Precious Things

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The only thing that keeps me going on a day like to today is to remember what I have and how precious those things are to me…

The imagination of a three-year-old boy is a wonderful thing.  Unending entertainment flows from his lips with stories of fishermen and monsters and doctors and rainbows.  And when he wants his make-believe name to be “Water” I oblige happily, knowing he is forming his confidence in the opinion of the world by my reaction.

And the glimpse of a scar on my daughter’s back reminds me of where she has been and where God has brought her.  It convicts me as I sigh in frustration over another spill or her unending stories…for as she walks away I must continually be reminded that her walking was almost not so.  And instead of being irritated by her constantly being underfoot, I must remember that her freedom from hospitals and doctors visits should be forever celebrated.

Kisses and hugs are continually accessible to me…never ending, all I must do is ask.  A hug is healing and a kiss, a symbol that I am loved.  Why do I not ask for more?

Clean dishes and a warm bath after a long day are the most treasured gift and I should not expect them but be surprised by their presence and grateful for their existence.  And a husband who makes sure these gifts are not infrequent is rare and should be cherished and adored.

The freedom to fall before a holy, loving and compassionate God at the end of an exhausting day is worth all the precious things in the world for only there do I find the comfort I need.

 

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A Messy House

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This is what our living room looks like 99% of the time…toys thrown everywhere, bits of paper strewn recklessly, one shoe here and one shoe there, laundry only half done.  In the midst of it, it drives me crazy.  I long for order.  I need some time in between events to pack up and organize.  But life happens…and kids don’t offer much time for any such luxuries as a clean house.

But if I let myself, I can look at this catastrophe and be reminded of a few things:

1. We have a house.  We were so graciously given a chance to live in this house on the corner of the church’s lot so that we didn’t have to travel back and forth between two states to search for a house and so that we didn’t have to make a rash decision about such a life altering event.  This house is not just a gift of space, but a gift of time as well.

2. This mess can remind me of the eventful, exciting, exhausting day we have had.  Legos were constructed and torn down, cookies were baked and eaten with crumbs left behind, shoes were slipped on to go outside and spray each other with water…and then slipped back off to come inside for lunch when Daddy came home from work. And when the soft patter of rain began on the roof, we pulled out the movies we borrowed from the library down the street for a quiet relaxing preparation for an evening playing with friends.

3. The pile of laundry…though a reminder of how much I have not gotten done today…is also a reminder of how many memories I have made because I did leave it sitting there for another few hours.  I can throw a load in when the kids are asleep, dry them before I head to bed…and fold them tomorrow with my little helpers.

I am not nearly thankful enough for messes…they may be one of the happiest, most precious gifts we are given here on earth.

Note To Self: What to do when nothing satisfies

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I’m having one of those weeks…the kind that lies to me and tells me that my life is incredibly mundane, the kind that makes me feel like nothing that I do is worth anything, the kind that makes me want to stay in bed so I don’t have to face another day of screaming kids, dirty dishes and piles of laundry.  I have a list of goals a mile long that some how got thrown to the side when I had my daughter and every time I try to pick it up again I am reminded of how frustratingly difficult it is to write a novel, learn piano, write a song or travel around the world when you have a two-year-old that refuses to take naps and a five-year-old shadow who really likes to talk.  Then I find myself thinking, “I used to be talented. I use to do fun things. I use to have friends. I wish I had made different choices. I wish my life was different” I’m sure all who are reading this can relate in some way..Do you feel like you have given up what you always wanted to do for what you feel like is life as usual…a boring, frustrating second choice to a life that you had planned to look a lot better? Or do you just feel like things seem to be working out for every one else but you?

This is my thorn in the flesh that always seems to jab me at the most inopportune times.  I’m cruising through life and actually seem to find a good solid hold on who I am and I feel thankful about what I have and excited about the future when all of a sudden I find myself pouring over a friend’s timeline on Facebook, pining for a life that looks more like theirs.  Then when I don’t nip that thought in the bud, I spend the next few hours taking inventory of everything I don’t have and everything I haven’t done until I am an overwhelmed, coveting mess of frustration and dissatisfaction.  So, then I have to find some way to talk myself back to a reality that involves being thankful for the host of blessings that I know are more than I deserve. Here are some notes I took to remind myself of what I need to do when I get like this…even when I am a crazy mess, I still think in steps. My rambling thoughts start to sound a little like a pep talk to myself…that is exactly what I was going for.

