Saturday, October 26, 2019

Cavities, Fillings, Root Canals - Oh my!

I have often joked recently that my biggest regret in life so far is not flossing my teeth. Or at least not brushing at night so many times in my 20's. When you consider my sugar intake (back when my metabolism was still a beast), it's no surprise that I had my fair share of dental work to take care of the last two years.

A cavity is technically any hollow place. It seems pretty obvious that a cavity in my tooth would quickly be filled with whatever food and drink I put in my mouth. Imagine letting that stuff sit for a whole day, and it's no wonder that what the future would hold would not be fun or lovely.

After many years, those cavities did more than just get filled with things that aren't good for my teeth; they began to affect the strength of my teeth, and then the nerves far deep inside. In case you have never had this problem before, this basically means I was in a lot of pain. Regular daily activities like biting and chewing became a risky dance of trying to avoid jarring pain.

When you have several teeth that are this far gone, your only options are having a root canal (which is not actually be the best long-term solution) or having the tooth extracted. So fun! As of now, I still have all my teeth, but I have had three root canals in the past 18 months and 2 of them are still giving me grief. Filling my teeth back up with something that seems strong but is not the same as my original tooth, as God made it, will never make my teeth what they ought to be.

Through all of this, I am coming to see that our hearts are a lot more like teeth than most of us care to consider.

In my opinion, C. S. Lewis says it best...

"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable solution is that I was made for another world."

It seems like every human being is born with this empty space inside that we are always trying to fill. Just like our stomachs, we stand looking at a world full of delightful things and can't find a single thing that will satisfy our craving. How many songs can you name right away that express this same idea? Is it too simple to assume, like Lewis and Plum, that this hole is really God-shaped?

I don't think so at all. I think that's why the 1st Commandment is the very 1st Commandment.

"You shall have no other gods before me." Exodus 20:3

When we fill our heart-cavities with things other than what is meant to be in there, our hearts begin to feel the effects. They begin to decay, to smell bad, to grow in frailty, and to feel painful when touched in even the most tender way. A strong tap can send us to the floor in misery.

When we fill our heart-cavities with success according to the world's view, we grow weary of the constant need to be amazing all the time and start to slide down into unmotivated despair.

When we fill our heart-cavities with the hope of being valuable because of everything we give, we get tired of feeling used and eventually begin to feel useless.

When we fill our heart-cavities with all the exciting things this world has to offer, we begin to see how fruitless and temporary they are and wonder what the point really is.

Are you catching my drift? Our heart-cavities cannot be filled with anything this world has to offer.

"And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." 1 John 2:17

Filling ourselves with God's purposes and God's plans is the only thing that won't rot our hearts.

I don't think most of us do these things intentionally, just like I didn't intentionally put sugar into my cavities. I put it in my mouth, and naturally it ended up in-between my teeth and inside my cavities. Our hearts are hungry and we feed them unintentionally every day, by what we look at, who we listen to, and what we participate in. We are stuffing our hearts and not seeing the damage for many years to come. At that point, the pain of taking out all of the gunk can be unbearable. Still, it is more bearable than letting ours hearts continue to rot and fall apart.

Thankfully, our hearts are stronger than teeth, and they regrow better!

God's truth inside our hearts can regrow all the weak places, all the open cracks, and turn off the pain-points that are wreaking havoc on our souls. It's not so much a work you do start to finish, but a work you have to be willing to allow. You'll have to start taking out the harmful things you've been putting in. Whether it's the world's idea of success, other people's need of you, or all of the fun this world has to offer, you have to stop assuming that those things are going to bring you the rest you desire.

You don't have to stop enjoying the world, God made it for us! But you have to stop giving those things the position of authority over your heart. Stop longing for them and attaching them to renewal and refreshment. Stop expecting them to make you feel like the wonderful person God already knows you are. Don't let them dictate how you feel about your life, how much hope you have, or how happy you could be.

Your cavities are not your fault, but they will all need filled. Fill them with God's perspective on your life and the restoration of your heart will follow. Fill them with God's word, His promises, His love and commitment to you.

Need a starting point? Take a look at Psalm 119. Yes, it's notoriously long, and not really instructive in nature, but it was oddly refreshing to me this morning. There is a lot of talk about meditating on the law and loving God's law, which might seem weird or cold to you, but God knows what He is doing. He knows what we need in our hearts more than we do.

"This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life." Psalm 119:50

Friday, May 3, 2019

Looking Forward.

This has been my longest stint of not blogging or writing in several years. Three, or maybe even four?

When I set out to write every day in January I did not have much of an end-goal in mind. It was almost like a dare. It was something I was afraid I couldn't do, something I wanted to test myself in. And it wasn't nearly as hard as I thought.

When I'm honest, what was really hard was seeing the disinterest of my people. Not that I really feel like I have a "tribe" of people who stick with me and read what I write on a regular basis. I mean, my mom does, my mother-in-law does, and a few loyal friends too, but I could never claim to have much of a following at this point in my life.

Along came February with all its monotony, schoolwork, and rain. I changed my eating habits significantly and was doing some challenge groups with friends, which was certainly worthwhile and took up some of my spare minutes during the day, but it definitely was not something that would excuse my sudden drop off the planet in regards to writing.

I still don't have much of an answer as to why I stopped. I can tell you what I've been doing, but all my attempts at explaining still don't quite paint a clear picture.

I picked up some paintbrushes, brought home some new paints, bought some new brush pens, and have been enjoying that immensely. Somehow though, the 3 in me (yes, I am an Enneagram nerd) always comes out and tries to figure out how to make my endeavors into a successful business. I just love small businesses, especially beautiful ones, and I have always had high hopes of running my own someday.

photo by Tim Arterbury

Today is not that day. Tomorrow might not be either. And I'm working on being okay with that.

Right now, I have to be okay with my limits. They aren't terrible by any means, but they do exist. And while many are results of my choices, they aren't punishment or something to be dreaded.

Homeschooling is not what I consider a calling for myself. While I do enjoy it, and am eternally grateful for all it has given me and my family, I don't see it as a mission from God specifically. I see discipling my children as a mission, and at this point in my life the only way I can figure out how to do that within our constraints is through homeschooling. And that actually gives me a lot of freedom, a lot of opportunity, and I wish it brought me more joy.

It has been a challenging year with homeschooling all three kids. Not beyond crazy, just hard. There's a constant juggling of schedules. I don't have a lot of margin. And when I run out of time to pursue my passions, I quickly run out of sanity. When one child needs an extra 30 minutes to work on something, that has to come from somewhere, and I have trouble not being frustrated when that "somewhere" is my own down-time I was counting on.

But let's get real, I don't think there is enough down-time in the world that could satisfy my desires. There will never be enough hours in the day to read, to experience beauty, to create beautiful things, or to enjoy the beautiful people in my life. And I seriously stink at living well with that reality. I mean, I do know I will have eternity for all those things, but it's hard for me not to get all angsty about not having them now.

I scheme, I try to think of a different plan, I look at job opportunities and other places we could live, but none of it ever pans out. God is leaving me here in this place for now. Can I surrender to that? Am I willing to embrace it? To make the most out of it? To live well where I am today?

I want to say yes, and I will, but I wish I could say yes with a heart full of enthusiasm. Truthfully, I say yes because I trust God (or at least desperately try to) but my heart gets distracted so incredibly often. And that's a problem I am working on too. Distraction gets the best of me a lot.

So what am I doing here now? Why did I hop on here tonight? Good question.

I wanted to say that I am still here. I will still write, but I'm not sure how much. I still want to share my life-lessons with whoever is interested in reading about them. I still feel compelled to homeschool but still struggle with accepting the sacrifice it requires of me. I want to make beautiful things, but I have no idea what form that will take in the long run. And mostly, I want to be okay with all of this. I want to accept this okay but not-okay paradox. I want to say "I trust you God" with all the ways my life is right now, yet still find the heart to strive to be all that I can for His kingdom, even if it's a far less glorious role than I'd pick for myself.

