Saturday, December 31, 2011

Melanie's Must Read List #5

I think I bought this book for myself for Easter.  I like to buy devotion books at that time of year.  My sister had it and was raving about it and I had heard others say good things so I picked it up.  All the hype you have heard, true.  It is fantastic.  It is written like Jesus is talking to you and probably the biggest negative I can say about it is that I am afraid I will start quoting it like scripture.  I want to memorize a line or two practically every day!

I think the biggest theme I have noticed is Jesus calling us into his presence.  To be aware of His presence and live our lives accordingly.  It speaks to me every single day as if it was written for the specific moment and issue I am having in my life.  Amazing.  Then she adds 2-4 scriptures at the end to back up the theme she has written for that day and that is where I have gotten some of my guiding scriptures these past few months.  They give legtiamacy to her writing and create an even richer time sitting in Jesus presence.

I love a good devotional book.  One that is short and leads me to some scripture that I can then meditate on and further discover God's truths on my own.  And this book meets those requirements.  Plus there is a devotion for every day of the year, 365 devotions, so you won't have to find another great book anytime soon.  As a writer I often think about the time and work that must have gone into coming up with 365 different yet wonderful ideas for this book.  I am in awe of it.

In case you aren't quite ready to commit to a year long devotional book I also really loved "A Journey into Spiritual Growth" by Evelyn Christenson.  I have to admit that in the book store that title probably would not have convinced me to take it off the shelf but my sister had in on the shelf in her guest room so I started reading it and somehow it mysteriously jumped into my suitcase on the way home and I looked forward to my time with God every morning just to read this short devotional and prayer.  Like with Jesus calling I often felt each devotion was written just for me and couldn't believe the power of God to cause a woman to write a devotion years before knowing that I would be sitting in my gazebo reading it at the exact moment it was relevant for my life.

2 more books to check out.  I will add that I have added links to the books so you can click and order them if you want.  Or not, either way.  But I noticed you can get the Evelyn Christiansen book used for 1 cent which is not as good a deal as stealing it from your sister but comes pretty close.  I will make about .0004 cents on it so you will be helping build my empire.  One brick at a time.  Or in this case a tablespoon of the mortar to attach the bricks once I get them.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Take Action!

"The sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue to know the word and sustain the weary.  He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught." Is 50:4

I had a day off the week before Christmas.  I had a lot to accomplish and only a day to do it in.  I just prayed God would take care of all the details and launched into my day.  One of the things I knew I really wanted to do was spend time with the Lord, I probably should have started the day that way but couldn't wait and so I didn't get there until later in the afternoon.  I made myself a pot of tea and situated myself at the table where I could see my beautiful Christmas tree in front of me while my slightly mess kitchen was to my back.

I have to admit when I plan to spend time with God and listen to His voice I don't always hear anything.  I force it too much.  But that day God was there.  I had given my day to Him and he was ready in the time I had promised Him.

One of the things I prayed about is what this next year will be about.  What am I to do going forward?  I also wanted to spend time really praying about how to proceed with this business I want to start.

Just the day before I had written what one friend called my "caffeinated" post trying to figure out what my word of the year should be.  Yet once I sat down to listen to God instead of my own caffeine crazed thoughts it was so obvious and simple.


I have been doing nothing the past 6 months but release.  And in the past couple months I have started having ideas but wasn't sure what to do.  But now God says, "Act".  I can take action in pursuing my dreams to have an online business and work from home.

But this word came with other words, "listen", "learn", "obey".  My action is to come out of those things.

God led me to the scripture at the top of this post that day. "The sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue to know the word and sustain the weary."  OK I am interpreting that to be my writing.  God  has given me something to say worth saying. An interesting thing god revealed to me in this space was my insecurity with doing anything that might bring attention to me.  Of course I am afraid to fail and so classically want to give up before I start.  But I am also afraid to pursue something God is not leading me to do.  I often thing God just wants me to be happy where I am at and I shouldn't pursue more.  But in my time with Him I felt a strong nudge to go forward.  To not use him as an excuse.  So I go forward believing that God has given me this plan and preparing to walk forward together.

