Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Too Much "To Do" in Your Day?

Have you ever felt like you were way behind on your tasks for the day, and you haven't even gotten out of bed?  Like the gun went off to start the race and you were still getting your shoes on?

That is how I have felt today.  I try to stay organized and on top of all my commitments, but sometimes life's circumstances don't cooperate: phone calls distract, meetings pop up, messes happen, and corrective discipline needs take time..... before I know it, my day has dwindled, but my "To Do" list has grown.  It's enough to make me want to bury my head back under the covers.....


today God drew me to Himself.  He reminded me that my focus should be on Him and not the endless tasks before me.  I read the following from one of my devotional guides, Jesus Calling.  This is written as if God is speaking directly to you.

" Make me your focal point as you move through this day.  Just as a spinning ballerina must keep returning her eyes to a given point to maintain her balance, so you must keep returning your focus to Me.  Circumstances are in flux, and the world seems to be whirling around you.  The only way to keep your balance is to fix your eyes on Me, the One who never changes."

My circumstances, today, have certainly been in flux and my day is spinning before me, and just as I started to feel dizzy and overwhelmed by it all, God reminded me that I had lost my focus on Him.  He brings balance to my day, my mind, my anxiety and my calendar.  I may not complete everything on my list, but the details are up to the Father.  There is purpose in all God does and it may be, perhaps, that the incomplete items on my list are that way for a purpose.  It may also be that God just wants me to see that His grace is sufficient even when not everything gets done- that He just needs me to NEED HIM more than I need to check off my list.

In another excerpt from Jesus Calling, "Walk with Me in holy trust, responding to My initiatives rather than trying to make things fit your plans.  I died to set you free, and that includes freedom from compulsive planning. When your mind spins with a multitude of thoughts you cannot hear My voice.  A mind preoccupied with planning pays homage to the idol of control."

Ouch!  I confess that is my struggle.... God often puts me in situations when I feel things are out of my control because He is teaching me to find peace, freedom, strength, and resources through HIM.  Too often my personal value is tied to how much I can accomplish or complete each day.  That is a lie from the evil one!  My value is in Christ- I am a child of the KING- my value rests in Him and honoring His wishes and requests.

So, today I am thanking God for being my focus and for filling my spirit with peace as I continue through today.  I accept that things may not go as I would plan, but that His grace is sufficient to fill all my needs.  I do not want to give my heart and mind over to the idol of control, but rest in Him.  A mind at peace can often do more than one that is dizzy with tasks. 

Give Him your day, today, and just rest in all that He is capable of and we might just both be surprised at what He does!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

To Grandma Boles....

On this day, this very day, ninety years ago Arlene Schwartz was born into this world.  She was one of fifteen children raised on hard work and strong determination.  She met a handsome young man and married him at the tender age of 17.  She and her love, Monroe Boles, raised four sons including one who grew to become the father of my husband. 

I feel very inadequate to share much about this beautiful lady as I am relatively new to the family, but I could not let this day pass without sharing what she has meant to me.  When I first came to meet the Boles family back in November 1996, I was more than a little nervous.  Reagan and I were newly engaged after a whirlwind courtship, and it was the first time for me to meet his extended family.  The Boles are a rare jewel in this modern society of dysfunctional families as there is an extensive history of strong, loving marriages.   Plus, there is a strong emotional bond that ties this family together which is tender and precious to witness.  However, it can also be incredibly intimidating! 
As I walked into the home of Monroe and Arlene for the first time, the thing that struck me was how it smelled just like my grandparents' home.  Monroe and Arlene (Paw-paw and Grandma) even looked similar to my own grandparents and Grandma's warm smile immediately put me to ease.   The Boles matriarch always greeted us at the door with a warm hug, smile and a "Come on in!".

I have loved, over the years, to walk into their kitchen finding she and Paw-paw sitting at their small bistro table drinking coffee and reading the newspaper together.  Often, no words were spoken, but there was anything but silence between them- the comfort and peace that they shared together just being and living spoke volumes.  Grandma has a laugh that brings such warmth to your soul and when she smiles with that spirited, mischievous twinkle in her eye, you can't help but curl your toes in delight.  She has tremendous strength that has carried her through heartache and trials as well as a gentle, tenderness that allows her to shed tears of delight, joy and sadness with grace and dignity.  She is a true southern lady.

I have often thought of her (and my own Granny) as I attempt to raise my sons.  I reflect on her strength, wisdom and wonder what she would say to me about raising three future Boles men.  There is just something bonding between women who have all sons- and one of my last deep conversations with Grandma, when I really knew that she was "there" was about raising boys.  She has become more than just Grandma to me, she is truly a friend and companion.

