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Worst case scenario.

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My kids are Young Champions, and they have the medals to prove it.  They just completed a week long track and field clinic/outreach that our church puts on for the community.  All three of my kiddos had an amazing time making new friends, hanging out with old friends, and learning new skills.  It was a joy for me to watch them work hard and compete.  Jackson was in heaven for sure – winning and competition are his two favorite things.  For my girls, however, Young Champions was a few stretches beyond their comfort zones.  After the first night I was actually concerned that Sydney might withdraw from the clinic and end up sitting on the sidelines with me.  In the car ride home she unloaded her frustrations and anxieties about the track and field events: “I’m not fast!  I always lose!  I’m don’t jump high and I don’t throw far.  I’m going to lose everything!  It’s so embarrassing!”

My initial feeling was irritation.  Really?  Are you kidding me?  This was supposed to be fun.  You were supposed to enjoy the experience.  I wanted to lecture Sydney on all the reasons she shouldn’t be feeling upset and discouraged, and give her a good dose of “you should be grateful for the opportunity…” etc, etc.  But I didn’t.  Instead I asked her a few questions.

1. If you lose, will Mommy and Daddy stop loving you?

Sydney’s reply: No

2. If you lose, will God stop loving you?

Sydney’s reply: No

3. If you lose, will your friends not like you anymore?

Sydney’s reply: No

4. So, what’s the worst thing that can happen to you if you lose?

After a long pause, Sydney’s reply: I don’t know.

In a nutshell, if you lose Mommy and Daddy will still love you, God will still love you, and your friends are still going to love you and be your friend.  I guess the worst thing that will happen is that you will lose.  And that’s it.  If you can handle the feeling of losing, then you will be alright, because it won’t get any worse than that.  And really, it can only get better.

I’ve been trying to take my own advice lately.  Sometimes the unknown, or perhaps our worst fears, will keep us from enjoying a moment, or taking a step of faith.  I don’t know about you, but I can almost become paralyzed as the worst case scenario plays through my mind.  I’m learning to ask myself the same questions I asked Sydney: If this happens (worst case scenario) will God stop loving me?  Will Joel, and my family stop loving me?  Of course not!  So, the worst thing that could happen is this “thing”.  And if I can handle that, and with God’s help and love I will, then I will be alright.

Because it won’t get any worse than my worst case scenario.  And really, it can only get better.

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He will fight for you.

Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

He will fight for you.

We are a family of five.  A family of five packed with lots of personality.  There is never a dull moment in our home.  It’s lively.  Feisty.  Colorful.  Passionate and Diverse.

Naturally, with all this passion and diversity comes an awful lot of disagreement (you can only imagine).  Our more recent family verse could not have been more appropriate.

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This scripture prompted some interesting dialogue.  ”What does unity in our family look like?”  ”What if we made every effort at working it out, and making it work with each other?”  ”What does it mean to be held together with the bond of peace?”

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We set our goals.  We thought, each one of us, of what it would take to “make every effort”.

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We are going on week #2 with these goals.  We are learning.  Unity takes time.  I figure, if God isn’t finished with me yet, refining and chipping away at the rough character issues in my life, then we can take another week to focus on “speaking with a calm voice,” “using words like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’,” and “no poking, no whining…”.

I love the way Joel expressed our need for this verse in our family to our children.  He explained that this is the way God desires for all of us Christians to treat and behave with one another.  We get to practice this in our home so we will know how to treat our brothers and sisters in Christ.

This summer we are working it out, and making it work.  We are making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace…and a whole lot of love too!

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Old Dog, New Tricks

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  There are days I am tempted to agree with them.  Joel and I bought a new camera.  We spent months researching and comparing brands, prices, and pixels, then finally bit the bullet.  We pushed our nine-year-old, first edition, digital Sony camera aside and purchased a camera that promised to do everything, as well as cure cancer (well, not really).  I was like a kid on the night before Christmas as I waited for our upgrade into the 21st century to arrive in the mail.  When it finally came, I had that thing unpacked in less than five seconds flat.

