Let’s have a Chat!

Hey Everybody. It’s Tuesday and it is apparently time for me to write my blog. And I’m not feeling it. Sometimes this blog feels narcissistic. It’s time to write about ME again. Uggh. 

 

So, let’s make this about someone else tonight. How are you all doing? How is life out in internet world? Are you crashing at the end of the day and seeking some mindless relaxation on Facebook? Right now I am sitting in my little boys’ room, waiting for them to go to sleep. It’s Andy’s night off and I am solo parenting. 

 

How are you coping with the holidays? Are they a fun-filled nostalgic time for you or are they a non-stop hectic, stressful race to the end? I seem to seesaw back and forth on that one. I am trying to have a slow, peaceful holiday month, but life keeps interrupting. 

 

How are you feeling with the shorter days and winter weather? (If that applies to you, maybe it’s summer in your part of the world.) For me, I love winter, but the cold weather gets to me. Maybe because my kids don’t want to be out in the cold, so then they’re running around the house, shooting nerf bullets at each other, or literally, climbing the walls, trying to see if they can make it up to the ceiling. 

 

How’s your peace doing? Is all right with the world or does everything feel out of whack? Me? Well, I’m in that interesting place where everything is out of whack, but despite that, I’m at peace and can feel God’s presence in all the craziness. So, I guess it’s good. I’ll tell you what, Jesus is the only one that can do that for me! I hope that you can find peace in your craziness too. Cause, if I’m being realistic, there probably isn’t anyone of you out there that doesn’t have some level of craziness going on. 

 

How are your dreams coming along? It’s taken me years to even give myself permission to have dreams. For a while there, just taking care of little kids was so overwhelming, I did not have any time for dreams. It’s not a great place to be. Feels a bit dead. I’ve been trying to let myself dream again. One dream is to be a full-time piano teacher. I had four piano students this school semester and it was really fun. We had a little recital of sorts last night and it felt good to see how well they did. It’s a small dream, but I’m taking steps towards it and that is nourishing to the soul. I hope you can find a way to, first of all, have a dream, and second of all, pursue it in small ways tucked here and there in your busy life. 

 

Let’s see, we’ll just skip politics. And sports. Read any good books lately? I found a new author I like, recommended by a friend, Amy Harmon. Fluffy, funny, PG, but also some stuff to think about. Just what I’m looking for right now. I’ve also been reading 1,2, and 3rd John, in the Bible. I found 1 John to be very comforting for my perfectionist self. I am never sure if I’m doing enough, being enough, striving enough etc. And the main point I took away from the book was, Obey Jesus’ commands. This is his command. Love God, Love People. The End. And that doesn’t seem too burdensome. It seems like a joyful task, not a hard chore. And it also feels like a load of expectations dissolves off my shoulders every time I read it. Good stuff. 

 

Well, if you were sitting right in front of me, this is about the time I would start digging for the nitty gritty stuff, how are the relationships in your life? How are you feeling about yourself? How’s your spiritual life? What’s making you happy these days? What’s dragging you down? 

 

So, you should come on by when you can, sit at my kitchen table, where the kids will run around us, kind of like a rock sticking out of the current in a river. We’ll drink some hot tea, I’ll dig up some cookies, or carrot sticks, depending on where you are at with your diet, and we can chat (with plenty of interruptions, but it won’t matter!). 

 

Good night friends, let’s talk again soon!

 

I’m not dead yet

So, this happened last night. 

broken

I’m typing one-handed so this is going to be short. Life has been tossing some curve balls. This happened at the end of yesterday, the day I dealt with head lice, my husband’s resignation from his job, and trying to keep track of a traveling older child who was going cross-country. Throw in a couple other major headaches I won’t mention, and that sums up Esther’s not-so-great, not-so-wonderful, drama-filled day (to paraphrase the children’s book).