"He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught."  Most of what I write here comes out of my time with God.  My ideas and inspiration are all from Him.  So He asks me to "listen" and "learn" each morning with Him.  And then "obey".  Do what he reveals to me.  Take Action.

And if I have learned anything in my years with the Lord it is that when he tells me to do something I need to obey, to "Act" on it.

So that is what I am doing this year.

Look out 2012 here I come!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

You're not bored, you're boring.

I hate the word "bored", as in "I'm bored". (I know, I know, I posted about being bored at work yesterday.)Sometimes the correct word for a situation is bored but I don't think any child has even a clue what the word means yet uses it so often you would think they spent their days sitting in the middle of an empty room with plain grey walls unable to move.

When Jake was little I had a friend who would tell her children, "boredom is the beginning of creativity".  So I used it on Jake a few times.  One time he came out of his room a little while later announcing, "creativity has arrived!"  But that only happened once.  However, he wasn't nearly as fond of the word as Isabelle is.

John has taken to telling Isabelle, "you're not bored, you're boring" and sending her to figure something out.  Yesterday she told me she was bored so many times I announced that from now on when I hear the word she gets a sad rock. (happy rock/sad rock is our behavior reward system.)

Why can't she just learn to entertain herself?!  We have a house full of options!

I shared about my outdoor childhood recently yet when I tell Isabelle to go play outside she looks at me like I am crazy.  What will she do?  Outside is boring too.

Now I fully realize and remember telling my parents I was bored when I was a child so I don't want to diminish the reality of children and bordom but, do you think technology has made our children more incapable of entertaining themselves than previous generations?

I think it might be time for some screen time limits at our house. 

Things I am thinking about.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Do I have ADHD or am I just Bored?

I have never lived in anyone else's brain so I can only speak for myself but I get bored easily.

Recently I sat in my desk where I must sit all day long regardless of whether I have anything to do or whether the work I have is of any challenge to me or not and I thought about my son.

Back when Jake was in elementary school he was a little wild.  And although he was doing very well academically his teachers decided there was something wrong with him.  Had to be ADHD.  I acknowledged that his behavior wasn't always appropriate for the environment but just did not believe ADHD was the problem.  Turns out I was right.  What I discovered was that he was just bored.  Like me he had to sit at his desk all day long and listen to the teacher and do the work regardless of whether or not it was of any challenge to him.

I remember pointing out his extremely high test scores to his 3rd grade teacher hoping to get some understanding of what to do with a child that was so bright.  She literally set the scores aside and said they were nice but...behavior.  I turned out to be right and the behavior was linked to his high test scores and boredom and I pulled him out of the lovely school that could not see beyond his boredom and he grew and flourished in an environment that challenged him.

And now I am sitting at my desk and while I have the maturity not to do anything inappropriate my brain is going in 20 different directions at once and I have to keep from distracting everyone around me who is actually working.  And honestly, I have never  had a job where this wasn't a problem.

So I am understanding my 8 year old son even more than I did when he was 8 years old.  And I hope I can find a solution for myself that is as wonderful as the solution I found for him.

(Do you like how I have subtly implied that I am brilliant in this post?)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Light and Hope

We had a lovely Christmas and enjoyed both Christmas eve and Christmas day services at our church.  I love it when Christmas falls on a Sunday!  As I sat listening to the Christmas sermon something caught my mind and sent it down a path.  I was thinking about how Christmas is really about hope and new life; the birth of Christ and the fulfilment of the promises of God.  It made me think that we should be celebrating Christmas in the spring when everything is fresh and new and summer is coming and the world is full of hope and new life, not the middle of winter!  But then I immediately realized we celebrate Easter in the spring and that is even more about hope and fresh starts and redemption and it is more appropriate in the spring. 

But do we really need to celebrate Christ's birth right before we head into the coldest and most depressing time of the year?

Then I remembered something I had been excited about earlier in the week.  The winter solstice.  From Thursday on I get a little bit more sunlight every day for the next 6 months!  It will be a few weeks before the sun is still up when I leave work but at least I am headed in the right direction.  The thought that will get me through the next couple months.  It was bringing me a great deal of hope and joy this week.  And there, in the middle of the Christmas service, I realized why Christians decided to celebrate the birth of Christ at this time of year.  We are moving into the light.

