Sunday, March 27, 2011

But I thought...

Last Sunday I rallied the family for a little cleaning time.  I assigned my husband the vacuuming duty as I have since day one of our marriage when I informed him vacuuming must be men's work because I sweat when I do it.  I have vacuumed many times since becoming a full time homemaker but anytime we take a team cleaning approach vacuuming duty always reverts back to John.  I cleaned the bathrooms while he vacuumed and then went to mop the hardwood floors and kitchen floor when he was done.  As I began I came across crumbs, and then more and then it became apparent that he hadn't vacuumed the hard floors at all but just hit the area rug in the living room and Isabelle's bedroom and then did the downstairs.  At first it was funny, but then I started feeling put off and I came to the conclusion that he didn't really want to vacuum and he purposely did a crappy job yet never told me he didn't want to vacuum.  I was upset that rather than telling me the truth he would just do the crappy job.  I mean, if he told me ahead then I would have just done it myself and it would have been fine.  I was in cleaning mode and wouldn't have minded if he wasn't.  However, when he does a crappy job and now I have to re-do the whole thing when I wasn't expecting to then that is just mean.  And now I am mad.  So I inform him I am mad that he would do such a crappy job on purpose when he could have just told me that he didn't want to vacuum.  He looks at me like I have totally lost my mind, like he has entered an alternate universe.  Since the truth was that he didn't know I usually vacuumed all the hard floors upstairs and while he wasn't in the mood to do his typical detailed vacuuming job he was more than happy to help out with the vacuuming.  It was not some secret message to me about how he was bitter about having to help out.  Although now that I was attacking him for nothing he was feeling a little bitter.

But I thought...

I must admit this is definitely not the first time I have been mad at him because I jumped to a conclusion before finding out the truth.  And the bummer is that even though he has done nothing wrong I am now all hot under the collar and it takes me time to come down from my high and mighty, albeit wrong, location and restore communication.

You would think I would learn. 

I have also been the victim of the "I thought" attack having my words or actions misinterpreted by friends and family members and getting attacked for something I never did and having to try to explain to a person that what they think happened did not actually happen.  I am sorry they feel hurt but I can't really be sorry for something I did not in fact do.  It is amazing how tightly we will hold on to our "I thought".  Sometimes those "I thought" fights have completely fractured relationships.

This week I was reading in John (the book of the bible not my husband) chapter 7, where Jesus has been in Judea and the priests and Pharisees are wanting to condemn him.  There is a bunch of talk about the fact that they know the Messiah will come from Bethlehem and from the line of David.  This man comes from Galilee and everyone knows nothing good comes from there. 

v9 "Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, "Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?"  They replied, "Are you from Galilee, too?  Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee."

(Ha ha, knowing the truth don't you think that interaction is a little comical?)

The rulers "thought" they knew the truth and there was no reason to ask or confirm the obvious truth that Jesus could not possibly be the Christ.  They made their decision, came to a conclusion and condemned Jesus.

I wonder if after the resurrection any of them were saying, "but I thought..."

Our thoughts are powerful things. They can take us to new heights and down to new lows.  I often hear God speak to me in a thought but just as easily I can be fooled by lies within my thoughts.

In 2 Cor it says, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

To control our thoughts rather than let them control us.  Oh, I dream to teach this to my children.  Our minds, they are big places.  Too often we think we are in control of our own minds only to find out we are being controlled by them.

As I have "thought" on this topic for a couple weeks now I have been amazed at how often I have seen people respond to something based on their "I thought".  It has really changed my perspective on things and on how I am interacting and what truth I am telling myself.

Today at church I was faced with a situation that I have in the past "thought" and gotten mad about but today I gave those thoughts to the Lord and let the truth settle on me and was able to avoid a totally unnecessary confrontation but instead spend my time doing what I was made to do, worship the Lord.

What have you "thought" this week?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring in Minnesota?

While the romantic in me wants spring to be my favorite season, new beginnings, fresh starts, endless possibilities, Easter; the Minnesotan in me just cannot learn to love this season.

For one thing it can't make up it's mind. 

