Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Internet Buddies

I have made some of the best friendships long distance! Some women I've met through their blogs and don't yet know in person, some bloggers whom I've had the privilege to meet, and others whose paths I've crossed at conferences and such.

Angela is a friend I met a She Speaks last year, and I thank God for bringing us together on the final eve of the conference. We've made a real heart connection over email this year, and even had a whole morning encouraging one another on Skype. Her ministry is growing beautifully, and I'm so excited for what God is going to do through her!

Today, I have the honor of sharing a post over on her blog, Rethinking My Thinking. It's a part of her series on Wrestling with God - the marriage part. I pray that my story encourages you. You can read it here.

While you're there, please say "Hi!" to Ang and take some time to read a few of her posts. I know you'll be blessed.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Do you test or trust?

Our problem is that we want to test God rather than trust Him. We want to experiment with him rather than rely on Him.

We're like the boy who tests the doubtful ice instead of skating confidently where God is leading. What is our faith worth is we don't trust completely?

It is perfectly natural to trust in our own understanding, to rely on our own natural strengths, gifts, or talents (and indeed some modern prophets tell us to do so!). But it is the walk of faith to trust His teaching and direction.

Give Him first place and let Him have precedence. This is the secret of safe guidance and peaceful progression. Simple dependence upon Him, committing our all to Him, obeying Him implicitly - this is how to acknowledge Him "in all thy ways."

~ Al Bryant

Is there an area in your life where you've been testing God, rather than trusting Him and stepping out in obedience?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Kids Say the Darndest Things...

Another Kindergarten mom was scheduled to visit yesterday afternoon. She's pretty well known by all the kids at school, as she does lunch supervision. Shea (6) and her little dude are buddies.

Yesterday, Shea was lined up for the bus after school (they're dismissed before noon each day), and she saw Mrs. H. heading in the doors for lunch duty. Shea gleefully proclaimed, "I know you and N and coming over today!"

Mrs. H. said, "You're right, Shea. Is there anything you'd like me to bring along?" (Thinking maybe there was a particular toy N owned that Shea had seen previously and would want to play with it.)

Shea, totally casual and matter-of-fact says, "I would like chicken nuggets, french fries, sauce, and an iced tea, please."

Do you think we have McDonald's with our playdates a little too often?

Oh, and Mrs. H. delivered. :)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Small Changes can make Big Differences

Ever get just plain overwhelmed with all that life throws your way?

For me, a lot of times, I'm sure this is self-inflicted. I over-commit. I procrastinate. I make poor choices (eating bad foods, staying up too late, etc.) that affect my ability to function effectively.

On those days when I feel the weight of my responsibilities crushing me, I temporarily turn into a crazy lady. Look out everybody, Mama's on a rampage!

The good side of the self-inflicted overwhelmedness (yeah, I made that up) is that there is an end in sight. I know when my duties are done, I can rest. Or I can delegate some duties. I can even quit one area of responsibility. Plus, I have a great support system.

But what about when you don't have support? What if you're in it alone, indefinitely? That's not self-inflicted, and it doesn't have an end in sight. You might be afraid that you are going to permanently be that crazy lady...

Might I suggest a few small changes that will help you tame the crazy lady within?

(Just a little fyi, here, while I can't profess to have ever been in the position of "in it alone, indefinitely," I have spend enough years "in it alone, randomly and without time frames" to make me believe I could be that permanent crazy lady. So that's the place where my advice is coming from. Mkay?)

Small Change #1 - Don't be a Petri.

Have you ever watched The Land Before Time? There's this one dinosaur, Petri, who is always whining and complaining. He's got Poor Petri Syndrome. PPS is the number one contributing factor CLS (Crazy Lady Syndrome).

This small change is probably the most difficult. It's so easy to get into the "poor me" way of thinking. I know, because I do it all. the. time. Try replacing martyr thoughts with other thoughts...

I'm so alone.
I may feel alone right now, but that is a prompt for me to stop and ask God for His help.

This is so hard!
Nothing I do of importance will be easy. This is important, so I need to work hard.

How much can one person do?
I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.

This isn't fair!
I don't get it, but God has a plan here. His plan involves my growth. This is an opportunity for me to grow.

I will never be able to change.
I am not responsible for changing. I am responsible for obeying God. Through my obedience, change will come.

Small Change #2 - Commit to getting enough sleep.

I don't know about you, but when I feel lonely and isolated I tend to stay up too late. I spend my time seeking connection online (No, not chat rooms, but on Facebook and reading blogs.). I watch TV until I'm numb and falling asleep on the couch. I lose myself in a book until it tumbles from my sleep-weighted hands.

This change is going to be the easiest to make, with the biggest impact. Plan a set bedtime and a set wake-up time for yourself and just follow through on the plan. Give it two weeks for your body to fall into the rhythm. And take note of how, suddenly, you feel a little bit less crazy during the daily witching hour (this is how I refer to those dreaded few hours between after school and bedtime, when children tend to act possessed).

Small Change #3 - Speak good.

As a former (sometimes current) crazy lady, I will confess to spending much too much energy speaking bad. Words of reprimand and criticism come easily. My tone of voice reeks of anger, frustration, irritation, and impatience. My thoughts are dominated by those same emotions. Anyone else?

