Walking Through Uncertainty, Part 2

My cat is doing just fine now, thanks for asking. :-)

As this post goes to press, my family is playing a waiting game concerning a very vital aspect of our lives: where we’re going to live.

See, a few weeks ago our little family of four expanded to seven when my grown daughter, son-in-law, and small granddaughter moved in with us. The plan is for them to stay with us until my son-in-law finishes college, which should take a couple of years. And we are glad to have them, because up til now they’ve lived about eight hours away from us and it’s hard to be the best Nana of them all when you’re that far away.

So my husband and I decided that for the sanity of all concerned it would be best to sell this house and find something roomier so we wouldn’t be all up in each other’s business all the time. We put our house on the market in early March and it sold in six days. That’s right, six days. One day I’ll get around to writing a blog post about the sheer madness of that time but it’s still a little too fresh right now for me to find it funny just yet.

Our new hobby was looking at houses for sale, and there were surprisingly few that met our size and school zone criteria. After one false start with a house that had safety issues, we found it. It was (is) beautiful. It had plenty of space, a nice yard, and (wait for it…) a pool! I could totally see myself living in that house for a long time. So we negotiated and agreed on a price.

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But.

There’s a contingency. Without going into too much detail, it appears that a lot of pieces will need to fall into place for us to purchase this house. It could easily go either way. And so we wait to hear, not knowing if we are moving and if we are, where exactly we will land. It’s hard to plan when you just don’t know what’s coming.

Meanwhile, there’s a buyer out there with a contract on the home we now live in who is proceeding in good faith.

And we are doing lots of waiting. Waiting. Waiting…

I detest the uncertainty, yet it’s at those times of vulnerability and waiting that I can grow by learning to lean on God for peace of mind.

My default setting is to worry the situation to death, imagining all possible outcomes to ensure that I’m not surprised by any of them. I try on all the resolutions for size, testing the fit and feel of each one so that whatever result I get, it feels at least little familiar. Or so I think.

I don’t think that’s what God means when He tells us we can trust Him.

Trusting Him means believing that He is for me and He has my best interests in mind. That’s not always easy for me.

I try to insulate myself from disappointment by anticipating it. If it’s a new job, I tell myself that someone else is more qualified than I am and will certainly be offered the position.

If it’s a dream, I hear my inner Doubting Thomas saying that I’ll never really be able to do it. After all, how many other dreams have I had in the past that I’ve had to abandon? And the old chestnut, “You’re just not good enough.”

If it’s a thing (like this house), somehow it seems too good for me, like I shouldn’t aspire to such nice things. I should stick with something small and humble. (and there’s nothing wrong with small and humble, by the way) So I tell myself it won’t happen, that way I won’t be disappointed.

I’m stifling any flicker of Hope, basically – not even giving it a chance. And I don’t want to be that person walking around without Hope.

Apparently there’s a part of me that feels undeserving, believing that I am unworthy of whatever it is I’m reaching out for.

Yet I don’t believe God sees me that way, so I’m working hard to see myself through His eyes.

He loves me enough to send His Son to die for my sins.

He calls me His Beloved.

He has a plan for me.

He works all things out for my good.

He is for me.

   For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11

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. – Romans 8:28

I’m holding tight to those promises in the uncertainty.

 

 

Walking Through Uncertainty, Part 1

As I’ve written before, I’m a girl who likes to know what’s coming next. I don’t like waiting and I don’t like uncertainty. Honestly, I don’t know anyone who does. Impatience is pretty much a universal human condition, wouldn’t you say?

Lately things around my house have been uncertain to the extreme.

We have a dearly loved cat who has chronic health problems. We recently learned that he will be on medication and prescription food for the rest of his life. He was already high-maintenance even without the addition of meds and special food. But our middle daughter LOVES that cat, and he’s a sweet boy (for the most part) so we’re committed to dealing with the medication and food for the next few years.

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A few days ago I noticed that Elvis (yes, that’s his name) was looking a little scruffy. His food was going untouched. He was not grooming himself and he was “leaving his mark” in the house in places other than his litter box. This is not good for many reasons, one of which is that we just sold this house (which I will cover in the next post) and also because hello, the smell. And I don’t think I can take the sadness of my teenager if something happens to this cat.

I did some research (what did we do before Google??) and started taking some steps to help him recover. I already knew from what the vet told us a couple of weeks ago that a recurrence could be the end for Elvis because there was nothing else they could do. I also started preparing my teen for the possibility that Elvis might not make it. The whole house went into Cat Watch status.

