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Winter in Spring

Crocuses

Sometimes these days–these spring days full of chirping birds, warms winds, pollen flying, cool spring rains–they can seem like winter days. When the soul is overflowing with the busy-ness, the mind is racing with lists, the body only stops for a minute to remember to breathe…breathe! One tends to forget that God is still there, in the midst of the clutter & the full schedules. When you finally get a minute to sit down you feel like you should be doing something more productive! Did I forget to text/e-mail/phone someone? Have I updated my Facebook status (and does it really matter)? Did I put that load of laundry in the dryer? Have I had a drink of water today?

It should be more simple than this! Last days of school should be relished (for moms & for children)…those last moments with friends, those last moments of a {relatively} quiet house with only 2 children. Submerging hands into God’s earth, digging and planting His harvest should be a joy & a means of escape, not an obligation to make your garden the prettiest on the block.

Right now, our garden sits…signs of new buds emerging, weeds quickly overtaking the ground threatening to overtake the delicate new growth. I’m finding my soul to be the equivalent to those fragile buds & the busy-ness of our lives the proverbial weeds threatening to choke out the promise of new life.

“make it your ambition to lead a quiet life” (1 Thessalonians 4:11)

My questions to you:

How do you manage your busy-ness?

How do you find balance?

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Finding your rhythm

We are constantly hearing the word ‘rhythm’ in our world these days. “Have you found your rhythm?” “What does your daily rhythm look like?” “What is the rhythm of your home?”

rhythm: movement, fluctuation, or variation marked by the regular recurrence or natural flow of related elements ~Merriam-Webster dictionary

You may not even realize you have a rhythm but essentially every time you wake up you begin your rhythm for the day! Our routines and rhythms ebb & flow like that of the tide or the back & forth of a pendulum. One day you may feel very in sync, like everything is going exactly as it should which may bring you to a calm, centered space at the end of the day where you take a deep breath and think, “Ahhhhh, everything is as it should be!” Other days, especially for those of you who are parents of young children, you may feel like there is absolutely no rhythm whatsoever because the chaotic nature of what is going on within your household! But I assure you, there is even a rhythm on those days…your pendulum just might be on the “upswing” more often than not!

The challenge I am finding as of late is how to urge that pendulum back toward center when it’s been on one side or the other for too long. I could try my hardest to control situations and rope in my kids and husband, pushing them back toward center but if they are constantly resisting I only exhaust myself! Is this where God comes in? Afterall, I am not the one in charge of my life and the lives of my family members…He is! So maybe when I’m feeling as if my day has been sitting on either extreme side of “center” I need to truly take myself back to my center…God. A moment of silence…praying, listening, thanking…even it if it is really only 5 minutes!

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light. ~Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

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Multitudes on Mondays: Two Simple Words

Thank you.

I have vivid memories of my parents telling me, “remember to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ Noell.” To that I would usually roll my eyes…I know, I know.  My father was {and is} pretty insistent on the thank you part of the message. He made sure to give me that stern, disapproving look when I would forget to express my gratitude. And even now, I’ll catch him doing this with my kids, his grandchildren.

After my parent’s divorce when I was about 7 years old and after seeing strangers stare at my developmentally disabled brother anywhere we went…I stopped being thankful for many things and I started being bitter and angry. What was it that I did that made my parents split up? Why can’t I have a “normal” brother? Why did God make me chubby? Why, when other kids’ parents are picking them up from school do I have to open the car door to see my grandpa…every.single.time? I would begin wallowing in my own self-pity and wishing my life to be different. Sitting in my room with the door closed I would read and read and read…taking in all the good things of others’ lives {fictional others} and wishing them to be my own.

What good has all this ingratitude given me? A life full of anger, regret and misery. The depression has always been floating under the surface and when I had my children it roiled up with a vengeance. It manifested itself in rage and hate {mainly for myself and for my ever-so innocent babies}…and really, things that I would never want to experience again. By this time I had been a believer for a good 3 years…why wasn’t I immune? I was constantly looking for answers.

Did I not pray enough? How much therapy and medication do I need before I feel “better”?  Maybe if I read every book on the topic of depression I would find the answer. It never happened and if it did it was a very temporary solution to a debilitating problem. I was willing to try anything at this point.

Gratitude.

When we stop seeing reasons to give thanks, we stop thinking there are reasons to live.

~Ann Voskamp

Oh, how true this is!

