Am I a value added woman?

Is my life making a difference here?

It’s a challenging question I have to ask myself from time to time.

Am I a woman adding value to this position or simply a warm body taking up space?

I hope I take inventory of this question before I reach the intersection of productivity and pity party in search of the destination I am to travel.  But that gives me far more credit than I am allowed to claim.

As I gaze down pity party lane, I see all of the reasons success evades me and would you know not one iota of fault is on me. No. The blame lies squarely on the lap of another. One who wants to see me fail and plans my demise when I am not looking.  One who does not communicate to my liking or do things the way we have always done. One who thinks differently and does not cater to my personal agenda.

If I’m being completely honest, I don’t even have time to mess with this anyway. It just so happened I could show up this one time. But the welcome is no longer warm and I don’t seem to have a place.

Don’t they see how valuable I am?

Maybe I should remind them.

I know it sounds harsh but you’ve been there, right?

But then I turn my gaze down the lane of productivity and see a women who is proactive and seeks to understand.  She finds value in every person who surrounds her. She is inquisitive.  A woman who sees the plan and the purpose and understands when she needs to take one for the team. Not because she is a saint but because she knows her service counts toward something far greater than herself. She adds value to the team. Her presence is appreciated and would be missed should she decide to move on.

I move toward my chosen path and stumble upon the speed bump of my attitude.

Is it really in my control?
Can I truly choose?

Let me be honest by saying I have chosen both. I find when I travel pity party lane, it is likely because I have felt coerced in to taking the position. I was not courageous enough to say no.  Or, I thought I would gain some kind of personal recognition. After all, I am super mom. But muddled motives make messed up moms.

Muddled Motivescreate messed up mommas

On the flip side, I find productivity with passion. When I evaluate the cost of my yes and agree with a humble heart I discover a thankful attitude. Knowledge of the opportunity granted to me by a most gracious God. In this heart attitude, I find myself fresh for the challenge. Intentional in making time for success. It’s in this place I can add value to my commitment.

Are you freely traveling the road of productivity or are you parked at the pity party?

What change can you make today to redirect to the path of productivity?

Most importantly,  are you blocking the path to blessing for another by staying parked with pride for a companion?

I pray we all find the productivity road we are made to travel. I pray we add value through our passion and creativity. I pray for permission to leave the party when our actions no longer align with our most secret thoughts and deeds. I pray we become women who evaluate the priorities of our lives realistically understanding the importance of making our no mean no and our yes mean yes.

The consequence of commitment

We said yes in 2015.

We said yes to leadership opportunities.

We said yes financially to a church building campaign.

We said yes to renewed pursuit of dissolved dreams revived by a gracious God.

And each time we said yes, the paved walkway beneath our confident feet crumbled. Soon our beautiful roadway was nothing more than a dirt foot trail filled with pot holes and stumbling blocks lingering in opportunity to stall progress.

Our normally healthy kiddo, hospitalized during Thanksgiving.

Financial strain we haven’t experienced in years.

Struggling census creating a bit of job insecurity.

Behavior issues with my kids requiring professional intervention.

Turmoil. Pressure. Struggle.

A pendulum of priorities vying for my attention.

Adopting an attitude expecting the unexpected. Waking each day wondering how my well planned life became such a hot mess.

God, is this what is means to say yes to you?

I struggled with this question.  For months. It caused me to pause in writing. It caused me to dig deeper and differently into his truth. It caused me to review my base motives.

And one day, God spoke:

Why are you above the struggle?

Why indeed?

The course of the last few months have shaken the core foundation of my jaded beliefs and caused me to reinforce the cracks with concrete evidence of God’s truth. The truth about who I am and the truth about why I am here.

And seriously, it’s not about me at all.

It’s not about my comfort.

It’s not about living on my own steam.

For a good percentage of my life, I have lived with the misconception that if the call comes from God, it should be easy. Friends, this is a lie.