I am amazed at how the subtleties of what God created can be used to magnify His glory.

So often those who do not want to acknowledge the Christ in Christmas will talk about how this is really the celebration of the winter solstice and we just stole the celebration.  I have never been clear how that diminishes the fact that Christ was born in a manger, God became man, so that I might have eternal life.  But now I find that it is even more God ordained a time.  And maybe this time wasn't chosen to eliminate the celebration of the winter solstice but instead to magnify the one who created the moon and the stars and set them all spinning.  And every December he causes the sun to shine on the earth more and more each day and we celebrate the Son coming to the world to shine His light on us.

And God said, Let there be light." and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness." Gen 1:3

Friday, December 23, 2011

Advent living

We have been in Advent for weeks now and I feel like I am just getting to it.  Advent is a season of waiting before the celebration of the Lord's birth.  We are waiting both for Christmas, the celebration of Jesus coming into the world, and thinking ahead to the anticipated return of Jesus in glory.

I have been thinking this week about the business I want to start yet something (Christmas) seems to be getting in my way of getting started.  As I realized I need to wait until after the holidays to really start anything I realized how bad I am at waiting.  Waiting is a skill to be mastered not an innate ability.

We have lots of gifts under the Christmas tree right now.  And it is killing Isabelle!  Especially the one she wrapped up for me.  I don't know what it is, I suspect she wrapped up something already in the house or maybe it is a painted picture she made.  But almost every night she begs me to open it. She brought home something she made in school all wrapped up and would not move on with her life until I opened it.  I managed to get her to wait one night but that was it.  I thought it would have been nice to enjoy her wrapped gift under the tree a few days but there is no anticipation in her world.  We live in an instant gratification society and my daughter is definitely a product of that world.

But while I know how to wait for Christmas presents to be opened I am not much different.  When I get an idea I want to start it NOW.  And I want to be at the end of the process immediately without going through the steps and building things slowly.

Last spring right before I started working I blogged about waiting as well.  As I re-read it I feel very similarly, like something is about to start but right now it is all on hold.  I am no longer waiting for John to start school or me to start working.  We are no longer waiting to see what happens with John's dad's cancer but are now waiting for him to die.  We will be waiting for John to finish school for several more years yet the action of doing it makes it seem a little less dramatic.  And in the midst of Jake heading toward the end of his life in my home I really want to throw on the brakes more than get it over with.

Now I am waiting to start the next stage in the transition from homemaker to working mom.  Of course today is the 23rd of December.  Only 1 more day left of Advent and then we move into the season of Christmas and the celebration of Christ's birth.  Once I felt released from my need to "release" I wanted to immediately move into the next stage and get to work but I see now that I am in a waiting stage before the new year and I am going to try to embrace it.  I am spending time with the Lord, letting Him prepare my heart and mind for what is ahead, and celebrating the gifts He has given me through His Son.

"I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I do hope." Ps 130:5 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The next stage; the unnamed stage

I have been thinking lately about how going back to work is a lot like having a new baby.  It takes up all your time and energy yet in your mind you think you should be doing all this other stuff and so are frustrated.  You feel like you will never accomplish anything ever again.  You look at other moms accomplishing things and are positive you are doing something wrong.  But then one day the baby sleeps 5 hours in a row and you can't believe how fresh you feel and how clearly your mind is working.  And then it does it again and pretty soon it does it all the time and slowly, one day at a time, one task at a time you begin to pull yourself together and find your way through this thing called motherhood.

I have decided these past 6 months have sort of been my newborn baby stage.  I have been amazed and frustrated by how much time and energy this task has taken up both physically and mentally.  Have been forced to release things I really loved because I just could not make them happen anymore.  And I wondered if I would ever be able to go out in the real world again.

But my body is slowing adjusting to the early morning schedule and the work of the day.  And I have learned my job to the point where I don't have to think quite so hard all the time.  I am finding myself with more energy and creative thoughts returning.