Make an intentional effort to speak good over your family. It can be as simple as, "Hey, I love you kid." or "Thanks for taking out the garbage. Your help around here makes a difference."

Start small by speaking good to each person in your home - intentionally - once or twice per day. (I'm not saying limit it to that. What I'm saying is that you are doing it with the mindset that I need to speak good here and now.) I try to do this, on purpose, in the morning and during the dreaded witching hour.

It's funny how just acting the right way can begin to change the attitude.

Small Change #4 - Don't Negotiate with Terrorists.

Kids have this insane radar system that tells them when Mom is tired and stressed. They hone in on it, taking aim, then BOOM! And a pattern develops.

Kid asks. Mom says no. Kid negotiates. Mom says no, a hint of irritation in her voice. Kid whines. Mom says no, a scowl on her face. Kid argues. Mom yells no at the top of her lungs, followed by a shrieking lecture and over-the-top discipline.

Mom feels guilty. Next time kid asks, Mom starts out with no. After more asking, Mom gets worn down and doesn't have the energy to argue or discipline, so she caves.


Repeat this mantra to yourself and your kids, "My no means no." After you say it to your kids, turn and walk away. the conversation/discussion/debate is done. Unfortunately, when you first implement your new policy of not negotiating with terrorists, they will follow you around and hound you. You must be prepared for this inevitability. Say once, "This conversation is over," then do not respond any more. At all. Not once.

So I suggest embarking on this policy at a time when you feel well rested, strong, and momentarily in control of your CLS. And then commit to staying strong for the couple weeks it will take for the crew to accept the new policy. I promise you, your life will be forever impacted after you successfully make this small change!

If you feel overwhelmed, if you are in it alone, and if you feel like a permanent crazy lady, choose one small step today. Just one. Stick with it until it's mastered, until it's part of your daily routine. Then choose another small step. Over time, CLS will become less pervasive in your home. You will notice that the crazy lady is taming. Chances are, as she mellows, the crazy urchins will follow suit.

Small changes. Big differences. I promise.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Camping 101

First, I should mention that I'm guest posting today for my friend Sandy at God Speaks Today. Check it out! And while you're there, go ahead and read a few of her posts. I heart Sandy. Go ahead, I'll wait right here. :)

Back? Great!

We were camping this weekend - the first long weekend of the official Canadian camping season. Want to know what I love about camping? No? Sorry, I'm going to tell you anyway! And guess what?! I will share my thoughts in...you guessed it...list format!

* When you remember to pack the camera and its charger, you forget to pull it out and snap any photos.

* When you pack prepared for snow (because when does it NOT snow on May long?), you have amazing, beautiful weather and everyone wears the same pair of shorts (the only pair they were instructed to pack) for the entire weekend.

* When your husband thinks it's a "fun" idea to take a ten kilometre walk with six young children, two dogs, and four adults in less-than-perfect shape (one of whom is pregnant - no! not me!), the whining is guaranteed to begin at least three kilometres before you expected it to.

* Did you know that it takes approximately four-and-a-half hours to walk 10 km?

* Did you know that it is physically impossible for children ages 2, 3, and even 6 to walk an entire 10 km without being carried?

* Did you know that packing two granola bars per person and a handful of cheese and crackers is not really enough to sustain ten people for 10 km?

* Did you know that, in spite of all the grumbling, certain children (and adults) are incredibly proud and love to brag about how they walked - and survived - 10 km?

* When the forecast predicts rain all weekend but doesn't deliver, you better believe mother nature will give you the entire weekend's worth of rain while you try to pack up.

* Exhausted from camping children are adorable.

* Exhausted dogs from camping are immovable.

* Post-camping laundry is estimated to take 3.2 days to complete. (While only one pair of shorts was worn, countless hoodies - that's Canadian for hooded sweater, sweats, jeans, socks, bathing suits, and towels somehow made their way into the pile.)

* In spring, Canadian lakes are VERY cold, and mountain-fed lakes even more so. This fact will not stop determined children from swimming in those frigid waters.

* It is utterly impossible to resist eating your body weight in snack foods whilst camping.

Suffice it to say that we had a super fun, completely exhausting, gorgeous weather camping weekend! Unfortunately, I've no photographic proof.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Christianity hates women and so do I

I often reply to your comments via email. I like to engage in conversation with you and answer your questions. I enjoy the dialogue. Recently, I received a comment that requires a different response. In reply to that comment, I have crafted a brief monologue.

If you need to get some context before reading, the post that the comment appeared on is Never Say No.

The anonymous commenter said, Christianity is such a misogynistic religion and the women are so brainwashed to be a doormat to their husbands even to the point of humiliation. Ugh.

mi-sog-y-ny (mi-soj-uh-nee), noun - hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women

(Dear reader - this definition was more for my benefit than yours. I had to look it up to be sure of the meaning!)

courtesy of ellepyke.blogspot.com
 Here is my reply...

Dear Anonymous,

Taken out of context or read by an unbelieving reader, any words written by a Christian can be twisted around. (In fact, that's true of any written or spoken word.) It would appear that you have taken my words out of context - the contextual background being a shared faith in Christ.

