Sunday, September 30, 2012

31 days of Joy on the Mommy-Job


I'm trying something new for the month of October.
I'm going to be blogging for 31 days on one topic, and linking up with other bloggers via The Nesting Place.

I don't typically hop on bloggy bandwagons, but this one sounded like fun. 
I like the challenge of posting every day for a month.  

But let me be honest here: I chose this topic for ME. 

My attitude has not been the best lately. I've been giving in to goat mentality, plowing through my days and my lists, feeling overwhelmed, and getting grumpy when the little people "get in my way."

These inconvenient little people!  

Of course, they are also my blessings!  When I really see them, they are miracles, joy, and grace with skin on! But how often do I slow down to really see?  Not often enough.

Join me this month for daily snippets of joy.  
This exercise is for me, but if it blesses you, that's great too.

(I will probably add in a few more substantial posts here and there too, and I will not forget about our Grace book club!)

Gathering bits of family joy is part of my job as a writer-mother. 
This is one of the ways I use my art to bless my family.  

This month, I'll be sharing daily snippets from two of my favorite memory-keeping files:

Kid quotes:
If it goes on facebook, or if I tell my mom about it, it goes in the quote file.  I intend to share the funniest,  and most absurd words spoken in this house from the past several years.

A journal written to all my children, to help them see these childhood days through my eyes. (read more about this here)

To read the latest posts, 


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What is your favorite way to store family memories?
Will you be joining me this month?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

We wear masks for safety. But grace changes everything.

As I read this book and learn about these different kinds of masks we wear, part of me is always arguing:

Ok, fine, so maybe I do wear some of these masks to make myself look better than I am. But, look, it isn’t safe out there!  I can’t just let all of my ugly hang out and expect to be liked, much less loved! And I want, no, I need to be loved!

She explains, 
“The reason we hide is because we fear if we come out from behind it, we won’t be enough.“ p. 74

I think the author is right about this. It is fear that keeps me hiding behind the masks. Some of it is silly fear, and some of it is realistic fear.

And at this part of the book, I found myself afraid she would start into some silly pep-talk, telling us we are enough in our own way, that our sin isn’t really sin and we all just try so hard and can’t we just lighten up and love each other for who we are already?  Authenticity and tolerance and warm fuzzies! Let’s all pretend sin isn’t sin and make ourselves comfortable together here, with our ugly hanging out. (We might have to shield our eyes a little, but it’s worth it if it makes us all feel good!)
But she doesn't say that.

“The reason we hide is because we fear if we come out from behind it, we won’t be enough.
And the truth is, apart from Christ, we won’t.”

Apart from Christ, we are NOT enough. We are not awesome. We are not perfect mothers or selfless hard-workers or saints who deserve everyone’s love and admiration.
We are sinners.  Just like the first sinners, we hide. From each other, and from God.

We hide from each other
We hide from each other because we know people, and people are not necessarily safe. People can use our weaknesses against us. 
They might judge us. 
They might laugh. 
They might misunderstand us. 
They might hurt us.
We know this, so we wear a mask like a shield, and we try to keep ourselves safe behind it.

We hide from God
What if God is just like people? We aren't sure if He’s safe. We feel our sin, some of it, and we fear. And we hear his Law and we fear even more, and rightly so. We know our sin, and we are afraid to come out of hiding before God, because we don’t want God to make us know it even more.  

So we wield our mask like a shield against Him, against His law, and we hide.

How grace changes things
Our flimsy shields do not keep God from seeing into our hearts. He comes to us, destroying our shields with His word of Law.  He slays us, our self-righteousness, our pride.  
And it’s terrifying.

But then, He gives us new life through the gospel.

Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 
But because of his great love for us, 
God, who is rich in mercy, 
made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—

it is by grace you have been saved. 

And God raised us up with Christ 
and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 
in order that in the coming ages 
he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, 
expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
(Ephesians 2:3-8)

His behavior towards us is radical, shocking, and so surprising it can be hard to believe.
That which we deserve—He has taken upon Himself.   
Instead of wrath, we get grace.
Instead of condemnation, we get mercy.
Instead of death, we get life.
Instead of weakness, we receive strength.

And it is all grace.
All of it.
Our adoption into God’s family, and our life in Him every day thereafter.
Such confidence we have through Christ before God.  Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.  He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor 3:4-6)

Grace changes everything.

