Thursday, February 16, 2017

Siesta Verse 4

My second verse in February:

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
Psalm 84:5

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Don't set Limitations

I remember it clearly. I was maybe eight years old and my parents were going away for a few days. My brother and I were to stay with grandparents. For some reason, my Mom was worried about her house plants getting watered. One of the instructions she gave was, "Let (brother) water the plants, Mipa tends to kill them." I don't remember ever having killed a plant before that day. However, the reality was now firmly planted. I could not grow houseplants.

Fast forward to the summer between my Junior and Senior year of college. My roommate was going to Europe to hike across it with her fiance.  I was staying in our house for the summer, taking a couple of summer courses. So she, naturally, asked me to take care of her African violets. The African violets that her fiance gave her when he proposed. Her precious African violets.  I remember a feeling of panic that "I kill plants," even as I smiled and said of course. I was terrified that summer that I would kill the plants, but I didn't. They thrived. It should have been a lesson to my pre-twenty self that I didn't kill plants, but instead I thought it was a fluke.

For years I avoided house plants, knowing that I was the curse of death. But a friend gave me one when we lived in Germany, and it lived. In spite of being put in a box and transported across multiple country borders, it lived. Then we moved into this house three years ago. Our landlord left a beautiful orchid to welcome us into our new home. I, of course, expected to kill it. But I did not. It bloomed again...and again....and again. In fact, sometime this week it should burst into bloom for the fifth time since we moved. I have finally realised, I don't kill plants.


I don't know why my mother said that. Maybe I had, as a child, over watered or under watered something. Maybe it was a throw-aside comment that was a joke. I honestly cannot tell you. What I do know is that for years it dictated something I believed about myself. Something trivial, but something that was deep in my perception of who I was. And it was totally false.

As I watched the buds come on my orchid, I was thinking about how easy it is to set limitations that become part of who a person is. One of my children struggles with math. Saying math is not her thing actually sets an expectation that she approaches math with dread that she will not be able to do it. Back in college, when discussing language courses, my friend the Russian major made a joke that of course I didn't like languages, I didn't even do English well (making fun of my Texas country accent more than my use of language). I knew it was a joke. I knew that it was not true, after all I had been one of forty students hand-picked to help teach writing out of the school. But I still hear that "joke" when I'm writing and wonder if I have any right to be writing. It is easy to set limitations. I am determined that I will be more diligent in not setting limitations on what others believe they can do with any careless words that might come from my mouth. I don't want to have been the source of such self-criticism.

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. 
Proverbs 16:24

Father help me to use words that expand someone's horizons, not limit their perception. Help my words be healing and encouraging. And when I have set limits on a person's soul, send others to show a better way. Amen.
 

Friday, February 10, 2017

February goals

Okay, it is a third of the way through February and I'm already failing at goal review. *sigh*  Too bad living life gets in the way of writing things down!

In January my goals were:

1. Read 4 books that are not school related, set in at least one country that is not UK or US, and that meets at least 3 prompts on my reading challenge.--read 7 books set in UK-England (3), US (3), Albania (1), and met 5 prompts on reading challenge
2. Blog 5 times--only 4 (I even forgot to post verse 2!)
3. Finish stitching A Mind Independent and Free--yes!
4. Plan out Australia block for Neighbourhood Round Robin and gather materials--yes!
5. Scan Jewel's school portfolios from Germany--about 2/3 complete--she had more than I knew, I thought it was 2 binders not 2 binders and 15 notebooks! There will be much LESS paper when we are finished recycling it all!

For February my goals are:

1. Read 4 more books that are not school related, set in at least three countries that are not England or US, and that meets at least 3 prompts on my reading challenge.
2. Blog 5 times
3. Stitch the Australia block for Neighbourhood Round Robin
4. Plan baby quilt and gather materials
5. Finish scanning Jewel's school portfolios from Germany and scan Flower's as well

Siesta Verse Three

My first verse in February is Acts 2:28, memorising in the NIV:

You have made known to me the paths of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence.’