The fact is, my post said NOTHING about being brainwashed, being a doormat, or being humiliated. My post was written from the perspective of a regular women in a regular marriage, and suggesting that we regular women have a CHOICE to make. We can choose to love our husbands in a way that makes them feel loved, or we can choose to reject them.

If a woman were in an abusive relationship, where her husband was asking her to participate in humiliating sexual acts, my advice would be quite different. I don't condone abuse and would never encourage a woman to stay in an abusive relationship, let alone to participate in anything that causes her to feel humiliated.

The assumption is that the average married woman feels no shame in making love with her husband. The assumption is that the average married woman desires to have a great (as opposed to average) marriage. The assumption is the average married Christian woman recognizes that, by focusing on changing her own negative patterns (rather than on wishing her husband would change his), she holds the power of change in her hands.

In fact, in taking control of her choices about their intimate relationship, the Christian wife is the complete opposite of brainwashed. She is fully in control, having more influence than ever over the state of their marital relationship. She is the opposite of a doormat. Doormats shrink away from challenges and let themselves be walked on, but she rises to the new challenge of improving her marriage by taking action. She is the opposite of humiliated. Rather, she now feels empowered and has a sense of pride.

As for Christianity being misogynistic, I'd say it's quite the opposite. The Christian faith doesn't say "hate women, degrade women, treat women as second class." The Christian faith preaches love - love for God and love for your neighbour. (I'll be the first to admit that most Christians are not perfect at this. Which is exactly why we stand in need of a Saviour to rescue us from our own evil nature.)

I would like to propose that the Christian faith is, in fact, pro-woman. The Bible is filled with accounts of strong, Godly women changing the world. Esther, Rahab, Mary, Ruth, to name a few. The gift that is given to us when God created us is difference - we are each unique. The world would have you convinced that everyone is the same (they use the word 'equal') and should be treated the same. The Bible, on the other hand, says that we are each unique and should be treated as such. I, for one, appreciate a faith system where I am recognized for me - my own unique strengths and abilities, my own genetic makeup - rather than assumed to be just the same as all the rest.

You, my anonymous friend, don't have to believe this. You don't have to agree with me. I won't be trying to force you, brainwash you, or humiliate you into accepting my faith. Christianity is a choice. Each one of us has the power to choose to believe or not. I would encourage you to exercise your right to choose. But, just as the woman who chooses to reject her husband's advances will remain sad, lonely, and unempowered in her marriage, those who choose to reject Christ will remain unhappy and dissatisfied in their lives.

Before I bid you farewell, I want to be clear that I will not argue my faith on this blog. I believe in Christ and anyone stopping by here can recognize that fact in an instant. You are free to disagree with me; however, insults will not be tolerated. If you feel such strong hatred for the things I believe, my suggestion to you would be to find another blog to read. I write here to encourage Christian women in their walks with God, to help them build their faith and to be the women, wives, and mothers God calls them to be. My purpose is not (and never will be) to debate Christianity.
As well, might I encourage you to put some credibility behind your opinions by not hiding behind the veil of anonymity? When a comment such as yours is posted anonymously, its intent is clearly to stir up dissension rather than to engage in conversation. I am open to having a conversation with you about my faith and how it differs from yours, but I am unwilling to engage in an insult-throwing exchange.
That said, for future reference, any anonymous comments that are disrespectful, contentious, or insulting will be deleted. As I said, my purpose here is not to debate, and my readers do not come here to be insulted by mysterious commenters. This is not to say I will delete comments that disagree with my point of view. If you have the courage to put your name beside your comment, and you have the ability to share your point of view without being denigrating, I am glad to engage in dialogue with you. I'm sure my readers will be, too.
While the comments on this post are open, and I am certainly expecting to see words left by those who disagree, let me reiterate that there is a way to disagree without being unkind or insulting. And those words left by real people with real names and faces will be treated with the respect due any person.
Thanks for hanging in there for my monologue. Now, let's let the conversation begin. :)
P.S. My statements about Christianity being freeing, about Christian wives having great power and influence, about making choices putting us in control - those are not ideas found in some book or simply Biblical platitudes. Those are factual truths evidenced in my own life.
Being treated as unique rather than 'equal' makes me feel free to be myself rather than trying to fit some mold.
Making choices about my sex life causes me to feel powerful, sexy, and much happier than I was when I allowed my emotions to decide for me.
And I feel more valued, appreciated, and necessary as a woman in the church than I ever have out in the workforce.
The only times I feel like a doormat, feel humiliated, or feel as though someone's trying to brainwash me is when I forget the truths I've learned and instead seek approval and affirmation from the rest of the world.
Perhaps that's just me? I don't know, let's ask the readers to weigh in...
Is your faith misogynistic, do you feel like a brainwashed and humiliated doormat?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lead Your Heart

"Follow your heart." We've all heard it before. But the effects I've seen of this heart following are all too often negative - divorce, broken families, adultery, broken trust.

The heart (the emotions) is a fickle thing. We tend to be motivated by what feels good, what makes us happy, by what we believe we deserve. I am so guilty of this! I frequently decide that I am not feeling loved enough by Pat. Maybe I even feel taken for granted. My heart begins to ache a little bit, and I follow it. I follow it right down the path of blame and accusation, dissatisfaction and criticism. Very soon, neither of us is "happy" in our marriage.