On Tuesday spring looked like this in Minnesota:

Today it looks like this:

All we can do is hold on to the hope that very soon we will be able to do this:

all day long.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Home Organization with Melanie

This coming summer Jake is going to Peru with the youth at our church.  The whole church is excited by the opportunity for these kids and are helping raise money to send them.  One of the fundraisers we just finished was a silent auction where people from the church donated a skill they had.  For instance a couple Chinese families donated an authentic Chinese meal at their home, some teachers donated a couple hours of tutoring, an IT guy offered some IT help in your home and John donated a couple hours of handyman help.  I didn't think I had anything to offer to the auction but then I was asked to donate a couple hours of home organization help.

I suppose I do consider myself organized as a whole but I know what my desk looks like as I write this and can barely get the junk drawer in my kitchen open.  Still, I had gone over to help a friend clear out a space in her basement and she raved to someone else in the church about how helpful I was and so here I am.  All I remember is that I bossed her around and insulted her stuff for a couple hours and it was still a mess when I left to meet Isabelle's bus but apparently when you have too much stuff that is what you are looking for in a helper. :)

Now that my services have been won by someone I have started thinking about my approach to organization and how to tackle the areas she has suggested we work on, the front closet, the back door and the kitchen counter.  Conveniently the most unorganized areas of my home as well so I have put a lot of thought into those areas over the years.
I have no original ideas.  I have been reading and studying organizational books since year one of my marriage and have tried almost everything.  I think the craziest thing I tried was spraying a little pam in the bottom of a couple trash cans to keep things from sticking.  Again, I don't make this stuff up, I read that in a book.  I can still remember the look on my mom's face when I told her about this.  She clearly thought I had gone over the edge.  That was a short lived experiment.  Now I just wash my trash cans once a year...or two, I didn't do it last summer.

Today I thought I would share a few random thoughts that come to mind on organization.  While I might not have ever come up with any of them on my own I do speak from personal experience in each of them.

 Clothes:  I go through my clothes every spring and every fall and put together a pile of clothes for the good will. Since I can only fit seasonal clothes in my closet I do it at the turn over.  While I don't buy a new wardrobe every year I do pick up a few new items each season.  And while some of my older clothes may still be in perfectly good shape or be items that when new were my favorites eventually the new takes over the old and no mater how good it looks or how much I loved it in the past I am never going to wear it again.  Bless someone else.  Remember, just because you own 10 pair of jeans doesn't mean you wear 10 pair of jeans.  The goal is not a full closet.  The goal is an organized closet full of clothes you wear.  If you wear the same 2 shirts on an every other day rotation because they are all that fit you then no matter how full the closet is, you only have 2 shirts.  This how organized your closet would look with only those 2 shirts in it.  And your husband wouldn't be able to say you don't need to go shopping...  Some say if you haven't worn it in 6 months then get rid of it.  I tend to lean more toward a year, I think mostly because I can't afford to shop as much as I want sometimes I am forced to bring an item back to life for a time.  And a specialty item like fancy clothes I will keep for a couple years even if I don't wear them.

Put it Away: A place for everything and everything in its place.  Usually when I have something that is always laying around the house or a pile of papers messing up my desk it is often because they do not have a place.  That pile of crap on your counter, that may be where it actually belongs within your system.  Now that you know the truth you can solve the problem.
Closet Cleaning: OK so you are ready to tackle that closet or basement storage room.  All of the books I have read give the same method, although with their own spin, you need either bags or boxes designated "give away", "throw away", "put away".  The first 2 are obvious.  The third is actually for things you are putting away elsewhere, probably into storage, not back in the closet you are working in.

Getting Rid of Stuff:  When it comes to stuff I am of the opinion that if you aren't going to use it you don't need to keep it.  Be realistic.  That is not to say I don't have storage or that at times you don't need to save stuff but you aren't a museum curator. You really don't need those '80's records left over from your youth.  You aren't going on antique road show in a few years to discover your childhood record collection is now worth $50,000 because you own Michael Jackson's Thriller album.  Let them go.
If you are in your baby years then you probably do need to save your maternity clothes and baby clothes but if your baby is 5 it is time to bless someone else with your baby's wardrobe.  Same with books, toys and equipment.  I have a small box of special stuff from Jake's youth and will do the same for Isabelle in a few years when she tires of all the toys.  I look forward to my grandchildren enjoying them someday and in the mean time they come in handy for young visitors, but I don't run a daycare here.  The rest goes.