People often say that if you would still write even if no one read it, then you should keep on writing, but I'm not sure I can do that. I do write for myself for sure, but I write because I want to share things. Things about myself (yep, owning my own desires here), but mostly things about life, about how God is in all and uses it all. I want to grab your face and give you a good shake and wake you up the world around you. I need someone to do this for me too! I want to be a part of the lives of the people around me, a person who points them to God no matter what storms surround me.

As I've been thinking a lot about what keeps me going, about what God says should keep me going, I wonder what keeps everyone else going. What gets you out of bed? What keeps you on-track when what lies ahead feels boring, hard, or even impossible? How do you approach the long season of work that comes with little to show in the here and now?

I will come back soon and share some of my answers, but I really want to hear from you. What keeps you going?

We must all keep going. So in case you have been wondering what I've been doing and if I've given up on writing, you hopefully got at least a partial answer. I'm here, I'm still going, but figuring out what speed I can maintain, figuring out how to shake off every hindrance and keep running the race God has put me in. And mostly, learning to trust that I don't need to know the whole course to keep going with confidence. I just need to know Him.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Endless Beauty.

I love thinking about eternity. As a kid, I would sometimes sit out on the sidewalk in front of my house, staring at the sunset, imagining what eternity would be like. I'm not exactly sure why sunsets and sunrises seem to trigger my mind in this way, but I do have a few ideas.

A few weeks ago, I saw the most amazing sunrise. It was not in an amazing setting though. I was in my car, sweaty and stinky from my morning workout, when I saw the brilliant orange light textured upon the underside of the clouds for miles and miles across the sky. There were electrical poles, stop-lights, too many cars and trucks to really enjoy it as much as I wanted. But it was such a lovely few minutes, gazing at the vastness of our sky while I tried to drive my car, intermittently gaping at the beauty of reflected light.

I have a deep inner desire to make something beautiful. It doesn't often matter what it is. My bed, a painting, a lettering-project, my nails, or even my eyelids. I can't explain why, but seeing something beautiful brings such great pleasure. Does it do the same for you?

My theory is that beauty shows God.

The whole point of us being in eternity with God is to enjoy Him forever. And I believe a large part of our enjoyment in eternity will be experiencing the beauty of God and everything He makes.

Think of the most beautiful sunset or sunrise you have ever seen. What was the one thing that made it bittersweet? That it ended.

Now think of a glorious photo or painting of a sunset. What is the one thing that makes it bittersweet? That you cannot actually be there, where that sunset it happening. You can view it, but you are not fully immersed in it.

And that's where the seed of eternity is planted. We see it in our longings.

Can you even contemplate the initial joy of a sunset lasting forever? Our minds cannot even go there. We cannot comprehend being that intensely happy for all of time... not even just all of time, but beyond the end of time!

When I started thinking about eternity in this way, I was kind of astonished. Why do we not talk about this? Why isn't the endless beauty that is God something we never mention? Granted, it is kind of unfathomable. But who wants to think about things we can fully comprehend anyway :)

The endless beauty that we will experience in eternity is just a part of the joy we will dwell in forever. That's a truth we can count on, that we can bring out on rough days and look forward to. It's a truth we can savor in the small, fleeting moments of boring, dull days (of which there are far too many, right?).

So take a few minutes to listen to a lovely song. Go smell some fragrant flowers. Look at pictures of exotic, fantastic places around the globe, and let the immensity of how great God's beauty is and will be soak into your soul.

God is the most beautiful thing we will ever experience. And if we take just a few minutes to think about what a glorious promise and experience enjoying His beauty for all eternity will be, we will walk with more joy in our todays.

"One thing that I would ask from the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, 
To behold the beauty of the LORD 
And to meditate in His temple."

Psalm 27:4

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Called to Glorify God.

"The heavens declare the glory of God,
the skies proclaim the work of His hands."
Psalm 19:1

I have definitely been avoiding writing this post. I avoid writing for many reasons these days, the most recent one being,  I am just not ready to say a lot about this topic. How does one summarize the Call to Glorify God? How long would I really need to read my bible to get a good enough grasp on it in order to inform you accurately of the importance, and then have some great practical tips about living it out? I'm pretty sure that amount of time is infinity. 

We all admit that we don't pretend to be perfect, but we all kind of try to. At least, we try to minimize our sin by calling it flaws or hangups or struggles. We put our best foot forward on social media and don't speak up about issues until we are certain we have the correct stance, worded in a way that will prevent any backlash. When we do admit to our sin or fallenness, it's usually done with an attempt to relate to others, to show we are real, and to make sure people don't put us on a pedestal. 

But these things aren't helping us live out our calling to Glorify God. We don't glorify Him by tucking our sin away, or by only admitting it without any intention of dealing with it. I haven't been meaning to hide, but I also haven't wanted to admit that I just don't know that much about how to Glorify God. 

I like to think I do, but while trying to wrap my mind around it, I just felt kind of lost. I know things the bible says to do, and I can think through why certain actions do not glorify God, but when I intentionally sit down to consider what it looks like to pursue glorifying God, my answers seemed pretty simple. 

I think this might all actually be pretty simple, but I cannot "prove" all it to you. I have some bible verses, and a heap of thinking I've done, along with some praying and studying, but I still have a long way to go. 

The hardest part about walking down this entire Called journey for me has been the way it pushed me through the different trials and problems a person needs to encounter in order to really take advantage of all these tools and practical lessons I've put out here. I could not explain to you why we need to know God until I saw my deep need to know Him too. Unless I had struggled through learning to obey God in small ways that seemed totally purposeless for the desires of my own life, I would not have been able to offer any type of advice, comfort, or encouragement for you while you tried to walk that path. 

While I wish I desired to glorify God as earnestly as the bible calls me to, I have to admit that I often want my own glory more than God's. I want people to see how good I am, how excellent I have become, and how much I can do. It's so easy to think our abilities lay within our own flesh, and a reliance on Him has to come long before we can glorify Him. 

Maybe that's a Call I missed, the Call to trust Him. I believe it comes naturally from knowing Him, as do all the other Calls I've written about. And that's part of the problem with the place I'm in today. While I've been searching for understanding in many ways, I've slipped in my pursuit of knowing God personally, daily, forgetting that holding communion with Him in all my moments is worth the effort it takes. I forget what a relief it is to forget about my agenda and only seek Him. 

I will be reading a huge, fat book my pastor loaned my about this topic, though it might take me a while to get through it. It's called Recalling the Hope of Glory by Allen P. Ross, and while it has a lot to do with worship, I think it will have a lot to say about our purposes in glorifying God. 

I do have a few thoughts, despite all my rambling and confession of inadequacy :) 

The earth declares God's glory. 

But why? This is not any type of scholarly insight, but rather my mind trying to find the root of how the earth does this. 

One thing, is that it's beautiful, just the way He made it. We too glorify God when we live wholly as He made us to live, each uniquely designed for the purposes and good works He is bringing before us (Eph. 2:10). Peter reminds us of this too, telling the Jews to conduct themselves in ways that are honorable, so that those on the outside will see their good works and glorify God alongside them (1 Peter 2:12). This means we work, we love, we honor, we DO things. It requires an active participation in God's redeeming work. He made your life beautiful, but striving to live in ways that are outside of His grand purposes only taints the image He is creating in you. 

Another reason, is that creation obeys. Creation lives out the exact purpose God designed it to live. Rocks form, plants grow, planets spin. Existing in the order that God designed creation to exist in glorifies Him. God commands the earth to spin, and so it spins. He commands the fish to swim, and they go right along. We too glorify God in our daily obedience. It's not always other people watching that bring the glory either. There is a spiritual realm we cannot see and when we obey God in all the small ways, we help fight against that darkness and oppression. Peter agains calls us to do all things unto Christ (not just so everyone can see) so that Christ will be glorified in all we do, big or small (1 Peter 4:7-11).