I started snapping pics like I knew something about cameras…which I don’t.  In fact, as I flipped through to review my recent shots, it became very clear to me that I know absolutely “nada” about camera technology built in the last 10 years.  I pulled out the owner’s manual and instructional DVDs, getting to work, learning about his new piece of machinery.  Suffice it to say, a month later I am still learning by much trial and error.  Almost to the point of pulling out my old Sony and giving up.  But of course I won’t.  You see, the desire to take better quality photos far outweighs the desire to stop learning how to operate this new camera, as frustrating and impossible as it may seem at times.

I haven’t been blogging lately because I have felt like an old dog learning new tricks over the past five months.  God is up to new things, and most of them aren’t that comfortable for me.  He’s been stretching me beyond my comfort zone and requiring my nose to be stuck in his instructional manual rather than my computer.  I often find myself wishing I could return to the things that I know, like my old Sony digital camera, rather than take that overwhelming step towards the life and future I have dreamed about.

It’s easy to dream.  To think about how nice it would be to get that one perfect snapshot.  It’s something completely different to start working towards that dream.  That takes discipline, time, a few tears, and perseverance.  It takes a determined effort to keep that dream in view, ignoring the growing pains, and trusting the One in the lead.  The new tricks might seem a bit out of reach, but they are never unattainable.

So, throw that old first-edition digital camera away, and get down to business on the new thing that God has brought your way.  We are not “Old Dogs” yet, my friend!

Safely Kept

The Lord will perfect that which concerns me.  Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever.  Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

Psalm 138:8

From the dawn of time God had you in mind.  He created a tailor-made plan for your life, and being God, he intends to fulfill that plan.  The worries of this world would try to convince you and me that maybe God can’t handle all the concerns and stress that we carry each day.  We begin to hesitate in putting our complete faith in our Heavenly Father, and we start looking to ourselves for answers and results.

But God knows what he’s doing.  God hasn’t forgotten his plans for you.  God is deeply aware of those things that concern you.  In fact, they concern him too.  And he is more than capable of taking care of our children, our jobs, our homes, our physical bodies than we ever could…no matter how hard we try.

Not only will he complete the work that he started in you, but he will perfect it.  He will make it better than you could ever imagine.  His love is a faithful love…it never goes away.  Just as you and I would never abandon our own children, he will never abandon you.  He will never forsake you.

You are safely kept in the palm of his hand.

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How precious you are to him.  So let him carry your burdens.  Let him work out his plans for you.  Trust him and obey.  And allow him to draw you into peace, protection, rest and security.

Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love.  Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.

Jeremiah 31:3

Jill Martin, a Today Show contributor, writes in her book, “I Have Nothing To Wear”, that women should get rid of 75% of theirI Have Nothing To Wear closets.  That means going through all those clothes, shoes, scarves and belts and finding the 25% that you can’t live without.  I love a good challenge.  In fact, I was so inspired after I watched Jill’s segment on Today that I ran upstairs to get started.

At the end of my great closet purge I ended up getting rid of two pairs of jeans, a black vest and a sweater.  Four items.  Not even close to 75% of my closet.  So where did I go wrong?  Or should I say, where did I go right?

Several years ago I heard a professional organizer share tips on how to keep closets under control.  She advised that for every new item you buy you should get rid of an old item.  I thought this was an ingenious idea.

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I loved her advice so much that I have made it an ongoing habit.  The reason I didn’t have 75% of my closet to purge was because I’ve learned how to keep my closet under control.

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Everything I own is something that I actually wear.  At the end of each season I will make another assessment and if there are items that have gone unworn, they will eventually make it to the give-away pile.

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So, how do we get started, and how do we keep our closets under control?

  • Schedule a day to thoroughly go through your closets.

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  • Assess what you have and make piles.

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  • Keep items that you absolutely love, wear or use on a consistent basis.

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  • Donate items that do not fit properly or you haven’t worn for 6 months to a year.  Anything that has been shoved to the back corner of your closet should probably go.

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  • Maybe items are those that you may want to think about.  At the end of the day go through this pile and make your final decision.

This is also a wonderful way to teach your kiddos how to manage their own stuff.  I believe that training our kids on how to do a good closet and toy cleanse will give them a tremendous skill for years to come.

