Saturday, September 2, 2017

So close to Amazing: a book review

It's so easy to look through Pinterest boards, Instagram photos, or other snapshots of someone's life, and long for that beautiful moment we see on the screen or in the magazine.   It's easy to see that perfect picnic picture without hearing the squabbling between the kids right after, or the perfect hair style without seeing all the time, money, and product that went into it. We often look at snapshots and assume that person's whole life is peaceful and beautiful, without remembering that indeed it is just a snapshot, a moment of beauty pulled out of the mess of life.  We each have our own beautiful snapshots, if we would just pause to look. As I look around my living room, I can grow frustrated with my lack of cleaning and the piles of kids toys taking over, or I can pause to appreciate the simple beauty of our cat curled up for his nap or the baby's sweet face while he sleeps in his chair.

In her book, So close to Amazing, KariAnne Wood works to find the beauty and life lessons in all of the mess of life. She is the blogger behind Thistlewood Farms and has made many guest appearances in magazines and blogs, sharing her DIY expertise to help others create beauty out of the ordinary. Her family made the jump from big city Texas to small town Kentucky, and began the adventure of restoring an old farm house. She tells the story with humor and honesty, while being mindful of the lessons God was teaching her through farmhouse living.

Her book is the kind you take out in the gazebo on a hot summer day when you need something to refresh your spirit after spending hours with a demanding toddler.  I know......because that's what I did.  Her stories left me laughing along with her.  They inspired me to look for my own beauty, for God's hand at work in our story.  And to persevere in my goals for our home and family.  Some days you'll reach it, and you'll snap that Instagram photo.  Other days, you'll be so close...."So close to Amazing."

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

A living example



"Puppy big poopoo!", she exclaims as she pulls the changing pad out of the diaper bag and spreads it out on the floor.  Instead of getting after her for getting out more of my stuff, I settle in to watch her walk in my footsteps.  She spreads it out, lays out her puppy, and proceeds to work on his diaper.  Yes, this stuffed puppy wears diapers quite often. :-)   Daily observation of me caring for the baby has taught her how to care for her own puppy.  

"Beebee on-y (lonely)!  Where mama? Where Abby?", she cries as her ears are quick to pick up his cries.  Clearly this is a reflection of our multiple conversations that happen when I'm trying to convince her to hurry so we can go get the crying baby.  Other reflections are not as happy sounding as she often gives speeches to the puppy on the need to be quiet. :-)

Little phrases and actions bear witness that our comments and actions are not done in secret nor easily forgotten.  Instead our lives are studied by those around us, most especially our little ones, as they seek to make sense of the world around them, and to learn how to respond to situations. 

I remember one mealtime where my daughter freaked out as my husband made a spider with his hand, and "walked" it over to her. She was super freaked out, and upset.......until I taught her that spiders can be smashed.   Then it became a game between her and dad.  Because mom was not afraid of it and gave her the tools to handle her own fear, my little one could participate in the fun. 

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:1, "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ".  Who do I imitate?  What example am I laying out before her?  While her worldview as an adult is her own choice, it is impacted by what she sees in us growing up. More than once, I have told others that children have definitely increased my prayer life.  From pleas for help as everyone is crying (even the dog), to desperate prayers for them to sleep through the night, to prayers for them to meet developmental milestones or heart changes. 

From the small things of the food she eats to heavy weight areas of the heart, her choices are strongly affected by what she sees I value.  She didn't start eating oatmeal or scrambled eggs until she saw mom had them, and suddenly they were "cool".  She prays for the sirens she hears as we've taught her that they mean people need help. She thinks coffee is good to drink, as she sees her dad often drink it. Values, whether intentionally taught or not, are constantly being passed down.  

Lord, please me to paint a true picture of you before her eyes.  As these "little mirrors" of my words and actions live life with me, may I mirror you to them.  

Friday, August 4, 2017

Long Days of Small Things: a book review

Motherhood......such a perplexing adventure that makes you feel like you are accomplishing nothing while you are actually cultivating future world leaders.  Often I've felt like I came up empty handed before the throne as my friends would talk of helping a widow rake leaves, spending time fasting, participating in children's outreaches, or other active spiritual disciplines that don't seem to fit my baby in the arms, feeding a little one, chasing a toddler stage that I'm in where most of any service time would have been spent making sure my kiddos didn't mess up the actual work others were doing.

