too many books. I’m going to be grateful, thank God daily and enjoy his wonderful blessings.

I will not tell you how many Rescue Heroes my son had at peak Rescue Heroes phase.

“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

January 8, 2008 Posted by | books, gratitude, moms | 5 Comments

even GOD rested.


God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were
completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. Genesis 1:31-2:3 (emphasis added)

A client recommended a book to me on Tuesday and I found it at Goodwill on Wednesday for $1.99. I wasn’t really looking for it, the title just jumped out at me and said, “HEY! I’m the book Judy told you about!” God is so cool that way. The book is titled Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I haven’t really dived in yet, but my initial pre-read produced some food for thought. The book talks about setting boundaries and not allowing others to cross them. We allow other people to control our life – or just our time – because we don’t say “no” either to ourselves or out loud, to them.

I used to have this problem. Until very recently, in fact. For years, nearly every Christmas, I was sick. Sometimes a little sick, more often than not, VERY sick. I took on too many responsibilites, self-created even more responsibilites, slept way too little, ate sparingly (but very BADLY), abandoned exercise, and stressed out so completely that my immune system left skid marks and my body revolted. A few years ago, both my husband and I were both sick. We decided then: NO MORE.

I’m learning to say “no.” (Notice I didn’t say “I’ve learned.”)

First, I read a book (big surprise), Guilt-Free Living by Robert Jeffress. I learned (or was reminded) that even GOD RESTED!

Read the verse above again. Notice the words “completed” and “finished” and “rested.” Here’s what Jeffress had to say about it:

God was able to complete the grandest project imaginable. And once he finished that project, he rested from the act of creation. And he experienced satisfaction from his work.

In those six days, did God create everything that he could have created? I think not. There is no end to the galaxies, the planets, the animals, the plants and even the types of humans God could have created (why limit it to two?) Yet, after six days, God said, “Enough is enough! What I have done is great!”

And then again, talking about Jesus:

Throughout the thirty-three years of life on this planet, Jesus had one goal: to accomplish the work God had for him to complete. That singular, driving purpose is seen in Jesus words in John 4:34: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” When one thinks of all the needs Jesus must have seen around him – the disease, the heartaches, the broken relationships, the myriad of unsaved lives – coupled with the limited time he knew he had on earth we can only imagine the urgency Jesus could have felt.

And yet, as you examine Jesus’ life and ministry, you notice that he was never in a hurry. He walked everywhere he went. His schedule was never too busy to enjoy some lighthearted moments with his disciples, some playful times with children, or even a good party like the wedding at Cana. Jesus did not heal every sick person, raise every dead person, or even convert every sinner. Yet, when he hung on the cross he was able to say, “It is finished.”

Okay then. If the work of the Almighty God was followed by rest, who am I to think my work is so important? There is NOTHING wrong with going to bed the same day you wake up – instead of getting up the same day you go to bed! What was I thinking?

So, I’m learning to say no. But there’s a trick to it. Don’t explain why. If you are asked to do something, and you say no and give a reason, the person asking you will try to solve your problem. They will advise you, offer to do something, whatever they can – to remove the “obstacle” from your life – thus allowing you to say “Yes.” Don’t explain why.

I do apologize when I say “no.” I actually am sorry I can’t help. But not sorry enough to say yes to something that will sabotage my (and my family’s) daily life.

One of the big problems I’ve discovered is that people have expectations of me (you) based on their knowledge of my (your) gifts and abilities and they do not approve when I (you), don’t “use those gifts to glorify God.” When they verbalize this disapproval (wrapped in outward disbelief), the idea is that embarrassment and guilt will lead to a “yes.” No more. I used to do that. I’ve left a church because of that.

I’m a vocalist and I’ve sung in the choir for years. Over time, I also developed an interest in sign language. I combined the two interests and learned to interpret the music during the worship services at my church. The choir members were not happy. I was no longer singing in the choir. I was standing down in front of the first pew, signing the music instead. At first the comments were, “We sure miss you in choir.” At the end, I was interpreting music during worship on “Join the Choir” Sunday. During the service, each choir member was supposed to go down into the congregation and bring someone back up to the choir loft for the rest of the service. Two people came to get me. I was the assigned interpreter for music that day and the choir members wanted me to abandon that responsibility because they had decided my gifts were better used in the choir. I began looking for a new church soon after that day. I needed a church where my service could expand and not be limited to areas that others expected.

Recently, after singing a solo in my current church I was encouraged to join the choir by a few different members. When responding to the first person, I forgot my rule. I started to explain. I was quickly reminded when the person asking began offering suggestions as to how I might overcome the “obstacles.” So this is my answer. “I’ve sung in choir before, and I’m sure I will again, but now isn’t the right time for me. I’m sorry.” I won’t explain about my husband’s travel, the overlap of rehearsal and my daughter’s bedtime, my preference to worship with my family in the congregation on Sunday or any of the other reasons which lead me to say “no” to choir at this time in my life. I don’t see them as obstacles. They are priorities.