And I prayed. Listen, if you don’t think God cares about the details, you are dead wrong. Nothing escapes Him. If we care, then He cares, because He loves us.

Then I walked through the uncertainty. Or more accurately, I wallowed, crawled, and moaned through the uncertainty. I did what I could do and I prayed for God to do what only He could do, and I waited. Have I already mentioned how bad I am at waiting? Because I am.

It seems like such a petty thing, to pray for a cat’s health, yet I believe God cares because we do. My middle girl has been through a lot of changes in the past year: moving to a new state and trying to adjust to a new school (and struggling), along with normal teenaged hormonal changes. I cannot imagine the blow to her fragile and still developing sense of stability if she lost her furry companion. But I also knew that if God allowed it to happen, He would get us through it somehow.

So for the last few days I’ve been walking the tightrope of okay/not okay and trying to prepare for every eventuality, although there’s no way to really do that. I’ve been a bundle of nerves, all over a cat! And I think that while I’ve prayed for God to intervene, I haven’t allowed myself to actually believe that He would.

I watched IF:Gathering online in February and near the end, the speaker asked everyone to take a rock and write on it a word God had impressed upon them. Ever since then I (along with some sweet IF:Voxer sisters – you guys know who you are, and I love you) have been challenging myself to really believe God.

Believe that He is good.

Believe that He is for me and my good.

Believe that He is who He says He is, and His word is true.

Believe that He answers prayer.

Because I go to Him in prayer with all my concerns and then I’m surprised when He answers. Why is that? Am I missing something critical in my spiritual development? A sense of expectancy, perhaps?

Ultimately, I think there is a part of me that feels undeserving. If I was truly deserving then it would be some kind of earned justice and not grace (unmerited favor) when God sends blessings my way. I also have a hard time sometimes seeing God as a loving Father who wants the best for me. These are things I’m working on, and like the father of the possessed boy in Mark 9,  I say, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!”

I want to be the kind of person who prays about a problem or concern and waits expectantly, knowing God will answer and that His answer will be for her good, whether the answer is “yes”, “no”, or “not now”. But I’ve also been so disappointed by people in the past that it blurs my view of my Father, and that’s not fair to Him. And in the end, even though what I was walking through was painful at the time, all those experiences have formed me into the person I am now and I can honestly look you in the eye and tell you God worked things out for my good (Romans 8:28).

And speaking of good things, I’m happy to report that Elvis the kitty is showing positive signs of improvement. I think he’s going to be just fine. Now if we could just find a house to live in…. (to be continued)

Confessions of a Lent Failure

I stink at Lent.

In my defense, I came late to it. I’m from a Southern Baptist background (that’s “Southern” with a capital “S”) and didn’t even know what Lent was all about until a few years ago. Mostly Lent, to me, meant self-deprivation – you know, somebody is always giving something up for Lent.

Now I belong to a church where Lent is actually a thing. We are encouraged to use the 40 days leading up to Easter to prepare our hearts for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ. It’s a beautiful idea but I fail in the execution. Part of my problem is that I am a poor planner. Let me rephrase that: I’m actually a pretty good planner with terrible follow-through. I believe that makes me what is commonly known as a procrastinator.

Also, basically it’s 40 days of waiting. I’m terrible at waiting. And 40 days is a long time, am I right?

But then comes Holy Week.

Something happens to my heart during Holy Week.

I’m once again overwhelmed with emotion at the perfectly choreographed series of events that culminated in the resurrection of Christ.

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It’s like (as with so many other things) I suddenly look up and realize – it’s almost here. It’s coming and if I don’t wake up I’m going to miss out, and my heart starts beating a little faster.

Palm Sunday rolls around and I read about how they shouted “Hosanna” and laid down palm branches for His donkey to walk on, and I think He knows. He knows that all these happy faces who are greeting Him like the King He truly is, they’re going to turn on Him in just a few days. How can you enjoy the accolades when you know they will become jeers in mere days?

I think about the disciples and how confused they must have been at Jesus’ words. He’d said all along that He had to go away and prepare a place for them, but even with the miracles they’d seen, they couldn’t know what was coming.

The players in this drama couldn’t have imagined that they would be witnessing the greatest sacrifice and then the greatest miracle the world has ever known, and it was all for them. And me. And you. And all of mankind.