And now I enter the next as yet unnamed phase of my work transition; the adding things back in stage (which is not a good name so I welcome suggestions for naming this stage.)

I know I want to work on building an online business; I don't mind my job but I know that this is not a long term solution for me or my family. (I am experimenting with the semi-colon today.  I read about how to use it recently.  Forgive me for over using it in this post.)

I stepped on the scale tonight to discover that I weigh 10 pounds more than I did when I started working 6 months ago.  Not. Good.  So I know I want to/need to re prioritize exercise and healthy eating into my life.

I also know that my life does not work if I don't start with prioritizing God and so I need to make sure I not only don't loose that but find ways to strengthen that relationship as I add things back into my life.

And of course I still want to spend time with my family and find ways to engage regularly with Jake, Isabelle and John.

Plus a million other little things that could easily over take my top priorities if I don't take an intentional approach to adding things to my schedule and life.

I have the day off from work on Friday.  A floating holiday I didn't qualify to use until Dec 1 and will loose on Dec 31 if I don't use it.  I thought about taking it while Isabelle is off school but decided instead to take a planning day; a day to pray, write, get in a little shopping and prepare for this next stage of working. (not sure if I used it correctly in this sentence.)

Of course just like parenting I know that 6 months from now I will be in yet another new stage but also like parenting I will bring with me the skills I have accumulated as I have gone through each stage and will be stronger and more prepared for what is ahead. 

One thing hit me today.  As I have been thinking specifically this past couple weeks about what kind of online business I want to start, how to make money blogging, and etsy ideas, I have been both excited and overwhelmed.  When I do carve out time for it I don't know what to do first!  What I realized is that while my enthusiasm is good it is also filled with a feeling of rushing, a slight panic.  Like I only have 6 months to build a business.  If I lost my job I could probably build a business in 6 months working full time but I am going to build a business on evenings and weekends while also spending time doing many other things.  Yes I will have to say no to some things so I can work on the business but I also know I will need to say no to the business some times to watch my son wrestle, have lunch with my daughter or even just go on a run.

Then I remembered the quote I keep repeating as John walks down this long educational path, "most people over estimate what they can accomplish in a year and underestimate what they can accomplish in 10 years."  I probably can't build a business in 6 months or a year that would equal what I am making right now but if I keep working, one day at a time, one weekend at a time and stay focused on the task I just might be able to accomplish my goal in 2 years or 3 years.  Each day I keep working gets me one step closer to my goal.

And so we begin:  Working, the adding in stage.--Do you see how this is not working as the name of this stage?  The addition stage?  Moving forward stage?  I was releasing so am I now "collecting"?  Maybe I should just not refer to this stage with a name.  I could just call it "part 2".

I would also like to add that I accidentally ordered my $2 Caribou hot drink today without saying "decaf"!  And so it is 11pm and I am still a little buzzed from my 1pm drink.  This is what happens when you have been off caffeine for 15 years!  I seriously want to run around the house yelling ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!  But that would probably be wrong.

I should probably just end here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Go wash your tires

Most days I drive to a park a couple blocks from my work and spend my lunch hour alone relaxing in my car.  I know it sounds a little weird but I am not the only one.  There are always several other cars in the parking lot with people just sitting in them.  Some have the seat reclined taking a nap, some are talking on their cell phones and some are just reading a book.

This fall as I was sitting in my car I saw one guy get out of his, calmly walk back to his trunk, pop it open, pull out a spray bottle and a rag and beging wiping down his tires.  At first I laughed because this action seemed so crazy, why would you clean your tires in a the middle of the park just to drive off and get them dirty again?  Maybe if they were obviously dirty like he had driven through a mud puddle but they looked like every other tire on the road, dusty black.

Then as I sat relaxing in my car watching him I noticed something else, he seemed so relaxed.  And it made me wonder if maintaining his vehicle was a stress reliever for him.  While the car was not new it did look like it was very well maintained.  And I started thinking about friends who would bring knitting or quilting work to gatherings when they were stressed out because it helped them relax.  And I thought about how relaxing I find it to fold laundry or take a run.