So where would we be if I kept on following my heart down that path? Probably in a state so miserable that divorcing and breaking our family apart would seem to be the only path back to happiness.

I believe it is healthier, wiser, and better for the heart if we choose to "lead our hearts." Like I said, emotions can change on a dime (they are not the best compass to follow). How much wiser would it be for us to direct our hearts (our emotions) in the way they should go?

What do I mean? I mean this - regardless of the feelings, we choose to act in ways that reflect what we want to be feeling. We choose to show love regardless of how loving (or not) we are feeling. Come back with me to the place where I'm feeling unloved or taken for granted. I don't have to follow my heart to the pit of despair. No way! I can make a choice, in that very moment, to lead my heart.

For me, leading my heart might look like doing something to show Pat that I love him (even though I am feeling unloved) - even better, doing something to show Pat that I respect him (more on love & respect here and here). It might be forgiving that my work has been taken for granted, and picking up the strewn laundry because I love him. It might look like clamping my mouth shut when all I really want to do is spew and vent how horrible I feel, and praying that God changes my heart (rather than praying that God changes my husband).

The funny thing I've noticed is that when I lead my heart, it doesn't take long before my emotions follow where I want them to go. The feelings of hurt and discontentment ease away. Loving thoughts and feelings work their way back in. I begin to feel "happier" and my actions reflect it. And more often than not, a chain reaction begins. Rather than ending up unhappy and divorced, we end up stronger and more committed.

In The Love Dare it says this: The world says to follow your heart, but if you are not leading it, then someone or something else is. The Bible says that 'the heart is more deceitful than all else' (Jeremiah 17:9), and it will always pursue that which feels right at the moment...The Love Dare journey is not a process of trying to change your spouse into the person you want them to be...The truth is, love is a decision and not just a feeling.

We each have a choice to make. Follow the heart and hope to heaven we find love and feel loved. Or lead the heart and choose to be love and show love.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Where is Your Mission Field?

The Spirit of the LORD God

has taken control of me!

The LORD has chosen and sent me

to tell the oppressed the good news,

to heal the brokenhearted,

and to announce freedom

for prisoners and captives.

~ Isaiah 61:1 (CEV)

What does this passage mean to you?

Who are the oppressed, the brokenhearted, the prisoners, and the captives?

How has God called you, specifically, to minister to them?

Where is your mission field?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Kids and Money

It seems like every time we go somewhere, at least one of my kids will ask for something. The most commonly asked question in our family must be, "Can we have a treat?"

I'll confess my responsibility... Used to be that I couldn't walk through a store without getting myself a treat, either. So I was more than happy to fulfill their requests.

Until I realized the amount of money that gets wasted over the course of a month by simply getting little treats a few times per week.

In an effort to change this whole pattern, we decided to try doing allowances with our kids. The idea was that if they have a little bit of their own money to get a treat with, the continual asking will end. Hopefully, this would have the added benefit of teaching our kids some money management skills that we seem to be lacking.

Here's what we've been doing:

- Each child begins by getting the amount of money that's equivalent to their grade level. (So allowance begins in grade 1 with $1 per week.)

- The allowance cap is $3. (Meaning no one will ever receive more than $3 per week.) If you're wondering on the reasoning for this, it's partly that we don't want anyone to have too much money; the purpose really is for a treat or two. As well, once everyone's getting allowance, we'll be paying out $15 per week!

- Prior to putting any spending money in their piggy banks, the kids must first put 10% of their allowance in their tithe jar and another 10%in their savings jar. (The savings jar is not to save up for a big item, but rather to learn the habit of building a savings fund for emergencies. If they want big items, they'll need to save in their piggy banks.)

We've been handing out allowance for about two months now, and I am just not sure it's serving its purpose. The kids are asking for treats less frequently, but they are constantly asking to be taken to the store! And I must admit that it's a bit of a headache to remember to get $8 in change every weekend.

So here's what I want to know...

Do you do allowance? (Or have you ever?)

How much?

Does allowance have to be earned?

Can allowance be lost?

And do you feel that having an allowance is an important part of learning how to manage money?

Friday, May 13, 2011

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Program...

My life is not unlike television.

Sometimes there’s nothing on, sometimes there’s really good shows to watch, and sometimes every channel has nothing but junk.

This past year has been a bit like prime time TV. The programming has been great! Sure, there’s the odd annoying commercial break. Yes, there are weeks of re-runs and election coverage. Every now and then there’s a crummy episode of what was anticipated to be a good show.

Mostly, though, prime time rocks.

Do you remember those coloured bars that used to come up on the screen? They were usually accompanies by this horrible, constant beeeeeeeeeeeep. I called those blips. (Whatever happened to them, anyway? Not that I miss the blips. Just curious.)
Blips were the bane of any avid television watcher’s existence. Blips were unpredictable. Blips were not a minor interruption to your regularly scheduled programming (like commercials), but a major interruption. Blips were a source of intense frustration.

