Let’s talk about all those repeating New Year’s resolutions. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. Every year I get to the New Year, excited to make a new start and then look at the list from last year and just sigh. So many of the things I put on my list remain undone.
It’s really important to take an honest look at this whole New Year’s resolution thing. For some of us it’s exciting and we’re just thrilled and motivated to have a new blank sheet of paper or a new blank calendar so we can try again with a clean slate. But some of us lean into discouragement, and we’re like “Ugh, I don’t want to do that again, I failed, I failed, I failed, I failed, I failed.”
Before we go any further, I just want to affirm one thing: all of us are failures.
All of us have put things on our New Year’s resolutions that we haven’t gotten done. Anyone who tells you that they got all of it done exactly how they wanted is really not being honest. I have never known anyone who got done everything they wanted to do.
So I think we need to give each other a really big hug and embrace the fact that we’re all not getting it all done.
That’s not the point
Writing all. the. things. on a New Year’s resolution list just to go and do them all is REALLY not the point. Instead I want to suggest to you, and I really want to encourage you today that the point, of doing the New Year’s resolutions is to set a focus so that we can aim at something.
I happen to travel a fair amount, God offers me different opportunities to speak across the country or around the world and I have children and extended family that are pretty scattered across the country so I get to go visit. When I get on an airplane, I know that pilot has a a flight plan. I know he is going to follow that plan to deliver me from point A to point B. You can rest assured that I would not get on a plane with a pilot that’s just going to go for a fly that day and was hoping that I would come along for the ride… No. I wouldn’t do that, I want to get on a plane with a pilot that not only knows where he’s going, but has a plan to arrive there.
Like a pilot, I realize that in life it’s important to have that plan, and to be headed in a direction.
The primary direction that we should be headed in is to honor God in all that we say and do.
We need to make sure that we’re focusing on Him. And it would behoove us to plan a few steps along the way that will help us achieve this.
I want you to realize that I’m not coming at this as someone who does it perfectly AT ALL. I’m not coming at this as someone who accomplishes it all, in fact some years are much better than others. Some years, I can look at my list and think “Wow, I’ve really gotten a lot done” and other years I look at the list and go “I didn’t do any of that” and the reasons I don’t get them done are the same reasons you don’t get them done.
Sometimes life interrupts the best laid plans, or we get distracted and allow other things to come in and shift our focus. But in either instance I want to encourage you to not take those momentary failures as an excuse not to sit and make your list of New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I want you to take a fresh approach.
This year, prayerfully seek God as you lay out what you will focus on.
I thought this list from Neilson was interesting and I want to share it because I think you’ll probably relate to these top ten resolutions for New Year’s.
- Stay fit and be healthy
Most everyone wants to put something like this on their New Year’s resolutions. We want to do better than last year. I find it funny that we write New Year’s resolutions right after the holidays and get tempted by all of those sweets that are still hanging around the house. Of course I’m going to put eat healthy on the top of my list! For the last month I have not been doing that. So that’s at the top of 30% of people’s New Year’s resolutions lists.
- Lose weight
Of course we want to look better and stay fit and trim. But I would suggest that it’s not always the physical weight we need to lose, but the stuff of life, I think we all have those responsibilities that we’ve taken on that God would not ordain but we went ahead of him and took it on anyway. Or maybe it’s the stuff that clutters our minds and our houses that’s the weight that we need to lose this year. Take an honest look at your own life, is there something you need to shed?
- Enjoy life to the fullest
This one really resonated with me even though I had already written my New Year’s resolutions for this year. Because so many of us, myself included, get caught up in the doing, that we miss simply being and enjoying those moments that God puts out in front of us every day.
- Spend less, save more
I would have added at the side of this one to Give more. Not just financially, but give more of ourselves to the people around us and not give as much to the computer or our digital lives.
- Spend more time with family and friends
Oh how I would encourage you to do this. This is actually one of the things that I want to do more. This year I have resolved to spend more actual face time with my people. I really hope that in this new year that you and I will take time to be with real people in real time including our husband, children, and friends.
- Get organized
Well my good friend Kristi Clover can help you with this one because this is not my forte. I really do strive to be more organized and file more, my file pile is about 3 inches tall and I’m hoping to get it down to nothing. We can do this!
- Learn something new or have a new hobby
This year I have resolved that I want to become more in touch with my artistic side. I have a son that’s in art school and I just love what he is able to create and I have another one who’s an artist and my daughters write beautifully and I just really want to take time to slow down to take some time to step away from the computer screen and be a little more artistic this year.
- Travel more
I just want to enjoy staying and being around town here in Charlotte. I travel a lot to the airport and I love to be home but we’re actually going to be doing some fun things in our area this year and I’m really looking forward to that.