It's easy to feel discouraged, wondering if what you do matters and if your hidden (I was going to say, 'quiet', but things aren't really 'quiet' here) activities matter as much as all the formal spiritual disciplines. Devotional times?  Mine have been spent simultaneously feeding a baby or keeping an early rising toddler happy.  Prayer times? Mine are over dishes, or brief moments when I sit.   Solitude?  That's a funny question. :-)

In her book, Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline, Catherine McNiel writes of how she learned to recognize God's molding and shaping of her through motherhood.  How pouring out her life for needy little souls was actually the refining fire of God developing the fruits of the Spirit within her. The perseverance and patience required of a parent are constantly more than what one naturally has.

You are endlessly brought to the end of yourself, as God relentlessly works out your selfishness to create His own character. 

While I couldn't connect with some of her use of symbolism or all of her liturgical background, I felt encouraged by her main theme.  Motherhood isn't a side season until I can get back to the more important ways of serving Jesus or the more spiritual ways of developing His character within me, it is the main tool that God is using in me now.  My offerings given with the noise of a hungry baby and the screams of a toddler meltdown can be placed alongside the more public acts of service before His throne.

As with the widow's mite, He doesn't care about the size. He simply cares about our heart and if we are giving him our all.

Now excuse, I hear the baby crying again.........

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishing for review purposes, but the thoughts recorded are my own.
long days of small things

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Those eyes.......

When you look into someone's eyes, what do you see?  Is your vision of them colored by their behavior that day?  Do you only see their messes?  

So often, it is easy to simply see my frustration when I see my little ones.  I see the water all over the floor dripped from the pet water dish, or the piles of cat food left as "treats" for the kitties, or the toys strewn everywhere from our imaginary play. I smell the fifth dirty diaper of the day, or feel my hunger as my lunch still sits..now cold.... on the counter.  I hear the baby starting to cry.....again....  

But those eyes......

 

When I look into those eyes.....nothing else matters. I don't see the messes, the dishes, the piles.  I just see my child. When I see those eyes, I see the one I carried for over 9 months. The one I puked for, cried for, ached for, cared for, bled for, and pray for.  Those eyes shine forth with love and complete trust.  

They melt me every time. 

So often we feel that when God looks at us, He just sees our mess. He just sees our jealous attitude, ungrateful heart, and selfish spirit.  And while that's true.....as God cannot overlook sin in all it's ugliness and rebelliousness.  He cannot be close to it in all His holiness. 

But you know what He also sees? 

Our eyes. 


When He looks at you, He sees his child.  The one He made, the one He ached for, the one He pleads with, and the one He bled and died for. His eyes are constantly on us.....but not in condemnation. 

Psalm 32:8 "I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you."Psalm 33:18 "Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, On those who hope for His lovingkindness,"
And this is one my of favorites: "The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing." Zeph. 3:17 Did you read that?  He takes delight in you!  He sings about you!
The next time you look into your little one's eyes or the eyes of someone dear to you, remember how God looks at you.  He has gone over and above any sacrifice we've done for another. He's given everything for us, and extended an undeserved invitation to an eternal relationship with Him!  And when He looks at us......He doesn't look with condemnation.  He doesn't focus on our mess. 
He sees our eyes.....                 He sees His child. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Seeing Past the Present

Being a mom of two little ones is exhausting and I give much applause to those ahead of me on this journey with more kids than I do. Someone asked me recently how I do it.  How do I survive the tantrums, the simultaneous crying, the constant requests for 'mo num num' (more food) and fits that follow if requests are denied?

I'll be the first to tell you that I don't have super strength.  There's a 24 pack of Cherry Coke sitting on my dryer reserved for weary kid days.  When my husband sees one out, he knows what kind of day it's been.  He'll come home, look me in the eyes and say, "Yep, you're done.".  There are days where the only goal for the day is keep the children alive, cause not much else will get done.  When I just want to cry cause I'm tired, but I don't want to go to bed because  I want to enjoy this quiet moment with the man I married (but hardly see as we are each assigned a kid each night) and have an adult conversation.  Plus, I know that I'll need to wake up and go through the regular morning 'emergency room'  routine again of everyone being so hungry they just can't function.

How do I do it?

Well, clearly Jesus has to be at the top of the list.  He probably actually invented everything on my list of coping strategies right?  I mean.....he did make cherries.....for Cherry Coke, right?

But,seriously, one of the main things He's helped me realize is I can't fixate on the present.   If I stay fixed on the present I'll just see cracker crumbs, toddler emotions, little hands getting in the way, and lots of messes.
But that's not forever.   