 

As I was fretting, I imagined myself on a wind-tossed sea, drowning. Kind of like Peter trying to walk on the water. And I was reminded that, like Peter, I just needed to keep my eyes focused on Jesus. 

 

So, that’s what I’m trying to do. 

 

Being thankful helps. I’m thankful my parents came today so I could go to the clinic and get my wrist fixed up. I’m thankful for prescription strength lice shampoo. I’m thankful for a gift card from a friend that let Andy and I have a date night last night. And thankful for teens that can babysit. I’m thankful for safe travels for my oldest. Thankful for my old purple house and all the crazy life it holds. Thankful for groceries in my fridge and the violet night sky. Thankful for my blog. Thankful for my friends. I hope that all you readers can have an equally thankful, blessed evening.

 

 

Thinking About Heaven

Today I was sorting clothes in my room, finishing up the great Seasonal Clothes Exchange, and I was bored, so I decided to listen to something off of Youtube on my phone. I normally don’t do this because I usually have so many interruptions that it’s impossible to really listen to something properly, but the kids had friends over, they were all playing outside, and I decided to chance it. I randomly decided to look for something by Tim Keller. I found an interesting sermon on heaven and settled in to enjoy it. One thing he said really stood out to me. He was saying that heaven is all about God’s presence. That’s the whole thing. Being in God’s presence. He said that people have criticized him for claiming that the only way to heaven is through Jesus, and he pointed out the question, Why would you want to go to heaven if you’re not in love with Jesus? Heaven is all about being with him! 

 

I really had to sit with that thought. If you’re not in love with Jesus, then you’re not going to like heaven. Cause it’s all about him. 

 

A couple weeks ago I was driving to another city in the car, solo road trip. I had a lot of time to just think. I was listening to the Christian radio and the song, “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercyme came on. I love that song. It is essentially just imagining what it will be like when we get to heaven and see Jesus.  I was singing along and wondering myself, what will I do when the time comes? And then I thought about my children. And it was almost a fierce thought. My children must go to heaven too. I don’t know if it could be heaven if my children weren’t there. And I had this realization that if God had created some kind of system where we could barter our way into heaven, I would have unhesitatingly bartered my own soul to make sure my children made it into heaven. I love them that much. And I was thinking these fierce thoughts, and it was like Jesus just whispered, That’s how I feel about you. I wanted you in heaven so much that I came and died on the cross. And it suddenly occurred to me, That’s how Jesus wants us to feel about everybody. He wants us to love everybody with that fierceness that says, They’ve got to be there too!

 

That kind of rocked me back on my heels. I do not feel that way about everyone. Who do I fiercely desire to see in heaven? My husband. My children. Parents, siblings. Some extended family. A couple close friends. But, as far as exchanging my life for theirs if that were possible? Probably just my own children, if I’m honest. And yet, that fierce desire to see other people saved, in relationship with Jesus so that they too will go to heaven, that is what we are called to as Christians. We are called to that kind of deep love. 

 

And all I can do is say, Lord! Change my heart! Give me your heart for these people who surround me, my neighbors that I pass every day. The people of my community, my city, my state, my country. The world. May my heart be changed so that I long for the day when I can be in Jesus’ presence, but at the same time, I can say fiercely, I need these other people to be there with me! 

 

Here’s a link to “I can only Imagine” if you’d like to listen:

I Can Only Imagine by Mercyme

 

I’m Ready for a Redo

We have some houseguests at the moment. As my husband and I’s room is the closest thing we have to a guest room, we relocated upstairs with all our kids. This means that we had to start using the “kids bathroom” upstairs. Yikes. Since we moved downstairs, about two years ago, I rarely enter the upstairs bathroom. I bathe our two youngest in my bathroom downstairs, we moved toothbrushes downstairs so we could supervise tooth brushing. I have no reason to go into the upstairs bathroom. Every week or so, I appoint bathroom chores to my older children. You clean the toilet, you clean the sink, you get the trash etc. And every week I assign one of my older girls to clean the shower. I will, on occasion, inspect their work. Nope, toilet is not done, try again…please sweep the floor better…But, I’ve never bothered to peak into the shower to see how that job was done.