I think about His mother Mary, because I’m a mother and I cannot so much as even think about the idea of watching my own child die that way, for I have no doubt that she saw Christ as her much-loved son as well as her Saviour.

Each day of Holy Week weighs heavy on my heart from the gravity of my sin. My sin that led Him to that cross.

The last supper.

The betrayal of Judas.

Peter’s denial.

The travesty of a trial.

The beatings.

The march to Calvary.

The mockery.

The darkness.

The agony.

And in the midst of the agony, mercy for the man hanging beside Him.

And for the ones persecuting Him: Father forgive them..

And mercy for me.

That Good Friday seemed to be anything but good.

Love drove Christ straight to that cross and love kept Him there.

(And now I get to write my two favorite words in the whole world…)

But God…

But God had a master plan, and it was not for His Son to stay in the grave.

Three days later He came back, just like He said He would.

(I wonder sometimes how I would have responded to Jesus in those days. I have the advantage of history and seeing Him proven faithful over and over, but those who walked with Him had to take Him at His word.)

God doesn’t leave us dead in our sin either. Easter is a reminder of the way I was once dead inside but given new life in Christ.

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I think maybe I save up all my Lent meditation for Holy Week because now it seems like I can’t stop thinking about Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Better late than never, I suppose.

(If you’ve managed to read my ramblings to this point, thank you for your patience.)

How about you? Do you do anything special to prepare for Easter?

Good Mom, Bad Mom

I bought a level at the home improvement store last week. It’s not fancy but the perfectionist inside me is clapping her hands with glee because finally perfection is within reach, at least when it comes to hanging pictures. I love knowing that I have a tool to let me know just how close I am to the ideal. If I’m little off in my placement, the little bubble inside the level will show me, and I can adjust accordingly.

levelToo bad there’s not a tool like that for parenting.

Raising children is a figure-it-out-as-you-go adventure. Read all the books you want but not much can prepare you for the actual moment they place an actual real live baby in your actual arms. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting, which is a cruel trick, because just when you think you’ve figured out your first child, the second one comes along and whatever you did with the first one doesn’t work for the second one. And don’t even get me started on the third one and the ones that might come after.

I’ve been a mother for over a quarter century now. It has stretched me in more ways than I can count, and I’m not just talking about the stretch marks of a body that has adjusted to carry a new life inside.

I’ve been a working mother and a stay at home mother as well as a work at home mother. (By the way, they’re all hard and it’s high time we stopped trying to shout each other down about whose way is right. But that’s another blog post entirely.)

So how can we know if we’re doing it right? It’s not by measuring ourselves against other mothers because that’s just a sure way to feel inadequate (if we’re looking at the amazingly put-together Mom in the car line) or smug (if we’re looking at the Mom in Target with a toddler having a full-blown tantrum in the aisle). Neither is going to end well.

It’s not by asking our friends because let’s face it: friends (good ones, anyway) see the best in you and will loudly congratulate you for feeding your kids whole-grain Eggos for breakfast instead of donuts, while forgetting all about the time you forgot to pick up little Susie at preschool because you were getting your hair done. They’re biased, as they should be.

It’s not even by measuring our kids’ behavior because even the most well-intentioned parent sometimes has a child who goes off the rails. And sometimes otherwise “good” kids make bad choices that lead to “good” parents feeling bad about themselves. Not that I’d know anything about that myself. (Just kidding. If I knew how to do it right I wouldn’t be writing this blog post. I’d be writing a how-to book and counting my millions.)

You could wait until your children are grown up and ask them what they think. This is especially helpful if they have children of their own because somehow, raising their own little blessings provides perspective you just can’t find anywhere else.

The truth is we are all doing the best we can at this parenting gig. No one’s perfect. No one approach works for all kids. Some moms stay home, some  work, some work at home in between parenting kids. Some kids need strict discipline and some fare just fine with loose boundaries.

The “right way” doesn’t exist.

There’s no magic formula for parenting. We’re all scientists in the lab of real life conducting our own on-going experiments with wildly different results.

But I did come up with a short quiz to let you sort of take your Momming temperature and see how you’re doing.

Here’s the first question: do you love your children? I don’t mean do you like them. Even the best mother will admit (if she’s honest) that there are occasionally times she doesn’t like one or more of her children, or more accurately, her children’s behavior. But overall, do you feel love toward the kids themselves?