Lastly, I see that giving seems to be a visual testament of God's glory. The earth gives of itself without hesitation - it's simply made to do that. With God, it was His love for us that propelled Him to give His only son that we might become His children (John 1:12). We know that the greatest act of love that exists is laying down one's life for another, and that we are Called to love one another. Therefore, we are Called to give of ourselves, and that sacrificial giving glorifies God. Like the earth does. Like Jesus did. And like Jesus said, it will require you to "take up your cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)

Jesus also said that if we desire to find life in Him, we must lose it. We must hand it over and give it up (Matthew 16:25).

This is the crux of my struggle to write this and the problem I keep running up against: I cannot glorify God while I am clinging to the life I think I ought to have. 

An analogy came to me this morning that spoke to my struggle with this. I was thinking about a speaker in front of her audience. When speaking, it is certainly lovely to have an involved audience. When you ask a question and no one raises their hand, it can be rough. Engagement is confirmation that people are tracking with you and interested in participating in the learning. But, it also stinks to be in an empty room. Even if you have a few highly participatory people, it still feels hard. Those people in the audience who may not say a lot, they have an important role. They honor the speaker by being there, listening, and giving of their time. 

If I am not the speaker in the room, I am always one of those participatory members. I'm getting better at just sitting and listening, but I like to talk ;) What about those who seem to do nothing but sit? Who bring comfort and affirmation simply by being there? They also bring honor. They may be unknown, or seem of little importance, but their role is still valuable.

Do I really believe it? If my life remains small, unnoticed, and little, will I live with joy, trusting God that my little life is bringing the most glory to Him possible? 

Thinking through all of this has shown me how much I value being known myself, and wanting to be known for being important in God's kingdom. But it's so twisted in my heart and mind. I want to have a big impact, huge! I want my life to change the world. That's just it though. My life cannot, only a giving of my life to God's purposes. And that might not be as globe-altering as I wish. Am I okay with that? Can I at least try to be okay with that? 

I believe God made me an over-achiever for a reason. He obviously put this fire in me to do something, but I don't know how to harness it the right way. Thankfully, that's where obedience comes in. That's why this whole Called thing got started in the first place! I cannot know where God will take me, and I will never have cause to argue with Him about what might have been a better path for me. The only thing I can do is walk with Him, glorify Him, love others, prepare for His return, and obey Him endlessly. 

It feels so much easier (and like so much more fun) to plan out how we want to glorify God. But we just cannot know what tomorrow will bring. Our daily obedience is the only way to guarantee we are glorifying God. Selfish-ambition too easily takes over. We have to trust that what needs done right now, right in front of us, is the thing God will use to glorify Himself and bring us the satisfaction we long for. 

I know it seems strange to say we will find our heart's longing in obeying God each day, but it's true. And if aren't finding satisfaction and joy in obeying His voice, it's because our hearts are not tracking with His purposes. When we desire His agenda, obeying is like confirmation that we are with Him. And being with Him is the best thing we can ever have. It's the goal, the blessing, the thing that grows real fruit in our lives and gives us something to offer those around us. All things that lead us to Him are worth the sacrifice, and giving of all yourself over to Him and His purposes is the fastest, most efficient, best way to glorify God. 

Are you up for it? 

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Our Jovi.

Little Jovi is such a spark of light. That spark is not always pleasant (as she often appears), but she sure is a bundle of joy and happiness.

She was my "if I don't have another kid I might get too bored as a mom" child. I loved the boys, and I've always had ambition for things outside of being a mother and housewife, but I knew I would be far more tempted to pursue those things to an unhealthy degree without a little more to do IN the home. I know it might sound silly, but it was one of those constraints I often like to put on myself to help motivate myself to do what I know I should.

Note: I don't have strong opinions about what YOU should or shouldn't do, in or out of the home. This is all just about how I felt led to live the life God has given me.

So, I was working hard on convincing Mark that we ought to have another. A good friend of him, who has five children, said that he has never regretted having more, to which Mark told me "Yeah, I guess we should have another." I took that as a yes, started charting my temperature, and voila! Pregnant next month. I suppose I should have clarified more with Mark, as he did not think he had said yes. But, it was a little late for that conversation.

I'm not sure if transitioning to having three children was so hard just because having three kids is so hard or because Jovi was so needy. She was just slightly crabby so much of the time, and VERY clingy. She only liked me, Mark, and both her grandpas. When we moved when she was almost one year old, I couldn't even set her on the floor for almost two weeks. She either had to be held, or sleeping to not be crying. Even leaving her in children's church has still be hit or miss, though we are on a good streak lately. Did I mention that she is now well over 5?!

Thankfully, she is doing really well with her schoolwork, and even enjoying her CC class while I am not there - hooray! She is definitely our spunkiest kid overall. FULL of energy. When she is happy, she is over the moon happy, and cuter than you can imagine. She is also insanely talented when it comes to body-awareness and movement. She can dance and do gymnastic moves with very little instruction and within just a few attempts.

She loves her schooling too. She is constantly trying to write letters, draw all kinds of pictures, spell and do math for fun. She is excited whenever we do History or Science too. The only subject she complains about is French, which is odd because she talks about it to other people like she enjoys it.

Jovi wants to conquer any task as quickly as possible, and her perfectionism can often get the best of her. She goes from gloriously happy to freaking out pretty quickly, but usually comes back to reality after a few minutes alone in her room. She is mama's girl for sure, which is usually fun, but honestly, I go through phases when I am kind of tired of it. She has been within my sight for almost her entire life, and she still doesn't like to leave me much. I know that will all change someday, so I am trying to just enjoy the time I have with her, as I know it's not time many parents or kids get to enjoy with one another.

Our girl is truly a little slice of sunshine and we cannot imagine how boring our life would be without her. I know many of you enjoy her cuteness, her antics, and her crazy little life too :) I wonder where God will take her in life... I know it will be beautiful no matter what.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019


That's what I call Cole much of the time: Coley-bear :)

Cole inherited only my sweet tooth. The rest of him is pretty much just a mini-Mark.

When Asher was born, people said he looked like Mark. I think maybe people just say that about boys and their dads. But when Cole was born, a lot of people changed their minds. Just look at Mark at 7 years old compared to Cole at 8!

Cole is a kid that just wants to be happy. If I were to peg Cole on the Enneagram (which, I try not to but I can't really help it), Cole would definitely be a 7, just like Mark too. He doesn't care what we are doing most of the time, as long as he can have fun doing it.

He also likes to make noise. All the time. Clicking, tapping, making strange noises... he is almost always moving, grooving, and occupying himself somehow with some sort of motion or sound. It can get pretty annoying, pretty fast.

This boy often seems like an anomaly to me. While he isn't always eager about schooling, or tremendously self-motivated, he is very eager to participate and learn when someone else initiates. For instance, he is in Essentials this year, which is an English Grammar and Writing class for 4th-6th grade students. His birthday is August 31st and he is the absolute youngest you can be and still be in class. Yet, despite not being particularly skilled in English or Grammar, he LOVES class and strives to figure it all out, raising his hand every time I ask a question and always ready to try and chime in.

Now, start talking about something he is not interested in and his brain will leave his body. He won't even hear you speaking. He definitely has some ADD tendencies and also something called Auditory Processing Disorder, but despite these things he is doing really well in all of his schooling. We recognized these things early on and it really confirmed our homeschooling decision. He's SO good at acting like he heard you, or that he knows what you meant, when really he is totally clueless. This does not go over well for kids in large classrooms with little inner desire to learn on their own.

Despite his learning or attention issues, which are really very minimal, he loves school and learning overall. Yes, he complains about certain work on a regular basis, but he really wants to know things.

Something sweet about Cole is that he really feels bad when he recognizes his own wrong behavior. That initial issue of getting him to see when he has done something wrong can be a long and frustrating event, but when he sees his tendency to sin or things he did against someone that were hurtful or mean, he really takes it to heart. He also really hates to see me sad or frustrated or hurt, which is sweet.

Cole's best subject is definitely math! He's not actually great at skip-counting (or memorization in general) but abstract math concepts come so easily to him... it kind of freaks me out. He will be passing me up WAY too soon.