Last night, I jumped into the upstairs shower to take a quick rinse off and I recoiled. Oh my goodness. This shower is repulsive. I think we’re going to have to tear this entire shower out and put in a new one. When was the last time someone cleaned this????? It was horrifying. (Just to reassure you, I know that it hasn’t been two years since it was cleaned, I do, on occasion, hire someone to come in and do a deep cleaning for me, so not two years, but definitely somewhere in the months range.)

Today I went down to the dollar store and loaded up on scrubby sponges, rubber gloves, and a shower cleaner that looked like it would melt iron. I also bought a new shower curtain and bathmat. This bathroom was going to get a makeover. Several hours later, many inhaled chemicals later, the shower was sparkling clean: new shower curtain with cute butterfly curtain rings, fluffy blue bath mat. Everything else in the bathroom was sparkling too. At last. A fresh start. A bathroom worthy of me. 🙂

All this cleaning got me thinking about Fresh Starts. Redo. Makeover. Lately I’ve been feeling like I need a fresh start. I remembered back to when we just moved back to the States after living in Chile for a year and a half. We had only been back a couple days and a friend asked me what the difference was between Chile and the U.S. I told her that when I was overseas, I felt alive. I was in tune with Spiritual Things. Everything felt sharp and in-focus. Relationships were life-giving, every-day life was an adventure. When I came to the States and talked to my friends, I got the impression that people  were very distracted, very caught up in the superficial world of entertainment and the acquiring of new stuff. Life felt fuzzy. I didn’t like what I saw and I wondered how I was going to keep myself from falling into the same trap.

Fifteen years later, I look at my life. I look at my priorities. Everything is fuzzy. Though I profess that Jesus is the most important thing in my life, reality doesn’t seem to reflect that truth. Social media, books, the internet, movies, books, interesting thoughts and theories. These all seem to have first place in my life. I feel out of touch with my Bible. I feel out of touch with nature. I feel out of touch with people. I’m existing in a small, insulated world of entertainment. Any time there is a pause in the day, I pull out my phone. Check Facebook. Read my emails. Check in with my blog. In an attempt to avoid boredom, I have instead dulled all my senses, flattened out the highs and lows, and created an existence that demands constant stimulation and is afraid of simply being. In an attempt to avoid boredom, I have become a boring person. A person who only engages on a superficial level. I have lost my First Love, Jesus, and replaced him with the idol of diversion.

I need a fresh start. I think about the hard work I had to put in to reclaim my bathroom. Make it clean and fresh and usable again. It wasn’t easy. Fresh starts aren’t. I’ve talked to my husband about the need to make some big changes. It’s not just me. It’s the entire family. We are all addicted to our wifi. The little kids have tv shows they stream. My teenagers have their shows and sites they must check up on every day. We always seem to have our faces glued to a screen. Andy and I have decided that as soon as school is out, we are pulling the plug on the wifi. No more internet at the house. I have wanted to do this sooner, but the reality is that the kids do need internet to do their homework. We’re going to try it out for the summer.

This is going to be painful for the whole family. We have already heard our teens’ opinions on the matter. I told them I would take them to the library as often as they wanted to go. We just weren’t going to be hooked up at our house. We love Friday Night Movie Night. So, maybe we’ll make trips to the dollar theater or go to the drive-in. We’re not trying to give up watching movies, just turning it back into an occasional special treat instead of part of the daily diet. I am hoping that as we no longer have a screen to stare at, we can wake up from this fuzzy dream we have entered and start having time for real life. Make devotions priority. Get outside. Focus on each other again. We will find out soon. The Restart button is about to be pushed.

 

So, What’s the Big Deal About Today?

