Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Comfort in the Uncomfortable

Uncomfortable hardly begins to describe the way I feel. My stomach is uneasy. I watch my hands shake in trepidation. Fear has consumed me. I dread the criticism but hope for approval. It would have been better to remain in my happy place. Wouldn’t it?

I don't like to feel this way. Whenever possible, I avoid it at all costs. In spite of that, I know the unpleasant is often necessary.

My stomach feels uncomfortable when I choose not to indulge its every desire.

The aches of my body make me question the importance of my fitness goal.

Confronting my friend about a topic I know to be essential can be difficult.

I know I need to go there but I’d rather experience the comfortable. It is here that goals remain unaccomplished. Dreams will never be realized. Success will always be something left to attain.

Feeling a little awkward can lead to great benefits. Being ill at ease does not mean the outcome will be substandard. I just need to convince myself of that.

I witness pounds drop on the scale.

I complete a race once thought impossible.

My friendship deepens.

Sometimes, in order to achieve our desired result, we have to walk through the desert. During the course of the storm, we find our strength. Giants can be conquered if we struggle through the battle. Instead of staying comfortable in my happy place, it may be time to accept the challenges, take on the complicated and experience what victory truly tastes like.

"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love." ~ Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Revolutionizing My Example

I heard the phrase once and claimed it for myself that “I’m not yelling. I’m Italian. This is how we talk.” It gets a few laughs and casually excuses my lack of self-control. Unfortunately, when I look in the mirror of my children, I realize my response pattern is in no way a laughing matter. As Karol Ladd states in her book, The Power of a Positive Mom, “Like it or not, our life is an open book, continually read by the little eyes in our homes.”

I went into this year’s Hearts at Home conference this past weekend with a picture of my defiant 2-year-old daughter in my mind. My little girl will cross her arms as she places a scowl on her face and looks crossly down at the carpet and exclaims “I not pick up the toys!” She often yells at her sisters in an attempt to convince them to do what she desires. When they do not respond in agreeable fashion, she will yell louder and meaner hoping to get her point across. I often think about how exasperated I am with her behavior and realize that, sadly, I am looking into a mirror.

It is commonplace for me to attempt to diffuse fights between my girls or discipline through a strong, authoritative voice (read: yelling). When that does nothing to achieve my desired results, I raise my voice thinking the louder and meaner I yell; the more likely they are to obey. Dr. Julianna Slattery in her workshop, “More Than a Spanking?” shared how yelling is compared to the new spanking as we act out in frustration towards our children. “Yelling is the #1 source of guilt with moms as we realize how ineffective we are.” She spoke a message straight to my heart as I continued to look in the mirror of my angry 2-year-old knowing that she simply lives out the example she sees every day in me.

Jill Savage spoke about revolutionizing our motherhood. That was the theme of the conference this year. She shared that “God can revolutionize our mothering one wrong choice at a time.” It is in our wrong choices that we see a need for change. “As we own our wrong choices, we can move forward.” Jill brought her mother, daughter and granddaughter on the stage with her to stress the reason as to why we should revolutionize our mothering. Seeing the generations there on the stage, I heard her say, “The decision you and I make as moms effect generations to come!” As we look into the mirror of our children every day, we need to remember her next point, “Our children are our message that we send to a world we cannot see.” There certainly is power in our example.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Good Intentions, Goals and Dreams

We all have good intentions, goals and dreams. The good intentions seem never ending. Goals help those good intentions evolve into deadlines to accomplish something specific. The dreams are more than good intentions. Dreams are hope that one day we will set a goal but hesitate because they seem a bit unattainable at times.

I have good intentions every day to eat healthy, exercise more, and lose weight. These intentions are rather vague and I really don’t have a good standard to measure them against other than that terrible scale. This year, however, I set a goal to run a 10K on April 16th. I printed out a training schedule to help me achieve that goal and am happy to say that I am on track with that goal. My dreams are another story. Sometimes I don’t even fully define them. I just know they are out there almost unreachable.

I’m usually reminded of my dreams when I attend the Hearts at Home conference each year. Women speaking, writing or even turning their passions into tangible product to sell to others, leave me believing I can do the same. I feel a little spark while I’m away and the ideas spin in my mind of goals to help reach those dreams… until I get home. Then the dream fizzles a bit although it’s always out there hovering overhead almost taunting me.

Some blogs I have been following lately are promoting the She Speaks conference. It sounds like a conference I would like to attend some day. It’s one of those sparks that makes me admit I have a dream I’d like to reach one day. Yet reality seems all too real and I don’t even take a step toward the fuzzy hopes of what I’d one day like to achieve. Renee Swope, with Proverbs 31 Ministries is offering a Cecil Murphy Scholarship for women who want to lead.

My dream has yet to be defined. There are bits of leading, writing, and speaking drifting out in my thoughts. Someday I will pinpoint my dream and make it a goal. For now, it’s still a dream.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Here's to an Intentional Lenten Season

Fat Tuesday. Ash Wednesday. Lent. Growing up, I had no idea what these words meant. I didn’t understand why my friends didn’t eat meat on Fridays. Even as an adult, I almost told someone they had dirt on their forehead until it dawned on me that it was Ash Wednesday.

As I got older, I inquired of friends as to why they practiced what they did. I learned about all of these days connected to the days leading up to Easter and realized that those who could explain the reasoning behind their actions followed this practice intentionally and with meaning. My attitude towards the Lenten season changed from “Aren’t we supposed to live this way every day anyway?” to “Maybe I should give something up to strengthen my faith and teach me to lean on God a little more during this season.”

