Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hard Eucharisteo

I'm reading the new book that my favorite blogger just released: One Thousand Gifts.

I can't recommend it enough.  Next to the Bible it is definitely one of the top 5 life-changing books I have ever read.  Every chapter captivates and teaches.  There is so much to unpack that I could read this book every year for the rest of my life and still learn from it.  Even if you don't have a lot of money, I'd encourage you to eat some Ramen and  rice and beans a couple of extra times this week and use your grocery money to buy it.  You won't regret it.  Hundreds of women around the world are reading it right now and finding their lives transformed by it.

In the book, Ann talks about "hard eucharisteo."  Eucharisteo is thanksgiving.  As we learn to see God in everything, we give thanks.  But what about the hard eucharisteo?  Giving thanks in trials, big and small?

Sometimes I think I don't have a right to think my life is hard.  After all, some folks have far greater trials looming.  A child with cancer.  A baby who died of SIDS.  A shattered marriage and life.  Poverty in the third world.  An adult child's rejection of God.  Memories of horrific abuse.  The pain of infertility.  A frightening diagnosis.

But as my cousin reminded me, the fact that other people have harder problems doesn't negate the fact that I hurt and struggle.  My life may not be as hard as it possibly can be, but that doesn't mean I don't cry out for grace in the moments that stretch me and fill me with frustration.

The past year has been unbelievably hard for me.  Wondering where we would live, going through 4 months of constant nausea, losing my Grandma, seeing our town flood, buying our first home and fixing it up and the endless work and lack of family time involved in that, moving while caring for 3 children and carrying a baby, having placenta previa, going through chicken pox, 3 stomach flus, my longest labor yet, a newborn, and the busy holidays, having tons of company, and dealing with the continual exhaustion of having many small children.

The past two months have been especially hard.  Just when I think that next week will be easier and soon I will be able to breathe again, we get hit again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  A newborn baby's demands, sickness, holiday events, in-laws coming, Christmas activity, sorrow over friends with dying marriages, excruciating neck pain, the false accusation of a loved one, fueding in the church, working through disappointments and disagreements in our marriage, watching my parents' struggle to help keep her job and ministry (the Christian school) alive as some would seek to close it, misunderstandings, job insecurities, weeks of multiple night-wakings with baby, fighting amongst believers, a car accident where my husband wrecked the front of my mom's car (every Son-in-Law's nightmare, right?),  illness and a trip to the ER with our baby.

As I've been reading about hard eucharisteo I'm struggling to put it into practice.  It's easy to fill my list and count my blessings when the sun is shining and there is a chocolate dessert in front of me, but what about when I've begged God in desperation for sleep only to hear garbled wails for the tenth time in a few hours?  What about in the little annoyances that make you want to scream, like getting poop all over your hand as you change a toddler's diaper when you are a germ fanatic, and finding out your daughter stole a bunch of computer paper only to spill a whole bottle of Elmer's glue all over it and waste it all and create a huge mess?  What about when four kids are crying, a friend writes a nasty facebook status about you for no good reason, and the fighting seems to never stop and sleep seems like it will never come and you have too much to do, and the house feels like a disaster zone when you've spent hours trying to make it clean day after day after day?

It's in the slowing down to try to see, it's in the humbling of myself and the opening of my hand to receive His grace when I begin to see eucharisteo in the hard places.  He's working.  He's teaching me.  He's showing me His love.

Thankful for:

Medical treatment for my baby.
A baby who's living and breathing.
Wet wipes and soap to clean the filth.
A stronger bond than ever before when we've worked it through.
A gracious Mom.
A Dave Ramsey-inspired emergency fund to cover the repairs.
A child's creativity.
A husband's un-asked-for neck massages.
Healing from neck pain, even without a chiropractic visit.
Dad, whose compliments were rare growing up, calling me brilliant in front of tons of people.
A friends' apology.
Building character from the bricks of criticism.
A renewed belief in the sacredness of marriage.
Knowing I need God's grace to make it through the day.
A greater desire to meet with Him each morning.
New starts in relationships that have been strained.
The miracle of making it through a weekend on just a few hours of sleep.
The opportunity to train my children in godliness.
Needing to step out in faith.
Seeing God provide.
Learning to trust.
Empathy for friends going through trials.
Vitamins, coffee, hot chocolate and orange juice for the extra energy they give on a lagging day.
Chubby baby thighs, cheeks, and elbows.
Baby's wildly kicking her doctor in exuberance.
Dear friends asking if they can come stay with us when they visit.
A belated baby gift: dinner from Dominos!
Seeing her become a Daddy's girl.
The last moments I'll have to nurse a 3 month old.
A tiny girl sucking her thumb and grabbing her nose with the other fingers.
Hearing her little voice try to coo in spite of her rasping, mucus-lined throat.
The warm, hours-long hug of a strong husband when you are spent and just need someone to hold you through the night.
Having a home to share with traveling missionaries.
The kind words of  a sweet mother-in-law.
An answering machine message from our little girl who called from AWANA on my friends' cell phone to tell me she lost her first tooth.
The days ticking down until we see our tiny nephew's new face.  (He's due in April and even if he lives half-way across the world we can't wait to see pics!)
Knowing He has been and will continue to be with us through it all.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Appreciating the Grass You Have

