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.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

How It's Going.

Hey friends! 

So far, most of these "daily challenge" posts have been about random subjects and topics that have just popped into my head. How has it been for you?

After a prompt from the regularly scheduled email this morning, I figured I'd sit and write about how this challenge is going for me so far. 

It hasn't been as difficult as I thought it would. I have lots of thoughts! It's not hard for me to come up with stuff to write about every day. That really isn't the problem I face in my day-to-day writing endeavors. 

So many authors say the most important thing you need to do as a writer is to write every day. But I'm curious how they actually write every day. Do they pick something random? Pick up where they left off in writing their book or proposal? I suppose if you have assignments and due dates that you work that stuff in where it needs to be (at least I would) but what else are they writing every day? 

I guess I used to assume that in order to write every day I had to have something "publishable" to be working on. My book(s), my proposal, a planned out blog post... something like that. And don't get me wrong, I have tons of stuff I could be writing about, but if I don't have an actual plan for when it needs to be done, turned in, or published, I tend to leave it on the back burner. Maybe it's just me, but it's kind of hard to just work on something you know might never go anywhere. 

I know, I know, God uses all that stuff. Nothing is really wasted. Even if something I write never gets anywhere, the practice of writing will bring value to the future projects I undertake. It's also hard for me to just slowly chip away at things. I like to have everything all outlined and planned out. And once I get in a groove, I hate to leave off when I need to get in bed or get to homeschooling or some (dull) housekeeping task. Funny, because I kind of dream of the scattered/artist-type life (that I'm sure if a terrible stereotype) of writing at crazy hours and have periods of immense seclusion from where I emerge all, I don't know, fulfilled? But that is kind of a crazy expectation. And the me that exists without much sleep is a me NO ONE wants to deal with.

So, how is this month going for me so far? I like the daily habit, but I'm unsure of how exactly to continue it. Maybe I ought to sit and plan out my writing days better? Maybe I need to sort out some possible topics to write about or plan for some outlining to help give me some structure when I sit down to write. I just don't know how to organize things to best serve my endeavors. 

I know it would help to have my endeavors written down somewhere, or even better, to really know them inside and out! I'm definitely getting there. And I know that writing every day has only helped (and I'm sure will continue to help) me get closer to being the kind of writer and hard-working artist I want to be. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Back in the Groove.

Getting back into homeschooling again this week has been a little rough. No one has been overly grumpy, but I've been very easily distracted. Last week we kind of took things slow, and without CC starting back up yet, I still had a bit more free time than usual. The last two days I've had to prep for tutoring, and then we'll be at CC all day tomorrow. Then later in the week, both the boys will have more work than we've had the last week and a half.

I'm not sure why this makes me so grumpy. I love what homeschooling does for my family. I guess I'm not totally content with what it requires of me. I've always been the type of person who has a side-projects and other endeavors I want to pursue, and it's true that homeschooling requires me to put those (or at least the timeline for pursuing those) on the back burner. 

I finished reading my first book of the year the other day... A Severe Mercy, by Sheldon Vanauken. It was really excellent. The first 1/3 of the book was a bit slow, a little romantic and gushy for my liking. I'm not really the romantic type, so trying to relate to some of that loftiness was just whatever for me. Still, my curiosity kept me going.

I won't spoil the book, but at the very end the author begins to talk about what he's learned through the very intense trial he endured. He starts to consider time. At the beginning, him and his love saw that if their love was to last, they would have to fight against separateness all their days. But much later he saw that that he, and all of humanity, is really always fighting against time. Even in their togetherness, they were seeking a way to hold onto and keep something as long as they could. The rest of this really gets good when he begins to speculate about eternity. 

I've always thought of heaven and eternity often, ever since I was little. Just realizing that I cannot comprehend it is something I like to attempt to grasp - a fun brain-teaser of sorts. But Sheldon starts thinking about the timelessness of eternity and how it frees us from so many things. We will have all the time we need to enjoy the beautiful world God has for His children. Not a moment ever wasted, never any time that got by us, never something we won't be available to enjoy. Now that is wild.

I think I never really thought about how much I fight against time. I always want more. In my more honest moments I can see that not having the time I want for the endeavors I want is what makes me a cranky woman. But after reading that bit from Sheldon, I started to realize that as God's daughter, I will have all the time I ever need for everything good I will ever do. 