I can see the look on my father’s face when I thank him…for the cup of coffee he just bought me, for the time spent alone with him by the river fishing {and not catching a darn thing}, for just sitting there in silence while we have breakfast. His face softens, his eyes begin to sparkle a bit. And all I said was…thank you.

If this is the reaction of my earthly father what is the reaction of my heavenly Father when I thank Him?

 …[A] new study suggests that helping teens learn to count their blessings can actually play an important role in positive mental health. As gratitude increases, so do life satisfaction, happiness, positive attitudes, hope and even academic performance.

~U.S. News

Give thanks! When I fail to see and recognize all the ways that the Lord has blessed me I fail to glorify Him and my life begins to lose meaning. I’m not saying the cure for debilitating depression is to simply say “thank you” but I know that when I say it and mean it the light starts to shine through the dark, luminous cloud of despair.

Dark can give birth to life, suffering can deliver grace, the ugly can be beautiful. God transfigures everything for His glory

~Ann Voskamp

What I am thanking the Lord for today….

#52 the energy to get through 48 hours with my kids, without my husband

#53 a little girl dressed as a furry animal

#54 those amazing sleeping babies

#55 a big brother loving on his littlest sister

#56 an amazing smile

#57 a refreshing and very yummy breakfast

#58 endless lengths of railroad track on my craft room floor

What are you thankful for?

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Temper Tantrums

(Originally written May 17, 2012)

This has become the common look in our household and not just from Gracie but from just about every member of the family (myself included).

I’m constantly asking myself what is causing these crazy, emotional outbursts. Am I doing something wrong as a mother? Am I  not paying enough attention or giving the wrong kind of attention? Is it due to exhaustion? Maybe it’s a hunger thing? Just a stage? Is it simply because the kids haven’t mastered certain communication skills? Oh, I could over analyze this subject for days, months, years.

The more I think about it, however, the more I realize that even as an adult I have “temper tantrums.” They may not be the classic throw-yourself-on-the-floor-and-scream tantrums but they are emotional outbursts of another kind. I might pout to myself, I may literally bang my head against the wall when I’ve had enough {as I did the other night}, I may be so hurt and angry that I can’t stop crying hysterically.

Toddlers typically throw tantrums in order to express fear and anger and according to Freud, tantrums may be a subconscious way of the tantrum-thrower to force a punishment on himself as a way to put his sense of guilt to rest (Sigmund Freud, Case Histories II (PFL9) p. 257-58). It’s also suggested that tantrums {at least in toddlers} are a result of a blow to the person’s inflated self-image (H. and I. Goldenberg, Family Therapy (2007) p. 172).

I think all of these postulations are valid and definitely true for me when I throw my “temper tantrums,” what about you? Do you ever feel like the world is out to get you, that things aren’t going your way and they never will? Do you ever feel embarrassed or humiliated by your failure and lack of perfectionism? Have you ever gotten caught doing something vengeful, spiteful to someone because you were hurt by that person? Do you ever wish that someone would just slap your hand for the sins that you’ve committed so you wouldn’t feel so bad about having committed them? I can probably raise my hand to all of these {and more}. These are “perfect” reasons to throw an adult-sized temper tantrum!

So go ahead…pout, scream, shout, bang your head on the wall {literally or figuratively} and as bad as it sounds, yell at God. Give Him your anger, humiliation, sadness, guilt, feelings of worthlessness…give it all to Him! Guess what? He won’t slap you on the hand or put you behind bars or disown you as His beloved son or daughter!

I have loved you with an everlasting love…

Jeremiah 31:3


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Comfort Zones

by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr

Where are your comfort zones? Are they centered in Christ? Or do they center around having all the control to yourself? Do they center around fear, worry and unbelief that the Lord won’t pull through for you?

For most of my life…okay, all of my life…I have known nothing more and nothing less than the comfort zones that hold me in a place of worry, fear, mistrust, unbelief, and total self-control and control of others (and my environment).

The fear of failing has always been one of my central comfort zones. What will people think if they see me fail? I will feel utter humiliation, embarrassment, and I know I’ll be a let-down. I won’t try again because I don’t want to fail again; I don’t want to go through the stomach-wrenching emotions again. Even as I write this my heart is racing and my insides feel like they are about to come out! Why would anyone want to stay in a comfort zone when it’s not a comfort?! Because stepping out of those boundaries means you have to do something uncomfortable, something foreign and something scary. Some people thrive on the adrenaline of doing things like this but others, like myself, can only see the failure in it all and that scares me to my bones.