To know Grandma at all, however, is to know of her deep love for the Lord.  It is the foundation of what she and Paw-Paw built and it is why this family has remained strong.  God has blessed her richly because they always sought after HIM.  By world standards she may not have accomplished much.... she just lived and thrived.  She didn't change the world, as a whole, but she changed my world.  She raised a son, who raised a son, who won my heart..... she changed my worldThat legacy will not fade, rust or tarnish.  

This scripture reminds me of her:    "One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple." Psalm 27:4

We lost Paw-paw in 2008, and Grandma has changed much in that time.  She is more vulnerable, and a little lost without Monroe there beside her- he was by her side for 69 years and no one could truly fill his shoes.  I am thankful, now, for all the moments we still have her with us as I know she longs to see her love again.  It will be a beautiful reunion... when the time comes, but for now, we celebrate this beautiful lady and her legacy.

Happy Birthday Grandma!  We love you!

Monday, April 23, 2012

My Chains are Gone

Yesterday, we had the privilege of worshiping with my parents at their home church.  While we love our home church and family, we are always encouraged by visiting other churches with all the privileges of being a guest.  Sometimes, just being free to worship without the mind clutter of duties and responsibilities  allows me to focus more on praising my Lord.  We sang this Chris Tomlin song yesterday and it really blessed me so much.

Here is the chorus:
"My Chains are gone, I've been set free.
My God, My Savior has ransomed me.
And like a flood, His mercy rains,
Unending love, amazing grace."

As I truly reflected on these words, it rang so true in my heart.  I am free.  I am free.  The chains of my past sins, regrets, and hurts are broken.  There is a freedom in Christ that cannot be obtained in this world- there is nothing comparable to the absolute freedom in Christ!

We are free and it cost us nothing, but it cost God much.  We were ransomed and our value was so high that it cost God his own Son.  My mother's heart can't even tally that deep a sacrifice.  In that instant that Jesus declared, "It is finished," mercy like rain poured over all of mankind cleansing us from marrow to skin and all within.  We are pure because he ransomed us . 

We are loved.  We are free..... but only if we choose to be.

There are chains, sadly, that I choose to keep.  Insecurities, questions, guilt, and longings that seem to never go away are but a few of the chains we keep by choice.  Sometimes, we just need to be reminded that we are free.  We are free.  Let God remove your voluntary chains, if He paid the ransom for you, He has a much greater plan for you.

"My chains are gone, I've been set free."

Friday, April 20, 2012

What is the fire that consumes you?

Recently, while at the grocery store, I visited with a friend and she asked me, "Why do you homeschool?"

To be honest, I am asked this question often. I have developed my own standard response which is something like, "Well, our oldest son has epilepsy and when he was younger we began homeschooling to accommodate his needs, but we fell in love with the flexibility it gives us- especially with my husband's crazy work schedule."

All of this is true, but there is so much more to it- I could mention how much I despise the standardized testing, how much homework that our kids are expected to do which seems to limit their time to just play and be a kid, or mention how I really wanted to be the one to influence their values, behavior and decisions. All of these are a part of our decision, but even that isn't accurate.....

It is my calling.

Having grown up in a family of teachers and having taught in public school for several years, I never dreamed of homeschooling my kids. It sort of went against the grain of how I had been raised. That all changed the moment Caleb was born- all plans to go back to work after his birth changed because I looked into his face and KNEW my heart was at home. It didn't make sense- why quit a perfectly good job to stay home and raise my son(s)? Why scrape by financially from month to month? We could have a bigger house- better vehicles- more "toys'..... Why do that to ourselves? Why not send the kids to school each day so you can have time to yourself- to get all the housework done? Why? Why? Why?

It is my calling.

Later, when Caleb had completed his Kindergarten year at a wonderful Christian school, we prayed about the next step. He would either have to go to public school or I would homeschool him. As we prayed, God made it so clear- even providing the exact money needed to purchase some curriculum. We went into the year saying that we would take it one year at a time- that was five years ago! Why?

It is my calling.

It has not always been an easy calling. When I first stayed home with Caleb, we were so naive that we didn't look at our finances to figure out if we could make it. We just believed that if we were honoring God with our decision, that He would provide and He did. We have given up a larger house, as two of our boys share a room. We have driven older vehicles, and we do not eat out very often. It has been a sacrifice in some ways, but such a joy and blessing in so many more ways. The time we have had to love, instruct, and care for our boys is beyond any measurable value. To be honest, we have never lacked anything that we needed. I think this is because we have been true to the calling God put on our hearts. Furthermore, I am happy. I love my calling and wouldn't change a thing!

While it is what God has for me, I would NEVER think that it should be every one's calling. I greatly admire many of my friends who work outside the home balancing work, family, home and commitments- it is just not God's plan for my life.

Today, I read this from Max Lucado's book, "The Great House of God":

"Want to know God's will for your life? Then answer this question: What ignites your heart? ... As a young man I felt the call to preach. Unsure if I was correct in my reading of God's will for me. I sought the counsel of a minister I admired. His counsel still rings true. 'Don't preach,' he said, 'unless you have to.'
As I pondered his words, I found my answer: 'I have to. If I don't, the fire will consume me."