Here’s what I did with my girls:

  • Schedule a portion of the day for a little one-on-one time.
  • Let the child Choose the area of the room/closet we will be focussing on first.  (I like to pick two areas that we will tackle.  The child chooses the order in which we work.  This gives them a sense of control over the situation.)
  • Have the child Expose the stuff and lay in on the floor.
  • Allow the child to Assess items and put them in the appropriate piles.

This year my eight-year-old was responsible for going through all her drawers and hanging clothes and trying everything on tocloset5 see what fit and what she had outgrown.  She has learned how to make piles without my constant supervision.  When she was done I checked on her work.  She had re-organized her drawers with the clothes that still fit, and had put everything else in a pile ready for donation.  I’ve been working with her for a long time, and she is becoming quite the pro.

My six-year-old struggles a bit more in this area.  She is a very responsible little girl, but has a completely different temperament.  I allow her to take her time and give her space to process as we work.

closet6One of the things I have tried to do as we have gone through toys and placed them in piles, is to verbally walk them through the process.  I will ask questions like, “Why would we put this in the give-away pile?” or “What makes this item a keeper?”  I have found that by talking them through it, and encouraging them to articulate why they are deciding to keep or get rid of something, allows them to fully understand what we are doing.  It’s not just about getting the job done, but knowing the why behind it.  At least, that’s my approach.

I would LOVE to know if/when you have done your own closet cleansing, and how did you do it?  Have any of you tried to purge 75% of your own closets?  If you have children, how have you brought them along in the process?  If you have any additional small-space living tips, please share them.  I will post them in an upcoming edition of this small-space living series!

Perfectly Peaceful

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3

Sydney Sleeping

I’ve been feeling a little anxious lately.  In fact, I couldn’t sleep last night.  So many lists going, so many meetings scheduled, so many unfinished projects.  So little time.  Staring blankly at the ceiling, at one-o’clock in the morning, the one comfort I had was this verse.  In the middle of the stress, if I keep my mind on Him, I will find myself perfectly peaceful.

He will keep me.  He will strengthen me.  He will be my supply.

I will trust in Him.

How a girl who grew up in a third-world country could accumulate massive quantities of junk is beyond me.  I am ashamed.  I have been known to hoard things: unnecessary things; rainy day things; sunny day things; miscellaneous, random, where-did-this-come-from things.  What can I say?  Life happens.  Babies happen.  Ten years of marriage happen.  Busy lives and transitions happen.  And the next thing you know…you’ve got stuff.  Even in a small home.

The thing about accumulating junk in a small house is that you notice it a lot more quickly because, well, space is limited.  And before you know it, that little pile of junk has become a mountain of junk.  It’s scary.  The temptation that I struggle with in moments like these is to start entertaining thoughts like, “This house just isn’t big enough anymore,” or “I can’t handle this cramped space.  We need a bigger place.”  Thoughts like this happen when you live in a small house.  It’s inevitable.  However, thinking like this can be a distraction from the bigger issue- the hoarding of useless junk.

After I’ve put the “I-need-a-bigger-house” thoughts out of my mind, I can start tackling the mountain before me.

As a rule of thumb I go through my house 2-3 times a year and do a massive purge: clothes, old toys, papers, magazines, and miscellaneous things that find their way into my home.  Now that my kids are getting older, and we seem to be bringing unbelievable quantities of papers and binders home throughout the year, I find that a good paper purge is in order on a daily – yes, I said daily – basis.  The paper alone will eat up your house and spit you out if you don’t keep it under control.  This I promise you.

Small-space living calls for some serious de-junking of your life.  It’s the only way to survive.  And I might add, the more you get rid of the more free you will feel.  Simplifying is rewarding in more ways than one.

De-Junking the House 101:

  • EXPOSE your junk!  Go through your house and open up closets, cabinets, drawers. and kitchen pantry.  Pull things out from under the bed.

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  • ASSESS what you have and start making piles.

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  • KEEP anything that you use regularly or absolutely love.

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  • DONATE anything that is in good condition that you no longer need/use.  Bag items up and haul to Goodwill/Salvation Army or any other non-profit organization that will receive donations.

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  • SELL any items that could possibly put a little extra $$ in your pocket.

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  • THROW AWAY anything that is broken, torn, over-used, or stained.