And that is the key. Priorities. Priorities help you determine which requests get a “yes” and which ones get a “no.” We are so busy that we often lose sight of our priorities – if we’ve even taken the time to think them through in the first place. We are so busy we start going through the motions, doing things we’ve said we would do, without even realizing some of these things are actually counter-productive to our priorities.

STOP!

Can’t quit cold turkey? Make a list of your priorities today. Say no (and I’m sorry) to everything that doesn’t support those priorities. Give someone else an opportunity to serve. They may have been waiting for you to stop hogging all the work.

Need an extreme make over? Don’t take on any responsibilities which will require additional time and effort from you in the month of November and December. It will be the most amazing holiday season you’ve had in years.

Stop waking up the same day you went to bed and start going to bed the same day you wake up.
Julie Stiles Mills

July 1, 2007 Posted by | books, moms, service, spiritual growth | 1 Comment

adolescence and menopause in the same house


A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.
Proverbs 15:18 NIV

Adolescence and menopause in the same house? I PRAY that doesn’t happen. I can’t imagine how things would be if I had a reduced capacity for patience, understanding and giving grace when faced with an unreasonable, prolonged outburst from a cranky person who has decided to use me as a scape goat for . . . everything. Seriously. EVERYTHING. Here’s a sampling from this week:

If someone is hungry, it’s my fault.
(why didn’t I bring them a snack?).
If someone gets a haircut when they don’t feel like it, my fault.
(when exactly WOULD be a good time?)
If someone has tangles in their hair, my fault.
(why didn’t I braid it for sleeping?)
If American Idol gets erased from the DVR, my fault.
(why do I have so many shows set for “keep” anyway?)
If someone didn’t finish a drawing in after school care, my fault.
(why did I come to pick up so early?)
If someone doesn’t finish homework, my fault.
(I made them go to church on Wednesday night!)
If someone even HAS homework, it’s my fault.
(not sure why, but I still get the grief)
If something is confiscated, my fault again.
(when you throw something, you lose it. The length of time lost is directly proportional to the force with which it was heaved and how heavy it is. Targets are irrelevent: people, cats, floor or air – it’s all throwing.)

It seems like no matter what it is, I’m doin’ it wrong. Oddly, I’m okay with that most of the time. Only by God’s grace. There’s no other answer for it. I’m certainly not able to do this on my own. Yesterday, I was tired. When I’m tired, I go straight for, “Nobody talk. Look out your (car) windows.” Then it’s either mumbling (the 11 year old big brother) or “but . . . ” (the 6 year old little sister). “AAhhh! NOBODY talk.”

I just have to make sure I’m never tired and I should be able to tap into that patience and understanding God is trying to equip me with. If I lose sight of my conscious objective of trying to model acceptable behavior and teach them to give each other grace, my attitude deteriorates. When that happens, bickering triumphs and my stated goals for raising my family are derailed. With so little time to implant and cement these fundamental concepts in my children’s subconcious, I need excercise patience when they are behaving . . . like children. Today? So far, so good. But it is only 8:23 a.m. And it’s Wednesday.

Adolescence and menopause in the house at the same time? As Oprah so frequently says: “I’m asceard.”

January 24, 2007 Posted by | grace, moms, patience | Leave a comment

I’m not willing to trade


Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding; For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, And her gain than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her. Length of days is in her right hand, In her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, And all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, And happy are all who retain her.
Proverbs 3:13-18, NKJV

Last time, I wrote about my realization that this season of my life is “next” and about my decision to stop actively pursuing whatever may come after that. The reason for this post is to expand on one thing I wrote: “Continuing in a great career which still allows me to be engaged in my family’s daily life is NEXT.”

I do have a great career. While working a full time job, I started as a part time independent computer consultant and trainer in 1994 and incorporated as Pragmatic Computing (PC, Inc. – isn’t that cute) in 1st quarter of 1996. Then I rode the Y2K wave all the way into the new century. As companies upgraded their time and billing software, they upgraded their productivity software – and I did everything I could to make sure I was there to help. Monday through Thursday I scheduled classes for staff in the mornings and afternoons and for attorneys in the evenings. Fridays would usually be spent “floating” around the company assisting and troubleshooting. Countless hours at home and between classes were spent creating curriculum, arranging facility and computer rentals, learning every nook and cranny of the software I was teaching and preparing books and handouts for in class time. I longed for the weeks when I trained at companies other than law firms, because I got the evenings off! I had thrown myself into my career and achieved things I never thought I could. I generated an income I never thought I would. After a few years, I was physically and emotionally worn OUT and missed my family. I had discovered the price for all this “success” was too high and that I had defined success by worldly standards that I didn’t really buy into. My journal entries from that time in my life spells it out. This demanding, consuming schedule was NOT something I wanted for my family.

