Thursday, March 28, 2013

Walking the Path in Love

It isn't as glamorous as Christmas but I do think Easter is my favorite holiday.  Not maybe the most fun but the most meaningful.  I love the services throughout the week.  The lead up, the emotional road we take from triumphant entry on Palm Sunday to recalling and comprehending Christ's death and our role in it on Maunday Thursday and Good Friday.  Then Saturday night the Vigil followed by the celebration on Easter Sunday.  Oh the emotional roller coaster we have been on, what a week, what a powerful story, what a blessing to be part of that story.

I have been reading the book of John in anticipation of Holy week.  With the intention of getting to the passion readings this week.  Got there a little early and was meditating on Jesus arrest the other day.

Prior to his arrest Jesus has spent time praying.  He knew what was going to happen and asked God if there was any way he could avoid this path he was about to walk.  He wasn't trying to get out of saving all of us but if there was ANY way of accomplishing this task without going through the pain and suffering he was about to endure...could we at least spend a couple minutes considering the options?  Just to be sure.

However, by the time Judas arrived with his contingency of soldiers Jesus knew it was the only way and was ready to walk the road before him.  He didn't panic when Judas arrived, didn't try to run, didn't try to fight or justify himself.  The time of teaching and revealing was over, this was the time of submitting to becoming the sacrifice for all of humanity.

Side note here:

10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)11 Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away!”
Don't you sort of think these are 2 of the most awesome and totally overlooked verses of the passion reading?  I mean not really significant in the grand scheme of Christ's sacrifice but let's picture this here..."Peter, WHO HAD A SWORD, drew it and...cut off his right ear"!  How many pictures of Jesus and his disciples are depicted looking more like the fellowship of the ring or Arthur's knights?  So I am gathering here that Peter and the other disciples regularly carried around swords to defend themselves as they walked along the roads between towns, or, praying in a secluded garden.  You never know where danger is lurking.  I imagine them battling bandits on the roads and when they get into town instead of swaggering into the nearest bar they swagger into the local synagogue and preach the good news.  When does that movie come out!?!  Peter has always been my favorite disciple, this just makes me like him more.

OK back to Jesus.

So Jesus is arrested and taken to Annas, then Caiaphas and then Pilate, Herod, back to Pilate and then off to cruxifiction.  In all of it he was questioned, and questioned.  And really Pilate and Herod are practically begging him to help them come up with a reason to release him.  But he knows this is the path and this is the time. What I am struck by is how calmly he goes through this process.  He has accepted his fate and goes forward with peace.  Imagine how much love he must have for us to do so.  Knowing, as we do because of his prayers before hand, that he really did not want to do this, but loving us so much that with absolute confidence and clarity he walks this path.  He did it for us, he accepted, and endured and died because he loves us.

I wonder about my reactions to the path of my life.  I don't always want to walk through the hard times.  Like last fall when I said I wanted to skip over the holidays. But I knew I couldn't skip it (can't go over it, can't go under it) and I knew we needed to do and experience the hard parts of this past fall. (I guess we will have to go through it.)  Do we walk through our life with the love and acceptance that Christ did or do we fight and resist as we go?

As we prepare to sell our house right now I only feel excited, but I have already warned John that there are bound to be days I cry over this decision in the future.  However, I know that this sacrifice will ultimately bring us more peace and joy.  This move will allow me to stop complaining about being broke on this blog and get back to personal and spiritual growth musings and funny stories while raising the folly of my youth and the mid life crisis.  And wouldn't we all prefer to read about that?  I know I would.

As we watch Christ walk to the cross this week and experience the euphoria of his Resurrection on Easter Sunday, are we following his example, walking the path in love, or are we fighting and resisting His plan for our life?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

When we need help

"I lift up my eyes to the hills--where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." Ps 121:2

"I need you to help me!"  How often do your kids ask you for help every day?  Isabelle asks me to help her virtually every time I ask her to do something.  However, her definition of help and mine seem to be very different.  Hers involves me doing it for her and mine involves standing over her and giving directions.

I don't really blame her for thinking help means I do it for her.  When you think about all the ways you help your kids when they are pre-schoolers it is easy to see how they might get that impression.  Pretty much every time I did something for her I would say, "let me help you".  When she needed her hair done, her bed made, her food cut, her butt wiped...I did it for her rather than assisting her in the task.

I admit, I like to help my kids by doing things for them.  It is fast and easy and when the task is done everyone is happy and ready to move on to more pleasant activities.