In my head I know that my life won't end. Yes, I will die physically, but I'll get a new, restored body with the same soul. I so easily forget that my eternal life is a continuation of this one, not a completely different one. And there is nothing I must do here on earth that God won't give me time to do. No certain success that I need to feel pressured to gain, no pressing agendas that He will just sit by and watch me fail to do. And that is a promise I can bank on today. Even when all my progress is slow, sloppy, and just plain less good than I wish it to be, I can trust that I have all the time I need to make it as He pleases. 

That's the key: as He pleases. 

When I am pleased with what pleases Him, then I am at rest. My own agenda will never give me rest. Sure, success feels awesome, and being thought of as awesome is even better. But really, it's living a life pleasing to God that will be the best sort of awesome feeling I can ever find. And the funny thing is, the more content I am to make that my agenda, the more I love the rest of my life. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Too Many Pens.

Is it possible to have too many pens? Maybe too many crappy pens, but I don't think having an abundance of lovely, well-working, colorful pens is ever something I will feel bad about.

Like I said before, I spent all my birthday money on art supplies and books, and that included quite a few sets of new pens. I also got some pens and notebooks as Christmas gifts, so I'm getting to be pretty well stocked (but by all means, send more if you insist). I'm learning the ins and outs of what makes a pen nice, what makes it good for certain tasks, and what price-point feels like "good enough" for me.

Today another set of brush pens arrived. I have a couple sets of the Tombow Dual Brush Pens that I like quite a lot, but I saw someone on Instagram using the Ecoline Brush Pens and thought I'd order myself a set. At first I did feel a little bit bad for using my Amazon points on more markers, but after using them a little I realized it was just what I needed to learn a few lessons.

1- Every marker or pen has a different hardness, density, and inkiness that makes it write and look different.

2- You cannot know what markers or pens are best for what until you spend time experimenting.

3- I don't think I'll ever get sick of playing with markers and pens.

Never tried a brush pen? Well, here are a few things to know.

A softer brush end makes it harder to use in some ways; you have to be more precise and steady. But it's also easier to use because, if you've been practicing, it gives you a huge range of thickness to thinness in your lines, making it really fun to write with.

The inkiness of the pen really matters. It will give a different look with different amounts of pressure, and it can affect the sharpness of your edges (that kind of depends on the paper you are using too).

There will be a lot of trial and error going on, probably forever. I bought my first set of brush pens about 3 years ago, and while I was using them frequently for the first 6-ish months, they've just been used on and off for most of the last 2 years. Over the last several months, I've been getting more into that craft again and I'm having a ton of fun, but I'm still honing my skills and there are still a million things to learn.

You can learn a lot from watching other people letter, reading or listening to what they have to say about their likes and dislikes of certain products, but at some point you really just have to jump in and start. You can store up a lot of knowledge, but it will only really help you when you start making mistakes and are able to apply that knowledge to what happens.

Lastly, paying good attention to detail is a skill you MUST gain. It's just pivotal in art. Otherwise, it will take you ages to learn things, and you'll just have to hope that someone points things out to you, or writes about them. Being able to notice subtle movement differences, ink and paper combinations, and techniques in stokes and methods are all going to be most helpful if you can figure out how to connect the dots without being told directly.

Honestly, I think paying attention to detail probably comes more naturally to some than others, but it's something worth striving to grow in. It will make you a valuable asset in whatever role you function during your days and in whatever job you might get down the road.

I hope this has been a fun little insightful post. Let me know if you have questions about lettering or pens - I love to talk about what I'm learning!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

His Forever.

This morning we sang a song in church that hasn't come up for quite a while. I love it for many reasons... one being we tend to sing it in a range that is SO perfect for my voice. Yes, I know, that's one of the least important things to love about a song praising Jesus, but still, it makes it fun to sing. The melody is also very lovely, again not the most important factor, but still it's just another reason to enjoy singing it. Mostly, it's the lyrics and where they lead my thoughts that gets me every time.

Jesus, friend of sinners
Loved me 'ere I knew Him
Drew me with His cords of love
Tightly bound me to Him
'Round my heart still closely twined
The bond that none can sever
For I am His and He is mine
Forever and forever

Jesus, friend of sinners
A crown of thorns you wore for me
Bruised for my transgressions
Pierced for my iniquities
The wrath of God that I deserved
Was poured out on the innocent
He took my place, my soul to save
Now I am His forever

Jesus, friend of sinners
I love to tell the story
Redeeming love has been my theme
And will be when in glory
Not death nor life nor anything
Can ever separate me
Oh, love that will not let me go
Yes, I am His forever

by Pat Sczebel and Sovereign Grace Music

You really must listen to the actual song. It's so good. The melody just goes so well with the words and really helps your mind to settle into the calm joy that resonates in this song.