If you answered “yes”, the second part is this: do your children know that they know that they know they are loved? Do you tell them? Do you show them? Do you love them in their love language? Do you love them enough to do the hard things, the things they might not like? Do you blow kisses at your middle schooler when you drop her off at school, totally negating any cool factor she’s managed to accumulate? Maybe that last one is just me.

If you can answer “yes”, I’d say you’re doing a fine job.

Now, of course there’s more to parenting than just loving your kids but the truth is most of those other things will flow out of that all-encompassing, throw-yourself-in-front-of-a-train, indescribable-but-yet-I’m-trying kind of love. When you act from that place of love, your kids are going to know it, even if they can’t put words to it. Even if they can’t understand why you do what you do. Even if they throw mean words back at you and appear to reject it. (if you relate to that I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you have a teenager)

If you’re loving your kids and showing it to them with words and actions, you’re doing it right, Mom.

Remember this on the days when nothing goes the way it should.

When you burn the toast and set off the smoke detectors twice in one 10 minute time period.(True story)

When the kids go to bed without a bath for the third night in a row.

When everyone has cereal for dinner because you forget to plan ahead.

When you’ve lost your temper and raised your voice. Again.

When you have to dig the gym uniform out of the dirty laundry because you forgot to wash it.

When you plop your littles in front of the TV so you can finish reading the last chapter.

When you lock yourself in the bathroom for fifteen minutes because it’s the only place you can be alone.

Because Mom love means that the bad days won’t happen every day, that many more days will be marked by hugs and sweet words and time spent making memories.

And because your kids might not tell you, I will: you’re doing a great job, Mom. Keep it up.

 

10 Years Later: What I’ve Learned About Adoption

It’s been 10 years since we were handed our new daughter in the meeting room of a hotel in Guiyang, China.

Ten years since we wrapped arms and hearts around her and promised to never, ever let go.

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The moment our family of four became five.

That moment was the culmination of years of preparation, none of which actually prepared us for the job of parenting a child born to other parents in a foreign country.

We went into it for all the best reasons and wanting only to love her just as we already loved our biological children, and we do – fully and unconditionally. She is our daughter in every sense but genetic.

But that day was not just the end of the wait. It was our beginning as a new family and a bold step into the unknown.

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Notice the look in her eye. I should have realized what we were dealing with right then and there.

A lot of well intentioned people told us some hard things before our adoption but in my usual way I chose to focus on the positives and pretty much ignore the negatives, because we were going to do it all the right way. No room for the bad stuff in our adoption!

Side note: I remember when my first daughter was born and I inwardly resolved to be the first perfect mother raising the first perfect child. That turned out just about the way you imagine it might have, which is to say disastrous. When my second daughter was born I set out to be the best mother I could for her, but I’d given up (temporarily, it seems) on perfection.

Oh yes. We knew all about taking it slowly, things like not immediately stripping off the clothing she wore to dress her in the pretty things we brought for her. We knew to follow her lead and not expect her to behave like our other two daughters did at the same age. We recognized that developmentally she might be delayed and we were prepared for that. We knew that we might not feel a connection to this tiny stranger right away, that adoption is similar to an arranged marriage, where the commitment might come before the love develops.

All those things were useful, but it still wasn’t enough.

And so it’s been 10 years of love, lessons, and learning for us. Here are some things I’ve learned.

1. Adoption involves loss. Always. Maybe not for you, but always for your child. You can sugarcoat it all you want and imagine a happily ever after to rival any fairy tale. You can love her with all your heart (and hopefully you will, if not at first at least eventually) but you can never make up for the loss of her birth parents, so don’t waste your time trying. Your child may not be able to put words to the feelings but if you’re paying attention you will see signs of grief, whether in outright tears, or anger, or a quiet sadness. And just when you think the clouds have passed, you may still see storms pop up every now and then. There has been a loss and the sooner you acknowledge and accept the elephant in the room, the better for all concerned.

2. Not knowing is not ideal. I used to think that one reason we chose China is because the possibility of having our adoption disrupted by the birth parents was next to none. I liked the feeling of security. But that security comes at a cost. The same laws that mean my daughter’s birth parents can’t come forward to claim her also mean that we will never know anything about them. Were they smart? Athletic? Fiery-tempered? Which parent gave her that cute nose? Which shares her smile? We’ll never know. The sparse details we have are hardly enough to satisfy her curiosity when she comes asking questions, and I’m deeply sorry about that. I wish I knew more so I could tell her more.