I started thinking about what the word "help" really means. says:

To give or provide what is necessary to accomplish a task or satisfy a need; contribute strength; render assistance; cooperate effectively with.
When she was 2 and I was cutting up her food I am sure it fell under that category but now at 8 when I cut up her food...I believe what is necessary at 8 "to accomplish a task or satisfy a need" is to let her do it herself.  Otherwise she will always be asking someone else to cut up her food.  And at some point that just gets awkward.  It is a tough lesson to realize that "help" no longer means mom will do it for you but she will be better for it.

Other definitions include:

To save; rescue.
 As Jake moves into adulthood and begins to express a desire to make his own decisions and become independent from us one of the things I am looking at is how much I have helped him over the years.  How many times I have saved and rescued him and made his life much easier.

When Jake was in jr. high I remember talking to a fellow jr high mom.  We were both frustrated with our sons lack of responsibility and lack of engagement in their own future success.  She said she was not rescuing her son because he was getting older and she wanted him to learn to take responsibility for his life and suffer the consequences of failure.  She believed he would learn from that.  Now I do not think that is a bad approach but I specifically remember thinking, "well, that is not going to happen."  I  had absolutely no intention of letting my son fail at that age.  I was still home at that time and was perfectly willing and able to stay on top of all the tasks and activities before him and see to it that he was successful.  I believed that he needed to be motivated by experiencing success, he wouldn't seek out success if he hadn't experienced it before.  I believed that once on the right path he would eventually take the baton and run with it.

However, I will admit that as I send him off to adulthood, to do all those things for himself that I have done for him all these years, I am starting to see the wisdom in her approach  I worry that he is not equipped, that he has never had to problem solve, to meet a deadline without my reminder, to suffer the consequences of not following through.  But most of all, as I watch him slowly navigate these waters I worry that he doesn't know how to ask for help because it has always just appeared before him.  I wonder if he will figure it out before he fails.

I am not worried too much though.  I may have done everything for him but I was narrating every step of the way.  He might not have done it but he has seen it done and knows what it looks like.  There will be bumps in his path and I pray that he will ask for help, seek assistance when needed and know that, if he asks, we will always rescue him.

Yesterday I learned about a new kind of help.  People helping me.

John and I got married young and from the start we felt we had something to prove.  We knew people thought we would be living in poverty because we didn't go to college so supporting ourselves without help and doing well has definitely been a point of pride over the years.  (Sinful pride or appropriate pride?)  Yet here we are struggling.  We have struggled before and made it to the other side so I am not worried but it is never fun to be on this side.  Still, there is a plan.  We are restructuring our life this summer so that we can take care of ourselves for the next 4-5 years while John finishes school.  New work situations, new housing, new school, new attitudes.  I truly believe that by next fall we will be looking good, money in the bank and I might even get to color my hair again!  

But yesterday we weren't quite there. God taught me what it is to be humble and accept help.

My aunt asked if she could buy me groceries.  I wanted to say no, wanted to pridefully push through this temporary stage without help.  This is not an aunt with much means, I knew this offer was a great gift from her and I knew I needed to say yes.  It turned out to be more than an offer of food, she was truly going to help me, assist me.  She wasn't going to 
'give me a fish", do it for me, she was going to "teach me to fish", show me how to do for myself.  She brought me to a place called, "The Village".  It is a ministry where for a very small set price they fill up a box of food for you.  Actually the guy filled up 3 boxes of food!  Frozen meat and fresh produce.  My expectations were not super high going in but I was really overwhelmed by the amount of food he sent me home with.  Some stuff we haven't tried before and some of our favorites; Trader Joes orange chicken,  donated ribs from Famous Dave's (had that last night, yum!), steaks and a whole chicken.  So much food I seriously might not need to grocery shop for 2 weeks!  I was humbled and overwhelmed by what I was sent home with.

We all need help sometimes.  Different kinds of help at different times in our life.  We don't always get the kind of help we think we need, we sometimes forget to ask for help and we can be humbled by the help we receive.
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time." I Peter 5:6
What kind of help do you need this week?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Making the Move

You know what is both exciting and overwhelming?  Preparing to sell the house you have lived in for over 10 years.  To add to it I am simultaneously taking a real estate class and the current topic is about convincing homeowners not to over value their property or see updates they did 10 years ago as recent improvements...By the time I am done with this chapter I might just give the house away!