1. Stop the sinful thoughts. Your situation hasn’t changed just your thoughts have.  You still have the same family, the same job, the same church, the same amount of money, and the same house but in two seconds of sinful thinking, you have found yourself in the depths of hating every bit of it. And in your past experiences, you know that for every minute of sinful thinking it takes at least ten minutes of truthful thinking to get back out.  So, you are better off stopping the thought process before it gets out of hand or you could find yourself lost in a pile of sinful thoughts that will take days to get rid of.  Refuse to think about what you don’t have and refuse to feel sorry for yourself. Read Philippians 4!!…rejoice in what God has given you, be thankful and prayerful, and only think on those things that are beneficial to your spiritual growth.

2. Pray! Start by repenting…because coveting is a sin, even if you are simply coveting an idea.  So you wanted to be a singer…on the radio.  You wanted to write songs, have a band and tour the country.  And now that you are nearly thirty and lost yourself in the wave of getting married and having kids, the dream is pretty much lost as a reality.  But the idea of it still creeps up and causes you to covet a life you probably weren’t going to have anyway.  You’re not necessarily specifically jealous of Taylor Swift and you are not directly longing for a spot on American Idol, but you are yearning to possess something that you don’t have and that is the definition of covet.  Fill your prayers with praise to God and thankfulness for what he has done for you.  And as you’ve heard Pastor Matt say…a prayerful heart is a restful heart…you won’t have a constant need for something else if your mind is fixed on God. (Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you)

3. Count your blessings and don’t play the comparing game. We know that God only gives us what is good for us, so every time we think otherwise, we are objecting to God’s perfect will in our lives.  So your life didn’t turn out how you had planned?….it is turning out just how God planned and unless you are willing to argue that you know better than God, you should find a way to be thankful for what you have (things you don’t deserve anyway) and stop wishing for more.  And God has given you exactly what you need to become the person that He wants you to be…so work on being that person and stop wishing for something else.  Figure out what God wants you to be with what you already have.

4. Do something for someone else.  How could you possibly ever think your life is so awful  There are homeless people living on the streets who don’t have a home or family to care for them.  There are families struggling to keep their home and hoping that they just have enough food so their kids don’t starve. There are people, young and old, who are dying of cancer. There are people struggling with addiction…and that is just the stuff that is going on in your own backyard.  There are people dying of starvation and curable diseases that don’t have the resources to make anything different.  There are Christians being persecuted for their faith.  Get over yourself and help someone else…join an organization, give to a good cause, or simply listen to someone who is in need.  You will get a much better perspective of your own life and what you have been blessed with.

Pinterest: A Way to Organize Your Life or A Cultivator of Discontent?

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I first joined Pinterest because it looked like an interesting way to get my life in order.  I love organization and yet I always seem to need a little help in getting motivation and a system for actually carrying out any plan.  In the process of working on an easier way to organize my closet for easy access (a process that is still in progress…and I’m realizing may be never-ending), I stumbled upon Pinterest and all the many outfit ideas and organizational tips that were found there.  I began pinning outfit ideas onto my style board, trying to stick to ensembles that could be put together from items that were already in my closet.  It seemed harmless enough and it became a breeze to get dressed in the morning.  I just pulled up my Pinterest account, chose an outfit, pulled the corresponding items from my closet, put them on and I was done.  But I did not see the danger that was lurking around the corner.

The problem was that I couldn’t always match every item from my pictures with items from my closet …I have a skirt like that, a shirt that is similar and shoes that will work, but I really NEED that purse…or wow that dress is amazing and I have nothing at all like that. I must have it! And so, my simple organizational tool became a devouring monster of greed and discontent.  I was no longer happy with the clothes I had in my closet and the outfits I could make with them.  I needed more.

Anyone that has ever used Pinterest knows what I’m talking about.  You start out just wanting some ideas to spruce up your living room and you end up hating everything about your entire house.  Or you just want to take a little peek at what everyone else is pinning and you are slammed with the fact that all of your friends are married and have kids who they are pinning fun activities for…and you don’t even have a boyfriend.  But Pinterest isn’t the only source for this nagging need for something else.  In the past I have become discontent from watching HGTV, or reading fashion magazines, or listening to music. And any random person you would ask will have their own list of discontent culprits.

So what is the answer to keeping the sources of discontent in your life from consuming you in the need for more? Is it to completely swear off the evil website, or magazine or TV show altogether and run from its persuasive wiles? Maybe. …at least for a while. Especially if you are spending too much of your boss’s time pinning, or spending excessive amounts of money, or you feel overwhelmingly consumed by the need for more. But if your browsing and pinning has not reached the level of addiction quite yet, you may have a more suitable option.

1. The first option is what I stated above…take a break.  Even if you are not to the point of being totally consumed by dissatisfaction, it doesn’t hurt to stop pinning for a while just to analyze your motives and check your heart.  After spending weeks nagging my husband about all the changes our house needed, I realized that I needed to take a break from home renovation shows.

