Sunday, May 30, 2010

Gardening Part 3

You might think that you missed part 2, well so did I so I figured I would just skip straight to part 3 and keep moving.

This week we continue the adventures of frugal gardening with Melanie.  I managed to plant my 2 pots this week without spending a dime.  You can too if you follow these simple steps.  First, have your mom throw a birthday party for an 89 year old family friend.  Second, when she asks you for help propose decorating with small pots of inpatients around the room.  Third, have her put you on the task and give you the money for it.  Forth, be unable to find inpatients you like and buy other flowers which you plant and bring to the party to create the perfect continuation of the theme centerpieces.

Then after the party

Have Grandma Dorothy beg you not to leave her with the flowers which she cannot use and so pack them up, bring them home and voila, free flowers for your pots.  So simple.

I planted 2 pots and put the left over flowers in with my now dead tulips.  I was told by a friend that you are supposed to leave the tulip leaves so that the bulbs grow and you get more flowers in future years.  When I was pulling some came all the way out but I left the bottom portion of many of the tulips so hopefully it will be even more spectacular next year.

You can't really see the flowers in the garden portion very well here but I am assuming they will start flowering beautifully once they get going.  I may have left the without water in the baggies I planted them in for several days.  It is possible.

Now when planting your frugal flowers you will need soil.  The trick to free soil is, well, a shovel.

I had saved some dirt in one of the pots from last year but the other was empty.  I just got out my handy garden shovel and filled them with dirt from the garden.  Yes I may have tossed a few worms into the pot as well but that is supposed to be good for them, right?  And yes the dirt is a little weedy but I am going to just hope for the best.  My mom suggested that this type of planting may require some plant food.  I will have to see what we have in our garage.  (you would be surprised what I find in there despite my lack of gardening skills.)

As I have been working through my existing plantings I have decided there is an aspect of gardening that is part archaeological dig.  As you work in the dirt you discover things and wonder, "what is that?" or "where did that come from?"

For instance,

What is that?  It appears to be a giant root that I can't find the ends of.  There is no giant tree near this giant root.  It actually looks a little like a giant tuber but I am just assuming it is a root.  It is pretty hard.  The question then continues?  Should I excavate further or just cover it back up and forget it?  Will it unlock a mystery of this yard that I need to know or just make a big hole and a big mess?  Can my curiosity simply be denied?
Also, I ask

Where did that come from?  I mean there wasn't a huge hole in our yard last year.  I am pretty sure we would have noticed it.  I am not sure this picture does it justice but it is about a foot deep, or more, who really wants to stick their hand in there and find out?  While I was thinking animal a friend came over and suggested this had once been the location of a tree which had been cut down and the stump buried. Now years later the stump is completely rotted and the earth gave way.  This seems a likely possibility as we have another smaller hole in the middle of the yard (this one is on the street side of our fence) which also seems to be a former tree.  Of course either way the next question is, what do we do with it?

I am amazed actually by how much I could say each week about our yard, and yet somehow couldn't write a post about it last weekend.  Next weekend I will be out of town but I will try to pre-post one of the many other thoughts I have.

For today I will leave you with a question.  What should we do with a whole stack of these slate tiles? 

I think I am so overwhelmed by the possibilities I can't make a decision. My top two ideas so far are to tile the front steps with them giving us a lovely slate stair or setting them in the yard somewhere to create a small slate patio which might hold a small table and a couple chairs.  What would you do with them?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pure Joy

Don't you just love it when you face a trial?  Are you full of joy over struggles?  Does it excite you to face day after day of problems?  It makes me so happy to wake up to a day of stress knowing that God is in control.

OK no it doesn't.  I hate stress, I hate trials.  I would like to write the script of my life and have it flow along nice and smooth.  I would know all the answers, do all the right things, have all that I need and want and enjoy life to the fullest.  I would not write trials into my life.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4

Apparently despite my ideal life without trials James is insisting that I should in fact be joyful about my trials.  Was I joyful when we went through infertility?  No not so much, but I did persevere through the experience and I would definitely say that I am much more mature as a result.  In the end when I allowed God to walk me through that trial I did find much more joy in the process than when I fought against Him.