3. Love doesn’t conquer all, but it’s a great start. I think I believed that once we held our daughter she would suddenly feel secure, and she would latch onto us and never look back. (cue the violins and send out the rainbows and unicorns) Attachment disorder is a thing, people. Our daughter loves us and she is attached, but there’s still some push/pull going on sometimes that is painful for all concerned.

4. You can’t force a child to love her heritage. We have tried to lead her there and she just won’t go. For the first few years we celebrated Chinese holidays, joined a Chinese cultural group, took Mandarin classes, and incorporated Chinese art in our home decor. I bought Chinese cookbooks with the idea that I would learn to cook some authentic foods that we would all enjoy together. Once she got old enough to ask that we skip the Chinese New Year celebration we chose to respect her wishes. At this point she seems totally uninterested. The only Chinese dish she likes is rice – not the fried variety but the white kind that can’t even properly be considered “Chinese”. Occasionally we mention that it’s the time of year for a particular Chinese celebration, only to be met with a shrug. I still hope that one day she will be interested in her heritage but right now she considers herself strictly American.

5. Sometimes different does not equal special. When I reminded my daughter this morning that today marks 10 years since we met for the first time, her reaction could only be termed “underwhelming” if not downright hostile. She’d just rather not discuss it. It could be that she doesn’t like being reminded that she joined the family in a way different from her sisters. Being different in that way apparently doesn’t make her feel special. In fact it’s just the opposite. I’m guessing she feels like she stands out but not in a good way. On a similar note, she doesn’t like to see pictures of herself as a baby and she can’t or won’t articulate exactly why. I suspect it has to do with being reminded of how she came to be one of us. I love the process of adoption and am terribly sentimental about those days, but then again I’m on the other side of things.

6. Her story is her story. When her questions come (and they do) I try to answer them as best I can but I do my best to refrain from discussing personal details with other people. But you say, here you are writing about it for all the world to read. Yes I am, but in general terms. We don’t have many details about her history but what we do have is hers, which is why you won’t read it here unless she gives me permission to write about it.

I used to think that raising an adopted child was just like raising a biological child except for the way they joined the family. Uh, no. There are so many nuances to the dynamics of adoption that don’t apply to your other kids. And not all adopted children behave the same way. It’s all pretty confusing, isn’t it? We’re learning as we go. Ten years from now I might have a totally different outlook.

But then there are the days when I forget that she looks different from me. That it surprises me when strangers do a double take, as they sometimes do.

It reminds me of the old joke about the adoptive Mom who says, “One of my children is adopted but I forget which one.”

So yeah, love may not conquer all.

But it sure is a good place to start.

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What I Want My Daughters to Learn from “The Bachelor”

My dearest daughters,

You may have heard of a television program called “The Bachelor” and its sister program “The Bachelorette”. Hopefully you haven’t actually seen them yet but since it appears the series has no intention of ending any time soon, you are bound to be exposed to it one day. If you can, avert your eyes and change the channel quickly. But if, like me, you find yourself in a weak moment and drawn in by the spectacle of 25 nice-enough-looking young ladies throwing off every shred of dignity and self-respect (and clothing!) in an effort to capture the affections of one questionably worthy young man, here are a few things to remember.

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1.  Men enjoy the chase. If you don’t believe me, ask your father. Most guys think the idea of 25 women vying for their attention would be a dream come true but the truth is most of them would get overwhelmed or bored by it. You don’t need to make it too easy for the guys you date when you reach dating age (around age 30 should be fine) but that doesn’t mean you should play hard to get either. There is a middle ground. If you’re interested, it’s fine to show it a little (does anyone remember the fine art of flirting?), but leave it at that and don’t fawn all over a guy. Let him earn your attention and it will mean more to him. Wait for HIM to call YOU and ask you out on a date, and let him make the arrangements. And you can bet that if he’s the type who wants all the ladies to come to him and make it effortless, he’s not going to have much ambition for anything else either. Like finding and keeping a job, for example.

(I’m aware that most teenaged boys are not entirely sure how dating works either and my “antiquated” ideas about it might mean you don’t go out much until you’re older. I’m OK with that.)