I can't wait to see what things he ends up pursuing in life! It's good to see that he is such a happy kid, and I hope he always finds joy in the places God will lead him.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

My Asher.

I asked my kids what I should write about today and my eldest said I should write about him. With only three days left in my writing challenge, I figured I'd spend a day writing about each child. Enjoy!

Asher is a funny little man. With your first-born, you don't always know what is normal or not, so I think most moms feel a little bit bad about the motherhood learning curve. I also had no idea that most babies laugh a lot earlier than Asher did. Even at three months old it was work to get him to smile, and SO hard to get him to laugh.

Don't get me wrong though, he was such a sweet baby. He was so easy! He loved to sleep, he loved looking around while we drove in the car, and he was usually pretty easy to entertain. He also ate solids really early. At only 4 months he would get insanely fussy when we would sit to eat dinner, so we just started giving him stuff and he did really well. He's still our best eater today :)

For a long time, Asher did not seem like your typical oldest child. He's not extremely tidy, though he has become a lot more particular about things this last year. He's always been a little moody about his clothing and appearance I guess, but now it's spreading to more areas of his life. Thankfully, he's finally becoming particular about the state of his room too!

As far as behavior goes, Asher has always been pretty straightforward too. Once I started thinking more deeply about his reactions to certain circumstances, I started to see better where some of his "issues" were stemming from. Both of my boys have gone through several phases where they were super resistant to anything I told them to do. I think this is where a lot of homeschool moms want to give up and send their boys to school - it's incredibly frustrating! But when I saw that they simply did not want mom to be in charge, I was able to have conversations with them about it, find some areas of life where they can be 100% in charge and we have always been able to happily move forward with our same chain of command and much happier hearts.

Asher is very gifted in his ability to think things through. He's like an old man in some ways, thinking about what things mean or how things came to be, pretty much all the time. He's definitely able to make connections easily regarding cause and effect, and having good conversations about anything relatively important is the best!

Even with being a little ahead in regards to reasoning, he has an amazing memory. Jovi also has a good memory, but Asher has been able to memorize nearly all his memory work from CC within a day or two for YEARS. He still will say things out of the blue from books we read many years ago that he remembers, leaving me constantly impressed with his ability to retain information.

This does NOT mean he is always nice, or always good. He definitely has that oldest-child stubborn streak with wanting things his way. And he copes far better with daily occurrences if he knows the general plan for the day. He is the kindest little man out in public though, always receiving comments about his sweet demeanor and polite manners. He's also very helpful around the house and has been ever since he could help with pretty much anything... retrieving diapers for his siblings, emptying the dishwasher at an early age, throwing away garbage for me, or just doing nearly anything I ask with little or no reward.

We all have faults, but I'm not going to air any more of his here. I see him wanting to understand God and the world around him, and I see his internal struggle when he doesn't want to be good but knows it's not right, or when things just feel off and he can't really articulate why. I'm really thankful for his presence in my life and glad that I get to spend so much time with him every day.

As he is getting older, I treasure more and more the time we have. I can't believe he'll be flying the coop in just 8-ish years! I still get lots of hugs, kisses, and snuggles, and he still will reveal his true desires and loves when he is comfortable enough. I can't wait to see what the next few years hold for him and am thankful that God gave us such a lovely little person to parent.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Searching Out Peace.

I grew up in a pretty small town on the Southern Oregon Coast. I'm constantly surprised when I meet people who know where it is, or even better, know someone who lives there. It sits right up against another small town, of which all the schools are rivals, and right up against a fairly large bay on one side, with the ocean on the other.

The beaches there are incredible. Almost never warm, but still incredible. There are cliffs with tons of trees, and rocks and trails for climbing. There are tide pools galore both in secret little coves and in open areas right by the sand. There is a long jetty that is really fun to walk out on (though my dad never did like us doing that) and plenty of small caves to explore. There are large dunes, small dunes, dangerous dunes, and easily accessible dunes for any level of explorer. And the actual beaches, well they are beautiful too.

The Pacific Ocean is freezing cold though, which seems very normal to me. A friend from Virginia recently told me that it's abnormal for ocean water to be so cold! I cannot fathom walking into an ocean that is warm. So while many people surf along the Oregon coast, it is mostly done in a wetsuit, and even then it's chilly.

I don't remember how often we went to the beach when I was c kid, but I went with friends a lot in high school. I went with boys a lot too, though I was too good and too naive to even know how stupid I was often being. Thank the Lord for taking care of me and for those good guys who were genuinely kind and lovely.

The beach will always be a place of peace for me. It's a place where I see God and His power so clearly. I feel like I could sit in front of the waves for eternity and never tire. I don't believe I have ever left the ocean of my own free will.

I don't remember who I was with, but at some point during my late teens or early 20's (maybe it was even with my husband? - my poor old brain), I remember going to the beach really late at night. It was totally clear and there were so few lights anywhere else. The moon has not yet risen and the stars were in full glory. I felt like I was in a giant dome, or a little spec in one of those tiny snow globes. The sky seemed so round and it seemed impossible that all those stars were really as far away as my science teachers always said.

Little me, standing on the edge of a continent, on a small planet, in an unimaginably large universe, witnessing first-hand the beauty of God, knowing that He knew exactly where I was, what I was doing, and what I was feeling. While I felt very small, I also felt immensely loved.

While I've had less opportunity to go to the beach at night alone, or even just with one other person, I can still put myself there and remember that odd feeling of small glory. Within this suburban area where I live now, God can still pinpoint me just as easily, and that brings me peace.

It's not the ocean itself that brings peace. Sure, there are all kinds of research about the movement and sound of water that actually restores the brain, but I know it's because God made it to do so. He made the water to give life in SO many ways. And when Jesus says that we will never go thirsty when we drink from His well of life, we can understand Him more clearly because we see how vital water is. We know that water gives life; drunk, dipped in, felt, washed with, or listened to. Water is life only because He is life.

So now, even when I think of the ocean, I can feel it's peace washing over me all these miles from shore. God's peace has no bounds, God's love has no bounds, and God's mercy has no bounds. Nothing of God is bound by anything but love, holiness, and glory. It makes me sad I don't see it more often. But reminiscing tonight on just this one memory of His glory displayed on the edge of the beach is so precious to me. It reminds me that to meditate on Him is to receive from Him the things He knows we need. And He knows better than I do. How grateful I am for that!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

What To Do.

Figuring out what to do next often feels like the never-ending question I am asking myself.

Which leads to this idea: if I am never really figuring out "what to do," how am I actually doing stuff, with years flying by, and kids getting older, etc.? How is all of this happening?

This is really where the rubber meets the road with all my Called stuff. I easily spend WAY too much time obsessing over the next step I should take, not with the right mindset about how obeying now is what matters, but with some crazy idea that if I can just figure out what will happen after all of my "correct steps" are well-executed, I will be okay.

But to be clear, I will not be okay simply because I have taken the correct path (if there is such a thing in life). I will be okay because I completely trust (or am trying to) that God is overseeing all of my decisions. I will be okay because I am seeking Him and listening to Him and doing my best to follow where He leads. Not because I have amazing foresight. Not because I never made a mistake. Not because I have everything all figured out.

I still don't know what I'm going to do about this blog in a few days. I'm not sure what purpose it is serving, though the daily writing has been a healthy thing for me. It's helped me realize that I do have time work on my writing every day. It's definitely been hard on some days (like today), but it hasn't been unattainable. But that still doesn't give me much of a plan for writing every day after this.

Should I put together a schedule and plot out more about how to finish my book proposal?

Should I schedule a certain number of days per week for that kind of work and then use other days to post stuff on here?

What other things should I be doing to keep progressing?

Where do I even want to go with all of this?

Over the next week I want to hash this out a bit more. I do like blogging, though I have to be honest, I wish more people read it. I know, I know, I can't do things in the hopes of other people liking them. It's just hard to invest so much time to writing and sharing when I don't think many people will actually even hear/read what I have to write/say.