So today as John and I build a business and sit in the famine of our feast or famine business and wonder if there will ever be a stage of stability where our storehouses are full and we are prepared, I am trying to be joyful.  We are definitely developing lots of perseverance as we get up each morning and do the work trusting God to provide in time all that we need.  And you know the crazy thing.  He always does.  He has never failed us.  Yet at each famine we doubt, we fear, we question. Why?  Instead we are learning to trust and to persevere.

I love how the verse says that "perseverance must finish its work".  Perseverance is working.  Our growth comes from putting one foot in front of the other and keeping on moving forward.  Our maturity and completeness comes in doing the work.  Sometimes I wonder if perseverance will ever finish its work.  Will I ever be mature and complete?  Maybe yes and maybe no.  Maybe life is full of trials and we will never be complete until we are in heaven, there we will truly lack nothing.  So life is a process and it is our job to find joy as we walk along the road.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Folly Friday

Boy some weeks I inundate you with my vast wisdom (or is it random trivia) and then others I have nothing to say.  I figure I can at least give you one thought this week, actually this will mainly be random trivia.


I have been contemplating my potential writing career.  I have been reading a book called, "writer mama" which John bought me for mother's day after I raved about it from the library.  It is both helpful and overwhelming.  It tells where to start but still leaves me with the question, "where to start?"  I waver day to day with confidence and doubt about my ability to have any level of success in this endeavor.  And without a boss to tell me what to do, where to start or even when to start I feel like I am floundering a little bit.  I would really love and am praying for a mentor, someone a little ahead of me that can encourage me, answer my stupid questions and direct me when I get lost.  Not someone I harass and feel like they might be wondering why I keep bothering them but someone who is genuinely interested in helping me succeed.  I know she is out there somewhere.

Yesterday I rode my bike to my parents house. They live about 12 miles away which is the distance I am riding in the triathlon I am doing in 2 weeks with my sister. (I don't know if I have mentioned it much here as I have been chronicling my training at WEWAWO, the sisters shared diet and exercise blog.) My mom had rode her bike over to my house a couple weeks ago. I was confused by her arrival still smelling fresh of perfume, no apparent sweat on her body and hair still fluffy despite 12 miles under a helmet. I hopped on my bike, with Isabelle in a trailer behind me, knowing that I was in much better shape than my mom and would have no trouble at all riding out there. I asked John to come home for lunch to install my new clip pedals on the bike so I could really be official on the ride. He sucessfully managed to cut his knuckles and leave lots of blood on my pedal so I could be thinking of him the whole ride. Somehow the whole thing ended up being much more challenging than I thought it would be. I think the only thing that kept me going, besides the fact that I was miles from my destination and from home, was the fact that my mom had so effortlessly come to my house. Plus, I am doing a 12 mile bike in the triathlon in 2 weeks, if I can't do this I am in trouble! I finally got into Chanhassen and was about 2 miles from their home, having gone 10 miles and stopped at dozens of stop lights where I had to unclip from the pedals to wait. But then I found myself stopping while also turning my bike and somehow the multiple tasks did not go together. Down I went right at the corner of a somewhat busy spot in downtown Chanhassen. I was surrounded by women in mini vans staring at me. There is really nothing to do but laugh at yourself and get back up. It wasn't a bad fall, I think being attached to Isabelle slowed my decent (the trailer didn't move, just my bike.) I had a scrape on my hand a knee but didn't see any blood so got back on and went with the light. As I rode I glanced again at my hand to discover that I was quickly developing a large hematoma and turning a lovely shade of blue. I pressed on for 2 more miles and arrived just as my mom was heading out on a search party to find me. (she had called and talked to Isabelle just before my fall and knew we were in the area.) So there I am, exhausted, dripping wet with sweat, hair wet with sweat, bruised and bloody (the knee did bleed a little). Not at all like my mom looked when she arrived. I got myself and ice pack and sat down.  My mom started commenting on what a nice ride it was. I commented on how many hills there were. What hills she wondered. OH! She rode her bike downhill for 12 miles and I rode my bike uphill for 12 miles! Plus I had a 50 pound parachut behind me. Suddenly it all made sense. Maybe next time I will bring my bike there and ride home. I hear that is a lovely ride. But there was no time to recover. What I thought would take about an hour took me almost 2 hours and now it was time to convince my parents to take me straight to Jake's last track meet.