Something that is helping me to reframe my thoughts on fear and failure is a bit I read from a book titled “99 Things You Wish You Knew Before…Stressing Out!” by Lauren E. Miller. Lauren has spoken at my MOPS group a couple times and has such an inspirational story and a strong, healthy presence.

#47 Failure is a perspective

Did you know failure is simply a label you use when you don’t get certain desirable outcomes in life? When something happens in life that you feel is insufficient or falls short of your expectations or assumptions of how it was supposed to be, from your perception, you often label it as failure; this can lead to “less than” feelings about yourself or others.

If you can watch for this in life and choose to observe yourself making these kinds of choices (to label undesirable outcomes as failure), you give yourself the opportunity to reframe into a positive. Whenever you choose to reframe any negative response into a positive, you open yourself up to creative solutions.

Often you say to yourself, “I can’t do that!” This automatic response instantly aligns yourself with your experience of failure. How about saying, “I just don’t know how to do that yet, but I have the confidence in my ability to learn.” Words are powerful to help you link to your God given strengths and abilities to overcome.

Part of moving through those moments in life that you label as “failure” is to practice the prayer of serenity. “God grant me the grace to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to accept the things I can the wisdom to know the difference.” Any time you resist what is before you, you set yourself up for remaining stuck in life. Yes, you will remain in a place of emotional paralysis each time you do accept the things you cannot change…

Know that whatever label you chose to define a situation in life will directly affect the outcome.

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God of Wonders

Here in Colorado it is blazing hot, literally. Mountains, forests, homes are on fire. People are being forced out of their homes, memories are burning. I wake up with the smell of fire in my nose, the kids are coughing in their rooms. The street outside our house has a faint brown haze over it. And to think we aren’t even that close to the fires! What must those people who live at the base of the mountain feel like? Are their lungs burning? Kids ready for summer and running through the sprinklers stop, shade their eyes from the sun and watch as their surroundings are ablaze. It’s a scary time here in Colorado.

Rain drops have fallen only a few times in the last few weeks and most times they have evaporated before hitting the ground. Our grass is crunchy underfoot, dust under the swing set. It’s too hot to go outside, yet at our house it is too hot to stay inside as well. At lunch time it’s on average 90 degrees…inside, and about 100 degrees outside. About 10 years ago I would’ve packed up my things and headed to a cool library, bookshop or the pool at my former health club not returning to my house until after dark. These days, with 4 little kids I’m wracking my brain trying to figure out ways to keep them cool. I’m constantly worrying about whether they’re getting enough water, whether the littlest one is smothering in her bed during her nap. Images flood my head of walking into her room to find that her breath has left her hot little body. I can’t do this to my kids!

We have been spending a lot of time (and a lot of gas money!) in the car trying to stay cool. Driving and sitting, staying cool. We’ve been blessed by wonderful friends inviting us to their cool houses, acquaintances inviting us to their child’s birthday party at the local jumpy castle place. All the while my God-loving husband prays that someone takes mercy on us and invites us over while he is away at work for 48 hours at a time. His prayers are answered and that mom from the jumpy castle place walks up to me, gives me a card with her phone number and address and asks us to come over anytime! Praise God!

After all the driving, the heat, grouchy kids fighting from the minute they wake up I have no energy left in my brain or my body to do much. Yesterday, I resolved to keep all the kids down in our basement and stay home all day, even if it killed me! But something (God) told me to do otherwise and I called the mom from the jumpy castle place. Not wanting to burden her with taking care of my children at her house I packed up as much food as I could find and headed over to her place. She was amused at everything I brought…seems pretty normal to me! Then as I was changing the littlest one’s diaper on the floor of her family room she sat down and told me she had something for me.

A bit confused and taken aback I listened as she explained. She and her husband left the jumpy castle place after her only daughter’s 5th birthday…and they prayed for our family. They prayed that God’s will be done. She then handed me a gift card for $600 to Home Depot…for a swamp cooler! I looked at her, stunned, speechless and began bawling my eyes out! The minute I began to thank her she said, “Please don’t thank me, thank God…this is His will.”

Praise the Lord! He answers prayers according to His will. I have prayed many times for specific things only to be disappointed when my prayers weren’t answered accordingly. Those specific things weren’t in God’s will, however, and sometimes I later have learned why…and other times I am still wondering why. This is just one of many “wake up calls” that I have received from the Lord…He is listening, He does love me, He will take care of me and His will be done!