The line that really got me this morning was "Redeeming love has been my theme." Do you sense a theme in your life? God's provision maybe? His healing? Or maybe it's of miraculous rescue? 

I can't remember when, but during some training I was listening to, they recommended writing down every single prominent memory you could quickly recall in succession over the course of your life. Yes, that might take a while! But the woman encouraged us to do it without much thought, just quickly spending 20-ish minutes writing a bunch of things down. The woman leading this training was trying to help us get our "life theme" out in a rather simple way. 

If you sit and think about your life too much, it's easy to get bogged down by little things or get overly detailed about traumatic situations and miss the big picture. It's often easy to look at the lives of other people and see the big picture of what God has done in them, but often difficult to see that same zoomed-out image of our own. So with this tool I sat and wrote. I don't really remember where it led me, but it's not the point of what I wanted to share anyway. 

I guess I'm rambling a bit, but I wanted to encourage you to look at your life in this zoomed-out way, as much as you're able. There is something God is doing, some story He is telling with your life. It's His, and it will bring Him glory, and it's not our job to determine what that story will be. It's our job to live it well, to love God in all of it, and to point to His love and sacrifice as the anchor of our hope. Whether His glory is displayed through healings, through maintaining joy despite suffering pain, through keeping a commitment that feels unbearable, or through the blessing of beautiful relationships... it's all for His glory. 

I want to remember that His story is being written no matter what my ambitions are or what goals I desire to achieve. Remembering that I am His forever, and that the theme of my life revolves around what He is orchestrating helps me chill out and enables me to just enjoy what He puts before me, instead of resenting it or becoming jealous of others. If it's good enough for God's plans to glorify Himself through me, it's definitely good enough for me to enjoy.

Make sure you follow this link to listen to that song too... you won't be disappointed!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Dessert Love.

Once again, I'm doing this late in the evening.

We spent most of our day out in McMinnville celebrating my mother-in-law's birthday and we ended up staying late to watch an evening football game. I had thought about bringing my computer so I could possibly write while I was there but figured I'd just do it later. I also thought about typing out a post from my phone, but ain't no one got patience for that.

It's not really hard to think of things to write about, but it's hard to think of interesting things to write about. I know this challenge is not supposed to be about writing something really amazing, but I just always wish I could :)

Anyway, I am sitting here eating some peanut butter-filled pretzel bites and thought maybe I would write about some of my favorite foods.

I'm a dessert girl. I joke that I have a 2nd stomach just for desserts, and my mom and many others who know me well can testify. My husband discovered early on that I have almost no limit of the amount of dessert I can eat. I also have a special happy look that I get when I think of delectable foods... I just can't help it!

We had only been married two weeks when we were getting ready to be in the wedding of our best friends. We were through with the rehearsal and were having a wonderful time at dinner when dessert came around. It was this incredible chocolate mousse, served in a chocolate cup and I devoured mine in about one minute. Mark could only eat about half of his... so I finished it off for him, just to be a good wife. Then, another one of our best friends also could not eat all of his.... and you know what comes next. I ate his too.

Did I feel sick? No. Was I full? Not quite. Did I have any regrets? Well, I only weighted about 100 pounds back then, so no.

Mark was shocked. He had never seen that side of me, and I've proved it still exists over and over again. Although, now that I cannot just eat 3000 calories in a day without turning into a fat blob, I try to limit my dessert intake. I can't wait for desserts in heaven - they must be amazing, and calorie free!

My favorite desserts these days come from a local place called Papa Haydn's. Not only do they have amazing food on their dinner menu, but their dessert options are fantastic. They have a huge menu, a giant case full of gorgeous cakes and treats, and I've loved almost every single thing I've had. Which is actually quite a lot, since we used to live 1 mile away and spent many a date-night consuming calories while the kids slept at home with mom and dad keeping an ear out.