This was his first year running track and the first organized sport he has been involved in since 3rd grade.  He really seemed to like it and said he is planning to sign up again next year, a good sign.  I told him one of my favorite parts of track for him was the fact that he wasn't particularly good at it.  He seems to be a natural at so many things.  With very little effort he can be successful and run with the top players in most of what he takes on.  But, he is not an instinctive runner, he has finished last in most of his runs.  We have been told that running is something you can learn and we are enjoying seeing him improve and work at something.  When he comes home and I ask him how he did he tells me about how he had a PR (personal record) in the race rather than about all the kids who finished faster than him.  That is exactly what I wanted him to learn in running.  That is exactly the kind of lessons I have learned from my own running.  He isn't always going to be the best or even good at everything he does but that doesn't mean there isn't value in the task.  He is having fun, getting exercise, learning a skill he can take into adulthood and making new friends.

We arrive to late to see his first run but find him holding up the goal post with his team mates.
Hold on, he moved.  Walked a few feet from the goal post. (I spared you the pictures of the top of his head while he lays against the gatorade buckets.)
Wait, is he stretching now?  Could he be running again soon?
Look I think he is coming toward us.  Grandma and Grandpa came to watch him hold up the goal post and I had been texting him for a while to come talk to us.  Since I can see him I know he got it.
Yes a smile and brief conversation with Grandma.  He assures us he will be running soon.  Grandma is nervous, she is having house guests in a couple hours.
OK here we go, the 200 meter dash.  He is a sprinter. (I don't see him in this picture either but I know he is there.)
There he is in the close lane.  Green shirt.  Go Edina.

Getting closer.
Another successful last place finish.  That way there is nobody else cluttering up your finish shot.  Go Jake!

Back to writing for my final thought on this post.

As I have been praying and seeking God to lead me in this new adventure I thought of a story from my Mary Kay years.  While I may never have driven a pink car the training I recieved while selling Mary Kay has seriously impacted almost every single aspect of my life in some way.  Today I am remembering the story of one National Sales Director who started off just like the rest of us making phone calls to friends and feeling a little insecure.  At one meeting she attended the speaker used the word "offer" when refering to telling women about the product and recruiting.  That word connected for her.  She didn't have to sell, force, cajole or whatever was making her feel intimidated.  She would simply offer women the product and opportunity and then see what happened.  As I begin thinking about writing and what kind of writer I will be I feel like God has given me a couple words to help direct my path.  One is "teach" and the other is "disciple".  While others may find these words intimidating to me they feel safe.  Teaching is just sharing information.  I don't have to know everything, I will either find the information or just tell what I know.  And Disciple is very similar.  Just tell what I know.  Encourage people in their faith.  I don't have to convince anyone to do anything I just tell what I know.  Tell what God places on my heart.  God will do the rest.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The garden project week 1

So far I am sticking with what I know in the garden. I pulled weeds in the one garden area I already care for and directed John and Jake to do their own various projects. Jake mowed, after the standard number of threats were made. It is amazing how good weeds look when they are all a uniform length. John walked our front yard with some sort of weed killer to hopefully rid us of the front dandelions and keep the weed patrol happy.
Measuring the concentrate

Walking the grounds

As I was pulling all the prickly weeds out of the hostas as I do every year and wondering what I might say about gardening this week since I tried nothing new I realized that while I feel like this is going to be my first year of trial and error gardening that in fact I have been learning things about gardening for years. I have been a homeowner for an amazing 16 years and our last house was also purchased from a big gardener so surely I have learned something in all those years. Here is a totally random list of what I know about gardening and plants:

  • Even if you cut down 7 feet of clematis vines in the spring the new vines will climb all the way back up 7 feet, you did not just kill the only thing that seems to take care of itself in your yard. They really are dead vines not just dormant.
  • If you buy a seed mat of flowers out of a magazine and just set it on some black dirt without killing any of the usual weeds or in any way preparing the soil and then just barely cover the mat with enough dirt to keep it from blowing away and then don't pull any weeds when they come up because you don't know the difference between weeds and flowers none of the flowers will grow.
  • Eventually tulip bulbs will stop producing flowers in the spring if you do nothing. (I didn't learn what you are supposed to do but I do know that much.)
  • Ugly and over grown bushes pop right of the ground if you loop a chain around them and attach it to a truck.
  • Large cucumbers will suddenly appear on your driveway if you plant the seeds in a weedy spot next to the driveway and forget about them all summer long.
  • Rabbits like tulips
  • Iris' will eventually get killed by weeds if you do nothing.
  • Weeds can grow as tall as me.
  • Mulch really makes even bad landscaping look good.
  • Weeds still grow through mulch.
  • If your bushes look bad you can't make them look worse by doing a little pruning.
  • If you let your sister help you clean your yard she might accidentally pull the honeysuckle out. But that is ok because you probably had pretty much killed it by then anyway.
  • Baby clematis plants don't grow well when you plant them in the heat of the summer and then don't water them.
  • Nothing but weeds really grows on the boulevard where all the road salt ends up when the snow melts.
  • If your grass dies in the summer from lack of water it will still come back in the spring.
  • Concrete is a good way to fill in flower beds that overwhelm you.
  • Landscaping books tend to assume you know what they are talking about.
  • All landscaping work is back breaking. Yet strangely rewarding. Although I am still unclear if the trade-off is worth the effort.
  • If your husband doesn't fix the lawnmower for a month that is his way of telling you he wants you to bring it in and have it done for him.
  • You don't have to mow in July if you don't water your grass.
  • A fence hides weeds from the weed patrol.

I am really looking forward to learning some new stuff this summer. This week we are hoping to meet with a designer who is going to help us finalize the paint colors for our house. I have a concept in mind but John and I don't do color selection. The house is way to big to choose the wrong color. So still no new gardening quite yet. Self-employment is a feast and famine business. We are moving into the famine stage for the next couple weeks but I should be able to hit the garden stores in a few weeks. Until then it will be all about how I am killing weeds and pruning bushes.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dressing up

I have been in closet cleaning mode the past couple weeks.  As I was ruthlessly clearing out one closet I came across the cake topper from our wedding.  This reminded me of the two large boxes in another closet I am afraid of, one with my wedding dress and one with my prom dresses.  Although I don't think I have looked at it since I was married almost 20 years ago somehow I couldn't resist getting out my wedding dress and trying it on again.  Needless to say it didn't fit, apparently my ribs have expanded signficiantly.  I can blame Jake for that right?  I am sure the fact that my butt is also bigger wasn't affecting it at all.

While the dress wasn't quite as flattering on me as remember there was someone here who looked pretty good in it.

The beautiful future bride.

She was so excited to try all the dresses on.  I didn't even bother to try to get into my prom dresses but Isabelle was adorable in those as well. (no photos, sorry.)  I guess this is why you have girls.  I could never have shared this girly moment with my son.  Remembering the excitement of shopping for and wearing the fancy dresses, she loved hearing me tell her about it.  I can't wait to shop for her prom dress and wedding dress someday. 

On the other side, I am hoping Jake invites us to take pictures when he goes to prom.  

Edina is a Senior only prom so while Jake and Jade were not old enough to go, Jade had friends going so they participated in para-prom activities going out to dinner with friends and then attending the after party.  I can't recall what we were doing but somehow I missed the whole thing.  Some days it seems like Jake has entered the raise himself stage, occasionally we have to rein him back in but overall he seems to be doing a fair job of raising himself so we are letting him go along.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Garden Project

I have a large backyard.  I love it.  Plenty of room to run, play, relax and dream.  We enjoy being in it all summer long.  However, we don't take very good care of it.  As we speak the city weed patrol is probably drafting a letter telling us to take care of the dandelions in our yard.  Yes the weed patrol exists.  Yes we have recieved letters from them before. 

We inherited some gardens from the previous owners.  They liked to garden and grew lots of veggies and flowers.  We have mainly let them get taken over with weeds and mow them down to mimic the look of grass.  There is one spot where some issues came up and because of the uneven ground we can't mow it down so it just grows tall lush weeds all summer long.  Luckily it is in the back corner so it doesn't bug us too much but our alley neighbors probably wish we would take care of it.  They always seem exicted when they see us trying to do something with the area.

The "prairie restoration project" as we affectionately call it.  The city didn't seem to agree and before we put up the fence got a letter telling us our weeds were too tall.  Keep in mind I took this picture today and it is only May.

We also have a smal garden right by the house.  The hostas grow thick each year and are well beyond the need to be split but I wouldn't know what to do if I did split them so I just let the thick clumps of hostas continue to grow.  Some falls I cut all the dead hostas out and other years I leave them and just let the new hosta grow over the old hosta in the spring.  That was my approach this year.