The worst part about blips was that you never knew how long they would last. If you were lucky, within a few moments a voice would speak out at you from the coloured bar screen, “This is a test. This is only a test.” The test would quickly run its course and you’d be back into your show in no time. But if you weren’t lucky, that blip would linger for hours. (And wasn’t it always on the BEST channel where all the good shows ran?!)

Today, our family’s prime time show has been interrupted. Not with a commercial advertising ‘small issues at school to deal with.’ Not with an infomercial going on and on about ‘financial frustrations.’ Not even with a couple weeks worth of re-runs, where ‘overtime at work, scrapping kids, and cranky Mom’ take over the airwaves.

We have a blip.

Like I said, the tough thing about blips is how unpredictable they are. It could be a test. Oh how I pray it’s just one of those “This is a test. This is only a test.” moments! But what if it’s not? What if my prime time programming is cut-off? What if all the good viewing just disappears indefinitely?

Here are a few things I’m already realizing about blips, after only a few hours…

I. Blips interrupt us.

I remember the days of Friends and Seinfeld marathons. Those were some good TV watching nights. The couch would develop a permanent impression of my butt, as I relaxed into a state of doing nothing. It was so good the way it was, that the thought of changing anything would never cross my mind.

In choosing words to describe this past year, I most definitely would not choose ‘radical.’ My focus has been on keeping things the same, not changing, no interruptions to the good life. Yet my heart desires to be radical, picking my butt up off the sofa, allowing any change of direction that God directs.

II. Blips make us take our eyes off the screen.

Ever get so caught up in watching a show that you become oblivious to everything around you? It can be so easy to become absorbed in the enjoyment and the comfort, that the things that need our attention go ignored. That blip makes us look around again, to find a source of contentment that can’t be so easily cut off.

This prime time life I keep referring to, it’s pretty comfortable. There’s not a lot of self-sacrifice involved. I don’t need to look anywhere for help. The more I stare at the mind-numbing screen, the less I look up for guidance.

III. Blips break the habit.

I used to record Days of Our Lives because I was certain life would end if I missed a single episode. It was like an addiction. But as our family grew, my time for watching soaps kept getting cut short. Eventually, I realized I hadn’t watched in months. And I didn’t miss it. I didn’t need it in order to feel good and enjoy life.

Do I need all that I have right now? Would the world end if I had to give some things (or everything) up? Have I gotten in the habit of thinking my stuff matters more than my growth? I’ve been spending more time worrying about what I want than asking what He wants, what His will is.

I don’t know how long this blip on the screen of our lives will last. I do hope it’s just a brief test that will clear off in a few minutes. Of course I do. But if it’s not and it doesn’t…if this prime time station goes off the air…if everything changes…

My attention is turned back to where it ought to be – God’s direction.

My eyes are looking up to where they need to look for help – God’s guidance.

My addiction to self is being broken, so that I can find the real source of satisfaction –God’s will.

We’ve been talking a lot about how our faith walk is looking different than we want it to (different than it did two years ago). We’ve been reflecting on how to get back to that walk of radical trust. With one long, drawn-out beeeeeeeep, I feel the transformation beginning.

I don’t like this little blip, not one little bit. Yet I am already grateful for it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Never Say No

We wives tend to joke about how our husbands are always in the mood...

It's true. As a general rule, men are more easily turned on than women. A man can come home after a long day at work, catch a glimpse of cleavage while we serve dinner, and he's pretty darn excited.

Us women, on the other hand, are quite the opposite. I mean, we just served dinner. It's a dinner that we prepared and will be cleaning up after. Prior to that dinner we worked, cleaned, planned, refereed. After that dinner we'll be making the bedtime rounds. So the fact that he's excited is actually pretty annoying.

Sound familiar?

Life is busy, and most women (men, too) are flat-out exhausted at the end of the day. It's so easy to tune out, veg out, then roll over and just go to sleep, giving our men the big shut out.

The thing is, if we say no enough times (even if we're not saying it with words), we launch a vicious cycle.

She says no --> He feels rejected --> He begins to isolate --> She feels rejected

The cycle goes round and round until nobody's interested in anything. No sex, no dates, no closeness, no communication.

Years ago, when Pat and I were in the early (and difficult/unhappy/miserable) phase of our marriage, we found ourselves in this cycle of rejection. I felt alone and unloved, so was not interested in doing anything that might make him happy (from turning his laundry right-side-out to fooling around). He felt rejected and unneeded, so he wasn't interested in doing anything that might make me happy (from helping around the house to cuddling with no ulterior motive). We were stuck.

But God did that thing He does. You know - conviction. Everything I was hearing, reading, and watching seemed to be about sex. Heck, it was preached from the pulpit at church! And I read the words of a wise woman (I don't remember who, but I've never forgotten her words)...

I made the decision to never say no again.

She was not only referring to the word "no," but to other ways of communicating unavailability and disinterest. She chose not to avoid his touch (even if at times it bordered on the inappropriate, like grabbing her butt in the kitchen), she chose not to turn her back but to always go to sleep facing him, and she gave her "yes" to her husband every time he was interested.