Monday, January 30, 2017

I don't mean to be silent. There are millions of thoughts in my head that are making it to paper and into conversations with my girls. But, I have always wanted this to be a place of refuge and encouragement. I have never wanted to have a political blog. And if I were to voice so much of what is my head right now, this would be a political blog.

Back in November 2015, Ann Voskamp wrote in her blog, something that her husband had said during harvest that has stayed we with me,

"I don't know what to think---so maybe I just thank."  

So, since I can't find anything else to say in terms of what I think, here are some things I'm grateful for today:

*a family that is healthy and safe and together
*an adopted home that we immigrated to 16 years ago
*friends who love us in spite of  a prevailing attitude that immigrants are not welcome
*work that more than adequately meets our needs
*clean water
*freedom to choose where we will go to church
*excitement that as a church we can plant a new fellowship in another area of town without conflict
*joy in watching Tree learn to read. Knowing that I am teaching him that
*opportunities for the girls to develop their leadership skills
*travel that  is expanding my horizons
*Comfort in Knowing God is Sovereign!

I don't necessarily know what to think as I watch news. My heart breaks at situations and divisiveness. But God has not forsaken his throne. He is not surprised and He will not be defeated by any darkness I see. So I will take Hope in that. And I will continue to give him Praise for the things He has allowed to me.

I needed the reminder today. Wanted to share!

Monday, January 02, 2017

Searching for Less

Our world reminds us constantly that we should be on the lookout for "more." More time, more money, more popularity, more friends, more comments. More, more, more. At some point last year I began to ask myself if I really cared about more of anything. I began to realize that I did not. What I really wanted was the opposite.

Then, I read Falling Free by Shannan Martin about how they had left their life of abundance for a life that was based on much less but gave them so much more (my description here). I was challenged. I was awe-struck. And that little voice that was telling me that I did not care about 'more' got louder. It was not telling me to sell the house and move somewhere else. It was telling me that maybe I could find "more" in my life by dealing with a lot less.

Various things over the last two months have sung this song.  Reminders that stuff is not what makes anyone happy. Sermons reminding of caring for the least of these. A Bible study of Proverbs that warns about accepting wealth and status quo without balancing it with the wisdom of God. By the middle of November I knew what my word for 2017 was to be, and it was daunting. It was........

LESS

Now before you get concerned, it does not mean leaving the house or the life that God has clearly blessed us with at this time. It is about depending more on Him and less on stuff or others. As always, I find it difficult to articulate what the word for the year resounds in my heart. I just know that it is echoing in deep places where God wants to work.  But some of what I hope to see in 2017 is this:

*Less accumulation of paper and materials that are not needed.  In some cases, this is my continuing efforts to digitalize some things and let go of the paper.  Last year it was all of my university notebooks (most just shredded, some digitalized before shredding).  This year it is the early portfolios from homeschooling, a box of my mother's papers that I have not wanted to deal with, and a last box of pictures (from my high school days) that need to be sorted and digitialize anything worth keeping. One of my realizations is that we move too much stuff that is just sitting in boxes.  If it is not important enough to get out of the boxes when we move, maybe I don't need it. If it is the memory it evokes, that can be pictured and carried on a disk. God will call us to move again someday, and I want less stuff to carry with me when he calls.
*Less time spent worrying what others think of the life I am called to live. Yes, that is as self-centered as it sounds.  I spend way too much time worrying how others will accept my choices to home educate, to not have a car, to wear what I wear, to set the limits I set for my kids.  The truth is, most people truly don't care. And if they do care, I think it is their issue not mine. I know that I do not spend anytime criticizing my friends who do things differently than I do. It is their life and their calling, not mine. So why do I give so much thought-space to what others think? I want to give this less thought space.
*Less time doing things that do not build me up. I discovered long ago that there are certain television programs that are not good for me to watch as they will invade my dreams and take away rest. I have been realizing that there is more to this concept for me than I have given credence. There are shows (mostly reality-type shows) that only serve to make me feel dissatisfied with what I have. There are shows that, although I have tried to overlook it, the language bothers me to the extent that it makes me restless. There are things that others can watch for a "mindless past time" that are anything but mindless to me. Thus, I have been cutting those things out of my life. I want that to continue. This is also true of reading. I enjoy reading a wide array of genres and authors, but I am beginning to recognize that there are some I just need to walk away and leave on the nightstand or in the library.  Ironically, I also have more books on my to-be-read list that are tough subjects, even subjects that I don't agree with the subject matter, that remind me that we live in a fallen world and that I need to be showing that world Jesus. So it is not avoiding things that make me think, but avoiding things that make me think of only myself and not look out to others.
*Less voiced negativity and more thankfulness need to be in my daily conversations. One of my friends posted something recently about no longer apologising for some things but instead voicing gratitude (e.g. not "I'm sorry I was late," but "thank you for waiting, it means a lot to me"). That made me think that often I choose to voice the negative rather than look for a way to be grateful. I'm going to try to be less verbal with negative this year. Maybe that will help my teens who have their mother's fluency in sarcasm to also be less negative.
*Less half-hearted rituals and more focus on what God is saying. It is so easy to tick the box of a quiet time, a prayer time, leading a study or helping with a ministry. It is more difficult to use those activities to truly connect with God and focus on the changes that need to be made. I want the latter not the former.
*Less unhealthy things entering my life. Whether it is junk food or junk TV or toxic people, I want to be more diligent to let in healthy and exclude the unhealthy.
*Less holding on to people. This has never been an issue for me, since we have been the ones leaving so much. I've always had to hold people loosely. But we have been here for long enough that I begin to think in terms of "I don't know what I'd do without (___)."  That shows the depths of some relationships. But it also has the focus on the person, not on God. This year, our church will plant a new church and about 100 people will go to the plant. We are not going, at this point. We feel as a family that there is more we can offer at Central than we can offer to the plant. But, some dear friends are going. And that makes me sad. I am also excited for them. In the bittersweet, I find that I am in a place that I need to hold people lightly trusting God to move them, and me, where we all can best serve. I need to celebrate and enjoy every moment I have with people, but not feel so dependent that it leaves trust out of the picture.

So, there it is. My word for 2017: less.  My girls have announced that it is not as exciting as last year's word. They are dubious of some of the things that I see the need to focus. But I know that God has places he wants to clean out. I know that there are things I need to let go of in order to hold onto him more. I'm willing to take that risk.  We'll see where it has led me in 365 days. Let's go.

January Goals



Last January I wrote,
"One thing I know about myself, if I really want to take a goal seriously, I need to write it down. And if I doubly want to take it seriously, I need to publish it. I like to reach goals. I like to mark things off my list. And it encourages me, rather than discourages me. So, I once again begin the year with a review of my master 2015 list and my January goals."
And the truth of that statement is immense.  I did not post goals (or anything) after March. And so when I went to do a goal review, I could not even find my master list for 2016.  It is here, but I don't know where.  I do know that I did not lose the weight I wanted to lose, or memorize all the verses I wanted to memorize, or blog nearly enough. I did finish two largish cross-stitch project, but not the largest two that have been going the longest. I read 100 books, but that was due to the accountability of keeping up with them online at Goodreads. So, clearly, posting goals helps keep me on task. To that end I am posting both my January goals and my master list for 2017 so that next year I have no excuse!

January:
1. Read 4 books that are not school related, set in at least one country that is not UK or US, and that meets at least 3 prompts on my reading challenge.
2. Blog 5 times
3. Finish stitching A Mind Independent and Free
4. Plan out Australia block for Neighbourhood Round Robin and gather materials
5. Scan Jewel's school portfolios from Germany

Master 2017 list:
Books:  Read 100 books (including those used for school)
             Read books set in at least 30 distinct countries
             Complete PopSugar Reading Challenge and Advanced Challenge (52 books)