Everywhere I turn I see a new flaw that had just become part of the landscape of my life.  Initially I told John it was a sellers market and I did not want to try to repaint the entire house.  Then as I started preparing rooms I realized there is not a wall in our house that doesn't need to be at least touched up if not totally re painted.  Yikes!  How can we live like this?  And as I was moving some furniture in the basement I actually looked at the carpet.  I think someone has been spilling and not telling is pretty bad.  Hoping a good carpet cleaning will take care of most of it.

Still, it is exciting.  I love our house and I love to show it off.  And I believe it is a great house.  And this is a great neighborhood in a great community.  And, there are only about 5 houses for sale in our city in our price range.  So there won't be much competition.  And I am excited for our future, the purpose of our move and the adventure we are taking.

It is also fun to purge and clean your house.  Well I think that is fun.

I have turned Jake's room into a pre garage sale holding space.  I started this in January.  Initially it was where I would move things as I went through the house cleaning.  I figured I would go in his room to "shop" as I went through the house cleaning, organizing and re-arranging.  Now that I know we are moving and downsizing I am filling that room up quickly. I have kept his bed clear so if he can navigate through the room he will have a place to sleep next weekend when he comes home for Easter.  But once he leaves all bets are off.

Last weekend I did the big toy organization.  It makes me ridiculously happy to have all the Barbie stuff together, all the pet shop stuff together, all the Polly Pockets together.  Not spread all over the house or mixed together.  The question as I purge toys is, what to keep for my future grandchildren, I really believe in doing this, vs what to get rid of.  I did move the entire kitchen set into Jake's room,Oh happy day to be rid of that.  I know what from Jake's childhood we will keep, books, Legos and train set, but unsure what we need from Isabelle's childhood.  Maybe she just isn't done playing with what we will keep.  I am not too worried about over purging her toys, she still has LOTS left for me to keep in the future.

Yesterday I did in a few hours what I was going to spend the entire month of April doing, my office.  Once I get some moving boxes I will go through again but for now I managed to fill one trash can, find the top of both my desk and Isabelle's desk, empty out an old desk so it can be moved to Jake's room and straighten the shelves in the closet.  It makes me happy to sit in a clean office.

The goal is to be ready to put it on the market when I get my license, hopefully early-mid April.  However, God is in control and I have had 2 people tell me they know someone who might be interested in our house! No calls from buyers at this point and maybe we won't get one but it certainly felt reassuring to get an email saying a friend knows someone interested in our neighborhood and do we know anyone thinking of selling.  Remember, this is my year to Watch.  And as I practice sitting back and watching what God is doing I am seeing some amazing things happen.

Should be a fun next few months.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

New Thing! Watch and See

Sometimes I am impatient.  Sometimes.  Occasionally.  Not often, just, you know, when I am waiting.

I am telling myself all the same stories lately and so this will just be another rehashing of all I have said before.  But I keep saying it because I am still walking this path, still waiting, still trying to patiently go through the process.

So we have a few things going on over here.

I have taken the first of 3 classes necessary to get my real estate license and become a Realtor.  I don't know why I haven't done it years ago.  Actually I know why, I never wanted to commit to actually working and it seemed like if I didn't commit it would just be frustrating.  And since I love real estate, love looking at houses, love getting people excited about the potential of their homes, I didn't want to pursue real estate unless I was ready to pursue real estate.  And now, finally, I am ready.  Of course it takes time to take the classes and find the right broker situation to sign with and then hang your shingle.  I have had a couple interviews for positions where I would actually be employed.  One full time where I probably wouldn't spend much time pursuing my own thing and one part time where I would.  I actually like both options equally and am also not opposed to the idea of just jumping in and generating my own leads and business.  Although that one is obviously the most risky and in our current financial state a bit scary.  Anyway, I find myself struggling through this licensing process and the decision making process. Impatient. I want to get on with the listing and showing process, and most importantly, the making money process.  I am hoping to be done with my current job at the end of this month and not yet knowing where I will be going next is driving me crazy.  Where am I going next?

Tomorrow John and I are going to visit a school that we hope is the right fit for him continuing his undergraduate degree, Bethel University.  It is literally on the other side of town.  It would be hard to find a place further from our house and still consider it to be in the Twin Cities.  However, this place does hold some classes near our house which is one of the draws.  It is also a Christian university which adds an exciting element to John's education AND they are starting a PA program this fall in their Graduate school so John could potentially move right into that program without switching schools.  Although we are hopeful it will work out to attend Bethel I think we are also going to look at the University of Minnesota for comparison sake.  It would be nice to have this all figured out by now but we have dragged our feet and so it is just another thing hanging over our heads at the moment.  Where will John go to school in the fall?