What happens to the masks?
As we understand who we are in Christ, and find ourselves fully known and yet fully loved, and as we learn to receive all good things from His hand, it changes how we relate to each other, too.

As His love pours out to those around us, we forget to worry about what they are thinking of us. We just serve them, and love them, and ask Him for help when that is hard.

As we taste of the riches of His inheritance, we forget to keep score, and we no longer need the A+.

As we bring our ugliness to Him and receive His grace every time, we forget to hide our ugliness from others. We know we sin, but we know Him who died for that sin, and that is more important.

We learn to point others to Him for grace, help, and security. We stop trying to fill that role ourselves, and we learn to be content in our small callings.

Grace changes everything.

And then, grace upon grace, God puts us in community with others who have tasted of His grace. We live together in that grace, and we breathe in His love for ourselves and breathe it out to each other.

And the masks slowly become unnecessary.

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Are you reading Grace for the Good Girl?
What do you think so far?
Read more posts  here.



Thursday, September 27, 2012

101 fall crock pot recipes!

101 Crock Pot Recipes

(From Jill...)
 I love crock pot recipes, especially in the colder months. Being a homeschool mama, collecting and trying new crock pot recipes has become an obsession with me. My crock pot has become my best friend. I use it almost daily. It has made my life so much easier. I just throw in the ingredients and supper will be ready within a few hours. It is especially helpful on Sundays after church. To see the TOP 101 Fall Crock Pot list hop on over to Blessed Beyond a Doubt!

Do you think you can use your crock pot every day for a week?
It sounds heavenly to me... I think I might try it!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

To Aggie, on her eighth birthday



Like me, you are task-oriented. If there is something that needs to be done, you want to get it done quickly.  You do your homework immediately when you come home from school, no prodding or nagging required.  You do not like loose ends hanging. You do not seem able to rest until that list is checked-off.  Oh my dear, I know just how you feel.

PhotobucketMy list is long these days, Aggie. I barrel through it all day, and again after supper.  So often you beg me to set is aside, but many times, I cannot. We have a big family and a busy life, and there is much work to be done.

But I try to set it aside, especially in the evening, for your sake and for mine.

You brought home another Magic Tree House book yesterday, and you just knew I would love it. We curled up in my bed with Jack and Annie and traveled with them to the Amazon Rainforest.  This time, you read to me. And reading, for you, is not like checking page after page off your list. You are not in a hurry to get to the end of the book. You read with excitement when the action moves quickly, but you linger to laugh and question and delight in the story whenever the mood strikes you. Reading is an adventure, and I love to share this nightly adventure with you.

I have to confess, when you read to me, I do not always listen to every word. Sometimes, I close my eyes and just let the sound of your voice wash over me. Your sweet voice navigates words with expertise, and you read with such emotion. I marvel at your brain and your heart, and how God has given you such growth.
God has made you a hard-worker, dear child, and you have so much to give and to do in this wide world. May God bless your busy hummingbird days, and may He also grant you many more days of adventure, both inside and outside of the wonderful world of books.

Aggie, I’m so glad God made me your mommy.
Happy birthday.
Love, Mom

Thank you, Father, for granting your daughter Aggie eight full years of life in this world. Thank you for her joy, her compassion, and her determination. Thank you for your care for her in both darkness and sunshine. Thank you for giving her safety in Your promises and Your constant care for her.  And Thank you, Father, for this moment of health and grace.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

click here for more

It's Fall Y'all




 Fall just happens to be my favorite time of year!  I am excited to be teaming up with a few other bloggers for a week of fun fall posts!  

Here is the schedule:

MondaySlowly Natural ~ Fall Family Fun
TuesdayJill's Home Remedies ~ Fall Home Remedies
Wednesday: A Mama's Story  ~ Fall Preparations 101
Thursday: Blessed Beyond A Doubt  ~ Fall Recipes Galore
Friday: Weak and Loved  ~ Celebrating the Season Changes

In celebration of fall, I'm sharing my 3 favorite DIY home remedy recipes that I prepare for my family for the coming winter months.

To read more, hop over to Jill's Home Remedies to read her 3 must-have Fall Home Remedies!