If you are in Portland, you MUST go eat there sometime. They have their regular dessert menu, which is seriously FULL of amazing items to choose from, but then they always have some seasonal items too. Here are a few of my favorites:

- Chocolate Truffle Cake
- Passion
- Raspberry Gateau
- Marjolaine
- Cassata

In the summer they sometimes have a lime-coconut cake that is adore, plus their cocktails (especially the hot ones) are fantastic.

I could go on and on about other desserts at other places, but I'll leave it at this for now. Go to Papa Haydn's, and don't share your dessert with a friend or loved one (unless you both go halfsies). Worst case scenario, you'll have extra dessert for tomorrow!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Finding Priorities.

As I speak, my husband and his friend/our friend are downstairs chatting away. He joined our family for Family Movie Night tonight and we have been talking and catching up on life and such. We watched a helpful TED talk about time management and how making priorities is what really manages our time. At the end I realized I had not written my 500 words yet today and decided to hop upstairs and get to it - after all, it's a priority this month!

In the TED talk, the woman says that we have time for what we make time for, for what we prioritize. She gives the example of a busy woman who had her hot water-heater break and ruin a ton of stuff in her basement, and how the woman found seven hours in her week to deal with all of it. How did she manage squeezing out that many hours? It was urgent! Super-duper important. 

So when we say we don't have time for something, and we feel like saying "I don't have time," this woman (sorry, I cannot remember her name) says what we really should say instead is "That's not a priority for me."

It's kind of hard to say, isn't it? Especially when whatever that "thing" is is something we actually want... just not more than the other things we are doing instead. I find this true in my own life, and I've only recently begun to recognize that many things aren't as important to me as I like to think they are. 

What's really sad, is that usually it's my comfort-level or my laziness that are the priority. Why don't I want to clean my bathrooms? Too much work. Why don't I want to get up and cook a nice breakfast? I'd rather sleep. Why don't I read my bible more than I read other books? Yikes, good question! 

But recognizing my own genuine priorities is the only way to start not doing the things I don't actually want to do, and begin doing the things I've only been wishing or hoping to participate in. Like art (hopefully you aren't sick of hearing about this yet). If I want to make progress in my artistic endeavors, I need to spend more time on it. Who cares if it isn't hours every day? 30 minutes every day is still more time than I was spending on it before. 

Last year when I decided to make reading those three categories of books a priority, I tried to figure out how many chapters per day I would need to read. It was kind of an estimate, since many of the books I was planning to read I did not have on hand yet to check the chapter totals, but I figured if I read 3-5 chapters per day I would easily reach my goal. After a few days, I read my five chapters but still felt like I was not reading enough. It dawned on me that since I just love reading and learning, the amount of time I spent reading would probably never feel like enough. So now when I "feel" like I haven't read enough, it's easy for me to recognize that it's just because I love it, not because I didn't actually prioritize it enough. The actual amount of time spent or the short-term goal accomplished needs to inform me of my progress more than how I am feeling about all of it and it has been much easier for my to see that I actually am following my priorities.

Like most problems, admitting you have a problem is the first step, right? Where are you struggling with priorities that you want to get straightened out? For me, decreasing my social media time has been a big deal. If I'm on there too much, it's both a time-suck and a soul-suck. Trading that time for doodling, lettering, painting, and whatever else has had the exact opposite effect. 

Are there areas in your life that you can swap like this? Think about it. Let me know how it goes. And Happy Weekend to you :)

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Writing Bug.

I'm not exactly sure I have "the writing bug." When I read books from other writers about what it feels like to be a writer, I can totally sympathize. It's very "in your own head" and can be extremely isolating... if you are actively writing that is. It feels like selfish work. It sometimes feels like pointless work.

I keep seeing ads for a subscription to something called Master Class. Have you heard of it? Basically, it's a company that has a ton of top professionals in different fields who teach a set of sessions on their field of expertise. I love the little blurb by Margaret Atwood! I also watched the ad for the class with Judy Blume and she said some interesting things that stuck with me. She says the only reason she thinks writers write is because they feel they have to, that they don't have a choice. She says it is a horrible profession; isolating, full of rejection, painfully slow, and often demoralizing.

It's that "have to write" that keeps me going. The last couple months I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out my need to write. And, when I'm honest, I think I was trying to silence the part of me that needs to write, or feels compelled to. I certainly don't think I need to write for my own consolation, or to feel better about life. I'd really rather not! In fact, I'm sick of writing something and trying to see if I can make it good enough for people to want to read and share it. I know I don't HAVE to do that, but it's the natural next step my brain wants to take when I write something.