As I was going through my girlfriends storage stuff a few weeks ago she had a couple bins of decorative napkins.  Some bought for future use and still in the package but many left over from past parties.  They were beautiful napkins, we share an affinity for such things, but I asked her to be real.  Having been stored for quite some time the edges had begun to curl and she would never put out such beat up napkins for a party.  However, there was no reason not to use them to make her family feel special.  She has several varieties themed for the upcoming holidays and I told her to use them up by the time those holidays were done. (See how bossy I am.)  Another thing that comes to mind that similarly is hard to store are candles.  If you have them, burn them and then get new ones.  They don't last forever.

What are you saving for a special occasion that will never come?  What could you be enjoying now that will just be thrown away by your children after you die?  If you have something you love use it or display it.  Fancy dishes are a big one.  Use them or loose them.  Better to break one enjoying it than have them gather dust and bring no joy.

Have you seen those hoarder shows?  Those people are letting their stuff define them and control their lives.  You are more than your stuff!  Let it go.
Space Management:  When you are working on a space, like the front closet, you need to ask yourself a few questions.  What do I need to use this for?  What do I need?  What problems do I need to solve?  I use my front closet for our family coats but our guests usually hang their coats on hooks by our back door or lay them on the bed so I don't need to have any extra hangers in that closet.  I have a dresser in the entry for mittens and hats so I don't need to store those in the closet but if you want to store them in the closet you need a system, boxes, plastic drawers, shelves, something to put them in.  Don't be afraid to think outside the box.  Jake and I share an office and I was constantly rolling my chair back and running into his backpack which he would toss on the floor behind my chair.  It was annoying but that seemed to be where it belonged.  So I screwed a hook to the wall next to his desk and now it is out of my way.  It isn't a typical location for a coat hook but it is the location I needed it.

Organizational Maintenance:  The work is in maintaining an organized home not getting it organized. The organization is actually the easy part. If you designate a place to put something you have to actually put it there when you are done in order for it to help. And while it seems like so much more work to actually put the item away than to just leave it sitting on the table next to you, it will only take a moment. If you wait til the house is full of stuff to put away it will take all day. (Is that a cleaning or organizational tip? Either way.)

One truth which I am learning applies to all areas of my life is that organization is a process, a journey.  You do not get healthy in a day, become godly in a day, raise children right in a day and you don't get organized in a day, you get organized over a lifetime.  It is an ever changing, ever improving aspect of your life.  Take it one step at a time.

Friday, March 18, 2011

An even bigger God

I realize that I covered the "big God" topic just a couple weeks ago but it seems like He just keeps getting bigger as I keep trying to fit him into my own understanding.  I keep forgetting how incomprehensible God really is.

So lately I have been praying a lot for my brother in law.  The short story is that there is some serious spiritual warfare happening around him as God fights for his soul against the enemy.  Lately I have been literally envisioning angels and demons going at it above his head. (I am not sure about the exact theological understanding behind the idea of angels and demons fighting over my head that is just the visual I am using at this time.)

My teenage son is well...a teenager.  And he is easily distracted by shiny things, or pretty things or well anything that tells him he is in charge and his parents are stupid.  So after a particularly disheartening interaction last night I asked God if maybe he could send one or two of those angles battling for CJ over to protect Jake.  I am not sure if we are in a battle quite yet but he is definitely vulnerable.

On the one hand I did realize God was big enough to handle both Jake and CJ simultaneously but on the other hand I clearly wasn't thinking big enough.

So this morning I call my sister in law to chat and before I can complain about my problems she tells me what happened to her brother the night before.  Apparently God brought him to the right location, at the right moment to hear his neighbor call for help, immediately ran over and was able to perform CPR on the neighbors 2 year old son who he had just pulled out of the pond behind their house, save the child and go with the father to comfort and help him to the hospital.  He likely would not have heard the call for help if he was elsewhere on the property and is not normally in that location.