I’m also thinking about all those girls on The Bachelor who think it helps the relationship progress if they physically throw themselves at him. What if he doesn’t want to kiss you? You’re leaving him no graceful way to say “no”. How about you let him anticipate that first kiss for a little while instead? I think it says a lot about a girl’s opinion of men in general when she acts as though guys are all ruled by their sexual urges. Good men aren’t slaves to lust.

(side note: when I was a teenager my mother told me not to call boys. I thought that was a stupid rule. After all, if I didn’t call them they might not call me. I now know it’s not a stupid rule, and it’s the rule at our house. Blame Grandma.)

2.  Preserve some mystery. Yes, I’m going to talk about modesty because clearly no one on The Bachelor is familiar with the concept. I’m not going to talk about sex outside of marriage because you already know where our family stands on that issue and as soon as I say the word “sex” you’re usually so mortified that anything I say afterward gets lost in the shuffle.

Once upon a time it was considered scandalous for a lady to show her ankles. Apparently men in those days could not be trusted to contain their lust at the sight of a luscious pair of ankles, but luckily today’s men can handle themselves better. However, that’s no reason to let it all hang out, girls. Show some respect for your body and the people around you, and choose clothing that is appropriate. I’m not saying we should not be satisfied with our bodies or even a little bit proud of the way we’re taking good care of ourselves, but the world does not need to see all your goodies. Some things need to be left to the imagination, and those same areas need to be preserved for your husband and/or your gynecologist. Bachelor contestants, If the producers feel the need to put a little black rectangle over part of your body, that’s a sign. We don’t need to see all that. In general, girls, when in doubt cover it up.

The Bible tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Let’s treat them that way.

3.  Oversharing does not = closeness.  Oh girls. I cannot emphasize this one enough. Sometimes you meet someone and you either feel like you’ve known them forever or you want to know them forever, and you may feel the urge to share some intimate detail or story from your past to help you feel closer to each other. Don’t. In the beginning stages of a relationship, both of you are on a need-to-know basis. Someone who has been on one or two dates with you does not need or want to hear about the time you wet your pants during the class spelling bee or drove your car into a tree after your high school boyfriend broke up with you or that you can’t sleep unless all your spices are in alphabetical order. All of these facts do indeed shape who you are, yes, and I get that you think it will help them understand you. But people need to know you better before they can be trusted to properly handle such traumatic information. It doesn’t make you closer. It makes the hearer uncomfortable and the sharer look desperate. Bachelor ladies, the television viewers are squirming in their La-Z-Boys when you start spilling your guts prematurely. That’s called word vomit and it’s just as distasteful as it sounds.

4.  Jealousy is ugly. The very premise behind The Bachelor is designed to encourage jealousy, with certain girls getting picked for one-on-one dates and others feeling left out. There is always a time during each episode that finds the girls jockeying for position and trying to get “alone time” with the bachelor, and there’s always at least one girl who dissolves in tears because she didn’t get “her time” and she was coming over to talk to him and so-and-so got there first but she talked to him earlier already and it’s just not fair. Does this make her seem more attractive? No. When I met your father he was dating four other girls. All were just “friends” that he liked to go out and have fun with, but it would have been so easy for me to get jealous. I can only say it was through God’s power and not my own, but I decided that if he wanted to be with me, that’s where he would be and if not, then I didn’t need him. I had my moments for sure, however I didn’t let jealousy get a foothold and I figured if your Dad wasn’t the guy for me, God would send me someone even better. Because God is awesome like that.

5. Don’t waste your time together talking about other people. Ashley I., I’m looking at you. She whined and cried last week because she didn’t get her one-on-one time and then when she did, she spent half of it complaining about the other girls. Um, no. I don’t know about Bachelor Chris but whenever someone starts trash talking another person to me, I remember the words of Dr. Phil, “If they’ll do it with you, they’ll do it to you.” A person who will gossip about Susie to you will likely gossip about you to Susie. Don’t be that person. Don’t let other people be the subject of your conversation on a date.

Also, Ashley? By talking about all those other girls all you’re doing is reminding him how much more pleasant they were to be with because they weren’t whining about everyone else.

6.  Real love is not a game. Yes, The Bachelor is a game show of sorts with contestants and one hapless man as the prize, bless his heart. What viewers (like me) tend to forget is that these are real people (like me) with feelings and dreams and a whole back story that we don’t usually get to see. It’s easy to sit at home and pick these ladies apart – after all, they applied and competed to get on this show, ostensibly to win the heart of a man they’d never even met before. I don’t understand what drives that decision. But I hope you remember in years to come that when a boy asks you out on a date, he has feelings just like you do and if you aren’t interested in getting to know him there are kind ways to let him know. Let him keep his dignity and don’t dent his self-confidence, and likewise don’t pretend to like him if you really don’t because it wastes your time and his. Don’t let yourself get caught up in a game of trying to win someone’s attention if you aren’t really interested.