A few years ago I was feeling ambitious and planted a few perinials in the garden spot in front of the hostas.  They are all growing amazingly well considering the lack of attention I give them.  Then last fall I planted some tulip and hyacin bulbs which I have been enjoying during this early spring season we were having here in MN.  Of course I am pretty sure I planted alot more bulbs than I have flowers but I did get enough that I am optimistic about future years.

My tulips, the hyacins in front have already started to die.  Do I have to go pick them now?
One of the perinials I planted years ago.  I have no idea what it is but it flowers nicely each year.

Another flowering perinial I planted that flowers nicely and I have no idea what it is.  There is also a little clump of some sort of iris to the right of this flower that I didn't photograph because it isn't flowering yet and another plant that flowers nicely in the fall.  In the middle of all these flowers is a blank spot begging for more perinials.  And, as you can see, some weeding to be done.

So that is where my gardening skills have taken me in the nearly 8 years we have owned this home.  Every year I think I am going to pull it together and get this yard shaped up.  I am going to keep up with the weeds in both the grass and the garden.  We are going to do something about the spot in the back and every year I imagine I will plant some veggies despite never doing so before.  Other people love to garden, if I just had a little knowledge couldn't I?

So that is what I am going to try to get this summer.  A little knowledge.  I have talked to a few gardener friends and they all say you just have to go for it.  Gardening is all about trial and error.  Well that pretty much summarizes my philosphy of life so I should be a master gardener in no time.

Last fall I talked with a friend who suggested that if I really wanted to plant a garden this spring I should put down a board or tarps or something so that the grass would be dead come spring and I wouldn't have as much work preparing a spot.

So I did that.  I did peak a couple weeks ago and sure enough there is black dirt under there, but now I am afraid to move forward.

After a spectacular April the weather has been terrible the past couple weeks but there is promise of improvement starting this weekend.  I figure there is no time like the present and nothing like a little accountability to keep a person motivated so my plan is to give you my weekly progress report this summer on how my garden is growing.

Things you might look forward to reading about:

  • What I will plant in that veggie garden.  It is rather small, one of my friends said it was only big enough for one tomato plant.  It is a little bigger than that but not much.  That is about all I can mange at this stage of the game.

  • Pruning.  We have lots of bushes that haven't really been trimmed since my sister and brother-in-law were in town a few years ago and helped us out.  It looked great then.  Hopefully I can just follow the pattern they started.

  • Killing the dandelions.  We are going to try to do it ourselves this year.  We usually hire a service every 2-3 years. They seem to be contained for a couple years and then get out of control again.  This time we are going to try a little DIY of the weed and feed.

  • Weeding the gardens.  I hear you need to do it more than once.

  • Moving some of the perinials and splitting the hostas.

  • The never ending battle of the sprinkler system.  We have one.  It has never worked in 8 years.  John has replaced pretty much all the valves and several sections of hose.  We have a new control panel ready to install.  Maybe this year we can get partial usage?

  • The answer to how to deal with our prairie restoration project.  We are leaning toward just scraping it off and turning it into a parking pad for John's work van.  Of course that will cost money...

  • And speaking of money.  We will be painting the outside of the house this summer.  If it means we have to start eating 2 meals a day instead of 3 or I have to walk everywhere and not buy gas.  Whatever sacrifice it takes will not be too great to see my house painted this summer!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Good Dog

A final story from the archives:

When my son was in second grade we decided to get a dog. Jake was an only child and we wanted to get him a dog to play with as well as give him some responsibility in caring for the dog. We found a Welsh Corgi at the Humane Society which seemed perfect, small enough for me but big enough to satisfy my husband and son. My sister had a dog named Fraiser so we decided to name our dog Niles. While many dogs from the pound are very nice dogs and make great pets, from the moment we brought him home it was clear that this dog wasn’t one of them. He was constantly running away if not tightly tied up outside. He paced the house all day long with his nails clicking on the hardwood floors. He went to the bathroom in our room whenever he got the chance. And worst of all he would nip at Jake biting him when he would try to play too rough with him. One night at dinner Jake prayed this prayer, “Dear God, please make Niles quit biting. But if he doesn’t stop biting, please let all his teeth fall out. Amen.” John and I couldn’t stop laughing when he was done. It was such a sincere prayer by a boy who loved his dog but knew he needed to stop biting. Ultimately the dog didn’t stop biting and we had to have him put to sleep but we have at least one good memory from him.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Retreat Relief

(I am sorry to say I couldn't figure out the timer on my camera so I am not in the picture.)

