Thursday, September 2, 2021

Keep Stopping.

 Few people seem able to stop their mindless doing. Myself included.

Listening to a story on my porch this morning, I started out simply sitting with coffee and earbuds. The story was powerful, interesting, simple, beautiful, and so on. Add every lovely adjective you can think of. Before long though, I desired to do more than sit there. Why was it so difficult to sit and be filled with this story? 

The story made me feel, made me alive in ways that not much else does. Sadness, regret over childhood woes, sympathy for those enduring hardship, sympathy for adults with problems, and a desire to live differently. I think that’s where the restlessness started. A longing for other, for better, for more.

But not more of the things I currently have, or what others have, or really anything I know the world says it can offer. I wanted more of what can only come by prayer, by actually living, by giving and loving and serving when it feels easier to just gain for myself. I wanted to make my life count, but I also knew the selfish desire inside that longs to fill my life with things that only rot in the end. I wanted something I knew I would fail at pursuing. 

My discomfort arose as I came face-to-face with the large disconnect in myself. One, I believe, that looms large and often hidden in our culture. 

With our lips we say that giving is a high honor. Give kindness, give compassion, give of your resources and energy to things that are important. But what do we do? We spend all day promoting ourselves, finding ways to maximize our time so we can get what we want and we think we need. We take great pains to make our lives enjoyable to the max. We sacrifice time with our children for the sake of having the money we think we need to give our children wonderful lives, by which we actually mean wonderful vacations, experiences, or a schedule full of socially acceptable activities.

We cannot avoid this ugly truth: we will always want more for ourselves. We like the busyness and distractedness of our schedules because then we won’t have to face this ugly truth or make any real change. If we can stay full, stay moving, stay looking at the moving target, we won’t have to look at the realities and hardships and destruction that actually fill our world and that sometimes fill our own hearts and homes. When our lives are just the right amount of hectic, we have more than enough to be concerned about and we can put off figuring out the truth about how we should be living until a later date, until a more convenient time. 

I am not deceived; I know I am guilty. I wanted to play a game on my phone while I listened to that beautiful story. With the level of sickness and trial we have recently come through, my emotions felt  too tender to fully engage in the story coming into my ears and through my heart. My pain is fresh, and his (fictional) hurt felt like my own. I wanted to cry, to wander off and yell, to find some sad child and make their life better. I wanted to DO something about all the sadness. But what is there really for me to do about all of it? All the doing God requires of me today feels dull, frustrating, repetitive. I wanted to do the REAL things that make an impact, not the unknown, unnoticed, undesirable things. 

If I am ever to really get through this problem in myself, and not just around it, I must face the reality that all the real doing has already been done, and will be finished at a time that I cannot control. All the ugly, terrible, unjust evil that has ever occured will be undone and utterly redeemed, but not because of my doing anything at all. I must wait and trust the One who ordains every moment. 

How does a person wait amidst all this sadness? How does one feel the weight of hardship in one's own life with the proper perspective? Why do I need to feel the weight of other’s as well? Maybe in the world we cannot see, I can actually take some of that pain from others, to help carry their unseen burdens. I find the weight so haunting that I become agitated and restless to where I either need to DO something about it, or DO something to be distracted. But as a lover of the truth, I’m having trouble justifying doing either of those things. I cannot just sit and let pain wash over me, but I also must.

I would much prefer to find an easier thing to do and avoid the unglorious work I suspect lies before me. Will I find the answer in writing what’s on my heart? Producing art that might someday become a success? Can I find it in just being home, available for my people, and doing dishes without biting my children’s heads off? Should I proactively seek ways to earn income in case my husband cannot go back to work? Should I just wait, rest, listen, and lean into those hard feelings that scare me, those emotions that I’m not sure fit inside me anymore, those emotions that seem immeasurable? If I sit with them long enough, will it change me for good? If I let them out, when will they stop? Will I have what it takes to do the real and valuable something I will be called to do? Even if it looks like a waste to the rest of the world? Or will I just forget the realities of those hardships and go back to playing on my phone again? 

Of all of these questions, I fear the last one the most. But do I fear it enough to choose differently? Do you?

Monday, August 9, 2021

Relationship Matters

 I'm pretty sure not too many people would argue with me about the benefits of homeschooling. Not only is it becoming apparent nationally that homeschoolers tend to excel academically, but socially they are not an inept as the reputation they generally have received. No, the benefits are not really where people get lost. It's in the sacrifice of self. 