When we said yes, when I said yes, I told God I was willing to stretch beyond my comfort in order that I could lean upon his strength. “I can do all things,” is no longer a fancy t-shirt slogan. It’s a core belief. Right when life seems impossible and it seems we have nothing left, God shows up in a provisional way time and time again.

I’ve also learned when I have nothing left, God still wants me to give. My time, energy, resources, finances- the list is endless. But it’s his. The calling is still mine.  No one else is going to pursue it, even when I don’t feel like it. No one else is going to type the words he lays on my heart to say. No one else is going to make tough calls on behalf of my marriage, family and home. No one else is performing the hard work it takes to live the life he created for ME to live.

I’ve learned I cannot live my call alone. The people he has handpicked for my life are mine.  My job? Learn who they are. What makes them tick. Discover their love language and encourage them in their own pursuit of his purpose. Above anything, I am learning to be the friend, wife and mother that I want to have.

I have learned I don’t have to know everything. It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to allow others into my weakness. Each day, I can look to God and the amazing community surrounding me for wisdom, prayer and strength.

When I continue to give my whispered yes to God from the deepest valley of life, I live life in a way I have never before experienced. I carry my cross to the finish line of faith. I learn the communication work it takes to become one-minded with fellow believers.

Daily, I ask God for my portion and daily I thank him for the grace extended to me as I die to self and increase in his image. Daily I ask for divine appointment, divine opportunity to share his love with those who most need it. I commit to him my whitespace for the day _and then the roller coaster begins. Friends, I don’t want it any other way.

Life without God is not living at all.

The consequence of commitment is a life directed by God – the author and creator of the big picture. The masterpiece I am likely to miss when I am intently focused on the snapshot of the season.

 

Five Minute Friday: Focus

 

May I never be too busy in my own affairs that I fail to respond to the needs of others with kindness and compassion.

Thomas Jefferson

I will probably never be accused of not being focused on the task at hand.  Sometimes, I am too focused.  Like the time my coworker took to clapping her hands and yelling my name to be sure I was really in tune to what she was saying.  Because apparently I have a go to word grouping in conjunction with a head shake that makes it appear I am listening, while I am really not. In this moment, she needed my attention.

Lately, my heart has been challenged to allow for interruptions. To allow my focus to wane from the task at hand to the life happening around me.  I’ve been challenged to slow down my day allowing for time to take paths less traveled.  In the process, I have found myself listening more. Observing more.  Finding more opportunities for service. Obedience to the still small voice residing in my heart

Every day, I witness amazing miracles prompted by the holy spirit through little things, like chocolate covered cherries.  I made it a point to home visit 8 seniors on New Year’s Eve and I took each one a box of chocolate covered cherries.  Would you believe that this little box of chocolates held a significant memory for each and every one of them.  Each stop held a new treasured and personal story prompted by a very normal treat.  And I stood in awe of God each time.

Focus.  Important to progress. Necessary to complete tasks at hand. But applied too intensely- I miss valuable opportunity to experience the life surrounding me on a daily basis.

This post is linked up with Kate Motaung’s five minute friday free write. You can find more like this at Kate Moutaung‘s , or you can take a stab at it yourself. See you there!

Redeeming Resolutions

I have a love/hate relationship with my husband’s truck. It’s big and bulky in comparison to my midsized sedan. The cup holders are always occupied and it smells funny.  The gas pedal is touchy and I can never adjust the mirrors quite right. I’m a bit insecure behind the wheel and have to pay attention to every detail while driving – namely so I don’t hit anything.

It’s expensive. I hate car payments.

But driving the testosterone truck typically serves a necessary purpose in my day – Moving new residents into my building. Escorting seniors to a safe and secure environment while making sure they have the belongings to make their new apartment feel like home.

Driving the truck is a temporary inconvenience.

Resolutions feel much the same way. They are big, bulky and overwhelming. They drag me out of my comfortable setting and they cause me to refocus and reevaluate my priorities. Unfortunately, instead of treating them as a valuable tool, I treat them as a temporary inconvenience. Something I try for a while, only to retreat to what is comfortable and convenient.