So often when I am tired or stressed I think the answer is to lay on the couch and watch tv, do nothing.  I know I am not along in thinking this is the answer to that problem.  But I have to admit I have never felt refreshed after a night layng on the couch watching tv, it tends to suck me deeper into my lazy rather than energize me.

When I am in one of my low energy periods I constantly say in my head, "a body in motion stays in motion".  I don't need to do much but just keep moving and I will feel better, and I always do.

When doing any type of exercise training they have what they call "active recovery".  After I run really hard for my 2-5  minutes I want to stop or at least drop to walking but instead I move to a slower run.  At first my body and mind continue to scream out that I should stop because I can't go on but within another minute or so my body really does begin to recover from the hard run and the nice easy pace becomes exactly that, nice and easy.

One of the things I have learned about myself over the past 6 months is how active I like to be.  I always thought I was lazy at home but now I realize I just had so much more time to be productive that I could get a lot done and still squeeze in some lazy.  But there is a lot to be done in my life right now and not much time to do it.  I am not finding my lazy time to be relaxing or enjoyable at all, it needs to go.  And that is good because I am putting together quite the to do list and am excited and energized to make it happen.

Stop sitting around!  Get up and find something that truly relaxes you.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Melanie's Must Read List #4

I mentioned this book earlier this summer after we built our tree house but I thought an official entry in my must read list was also necessary.

I grew up in a house in the "woods".  My parents bought a wooded lot to build our house and wisely did not remove all the trees. At the back of our lot was a drop of about 200 feet to a railroad track.  It wasn't a cliff but a very steep hill.  The lot next to ours was sort of land locked and owned by the railroad and so was never developed.  We were at the end of the road, not a cul-de-sac but a true dead end and for most of my childhood the road gave way to a farmers field, although I don't remember him ever planting anything near our home so it was always just a big grassy prairie.  That was my childhood playground.

In the summer we lived back there.  There was a tree on the side lot that had started up growing right on the edge of the hill and at some point had fallen over.  But it's roots managed to find their way back into the ground and so this tree continued to grow, bud and spring new leaves every year.  It was quite large by the time we found it and was the perfect place for a child to spend all day climbing, exploring and dreaming. 

The hill down to the railroad tracks was also irresistible and we climbed/slid down it many summer days to lay pennies on the railroad tracks and wait for a train to come.  Then we would run back to the hill and be hanging on somewhere halfway up the hill while the train came rushing by.  It was never safe as the track was curved where we lived and could easily have snuck up on  us, even as a child I knew it wasn't safe but it was so wonderfully thrilling.  Then back down to find our flattened pennies.  My brother spent an entire summer building a tree house next to a tree growing out of the hill.  Complete with stairs and paths dug into the hill to get there.

While we didn't spend a lot of time in the grassy field we did run through it regularly enough to beat down a path.  I remember one time running barefoot through the field and seeing a Gardner snake quickly crawl across the field right in front of my feet.  It was terrifying and fascinating and while I did keep going I wore shoes out there a little more often after that.

There was also poison ivy.  I spent many summers in misery with the bubbling blisters of poison ivy rash.  I even remember missing school one time because it was so bad.  But it never stopped me from going back.  We had beat a path through the woods and eventually learned to stay on it.  You would think I would be a master at identifying poison ivy after that childhood but sadly I am still not always sure if something is poison ivy or not.  But I tend to err on the side of caution now that I am an adult.

It was the best kind of childhood.  I didn't spend my summers off watching tv, I was out living life, experiencing, exploring.  Those summers playing in the woods are part of who I am today.

And that is why I could not resist reading "The Last Child in the Woods".  Because I had noticed that there aren't that many woods anymore and the ones we do find don't seem to want to let kids off the path.  But while the paths are nice it is off the path where you truly experience nature and life.  This book was all about the important role that nature plays in a child's development and encouraged me to seek out opportunities for my children to play and explore the way I did as a child.  I wish I had found more but I know my kids have loved every moment they have spent in the woods and I hope they will continue to find joy in nature throughout their lives.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Wicked and Upright

When life gets hard there is just one place to go, to the Word, to God. And I found a few verses I was enjoying last week including this one:

Ps 32:10 "Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him."