I remember when she was just learning to walk.  Now she uses her miniature broom to  'help' me sweep.  One day, she will sweep a house of her own.  I remember when she could only say "kitty'.  Now she uses all the words in her vocabulary (plus a lot I don't understand) to try to communicate her wants and convince us of her plans.  One day, she will influence the world through her written and spoken language. I remember when her little hands were just learning to grab things.  Now she can fetch needed items and clean up her toys. One day, her hands will rescue others, grow food, write books, serve her neighbor, etc.

The present can be overwhelming at times. Especially if you don't see much fruit from your labor that day.  But the present is temporary and passes quickly.

I'm thankful the Lord sees my finished product and doesn't give up on my present condition

Philippians 1:6(NIV)
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Since I know I'm still in process, it gives me more grace to give to my little ones in process.   Just as I 'tag along' with Jesus to learn from his example, they follow me around (and never leave me alone for a moment) because they are learning from mine.  

Lord, please help me see past the present.  Help me to see your story for their lives and your goals for them. Please help me give them the grace you pour on me as you continue the 'good work' you've begun in me.

Because, today her little hands are trying to press all the buttons on this computer while I type, but one day she will send her own message to the world. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

"Friendship is not for the faint of heart."

We usually think of 'courage' as referring to knights fighting to defend a castle, soldiers fighting for God and country, or the super hero working to protect Earth from yet another mean villain.  Those are all forms of courage at the highest level. But what if I told you there's a form of common everyday courage that we are invited to participate in each day.

"Friendship is not for the faint of heart" is one of many quotes I have highlighted as I processed through Lisa-Jo Baker's new book Never Unfriended.  As no two people are ever completely alike, there exists the adventure of figuring out likes/dislikes, introvert/extrovert, personality types, family background, communication style, etc. With so many variations, it is inevitable that at some point there will be misunderstanding, hurt feelings, or unmet expectations given time.

The question is, what will we do when that happens?  Will we resort to living in a cave of isolation due to our friendship PTSD?  Will we never conquer our fear of being the new person, that we never courageously attempt new community?  Will we allow the Enemy, Satan, to keep replaying that bitter moment in our head like an old song stuck on repeat?

Those all sound like simply sad endings to a movie. One where you hold the tissue box and end it feeling bummed as you watch the hero pack away his cape, never to fight again.

Friendship takes courage.  It also takes mercy, forgiveness, communication, and a commitment to the other's best interest.  But last I checked my supply tank, I don't think I have enough to go around. What then?

The premise of Lisa's book is that we don't have to muster up the courage all on our own like a puffer fish gulping down seawater to make itself look bigger and less like prey.

We can friend others.....because of Jesus.


Jesus is our living example of the best friendship.  He constantly pours mercy and forgiveness into me, and He wrote me a book to communicate his thoughts to me. And that dying on the cross?  Yah, that pretty much is the top example of courage and a commitment to my best interest. There is nothing in friendship that He calls me to, that He didn't experience Himself.   Betrayal?  Got it. Misunderstanding?  Tons of them.  I said HIS communication was great...but I can't say so much for some who heard him.


With Jesus, we are Never Unfriended.  He doesn't do the leaving. We do. ( but that wouldn't be a good idea)


He gives us the mercy, the forgiveness, the commitment needed to courageously continue in friendships through bumps, misunderstandings, and awkward situations.


It'll take courage. It's worth it.


Cause we'll never be unfriended.....

                         By Him.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

All the pretty things: a life story

     In All the Pretty Things, Edie Wadsworth narrates her life story coupled with moments of self-reflection and insights that can only be gained in retrospect.  Growing up in the Appalachian area to a father who loved her (but was governed by the bottle more) and to a mother who tried her best to raise her as a single parent struggling to make ends meet, Edie saw more things in her early years than a child should.

She desperately longed for her father's love, even as she had to take charge to cover for him as he waged a war with alcohol.  Through out her life, father type figures crossed her path and showed her another way of life. Through the example of these men and many others, Edie came to know the only Father who will never leave you.

The rest of the story is an account of Edie's struggle to stop fighting against her upbringing, and striving for this illusion of 'normal', and instead to allow her Heavenly Father to redeem her broken places and make her whole again.

While this book was not one of my favorites due to the genre and generally sad (but true to life) events, Edie masterfully combined facts and personal reflections.  I also enjoyed her redemptive ending and appreciated her honesty.  I received this book as part of the blogger review program through Tyndale House Publishers Inc., however the views expressed in this review are mine.