Some of you are probably thinking, But if I did that I'd never rest! Here are a few questions, then... Do you sleep well after rejecting your husband's advances? Do you sleep well when you feel cold and bitter towards your husband? Do you sleep well when you're going out of your way to avoid him?

I'd like to suggest that your rest would be dramatically improved if you simply removed the word "no" from your vocabulary and your actions.
I haven't said no in years, and our marriage is the best it's ever been! (Not that this is the only factor that's improved our marriage, by any means. And for those who are considering the never say no method, let me put your minds at ease - it is not every. single. day. You can breathe easy.)

Lately, God's been bugging me about the whole "who should initiate" issue. I've always figured it should be a 90/10 split, maybe 80/20 if I'm feeling generous. God seems to be hinting otherwise. So far, I've had my fingers firmly planted in my ears, singing, "La, la, la, I can't hear you!" Conviction is a funny thing, though - it just gets stronger the more you ignore it.

So let me ask you a personal question - What are you telling your man? Does he have your "yes," or is he too often getting your "no?"

Check out To Love, Honor, and Vacuum for more Wifey Wednesday posts.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My Heart is Overcome with Your Song

The LORD your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.
~ Zephaniah 3:17

Monday, May 9, 2011

Getting Over Myself

I was feeling a bit sorry for myself yesterday.

You see, my ideal Mother's Day involves a big, fancy breakfast, maybe a bouquet of spring flowers, children working hard to get along all day, others cleaning my house for me, and either family time or Mommy time.

My Mother's Day reality looked a little more like this:
- The children wake me at 6:30 with their bickering over what to watch on TV.
- My hard-working husband stumbles, bleary-eyed into the house at 7am after a night shift.
- Everyone says the obligatory "Happy Mother's Day."
- Pat tries to get everyone to list the things they love about me; they ignore him.
- Sleepy man heads to bed. Mommy gets kids ready for church.
- Half an hour before we need to leave, two children engage in an all-out blow-out, screaming "I hate you"s at one another and going to their rooms until we left.
- Church. Home. Make lunch. Kids fight. Kids are disciplined. Repeat...

Granted, I did get a nice, little nap on the couch. And when Pat woke up he took the kids and dog to the playground to let me continue my nap in peace.

I know I don't have it all that bad. I wasn't ignored on Mother's Day. I wasn't treated badly. I wasn't alone. But when reality doesn't quite line up with fantasy, disappointment still comes.

Once the kiddos were in bed and my man was back at work, I decided to release my pent-up tears by watching a good chick flick. The thing is, as I tried to let them flow, the tears tasted bitter. Selfish. Self-centred. Ridiculous.

So I hung out on Facebook instead. As I read through status updates, I noticed a couple friends in my list who probably hadn't had a very good Mother's Day either. They're single Moms, working hard to fill the roles of two parents each day. Few have actual, practical support. Some don't even receive financial support. And I can't imagine how lonely these kinds of days must feel to them.

I couldn't let the day go by without each one of them feeling a small bit of appreciation and recognition for the work they do, tirelessly, day in and day out, on their own.

As I poured through my list of friends, praying that not one would be overlooked, I discovered that out of more than 300 people (probably 200 or so women), thirteen of them are single Moms. Nearly 7% of the women I know on Facebook are raising their kids alone.

My little pity party ended with a healthy dose of shame at my attitude. And as I worked through that list of thirteen, jotting words of love and encouragement on their walls, I forgot all about my ideal Mother's Day. I have my Mother's Day dream all year round.

Do you sometimes feel sorry for yourself when you know it's not really justified?

What do you do to get over it?

Is there someone in your life that could use an encouraging word today?

Related: Why be you, when you can be me?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Ode to My Mom

My Mom is the best.

Really, she is! All my friends used to say so when I was a teenager. They all still say it now.

I have friends whose mothers are unable or unwilling to do childcare - not even for a few hours, let alone days on end. Not mine! She will use her vacation time from work to move in with my brood while I am away.

I have friends who really don't get along with their mothers, even as adults. Not me! My Mom is my best friend. We talk on the phone pretty much daily, we love spending time together shopping or at the spa, painting house or cleaning.

Sure, it was annoying to have all my teenage friends come to my Mom for counsel about boys, family, and friends. But it secretly made me proud. Even now, my friends are treated as an extension of her family. My Mom will babysit my friends' kids to help me coordinate a girls' night with them. She will rally the troops and pour her time and money into my causes and the causes of my friends. And she takes each need of my family and my friends' families to prayer. Faithfully.

Like any child of divorce, I had my "daddy issues," but I have no doubt that my Mom is the reason I came through them with significantly fewer scrapes and scars than many of my peers.

My Mom has taught me how to work hard, she's demonstrated for me how to stay optimistic and have joy in difficult situations, and she has made me feel loved beyond measure every day of my life.

My Mom is my biggest fan, staunchest supporter, and best encourager.

As I get older, I am beginning to recognize the many characteristics my Mom passed down to me: being organized and detail-oriented, enjoying writing and speaking, loving a good book, being a leader and an encourager, learning to choose my words carefully, my slight propensity to boss others around, and so much more. I am a part of her, she's a part of me, and that is amazing and precious and so much fun!

Thank you, Lord, for giving me to my Mom and for choosing my Mom for me.