The other day some friends and I were chatting about husbands and gifts.  It seems that a lot of husbands out there like to lavish humongous gifts upon their wives.  Huge bouquets of roses, fancy exercise equipment, large, elaborate homes, new vehicles, electronic gadgets, exotic vacations, diamond jewelry, dates at nice restaurants, etc.

Being that gifts are one of my love languages (with chocolate being my main love language *teehee*), a part of me sighed and thought inside, "That would be so nice!  If my husband was into giving me gifts like that I'd already have my nice camera that I've been working so hard for and saving for months to buy."
I also felt myself wondering.
Is my worth found in the number or cost of gifts given?
Of course my head knows the correct answer. 
But sometimes in our culture of idolatry, where celebrities are exalted and money is treasured above all else by so many around us, it can be easy to think so.
Where many friends spent thousands on engagement rings, mine cost $130.
Where some gals got to go to exotic restaurants for their first date, our first date ever, as in my first date with my first ever boyfriend, who is now my husband, was at Burger King.
Does this mean I'm not worth more than that?

The conversation went on, and I told them that my husband was the kind of guy who will only pay cash for what he buys me.
Surprisingly, everyone began saying,
"I wish my husband was like that!"
  "I wish we were debt free!"
  "I wish I didn't have to get the huge credit card bill at the end of the month
after my hubby has splurged on me."

So, it would seem that everything is a trade-off.
You may have a husband who likes to go all out and treat you like a princess.
But you'll feel the pinch financially.
You may have a husband who doesn't splurge at all. 
But you'll feel secure in knowing there's money to pay the bills.

What if the way my husband shows me love is in being careful with our money so that I can stay home and not have to worry how we're going to pay the bills?  What if the way he shows me love is in seeing that our needs are taken care of first and saving for emergencies? 
What if the sacrifices that seem small to the world are huge to him, when he grew up eating out at McDonalds about once a year?

I'm thankful for the ways my frugal hubby shows me love. 
He may have only spent $6 on me for Valentine's day but he picked out a snack and movie rental that I would like, gave me a little box of conversation hearts and a lovely handmade Valentine with sweet little somethings written on it.  He often gives me shoulder rubs and neck massages and helps put the kids to bed.  And because he is so tight with money and careful, we have food to eat, a roof over our heads, heat in the winter, life insurance, water, health coverage, and money to share with those in need.  This is far more than most people in the world have and I don't deserve a bit of it, or the love he shows me each and every day.

And as I've been saving for a nice camera, he's been doing hours and hours of research for me, even though he isn't into photography, because he wants me to get the best possible deal. I was going to go with the cheapest model but he's convinced I need to get the best deal for the money and spend a little more to get twice the camera. He's planning to give me some tax refund money to help out my own savings and he wants to buy me a nicer lens than I would have gotten for myself.

The world tempts me to believe that worth is found in material expressions of love or amount or cost of posessions.  But I have a husband who doesn't "buy" that.  He shows me old-fashioned, honest, sacrificial love.
I'm blessed!
The grass may look greener on the other side, but I know that it's not.  I have the yard that is just right for me and I'm thankful for it!

Friday, February 18, 2011

6 Years Ago....

6 Years Ago today, on a cold winter morning in MN....
A chubby little girl was born....
....and made a mommy and a daddy of two young folks.

We love our little "Cowgirl" so much!  Happy Birthday Alathia Joy!

She really wanted a Bullseye toy for her birthday so her Jessie from Christmas could ride.  Even though it's the world's hardest-to-find toy, we got her one!

Our tradition is to decorate the table with gifts and themed decorations so that when the child comes up for breakfast they get a "running to see what's under the Christmas tree" kind of feeling.  Then we let them open one gift each time we have a meal or snack so they enjoy their presents all day long. 