Monday, September 24, 2012

I have to take the medicine, too.

“Weak” is not a four-letter bad word. 
Hiding behind a mask of strength and responsibility 
is a lonely place to live. 

That mask portrays to the world around us 
that we have it all together, 
that we can handle the mess, 
that we don’t’ need people, or worse,
 that we don’t need God. 
Grace for the Good Girl, p. 85

And Jesus said,

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:29)
Seriously. Just. Come.

I am taking this to heart today, accepting help simply because I need it.  I prayed for help, and He sent help with skin on. And I took it.

It is unnatural, and so, the guilty feelings come.
It's almost like I am allergic to being the helped-one. Or maybe it's like exercise... painful at first, but the more you do it, the more you see that you need it and that it is good for you. 

At this point, this is just a theory.

My husband took the little boys to town just to give me extra peace today, just because I need it.
I could  have barreled on through, We would have survived a grumpy morning of taking care of them and counting the minutes until nap time... but he helped, and now my house is quiet, and I am breathing in.

God, replace my guilt with gratitude. Thank you for being a God who cares for the weak and the tired, and who invites us to rest.

Thank you for caring for me through my husband and friends today. Amen.

Read along with us! Join the Grace for the Good Girl Book Club.

It's Fall Y'all

This week, I am participating in a fun fall blog hop!

Please check out the following blogs for great fall ideas, and if you are a blogger, be sure to link up your own! I can't wait to read your posts!

Monday: Find some great ideas for Fall Family Fun aSlowly Natural.
Tuesday visit Jill's Home Remedies and learn about Home Remedies. 
Wednesday: Check out A Mama's Story for her Fall Prep 101 tips
Thursday: Visit Blessed Beyond a Doubt to gather some great fall recipies!
Friday, come here, where I'll get nostalgic about a certain sweater.



Remember- these are blog hops! If you are a blogger, be sure to link up your best fall posts throughout the week!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

This book is hard on my awesomeness.


Reading through grace for the Good Girl is not like taking a luxurious bubble bath in grace and having someone tell you how awesome you are.

It’s actually quite the opposite.
Are you finding this book hard? Challenging and frustrating? Are you arguing with it in your head a bit? Are you annoyed with the author and yourself and anxious to get to the part of the book that tells us all how to FIX this?

Here are a few things I have learned about myself so far:
I hide behind my performance. I want to be the need-meeter, not the needy one.
I hide behind my reputation. I want to look good and have people like me.
I hide behind my fake “fine.” I want to be strong in front of everyone at all times.
I hide behind my acts of service. I want to earn acceptance, love, approval. I don’t want a handout.

When I’m not how I wish I would be, I choose faking it over honesty. I choose hiding over allowing you to help me. I choose pride over reality.

This book reaffirms what I learn about myself from Scripture. I am not the “good girl” I would like to be. These things that I do that look so great- I often do them out of fear, guilt, or selfish ambition. Even my best works are tainted with selfishness. The author is tearing off our masks and helping us see the ugliness in our quest to be “good.”

And it’s painful.

I try to justify myself when this happens. I argue that it IS good to be strong, to serve and meet needs and look good and have people like you and work hard. I insist, it IS good for other people! And, of course, it can be. But that’s not why I do it. It’s just a nice side-effect, something that happens naturally to a good girl as she’s working hard to show the world her awesomeness.

And as for my hiding- I can justify that, too. I don’t want to be whiney! I don’t want to offend or cause conflict! I don’t want to get emotional, because honestly, I’m afraid you might get hurt. Or I might.

So I stay hidden, where it seems safe.
But it is not safe.
There is sin in the working and in the hiding, and suddenly I see that I am not safe.

And it gets worse, for the try-hard girl.

 She can handle a bad grade, as long as you give her the study guide so she can do better next time.
She can handle being told she’s wrong, if what comes next is the answer.
The list.
The Game Plan, so she can follow the Right Rules, and again make herself secure in her awesomeness.

But the author does not give us this, nor does Scripture.

Instead, we are invited to trust.
To look to Jesus, who kept the rulebook for us, and to accept His A+ as our own.
We are invited to love and be loved.
We are invited to live without a Game Plan, because by grace we have been saved.
We can let go of our awesomeness, and instead, trust in His.