I do believe in the importance of what God is calling me to share though. Maybe it's not a super popular idea; daily obedience is not too glamorous you know. Maybe it leads to changes that will receive criticism or be difficult to embrace. But I know that when I follow God's call to the things He lays out for us in scripture, I am far happier, far more productive, and I know 100% that I am doing real kingdom work, no matter how small.

I think this is the hardest factor. God's work is not just though words, or actions, or art, or anything tangible or visual that I can produce. All of those things are avenues He uses, yes, but God's work is through His Spirit, and I cannot force His Spirit to do anything. Despite being unable to produce that work in you, there is a hope in me, that I think is from God, that if I keep doing this, if I keep showing up and putting words here in this space, His Spirit will show up too.

I have ideas about how I might be used in God's kingdom. Most of them are really neat, really fun, and bring me a lot of credit. Which probably means they are not God's plans. But I want to be ready to be a part of whatever His plans are, which I'm pretty sure includes some level of writing and blogging. I'd rather take a more glamorous route than the daily work of clicking away here at my desk, a route that isn't so prone to criticism or misunderstanding. Something easier, or something more noble perhaps.

But here I am. I can't say what is best for His kingdom, or what the best role for me is in His kingdom. I can only show up. I can obey. So, that's why I'm still here.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Made New.

I've been ruminating over several posts I want to undertake, but today I had a great analogy (or at least a partial analogy) that I thought would be interesting to think about and share.

I can't get over how fascinating all the rock and mineral science is. It seems so odd to me! How can something without organs, cells, or blood be living? I know rocks aren't really living, but as a child, my idea of what counts as living was fairly limited. Humans are alive. Animals are alive, but not as "awake" as humans, without the same kind of soul God gave people. Plants, well, that was weird to think of them as being alive... they don't even have brains! Plants breathe? Even weirder.

As I've grown in my knowledge in various fields of science, it makes more sense how these other things live. Their cells operate in ways they are pre-programmed to operate, which makes them count as being alive even without a brain telling them what to do. It's actually crazy to see that still today, people cannot figure out HOW a plant seed gets its RNA all pre-programmed to do the things it is supposed to do. As a Creationist, I chuckle. If I were a scientist who did not believe in God, I would be philosophically stumped. It has to start somewhere!

But rocks are different. They don't have "their own" cells. They are comprised of elements and minerals, which don't do what cells do. They don't have genetic material or RNA to tell them what to do. How they form is more based on chemical or atomic level reactions to each other and the environment they are placed in. So while rocks do change, and minerals interact with the world, and crystals grow, they are not alive in the same way.

All this started to form an interesting idea in my brain after I browsed the petrified wood gallery at the Rice NW Museum of Rocks and Minerals. Some of the same kinds of wood had been petrified in different circumstances, different places around the world, and had totally different coloration. So even though they started out with the same material, they were changed and made new with completely different minerals.

This is like how God changes us.

Now, my analogy definitely breaks down (as most do), and my analogy can kind of be flipped backwards in another sense (we don't become dead and hard, but more alive with God's Spirit in us). But here is one way to look at it.

We are all human, and we all start out being made of the same exact material. All these materials come together in a unique way to make something different, but the fundamentally the same. Like Conifer trees, we are all the "same" but all slightly different too. Put that same tree in a different location, bury it under different materials than its brother tree and give it lots of time and pressure, and you will have a tree that is filled in and made different than the original used to be, or than a brother tree buried in a different place will be.

We all undergo change. God puts us in all kinds of circumstances throughout our lives that no one else will identify with 100% of the time. As we break down, He fills us in, giving us what we need in the moment. And what we get filled with might be different than what another person gets filled with. Multiply that process 1000 times over and you get people who started out with all the same material but become completely different.

My life will look different from yours, because God is filling it in with what He knows I need. God is filling in the parts of you that are dying, or no longer supporting life with the pieces of Himself that He is giving through the other people or circumstances in your life. It adds a different coloring, a different sheen, a different look. Your life may end up looking brilliant, with glorious and varied colors. Or, it may look a bit dull to some, with consistent marks of a steady, perhaps even monotonous, life.

We cannot compare them as worse or better. If you are a Christian, your life brings glory to God, no matter what ups and downs you encounter. All the petrified wood was amazing because it is an incredibly fascinating function of nature, and all lives that chase after God are glorious because they reveal the wonder of the Master. Pink, blue, brown, white, or black, the petrified wood was a testimony of what nature does with dead things: it makes them into something else. Something amazing.

God does the same. He makes our lives amazing, not just because of what they consist of, but because He is using it to bring glory to Himself. If that glory is through hardship, death, or toil, it is still glorious (and often is even more so). If that glory is blessing, beauty, and miracles, it is still just as amazing. Why? Because God's glory is not about your individual story in the end. It's about revealing Himself. And what an amazing gift it is to be a part of that! The petrified wood got to be a part of nature's preserving process and it beautiful because of that process, instead of just dead and gone as it would have been without having first died and been buried. We too will become glorious forever despite the natural process of being dead and gone, all because of God's unfathomable goodness.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Our Day.

Today I am really too tired to write. I would rather read, draw, or just sit here and watch a show with my husband. But, I'm SO close to finishing this month the way I hoped, so I'm here. Writing.

I'll just tell you a little about our day and maybe it'll be a quick, fun read for you.

To start things off, CrossFit! Yay, right? Hahaha! It's my "normal" routine to go at 6:30am, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. While CC is in session I don't often go on Wednesdays, so I've been subbing it with working out on the treadmill at home that day. Anyway, I was up early (kind of against my will), trying to be diligent and get things done. It was fine. I love all the weightlifting stuff and pretty much despise all the cardio stuff, so today's 50 burpees and 30 cals on the bike were not the most fun, but the 30 High Hang Cleans were actually the fun part. Too bad they were at the end.

Go home, shower, eat, get ready, make sure kids are ready, and so forth. We had a field trip planned today for the Rice NW Museum of Rocks and Minerals. The kids and I had been there before a few years ago when we were in Cycle 1 and studying lots of geology. Before, a friend and I had gone with our kids on our own, apart from a group, so we didn't get the official tour. This time though, we got to  to with a bunch of our CC friends and experience the real deal, and it was fabulous!

I guess their museum is in the top 10 largest collections in the United States! We started out with learning the three types of rock (which the kids actually just started working on memorizing this week) and learning more about the rock cycle. Then we watched a video about these amazing Rhodochrosite crystals that were discovered and mined from Alma, Colorado. The museum has one called the Alma Rose and it is pretty fantastic.

There was a whole lower level with petrified wood too. It was amazing to see all the different types and colors of minerals and rock that filled in and petrified the wood. Over on my Instagram I posted some of my favorites.

The best part of the museum was definitely the Rainbow Gallery. There were crystals and rocks of all kinds of colors. It's amazing to see the different shapes, textures, and saturation of color that are all possible in rocks! I'm a sucker for anything close to aqua, naturally :)

After our field trip, we brought home a good friend's son and the kids had a grand old time. There was lots of happy fighting, not so happy fighting, football, lunch, and even a little schoolwork. I busted out our big rock set and our really thorough rock book, but the kids only stuck around for about 15 minutes or so. Of course, I just sat and had some learning time for myself while they played.

The kids then finished up the last bits of their schoolwork and had a little screen-time before Mark came home. We did our traditional pizza and family movie night, and sent the kids to bed. And now, here I am. Sitting at my computer, nursing a bit of a headache (definitely didn't drink enough water today), and oh so ready for bed.

It was a fairly fun day. Nothing crazy, but just good. I actually kind of wished I had brought a notebook with me to the museum at one point, that tells you what a nerd I've become. There is just SO much to know about rocks and minerals... I feel like I learned next to nothing about it in all my schooling. Just one more reason I homeschool - it's great to be able to learn about subjects that are so grossly dismissed in school but are fields of interest that have many applications, both professional and for leisure or hobbies.

How was your day? Anything incredible happen? Anything interesting that made your day?

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Book Problems.

If there is such thing as having a "book problem" I am sure I am in trouble.