Good Morning Internet World! Here it is Easter Morning and as I sit here in my home, writing on my computer, I wonder how everyone’s morning is going, and what this day means to you. When I first started this blog I was pretty purposeful in my thoughts that this wasn’t going to be a “Christian Blog”. What I mean by that, was that I did not want to write out little sermonettes and discuss bible verses every day. Neither did I want it to be an “Advice Blog” where I could spell out how I do things and encourage you to copy all my neat tricks for living. I just wanted to write about my life and the stories I have to tell. As it turns out, since I spend my life trying to make Jesus the most important thing, he kind of crops up in my blogs. Pretty regularly. And I have ended up dispensing some advice here and there. It’s just happened, the inevitable result of writing about my life. Today though, I am just going to be blatant Christian. I want to share with you all why today is so important to me.

Today is Easter. The day we celebrate that Jesus rose from the dead. What is that all about? Well, he was God, in the flesh. He came down to earth and lived the perfect, sinless life, because I couldn’t. And then, even though he was perfect, he was killed: whipped and then nailed to a cross, dying a torturous death. Why? Well, the punishment for sin is death. All of us have sinned. We all deserve to die for our sins. There was nothing we could do to change that. So Jesus came and changed it for us. He died in our place. Took all of our sins on himself and paid the price for us. Now, if we repent of our sins, believe in Jesus, ask his forgiveness, he does forgive us and he “Makes us white as snow..” He declares us innocent, clean, forgiven. And he promises that he will be with us and never leave us. And when our earthly body dies, we will go and be with him for all eternity. Easter is the day we celebrate that I can now approach God and have a relationship with him, all the barriers have been removed.

So, what does Easter mean to me?

It means I am no longer alone. I have someone that I speak to all day long. Sometimes it reverent, “Lord, thank you for the beautiful sunshine!” Sometimes, not so much, “LORD! Help me! I am so tired!! I can’t deal with this messy house!!” Sometimes it’s just commenting on daily life, “Wow Lord, I cannot believe that driver just cut me off like that!!! Please help me to not start swearing!!” And often, it’s just the word, “help”. For me, it’s an all-day running commentary on my life. And I know he’s listening. And he answers. Not so much an audible voice, though I have heard his voice a couple times, but more like a redirection of my thoughts. I’m grumbling about what a lousy day I’m having, and suddenly I remember the bible verse, “This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it!” Or I find myself harboring a bunch of anger towards someone and the verse pops in my head, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” It’s a conversation of sorts…with someone who never goes away, always listens, and knows all your thoughts. Can’t really get more intimate than that.

What does Easter mean to me?

It means I have peace. When I do things wrong, I don’t have to walk around feeling guilty. I can ask for God’s forgiveness and then I can count on him to give me the strength to ask forgiveness from the person I wronged. And if things continue to remain tense, I can have peace knowing that he will be with me and give me wisdom to know how to proceed. The underlying guilt that I used to carry around with me is no longer there. I am forgiven.

What does Easter mean to me?

It means I am no longer afraid. What is the worst thing that can happen to me? Death? Well, if I die I know that I will be with Jesus…forever. Doesn’t sound too bad. When I am tempted to be afraid for my children, God reminds me that he loves my children more than I do. Their lives are in his hands. They might not get the fairy tale life that I envision for them, they may go through horrible things in their lives, I may even, Heaven Forbid, bury one of my children (Lord, may it not be so). But, I don’t have to live in fear of these things happening. In the end, I have no power to save my children or protect them, and God never promised us a pain-free, trouble-free life. But, he promises to never leave us, to take bad things and turn them into good. I can trust him.   

What does Easter mean to me?