Thank you, Mom, for keeping me at a time when that was not the socially accepted thing to do. And thank you for loving me when I've been unlovable, for holding me up when I've been on the brink of collapse, and for pushing me forward when I want dig my heels in.

Thank you, Mom, for being my friend. I love you.

Can you believe that I can't find a single photo of just my Mom and I in the past many years?! But here we are with her Mom, my still gorgeous and energetic Grandma. If you ever wonder where my Mom comes by all that energy...

Friday, May 6, 2011

For the Overworked and Overwhelmed Woman, part 2

Part one is here.

Knowing the warning signs of being too busy is a good start, but that won't necessarily help eliminate the stress and the related symptoms of juggling too many balls. It's what we do with that knowledge that will make or break us.

Too often, I will recognize the fact that my life is beginning to spiral out of control, and then continue along the same path thinking, "Well, there's nothing I can do about it. I just have to get through it somehow." So I move from being a busy, stressed out woman to a woman who knows she's busy and stressed out. (I think there's some truth to the old adage ignorance is bliss.)

It's a hard place to be - feeling overwhelmed and over-committed - because we feel trapped by our obligations, responsibilities, and our promises. I mean, we can't let anyone down! They're all counting on us! Right?

Here are five steps to getting un-overworked and un-overwhelmed. (Yes, I made those words up. Thankyouverymuch.)

1. Recognize the lies.

We have an enemy whose goal is to destroy us. And if he can't full-out destroy us, he'll do everything he can to destroy our effectiveness for the Kingdom of God. The oldest trick in his book is to make us believe that we're more important than we are. Trick #2 is to convince us that we're incompetent. Any of these sound familiar?

If I don't do it, nobody will.

I am the only one who can do it right.

If I don't do it, I will let everyone down.

I can't believe I agreed to do this! I am going to fail and everyone will see what a loser I am.

All the other women (or moms, or wives) can do this; why can't I?

Lies, all of them!

2. Offload responsibilities NOW.

We tend to think that if we can just cross this one thing off our lists, we will be able to manage the rest just fine. So instead of acting on the knowledge that we're about to crash, we push ourselves. This is the surest way to crash h-a-r-d. The moment we recognize that we're in over our heads, we must take action.

Delegate responsibilities to others. Get your family to pitch in with the housework, ask someone else on the committee to handle making the phone calls, cancel that meeting. Do what you need to do, and do it right away. I assure you, everyone will not be mad at you and think of you as a failure! (Yes, someone might. But most people will understand, because they've likely been there too. Just don't make a habit of over-committing and then offloading. Learn from your mistakes and say "no" next time.)

3. Say an emphatic "No!" to all things new.

No new responsibilities, no new committees, no extra volunteer dates, no new playdates or activities for the kids. It's hard, and there will be guilty feelings, but remember that guilt is just another lie. Your children will not be deprived if they don't get to go to so-and-so's birthday party. Your workplace will not fall apart if you don't work on the weekend.

4. Sometimes you need to stop everything.

This one even sends a little shiver down my spine! The very thought of flat-out cancelling everything our family is involved in has me wracked with guilt. But let me tell you this - the idea of letting my family down by being a chronically over-committed, overworked, and overwhelmed wife and mother is even more bone-chilling.

Sometimes, the only way to break ourselves of a bad habit is to go cold-turkey. Make a clean break from all commitments and simply say, "I'm taking this season to be fully present where I am with no outside commitments." It's okay. Pastors, professors, and all sorts of professionals take Sabbaticals - you can too!

5. Re-establish right priorities.

I don't remember his name, but I once heard of a pastor who prayed for three hours at the start of every day. When asked how he could possibly have time for that, his reply was, "How can I not have time to prepare my heart to lead my flock every day? Without those hours of prayer, I would get nothing done!"

All the good things we do in the name of God and for our families and ministries will amount to nothing if we are not with God. And if we take on things without His direction and approval, those things will be meaningless.

You know what else...sometimes God has someone else in mind for a particular job. As do-ers, we tend to see a need and fill it. But that may mean we are, in essence, stealing someone else's blessing by robbing them of the joy of serving the Lord.

Friends, I am preaching to myself here! My prideful tendency is to take it all on by myself and then ruminate on how all these people are counting on me. I let my calendar get more and more full, until there seems to be no time for the basics. I wake up stressed and anxious, and plunge into my many duties with nary a thought about skipping my quiet time with the Lord.

Let us stop this vicious cycle of busy-ness together. Let us keep our priorities in order and our focus solely on God's voice. Let us be free from the Superwoman curse. And let us leave room for God to use others to accomplish His purposes.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

For the Overworked and Overwhelmed Woman

I live my life in a constant state of internal battle - either I am feeling too busy or feeling too lazy. I don't do middle ground. I tend to function pretty well when I'm on the busy side of the spectrum...at least for a while.

But there comes this inevitable moment in every busy season where I find myself on the brink of destruction. At that moment, everyone who looks at me is sure to recognize me as the classic overworked, overwhelmed girl with a Superwoman complex. I may be a little slower to catch on, but I do eventually clue in.