I'm not saying everyone needs to homeschool; obviously, if everyone started homeschooling this week we would have major collapses economically and socially. That debate about the public school system and how it affects our politics, economy, job-market, and more is for someone much more enlightened than me. What I really want to write about today is relationship, about living, and about how homeschooling matters in those regards. 

 After going through a couple years of struggle in regards to our homeschooling atmosphere, I ran into a wall. I realized I could not make my kids want the good things I wanted for them. I had to wrestle with my faith, my identity, my ambitions, my physical limits, and most of all, I had to deal with all of the ways and things I did not want to sacrifice. I had to deal with my regrets in how I dealt with my children and ask God to redeem all my mistakes. I had to swallow the large pill of not being able to undo my own missteps and trust God for the futures of my children. And navigating all that has led me here, to some of these conclusions.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that last summer I posted my list of these lessons along with short explanations. I have been quietly working out how to put those into a book, and been less than diligent about getting a proposal of sorts together. But my heart has still be working through all of that, and throughout our transition to Tennessee I have seen the truth in these ideas and am implementing them into my homeschool coaching. This biggest idea, which was actually the whole reason I started out homeschooling, has become even more prominent and important to me. Truly, I feel undeserving of learning this before my kids are too far gone, and pray that God will still redeem the time. You ready?

Your relationship with your children will determine their ability to live well more than how well you homeschool. 

Anyone coming from an abusive home will tell you what a hindrance that has been for them in gaining a normal level of stability in life. Not that it cannot be overcome, but it takes intentionality and comes with a lot of frustration and challenge. Even when you come from a home with some low-level dysfunction, you have to work through that stuff. So why do most homeschooling organizations focus so much on the educational aspect instead of the relational? Fear? Distrust? Trying to ease the worries of parents? I'm not sure exactly, and I'm certainly not saying real learning doesn't need to happen. What I am saying is that your relationships in the home will be a gift unlike any other and will require a sacrifice unlike any other. 

When I began homeschooling, I was convicted that my #1 job as their mother was to do all I could to reveal Christ to my children. As I got further into homeschooling, somehow that priority shifted without me realizing it. I thought my kids needed all the right books, the right friends, the right mix of socialization and alone time, the right activities offered at the right time, and the list goes on. Add on whatever other things you pursue out of a worry that you are depriving your children: those things will likely become an obsessive distraction. 

The truth is, when we won't give our children our attention, our love, our interest, or our time, we deprive them of what they long for most. Even as I enter the teenage years, and my son needs me to do less things for him, he still needs a lot of my attention and interest. My care, my willingness to be nice when I feel like rolling my eyes, my time in printing out web-shooter templates for him off the internet: those are building his character more than making sure I've read the right book at the right time. 

Demanding what I deem as good behavior, requiring my level of perfection on maps, expecting them to love learning the way I do... when I hold these things over them, I ruin our relationship. It might seem like these are my godly convictions, but the truth is that I often make excuses and say these things are what God expects while also acting in ways that displease Him. It cannot be this way.

There is a way to homeschool well without looming over our children and checking off every box we think they might need. This is what it really means to trust God with their lives. We do what seems best at the time, and trust that if there is a different path, God will lead us on it. The problem arrises when we think we know the best path and are unwilling to stray from it, even when the signs of destruction are all around us. 

So if you are feeling wobbly today in your homeschooling journey, stop. Take a breath. Get out your bible, read a Proverb with your children, look them in the eye, and let them know you love them. Bake something together, make something together, take a little journey somewhere refreshing (a park or hike will do just fine), and ask God to help you love them well. 

Homeschooling well has to begin with loving them well. That means knowing they are God's children, trusting that He loves them better, affirming that His will in their lives will be done (and will be done best) without you lording over them with your authority, worksheets, and perfectionistic demands. It will mean a lot more sacrifice than you expect, but God always returns it with peace in your heart and peace in the home. There is a place for persistence and skill-training, but it will never be accomplished without love or by force. 

Believe that God can turn out an amazing person who has less than amazing handwriting! My husband is a perfect example ;) He is amazing and writes in chicken-scratch. Trust that God can use a person for His good work who can't draw a very good map, or doesn't have an amazing memory, or only barely finished Algebra 2 before being done with High School. 