The birthday child gets to choose the menu for the day.
Ali picked Lemon Poppyseed muffins for breakfast,
Ramen noodles (uhhg--oh so healthy, right?) for lunch, and macaroni and cheese, rolls and butter, Jell-O, and veggies for supper.

A red hat from the Dollar Store and an iron-on-transfer purchased for $5 online make for a frugal but cute birthday outfit.

Ali remembered me saying that on my 6th or 7th birthday my mom made me a sewing kit, which I and the neighborhood kids used to make tons of little pillows and doll clothing.  So, she wanted one too!  Grammy made her one for her gift.

Auntie Kianna, Josiah's sister, gave her two beautiful dresses, which she needed, as well as some hair clips and make-up.  She was so proud of her painted nails!

A hand-made little apron from Auntie Kandina, Josiah's other sis.  It matches her cowgirl hat!

Got Ali's cake image here, online, so that making her a cake that would delight her was super simple and easy for me and only cost 1/3 of the price that it would have cost to order a store cake.

I got a package of 28 Toy Story Christmas cards on after-Christmas clearance for 59 cents.  I used the Jessie and Woody ones to make a birthday garland to hang in the dining room and saved the Buzz ones for Jer since he is saying he wants a Buzz-themed birthday in November.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Life is hard.
Love is hard.
In nearly 8 years of marriage we have weathered so much.
Job upheavals and uncertainties.
Financial difficulties.
Family problems.
Church issues.
4 minor car accidents
 (7 if you count the times people hit our parked cars)
65 hours of labor.
14 months of all-day nausea.
6 moves.
Several deaths in the family.
Screaming toddlers.
Fighting kids.
Tragedies among our friends and loved ones.
Friends moving away.
Splintered friendships.
3.5 years of lost sleep (with more months of this to come)
Angry words.
Exhaustion and Stress.

And yet....

We've seen so many good times too.

First looks at four little faces.
First giggles and steps.
Parenting together.
Praying together.
Laughter, fun, and sunshine.
Supporting hugs.
Meals with great friends.
Mommy's little helpers.
Daddy's girls.
Little boy kisses.
Vacations and camping.
A child's prayer for salvation.
Massaging out the fatigue.
Singing, dancing, little children.
Making up.
Coming together.
Dreams coming true.
God's provision.
Good health.
The love of family.
More than enough.
Church growth.
Loved ones finding new life in Christ.
God's strength when we have none of our own left.
New neighbors.
New friends and old friends.
First home.
Being best friends.
A comfortable love.

This Valentine's Day I'm remembering.   I'm weighing out our days together and I am thankful.
There is no one else I'd rather be doing this life with.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Finding Margin

This photo doesn't really have anything to do with my topic but I love it.  Josiah has read his Bible before work almost every single morning since we've been married.  It is my suspicion that his devotion to God is the reason he is such an amazingly wonderful husband.

You know how you have to learn some lessons over...and over....and over again?  I wish I could just "get it" the first time, but I don't.  Finding margin in my life is one of those things that I have to keep re-learning.  And according to older, wiser women I admire, it's something we have to continue to learn throughout our lives.
The other day I went to bed crying and screaming inside, "I hate my life!"  Now, a major contributing factor to my discouragement was that my neck was severely out of place and had been giving me excruciating pain for a week.  I should have just gone to the chiropractor but I absolutely hate to because it costs money and we don't have an abundance of that just lying around. 
So, my neck was hurting and I was majorly stressed.  Too much on my plate, too little sleep from a baby who has been waking up several times a night with a minor cold (after a month of sleeping-through-the-night), unbearable pain, and overwhelming chores.  As I stopped to consider why I was feeling this way, I realized, again, that it is mostly my own fault.  I was falling back into that same old trap that gets me every time. 
You know the one. 
You've probably been there too.
Someone at church asks for a little favor.
You feel like, Sure, I can do that little thing to benefit my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  Especially since my kids are in the children's programs.
Your parents ask for a few little favors.
We need to honor our parents and help them where we can.  Besides, it's just something small.
A friend asks for a favor.
She's desperate.  My life is about a million times easier than hers right now.  How can I turn her down?  She has no one else.
Someone offers you a money-making opportunity.
Hmmm, I really wouldn't mind some extra cash.  Especially since I'm saving for my first DSLR camera.

Look at these people that need ministered to.  I have so much I can offer them.  I need to make time to reach out.