All the while He is battling demons above CJ's head and standing guard at my son's heart he is also orchestrating events to save the life of little boy in Iowa.  How many millions of other details is God taking care of at this very moment that I will never know?

It blows my mind.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dreaming the dreams

Some experiences shape your life profoundly and years later when it seems like a distant memory no longer relevant for your life you can still turn to it for guidance.  Infertility is that for me.  No mater how far I get from it or how unrelated my current life circumstances may be I can always go back to that place and the lessons I learned to push me forward to the next thing.  I have randomly shared other lessons in this blog which maybe I should go back and organize as today I share another thought.

Infertility lesson of the day:

One of the many hard things about infertility is loosing that sense of control.  Being able to feel like you can look into the future and have a sense of where you are going.  Suddenly you can't have another child and realize that not only do you not have control of your fertility, you never really did, and you can't control any other aspect of your life either.

I had a vision of how my life would go.  I would have a second child and then right away try for the 3rd and maybe even 4th child.  I would put all my energy into stearing my heard through life, they would all be wonderful, perfect children who would grow up to be wonderful adults.  They would rise up and call me blessed.  It was such a beautiful dream.

Today I am thinking about those dreams dreamed that never come to fruition.  About letting go of what you thought was and letting God give you new dreams. 

Over the years I have actually dreamed a lot of forgotten dreams:  When I was little I wanted to own a card shop like my Aunt and Uncle, in high school I dreamed I would grow up and be a powerful business woman.  I dreamed I would live in Arizona but then decided I liked the southern accents and would rather be in the south, NOT the frozen tundra.  My sister is living out this dream for me.  After marrying at 19 I dreamed I would finish my college degree by the time I was 30, I guess I should have taken some classes.  And I dreamed I would have 3 or 4 kids piled on top of each other. 

Although I still wouldn't mind living a little further south, I do not regret the loss of any of those dreams.  Including the pile of kids.  I have loved giving up the opportunity for a career in the business world to be home with my children as a powerful mom and helping my husband become a powerful business owner, I have gotten to educate myself over the years on exactly what I want to learn without the annoyance of grades, papers, accountability.  And I love raising 2 only children more than I can express.  Plus I have quite the pile of neices and nephews to keep me busy.

Actually in some ways I have seen fulfilment of those dreams, just not exactly the way I imagined it.  And here comes the dreams were fulfilled exactly how God imagined it.  None of those past dreams holds any desire for me compared to the joy I have experienced living in God's will instead of my own.

Lately I have spent a fair amount of time with the dream of financial security.  I dream of a nice sized emergency savings account, a fully funded HSA and retirement accounts that will get me past my first few months of retirement.  Growth and a consistent income from our business.  Is that too much to dream?  Some days it definitely seems like it.

Then I am reminded of God's control and God's dream for my life. 

I read a devotional recently in which the writer was speaking some of my same frustrations.  Just as she gets a few dollars in the emergency savings something always comes up.  If only they could build it up she would feel safe and relieve stress.  But then she was reminded of Gideon.  He had the numbers to feel somewhat safe against the army coming to attack but God kept sending soldiers home until there was a decidedly unsafe number left.  Then GOD went into battle and prevailed against the attacking army.

If God can keep Israel safe with an underfunded soldier account then he can probably keep me safe with an under funded emergency account.  The point being not that we don't need an emergency fund but that God is there caring for us wherever we are in the process and rather than focusing on what we do not have, money or, as in the past, a baby, and living in fear and worry we need to focus on God, his power and provision in our lives and believe that in His time and in His way we will live the perfect dream.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday

We got Netflix recently and along with our new larger tv we have been sucked into some sort of media vortex.  Since we haven't had cable in many years I am way behind on non-network tv shows and so thought I would watch a few I have heard so much about.  I started with the show "Weeds" which while I realized was about a pot dealing soccer mom I thought could be interesting.  For reasons unknown to me I watched the entire first season during a weeks worth of lunches.  I beg you not to become curious but to avoid this all together.  My soul hurt after the week was over.  It is watching a pornographic world full of people with no morals or values who are torn between trying to pretend they have they have morals and values or just living a life of total self indulgece and debautchery.  Let's all put a big fat NO on that one.