If the battles in work and achievement in your home are causing a rift in your relationship with your kids as mother, fix that first. Find ANY way you can to lovingly put good content into their hearts while dealing with your interior motives and perspectives. Their soul's well-being depends on your input, and your well-being depends on letting God input His priorities into your heart. Let Him do that. Be open to how the changes might look. Make room for that change and watch to see the difference it will make in your home. The beauty will overshadow every sacrifice.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Better Eyes

 The older I get, the more I understand that life is really all about seeing. 

When someone comments on one of my floral drawings, I'm usually quick to point out the my skill level is not actually extraordinary. I just look really hard at where the curves and lines are on my flower, then try my best to make my lines the same... or mostly. Typically, said person still thinks that takes some skill, but to me it just seems like I have learned to see lines clearly. 

This same concept is true in painting. In order to paint a picture well, you need to be able to see well first. Variances in shadows, shades, lines, colors: it's all very important if you are trying to replicate, even in general, a landscape or portrait or anything that happens to be your subject. 

Living well is also an art, and it also takes a special kind of seeing. 

I've been considering this more during the last couple years of my foray into more and more fiction literature, especially as I have wandered into fairytales (unfortunately, only in reading, not in reality). I'm currently listening to Lilith by George MacDonald, and after also listening to Phantastes last year, I am seeing so many connections, so many truths that for some reason do not immediately hit home at first glance. It has reminded of Moses. 

We all know that Moses saw the burning bush, but there's a tiny detail I saw in the story that forever changed me. 

"Then the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire within a bush. As Moses looked, he saw that the bush was on fire but was not consumed. So Moses thought "I must go over and look at this remarkable sight. Why isn't the bush burning up?" When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called out to him from the bush, "Moses, Moses!" Exodus 3:2-4

Moses didn't just see the burning bush and then God spoke. Moses saw the bush, he wondered about it, decided to look more closely in order to understand it, and that's when God spoke. In fact, scripture reads like that is the reason why God spoke to him. I'm sure God knew Moses would wonder and then look more closely, but this is still important to see, to remember, and to know why that detail is important. 

As I continue in educating myself and my children, I keep asking a lot of questions. Some days, the questions are more like "Is this worth it?" "Am I doing more good than harm?" "Could someone else do this better?" But for the most part, the questions that keep coming to mind are "How can I use this to make a difference in their lives?" "How can I help more people see the truth?" and even "How does anyone actually see the truth?" As my mind sometimes begins to spiral from one heavy question to another, I often wonder what the point of all our education really is. I know in my head that it is to know God and make Him known, and to help all of us better see truth, beauty, and goodness, but then, how are we to use those things and what is it we really ought to do

Education, like drawing and painting, is a practice in seeing more clearly. The older I get the more convinced I am that seeing better will equal living better. Seeing God's reality more clearly will help me to sin less voluntarily, to live more freely, to love more willingly. We think if we figure out what to do, we will see how to go about it. This is backwards! We need to see first and trust that what to do will come out of that clarity.

The problem is, most of us do not see the truth being displayed around us every day. The world lies to us, people lie to us, even our minds lie to us. This is where excellent fiction can help tear down the things that keep us from seeing, and in so doing, free us to live better. 

It's easy to see error in the story of a sweet 11 year old boy making a devilish mistake or a grown bachelor wasting his life wondering away in a library instead of actually living. We are told his inner motives, witness the fallout, and hopefully also see the forgiveness and redemption on the other side. We don't often get to see the pieces so clearly in our own lives, and it's generally far too painful to have someone else point them out directly. But when we are immersed in a story that can stay on the pages, it somehow bleeds into us in a safe way, a private way, so we can walk through our challenges without fear and then come out with a deeper understanding of how our lives are impacting the world around us. It gives us a way out of ourselves so that the way we see ourselves is closer to the reality others see. It's not the same as introspection, or obsession with self-knowledge, but like looking into a mirror where we see some of the ugly reality but also a way out. 

Ultimately, that way out is always Jesus, and the path is also almost always through a pattern of surrender and sacrifice. Here is where stories give us the courage to believe what we see! When you read the best of fiction, namely fairytales, you also see how this difficult path our ordinary hero takes is always for his good. He always comes out better, more beloved, more content, and more at peace. We see his outcome and it gives us the courage to trust the outcome Christ has for us, the outcome Christ has freely given us through His death and resurrection. We know that our death will not be the tragedy we sometimes envision, and that our surrender is sure to breed good fruit. 