How do you gauge a legitimate book problem anyway? Because, I have at least 10, maybe 20 books that I have purchased yet not been able to get to reading yet. I am also unwilling to look through my Amazon orders and see how many books were purchased this year. That number might be a little too large to deal with.

When we got bookshelves in our homeschool room this summer I was so relieved. I had stacks of various kinds of books lined up against one of the walls. I thought for sure that my new shelves would store everything, help me clear out some other shelves and areas upstairs, and leave me with space for more books (just what I needed). But yeah, all those shelves are currently full, well, overflowing might be a better description.

So what do you do? I told my husband that my problem was simply too few bookshelves.

We had an empty space that is perfectly sized for a bookshelf, so when my husband got a new shelf for his office (which he really did need), I convinced him to buy a matching one for that space upstairs. And it looks SO nice! But, I learned a good lesson about bookshelves.

It helps when they have sides!

These shelves are all cool, very minimalistic, and just have these iron-looking frames, so if I want to stack my books upright and proper, I'll need to go and buy some legitimate book-ends.

Non-fiction is definitely my genre of choice. I love reading about learning skills, or philosophy, or about the lives of real-life people. I've been gathering more Christian Biographies too, as they are just so faith-building and encouraging, in all the most valuable ways. I've been slowly gathering books on art, both instructional and for looking/discussing qualities, and that pace has gone up a few notches over the last few months.

My husband has no mind's eye (like actually zero ability to see anything in his head) so he reads zero fiction. It's too hard for him to try and keep the story in his mind without seeing anything in his imagination. He's great at reading fiction out loud to the kids though. His voices are always SO much better than mine... plus he doesn't cry at sad parts like I do. Seriously, The Penderwicks in Spring has got me bawling in every stinking chapter. My kids are pretty over it and sometimes offer to read the parts that I cannot read without crying.

Books about writing, and now about reading too, are all over the place here in my home. Have they made me a better writer? Eh, it's debatable. I think I've actually become a better writer more from reading incredible writers, since one of my best talents is paying attention. I'm excited to read Reading Like a Writer and see what else I can glean.

I hope if you don't have a book problem right now, you'll make some headway on that. It is a beautiful (though sometimes depressing) thing to be surrounded by an abundance of books. I am never as alone as I feel, and my books are a gateway to feeling at one with history and remembering the presence of my God who created it all.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Starting With Fear?

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." 
Proverbs 1:7

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight."
Proverbs 9:10

"The fear of the LORD prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short."
Proverbs 10:27

"In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge."
Proverbs 14:26

"The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death."
Proverbs 14:27

I didn't have to search long to find more than a couple verses about the fear of the LORD. And I know talking about "fearing the LORD" is not very popular these days. We like to think of God as this super-friendly, cuddly, sweet, overflowing with grace-type of God. And He definitely overflows with grace, but fear is still the place to start and still something we need to work through. 

It wasn't until thinking and studying about what it means to Know God that I began to understand the fear of the LORD in its proper place. I still have not spent a ton of time looking at everything about "fearing God" but I gained a better perspective, and I hope what I share will be insightful and helpful for you too. 

If you look back and read my posts about Knowing God, you will read a little about the analogy of a mountain. I know things about Mt. Hood, being a long-time Oregonian, but I don't know Mt. Hood the same way my friend Pearce knows Mt. Hood. He has climbed it, helped with rescue teams, and even co-wrote a book regarding mountain safety and rescue. He can probably tell you all about what you should or shouldn't do, and what to do if you find yourself in a pickle. He would tell you that is all begins with the right amount of fear of the mountain. 

Suppose you decide to climb Mt. Hood but you have no fear or regard for what the mountain is like. You don't care to know what happens when you climb ice, what it's like to sleep out in the snow, what happens when you try to scale terrain that is unstable, or what kind of animals you might encounter along the way. How do you think your climb is going to go? It is the same as our walk with God. 

If we consider our walk with the Lord as a journey on a mountain, the analogy makes a lot of sense. There is no sense learning about the mountain if we don't intend to experience it firsthand. And it is pure foolishness to embark on a journey up the mountain if we don't understand the gravity of what can happen when we don't regard the conditions and the atmosphere of the mountain. We cannot go to God expecting everything to just be jolly well and good; we need a healthy dose of fear. 

To be straight, we don't need to fear our standing with God. If you believe and then follow Christ, you are totally set. But we still need to take what God commands with utmost sincerity. It's not a joke, a suggestion, or a "your life might be better if you do these things" type of situation. It is a healthy thing to fear the consequences of a life lived as a "Christian" but not actually lived in obedience. This is exactly what Jesus talks about in Matthew 7. 

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."
Matthew 7:21

Jesus further explains that a mere willingness to do spiritual things is different from actually obeying God. Do you fear that in your own life? That you are not actually following God but just doing the spiritual stuff that seems "Christian"? That fear should spur you to Know God better, to find out what it really means to live for Him and pursue that earnestly. 

Don't just seek to travel up the mountain and have a good time. Know with gravity the seriousness of situations you might encounter. Know how situations ought to be approached. Study, research, ask other people questions. 

Eternity and God are far more important things to learn about than any mountain experience. Begin with the right kind of fear, and let it lead to a confident knowing. Let that knowing guide you and bring you security and joy. Don't get caught up in the idea that we shouldn't fear God; it is the beginning of the best things you can learn about Him and experience through Him. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Your Calling is Now.

Last year, I chose the word "Called" as my word of the year. I don't normally do that, and I had been scoffing at my friends who did (sorry!). But when I stopped for a moment to think about what my word might be, Called instantly came into my mind and ideas started instantly zooming across my mind.

I really enjoyed going through almost a full 12 months of thinking, praying, and studying over different things we are Called to in the bible. I can say with all sincerity that it changed my life. Not that I was headed in a direction totally opposed to the direction I am headed today, but now I feel armed and prepared.

When you write, your best ideas come from the struggles you have waded through. You can write from a place of pain, but it shows. You can also write on a topic you have not experienced, but it's likely that someone writing with that experience will relate better to their readers. And watch out if you are writing about something you regularly struggle with or are challenged by, because chances are, you are going to struggle, wrestle, become weighed down by, and possibly feel nearly defeated by whatever that challenge is. I know, because I am still wrestling! But, God is giving me moments of victory along the way, and I'm tucking them aside and writing them down just for you :)

The centerpiece of my Called mission is that we are not Called to do something tomorrow, next week, or far off down the road. We are Called to do things today. Sure, maybe today's obedience includes saying yes to an engagement that will happen next week, or next month, or even next year, but you are still acting in the now. Now is all we ever have. Everything else is "as the Lord wills".

I read a saying last week that I really love. One that really convicted me years ago, and one that still inspires me today. The old African proverb says...

"The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now."

Isn't that the truth? If we didn't start something in the past, the next best time to get it done is today, right now. 

A friend of mine also posted this quote this week (I don't know anything about this man, so go do your own research and have your own opinion if it bothers you that I am quoting him.) by Dieter F. Uchtdorf:

"Now is the best time to start becoming the person we eventually want to be."

Now is the only moment you have to make any kind of decision. It's very cliché to say that you never know what tomorrow will bring, or that you are not guaranteed tomorrow, I know. But the reason it is said so often is because it completely true and we forget it over and over again. 

God is not telling you to be someone tomorrow that He wouldn't want you to pursue being today. If you feel God nudging you toward a certain career field, ministry, or life of service, the only thing you can do about it is act accordingly today. Daydreaming, brainstorming about what it might be like, and trying to "figure it all out" will only waste the time you have today to actually prepare. 

With three growing children, a husband with a demanding job, and with myself homeschooling and trying to run things at home (along with all my artistic and entrepreneurial endeavors), I realize how much of my early-married life I spent thinking about my future in a way that inhibited my growth. All those hours of watching TV, sitting in movie theaters, perusing the mall... I could have made such better use of the time! But I was not living in reality. I was living with a hope that someday a great opportunity would find me, but I failed to prepare in any meaningful way. 