I am home from our women's retreat.  It was wonderful.  Lots of fun to spend time with the women of our church doing my nails, eating so much good food and growing in Christ. 

Friday night while doing my nails I mentioned that my hair has been breaking off and wondered what that was all about.  Suddenly 2 women were asking me how old I was and a discussion about peri-menopause and menopause ensued.  While I was interested in the conversiton in the back of my mind all I could think was, "WHY ARE YOU TALKING TO ME ABOUT MENOPAUSE??? I AM ONLY 25 YEARS OLD!"  I don't know if I am excited about the prospect of finally nearing the end the period chapter of my life or freaked out at the process of getting to that end.  Both I think.  Of course, again I am only 25 and I am not totally convinced I have actually begun that process.  Maybe I will do a little research about it.  You know when I finally go into menopause I won't be shy about sharing to many details with you.

As I have mentioned before, besides planning the retreat, with much help, I also spoke at the retreat.  I had 2 wonderful topics and I managed to present both of the without passing out, hyperventilatng or shaking as if I was having a seizure.  I don't think I will be taking my act on the road anytime soon but I don't think I embarassed myself.

Now that it is over I thought I would post my complete thoughts on the subject of "Above Average" here.  Further thoughts on Gratitude later in the week.  Grab a cup of coffee for this long but hopefully enjoyable post.

We live in a culture where “above average” has come to be a phrase that can create stress and a sense of failure when we compare ourselves to the standards set by the world around us. Everywhere we turn we see over the top weddings, parties, clothing, lifestyles, personalities, homes, cars, boats, etc. There is no way we can compare and no way we can measure up. It definitely takes more than a little to be above average by those standards and we will never measure up when we compare ourselves to those images. This weekend our theme is based on a quote I read in a devotional that says, “It takes so little to be above average.” When I came across this quote in a devotional I was so struck by the simplicity and truth of the words. How one simple act of kindness, keeping my promises, following through on a task makes me above average in so many ways. But this is not above average in the world’s eyes, this is above average in God’s eyes. God reminds us in Isaiah that His ways are not our ways.

I have a friend that I email with. She is really more like a pen pal. Although I have met her in real life our relationship has been built almost entirely through email conversations. I think there is something about writing your thoughts that helps give them clarity and something about reading other peoples thoughts that helps you give them clarity. A couple years ago I was lamenting to Jen about my life. I was feeling very insignificant, unaccomplished, lazy, purposeless, whatnot. I was explaining to her how I saw all these other women doing things and I really felt like I was doing nothing. I specifically called out two friends I have who work full time as the primary bread winners in their families. They both are totally competent and reliable. The one friend was getting up at 4am to run before work training for a half marathon. I could barely get up by 9am to go on a run and half the time I opted out once I got up. I really needed to pull myself together. I was looking forward to a much needed pep talk from my friend. She wrote me back and said essentially, “why are you comparing yourself to people whose life has nothing to do with your own?”…hmm….interesting…Could it be that I am measuring myself to the wrong standard? It is a question that rings in my mind on a regular basis when I find myself wanting to compare myself to others.

So often we compare ourselves to others and only see the areas we don’t measure up. I have friends who come over to my house and tell me it is always clean. Now I assure you my house isn’t always clean but I do try to keep it tidy most of the time. I have one child at home with me during the day. This friend who feels her house is never clean has 4 children at home with her all day. If I had 4 children at home all day I would have a very different looking house. And if you are thinking that you only have one child at home and don’t keep the house up keep in mind I have been home perfecting my homemaking for 15 years. And again, my house isn’t always clean.

This weekend as we think about becoming “above average” we won’t be comparing ourselves to the average of the world around us. We will be looking instead at who we are in Christ. We will be comparing ourselves to who we were before Christ, who we would be without Christ vs who we are as heirs with Christ living our lives for the Lord.