I am finally understanding in my heart what C.S. Lewis meant when he explained "But someday you will be old enough to start reading fairytales again." 

A good fairytale is really just truth that is sweet, small, and beautiful enough for us to devour without realizing the goodness it will give our souls. It is just one way that God can give us eyes to see and ears to hear. So, by all means, still make reading your bible a first priority, but then, wander into a fairytale and embrace the new vision it will give you of God, of the world, and your place in it. 

* This post does contain affiliate links and I certainly appreciate the extra few cents it may reward me ;)

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

The Dauntless Act of Writing

I think most people who have any inclination toward writing something of historical value, wonder what it takes to become a great writer. I write this not because I am one, but because I can commiserate with the desire and for many long years have been thinking about it, yearning for it, wishing for it, and have not really done much about it. I do desire for that to change, and I hope something stronger than my ambition can get me there. 

So what does it take?

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

For one, it is more about being than doing. Yes, a huge part of being an excellent writer is that you do, in fact, write excellently. However, you must also write about excellent things, which means you must have excellent thoughts, excellent ideas, know how to use excellent words, make excellent mental connections, and generally, have an excellent sense of humor. You must BE excellent in many ways, inside and out. 

How does one become excellent then? I cannot answer this apart from knowing Christ. In my own life and on my own path, I become a grouchy, isolated, selfish little hermit, or on the opposite end, I become boastful, overly-talkative, and want only to show myself off. All of my true excellence comes from Christ, and to try and set you on a path other than that would be doing us both a disservice. He is what makes me good, able to do good, able to become good. And besides all that, He is the one who prompts me to do the writing, to delve into the difficult, and to share the excellent things He illuminates. When His truth is revealed, it makes Him seen, and we can be thankful when our writing is beautiful to others, but mostly we can rest knowing it is beautiful to Him. 

So, first off, becoming excellent via the gift of Christ. 

Next up, die. 

Yes, you must die in a thousand ways every day in order to write well. Otherwise, your writing is always going to be full of your agenda. There are times when sitting down to write out something intentional and specific is called for: recipes, instructions, specific explanations or responses to questions. Much of becoming great though, is a death to my own plans, a surrender to the unseen, the unknown, the untested. Living through what I’d rather not endure or dare not volunteer for is what makes me able to write well. To tap into the ideas that live beyond myself and in another world, I must give up my ideas of what I am willing to live through and give into what He has in store. 

The actual writing itself is fairly painful and when we experience pain of any sort, it helps put pain into the right perspective and enables us to endure it better. For instance, the words never come out right the first time, I can never type as quickly as my thoughts, and it always requires a lot more time and energy than I expect. I have to surrender to my limits, my brain’s ability, and the mysterious balance of my emotional and physical limits. I have to be mostly okay with things not going my way, and this last year has revealed just how terrible I am at that. 

The process of becoming a great writer will most definitely include enduring much more unpleasantness than you expect, and in a variety of ways. One last way I am going to address here is in regards to thinking.

I get great pleasure from thinking, but my brain doesn’t know when to turn off. I am great at distracting it, for a time, but in the end, my brain will pick back up where it left off, and rather than getting through the things I’d rather not think about, I have instead only delayed them. Cue the spiraling thoughts about all the time I have wasted and cannot get back (ten years flies much faster than you’d imagine). Enter the haunting idea that maybe I am far too boring or old or tired to trade in my experience and time for some excellence in written word. I begin wondering if I have what it takes, and what will happen to my life if I don’t do this hard work right this minute and fight harder than I think I can in order to become more than what I am now. This, and 1,000 other thoughts swirl while trying to untangle a story-line, an outline, a detail that I think I hear God whispering to me. And that’s all before I put any of it into paper, or even dare to share the general concept with my spouse or a friend.

As a writer, you have to think about much more than you’d prefer, both because of much of the unpleasantness of the human condition and also the difficulty of piecing together a story. Your brain is like a muscle, and it must be stretched, exercised, and pushed harder than is comfortable in order to become stronger. If I have the inspiration to write about a situation or topic, it is likely that God will push that idea out of me through a level of thinking my lazy-self would rather not do. So, then either I don’t write it and feel the loss or depression of not having actually written anything, or I write something less than amazing and bemoan that, or I do a lot of internal and difficult work to then sit down and hash out that difficult work onto paper or my computer with no immediate gratification. It all sounds very lovely, yes?