The mountains above the Colorado Air Force Academy on fire.

And to all those in Colorado Springs and elsewhere I am praying for you.

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Turning fear into faith

I am a type-A, anal control freak…and I’m not afraid to admit it. But what do these attributes of my personality really say about me? I’m just plain afraid! I’m afraid of letting go of any control that I think I have. Afraid that if I do my world will come crashing down. As a believer, though, my confidence should be in the Lord, not myself. Where is my faith in Him? Did I just forget that God–the maker of heaven and earth–is much bigger than I am? Where can I find faith?

There are so many instances in the Bible where God showed the people His glory in the midst of impossible situations. He brought Jesus back from the dead!

A book that I’ve been reading takes a look at the issue of turning fear into faith. The author took the story of Jesus walking on water (Matthew 14:22-32) as an instance when Jesus’ disciples let their faith override their fear. Several lessons can be learned from this story.

  • Obey fully- sometimes we don’t know why we feel God is calling us to do something, especially when it’s something that we might not feel compelled to do. We need to obey Him and trust that He has a plan and that we will be taken care of no matter what.
  • Accept God’s comfort- just because we’re obeying God doesn’t mean it’s not going to feel scarey…going into unknown territory isn’t comfortable for many people. Remember what it feels like to have a parent hug you and comfort you after a nightmare? This is what our Father is doing for us.
  • Keep a childlike faith- how many little kids are completely logical in their everyday thinking? Mine still think the bathtub drain will swallow them up if they get too close! As adults we take logic a step too far when it comes to obeying God…we rationalize why it’s not a good idea, why there’s no way that we can live the way God is asking us to live. God asks us to step out of our comfort zones in seemingly illogical ways but having that childlike faith in Him, that he will take care of us, can help us step out of those zones into the unknown.
  • Listen for God’s invitation- “Stepping out in faith outside God’s will is foolishness” (Savage, 2009). Listen to God, have a conversation with Him and hear His invitation.
  • Get out of the boat- Just as Peter took that first step out of the boat to walk on water toward Jesus (Matthew 14:29) we too need to get out of the proverbial boat and walk toward Jesus trusting that He won’t let us drown.
  • Keep focused on Jesus- When Peter took his eyes off Jesus he began to sink…this can very easily happen to us. Our doubts begin to surface and fear wells up in every crevice of our bodies when our eyes aren’t on our Savior.

I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. ~Psalm 16:8

  • Grab God’s hand- you may not feel His hand necessarily in the most expected ways…He might be reaching out via other followers or situations. He has amazing ways of sending us encouragement at just the right times.
  • Recognize the value of storms in our lives- It’s not easy for some to reach out in our darkest hours and it’s definitely not easy to recognize that there is value to these times. But these are the times when our faith has the potential to grow exponentially as does our intimacy with the Lord.
  • Respond with worship- Give credit where credit is deserved. Praise Him, thank Him, tell others of His works in you!

Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” ~Matthew 14:33

Resource: Savage, Jill. Real Moms…Real Jesus: Meet the Friend Who Understands (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009).

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What was life like before?

Before the babies, the all-night feeding sessions, the dirty diapers. Before the time when taking a shower every 3-4 days was something I only did when I was camping.

What was life like? Sometimes I have a hard time remembering. I didn’t have to pre-plan when I was going to use the bathroom. I didn’t have to feel rushed to make a meal because I just need the whining and screaming to stop! I didn’t have to sneak upstairs to fold the laundry and hope that I could get five minutes of peace and quiet.

And from what I remember I never really had a problem taking care of myself…at least not the previous couple of years before the babies. I remember sleeping in, taking a hot shower just about every day, eating a meal while sitting down at the table, taking quiet walks, feeling the sweat roll down my back while doing Bikram yoga, stretching my body. All this seemed pretty instinctive before the babies. Now that I’m in the thick of raising these little dependent people I’m having trouble wrapping my brain around what I need to do to take care of myself. I’ve tried to make lists of what I thought were the essentials…getting all the beds made, doing 1-2 loads of laundry a day, planning meals at least a week in advance, organizing all the incoming mail/paperwork/clutter into neat little cubbies with color-coordinated labels. When I reread these lists, however, I began to realize that none of these things are essential to taking care of myself! Rocket science, right?

The problem is, I honestly don’t know if I can tell you! At one point I went to a therapist and she actually had to tell me what I needed to do…eat, drink water, sleep, move. You would think this would be pretty instinctual! But now, I see that list and I think, sure of course I need to eat but there has to be more…what am I missing? What is the key ingredient that will all of a sudden make things run smoothly again? Do I really need to pay someone again to tell me what to do? No, I know I can figure this out myself…but how?

I’ve been called an extremist by my husband. I’m all-or-nothing. If I can’t eat well all the time, I won’t eat at all. If I can’t exercise all the time, I won’t exercise at all. If I can’t sleep all the time, I won’t sleep at all. And the list goes on. I get so angry that I can’t do these things 100% perfect, 100% of the time. It seems that I might be “type A,” a perfectionist…doesn’t it? Sometimes that’s funny to joke about, other times I see these tendencies in my 5-year-old and my 3-year-old and it really worries me. I don’t want them to go through life feeling like if they can’t be perfect they aren’t worthy. I don’t want them to give up easily because they can’t do things right the first time. I don’t want them refrain from making goals or starting projects because they aren’t sure they can see them through in their entirety. I don’t want them to sacrifice their health and well-being. But if they see a role model do all these things how will they learn otherwise?


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Nightmares

As a child I can remember a few prominent themes that seemed to pop up in my nightmares. The death of my grandparents, who I would consider to have been my primary caretakers during my childhood. Being stuck in a dark basement (usually my grandparents’) surrounded by closed doors that would sometimes mysteriously open and shut. Being caught in a maze of sorts that at points would lead into the water always leaving me to fear that I would drown. I can almost see each of those nightmares as vividly as I could when I was young. They left me breathless and in tears then.

I’m not really into dream interpretation. I’m sure there is something to be said for the role the subconscious plays.

Was I afraid of not being taken care of? Was I repressing negative emotions? Was I feeling overwhelmed? The answer to all of these could be yes. And I can tell you right now, the answer to all these questions in the present day is a resounding “YES!”

So many parts of me want to rewind my life and have a do-over. I might not be able to change other people but if I could just change my response to them maybe things would have been better then and would be better now.

Would I be a different person today? Does it matter? God didn’t give me the life I wish I would have had. He didn’t make me the person I wish I would have been. And while I might not feel worthy and unconditionally loved in the eyes and hearts of people in my life, I’m beginning to realize that it doesn’t matter because I am worthy and unconditionally loved by my Father.

I am human, though…I struggle with valuing what other people think of me. I still feel extreme amounts of hurt disappointment in myself when I don’t measure up to expectations. Sometimes I let this hurt show but most of the time I shove that hurt into the basement behind a closed door. The only one that can see this hurt at all times is God and He still loves me. Only He has the power to open those doors.

Father, help me to trust that you are taking care of me even when the nightmares say otherwise. Keep working in me, open those doors that need to be opened and shut those that serve no purpose. Give me peace, calm my mind, give me clarity and focus. Let your will be done. Amen.

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Walk with Him Wednesdays: Sacrifice

“Every Wednesday, we Walk with Him, posting a spiritual practice that draws us nearer to His heart.To read the entire series of spiritual practices

Next week, as we walk with Him towards Easter, might we consider: The Practice of Sacrifice.”~Ann Voskamp


It’s been a day.

One thing after another has been breaking me down, bringing me to tears, bringing me to my knees. But for some reason I keep getting up, wiping my face dry and keep going.

I feel like a glutton for punishment, all I really want to do is give up.

Bury my head under the covers, no coming up for air until the light of a new day shines through the blinds.

Did Jesus feel like this…when those who followed Him betrayed Him, denied Him? Did He just once feel like dropping the burden on His shoulders? Did He think about going into hiding…into a place so deep that no one could find Him?

He was human, right? He knew His fate. He knew His Father. He knew He was the ultimate sacrifice. Yet, He went on.

I wish I could see Him, yet I feel Him. When I’m on my knees, weeping uncontrollably He’s there picking me up and wiping my tears…I’m not doing this on my own.

When I feel like screaming at the top of my lungs at a little, innocent person…He quiets my screams, stops my racing heart and holds me tightly until I calm down.

When I feel like hiding in the dark, intent on not surfacing…He opens the blinds of my heart and shows me the light.

What would I be without Him, The Ultimate Sacrifice?

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