Sweeties, I don’t ever want you to look to television, especially not The Bachelor, for your idea of how a woman should behave. That’s my job, and if I’m doing it right you should be able to hear my voice over all the noise the world is making.

Love You Forever,

Mom

One Word 365 2015: Finding my Focus

I’m just going to come right out and say it: my word for 2015 scares me. I guess I brought it on myself by praying for God to confirm one of the three or so words I had swirling in my head, and this was the one he brought into focus. Yeah, that’s right: FOCUS.

Thanks to the lovely www.tracimichele.com for my graphic!

Thanks to the lovely Traci at http://www.tracimichele.com for the graphic!

In all honesty I’ve gotten used to being a bit scattered. I think maybe I’ve been enjoying claiming that flightiness as part of my inborn personality, and maybe it is. But the hard truth is that if I had more FOCUS I could get more done and done well. It’s far too easy to play the “made that way” card as an excuse to get out of more grown-up and disciplined behavior. But God never meant for me to get stuck in some kind of “faith journey adolescence” and it feels like He’s calling me to step up my game in this way.

I take pride in my ability to multi-task. I may be writing this post right now but I’m also aware of the people in my house moving around, the television show in the next room (Jessie, again), and the next five things I need to get done (make breakfast, take a shower, finish cleaning my office, make more coffee, clean the cat litter) and I may or may not be pausing in between sentences to do some of those things. (not the cat litter though. Gross.) But multi-tasking is not my friend, people. Multi-tasking by its very nature means that each task is not getting the attention it deserves. If I took the time to focus on each job, maybe it would take less time to complete AND it would be done with more excellence. Maybe it’s possible to do it all, but you can’t do it all at the same time and do everything well. At least I can’t. And I’m not settling for “good enough” any more.

I’m also a dabbler. My Grandma used to tell me that I loved to start things but I never finished them, and while it made me mad when she said it, there’s some truth to that. I am prone to picking up new hobbies, for which I happily collect supplies and make plans, and then laying it all aside like yesterday’s newspaper when I find it’s not as easy or fun as it looked. My craft cabinets are tangible proof of the activities I’ve started and never completed. And with the surge in social media nowadays I am being exposed to all manner of projects that I otherwise might not have noticed. I can be scrolling mindlessly through my Facebook news feed and see that a friend has taken up Zentangles, for instance, and I start thinking that maybe THIS is the creative outlet I’ve been looking for. This dabbling is another one of those things I’d like to work on in 2015. Just because someone else does it doesn’t mean I need to jump on the bandwagon. I want to focus more on the forms of artistic expression that really capture my heart, because there is worship to be found there.

And then there’s this blog. I tend to write about whatever crosses my mind or heart, and that’s fine. But I need to spend a little time deciding what its purpose should be and maybe even capturing that purpose in a vision statement of some sort. There’s a part of me that really hates to be tied down and chafes at any sort of restriction on my creative impulses. However there’s a lot to be said for having some kind of guideline to keep me on the right path.

I tried on and rejected several other words for 2015: Intentional, Mindful, Simplify, Concentrate, Excellence, even Distill.  One of the finalists was Present, because I want to be fully present in whatever I’m doing, not halfway there. I examined words that would encompass what I felt God calling me to focus (yes, I meant to do that) on this year. In the end, FOCUS was the word that kept coming up over and over.

So while 2015 is fresh and new, my goal for the year is to learn how to FOCUS – to figure out what I’m really about and what I do best, and concentrate on those things.  To distill all the noise and details clamoring for my attention into what matters most. To really listen to what my husband and kids are saying. To stop trying to do ten things in a mediocre way all at one time and instead focus on one or two that I can do with excellence. To look for Him and listen for His voice. To remember what the ultimate goal is.

Begin with the end in mind.

One day at a time.

One step at a time.

Eyes on the prize, always.

In His everlasting goodness, God gave me a scripture passage to go along with 2015’s word:

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. – Philippians 3:12-16 (The Message)

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What about you? Do you participate in the One Word challenge? If so, what’s your word?