Lastly (for now), if you want to be a writer of long-term significance, you must accept that you are not living in your own time. This will come with rejection and probably some isolation, as you may not relate with as many people around. Your work may never be popular in your day, and even if it is, that is still not a guarantee it will last. As I do not know how much we will know about the going-ons of earth after our own death but before the end of the world, you may very well go to your grave and beyond without the gratification of seeing people love, enjoy, and benefit from your work. Can you live with that kind of unfulfillment? As I mentioned before, the only recommendation I have for this is Christ. With Him, and His eternal promises, I know full-well (though often must remind myself) that my work on earth has eternal benefits and it doesn’t matter much whether I know about them before I leave this world or not. 

Much of this does not seem worth the trade-off, yes? Maybe you are wondering where the hope is in becoming a great writer? Right where it needs to be: the eternal rewards of giving my life to the Lord and to others. If our writing does not aim to be an everlasting, fruitful gift, it is out of the wrong motives. As with much work that has the best of motives, it is not always accepted well for a time and the risk of all that time and effort, of lost years, and missed events can be incredibly daunting. That's why it's even more important that our vision for the outcome is cast far, far away and placed entirely in God's hands.

I often go at writing with hopes that are mixed, and when discouraged, I go through long seasons of distraction and looking for something better, more productive, more rewarding (in the now) to do. While reading Jeremiah this month I have been struck by his dilemma. He was persecuted so often for the truth he spoke, proclaiming God’s wrath in a very direct and unpopular way. He decided to stop telling everyone what God was telling Him, and you don’t get the sense that God was forcing Him to do this or assigning it as punishment, though God clearly told Jeremiah to go and prophecy. Despite his desire to live out of the spotlight, out from under the scrutiny of others, Jeremiah cannot stop. He is restless, and it became painful for Him to keep God’s words in, a fire in his bones, ready to explode. He couldn’t help but share and he finally became willing to endure the consequences of his sharing because he trusted his fate to the Creator. He knew the reward for him would not come in this life, and that it would actually bring him suffering, unpopularity, shame, and isolation, but he still did it. 

I am no Jeremiah, but I feel a sliver or two of his internal turmoil and his external suffering. 

If we are to be writers who live beyond our lives, we must live beyond ourselves right now too, not just in the words we put to paper (or screen), but in our daily living, in our willingness to endure, beyond difficulty, beyond companionship (notice I did not say without), beyond instant gratification, and beyond this world we can see. We must go into what we can’t see and bring it back to show whoever might dare to look. 

This journey is not for those who want to be popular, rich, or live a life of ease. The writer’s journey is one of a time traveler, a cross-bearer, a willing captive. Is this what you are willing to become? If not, you may still have fun being a good writer, and your wit and skill with words may still bless and encourage others. But if you want to be great, you must become a servant to the hungry souls you aim to reach. It may reduce you to nothingness, starvation, and a soul-parched dryness you worry you may not come back from, but the rewards do await, as long as you are willing to wait to receive them on the other side.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Give Your Weaknesses a High Five

* disclaimer: this post does contain affiliate links that help to fund my efforts in supporting your homeschooling & spiritual growth *

There's a great debate about weaknesses vs. strengths. 

In college I had to read (rather, GOT to read) the book Now, Discover Your Strengths. It's all about embracing what you are naturally good at and focusing more on improving and using those traits instead of spending all your energy getting rid of your weaknesses. There's a lot of helpful advice in that! Sure, you've got to make sure your weaknesses are not wiping out your strengths, but spending priceless time and energy trying to become that much better on a skill that you will likely never be great at is just not wise.

However, it's different with Jesus (as are most things, right?). 

It's not that we can't work to improve in our areas of strength, or that we shouldn't spend some effort making sure our weaknesses aren't drowning us. It's that in Jesus, our weaknesses can be like magic.

Well, not a magic for us to harness ourselves, but they are an avenue Jesus uses to make Himself so glorious

Before I go into that, one more thing about our strengths. When we rely on them, we are going to eventually encounter some level of disappointment. After all, we are human and we have limits! If we boast in what we are skilled in or what we can accomplish, that stuff can be wiped away in an instant, putting us to shame. Thankfully, there is one thing we can confidently boast in: knowing God

In Jeremiah 9 there is a conversation going back and forth between God and Jeremiah about the people of Israel. In it he tells Jeremiah to tell the people:

"Thus says the LORD: 'Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight declares the LORD.'" Jeremiah 9:23-24

Knowing and understanding God is what God says we can boast about; knowing what God loves and does and delights in. I'm pretty sure that turns into us loving and doing and delighting in those same things. 

