Thursday, March 24, 2016

Mornings and Music and Pressing On

Mornings are hard for the boy and me. He is slow to get up, slow to get dressed, slow to do everything. I bought the wrong kind of cereal or let the milk run out. He fights with his sister about where the cereal box should be for optimal viewing of the label (even though they read it yesterday and every other day for the past week). He doesn't like the available lunch options, or else he gets so excited about them that he dances around instead of making the lunch. He can't find his shoes. or his homework. or his glasses.

And then we eventually start practicing piano and he does NOT want to do his scales. Many days there is yelling and pouting by at least one of us. It's amazing the number of things he "does not care" about when scales are on the line.

Today was one of those days, but we finally got through the scales and I sat on the couch to listen to his review pieces (something I often don't do because his sister is usually practicing at the same time so I'm listening to her). And I suddenly realized, he's playing music. This rough-and-tumble boy who always has food around his mouth. The one who I'm always a little worried may not make it in life--or survive into adulthood. That one...moments of his practicing show sensitivity and musicianship.

Now, this is no child prodigy. He is no better at piano than other children who practice every day like he does. But sometimes I catch a glimpse that it's going to be worth it. All this work is slowly paying off. You play enough scales and finally it turns into music. Maybe the hours we spend practicing each week are shaping his soul as well as his fingers. Perhaps he'll make something of himself.

So, mother whose mornings are hard and who wants to give up on the hard thing you are making your child do for his own good: Don't give up. Don't stop. Someday you'll look up and realize there's music coming out of him. And it will be worth it.

Here's the video I took to encourage myself on days when I think I can't. take. one. more. day. You can see where he turned around and realized he was being recorded, and also where it all kind of fell apart at the end. This is practice, after all, not perfection.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Love Challenge

This morning I went through the mental exercise I often go through: "I should really take time off of Facebook. The negativity makes me so grumpy." Yes,but what about the connections, the prayers, the little glimmers of hope you also find there? And the adorable otter video you saw yesterday? Totally worth it. And then I ran across this article by a lovely coworker of my husband's, and my faith in Facebook was restored--it gives me access to things I wouldn't otherwise know about that are worth reading. Stephanie writes about changing her focus from "woe is me, I have no boyfriend on Valentine's Day" to focusing on receiving and giving love for the month, the same way we focus on thanks in the month of November.

And it got me thinking. What if I spent this month looking for ways to love others? What if I made a conscious effort to express love not just to my husband (although that's important) this Valentine's Day but also to my children, my friends, and those outside my usual circle of contacts? What if I hopped on Facebook looking to see if I could encourage someone rather than just be entertained (or annoyed)? What if every day for the month of February I made myself write down not just three things I'm thankful for (God's expressions of love to me), but also one way I went out of my way to show love to someone? And what if I challenged myself to show love in ways that are hard, that require some sacrifice?

So there you have it, the challenge I'm laying down for myself. I better get started on planning and brainstorming. Care to join me in this challenge?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

One Word

I was not going to do the "one word" thing this year. I sort of thought my focus would be on health--as in, allowing myself the luxury of regular exercise even though it takes me away from other things. And as in, giving myself the gift of regular time spent on hobbies even though I don't have time for it and there are other, more pressing things to do.

But as time has gone on, I think God gave me a word, and it's definitely not one I would have chosen for myself. My one word this year is HUMILITY. How boring. How uninspiring. How hard. But here we are.

Why humility? As debates have been swirling, both in my home town and in the presidential campaign and about a million other topics, the thing that has struck me again and again is the need for humility. For acknowledging that the other side might be right, or might have some truth to it, or at least might have something to teach me even if they are wrong. For giving people the benefit of the doubt concerning their motivations and heart. For asking God what he might teach me even if the person through which he is speaking is unappealing or even vile to me. For speaking truth in a way that is kind and winsome.

What does this look like? This month, it is listening to a flashy speaker even though said flashy speaker kind of turns me off. Lord, show me what I can learn here. It is listening to my friend and trying to understand even though her viewpoint seems wrong to me. Lord, help me to see truth and be loving. It is letting my husband pursue the schedule he feels is right even if it's not my first choice. Lord, help me see where I am being selfish. It is praying about things rather than getting into fix-it mode. Lord, help me to be before I do. It is inviting people into my home even if it's messy--and not getting grumpy about it. Lord, teach me true hospitality. It is picking up this blogging thing even though I find it hard to "put myself out there." Lord, help me to obey your promptings, to give of myself so that you are exalted and others maybe benefit from what you're teaching me. It is keeping my mouth shut when it is obvious to me what someone needs to do or how they are wrong, but I also know they aren't in a position to hear the truth yet--or I'm not the one who should tell them. Lord, help me to control my tongue.

I don't know where this journey of humility will take me, and maybe I don't want to. This might be a really hard year. But I've found that when God leads, it's best to follow. So here I go, seeking to learn what it means to walk humbly with the Lord. What's your one word?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Prayer and Breathing

In case you have missed it, there is quite a controversy at Wheaton College, a place near and dear to my heart. It has been heavy on my heart because of the hateful backlash, some of it aimed at my brother, and because many of the arguments feel to me like an attack on God himself, and that breaks my heart.

I am not here to debate the issues. Smart people say it is complicated and nuanced, and just because the heart of the issue seems very un-complicated to me does not mean that I am right. But the whole thing has taught me a lot about prayer.