So I mention my disappointment to some neighbors who hadn't seen the show but had netflix.  One neighbor recommended a show called "the tudors" which is based on the life of Henry the 8th when he was a young king.  I like history and so a show based on history could be good.  It isn't.  It is a show based in the whatever past century Henry the 8th lived where they have no morals or values.  Having learned from watching "Weeds" that it doesn't get better I cut my loses after the 2nd episode.

So realizing nothing made for Showtime TV should be on my viewing list, John and I decided to watch something a little safer.  We have been watching the short lived but well loved series, "Firefly".  It has been an entertaining show and we are 2 episodes away from the end of the 1 season series and are looking forward to the follow up movie.

After watching the two showtime shows I came to the conclusion that the main problem with both shows was that there were no good people in them.  The heros are bad, the villians are bad.  The writers seem to make an assumption that nobody ever does the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing.  Even people in high religious positions are corrupt only interested in the power of their position.  If a person does appear sincere in their faith they are militantly so and totally ignorant.  There are just no truly good people in these worlds.  It is disturbing to imagine what the world would be like today if that were true.  If in reality nobody in Henry the 8th's world was good.  If none of the Arch Bishops of the Catholic church actually believed enough to follow God above the king.  Now I don't want to sugar coat the history of the world or anything, there is plenty of evil and corruption throughout our history on both the winning and loosing sides.  I just know that there does exist in this world people of faith who are willing to do the right thing and there is a God who loves us, cares for us and protects us.

Last night as I was watching another episode of the much tamer and safer "Firefly" I had a realization, this show has the same problem.  None of the heros of that show are really good people either.  They do some good things and occasionally show heart but at the end of the day they aren't good people either.

So I am thinking that Hollywood has totally lost any sense reality.  OK I did figure that out a while back but it was really striking me last night.

Then today, on the first day of lent, I had an even more rude realization...They are right!  There are no truly good people!  We are all sinners.  We are all self involved, morally corrupt and lacking in values.  It is only through the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ that any of us can stand tall and even attempt to pretend it is otherwise.

Even though I have been an Anglican for 6 years now I am still learning to wrap my Baptist brain around Lent.  I am not sure I am totally ready to express my understanding of Lent but I think I may have begun to find a couple thoughts here today from my corrupt tv viewing habits.

In the evangelical protesant traditions the focus is always on our forgiveness and salvation.  We have confessed and been forgiven.  Our sin is forgotten and gone, move on.  In the Anglican tradition we remember we are sinners.  Not to remind us of our shame, not to dwell on our sin but to remember the gift.  How can we appreciate the joy and celebration that Easter is if we don't remember the sin and sorrow from which we have been freed?

Tonight we will go to the Ash Wednesday service.  We will be reminded as we recieve the ashes on our forehead that we were dust and to dust we shall return.  It is a humbling reminder of who we really are, that we are all marked for our sin, and what Jesus has really done for us.

Living Life

Just living life here.  After a Crazy January in which there was no sense of normalcy February finally came and the opportunity begin structuring a life in which I am working.  So one month into my new life I thought t I would give a report.

I also have to confess I like working. I might say I love working but I don't know if you can really love it. I have enjoyed watching the little bit of money I make add up in my savings account and feel like I am able to help when it is needed. I only work 2 days a week which has been perfect and Isabelle is doing well at her after school locations. I actually think my work days have been easier to transition into than my at home days. They are nice and structured. I don't have to put a lot of expectations on myself those days. I simply go to work, work, get Isabelle, go home and make dinner. Anything I do beyond that is bonus and usually I manage a few bonus activities.

So far I like my job.  I don't love it, I am not finding it particularly challenging, but I do like it and I am still learning.  I can see myself there for a long time, sometimes I see myself launching into a career in insurance.  Of course sometimes I see my very soul getting sucked out in a career in insurance so we will have to just see where God leads.