So, we boast in our understanding and knowing God, and then Paul, hundreds, of years later tells us we can boast in one more thing: our weaknesses.

Photo credit: Siora Photography @siora18

Paul has gone over this ideas several times in 1 & 2 Corinthians, that is it through weakness that Christ's power is revealed. Finally in 2 Corinthians 12 he begins to tell about his personal struggle with a "thorn in the flesh," which he saw as a weakness, something he desperately wanted to be relieved of. After much pleading, God speaks to Paul telling him "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness." 

But what does that actually look like? 

Cindy Rollins posted something about this recently, and it really spoke to my heart as a homeschooling mother since my weaknesses are constantly being revealed to my children. Head over to her blog to be encouraged by her experience of Christ showing up in her weakness during a talk she was leading. 

It's so easy to be discouraged by all of our errors, weaknesses, and potential failures. We strive so hard to give our children the best of everything, and when we can't do that, we automatically assume we must not have what it takes. We fear they will miss out, that they could get something better at a "real school" with better trained teachers or more "friends" around them. But God says it is not with the better that humans provide that He shows up. It will be through your weaknesses that your kids will see Jesus more clearly and experience His provision for themselves. 

He shows up where we cannot. He makes things happen that we have NO power to make happen. He has unlimited strength, resources, and divine love to pour into their lives, but He cannot do it when we stand in the way trying to make it happen in and of ourselves. When we become more okay with our weaknesses being on display, the Holy Spirit steps in to cover that gap and then other people get to see it happen. 

This is what will change the hearts of your children and the people who influence. Seeing the work of God in their daily lives is life-changing and it is not something you can force, but the more you embrace your weaknesses, the more you are okay with failing and going to God for help, the more the Holy Spirit can show up. The more beautiful you make Jesus look

I hope this reminder helps you to find comfort in all the ways you feel like you are not measuring up. God doesn't want you to focus on measuring up. No, this doesn't dismiss working and preparing and does your best, it just means He wants your hearts set on Him and His ability. Know Him, seek to understand Him, and pray to love what He loves. When you are pursuing this, God will meet your needs and importantly, He will become undeniably visible to your children. What a blessing our weakness can be! Let's celebrate that. Not just exulting in our failure, but being excited that when we are weak, He is seen as strong

Let's share together: comment with a time that God's strength showed up in your weakness. We can all help bless each other with the reminders of His love and power!

Saturday, March 20, 2021

What is it About Knowledge?

 There are a couple quotes or ideas about knowledge that have been bumbling about in my brain lately and I thought putting my ideas about them here on the blog might make for some interesting reading.

I've often heard people claim "People who know better, do better" but I'm fairly certain society has proved this wrong over and over again. For instance, we all know that drinking during pregnancy is dangerous, and unhealthy for a baby. Does that stop people? Often, but not always. There's also plenty of evidence to show that regularly watching TV or any type of screen before the age of 2 has negative effects on children. Does that stop us? No! Did it stop me? I'm sorry to say, no. 

Why is this? Why does knowing what is right, or better, or best, not equate to doing better? I'm not a psychologist of any sort, and I probably don't have enough experience to rightly explain all of it, but I am a thinker from birth, perhaps an over-analyzer, so I do believe my thoughts can lead to some insights that might help all of us turn our knowing into something more than just facts tumbling around in our brains.

There are endless examples of things we know are good for us that we just don't do: eating more fruits and vegetables, getting more exercise, watching less TV, laughing more, drinking less alcohol, sleeping more, spending less money, and the list goes on. We have such an abundance of knowledge about things that are good or bad for us, but so little willingness to take action. 

Photo Credit: Yogesh Pedamkar

Mark and I often talk about the idea of an internal switch. At different points in time, we both felt like a switch was flipped in our brains that finally helped us take the initiative to lose weight. Mark lost over 30 pounds and I lost 20 pounds, each in within four months. Mark says that part of it had to do with his shirts not fitting right, and my reasons might have stemmed from a bit of envy (just being honest here) and being encouraged my other friends' results. But why did those things finally flip the switch for us? Why don't those things work for everyone, at all times, about all things?