Mostly because my execution is less than perfect on the first try.  I’m a go big or go home kind of girl.  Baby steps have never really been my thing.  Oh, and obstacles?  My stars.  How many hurdles must I  jump to achieve my new goal.

In December I set a goal to work out six days a week knowing I was building up to a habit.  In January, my goal moved to working out six days a week, but doing so first thing in the morning.  This means my alarm sounds at zero dark thirty.  After my second week, I woke with my alarm ready to tackle the day.  I got up, let the dog out and saw her jet from her normal potty spot and right back to the door.

“Such a wimp”, I thought as I popped open the door to step out. Only I heard something:

 

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Mmm hmm.  Our diva dog found a kitty.  A kitty she loved upon first sight. A kitty I was not prepared to adopt at zero dark thirty on a cold Monday morning.

Then, I committed to getting my blog back on track. Ahem:

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It seems like it never ends.

So how do busy, distracted girls redeem their resolutions?  Here are a few tips and tricks I have found along the way.

Write down your resolution.

What in your life do you want to change?  Write it down.

What will it take to start your change? Write it down.

Who do you need to recruit to help or keep you accountable? Write it down.

Write down your new schedule.

In The Best Yes by Lisa Terkuerst, she makes a recommendation to take a time inventory. I took it just one step further and penciled in the schedule of my desired week fitting in my new workout and writing plans into existing white space.

Be realistic.

Can you fit this new resolution into your life?  A couple of years ago, my answer was no. I couldn’t.  My kids were little. My husband works third shift and it wouldn’t have been safe to leave them home alone in the early morning hours.  Now, they are a bit older.  A bit wiser. A bit busier. This resolution fits with my life season.

The other thing I have to consider before adding something to my life is making a serious consideration of what I need to take away. My burden might be someone else’s blessing.  What doesn’t fit into the perimeters of your life any longer?  Let go so someone else can grab on.

Count your wins

Counting your wins, no matter how small they be, is a guaranteed way to track progress. Even though I hadn’t counted on adopting a cat at dark thirty Monday morning, I still got her settled, made it to the gym, shortened my workout schedule and went on with my day.  Did I win? Yes. Because I went.  Going was the goal.

What will your wins look like?

Don’t stop

When I started running, my husband said, “If you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you won’t stop.” Keep stepping and soon your resolution will graduate to a habit. And on the days you don’t feel like stepping, step anyway.  Those days are the most important to progress.

Redeeming resolutions is a simple as making the decision to start small.  One little change today. One little change tomorrow.  One big goal met a bit more down the road. Celebrate your wins.  Don’t stop stepping.

The slogan “press on” has always solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Calvin Coolidge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tempering Tantrums

Is age 8 too young to start hormone therapy?

Seriously.  I am currently in the trenches raising a legit emotional roller coaster. One who travels from sweet and accommodating to spawn of Satan in seconds.

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And someone gave her a light saber….

This isn’t my first rodeo with tantrums.  She is our third child.  But I have to say I am super embarrassed tantrums still hold a place in our daily life.  She’s 8!

The book Boundaries was a saving grace when raising my oldest child. There is beauty in learning to offer choices to your children as a means of participating in the control of their behavior.  My youngest, however?

Lets Review:

ME: “Madi, I have set the timer.  If you aren’t out of bed by the time it goes off, you will go to bed a half hour earlier tonight.”

(Just a hint, this is how I established a morning routine with my older kids.  It’s a sure thing.)

Madi: “I’m not getting out of this bed until you turn off the timer.  I hate the timer.”

(What?!? She’s negotiating? Why is this no longer working? Seriously?)

Me: “Forget the timer. You’re getting your butt out of bed NOW because I’m the mom and I said so! And your still going to bed early because this is crazy!”