I still wrestle with taking advantage of my "now" in a way that would make me qualified to write a book about it, but I see growth and I desperately want it. I have the tools to remind myself of the truth in God's word about what He desires from me, and what I will receive from Him. I am getting better at preventing paralysis based on comparison or regret. I still have weak moments, rough days, and often have to swallow the sour drink of missed opportunities, but they don't have to define what I can do right now. 

That is the best part about "now": as long as I am living, I have a brand new Now to take advantage of! If I messed up yesterday, and I wake up again this morning - boom! I can try again. If I totally went the wrong direction two hours ago, I have a choice about what I do right now. Will I choose to let daydreams or my past determine these decisions today? Or will I let God's truth, God's fresh mercies, and God's everlasting source of power and discernment guide my choices?

I'm sure it's a lifelong struggle, but I will tuck every victory into my belt and let it remind me next week, or tomorrow, or even later tonight, that God enables me to do, right now, exactly what He is Calling me to do. 

If you didn't plant that tree 20 years ago, 10 years ago, last year, or even yesterday, it doesn't mean you can't plant it today. Go for it!

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Real Challenge.

Why is it so hard to actually write?

Even though I have plenty to say, plenty of thoughts running through my head, plenty of things I'm working through and working on, it's still difficult to sit and write something I know will be "published" here on the blog. I'm not sure if putting every single one of my daily-writings here is actually wise, but I weren't doing so I'm not exactly sure I would keep going.

Right now, I still need to be finishing up my final post from my Called series I did last year. I'm also working on a book proposal for all of that, but I got kind of stuck on my benefit statements. I wrote out a few, got a bunch of input from many of my writer friends, and got some good feedback from an author I sat under at a conference for a few days. It turns out they were more like "teaching" statements, where I explained what I would be sharing and teaching, but not so much about what the reader would receive. I was really encouraged by this author's input and I didn't take her advice lightly. Maybe that's why I've been avoiding working on them?

When I was in college, my high jumping ability really took off (probably because of my amazing coach and his well-planned training schedules). I finally jumped over my height (too bad I'm not taller) and then my approach began to get all wonky. My coach once asked me why I was so scared to do well, to achieve the most I could. At first I thought he was crazy to suggest that I was actually afraid of how good I could become, but that question has really stuck with me.

Why am I afraid to be my best self?

I don't want to get overly self-absorbed; I truly want to be whatever it is that God wants me to be. I also think we often use that as an excuse to be less than we could, to work less hard than we ought, and to lay aside dreams God has given us claiming they are selfish and self-serving. And I'm sure many of them are.

But what about those desires that are really from God?

What if God put these unquenchable things in me because He never wants me to be able to stop doing them? What if I cannot get a pursuit out of my head because God doesn't want me to forget about it? What if we put down those pursuits because we are actually afraid of what being excellent at something will require of us?

I sometimes wish I had stuck with track and field longer. I definitely don't think I was at the end of my potential, but I also didn't feel like I wanted it bad enough to justify the amount of time and effort it would require. For me, much of the desire to be good was rooted in wanting other people to recognize me as good. I was also convinced (and still am) that I would not regret putting that aside once I arrived in heaven. These days, I mostly just regret not staying in better shape since!

My writing is something different though. I cannot put it aside. I often wish I could and go through fairly regular cycles of attempting to put it down. I'm not saying I'm excellent at it yet, or that I will ever be well-known for being outrageously good, but for some reason my conscience won't let me stop doing it. And I'm still trying to figure out why I keep wanting to stop.

Is it because it's hard and often lonely?

Is it because of the vulnerability a writer has to endure each time they publish anything?

Is it because I fear the high demands that might be put upon me if I actually do a great job?

I think it's a combination of these things and more, and I'm working to overcome all those doubts, fears, and worries. For now, I'm doing this. Showing up, writing about something (anything), and trying to remember that no work done for the Lord is wasted. I may not see the value, but I am trying to tell myself that it is there. This has definitely been a challenge but I believe it is worth pursuing.

What challenges are you working through? Internal or external, fighting through them is in itself an endeavor that will build strength and courage. Just keep going.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Gratitude Does Not Come From Comparison.

We all know that comparing ourselves to other is not good. But there's a trend I see happening, a trend that I am so sick of seeing promoted, that I am finally going to try and tackle it here on my blog. It will by no means be exhaustive, but I hope it gets your wheels turning.

When you are doing something wrong, or bad, or destructive, we are usually given advice on how to turn it around. We are commonly told to do the opposite of whatever it is. If you are thinking destructive thoughts about yourself, think positive instead. If you are feeling jealous about someone, pray for their well-being. If you are having trouble liking someone, serve them to help guide your heart in the right direction.

Advice for feeling grateful is all over the place. One method for feeling more grateful is to look at how much you have, but it usually turns to looking at what you have compared to others. This never sits well with me, and yesterday I ran into another instance. I'm reading a book on how to raise grateful children, and the author tells of a time when her children were being crabby and cranky several days after Christmas. Her and her husband decided that her children needed to serve.

At first I agreed, but I was thinking they would serve each other. Then she describes that her children needed to see how little other people had to give them a more accurate depiction of how much they had to be grateful for. And this is where I kind of lose my cool.

The less fortunate should not be used as a tool to magically produce our family's well-being.

This is not how gratitude ought to be taught!

We are ungrateful when we think we deserve to have more than we possess, or when we think what we have isn't enough. Yes, we often form what we think we ought to have around what other people have, and that is comparison. Being grateful for what we have based on how little other people have or how hard other people's lives are is just another form of comparison!

So yes, we still need to try to correct ourselves by doing the opposite of ingratitude, but the example above is not the opposite, it's just backwards. The opposite of ingratitude is gratitude, but the perspective by which we gain it should not be getting a better perspective of the less fortunate. We should never serve the poor in order to learn a lesson about how much we really have. We should serve the poor because we want to bless the poor, because we want to love them, because we want to show them that they are not alone and left destitute.

Our twisted reasons for serving the poor are probably why the poor are not served quite so often. It's foolish and wrong to let our family get their dose of gratitude and then go on its merry way.

The only way to have true, lasting gratitude is to know with absolute certainty that what we have now, and what we will have later, will always be enough. Not because other people have less, but because we trust that our God will grant us "all things that pertain to life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3). The problem is we don't want that. We don't always want the kind of life He wants for us. That verse continues on that it is through the knowledge of God, the one who calls us to His own excellence and glory, that we find everything we need.

Gratitude is not won by seeing how little other people have, or how much we have compared to others. It's won by seeing that what God gives us is enough.

Listing what you are grateful for is a powerful tool to straighten out your mind, but someday it might be that the only things you can list and are things not in this world. If we trust only the things we have here and now to bring us gratitude, we are banking on something temporal, and as Christians, our gratitude needs to be built on something far more sturdy.

So please don't tell your kids to be grateful because someone else has less; it's a comparison trap. Don't go serve the poor because your want your children to see how fortunate they are compared to the homeless or the struggling; it's selfish. Tell your kids they can be grateful that God will provide for them everything they need to live for Him, and then encourage them to set their hearts on that kind of life; a life that lives free from the cares of the world. Not free from caring about the world, but free from caring about what they get from the world.

Stop comparing backwards. Start being grateful for all the things we can only get from God. 

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." James 1:17

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Who Am I Writing For?

This question comes up again and again in training sessions. People say things like "you need to know your audience" and "you must know who you are writing to" or "try to imagine the woman you are sharing all of your words with." I keep trying to tell myself that I know my audience, but I'm starting to wonder. 

I first started blogging a year or so before Facebook was available to those not using an accredited college email. I never graduated, and I didn't use my old George Fox email, so Facebook wasn't an option for me until closer to 2009. I had mostly been blogging about our family as a way to let my parents, grandparents, and other family members stay up-to-date with what was going on in my life. Naturally, I blogged a lot about what God was doing in the midst of our life circumstances, and things were a bit crazy back then. 