You have likely heard the quote "Knowledge is power" but in the bible, Jesus says that if we abide in Him and become His disciples, we will know the truth, and it will set us free (John 8:31-32). What is the difference between knowledge and truth? What is the difference between power and freedom?

In case you thought I had answers to all these questions, I don't. I do want to explore them more, and I hope you do too, but what I genuinely want to understand is what is it that flips that switch? What is it that takes our knowledge and turns it into action? 

I think a lot of this has to do with belief. Knowing something is not the same as truly believing it, or rather believing ON it, and true belief in and on something will lead to action. I don't think you can really believe something is true without taking action upon it, whether that mean you oppose that truth or stand behind it. In the bible, James says something similar about faith and works: "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead." (James 2:26) 

This is where we have to get a tiny bit philosophical in order to make some of these information make applicable sense to us, because this now needs to become a discussion on thinking, values, priorities, and truth. 

Sure, maybe I believe that TV is not good for my one year old, but I don't believe it's bad enough to make me want to change. It's easier to let them watch here and there, and in that way I am valuing my convenience more than the well-being of my child. I haven't looked at the studies in depth, and maybe it's more damaging than I realize, but during that phase of my life, I felt like the pros (me getting a little more peace and therefore being a nicer mom) would outweigh the cons (addiction to devices, lower attention span, etc.). I didn't believe it was bad enough, or worse than my other options, and sometimes that becomes legitimate enough for us.

We do this type of negotiating and weighing the costs over and over, every day, often without much thought. We believe eating a salad for lunch is not worth the effort of preparing the salad. We believe the walk during lunch is not worth the time and effort and discomfort it might create. I know I tend to believe that the work of waking up early, putting on workout clothes, getting sweaty, showering, and then finally getting ready for the day are not generally worth the benefit of a solid, early-morning workout. We think in our minds that these things are true, but we don't take the risk to step ON them and let them carry us to the destination they proclaim.

This might be where you are hoping I have a grand solution, or at least a method that has been working for me. This is also where you might be slightly disappointed. 

I'm sorry this post doesn't have a lot of answers, but hopefully it has enough food for thought to get you going. What do you believe in your head to be true but not believe with your actions? What do you think would be good for your life but not really believe deep down that it is worth the effort? What can you do to flip that switch? And more importantly, do you genuinely want to?

A couple years ago I wrote a post for The Joyful Life about reading Christian biographies. I value looking at the lives of other Christians so highly because it helps give me a more biblically accurate view of my own life. I see their dedication, struggles, triumphs, and habits and it all helps me better see what it means to actively follow Christ. I think the same type of principle applies for getting our hearts to take the knowledge we obtain and turn it into action. If we can see how our knowledge plays out in real life, it increases our faith in the value of that particular action. It increases our willingness to give up our comfort, energy, time, and effort for the reward on the other side of that knowledge. 

So now, I'm turning over this idea to you. As this idea continues to roll around in my head, I may come back and offer a few more insights, but for now, you need to let it roll around in your head too. What else can we do to turn our knowledge into belief? The Sunday school answers are pray, read your bible, ask God to help you, etc., and I really do believe those to be true. Maybe you'll find that the more you think about the things you know the be true, you just start to believe them. Maybe as you pursue them you'll find that God miraculously helps you to desire the rewards knowledge in action will lead you to. Who knows what all that knowledge will become! But I don't think I can ever go back to thinking that knowledge by itself will bring me anything worthwhile. Knowledge is only power if you use it as a key and actually walk through the door it opens.

What keys are you holding onto? What knowledge have you been waiting to use? And what are you going to do now?

Monday, February 1, 2021

Hello February!

 Well hello everyone. Can you believe that it is February already?! As you can imagine, January was a wild month for us. It challenged us to remember that God knows our futures and it reminded us that His plan is always good for us (even when it doesn't feel so good). 

Getting to the airport with our 9 checked bags, 5 carry-ons, 5 personal items, and our cat was quite an event! Thankfully, I am fairly gifted in figuring out that sort of thing, so while it took a bit of time, it was nothing unexpected or crazy. We got to our gate for the short flight to Seattle, armed with pastries and coffee, with a solid 20 minutes to spare. Surprisingly, it felt very normal to be leaving. During the weeks before, I wondered what it would be like to go, knowing that we weren't just hopping back sometime soon, but God must have just given us grace for all of that. The kids were a little sad, but not crying or acting out, so I know His grace extended to them as well. 