If you, like me, have the tendency to get a wee bit too busy, here are three warning signs to watch for. Picking up on these signals and acting on them may help keep you just this side of the brink of destruction.

1. Irritability and/or emotionalism.

I like to write off my moodiness as PMS. And, unfortunately for my family, I really do suffer from terribly emotional PMS. However, I've discovered that this excuse is not valid for every week of the month.

Do you have an irrational desire to scream at people when they annoy you? Does your tone of voice sound sharp and angry, even to your own ears? Do you feel frustrated with the requests and needs of your family or co-workers? Do you find yourself in tears when a friend asks, "How are you?"

Your emotions are trying to tell you something. They are saying, I can't control myself because life is too far off-kilter.

2. Physical symptoms.

Tummy upset, headaches, cold sores, acne breakouts - these symptoms are often brought on by stress. Not only do the stress hormones in your body bring on certain physical reactions, but being stressed brings on bad habits that also elicit these same symptoms.

I don't know about you, but when I get all stressed out, I feel too busy to cook or choose nutritious snacks, so I fill up on junk. I also feel too busy to sleep, so I stay up too late. Add poor diet, lack of sleep, and a barrel full of stress hormones together, and you'll end up with a woman who appears to be suffering illness.

3. Missing appointments.

Girls like us, we live by the schedule. We pride ourselves on our ability to manage a full calendar...and punctually! Sure, everyone gets overbooked occasionally (you do, don't you - everyone else?), but missing a couple appointments over a short period of time is not "normal."

If you need a good laugh, here is a beautiful example of an overworked and overwhelmed day in my life.

So, what's a imbetterbusy kinda girl supposed to do to stay in balance? When we see these warning signs creeping up on us, how can we stop the momentum before we plunge over that cliff and come crashing down?

I'm sure you guessed that I have a few suggestions (based on numerous crashing experiences). Come back tomorrow for part two. But while you're here today, let me ask you a quick question.

What are some other warning signs (in yourself or that you've seen in others) of being overworked, overwhelmed, and on the brink of destruction?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

When in Doubt, Write a List

Some interesting (and possibly useless) things I have learned lately...

I. If you put off your regular dental visit for 3 years, and only floss about once per month, you will be subjected to at least two one-hour (painful) sessions of scaling.

II. It is important to coordinate schedules with your husband - in advance. Doing so at the last minute results in two over-committed parents with a sitter who's going to Mexico. This formula is bound to equal disaster.

III. Rearranging furniture can totally change the look of your home!

IV. Rearranging your furniture may cause you to catch the "redecorating bug."

V. There is never enough time in a day. Translation: my house is a disaster.

VI. There is never enough food in the cupboards. Translation: we're out of chocolate-covered granola bars and it's an emergency!

VII. Children get along better when they're playing outdoors. It's raining today. Pray for me!

VIII. When do other people shower? Seriously.

IX. When do other people exercise? Also, seriously. I need answers to these questions, people.

X. I am afraid of controversy. Posting "Happy with the results" (regarding yesterday's election) on my personal Facebook page is causing heart palpitations. I hope no one yells at me IN ALL CAPS!

Got anything random to share? And for goodness' sake, when do you shower and/or exercise?!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Five Ways to be an Encourager

Back in the day (ha, whenever that was!) I used to say that encouragement wasn't one of my spiritual gifts. I used it as an excuse to let moments of offering encouragement slip past unacknowledged. Unbeknownst to the younger me, encouraging others is an integral part of being a leader.

So if encouraging others doesn't come naturally to you, try these pointers.

1. Stock up on blank cards and keep them in several handy places (your office, your home, your  purse, your glove box). If someone crosses your mind, take two minutes right then and there to jot a quick note. Don't forget to deliver it or drop it in the mail (the longer you put it off, the more likely you are to forget).

2. Connect on Facebook. Those of us who use Facebook are on there virtually every day, and it takes no more than 30 seconds to click on someone's profile and leave a little note on their wall.

3. Make a habit of the "two minute longer" conversation. Too often we pass by one another and breeze through the standard chatter:

Hi, how are you?
Oh good! And you?
I'm good, too. Thanks.
See ya!

This type of exchange with those who work/volunteer with you is likely to come across as unfeeling and uncaring. And your people want to be cared for! Instead, stop, look the person in the eyes, and genuinely ask a question that directly relates to his or her life (for example, if you know the family was away at a soccer tournament last weekend, ask how the team did).

4. Pray for them! While others may never know you've been praying, the very act of lifting them and their needs up to God grows a heart connection between you. Praying for others helps you to be more concerned with their needs, keeps them in your mind, and causes you to feel a deeper love for them.

5. Be intentional with your words. When you speak of the person, speak only good - it will get back to her. When you speak to the person, express appreciation for who he is and what he does.

If you are a leader in any capacity, learning to encourage those you lead is key. This is particularly true for volunteers (but really, even paid staff need to feel valued and appreciated). It took a two long, discouraging years for me to realize that encouragement was a skill I needed to develop in order to succeed as a leader. In my first couple years of leading women's ministry, we underwent numerous team member changes. Once I began intentionally encouraging my team, there was an almost instantaneous shift - for the next four years, we had virtually no volunteers step down! Possible correlation? I think so.