I noticed my 8-year-old looking intently at someone with the cross of ashes on their forehead yesterday. As we were driving in the car, I thought I would use the moment to educate her on something I didn’t understand until I was an adult. After explaining to her about Ash Wednesday and Lent, she had a question.


“Yes, Nikelle.”

“What is the best kind of gum to blow a bubble with?”

My husband and I just laughed. I suppose we aren’t always ready to receive the lessons we are taught.

“That’s a blog post right there,” my husband stated.

“What? Where?” our 5-year-old Jaycie wanted to know what she was missing out on. Laughting at the situation, I listened to my 2-year-old demand more gum and continued to contemplate the season of Lent.

While I am supposed to daily take up my cross, deny myself and follow Christ, I don’t always do that. I think Lent could be an intentional season to prepare my heart for remembering the reason behind Christ’s death and the celebration of His resurrection. What I have learned is that whatever I decide to give up (or possibly even add to my life) during this season, it needs to be intentional. There needs to be a desire to lean on God and deepen my relationship with Him. I cannot follow this practice because a church tells me to or because everyone else is doing it. Rather it should be entered into with the same mindset of a fast. For a season, I will step up my commitment to God to remind me that I can never give up enough for Him.

When someone has given their life for me, I can never show my gratitude enough. I can continue to offer up offerings in an effort to display my thankfulness but I will always be in His debt and forever grateful. I think there is something to be said for the practice of Lent. Maybe as a reminder of how we should live every day. What are your thoughts?

“Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” ~ Luke 9:23-25

(I was also contemplating the practice of declaring to others what we give up for lent. “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16-18) The only reason I can figure for declaring this then would be for accountability. Therefore, it should be intentional when shared not just a declaration for the purpose of the season.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Get Back Up Again

When my girls were learning how to walk, we encouraged them to get back up every time they fell. When they try new things and we watch them get discouraged, we try to explain to them the importance of giving it another try. We want what is best for our children and sometimes that means allowing them to fall down and encouraging them to get back up.

Last year as my oldest was learning how to ride her bike. I was tempted to allow her to quit trying because it was what I wanted to do as well. Bettering our lives takes a lot of work. I knew it was in her best interest to keep trying. When she finally started to catch on, she wiped out on her bike. I knew the importance of getting her back up on that bike right away. It's always worth getting back up again.

I was on my treadmill yesterday after dinner because I made a commitment for a race in April. Without this commitment, I would have blown off my treadmill once again. I did not want to run last night but when "Get Back Up" by tobyMac came on my iPod, I became energized with the reminder that it is all about getting back up again. I'm going to stumble and be tempted to stay down. With each step I take, there is a great chance that I will likely fall down again. I need to remember that I'm not failing until I decide it is no longer worth it to get back up again.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Meditate on it

"So I have learned this rule: When I want to do good, evil is there with me. In my mind, I am happy with God's law. But I see another law working in my body, which makes war against the law that my mind accepts. That other law working in my body is the law of sin, and it makes me its prisoner. What a miserable man I am! Who will save me from this body that brings me death? I thank God for saving me through Jesus Christ our Lord!" ~ Romans 7:21-25

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Imperfect Parenting at its Best

How is it that one little wrong choice can make me feel lousy about the other 99% of my day? I can go throughout the day feeling good about my choices, thinking that I am a fairly good wife and mother, make healthy choices, exercise and clean the house. Then one little mess up will leave me in a world of guilt, speaking negatively to myself and wondering if I will ever change.

Yesterday was one of those days (I suppose minus the healthy eating if I’m honest – but I still felt good about the day). I took my youngest girls to lunch with my daughter’s preschool friend, spent the day doing profitable activities without the television blaring in the background and utilized naptime to exercise and pray. Rather than wasting time after school wandering mindlessly around my house wondering how much longer until my husband finally walks in the door, my girls and I organized their closets. It was one of those days I felt like repeating over again… until that moment.

Once we were done in the girls room (it had taken a little bit longer than I anticipated), I realized my middle daughter would be disappointed that she missed her favorite television program. To solve the problem, I decided we would just leave the television off (PBS only would be broadcasting for another half hour anyway). My 8-year-old daughter came down and asked if she could turn it on. I informed her that we were just going to leave it off today. A few seconds later, I heard my 5-year-old crying and yelling that she wanted to watch TV. (Arrrggghh!)

This is my moment of shame. The moment where I decided to let the venom flow from my mouth and spew all over my children. I knew it was the wrong choice immediately because we all know how untrue the little chant “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” is. Why is it I can’t take the words back that I speak or at least stop and think before it’s too late? I can attempt to cover the evil with sound reasoning (at least to my ears) but I can't get past the truth of the sin in my life that my words revealed.

I feel like I will never gain self-control in my life. I know this is a lie. Self-control is a Fruit of the Spirit and therefore, can be attained. I simply fail daily in some area of my life where self-control would lead to victory and end up feeling like a loser (which I know is another lie).

It was too late to take back my words. They were spoken and they caused my oldest daughter pain. I was now faced with another choice. Did I attempt to justify my words and condone in my head why it was legitimate for me to act like a jerk? Or did I take the moment to confess my sin and ask for forgiveness from my daughter and from God? There was only one choice to make to redeem my day. One choice that could pull me out of the pit I had jumped into.

I talked to my oldest and asked for her forgiveness. After some tears (and letting go of a lot of guilt on my part), I received forgiveness and realized God can use my imperfection for His good. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is enough for you. When you are weak, my power is made perfect in you.’ So I am very happy to brag about my weaknesses. Then Christ's power can live in me.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NCV)