I do sometimes write simply because I just HAVE to share what I am learning. That's the part of writing that resonates with me. I enjoy explaining stuff. I love comping up with the perfect analogy for something that is difficult to describe, or digging deep into my research to come up with a more precise way of knowing and understanding whatever it is I'm studying. But the job of writing and the "career" that it seems to produce in the field I write in... I just can't envision that.

I used to see myself as becoming a big-name Christian author, and I won't lie, it's still kind of enticing to me. I've just always desired to stand out and be known for something impressive (just being honest here). But more and more I am seeing that I am scared to become that, and I feel like I have no idea how I could possibly navigate that and my family very well at the same time. It's not a dream I want to chase, but I still can't escape the compulsion to write, or the burden that I feel when I stop doing it. However, being very type-A, and having an overbearing Achiever personality, I cannot escape all the planning, figuring out, and trying to make-it-happen that comes with having a goal.

Truth is, I can't figure out a goal that works with my life right now, and it's driving me a little bonkers. I understand that with homeschooling and mothering well, my goals necessitate a much slower pace than I'd like to go. But I often would rather just not do it than go so slow. So I distract myself, pursue other things, and try to figure out how to turn off the "you must write" switch that is somewhere in my soul.

I don't think I can turn it off, but I'm not actually excited for where that will lead me. I suppose it's wise to not be disillusioned about the future I am pursuing, but I'm definitely trying to figure out how to move forward with excitement about it when it all feels very daunting and potentially very un-fun.

This might be a lot more soul-searching than you bargained for in this post. But, it's where I'm at. And it's what you get since I couldn't think of anything better to write about today - ha! Thanks for reading anyway :)

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Juggling Everything.

My life feels crazy sometimes, and I usually try to blame it on homeschooling (ha).

It really is a privilege to be able to stay home each day and not need to get a job outside the home. I am blessed to have such great support in my homeschooling that I almost never have a family member or friend treating me like I am not competent enough to handle it. I am so thankful that homeschooling has not required us to drastically change our lifestyle, as I was still staying at home with the kids before we even began. Granted, without homeschooling we'd likely go on more vacations, and I might be more sane, but so far, it has been a greater blessing than it has been a burden.

This doesn't mean I don't have to do a lot of juggling or sacrificing though.

The hardest part of all the juggling is really hard to nail down. There are a lot of inconveniences, but also a lot of be glad about. I'm going to list a few challenges along with their counterpart blessings and hopefully it will be an interesting thing to read.

- I have to clean up so many dishes because we are eating breakfast, lunch and dinner here almost every day... but I almost never have to either prep lunches the night before or early in the morning (hallelujah!).

- I often have to interrupt my own schooling-schedule to get the laundry done... but I usually have helpers hanging about. Bonus: if I fold laundry in the evening, it's a good excuse to close my bedroom doors and listen to podcasts or audiobooks without a spec of guilt!

- It is SO hard to schedule Dr and Dentist appointments for myself when I have to find a sitter, interrupt schoolwork, and/or take them with me... but figuring out when to schedule their appointments is a breeze!

- When I leave the house to go run errands, I have to take almost all of them with me every single time... but, with limited "school events" I almost never feel like a chauffeur.

- It is really hard to find time to be alone and gather my thoughts... but, that means I do a lot of my living and learning WITH my kids, thus exposing them to a lot of "adult" problems throughout their lives.

I am pretty confident that homeschooling has given me more than it has taken away. Sure, they might miss out on certain things I had in school (free music lessons, more pick-up sports and games, riding a school bus), but they also get out of a lot of things I wish I could forget. Plus, living up here in Portland is such a great place for a homeschooler. There are SO many activities for the kids to be involved in, more than one family could ever take advantage of. Springtime in Oregon is amazing, and we have loads of time to hike, go to the zoo, and take day-trips that kids in regular schools can't do at their leisure.

Most of all, homeschooling has taught me how to learn and that has given me a confidence I carry into many other areas of life. Yes, I often feel an insane amount of pressure to do my best by them, and to get everything done in a way that doesn't take away from their education, but I'm learning how to juggle expectations, to not question my decisions so much, and pare down our activities to what my husband and I believe will be most valuable for them.

It's a hard road, full of bumps, trials, and learning, but it's one I'm so thankful to be traveling.