I have come to realize that God’s purpose for me at this stage in my life revolves around my family, raising children, encouraging my husband. At times it doesn’t feel very important, sometimes I feel like I could really just “phone it in”. I get stuck on auto pilot just plodding along. I get frustrated with this purpose and start thinking about getting a job, interacting with other people and doing something of more significance with my life. Not that raising children isn’t significant but some days it certainly feels like maybe I could squeeze a second purpose into my days. Then God reminds me of the bigger picture. Maybe I will never receive any accolades for my parenting but I am helping God create people who could go on to make a significant impact on the world or who might have children who will. I may not be written about in history books but I am part of history because I am raising a generation which will go on to raise another generation and the impact I have on my children will make a difference for generations to come.

Your stage of life might be different. God might be calling you to work and influence the people you work with. He might be calling you to something entirely different. Wherever you are that should be your focus. Jer 29:11 reminds us, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God knows where you are and it is exactly where you are supposed to be at this moment in your life.

You might be in a stage of your life you don’t really like. Maybe you are single and want to be married but feel it will never happen, maybe your married and not very happy and can’t see that you ever will be again, maybe your children are driving you crazy and you feel like they will never grow up. We can tend to get stuck looking at the one tiny spot of life we are in and miss the bigger picture God has for our lives. I think of Joseph from the bible. He started his life off as a favorite child and then one day everything went wrong. His brothers attacked him and sold him into slavery. And just when he had gotten himself a pretty good slave job he gets tossed into prison. But God is there directing it all. He then interprets the Pharaohs dream about an upcoming famine and is released and put in charge of preparing the nation for that famine. After all that when his brothers show up looking for food he doesn’t blame them for the trials he has endured in his life but instead tells them that what they meant for evil God meant for good. He saw not a moment in his life but the whole picture and knew God had been with him the whole time.

As we look at our lives it can be easy to get stuck where we are and feel like God will leave us here forever. But our lives are filled with many activities and adventures and God has a purpose for each one of them. When John and I were going through infertility it definitely felt like my whole life, like I was on hold and would be forever stuck in that place waiting for another child. Everyone around us was having children while we were frozen in place waiting for our child. When I allowed myself to get sucked into that thinking it would feel overwhelming but when I reminded myself that no matter the outcome my life would go on and God had so many other purposes for my life than this one moment it was easier to endure. Even this stage of raising children is temporary. While God might be keeping me at home right now the fact is that my children will eventually grow up and leave home and I will leave the raising children stage of my life and look to see what God has for me next.

I think of the writer of the devotional book that inspired this weekend, Emilie Barnes. She started out over 20 years ago writing home management/organization books from a Christian perspective and has had a great deal of success in that area writing and speaking. Then one day she found out she had cancer. Her whole life changed, as she fought the cancer her relationship with God deepened. God used her to encourage the others who were seeking treatment at the facility she was at and now today she has become a somewhat prolific devotional writer. While they aren’t the deepest devotionals I have read they really display of depth in her relationship with the Lord that you doesn’t always come across. But she didn’t start out her life knowing how to be a great homemaker or even knowing God. She grew up in a home with an alcoholic father who died when she was a teen. Her mother had to work and so she was in charge of managing the little 1 bedroom apartment the family moved into after his death which prepared her for managing her own home. She met he husband on a blind date and came to Christ through their relationship. They married when she was 17. A couple years later they had their first child. A few months later her brother’s wife went to the store and never returned leaving him with 3 pre-schoolers. He went into a depression and so they offered to take the 3 kids while he got his life back together. She now had 4 pre-school children and found out she was pregnant. She tells the story in one of her books of one afternoon where she brought the kids to the backyard, spread out a blanket and passed out. She said she didn’t care if they ate dirt or worms, then she wouldn’t have to feed them lunch! Ha ha. At that time, in the midst of exhaustion and business of raising 5 little children she didn’t know that some day she would be a best selling author, that God would use the skills she learned taking care of the house after her father died and then taking care of 5 little kids at a young age to inspire women around the world to be better homemakers. She was just a 21 year old in a very overwhelming stage of life. She kept moving forward and kept open to what God had for her and followed him down the path he took her on. God had a plan for her and those busy, stressful and difficult years of her life were all necessary for her to become the woman she needed to be to be used by God.

And God has a plan for all of us in whatever stage of life we are in.