It means my life gets a bit uncomfortable at times. God’s number one priority for me is not for me to be happy. His number one priority is that I learn how to be like him. And sometimes learning that is a bit painful. Awkward. Esther, I want you to love your neighbor as yourself. Esther, I want you to forgive those who hurt you. Esther, I want you to help those in need. Esther, I want you stop putting your selfish desires above the needs of your family. Esther, I want you to trust me with this problem instead of worrying about it. Yeah. It’s not all fun and games. This weekend, I had an old friend reach out to me for help. My very first thought was, No way. I can’t help you with this. It’s too much. It’s going to really inconvenience me. My husband and I prayed about it. The next day, I still wanted to say No, sorry, can’t help, but God very gently pointed out to me that all my reasons for saying No were selfish and rather petty. And so I found myself saying yes. I can help you. But here’s the thing. All this nudging to change, do things differently than I want to, in the end it’s slowly shaping me into the person that I have always wanted to be. I have no power in myself to turn Esther from a selfish, self-absorbed person into a selfless person who always puts others first and is always ready to forgive, ready to lend a helping hand. It’s a change that only comes from listening daily to the quiet nudges from God as he slowly chips away at all the rough edges of my character.

What does Easter mean to me?

Everything. It means everything. And this is why I tell my children, this is the biggest holiday of the entire year! Easter! The day that enabled me to pass from condemned sinner to beloved daughter of God. Oh yes, Easter means everything to me.

 

Jesus is Enough

This has been an unsettling week for me. A week where God confronted me about my online content: this is not pleasing, uplifting, edifying nor is it drawing you closer to God. Uggh. But it’s fun and entertaining. Everyone else does it. And a whole list of excuses, and this time I felt like God was just looking at me with a raised eyebrow. It’s your choice, are you going to listen to me? And so grumpily I walked away, looking over my shoulder with a bit of longing. I walked away because I know it doesn’t have to do with following a set of rules, it has to do with drawing closer to God, and I knew that my online activity was setting up a barrier between me and God that was getting harder and harder to climb over.

There was also the evening when my children’s bad behavior just felt overwhelmingly like me failing as a parent. I ended up sobbing on my husband’s chest, feeling like my kids were all going to hell in a handbasket and were probably going to end up homeless on the streets because I haven’t made Bible Time enough of a priority… And how on earth do I give ten kids the one-on-one time that they need to be well-adjusted citizens??

Then I got in a discussion about church practices with a blogger online. I didn’t agree with his position, but at the same time I didn’t feel like I had an answer to the fundamental question he was trying to address…How do we show Jesus to the lost?

Then I started thinking about politics and church and race and economic differences in the world and I felt like I just had this giant question mark floating around my head. No concrete answers. No concrete conclusions. Everything felt like a foggy haze.

It didn’t help that this past week I’ve undertaken a diet that consists of only fruits, vegetables and nuts. It’s an attempt to deal with several health issues, weight actually being at the bottom of that list. My body has been in shock. WHAT’S GOING ON??? WHERE’S THE BREAD?? WHERE’S THE MEAT??? More brain fog as I try to adjust to this very different routine.

In the midst of all this haze, I started a new book, “Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church” by Rachel Held Evans. She’s a blogger. I don’t read her blog. I’m pretty sure it’s a lot more liberal than I am comfortable with. I don’t unreservedly recommend her as a theologian or someone to model your life after, but there is something in her writing that feeds a hungry place in me. I think what draws me to her is that she is honest about her life. She is honest about her doubts and failures. She asks questions that I tend to skirt around. In the book it feels like she is rediscovering her walk with God, rediscovering Jesus.

As I’ve been reading her book I have felt something relax inside of me. I have been reminded that this walk with Jesus, this life we’ve been given is not a three step process. Our Christian walk isn’t about walking in absolute perfection every single day, and if we mess up, then it’s all over. It isn’t about having the answer to every single difficult question. It’s a lot more about stumbling along in all our imperfections and ignorance and continually turning back to Jesus, asking for help, asking for forgiveness, asking for strength to get up and try again. Asking for wisdom when we don’t know what to do. Seeking God’s face on Sunday, messing up on Monday, and then Tuesday, seeking God’s face again. A little bit wiser, a little bit stronger, hopeful that this time we won’t stumble into the same pit.