(Insert tantrum here)

I guess my point is this.  The more kids we have, the smarter they get.  At this point, they are smarter than me.  Which is why we have stopped at three.

I know my limits. And even though this kid is pushing every one of my buttons, there are still a few tricks to temper these tantrums.

Separate from the source:

Now this is tricky.  Because the fit is likely being thrown when you are in a time crunch or the middle of a public place. Like Cracker Barrel. Surrounded by people who are no younger than 70 and never would have tolerated this behavior from their kids in public.

But, even Cracker Barrel has some cool rockers on the front porch. Find a way to transfer your child from the current setting and into a quiet and contained environment. At home, this is the bedroom. In public, this might be the bathroom or a quick exit to the car.

Explain why you have are hanging out in 30 degree weather without a coat on the front porch of Cracker Barrel and explain you will not go back inside until the fit subsides.

Trust me, they’ll eventually get cold enough.

Establish Realistic Consequences

Tantrums are truly a control struggle.  Had I been a mature adult, I would have told Madi it was her choice to stay in bed, regardless of the timer, but her consequence would still be an earlier bed time. Kids know when we’re blowing steam and they know when we are putting our money where our mouth is.  Establish real and meaningful consequences.

If you can’t follow through, don’t throw it out.

The hardest moment of parenthood involved my normally happy to comply middle child. He was acting out in an abnormal way while grocery shopping and I told him he had two more chances to correct his behavior before losing his chance for a happy meal from McDonald’s for lunch.

That was the hardest thing ever.  While we enjoyed our chicken nuggets, Lucas man enjoyed peanut butter.

He lived. I lived.  You will too.

Learn triggers and avoid pulling when possible.

When tantrums begin, you are walking through a land mine, never quite sure what is going make it blow.

But after a while, patterns emerge.

Triggers typically involve hormones, sleep, rushed schedules and hunger.

If you had a late night last night, know ahead to lay clothes out with a back up plan for a quick breakfast. And take lots of deep breaths.

Don’t grocery shop at nap time.

It’s all common sense.

Except for hormones. No one can predict that craziness!

Remember: You’re the adult.

A hot tempered person stirs up a conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.  ~ Prov. 15:18

Your reaction will trigger theirs.  If you yell and scream (like me sometimes) you will only prolong the fit.  If you respond in a quiet and authoritative manner offering realistic consequences (like I really want to do), you diffuse the emotions and leave the ball of control in their court.

So, while I’m raising the oldest temper tantrum throwing kid on earth, I’m not giving up hope.  Consistency, patience and lots of prayer will continue putting us on track for the behavior we are seeking.

Or, I will end up in jail.  No one really knows yet.

But I know your kid isn’t as stubborn as mine so this should work like a charm.

Also, let me know what works for you.  You can respond below in the comments section.

Good luck!  I’m rooting for you!

 

 

 

Five Minute Friday: Quiet

“Wow, it’s quiet”, I think to myself.

So silent my ears hurt.  When is the last time this has happened?

I took a few minutes for lunch at home. Something which seldom happens anymore. No kids. Sleeping husband.  Content critters.

No one and nothing needing me in this moment. And instead of basking in the moments of rest, I worry about what I should be doing instead.

Maybe fold the basket of laundry or start the dishes.

Isn’t that funny?  What is it about me that feels guilt in a time of unexpected rest? What prevents me from basking in the opportunity?

So in the moment, the laundry remains unfolded. The dishes remain undone and I read without distraction for the remainder of my time home.

Quiet.

So elusive yet so necessary in the stressed out moments of this busy life.

“Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and striving after the wind.”                             Ecc 4:6

 

This post is linked up with Kate Motaung’s five minute friday free write. You can find more like this at Kate Moutaung‘s , or you can take a stab at it yourself. See you there!

Five Minute Friday: Present

“This is a completely thankless thing to say but the interruptions around this place drive me absolutely crazy”, I complain to my boss.

With a frazzled expression, she nods in agreement.