Finally, after talking about it for a couple years we have decided to sell our house, to get serious about this college student pursuit.  I am glad we haven't moved before this, I think we needed the time to really adjust to the fact that John is in school and I am working and this is our  new life.  But now is the time to decide, are we in it or not?  I don't want to live 4-5 more years on the edge of our finances.  The big thing for me was realizing this is not a move of failure but of hope.  We are sacrificing for the next few years to accomplish our goal and be able to move forward.  "Voluntary poverty" someone used to describe his years in graduate school living in the projects.  I hope we aren't going to be living in the "projects",(does Minneapolis have projects?), but I know we won't be able to stay in the community we are in right now.  Initially our thought was to rent something.  A little 2 bedroom town home, save maybe $500/month plus maybe another $1-200 on utilities.  Then I realized this weekend that we do have a decent amount of equity in our house.  Nothing overwhelming but maybe...I went to check and indeed we could buy something for cash.  We have literally been dreaming of being mortgage free since we signed the paperwork on our first house nearly 20 years ago.  It might be small, and it will probably be screaming for updates but I am confident we can make anything home for the next 5 years that saves us over $1000/month in living expenses.  Everything I am currently looking at would put us at $3-500/month for taxes and insurance.  Back to what we were paying for our 1 bedroom apartment when we first got married.  We are excited.  But we can't really take action on this plan until I finish my real estate license and get a broker.  And knowing where John is going to go to school will help us narrow down the location search for a new place.  So we wait and wonder, "where will we be living next fall?"

Does anyone remember my word of the year?


Sit back and watch what the Lord is doing in my life.
 Is 43:19 "See I am dong a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?" 
New thing!  Yes I definitely perceive it.

So I told a friend today that, "sometimes the vision of where you are going gets in the way of seeing the path you need to take to get there".  (am I allowed to quote myself in my own blog?)

We all know how great I am at vision.  I know where we are going. I can see it, I am there.  I see us living in a cute little paid for town home in Minneapolis, I see myself showing people houses and listing properties and working with commercial buyers (my main dream), I see John as a PA working with a surgeon and loving it.  I see our life coming together.  I see us being able to spend our 30th anniversary in Hawaii, travel back to Kenya. I see us owning cars with less than 100,000 miles on them, I see myself being able to get my hair colored again.  I see us retiring in Florida.  I see it.  I do not have a problem with vision.  But since the path to the goal is not always a straight line if you don't occasionally take your eye off the prize to watch where you are going you just might wander off the path and get lost.

I need some more immediate goals to get myself excited and stay focused. I need to study non stop for the next 2 days before the license exam I am taking. I need to sign up for and sit through another 60 hours of online training after passing the test. I need to keep working at my current job a few more weeks so we can continue to pay the bills during this transition.

These things are challenging when you have already passed the test and started working with buyers in your mind!

My word of the year is Watch. It may seem like a passive word, just sit back and see what happens, but I am finding it to be a very active word.  Keeping up with God as he takes all this action in my life is exhausting. Trusting him to work out the details is trying.  Every day I have to remind myself that He is present with me and doing the work. Every day I get up and follow God down the path he has laid before me that day.  The hard part is not taking control, I love control, but so far he seems to be doing a pretty good job leading so I guess I will just continue following along.

I wonder where he will take me tomorrow?  Watch and see...

Col 4:2 "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful."

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Around the House

I know I have a girl because
Everywhere I turn
In the most unexpected places
 I discover tiny little shoes
 And wonder how they got so far from home.

Friday, March 15, 2013

8th Birthday

PICTURES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I figured it out.  Have you missed my pictures as much as I have missed sharing them?

Just in time to celebrate someone's birthday.

Step One:  The family party.

Open Presents

 Blow out candles.  She requested decorate your own cupcakes this year.

She discovered "DC Cupcake" on netflix.  Our life will never be the same again.

Step Two:  The birthday breakfast

 Step Three:  Shopping!  Grandma sent us money for new bedding.   A day at the mall, what 8 year old girl doesn't love that?  She also got an outfit from Justice (HAD to be from Justice) and a new pair of shoes.  She is all in on fashion.

Step 4:  Ear Piercing!  We had been talking about it for months and then totally forgot on birthday shopping day so we returned the following weekend for the big event.