Cross-Stitch/Quilting:  Complete stitching A Mind Independent and Free
                                      Complete Neighbourhood Round Robin 2
                                      Complete Bride's Tree Ornament sets
                                      Start/Finish Autumn and Spring Garden
                                      Participate in Ornament Exchange
                                      Stitch Ornaments for each of the children
                                      Make baby quilt for godson and his wife (June)
                                      Organise and participate in Round Robin with CSC

Other: Eat healthy and lose some weight
           Blog 3x per month minimum
           Memorize 24 verses
           Decrease paperwork saved in household by 50%

         

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Siesta Memory Verse #1

Joining up again this year at Living Proof Ministries for their Scripture Memory Encouragement and Accountability.  My first verse this year is actually two verses that have spoke to me as I study Beth Moore's Daniel study. 

In a well-furnished kitchen there are not only crystal goblets and silver platters, but waste cans and compost buckets---some containers used to serve fine meals, others to take out garbage. Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing.
2 Timothy 2:20-21 (The Message)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Revisiting 'Seriously?!'



Last year was the year of taking things “Seriously?!” As always, I had no idea the places God would take me during the year with that word. But he used that word to stretch me and challenge me and inspire me. Last year I wrote, 

There was it was! My word. I cannot begin to tell you how many dozens of times a day I hear my teen ask (sarcastically, of course), 'seriously?' Everything about her questions whether we are serious about what we say. It is a teen-friendly word to challenge diligence and gospel-living. It is my challenge for 2016. What will it look like? Here are few things that I hope will take root:
* I want to take my pursuit of God's heart through Bible Study seriously.
* I want to seriously memorize Scripture.
* I want to seriously consider what it means to be the temple of God--and to take serious care of that temple physically, mentally and emotionally.
* I want to open my eyes and heart to the plight of the weak and poor, and seriously pursue doing things that make a difference.
* I want to have serious discussions with my children--about Scripture, about life, about living for Christ in a broken world, about their hopes & dreams.
* I want to take opportunities to have serious discussions with friends and strangers alike.
* I want to live with an intentionality that allows others to see that I take Jesus seriously.

We live in a world of a lot of competing ideologies. I need to be intentional about what my motivations are. My kids will hear ideas and recommendations that sound like edicts from all types of people who take their beliefs seriously. I hope that when my kids look back they can say the same about what they learned at home through both word and deed. This year, I'm taking that mandate SERIOUSLY.

Probably the area that this stretched me the most was in discussions with the girls, and in particular Jewel. The year 2016 did not disappoint in things to discuss and take seriously. Refugee crises, sexism/racism/classism and political futures, the presidential race in general, relationships/marriage/definitions, war in Syria, bullying, Brexit, natural disasters and more. We have had deep conversations and sarcastic interchanges. We have laughed together and cried together. We have agreed and debated. We have gotten angry, and then had to decide if it was selfish anger or righteous anger. We’ve decided where we could help and we have admitted when we felt helpless. I have been proud of the girls this year that they have struggled with current events and tried to find their own responses, not just parroting our responses. It has been some of the best parenting challenges I’ve faced head-on and felt like I’ve succeeded, sometimes.

Whilst conversations at home are easier, those kind of conversations outside the home are more challenging. Surprisingly, Brexit and the US Presidential election opened doors to talk. People would ask for my opinion as an American. Whilst trying to avoid blatant political statements, I had opportunities to express my dependence on God in these areas. I’ve had difficult conversations about immigration (remembering that I am an visitor in this country) and race and feeling alienated. Who has been the most willing to engage in these conversations has often greatly surprised me. But I am grateful for the conversations I have had.  

A challenging study of Acts followed by a more daunting study of Proverbs gave plenty of opportunities to decide if I wanted to take the Scripture seriously. I did not learn twenty-four verses, but the ones I did memorize have challenged me even more.

I am thankful for this word. I plan to leave my Seriously?! sign up in the kitchen as a daily reminder that these issues are not frivolous and I need to be intentional in my responses. Several of the books I read this year pointed me to the plight of those who are not as financially blessed or who live on the fringes of whatever society they find themselves. These books and these thoughts have  informed and developed my word for 2017. Tomorrow, I’ll write more of that.