This new life, the one under grace but not under law, is radically different. It is scary, and sometimes, we long for the false security of rules and Law. 

But there is no security there, dear sisters.

Security is to be found only in Him.


Righteousness in the presence of God must always be the gift of God, for only Christ can fully, perfectly, and most scrupulously satisfy the law of God.  
(Learn more about Law and Gospel- Read the full article here)

Do you cling too tightly to your own awesomeness?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Jesus, Scatter my darkness.

“…think of yourself as both the blackest night 
and the sun in all its brilliance. 
As the sun rises in the sky, it becomes more and more dominant. 
It chases the darkness away. 
The darkness is not gone, and if the sun stops shining, 
the darkness will return as dark as it was before. 
But as long as the sun shines, it has its way, 
and the world is bathed in light.” 
Gospel Motivation by Robert J Koester p. 52



"Apart from me, you can do nothing." John 15:5

Monday, September 17, 2012

Leaving Home and Missing Home

I was having my ‘mommy time’ while they were napping, checking in on my social media world.

Innocently, I clicked on a video that my dad posted on facebook:

Friday, September 14, 2012

A challenge: Be a charity case.


But I do not want to be a charity case.  I have my life under control, for the most part, really I do.  Yes, I need God, just like you do, but let’s not take it too far, now.  I’ll open my hands to receive the free gift of salvation, but a casserole?  That’s just too much!  Keep reading 'grace and chasseroles' here... 


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I know it's uncomfortable and hard, this concept of accepting help from others.  We want God's help, and we prefer that He would send it through the air, and on the sly... or at least in a nondescript package delivered to our houses in the middle of the night.

But often, He insists on using people.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Behind the mask: an angry, needy girl who is NOT fine.

“I taught people around me that I had no needs 
and then I was secretly angry with them for believing me.” 

This seems to be a problem for “good girls.”
We work hard, we meet needs, we do the job in front of us, and we do it well.

We do it with eager hands and a smile, or we try to, and when we don’t feel like smiling we smile anyway. We get done whatever needs to be done. We are the responsible ones, the strong ones, the ones people come to with their problems. We like this reputation. We love living up to this expectation. We love encouraging, helping, and coming through in a pinch.

We love making peace, putting people at ease, and lifting burdens.

We hate the opposite.

We don’t want to be involved in conflict.
We definitely don’t want to be the ones causing it.
We don’t want people to be uncomfortable or angry or upset about anything. We make peace at all costs.
We especially don’t want people to feel angry or upset at us, so we morph like amoebas to avoid others’ unhappiness.
We don’t like seeing people with burdens that we can’t lift. We pile them on our shoulders.
We don’t like to add to anyone’s burdens. We pretend we have none of our own.
Ever.

We’re fine.

And we’d really like to be fine. We are trying very hard to be fine. We don’t mean to be dishonest… we just really, really don’t want to be anything other than fine. And we hope if we pretend to be fine for just a little longer, we really will be fine.

When we are alone in the dark, we might whisper a prayer to God for help, but if He tries to provide help by sending us an actual person for us to lean on, forget it.
Too uncomfortable.
Too hard.
We don’t want to be a burden.

So we hide. We wear masks. We ache.
We get angry when people don’t realize it, when they believe the masks we wear.
But we don’t know how to take the masks off.

As the author describes,

“Our desire to be the good girl, the good Christian, 
the good wife, and the good mom becomes the number one priority, 
and Jesus isn’t even in the room.” P. 32

Jesus isn't even in the room.
 What does that even mean?

Photo by Shalinee Kohli Murishwar:
If He were “in the room,” wouldn’t He just be standing shoulder to shoulder with that “good girl” in my head, that perfect version of myself that I never am? Wouldn’t He be standing there with His arms crossed, glaring at me like she does, telling me to do better, to try harder?

Wouldn’t He take her side?

No, He wouldn't. And this makes all the difference.

Jesus has compassion on us.
He opens his hands to tired, tangled “good” girls, and invites us to just come. Rest. Receive.
He sees through our masks right into all the ugliness, and still He says, come.
He takes our failures, our Fs, and our sins and buried them deep in His wounds.
He gives us His own robe of righteousness to wear, and He gives us His A +.

Our stubborn insistence to do it all on our own, in our way, on our strength, begins to be washed away in the flood of His love.