And the favors, tasks, invitations, opportunities, and duties pile up and pile up until I feel utterly crushed underneath them.  Of course I can do these little things.  They are small, they are fairly simple.  But I cannot do them all simultaneously, and that's where I go wrong.

I continually underestimate how difficult it is to be a mother of four.
I continually over-estimate how much I can get done, because I am a firstborn, was raised to be fiercely independent and have always had to be "the strong one."
I fall prey to the deception of comparison and start telling myself, "Well, goodness, of course I can do that because I have 'all the time in the world' like people seem to think.  So-and-so did this and 10 more things.  My friend so-and-so works full-time and keeps a tidy home, bakes bread from scratch, and stays fit-as-a-fiddle and must think I'm the laziest thing ever.  So-and-so has 4 kids and gets twice as much done as I do, I need to be more like her."

What brings me back to reality?

Knowing that I'm not super-woman and I don't have to try to be super-woman.

Knowing that God wants me to serve Him, my husband, and my kids first.

Thinking about my personal goals and how each activity that I take on meets those
 (some people call these priorities, others call them a Family Mission Statement, etc.)

Reminding myself it is okay to say "no" and saying it.

Remembering that being an "abiding Mom" is more important than being a "doing Mom."

Realizing that my challenges are different than other womens' and thus I need to stop comparing.  Many friends don't homeschool or have half as many children, or have kids in preschool, or get help from the grandparents.  My kids are still very little, very needy, and I have lots of them!
After I take a breather, preach to myself, and realize the world isn't going to fall apart if I don't run myself ragged and work until I can't even walk by the end of the night, then I start jotting down practical ideas for making my life easier.
As much as I would have loved the extra money, I turned down 2 offers for extra cleaning jobs this week.  I love my 2-hour a week cleaning job but I don't need more on top of that, even if it does pay $15 an hour.

I'm going to stick with babysitting my friend's daughter, who is a very good girl and easy to babysit, one time a week instead of taking on an extra day and doing two.

I'm going to continue watching the 3 children of a friend who is in crisis but it's only an hour a week and should only be for another 10 weeks.

I'm eliminating any and all clutter from the house and paring down toys and clothes dramatically so it's easier to stay on top of the household chores.

I'm considering Once-a-Month shopping to save time and energy.

I've stopped asking tons of company over for meals until life slows down a bit more.  I love having folks over for meals, but find it immensely difficult to do with a breastfeeding baby, so I'm going to be very cautious about whom I invite and it won't be frequently.

I'm serving very simple, stand-by meals like tacos, pizza, spaghetti, and sandwiches.

I'm continuing to make school a priority--even though this means I sometimes feel out-of-the-loop with friends who hang out more, socialize more, and go to more events, while we stay home to get schoolwork done.

I'm not throwing birthday parties for friends and am letting others "step-up" to plan baby showers for friends instead of heading them up.  I've had 3 close-calls in February alone and it's very hard not to do birthday stuff when you know the person would be totally blessed by it.....but I am getting better in this area.

I'm making Date Nights and time with my hubby each day my top priority after time with God and memorizing Colossians.  Seeing a few couples' marriages implode in devastation has caused us to cling tighter to our vows, and I am really motivated to plan some fun, creative times with my incredible husband.

I'm seeking to adopt Crystal's phrase "Commit to Undercommit" this year as a way of reminding myself to carve out margin in a life that can get wound too tight very quickly.  My brother tells me all about the relationship-oriented lifestyle that people have in other countries and I want to live like that here, amongst the over-scheduled and frazzled, work-a-holic Americans. 

What are some ways that you are trying to find margin in your life? 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Recent Pics

 Ballerina Sisters
 A Swimming Cowboy Frosty?
 Katrielle and Marius--Little friends only 5 days apart!
 Wearing a dress that Ali wore at 6 months old, at 3 months old!
 Dressed up in her cook's dress-ups to make a double batch of oatmeal cookies
The gift of a hubby who's still in love...just because...
Morning devotions and a Wyoming sunrise while the household still sleeps

Little brothers who sometimes climb into each other's beds at night

She's not the center of attention AT ALL!

Modeling a Bible times costume for a school project

Warm 40-degree-that-feel-like-50-degree days in January

 Celebrating Grammy's birthday

 Got lost one day on the way to a friend's out-of-town home but it was a nice photo op!
To say she likes to color would be a gross understatement!  She colors for a few hours every day.  One day she was down in her room for 2 hours and came up with this big project she had made with glue.
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