When I am so burdened by something that it distracts me from my work or wakes me up at night, I can either fret and worry, or I can pray. At times like this prayer becomes so constant it's like breathing. Sometimes all I pray is "Lord, have mercy, have mercy." Sometimes I pray for specific things, but as I've gotten older my prayers are a lot less about what I think ought to happen, or what I want to happen, and a lot more "your will be done." You see, I've experienced enough of life to realize that God's ways are always best. No exceptions. Even when his ways are devastating this side of heaven. And I know that he always answers the prayer "your will be done."

I see the nuances of life and realize that in every single situation I am concerned about--even the ones that are about me--I don't know all the information. But God does. So I can trust him to know what to do. Prayer for me is like climbing into God's lap and handing my worries and problems back to him. Sure, I ask him to show me if there is something I need to do, either to be an instrument in fixing the problem or to take care of myself so I can sense his love for me. But pretty much, for me these days prayer is me saying, "God, this seems like a big thing to me. Can you fix it in your way? And make my thoughts and priorities concerning this matter match yours."

More specifically, I pray God things. Help the people involved to grow in grace, unity, love, and all the other fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Scripture. Help us to trust you more. Help us to grow. Redeem this situation so that you are glorified. Don't let Satan win this one. Let truth win, whatever the truth is. These things God loves to answer. And these are things that Christians on both sides of any disagreement ought to be able to pray together. We're all on God's side, right? So we all want his purposes to prevail. Let's pray for that.

I've also noticed my prayers are a little less impatient than they used to be. Nothing is an emergency or a surprise to God. I'd love to see every problem resolved on my timetable, but I see more and more that sometimes the waiting and the struggle are the point. In this particular case, I think many more people are fervently praying for Wheaton than were a month ago. And that's a good thing. So while I'd love to see this resolved now--like, this minute please--I'd even more love to let God do his thing. And sometimes that takes a while.

So I'm settling in, getting comfortable on God's lap, and planning to stay here for the duration. Won't you join me?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What's Next

Tomorrow is the day I have in some ways been dreading for 15 years, ever since my first baby was in my arms and I knew this day was coming. Tomorrow I will send my last baby to kindergarten. I have no preschoolers left. And you know what? I am okay. I'm almost happy about it. And I think I know why.

You see, last year I started transitioning my thoughts to what's next. I decided that the reason I was afraid of sending the baby to school was because I wondered if I would be starting the slow descent into obsolescence. A mother's job is to work herself out of a job, so I guess you'd say it's a planned obsolescence, but that doesn't make it feel any better. Deep down I think we all want to be needed, to matter to someone else. Mothering babies and preschoolers gives you that in spades. They need us for everything at first, then a little less, but for several years we hang the moon to them, and that's a pretty great feeling.

But God doesn't want us to stay there (lest our egos get the best of us), and so He makes motherhood a long series of changes and adjustments and letting go. They start to sleep in their own room, and then they start to go on sleepovers and fix their own lunches, and then one day they leave--eventually for good. And stay-at-home moms like me wonder what's next.

So last year my constant prayer was that God would give me a vision. I realized that God will always give us something useful to do if we just ask Him, so I started badgering Him to show me what that is. "What do you want me to do that matters? Fill my time with what you want, but please help me to see that there will be something so I can gracefully pry my hands off this mothering littles job I've been doing (and love so much)."

And God answered that prayer. So tomorrow as I send my baby to school perhaps there will be tears (not from her), but mostly there will be relief. Because I have work to do, work I love and that fits my skill set. So much work that I'm pretty sure I can't get it all done without some supernatural help. And those kid-free hours are going to come in handy for getting it done.

So if you're wondering what's next, if you find yourself at a transition point in life that's feeling overwhelming, I challenge you to ask God for a vision of what's next. Tell Him you're ready to do something important, and He'll give it to you.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord
They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 
In those days when you pray, I will listen."
--Jeremiah 29:11-12

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Before and After

Today I have a before and after for you. I just love those, don't you? Am I the only one who is scouring facebook pictures to catch a glimpse of the decor in the background? I think it's so interesting to see how other people decorate and see if their style sparks any creative ideas for my own home.

I started with a pretty ordinary hand-me-down hutch. It started life as unfinished pine, then was stained and varnished and lived that way for about 25 years.

It was fine, but with my beautiful new kitchen, it looked kind of tired. A few coats of paint, some new hardware, and...
Fun, huh? The wall behind is gray, and the color on the back of the hutch is a cream color that matches my kitchen cabinets. The main part of the hutch is a neutral green that matches the different-colored cabinets in the kitchen (the ones we had to buy new). So this sort of ties the whole kitchen together, as well as giving me a place for all my inherited kitschy stuff.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Good Enough Author

If there is a back-door way of authoring a book, I have found it: Spend years and years copy editing other people's books, and then have your mom run into an old acquaintance and let them know that you are an editor who likes to write, and then do some work for them that turns into a little more and a little more, and the next thing you know they will realize that you wrote a significant portion of the book and offer to let you have the credit for your work. The whole process takes about 15 years, some providential "coincidences," and a good deal of generosity on the part of the publisher.

Nevertheless, I am now a published author.
It feels sort of like I just had a baby. Here's hoping there are more to follow in the years ahead (books, not babies).