After Cole was born, and our life got to be a bit more stable, I decided to start a blog that was more devotional in nature. I didn't share family pictures (I saved those for Facebook or my other blog) but tried to only write posts that were about things I was learning in church, or at bible study, or scriptures that were really coming alive for me. 

Jovi was born and I dipped my toes into the homeschooling world, and eventually decided to start this blog and gear it more toward homeschooling. When I first began homeschooling, the only blogs I could really find were run by women who seemed to have it all together, at least in a professional sense. They were either long-time-homeschoolers who were also writing fantastic books (Ann Voskamp was one) or business women who homeschooled their two children (obviously one of each gender) and had all kinds of curriculum, printables, and other sorts of stuff for sale. I wanted to do something different. 

I came at it realizing that homeschooling was less about the exact stuff you do and more about the way in which you do anything and everything. I was not a pro (I still am not) and had no creations of my own to sell (though I often wish I did) but I wanted pursuing God to be at the heart of everything. 

I wanted homeschooling mothers to have someone they could look at and say "Hey, if she can do it imperfectly and say it is still worth it, then maybe it's still worth it for my family too." I wanted moms to see that their willingness to learn and was a tool within their reach, a tool that would serve their family and enable them to teach well. I know I learn best when I am teaching, and everything I teach sticks with me far longer and is much more clear than anything I learn only for myself. 

Because I am a Christian, everything I write about comes from my eternal perspective. For this reason, I have a hard time only catering to homeschool moms. While we are a special class of people (not MORE special, just different), I also have things I want to share with women who are not homeschoolers. I hate to kind of "shut out" that whole other realm of women who don't homeschool (and might hate reading my blog because of the abundance of homeschooling posts) for the sake of having a more defined niche. And that struggle leaves me waffling. 

A couple years ago I changed my blog name from "Braving the Blackboard" to my name,, for writing/marketing/platform purposes. I wasn't convinced I wanted to write only for homeschoolers, but I still have a little debate going on about it in my head. I understand homeschooling better than traditional schooling. I know the unique struggles moms have who forfeit a day-job, a career, or even just the ability to clean their house without people at their ankles. I keep wondering if maybe they are who I should be writing to more intentionally. 

I have ideas about who I am writing for, but I'm still not totally sure. I want to come up with a better list regarding who that woman is before the end of the month, because I think it will give me better direction for what my daily writing should look like in February. I also just want to be more focused about why I am blogging, why I share what I share, and pray more intentionally over the people my blog will be reaching. 

In all of this, I keep forgetting that God knows. God knows who needs the words He is putting in my heart. He knows what route to take, what topic to talk about, when I need to be working on what, and where it will all lead. 

I am sensing a pattern to the end of all my posts. I keep realizing how God really has all these things in His hands, and how silly it is for me to just keep passing by Him while trying to work hard on all my endeavors. He's what I want, and He's what I want for you too. In Him are all the things we all need and to Him I will keep on pointing and turning. And I hope you'll keep turning and walking with me. 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Chores and More Chores.

I'm not sure if there are people who actually like chores. I mean, we all like when they are done right? But do real (sane) people actually like doing them just because?

I am actually a far better housewife than I was before I had kids. It's like as the pressure got greater to keep things tidy I finally stepped it up a bit. But then we just added another kid, then another, then started homeschooling. When it's not school-season I actually do a pretty good job :)

There is one chore, however, that I am almost always on top of: laundry! I know, weird right?

If I am far behind on laundry, you know that I am overwhelmed. I don't even think my husband has run out of clean undies even once in 15 years. That's a pretty good track record!

On the flip-side, there are a lot of chores I am TERRIBLE at staying on top of. For instance, vacuuming. It's a good thing we do not have pets. And last summer, when we were waiting to see when our carpet was going to finally be removed and we'd be kicked out for a while, I pretty much just stopped vacuuming. I mean, what was the point? Dust, dead skin, allergens... I know, I know.

Also, don't ask me about dusting. I never do it! Maybe a few times a year. It always feels good to have it done, but man, I just never even think about it until we are hosting Thanksgiving or something crazy like that.

I have been so much better with my plants though. Watering them on a pace that is right for each of them. I'm pretty proud that they are all alive, growing larger, and staying the right shade of green. Hopefully my orchid will re-bloom this year (I've had it for 8 months). I'm even thinking it's almost time to get a bigger plant to put somewhere, if I can convince Mark that is.

I'm decent at sweeping, and while I'm not terrible at dishes, I let them pile up a bit more than Mark prefers. I kind of leave everything until 4pm and then do a whole day's worth at once right before I make dinner. But Mark can't leave them that long, so he usually does a bunch in the morning or after dinner.

I'm decent at sweeping, and I have made a huge improvement in making my bed on a more regular basis - either Mark or I have been making it at least 5+ days each week! I think to improve as a wife, cleaning is the one thing Mark would love to see. He doesn't nag me about it thankfully, and now that the kids are far more helpful it is less of a disaster than it used to be. Progress is what we're looking for, right?

What chores are your favorite? Anything you are working to do better this year? Give me your best tips! And if you're like me, share with me your cleaning woes ;) Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

It Could Be Better.

I think I've shared this story before.

In High School, our choir director always gave the Seniors a parting gift and a little speech, sharing with the class what he appreciated and noticed in those students. My best friend Tina got a stud-finder, because she could always spot the cutest boy in a crowd ;) He said other nice things about her too, don't worry. When my turn came, he gave me a tape measure. He said I was someone he could count on to always be measuring how we were doing and notice where we could improve.

While I knew that to be true about myself, I don't think I'd really noticed how it impacted my day-to-day life. When you are young, your life can be so busy with so many exciting things. You are growing, searching for the next opportunity, and doors for adventure, schooling, relationships are all opening and closing left and right. But as an adult, I find myself with a lot more time (definitely too much time) where I am waiting for something and my thoughts begin to hurl me around and drag me places I don't really want to go.

When I was a dance team captain, this measuring-instinct served me very well. As a track athlete, it was useful to naturally be looking at where I needed to improve and strategize how to make that happen. It was fun! There was always hope at the end of that "I am getting better at this" that made it exciting and worthwhile. Fast-forward to my life now, and the constant measuring and seeing how I could be doing things better can get really old, really fast.

How can I get a better handle on dinners? How can I do a better job keeping up on household chores? How could my Instagram look better? How can my blog be better so that people want to read it? Maybe it's just my content - what better topics can I write about? Discontent with my body and appearance leads me to asking what kind of hairstyle, clothing style, or exercises I can put into the mix to look better. I don't actually want to know all the things I get distracted by that make my life "not as good" as I'd like it to be, but I can't help but see how everything could be improved at least a little bit.

In the workplace, this skill-set is SO helpful. I am that trustworthy employee who will not do things halfway, but I'm cautious enough about coming across as a know-it-all to take my time in making helpful suggestions. But, at home, that skill-set needs a lot of wrangling. And man, I am wrestling with it a lot lately.

Not everything needs to be better in order to be good, to be enjoyable, or to be worthwhile. There are lots of times when "good enough" is good enough for me, but lately I'm struggling to reign in that desire to make everything slightly better. I want to be better in a lot of ways that just don't work with my current responsibilities - I can only be awake so many hours! I know I can always do more, but that feeling of knowing I can do more is putting a pressure on myself that I just don't love.

I want to make this blog better, to be a better writer, to be a better homeschool mom, and have a better body in a lot of shallow ways. In all of this struggle though, I find myself even more frustrated that I don't often have the same desire to be better when it comes to following Christ. Maybe because I know it's hard work. I know it's good work, and that I will never regret it, but it's just another sacrifice to live more for Him than for myself, and making myself a priority often sounds like a lot more fun.

I'm still in the middle of this, just trying to get some thoughts off my chest, log my 500 words (I'm well over that now), and be a bit more transparent about what I'm walking through. Nothing crazy, nothing pivotal, just an internal struggle that crops up from time to time. I am sure hoping it's not just me!

What about you? Have you got an internal thing going on lately that you are putting off dealing with? Something to need to face that just sounds more like torture than progress? It's not just you girl. Keep at it.