And through all our floundering around, Jesus is enough. His Word is enough. His Grace is Enough. His Love is enough. I long for solid answers, concrete paths, rigid systems to follow. A certain future that is all laid out for me. That’s not what this life is about. In fact, the only solid thing I have to hang on to is Jesus. He knows everything, but he only likes to tell me what I need to know on a moment by moment basis.

The fog clears a bit and one thing comes into sharp clear focus. I’ve got Jesus, he’s got me. It’s enough.

 

It’s Just All About Relationships

A couple years ago when the last Die Hard movie came out, my husband and I went to the theater to see it. Not because I particularly wanted to watch it, but because my husband is a full-blown Die Hard fan and I went to keep him company. So we watched this big, long, action-packed movie that involved Bruce Willis helping his son. So, after watching about two hours of shooting and dodging and fighting and racing cars and explosions and everything else you would expect in a Die Hard movie, we walked out. I can’t remember which one of us said it for sure, but I think it was my husband, he says, “So, basically, it was just a movie about relationships.” Yeah. That about sums it up. After you skim out all the explosions, it’s just about a father and son.

“It’s just all about relationships.” This has become our catch-phrase for any movie we watch, whether it be a chick-flick or race-car stealing movie, “It’s just all about relationships.” Because it’s true, even the lamest movie plots, they still throw in some kind of relationship to somehow give the movie some worth or meaning.

So, Friday night my college-going daughter, who happens to be working backstage at the Clarence Brown Theater, arranged for me and my husband and my parents to get tickets to see “King Charles III”, a play, at the Clarence Brown Theater. It was very well done. Well-acted. Great sets. Intellectually stimulating. The kind of plot where there is no definable bad and good guy, instead, a bunch of decent people making hard decisions and you can understand their motivation, but at the same time see how their decisions are creating big problems. If you enjoy theater and thinking about issues, I highly recommend it.

We walked out of the theater, each of us giving our opinions about the choices made in the play, and we paused, and I thought about it a bit more and had to say it, “You know, It was just all about relationships.”  Spoiler Alert  I’m going to talk about the plot now…. So, King Charles makes a decision based on his conscience. His son goes against his decision because his wife is pressuring him to do so. In the end Charles abdicates his throne because he doesn’t want to be estranged from his sons and grandchildren. Prince Harry gives up his low-birth girlfriend because he values his relationship with his brother more. (Sadly, the play was written pre-Meghan Markle.) Yeah. It was all about relationships.

If you think about your life, it too is all about relationships. Think about your job. It is very probable that you like or dislike your job based on the people you are working with. Think about the difficult things you’ve done in your life. It’s very likely that you did them because of a relationship in your life. I remember when I had my first child. I was twenty-two. I did not have my driver’s license because, frankly, I was terrified of driving. Then I had this baby. I needed to take her to her doctor’s appointments. I needed to get to the grocery store at random times because she needed things. I wanted to be able to take her places. So, I got my driver’s license. Because of relationships.

Someone asked Jesus,

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:36-40 New International Version (NIV)

Relationships. Relationship with God. Relationship with people. That’s what it’s all about. Think about it. What do we consider having the most worth here on earth?  Our spouses, parents, siblings, extended family, children, grandchildren, best friends, coworkers, companions…It is these people that give our life meaning. I love the fact that Jesus says yes, the most important thing is to love God and then love people. It’s simple, it’s not a giant list of requirements and hurdles to jump over. It’s a two-step process. Loving God, being in relationship with him…and then he’s the one who gives us the grace and power to love the people around us. It’s hard to do one without the other. This is the reality I live in, the questions I have to ask myself to gauge how I’m doing in life…Am I loving God with everything that I am? Am I loving the people around me? Because, after all, It’s all about relationships.