2. Set boundaries. I am not under the impression that in all circumstances you should abstain from things that can potentially be over-consumed   For one thing, it is not always an option to do that. Such as, if you struggle with over or under-eating, the answer, obviously, is not just to stop eating…you have to eat, so you just have to find the right boundaries so that you can eat responsibly.  Secondly, I feel that this often times breeds legalism…thinking that you are okay just because you are abiding my the rules, but ignoring the heart issues that are messing things up to begin with. You don’t learn responsible consumption by not consuming at all.

3. Seek accountability.  I know it seems a little ridiculous…usually we think of accountability in relation to much more serious things (alcoholism, drug addiction, porn addiction) but discontent is much more serious of a sin than we give it credit for.  It is the destroyer of marriages, it is the divider of churches, it is the builder of hate, and it is the consumer of joy. So if you feel yourself being overwhelmed by the need to have more…let a friend or family member know so they can check up on you.  Make sure they ask you probing questions like “what has made you feel discontent this week?” or “what have you done to fight the need to have more?”. And don’t be afraid to admit how you really feel…

4. Be thankful.  Feelings of discontent come mostly from a heart that is not rejoicing in the things that one already possesses.  If I had been thankful for the years that my husband and I had before we had kids, I would not have wasted those years longing for a child that we couldn’t conceive.  Take stock of all the great things you have in your life (the things that God has chosen for you to have) and stop wishing for the things that you don’t have (the things that God has chosen for you not to have)…because having and not having is God’s sovereign choice for you, for your good and His glory.

A Portrait of Thanksgiving

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Today I just want to express how thankful I am…but in picture form.  The first thing I am thankful for is my family.  Though this picture is a couple of years old, it is one of my favorites…I remember the cool quiet evening watching the sunset. We ran and played in the yard all evening and snuggled together in the hammock.

I am thankful for a girl who can do this.  From the start of her life, we didn’t know if she would even be able to walk properly.  When we found out she had a spinal condition when she was only 3 months old, her future was uncertain.  I never imagined that that same little girl would one day be dancing, cartwheeling, running, jumping and hanging upside down.  She is truly a miracle, and for that I am thankful.

I am thankful for this guy…and his adorable face.  This guy is the friendliest, happiest kid you will ever meet.  He is always ready for a hug and he makes a new friend wherever he goes. A bad day is no match for this smile.  Even on the most frustrating days I can look at the face of that boy and instantly be cheered up. (even if said boy is the one that caused the frustration…like when he locked me in my craft room from the outside.  yes, he actually did that.)

I am also thankful for my husband.  I am thankful that I am married to a man who loves me and loves our children…and most importantly loves God.  He takes time to roll in the floor and wrestle with our son and he even plays Monster High dolls with our daughter.  He surprises me with gifts…an antique hat for my collection, roses cut from the yard, a clean house after a long day.  And he is a great spiritual leader who longs for his family to love God more each day.

My Family

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Today I am thankful for my family. They make me laugh, they make me cry. They make me frustrated, they make me excited.  They are silly, loving, enthusiastic, funny, and busy. And I love them!

Thank you, God, for a husband who loves You and helps me to love You.  Thank you for children who teach me patience and show me what unconditional love looks like.  I thank you that I have an opportunity every day to love and be loved by such wonderful people. Thank you for my family!

Thankful Thursdays

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Scrolling through the endless monotony of Facebook statuses begins to really depress and frustrate me. According to their facebook updates, it seems that the majority of people I know have the most troubled and difficult lives…just because their job is actually work, or because their kids are misbehaving, or because life is, well, life.  I have seen “Worst day ever…seems that I can’t do anything right today” or “I feel terrible..sore throat, coughing…and to top it all off I can’t find my car keys”.   These may seem like trivial commentaries of the day’s events but the importance lies in how a person describes those events. And as those descriptions begin to add up, they start to characterize that person’s life.  The constant complaining exemplifies a disatisfied and ungrateful life.

I have been guilty of my fair share of facebook complaints and that is why I have decided to devote Thursdays to thankfulness.  Every week I am going to reflect on one thing that I am thankful for and I will write about it here at Beauty for Ashes and then I will post a short status update on Facebook.  I really long to change my bend toward complaining, and allow God to transform my heart so that it is overflowing with thanksgiving for all He has done for me.  I hope that all who read this will join me and fill the Facebook news feed with thankful thoughts. Jesus came so that we would have joy and life, not complaining and frustration.

**I will have to say that a good ol’ gripe fest is in order every now and then, but there is a time and place for that.  Find a good friend, a sensitive family member, a spouse….someone who can pray for you and help you find a solution…but don’t make your frustrations available for all of your facebook friends to read.