So, rather than ramp up our lifestyle to match our income, my husband and I stayed steady, made what we hoped were wise financial choices and prepared for me to cut back at work to focus on our family. I was able to cut WAY back on my business for the last five years. I retained a few of my favorite clients and only accepted new clients by referral. On average, I worked 10 to 20 hours per month. It was the right decision for our family at the time.

Last month, my daughter entered kindergarten and, armed with my family’s support, I believe we all are ready for my business to constitute a larger percentage of our lives. This time, I have a very different idea of success and have defined limitations for work which I fully intend to keep. So, I’m putting more time and effort into my existing business. But this time, I’m not willing to sacrifice what is important to my family for financial gain or career advancement. While those things would be wonderful, I’m not willing to trade my life (and my family’s life) for them. I’m still only accepting new clients by referral. I’ve gotten some new referrals and some of my current, but inactive clients have been calling. My hours are picking up, seemingly all on their own, but, barring a RARE exception here and there, I limit my work time to Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, while my kids are at school.

We’ll see how I do. I’m very determined now, but I haven’t had to turn down any work yet. That will be the real test of my resolve.

The scripture at the beginning of this post was from the NKJV. But I also like what “The Message” has to say:

You’re blessed when you meet Lady Wisdom, when you make friends with Madame Insight. She’s worth far more than money in the bank; her friendship is better than a big salary. Her value exceeds all the trappings of wealth; nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her. With one hand she gives long life, with the other she confers recognition. Her manner is beautiful, her life wonderfully complete. She’s the very Tree of Life to those who embrace her. Hold her tight-and be blessed! Proverbs 3:13-18, The Message

September 11, 2006 Posted by | god's will, moms, professional growth, spiritual growth | Leave a comment

what’s next?


To everything there is a season, A timefor every purpose under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV

Last year, I led music and one of the sessions at the woman’s retreat for my church. It was . . . comfortable. Time consuming, but not difficult. It was a natural expression of combining my work experience, my music and my faith.

So the big question: Is this “next” for me?

Do I begin speaking and leading music at retreats? Just women’s retreats? Pastoral retreats and seminars? Church staff retreats and seminars? What about Christian parenting? Do I limit myself to a certain religious denomination? When do I work? Weekends? Week nights? During the day?

I spent months bench marking existing speakers and vocalists, working on topics and outlines, recording songs for a possible CD, asking friends and fellow Christians for advice and opinions, learning, preparing and just praying for guidance. I developed my topics, modified my website and updated my mission statement. But I hadn’t really answered the one big question: When? When would I actually do this?

Then I had surgery and a week later, led music at this year’s retreat. I left home on a Friday afternoon and returned Sunday afternoon – and I realized: This is not what I want. Not now. Maybe later. But not now. This is not “my” time. This is my family’s time. My kids missed me. My husband missed me. I missed the whole weekend with them. I missed them. When I say this is my family’s time, I mean my whole family – myself included. I’ve been talking about being in “flux” and wondering what was next. I’ve been whining about how I hate being in flux and wishing I knew what was next. Maybe it was the surgery. Maybe I had a heightened awareness of what’s important in my life. But Sunday afternoon, I realized:

I’m an idiot. THIS is next. Raising my children is NEXT. Supporting my husband is NEXT. Doing devotions with my children every night is NEXT. Helping my children with their homework is NEXT. Listening to them is NEXT. Continuing in a great career which still allows me to be engaged in my family’s daily life is NEXT. Learning is NEXT.

NEXT is NOW.

Thank goodness I’m not just starting now. I’ve been doing these things for years. I’ve just finally realized that I don’t need rush this season of my life or add more to it that will take away from my goals as a mother and a wife. It will be over way too soon anyway. I remember being terrified at the thought of being responsible for another human life. Terrified at the thought of active parenting. Active parenting requires effort. Seeking knowledge. Trying different parenting techniques. Failing, even when trying my hardest.

What kind of character will my children have as adults? Will they remain faithful to God? I’m excited and scared to see how this turns out. In the meantime, I’m committed to giving my family the best of myself, not the leftovers. So rather than adding more stuff to my plate and hats on my head, I’m strengthening my core. (Not pilates, although I probably should do that too.) I’m stripping away all the things that are counterproductive to my goals as a wife and mom – NOW.

June 3, 2006 Posted by | god's will, moms, patience | 1 Comment