The down side of 8 years old is that I have started saying, "I am not going to ... for you, you are 8 years old."    Sort of a version of, "I am 40 years old, I am not going to..."  Trying to dial that back a little bit.  8 years old should be fun not a punishment!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Long View

"Most people over estimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in 10 years!"

I have become somewhat obsessed with this quote over the past couple years and often notice the long view in the stories of people’s success.  I no longer look at someone who has a beautiful singing voice and see only natural talent, I see daily practice and music lessons to learn and hone this skill.  Sports stars who practice, practice practice.  Intellectuals who study, study, study.  You can only get so far on natural talent, intelligence or plane dumb luck, after that it is the work you do each day and the endurance that makes the real difference.  Remember, I have rejected discipline for endurance.

Today I am looking back over our life and seeing all the ways we got where we are with natural talent, intelligence and dumb luck and how little effort we put in or how little we had to endure.  I look back at the purchase of our first house.  While friends were eating Mac and Cheese and saving every dime to come up with the down payment for their first house it never occurred to us we would need to actually come up with cash to sign the paperwork.  When that day came we called up grandpa who cheerfully loaned us the money interest free.  He was excited to help his granddaughter buy her first house; we continue to be grateful for his generosity.  And there was nothing wrong with that, but we certainly didn't create a plan and work it.

Now we all know how much I like to plan so to say there was NO planning might be a stretch but what I am seeing as a pattern in our life is that my plans more informed the direction we would walk rather than the distance we would go.

Now I don’t tell you all this because I think we are failures, lazy people who have never worked for anything.  Success has many facets and where we are at this point in our life is a reflection of our commitment to several of those other facets.  We have sacrificed, have had that directional plan, have worked hard and have educated ourselves of opportunities.  Plus we have not been afraid to take risks and try new things.  All those traits and more have brought us to the point we are in our lives today.

But some successes can never be reached without distance planning and endurance.  

Like becoming an Olympic athlete.  My sister put in some butt time on the hard metal bleachers of a pool in North Carolina watching my niece swim freestyle, breast and back stroke in regional competitions.  She is quite good and even nationally rated for her age group.  Placed 5th for her age in the breast stroke competing against 100 other teams in the southeast part of the US.  Natural talent.  BUT, she also practices almost every single day and stays mentally focused.  She spends hours in the pool every week.  She sacrifices time with friends and stays up late after practice finishing homework.  When she broke her elbow she didn't take a few weeks off; she got a water proof cast and swam with a kick board.  Why?  Well, they say scholarship but I say OLYMPICS!  She won't get there just because she swims occasionally in the summers.  She won't wake up when she is 18 and decide to try out for a scholarship having only swum summers with the neighborhood swim team.  You must see where you are going and then endure through it all, good parts, like this weekend, and bad parts.  The early and late practices, the practices while on vacation, the practices where you don't feel good.  But she does it because she loves it and because she knows where she is going.  She has a plan and she is enduring.

Or Like going to school and becoming a Physician's Assistant in your 40's.  Right now we are very much in the vision and endurance stage of schooling.  Unfortunately, our life is not on hold while John is in school.  So we still have kids to raise, bills to pay, a house to maintain and those things are wearing us out.  It would be so easy to quit right now.  John goes and gets a regular job, I continue working full time, together we could pay our bills and start putting money in the bank.  Maybe sell our house and downsizes to make it even more doable.  We could do that, redirect the plan.  When you aren't really making it financially it does seem like maybe you are on the wrong path.  But, we believe in this path we are on, we are looking long.  We are enduring during these yucky years of being poor college students. The smart phones are gone and the ramen noodle years are upon us.  But we are going somewhere.  We have a plan and we will endure!

We are now almost 2 years in and can see the Associates degree is within our grasp. (Picking up that diploma will be like standing on the top 5 podium at a regional swim competition)  Just think what will be in our sights in another 2 years.  

There will definitely need to be some changes over here.  We are very much in a "make more money or get rid of the house" phase right now.  We have somewhere between 3 and 6 months before our lack of cash makes the choice for us.  So this spring and summer are all about making more money and both of us getting stability in our working situations while John is in school.  If we do so before he re-starts school in the fall we will be good for another 2 years.  If  not the house will go on the market and we will begin yet another part of the adventure we are on while in school.  And, honestly, we will be fine either way.  We would like to stay in our house and keep Isabelle in her school but we are fully prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve our goal and if it is time to move into a little 2 bedroom apartment in a new community, we look forward to the blessings God will bring us while we are there.  We believe in what we are doing and we will endure to the end.