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It’s a simple practice – EXPOSE, ASSESS, KEEP, DONATE, SELL, THROW AWAY.  Next week we’ll take a more focussed look at closet purging and how to bring your kiddos along for the ride, turning the process into teachable moments.  Join me for Part 2 of getting rid of that junk! :)

Suffering

In fact those who have experienced more of the love of God than anyone I have ever met have also endured more suffering.  When you crush lavender, you find its full fragrance; when you squeeze an orange, you extract its sweet juice.  In the same way it is often through pains and hurts that we develop the fragrance and sweetness of Jesus in our lives. – David Watson

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You don’t have to look very far to find suffering.  In fact, you may be in the middle of a crisis right now that is squeezing the juice out of you.  I’ve been thinking a lot about suffering lately as I’ve watched various friends go through some of the most painful seasons of their lives.  What I am most captivated by is the beautiful glow that surrounds them.  It’s not the grit-your-teeth-and-put-on-a-good-show type of beauty, but one that can only come through the grace of God so lavishly poured out on them.  The more they are squeezed the sweeter they become.

We must be prepared to acknowledge that there is no simple definitive answer to the “Why?” of suffering.  Instead, we may approach the problem from a different perspective: God is a God who suffers alongside us. – Nicky Gumbel from his book, Searching Issues

We have a God who is not oblivious or ignorant to our hurts.  In fact, he is deeply acquainted with our pain, and he walks beside us through each crush and squeeze of our suffering.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.  Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered  him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. – Isaiah 53:3-5

A week ago I was flying across the country to meet up with three of my high school BFF’s.  We had been planning this reunion for months, and the excitement of seeing these sweet friends had me up all through the night.  I knew it was going to be a wonderful weekend, but I had no idea just how wonderful it would turn out to be.

There was laughter.  So much so that we discovered new muscles in our cheeks that we never knew existed.  There were, of course, tears, stories and endless conversation.  It never stopped.  For 48 hours straight.  As I have been reflecting upon our time together there are some things that I will be processing for days and weeks to come.  However, I have come up with four simple take-aways that I learned from spending time with some of the most amazing women on the planet.  Here they are:

  • I’m not crazy.  Life as a third culture kid can sometimes leave one to feel like a lunatic.  Even at 37 years of age.  Being with my girlfriends this weekend, who have shared similar experiences and challenges, reminded me that I am not a lunatic.  What a relief!
  • “Double Switch” is still the best made-for-t.v. movie ever to hit the small screen.  Just sayin’.
  • I’m a great mom.  Yes.  That’s right.  Can you believe I would have the audacity to proclaim my unparalleled mothering skills?  We talked a lot about “mom guilt”.  If you have never felt the searing pain of “mom guilt” then I want to know who you are and I want to shake your hand, or give you a hug.   I try so hard at motherhood, and oftentimes feel like a failure.  Balancing discipline, love, spiritual growth, and relationship building is a full-time job, and then some.  I don’t want to be a good mom, I want to be a great one.  And what perpetuates the guilt and feelings of failure is every time I look around and compare myself with other moms.  We talked about this stuff – our stuff.  Finally, we realized that no matter how hard we try to make sure we don’t fail at this thing called motherhood, our kids will still have issues.  They may not be our issues, but they will have issues just the same.  But they will also turn out okay.  Ultimately, they rest in God’s hands.  We simply do the best we can.  I concluded that I am a great mom.  A super, fabulous, top-notch, creative, compassionate, super-woman mom.  If you can relate, then go ahead and give yourself a little pat on the back.  Believe me, I have. :)
  • Spiritual growth is a slow process, sometimes unrecognizable from the outside.  I don’t know about you, but there are many times I feel like I’m running a winless race.  In fact, I feel like I’m running myself into the ground trying to prove to myself and others that I am a spiritually mature Christian.  Somehow it has become more about me than about Him.  However, I realized, as I processed some of life’s challenges and hurts with my friends, that in the moments when I feel like nothing worth a hill of beans is happening in my life are the very moments when God is doing extraordinary things in me.  There is no rush in spiritual growth.  It is a one-small-step-at-a-time walk.  This is not a competition.  It is a personal journey.

As I boarded the plane home, wiping tears from my eyes, I heard Michael W. Smith’s song, “Friends are Friends Forever” ringing in my head.  How right he was.  BFF’s forever.

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