The second flight was SO turbulent. Not in spirit thankfully, just physically! Cole was probably the most disturbed by it, but it was a good time to just reiterate that God knows our futures and that we can trust Him. I guess everyone flying over the Rockies that day had quite a time with the turbulence. 

Picking up all our bags took a bit of time. Bucky must have meowed almost the entire time because when we picked him up, he didn't make a peep but seemed plenty awake. Poor thing! His voice was so gone that we only heard him make sounds a few times over the next couple days. His nose was a bit scratched up, but otherwise he seemed okay. He was eager to be pet and drank water right away too. But man, dealing with picking up the rental cars took FOREVER. Then, once we got to the apartment, we ran into more bumps. 

Getting into the secure building took some work - figuring out the keypad was interesting, as buttons didn't work quite right, and there was more than one J Armstrong on the list (called the other one the first time - oops)! Then, our apartment which was supposed to be unlocked for us, was locked. After hours. After a LONG day. With 3 hungry kids, one disturbed cat, and two hungry parents toting a ridiculous amount of luggage. Eventually, I was able to leave a message with the after hours emergency line and the maintenance man came within 30 min of our discovery! Phew!

Mark and two kids went to get food while Cole and I unwrapped the mattresses that had been delivered for us. We even unwrapped one of the sofas that was also delivered (early, thankfully). We made a late run to Target for two cart-loads of necessities and everyone got a decent night's sleep. 

What a day! I'm so proud of how the kids handled it all. We had been prepping them a lot over the previous couple months about moving and I'm really thankful for that. Just being able to know ahead that they would feel tired of waiting, tired of shopping, tired of being in limbo seemed to help them cope better and us parent better. The next week was full of errands and car-shopping, which we were all so OVER after just the first day, but we powered through, got our cars, got the rentals returned, and have managed to do more than survive our first couple weeks. 

It's hard to say how exactly I have seen God in all this. A lot of it has just been really practical. No major surprises, but lots of needing to get stuff done. We have what we need, and always a little more. We are all learning to deal with not having all the things we want, and that has been healthy for sure. We are making time to explore and are meeting new people. We LOVE getting to actually eat at restaurants - that first week we had to eat out SO much! But, even with only going out a couple times a week, we are thankful there are some options and that people are pleasant about it. 

You might be wondering about masks... and yes, people DO actually wear them here. Not much outside, but I am good with that. All the kids are making friends, and it has been wonderful to actually be with our new CC community each week. We are all learning, growing, and feeling like we are getting to live a semi-normal life, and I am definitely grateful for all of that. 

I won't comment much on Mark's work - it's so much to take in when you start a new job! But he is being stretched for sure, in all the best ways though. He was brain-dead and exhausted that first week, maybe a little less so on his second. He's on his third week now and eager to learn more. This weekend, I think we'll spend a little more time exploring as a family. There's so much to see nearby, I think it'll keep us busy for a long while. 

Thanks for checking in with me, and sorry that these updates will probably not be as thorough or frequent as you might be expecting. I always hope they will be, but, LIFE! Things get crazy fast ;) I am thankful for all our love and prayers, and we are thankful for this opportunity to do something new and different. Who knows what else God has lined up here in TN!

Enjoy a few pics from our adventures...

Everything out here is SO open! 

First night, getting things somewhat arranged so we could sleep and have at least ONE place to sit.

Hike at Preservation Park. Such a lovely day!

Our future house! We got to go inside once, but they are quickly adding things like cabinets, trim, doors, and more :) It's close enough for us to walk to, so every few days we go look from the outside.

Jovi is eager to use her roller-blades, and Bucky is becoming more and more relaxed here.

We've gotten snow on several days, but never enough to make a full-sized snowman.

Figuring out homeschooling in our small space, with no kitchen table (yet).

Only a few tears on Jovi's first day at CC. She participated well and made 9 friends!

I think the trip was SO traumatic for Bucky, he decided to allow us to sit next to him in return for rescuing him ;)

I'm thankful that while Asher had a little catch-up to do with his schoolwork, his science fair project is really coming together!

Hope to sit a give some other updates soon! But, no promises, it might be another few weeks :) Blessings to y'all ;)