We both know it’s and important part of our day, an imperative piece of our business.  But my goodness.  Sometimes, it’s just hard to stop the forward motion of progress.

I wake each day with a to do list.  Carefully planned.  Well thought out. A little whitespace for error.

And I really only feel good about the day when every item on my list is crossed off.

But lately, I have been challenged to live a little differently.  I have asked God to carry the whitespace of my day in his hands.  I have asked him to condition me for flexibility.

Only then can I appreciate interruption.  Only then can I be in the moment with the person who has crossed my path.  Only then can I live in the present moment, trusting God to cover every other detail of my life.

Lord, today, I commit the whitespace of my day only to you.

 

This post is linked up with Kate Motaung’s five minute friday free write. You can find more like this at Kate Moutaung‘s , or you can take a stab at it yourself. See you there!

 

Can you trust me?

“You don’t trust me.”

Exhausted, I sit clasping the bread and the cup surrounded by people but feeling empty and alone.

“God, you’re right. I don’t. Help me trust you.”

This has been a long week.

After a few days fighting with a flu bug, my youngest Madi was hospitalized for dehydration.  It was only supposed to be 24 hours.  Compiled with a shortened work week, I was already on sick day number two of a three-day week.

But my kids will always come first.

Yet, as Thanksgiving morning dawned, two days later, her condition worsened.  She just couldn’t get over the hump. Each day I prayed for healing and each day the prayer seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Madi Hosp

It’s in these moments I realize I don’t really hold control.

And it really bugs me.

Suddenly, it’s not about me anymore.

This was the place in my heart God was speaking to.

You see, he had to remove me from the throne of my life so he could take his rightful place.

In a year of big growth, change and opportunity, God had to remind me he was still in charge.  I could whine and mope about how uncomfortable I was, but in reality, it was a thankless attitude. And now, it’s time to rebuild.

So, it’s been a couple of months since you have heard from me.  Here’s a quick update.

Madi released from the hospital the Friday after Thanksgiving. Eight straight days of vomit. If you know me well, you know this is my personal hell. I hate puke. Hate it.

Her condition amounted to nothing more than constipation. What cannot go down, goes up.

True story.

Seriously.  I’m not kidding. My kid was full of poop.

But we knew that already.

Four days later, the washer broke and by December 10th, my kids were certain we weren’t going to have a Christmas tree.

I mean, I didn’t have anywhere to put it.  We had laundry everywhere. I guess we could have strung some lights around the piles of laundry.

(insert sigh)

It was the very moment I stopped fighting for things to go my way and surrendered to the mess that God met me.

He infused me with peace.

He showed me where to start.

He provided resource.

He sent people.

He provided opportunity for service.

What started as a very complicated season turned into the simplest, most wonderful Christmas we’ve had in quite some time.

I’m continuing to learn contentment in wins both small and large.

I’m looking forward to sharing more about that with you as the month goes on.

So, if you’ve made it this far- Thank you.  I know it’s a little rusty but I promise to keep polishing as we go. Today, it was just important to start getting thoughts down on paper once more.

It’s my win for the day 🙂

 

 

 

Saying goodbye to safety

“I am not sure if I can wear this today.  A teacher might say something.”

I glance over to my son as I place the car in park.

Plain black hoodie.

Blue jeans.

“What are you wearing that would require change?”

He lifts his dog tag necklace declaring Jesus as his king of kings.

“The last time a teacher saw me wear it, she told me to tuck it in.  It might offend someone.” He replied.

I replied as any other angered mama bear would in the same situation. “So far as I know, you are a citizen of this United States and it’s still a thing to freely practice your religion here. You wear your necklace. And if another teacher says something, please take their name.”

Even as the statement passed my lips, unease set into my gut.  I need to contact administration, but I don’t know what to say.   I don’t have a teacher name.  She was a test proctor, so she may not even be employed by the school.  And really, no resolution can come from this, so why should I even open my mouth.