I came across a couple verses with this idea of the Lord's love surrounding us and it just felt like a verbal hug from God which was just what I needed.

So I was reviewing this section of scripture at lunch when suddenly the first part of the verse struck me in a new way. I always read these verses with a sense of the wicked vs those who love the Lord but that day I realized we were ALL the wicked but some of us choose to trust in the Lord. "Many are the woes of the wicked". We are all wicked and we all have many woes. "But the Lord's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him."

Several years ago I was in this bible study and the question of original sin came up. We asked ourselves if the bad things of life are the result of original sin. I was going through infertility at that time and mis understood the question a little and talked about how when bad things happen that does not mean you sinned, I wasn't infertile because of my own sin. They all agreed and we moved on. I don't know if everyone mis understood the question or if they were too nice to correct me but the following week I saw the question again and realized my mistake. It wasn't a question of whether each of our personal sins causes our own bad things to happen, but whether or not Adam and Eve's sins brought bad into the world of which we are still affected to this day.

It is really a fascinating question because it allows me to wonder, would anyone suffer infertility if Adam and Eve hadn't first sinned? Would there be pre-mature death? Or what about economic turmoil which causes you to loose your job and your house? Think of all the evil and problems in the world and wonder, would these things exist if Adam and Eve had not sinned?

But then I wonder something else. If Adam and Eve hadn't sinned, wouldn't someone else along the way have done it anyway? Because, we are all wicked. And our morality didn't rest on whether or not Adam and Eve made the choice, we all have the opportunity to make the choice and we all fail. The question is, do we turn back to God and trust Him? Do we allow the Lord's unfailing Love to surround us despite our sinful nature or do we turn our backs on Him and ultimately perish?

So really, the sin in this world is probably a combination of both Adam and Eve's sin and our sin. They let it in but no generation has ever been able to get free of it. If I was in the garden, I suppose I would have done the same thing.

I am wicked and many are my woes but I trust in the Lord's and am surrounded by His unfailing love for me. The Psalm ends with:

"Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!

And, thanks to Jesus, that is me too!

Monday, December 5, 2011

December is Here!

I think I have said before but it is worth repeating, the low points in my life are the beginning of the up swing.  So I started getting sucked into the black hole last week.  I had been releasing for the past 6 months and I think I just released a little too far.  Into nothingness.  But I don't do lay on the couch doing nothing very well it turns out so one or two nights like that was enough for me to realize it was time to re-assess.

And what better time to re-assess your life and where it is going than in December?!  This is my planning month.  Isn't that what I have told you in the past?  Because I love new years resolutions!  Actually I usually like to plan in August but I was still releasing back then and nothing really came together.  But now, during the busiest month of the year, God has released me from releasing and it is time to start figuring out what my life is going to look like for the next few years.

I have a few ideas but nothing I am ready to share.  Instead let's take a few minutes to reflect on what I have learned so far:

I still love Mondays!  Today is Monday.  And it is a fresh start to life every 7 days.  Even if I am at a J-O-B (what I call paid employment) as opposed to the work I did at home or actually paid work from home.

If I am going to get anything done I need to put boundaries around my time.  When am I going to accomplish tasks?  Spend time with the family?  clean, shop?  Relax?

This is hard but hard is good.  It makes me stronger.

I realized that the plan before us takes vision.  And I found my new favorite quote, "Most people over-estimate what they can accomplish in a year and under-estimate what they can do in 10 years."

It isn't worth rebelling against God.  My last breakdown was a rebellious fit against what I wanted vs what God was doing in my life.  Learning to trust, listen and wait for His timing.

And recently I wrote on my new "home to work" blog about how we never stop transitioning.  While the past 6  months of our life may have held more transition than the average day the fact is that we will forever be transitioning and life is full of changes.  And learning to manage as we go through those transitions is the real trick.

I have also been blessed by encouraging friends and family, kind co-workers, and this great outlet to express myself these past 6 months. 

Now that I am leaving the "release" stage of this life change I am excited by what is ahead of me.  It is going to be a great month of planning.