We learn to receive love from Him and from others, and we receive so much more than we give.
It comes down in a shower of grace, and we are refreshed.


Jesus Christ came to save sinners, to pour out his mercy on all people.
He came for you, and He continues to come for you, that you may have life and have it abundantly.

Father,
Forgive us for chasing expectations and guarding our reputations, 
for people pleasing and making ourselves slaves to guilt, 
and for doing even "good" things out of fear, not love.
Our works are filthy rags.
Refresh us with your mercy, and teach us to rest in Your goodness.
Help us to see the ways you care for us, 
in Your Word, 
and through the people you send into our lives.
We dare pray these things because of Jesus alone.
Amen.
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This week we read Chapters 2 and 3 of Grace for the Good Girl. If you’d like to join us, it’s not too late! There are so many things that can be said about this book! If you are hungry for more discussion, please join our lively facebook group!

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Do you have trouble admitting when you're not "fine?"
Share your thoughts in the comments!

Do you know a friend who is exhausted by being fine all the time? 
Send some encouragement today.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fall Sprawl

The stifling heat of summer broke suddenly this week.
We breathe in cool air like fresh life. 


We spend an afternoon at the park, and I have energy for swing-pushing and chasing. I run until my legs shake, and they all keep running as I sit.  I am old enough to have to catch my breath, but at least I am young enough to run with them at all.

The breeze cools me quickly, and even after my exercise, I welcome the mild warmth of the sun. My seat on the sidewalk is warm and pleasant, and soon sitting turns to lying, and I sprawl my old/young body flat on the sidewalk.
The sun shines on all of me.

Soon I am spotted by little boys fighting, all of them right, all of them needing my defense.
In the middle of their grievances they stop, seeing me sprawled on the sidewalk.  

This is an odd place for a mother, I think they think. 
With smiles they sprawl beside me. The sun melts away their complaints for a moment.

Cement makes a lousy pillow, but boy heads find homes on my belly. 
Three heads on the soft belly stretched for them and by them.

The sun warms us all, and as we watch clouds, I feel the lovely weight of life pressing down on my body and heart.




Friday, September 7, 2012

Good girls and fear (Grace Book Club Chapter 1)

So, is this book for "good girls" who want to learn to be an even better good girl?

Not at all.
It's for women like these.
Women like me.

Do you identify with any of these feelings?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Walking through the fire: Do not attempt alone.

My knees get queasy when I see this hallway.


This hallway leads to the epilepsy testing center at Cleveland Clinic. I walked down this hallway with baby Eldon on my hip, and aching worry for Aggie in my heart, not sure if my knees could stand through the days or weeks of trial ahead of us. Would we find answers? Would we have to let them drill into her skull? Would we hear the awful words, "We don't know what's wrong with her- there's nothing more we can do?"

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I worked harder, not smarter.

Tuesday morning.

After morning coffee-and-cartoon time, my two-year-old came up to me and started singing "It's time to party!" swinging his little arms in the air. (This is the Turbo Jam theme song.)  He was reminding me to exercise.  I respond well to gentle, cute reminders. Thanks, Peter.

Before I exercised, I made a circle of couches and pillows and chairs around the wrestling mat, hoping they would climb cheerfully while I jammed.

I was interrupted once or twice by injuries, complaints, and one bite, but I still had a good workout. (If I count those "mothering moments" as part of the workout rather than interruptions, things go more smoothly.  Putting kids in time-outs burns calories, too, I tell myself.)

After my workout, I had a crazy thought.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Family-Focused Art: Birthday Letters

I love when I can be a writer and a mother at the very same time.  One of my favorite ways to do this:
Birthday Letters.

I am a terrible scrap-booker, but I love to use my words. 
I think only the first TWO of my children actually have baby books! I know that's terrible, but I have all the pictures... it's just a matter of gathering them. And cutting them. And pasting them. (Ugh.) Not going to happen any time soon, sorry kiddos.

I keep snapshots of their childhood for them in my own way. Pictures, of course, but also birthday letters.  When I write I try to capture the unique things about each child on that very day.  I often add favorite memories of the previous year, prayers, or major milestones. But I have to keep it simple (or I won't do it.) So I mostly just try to capture who they are on this day.
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