Heaven forbid I be lumped in with one of them.

You know them.

The weird Christians.

They’re the ones who got Halloween parades banned at school and raised a ruckus about Starbucks cups.

Yep.

Those guys.

You never know what they’re going to do to cause the next national cringe in the name of Christ.

And while they live out their belief loudly, I continue to sit here and do nothing.

The homeless shelter in our community needs larger facilities and runs into continuous roadblocks to gain valuable ground to expand their services.

I do nothing.

Families disintegrate around me.  Broken people looking for light and hope. Just a break from chaos, ugly and evil.

I say nothing.

My son, whose core character is to live quietly and peacefully with all who surround him, is approached by a teacher in what amounts to professional bullying.

I do nothing.

I don’t wanna be one of them.

I want to stay safe.

And normal.

Because blogging on the internet to process your every thought and feeling is completely normal.

But I can’t stay safe any longer.  Not in this world.  Not in these bittersweet times when our nations are under attack.  Not when so many need to see the light of hope in Christ – through me.

Christ did not come to judge the world but to save it with his life. And when he left, he told his people to go to all the ends of the earth with his message of hope.

That is so not safe.

But that’s all he asked his people to do.  To believe him. To call upon his name and to go.

To speak.

To do something.

I can’t do that without becoming one of them – okay, maybe not the Starbucks one- but still. I have to make my life count for the sole purpose of reaching another.

Not because God needs me to do it. But because he chose me to do it.

Regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or past history. God is an equal opportunity God.  He can take all that is broken and make something new.

He’s asking me to change my heart from fear to trust. To love the homeless man who walks the street and the foreign refugee torn from their home by war.

It’s not up to me to pick and choose.

His love is open to all.

First, I must surrender my safety to his mighty cause. I must realize people become the priority and because people are involved, it’s gonna be messy.

But I can’t coach from my couch in the game of life. I have to move from the sidelines and step into the game.

I have to go write an email.

What safety zone is God challenging you from today?

I can’t pay it back, but I can pay it forward.

Fifty Dollars.

Simply tucked away in a beautiful note from a dear friend and mentor.  No terms or conditions. No reason for sending.

Just fifty dollars and a few words of encouragement on a God timed day.  I can’t remember why I needed the money.

I just remember I did.

Our kids were little.  Money was tight and this fifty dollars was a little touch of manna from heaven. And I remember thinking, “How can I ever pay her back?”

What could I give to this woman who seemed to have everything.

A small voice of reason whispered quietly from my soul.

“You can’t pay it back, but you can pay it forward.”

Immediately I decided, whenever it was in my control, I would commit my life to paying her generosity forward whenever I got the chance.

Shortly after, the earthquake in Haiti occurred. My oldest daughter felt burdened to help. In those days, we didn’t have the means to make a difference in Haiti, but it opened my eyes to need in my community.

Later in the week, we signed up to prepare meals at the homeless shelter.  I couldn’t give financially, but I could give my time. I could give encouragement.  And I could prepare a hot meal.

In return I learned giving is about so much more than money.  It’s about taking inventory of my time, talent and energy and saying, “How can I use these resources to benefit another?”

Time progressed and we were able to begin giving financially in addition to our time, yet found and continue to find our time and efforts given are so much more valuable in the overall picture than the sum written on any check.

Because our experience brings encouragement and valuable skills. Our willingness to help relieves the burden from those carrying loads too large for their frame.

As for me, I am learning to live my life with an open hand. Generosity reduces my need for overpowering control. It prepares me to trust God more than my resources.  Generosity teaches me to value community over commodity.

Depending on my season in life, I may or may not have much to give.  But God can use my little and multiply it into something great.  I just have to trust him with it.  I have to be willing to let go.

I’m not always willing to let go.

Yet when my heart is willing, God is too.  He will take my small yes to stretch and condition me.

And in the process, I remove myself from the center of my world and place God in his rightful place.