I look at life like a giant painting, mine is modern art with many images mixed together to create a collage of sorts. Sometimes we get focused in on one corner of the painting, that can be OK at times, like when I was in infertility, that is where I needed to be and nowhere else, God was molding and growing me in that space, but I needed to remember there was a bigger picture. Sometimes you step back and observe the whole picture. There will be blank spaces but you can also see where you have been and what you have done, what was important to you. Often that is where I find myself before a new adventure, through that observation God often directs me to the next thing in my life.

As we live our lives listening to God we begin to be aware of the prompting of the spirit in the activities of our daily life. Every day each of us do little things, prompted by the Holy Spirit, that are above average. If you hold the door for that mom pushing the stroller, show up on time for a meeting, get a sub when you can’t make your nursery duty, read a book with your child even when you are tired, listen to your husband talk about his job even when you have no idea what he is talking about, you are above average.

“It takes so little”. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like so little when God asks us to do something. It feels scary and overwhelming, exhausting. When that “little” is our own will it can turn out to be not so little at all but, when that little is following God’s prompting it will feel so little no matter what it is.

It can be frightening to follow God’s promptings. He might ask us to do something outside of our normal activities and that can be scary. I know that many times in my life I have resisted the prompting of the Holy Spirit in my life. I remember one winter I had made up some fresh mini loaves of banana bread. I was going to visit 2 different friends that day so I wrapped up 2 loaves to bring to each home to eat as a treat while we talked. It was one of those very cold, way below zero days and I needed gas so being the high maintenance girl I am I drove a little out of my way to a gas station that pumps the gas for you. I cracked my window and told the guy to fill it up. I never even turned off my car. While it was filling I had an overwhelming desire to give the guy one of my loaves of banana bread. An internal discussion ensued about the fact that I needed to bring one to each of my friends, maybe he would think it was weird or wouldn’t like it or think I was secretly poisoning him as if I was some serial killer or something. In the end I gave in to my fear and drove off without giving him the loaf. As the day played out for reasons I don’t recall I never did give away both loaves and when I got home I couldn’t stop thinking about how I really didn’t need both loaves and should have given it to the man pumping my gas in the freezing weather. God knew early in the day I wouldn’t need both loaves. I don’t know what would have happened but I know it was a missed opportunity that I can never have back. And I know that it would have taken so little for me to give it to him. I also can recall a time where I followed that prompting and sent a note to my sister-in-law encouraging her to not give into fear but to trust God to take care of her. That note of encouragement prompted her and her husband to take a risk and follow a dream they had been holding back on because of fear.

So this weekend we are not going to spend time comparing ourselves to others but instead we are going to learn to see who we are in God’s eyes. We are going to ask God what our purpose at this stage of life might be and how it fits into the bigger picture God is creating in our lives. And we are going to be listening to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and see where He is leading us and what he is asking us to do. And in viewing our life from that perspective I hope you will all discover that it really does take so little to be above average.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

My Superhero

Here is another post from my archives.

When Jake was 3 we had all the superhero pj’s. Superman, Batman, Robin and Spiderman. He loved them and wanted to wear them everyday, all day. One day after a battle of wills on this subject we finally decided that he would wear his “secret identity” over his costume for a trip to the mall. And so there I was standing in the middle of a busy mall chatting with a friend while Jake was playing in the center court a few feet from me. I looked over and saw to my horror that he was taking his clothes off and was struggling to transform into a superhero. What do I do? If I try to stop him there will definitely be a big scene and I likely won’t win. So I did the only reasonable thing, pretend I don’t know him. Once he had wandered off I quietly went over and retrieved the abandoned clothes, tucked them in my purse and then went to retrieve my superhero. There were many more adventures to the mall with my superhero. When he was Spiderman he would “shoot a web” up to the ceiling as he stepped on the escalader and held his arms up as we “flew” to the second floor. When he was Superman he always had to wear the black cowboy boots because, “superman wears boots”. Something I hadn’t really noticed before. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised by this stage or his desire to wear the costumes out. When he was 2 he would insist on wearing his hooded bath towels to the mall as “capes”. With so many childhood issues to worry about I am glad I let him wear the costumes to the mall. Although it seemed like he would never wear his regular clothes again, the stage is now long over and I miss it.

Oh how I remind myself of this every time I leave the house with Isabelle in some crazy ensemble.  Although it might occasionally be nice to see her in something coordinated I know that one day she will start dressing like everyone else and I will desperately miss these days of creativity and personal expression.  I didn't know to cherish the superhero stage with Jake but I definately am with Isabelle.