My at home days are still hard to define.  I want to just spend all the time in selfish activities but my little girl is constantly asking for activity.  She wants to spend one afternoon swimming, one at the library and...I forget the 3rd activity.  Anyway, the bottom line is that she would like my non work days to have structure like my work days.  Well maybe not structure but activity or play dates or SOMETHING.  I figure it probably isn't too much to ask that I actually interact with her in the afternoons for a little while and so we have been trying to keep busy.  The pool at the Y closed for remodeling so now that activity is lost but she got LOTS of craft kits for her birthday which should pick up the slack.

Here is the thing about my mornings when she is at school, I don't want to structure them so that I can do whatever needs to be done during that time but then I end up feeling like I did nothing and being frustrated that I wasted my 3 hours.  I have a hard time giving myself structure.  It isn't that I don't have anything to do in the mornings.  I would say it is more that I have too much to do and I want to try to do everything.  Then I don't want to stop when Isabelle gets home even though I am not really doing anything that couldn't wait an hour or so until we are done playing.

So I am still perfecting my at home days.  I am concentrating on Isabelle activities and spending time with God. I figure everything else will fall into place behind those 2 things.  Really isn't life just a series of adjustments as we attempt to move toward perfection?  And Just when I perfect my winter/spring schedule summer will come and I will have to figure it out all over again.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bring it on

Some days are stressful.  Some weeks are stressful.  Some years are stressful.  It is part of life.  The question is, "how do we deal with that stress?"

I often wonder particularly during times of stress, what it would be like to not know God.  How do you get up every day thinking this is it?  This just might be as good as it gets for me.  Even when life is good that is a depressing thought.  When I am stressed I cannot imagine not knowing that God has a plan and is preparing me for a future in Glory with Him.

Usually when we are really stressed out, as we were this past weekend when John had a major problem come up at his job site, I like to consider the worst case scenario.  In this case it would be not getting paid for the job, getting sued, having to close the business, loose the house and file bankruptcy.  Yes that would be terrible but then again there are days when I just want to chuck it all and start over again.  So I guess once you get through the mess it might be good.  After you go there the reality doesn't seem too bad.

I know it is probably weird that following my stress out to the worst case scenario makes me feel better but I am just special that way.  I think it is because I know that no matter what I am nestled safe in my Father's arms.  I have started living my life with an attitude of, "what next God?"  "Can't wait to see how you are going to work in this one."  My job is simply to do my job.  God's job is to make it all work together for His good and over the years I have discovered it is pretty fun to see him make that happen.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Rom 8:28

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Interview with a 6 year old

My mid-life crisis is 6 years old today.  I know everyone says it, I know I said it with Folly but, it just goes so darn fast.  Instead of reminiscing about her birth or saying something about the stage of life she is in, both of which I think I have covered enough in the past, I thought I would interview her.  She clearly only has one thing on her mind.

Mom: How does it feel to be 6 years old?

Isabelle: Well it does feel a little...I just feel a little happy.

M: What do you want to do now that you are 6 years old?

I: I would like to test my new bike...if I get one.

M: Anything else?

I: I really, really, really, really, really want to play with my birthday presents.

M: What is the best thing you have done so far in your life?

I: The best thing?  Get presents of course.

M: What do you want to be when you grow up?

I: I don't know though.  I am thinking of a ballerina.

M: Anything else?

I: Well I do think of being a veterinarian.

M: What is your favorite hobby?

I: My favorite hobby for my birthday is to eat cake and open presents.

M: How about when its not your birthday?

I: I would just take a nap or somethin'.

M: How do you like school?

I: Well it's going pretty well although it was a little hard getting the 100th day of school ready.  It is the best time when I have recess.  I love recess.

M: If you could be any animal which one would you be?

I: Cat.  And I would also be a cheetah.

M: What are you thankful for in your 6 years of life?


M: What is your favorite song?

I: Justin Beiber.

M: What is your favorite book?

I: Jack and Annie (Magic Tree house books)

M: If you could go anywhere in the world where would you want to go?

I: Georgia.  To Grace's house.

M: What else should we know about you?

I: Well I am a very great finger painter.  And I can make the finest arts.  I'll show you one of the arts I made: