Saturday, October 29, 2011

Positive Creativity

This week in psychology John was reading about something I had figured out a few years ago.  Our brains are most creative while doing mundane tasks.  Apparently that connection between the two sides of the brain is able to open up when we are doing something mundane and repetitive and the creativity flows.  I have always said my best ideas have come while I was on a run or in the shower.  You aren't wondering what to do so your brain is free to just wonder.

I have been waiting for this to happen at work.  Since most of what I do is fairly repetitive I am assuming my brain will soon begin to wander as I work.  I am preparing a notebook to keep by my side for the inspirations that come.  I think the creativity is getting close to returning as the idea for this post came to me yesterday.  I emailed myself the thought but I would rather write it down in the future.  And good thing I did note it because although I remembered I had an idea I had no idea what it was.

What is creativity and how does it manifest?  While at home my creativity manifested as ideas for blog posts, women's ministry, home decor, running John's business, passions for healthy living, educational philosophy and raising my kids to become the unique individuals God made them to be.  It also manifested itself in crazy thinking that started fights with my husband, created negative feelings toward friends, made impulsive, inappropriate comments and made me think general doubts about myself , who I am and what I am doing.

What should be something used for good, to help me serve God and live out the life He has planned for me, instead can be used to create misery for myself and others if I allow Satan to get into my head and control my thoughts.

As I was thinking about creativity in the mundane at work this week I looked around the building and realized that every person in the building probably had some mundane aspects to their jobs.  How was the creativity manifesting itself in each person?  It can be great, it can be the kind of thing that brings fresh ideas to a company, new products, better ways to do things, more organization, time and money savings.  John said that the employees at Google are supposed to take a certain amount of time each day to have fun and let the creative juices flow, they can work on any idea they want.  Apparently one of the things that came out of that was g-mail.

Unfortunately, some people use the same creativity to be negative, to complain and look for problems.  When they do have a good idea they use their creative energy to come up with all the reasons nobody else would care and why they are totally unappreciated.  I am amazed by some of the notes and emails I get from people about the basic functions of our office building.  Opportunities to encourage and support fellow co-workers get turned into condescending commands on how we should behave.  It seems like a lack of creativity but really it is more like misplaced creativity.

Not all creativity is good.  We have to make a choice.  Push down the negative voices and ask ourselves how we can be better, move forward, love and encourage others.  Yes there are problems in life, yes some of your co-workers/family members/friends are annoying, no the company/your family/friends won't always appreciate you.  But you are a unique individual created by God for a purpose.  Be positive!  Turn your mind away from the problems.  Don't let Satan rule your thoughts but open your mind to the Lord and let Him fill you with His creative and wonderful ideas.
How are you using your creativity today?

“So you see, imagination needs moodling – long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.” — Brenda Ueland

The world is but a canvas to the imagination.” — Henry David Thoreau

“We have come to think of art and work as incompatible, or at least independent categories and have for the first time in history created an industry without art.” — Ananda K. Coomaraswamy

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (KJV)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sibling Love

On Thursday morning in Japan (Wednesday night in the US) Isabelle will become a big sister.  Isabelle's birthmother, Lauren, will be induced and give birth to her second child and become a mother for the first time.  We are SO excited and can't wait to meet baby Scarlet via skype!

This weekend I came across an open adoption forum and was reading through it.  I was reminded as I read the questions of new parents of those early years in our relationship where we were tip toeing around each other working to develop our relationship and understand this thing called open adoption that we had all gotten ourselves into.  I was encouraged by one post about siblings.  A birthmom described our almost exact situation, kids 6 years apart who are now 18 and 24, one adopted and one she parented.  She said they refer to each other as brother and sister, are both honor role students who love music (Isabelle is smart and very musical as I am sure Scarlet will be) and got along great.  That is my dream for Isabelle and her sister.

I love the open relationship Lauren and I have developed over the years.  As I read posts from new adoptive parents who were concerned about various little details of the open relationship I remembered those years when you don't know what the relationship will turn into, you don't know if you can trust the birthparents and you don't know how it will all affect your child.  And most concerning at all you don't know your child yet but after 9 months together it seems like they do.  You are full of so much fear.  None of the questions I read were really about the situation being described but seemed to really be about fear.  And in those early years one of the things you are afraid to do is ask the birthmother how she is feeling about the situation or making any comments about the adoption.  So you just keep going forward alone into the unknown.

Luckily Lauren and I are past that.  So after my first congratulatory email about her pregnancy my second one was about my fear.  What will Isabelle think about this child?  What kind of relationship will they have?  Will she feel hurt that they are parenting Scarlet but not her?  How will this baby change their relationship with Isabelle?  Will they still love her as much?  Have time for her?  Be excited about what is happening in her life?  And how should we explain this to Isabelle?

It took a while for Lauren to answer my email because over at their house they were asking themselves the same questions and were coming up with the same lack of responses.  Together we came to the conclusion that while we may not know exactly what we are getting ourselves into we can all agree that we love Isabelle and will do our best to help her understand and feel loved through the process. 

We decided to refer to Scarlet as Isabelle's sister since they really are full biological siblings and encourage their relationship as Isabelle will be as much a part of Scarlet's life as she is of Sam and Lauren's.  And I have decided to view her like another precious neice to shower with love and attention.  I have joked that while Isabelle is over here getting mad at us and wanting to go live with Sam and Lauren, Scarlet will be over there getting mad and wanting to come live with us.  The grass is always greener on the otherside after all.

What I realized as I read some of the fears of other adoptive mom's on the web site is that we all struggle with this thing called, "normal".  We get attached to what we think a family should be and should look like and somehow we forget that isn't something in our DNA but is something culturally defined.  And while we certainly live in a culture that emphasizes one type of family, Isabelle and Scarlet will grow up a family with open adoption and this will be their normal.  Yes there will be questions about why they are different but those same questions can come from any family with something different.  People whose kids are raised in divorced families, blended families, single parent families, they are all going to get the same question we will get, "why isn't our family like my friend's family?"  Actually I remember Jake questioning why we weren't divorced like his cousins parents.  As I said, the grass is always greener on the other side.

So here we sit on the edge of our seats waiting for the next chapter in our open adoption confident it will be another wonderful adventure.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


It is amazing how much life happens in 3 years.  And while it is easy to breeze over 3 years, I have been blessed with this blog to document the life I have lived in those 3 years.  3 years ago today I bravely started this blog.  It has been such a great outlet for my thoughts and an opportunity to learn to write and find my voice.  I have had such a passion for it.

I put this anniversary on my calendar so I wouldn't forget it and could plan something fun to do this year.  But that is not what is happening in my life.

I had a hard week this week.  I am frustrated that my work is taking up so much of my primary energy.  I have little left at the end of the day for what I really want to do.  I spent time this week trying to figure out how to get into a job with more creativity.  I realize I am more suited to self-employment as that is what John and I have been for a number of years.  So I imagined how I could start a little online business.  And while these are all good thoughts, they are not where God has me right now.  It is just so much easier to understand that conceptually than it is to sit at my desk and do mindless stuff all day.

When I first started the job I liked the mindless work.  It was sort of like a vacation from the busy, demanding life I had been living.  And it allowed me to step away from the office and fully re-engage in my personal life at the end of the day.  But 5 months later I am struggling with the fact that I am ready for the vacation to be over and yet still don't have the energy at the end of the day to take on anything new and in fact can still some days barely engage in my real life.  I hate that I am wasting my good energy on something so seemingly pointless.

Of course God is always there holding my hand and shows me the answers exactly when I need it.  I am reading the "Jesus Calling" devotional by Sarah Young.  Definitely on Melanie's Must Read list.  Get it if you aren't reading it already.  Friday morning after having a bit of a breakdown on Thursday night I read, "To live in My Presence consistently, you must expose and expel your rebellious tendencies.  When something interferes with your plans or desires, you tend to resent the interference."  Um how did God know I would be reading this on Friday after a rebellious breakdown?  He really does know everything.

I am totally in rebellion right now.  I wouldn't have used that word but it really is most appropriate.  My working is interfering with my plans and desires for how I think my life should go and how I want to raise my family and live my life.  It is affecting my ability to use my creativity and put my energy into the things I want.  Me, Me, Me, Me.

Then He calls me to the table with, "The ultimate solution to rebellious tendencies is submission to My authority over you.  Intellectually you rejoice in My sovereignty, without which the world would be a terrifying place.  But when My sovereign will encroaches on your little domain of control, you often react with telltale resentment.

Ouch.  The truth hurts.  That is totally what I am doing.  Intellectually I know I can trust God and I know working right now is the right thing and I know this is the job I am supposed to be in.  But I feel like I have totally lost control of my world and I am definitely beginning to resent it.

The devotion ends with, "Remember that all good things--your possessions, your family and friends, your health and abilities, your time--are gifts from Me.  Instead of feeling entitled to all these blessings, respond to them with gratitude.  Be prepared to let go of anything I take from you, but never let go of My hand."

Isn't that what I said just a couple days ago?  We are holding Jesus hand and holding our lives with an open palm?  Conceptually that is what we are doing.  But clearly it is easier said than done.  Especially when God takes the things out of your hand that you take the most pride in.

It is like he is trying to teach me something.

Ps 130:23-24 "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting."

1 Peter 5:6 "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time."

I am working to alter my thinking from a rebellious spirit to a spirit of gratitude. I am so thankful for the 17 years I have had at home, for my children, for the opportunity to discover this passion for writing, for the ability to be home with Isabelle as many years as I was, for a job full of wonderful people who are examples of what it is to be a working mother, for family and friends who believe in what we are doing and are so supportive. I really am blessed.  They are all gifts from God that I never deserved but he freely gave and is free to take away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.

So from the woman I was 3 years ago, home full time with a 3 year old and starting my 14 year old in public school for the first time, to a full time working mom with a 1st grader and a 12th grader a lot has changed.  But one thing remains, I am still seeking to do God's will and be used by Him in whatever capacity he needs me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It can't always be about you

Last week I was obsessing about Isabelle's teacher thinking we were uninvolved, negligent parents.  I mean I already told her Isabelle would not be doing homework this year which, to her credit she has said nothing about after the initial email contact. Then when I got an email telling me I had missed turning in some permission slips I made her send me links to them because it was too much work to go searching through the school web site for them. (Really it is a vast abyss to search through.)  And finally I realized we have forgotten to send the appropriate show and tell item with Isabelle for the past couple weeks. 

Miraculously she has managed to have something for lunch every day and arrive basically on time.  I can't vouge (how do you spell this word?) for combed hair or matching clothes though. 

But I reason she is happy and bright and certainly not at risk of falling behind so if she does nothing this year she will be just fine.  Which is good because we are doing nothing with her this year. 

For the past 6 years our life has revolved largely around her.  We have given attention to Jake as well as John and my personal whims but it all sort of circled around Isabelle in some way or another.  This year everything circles around John and my transition.  With any extra effort available we give it to Jake as he spends his final year with us before graduation.

This is not to say she is being neglected.  We are just not focused on how to teach her, grow her and help her develop her gifts and skills.  She is getting a little less attention than she thinks she needs but otherwise this should be a great year for her because we are putting almost no expectations on her. 

It's first grade.  I think she will survive.

I imagine next year, with me fully transitioned into working and once again the mother of an only child able to volunteer in the class and focus all my attention on Isabelle, her 1st and 2nd grade teachers talking and Isabelle's parents coming up and after comparing notes wondering if they are talking about the same little girl.  One year she has the negligent parents and the next they are helping her reach for the stars, helping in class and running the PTA!

OK sorry I got carried away there.  I'm not going to be transformed into a totally different person, but still I can imagine a little more involvement in her life.  Anything would be an improvement over this year.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How do you do it?

How do they do it?  I often have wondered this in the past about people.  On the outside they seem like regular people yet somehow they are doing something superhuman in my mind.  It might be financial, maybe they appear to be making the same money as us and yet can do things we can't, maybe they are crafty, raising many children, or making the work/family balance look easy.  It could be so many things.  And I wonder, "how do they do it?" 

Then someone asks me, "How do you do it?" 

How do I do what?  What am I doing?  I feel like I am just surviving.  Don't you ask that question to people who are really doing it?  Doing something?  Making it look easy?

I guess it is all in perspective.  What I am not totally sure I am even doing seems to look easy to the outsider.  The truth is nothing is easy.

But since you asked let's talk about how I do it.  Whatever "it" is.

First of all, I would like to give all the glory to God the Father...Oh sorry that is my award speech for when I win the Emmy.  Still I really couldn't do it without the help and guidance of the Lord.  I cry out to Him all my doubts and fears, all my failures and frustrations and He picks me up, brushes me off, sets me back and the path, grabs my hand and helps me walk forward again with more confidence and peace because I know I am not alone.  Thank you Lord.

Second of all, there is a saying, "if you want something done ask a busy person to do it."  John had an interesting conversation with a fellow student this week.  They were talking about an upcoming mid-term in one of John's classes and the kid John was talking to told him that he should definitely not skip the class where they do the review.  John looks at him and says, "I'm old, I don't skip class."   When you have totally up-ended your life to go back to school you do not skip class because you don't feel like going.  When John isn't at school he is either working or doing homework.  And with the minuscule amount of free time he has he spends it with the family and gets done what needs to get done.  We don't have time to wonder how we are doing it, we are too busy doing it.  Just keep your head down and go forward following the path set before you.

Third of all, we hold everything with an open hand.  Work was good for John this summer, we have money in the bank and he continues to work but history tells me that could change tomorrow and will likely slow down this winter.  I only make about 1/3 of our needed income so John still carries a pretty big burden.  We don't know how long we will be able to continue our lifestyle while John is in school and at this point I am pretty much planning to move in 2 years when he finishes community college.  Where?  When?  Why?  I don't know.  We simply take one day at a time and trust God to take care of us.  We believe He has put us on this path and will show us the next steps.  Where John will go to school, what undergrad degree he will pursue and where it will ultimately lead us. So we keep marching forward with our palms open wide.

So in summary, we are walking with Jesus, with our heads down and our hands open.  Which sort of makes us sound "special".  But that is how we do it.  Thanks for asking.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Hangin' with the Hardackers

We are enjoying an extended indian summer here in MN and I thought I would share a recent afternoon with you.

Isabelle and the neighbor girl discovered a HUGE ant hill in our yard and set up a table and chairs to observe them and take notes.

Ready with the notebooks.

Hey mom while you are here take a picture of my new tatoo.

On the other side of the yard the garden is flurishing.

Check out the size of those pumpkins!

Oh so happy sunflowers.

And we are going to feast on this golden ear of corn.

Yep we are seriously considering moving to a farm.  Now that we know what excellent farmers we would make, we could solve world hunger with all the food we would produce.

On the other hand, we are really investing in our property over here.  We have added a spare room onto the tree house so if you are in town and looking for a place to stay we have the perfect little guest house in our backyard.

Easy access through trap door in the floor.

Isabelle has been singing its praises.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I realize this year is technically not over.  This year is supposed to be the year of "maintain".  It was more of a financial directive than anything else which is a good thing since we have made some pretty major changes in our lives this year and I would not say we have "maintained" at all.  With the beginning of school, which is like a new year, I have found a new word directing me, "Release".

At first I just felt like God was telling me to release from outside responsibilities.  I did not sign up for any volunteer roles in Isabelle's class, I have been working on stepping down from women's ministry at our church and have really been getting a lot of practice using the word, "no" in my life.  It was hard to agree to let go of so many things I loved being a part of but as I have done so it has felt good and right and I am trusting God to bring me back to a life full of activity when the time is right.  Breathe and...Release.

And since Jake graduates in the spring I am trying to prepare to "release" him into the world.  I am not going to lie to you, I have fears.  And I want to tell him what to do and I want him to realize how right I am and do it.  I have the benefit of years of experience and hind sight to guide me.  I KNOW what he should do.  Why doesn't he understand this????  OK I am starting to work on this.  I really am.  I am doing significantly better.  Breath in...Release.

But then it seemed like I needed to release a few more things.  Control. (gee ya think?)  The house doesn't have to be as perfectly cleaned as I used to do it, the towels can be folded any number of ways, dinner can consist of recipes I have never made, my children can be dressed and put on the bus by someone other than myself, with a lunch in hand.  I do not need to try to manage these details and many others remotely but can trust others to do what needs to be done and just be glad it is done.  Deep breath...Release.

But now it seems God is going to meddling.  Today I was made aware that I can sort of obsess about a subject.  Today I got emails from 2 different professional people in our lives, the school counselor and our insurance agent, that I found irritating and frankly a bit condescending.  I ended up wasting my entire free hour in the morning before I get ready obsessing about the first email and trying to write a response that was appropriate and not at all what I was thinking since really what I was thinking wasn't particularly appropriate and I needed to let it go.  So after loosing my hour of prayer and relaxation time this morning I was focused on how I should have released.  Then I got the second irritating email during my break and immediately started firing off my response but stopped, deleted and released.  Of course then someone at work irritated me and I spent the last hour at work just chanting "release" in my head while trying not to "release" all over said person. And you know what, I was able to quickly send a perfectly nice response to the email after work without having to spend any time deleting all my inappropriate comments.  And after a little post work walk I realize that while I may have been wronged there was no reason for me to over react the way I did.  So I am glad I kept it to myself.  And maybe next time I can release it a little quicker.  Breathe...Release.

Ok just paused to re-obsess over the work incident so I guess I need to work on releasing a little bit more.  Still I was definitely over reacting.  Breathe...breathe...breathe...I am trying to breathe...Release.

This releasing is all about time for me.   And it isn't just the activities of my life, planning women's ministry events, cleaning the house or making dinner that take time away from what is important in my life but it is the time I waste obsessing over things that don't mater or I can't control.  Releasing myself from anger and pride that can get in my way and distract me from what God has for my life.  Deep breath in....Release.  Ah.

I am realizing that this releasing is not as easy as it sounds.  On my own I definitely couldn't do it, but if I can release all of this to God and trust him to work out the details of my life then I am free to follow Him and his path forward.  Which is all I really want anyway. Breathing and releasing.

God is on my side. He makes Himself responsible for my being. If I will only trust myself to Him with the cordial return of trustful love, then all that He has ever breathed into my heart of human possibility He will realize and bring to perfection.--Charles Gore. 

Every evening I turn my troubles over to God - He's going to be up all night anyway.--Donald J. Morgan

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Wanted: Working Friends

A few years ago I was complaining to a friend about how I wasn't able to get everything done and wished I was getting up earlier in the mornings.  I specifically called out 2 girlfriends who both work full time and were getting up early every morning and making it happen.  How was I such a wimp?  I felt like I really was a looser homemaker.  She responded not with the pep talk I was hoping for but with a much more helpful response.  She simply asked, "why are you comparing yourself to people whose lives have nothing to do with your own?"  It was exactly what I needed to hear.  To realize that while from my outside perspective it may seem like they were doing it all work, family, friends, etc.  But what were they sacrificing for that?  What was I able to do at home that they weren't?  As I suspected at the time and can now confirm, a lot.

But even though my life is now more similar I will still resist comparing.  Because what I realized when I did start looking at other homemakers is that none of them have my exact life either.  And what works for you might not work for me.  What inspires me might not inspire you. 

Still, it is nice to know people that have some similarity in life to your own who you can share your stories with.  So I am thinking of interviewing for a couple new friends.  Working moms who I can look to for ideas, inspiration and hope.  Women who don't just tell me all the amazing things they are accomplishing but are honest about what they are sacrificing to do so and how they feel about all of it.  I am 100% confident that I cannot actually do it all and neither can you.  However, I think that if I can do my family, home and relationships right while also working then I really am doing pretty good.  Everything else is simply icing on the cake.

Any Applicants?