What is the fire that consumes you? Be true to what God has placed on your heart- don't be consumed with a fire and passion for something that you can't put out. It was meant to burn deep within.... it is your calling.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Messy Lessons

Yesterday, it was lunchtime and Kendall was READY to eat and that boy loves his food! Right now, he has discovered a french toast bread that I get at our local grocery store and he loves it. If he sees it in the pantry, he will go to the door and call out "bed" (aka bread) until someone comes to check on him. I don't mind him having a slice or two (okay, being honest here- four) for breakfast, but not at lunch, dinner and all snacks. So, being a mean Mommy, I prepared him something else. He cried and fussed and endured a trip to timeout before sitting still in his high chair. While sitting quietly, he finally asked for what I had prepared and ate very well as you can see in the picture.

I had to laugh as I thought about this whole scenario.... it is SO like me with God. Too often I cry and throw a fit over what I really wanted in my life until I take the time to sit and be still before Him. During that time, my heart is softened and I am able to give up my will for what God has planned for me. His plan is always better for me that what I would choose anyway.

Well, after Kendall ate his lunch and fed himself, the boys were laughing at how messy he had gotten. I knew that I could have fed him and the mess would have been minimal, but he needed to learn how to do it himself. Too often lessons in our kids lives are messy, dirty, sticky and overall unpleasant- and NECESSARY. I think sometimes we try to make our kids' lives so easy that we forget that they need to learn by experience - sometimes with our direction and sometimes on their own. Learning involves making mistakes, getting dirty and it always takes more time. However, when the lesson is learned, they are more independent and prepared for what the future may hold.

This truth applies to all of us. Some lessons are spiritual, some are mental, some are physical, and most have to be learned through experience- it is our human nature! I wish that I could read the Bible and always heed God's instructions. Sadly, too often, I have to learn through mistakes and challenges, but when the lesson is learned, I grow more in His likeness. I am learning that I may have to be dirty and tried to really have a humble heart for HIM.

The good news is that creates beauty out of our ashes and no mess is ever wasted.

Nope, no Martha Stewart Here.....

Okay, I have a confession...... maybe it is the fact that it is a Wednesday and the weekend is so far away or the fact that my carpets need to be vacuumed and I have a large pile of laundry still to be done. Possibly it is due to the dishes still in the sink needing to be loaded into the dishwasher.....but.....well.... here it is: I really wish I was a Martha Stewart type of housewife.

There. I said it.

BUT, I am not anywhere near the realm of Martha Stewart and this week God has really been teaching me that is okay. I love looking at Pinterest and seeing all the nifty things I could sew, bake, make and create and I even get a few of my "pins" done, yet, so many are things I would dream of being able to do. I see other moms who are dressed perfectly in their size 2 jeans with the perfect nails and hair, and I start to question my own looks. I see pictures of other homes perfectly clean with beautiful decor and wonder how they had the time to get it done..... I see on Facebook the awesome meals that some of my friends prepare or marvel at the cute cakes that they make for their kids' parties and wonder, "Did I miss that gene?" Nope, no Martha Stewart here..... and that is just fine.

My husband and my kids don't want Martha living here- they want this slightly lumpy, hair often out of place woman, who can cook some decent meals, have enough clean laundry to get by and who will spend time with them. Yep, what they really want is me. They don't want a stressed out version of me who is in constant motion trying to have a perfect house, perfect looks, perfect job, and perfect homeschool lessons. My kids want someone who will sit with them, read with them, play games with them, correct them, lovingly discipline them, and be there for them. My husband loves me because I am his best friend not because I have the perfect body, hair or nails- our connection is much deeper than that.

Now, I am not talking about living in a "Hoarding" episode or looking like I haven't cleaned up in a month of Sundays! What I am talking about is this- I will not beat myself up anymore when I or my house are not ready for the cover of a magazine. It is more important that I spend the time with my family building them up and nurturing them to become what God has planned for them. In time, when the kids have left the nest, the nest might be more Pinterest acceptable and Martha approved, but I want to savor these days of mile high laundry knowing that it is all too fleeting.

Christ, even challenged another "Martha" in this when he approved of Mary sitting and spending time with Him while Martha cleaned and prepared. He knew that what Martha really needed was more of HIM- through HIS love she could be healed from all unrighteousness. I need HIM to heal me from my self -critical attitude and realize that when I am living, learning, and seeking after HIM then my life is well spent and my value is secure. My family won't speak about my looks, nails, hair, cleaning ability or cooking at my funeral (or at least I hope they don't!) I hope they recall the time I spent with them and how much I loved my Lord- and shared it with them.

Yep, Martha Stewart doesn't live here......