- Read more
If you’ve been around here for a while you know I am passionate about reading. I recently read some statistics on the amount of people that read and I was actually really disappointed that so very few people actually read after they graduate high school and even less after they graduate from college. That’s so sad to me to know that so few of us are growing our minds by reading. I’m working on a post to share soon that’s my reading list for this year and I really want to encourage you to be growing your mind through reading. One of the books on my list is Love God with All Your Mind by J.P Morlin. He advocates the importance of Christians to be reading across the disciplines to become better people and better advocates for the faith.
There’s more to it
That was a great look at the popular resolutions, and there are really are some important things on that list. But I want to challenge you to take it a little further. I have another list for you.
I want to encourage you to dare to dream.
Sometimes resolutions feel like just a dream that we dare to put on a list. But really, that’s exactly what a resolution is.
What could we dare to dream what we could accomplish by the end of this year with the strength of God.
“The world is yet to see what God can do with a man or a woman fully consecrated to him.” – D.L. Moody
That takes dreaming, friends! What has the Lord put on your mind this year? To change, or to be, or to start. Spend some time listening for a word or two from Him in this area of resolutions.
I also want you to dare to attempt.
It’s really easy for us to want our kids to do great things for God. But mom, what about you? What amazing things are you going to attempt?
For my fiftieth birthday this last October I actually went and jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. And while that’s not for everybody, one of the reasons that I did it is that I want to do hard and daring things so that I can continue to inspire and motivate my children to do hard and challenging things.
We need to attempt because it’s in the attempting and in the dreaming is where we find that we’re daring to fail.
There’s a really great movie called “Meet the Robinsons”, it’s a very unique view on how a family deals with failure. Believe it or not, in this movie the family actually celebrated failure. If we’re going to dare to dream this year and if we’re going to risk and attempt we’re probably going to fail, and how we model failure to our children is going to be really important.
I think often we start cutting back on the things that we want to risk, but I really believe that we have an amazing opportunity to continue to risk, to attempt, to dream, and yes fail. And in all of that, we have the blessed opportunity to navigate failure in a beautiful, God honoring way.
I want to dare you to grow.
Grow in the spiritual roots that are laid out Galatians five. Dare to grow in the fruits of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self Control. Look at that list! Where are your strengths where are your weaknesses? Would you dare with me this year to grow your weaknesses and your strengths?
I know all this talk of lists and change and growing and daring can be overwhelming. But trust me friends, it’s not meant to be.
Scripture is heavily laden with pointing us to living intentionally.
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who believe in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
If you are feeling down and discouraged and even under condemnation from the enemy because of your past failures, scripture clearly says that is not of God. Rather, His grace is sufficient in our weakness. You are free.
It’s hard for me, a recovering perfectionist, to admit that I didn’t get it all done last year. But by the strength of God alone I can face 2017 and write some of the same things I wrote last year and go forward with the strength that comes from God alone. that is what he calls us to.
“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid, do not be dismayed” Joshua 1:4
Go forward in God’s strength and look forward to what He’s going to do through you as you submit to Him and live intentionally.
Write it down one more time, and let’s trust Him to work through the list this year.
On Mission In Kenya
It’s actually happening. I’m actually in Kenya on a mission trip with my daughter Molly. It didn’t get to happen last summer, which was a story in its own right. So naturally there was a little concern that the enemy would try and find a way to steal, kill, or destroy the dream this year. Praise be to God, we are here.
The time to travel here took 40 hours worth of clock time. We left the house early Thursday morning to meet the team at the Charlotte airport. A flight to Cincinnati was followed by a 6-hour lay-over. Then a long 8-hour flight across the pond to Paris, a relatively short lay-over, and one more long 8-hour flight to Nairobi. After making our way through customs, we still had a long, bumpy, and dusty ride through the middle of nowhere to Bomet, the location of Tenwek hospital where we will serve this week.
As my kids were growing up, I read many biographies of missionaries. The stories were typically amazing and heroic. I honestly can’t imagine the kind of travel they had to endure. They would be on the open seas for three or more months, watch people die along the way (sometimes their own loved ones), then hike for miles in strange new lands, persevere through personal illness, and eventually find a humble dwelling to call home. That’s the kind of sacrifice that makes our “long” travel time seem like a walk in the park. I guess I better count my many blessings.
Thank you in advance for your prayers on our behalf. There is real work to be done here in Bomet at the Tenwek hospital. Death is a common occurrence here. They simply don’t have the basics that we take for granted—things like soap and clean water for example. The OB/GYN doctors deliver many stillborn babies because the mother never had any kind of pre-natal care. This makes work in the labor and delivery section of the hospital a little more sobering and less joyous compared to a similar wing in the USA. However, the heart and mission of this hospital and the people serving here is beautiful. I’m sure we will help with a wide variety of health issues. I can’t wait to tell you the details when we return.
Yes, we will get to go on safari while we are here. I’ve been before, and you never can tell what a day will hold. I can tell you this much—it isn’t like a visit to the zoo in America. There are no fences, no separation pits, no zookeepers keeping close watch. This is nature at its wildest and most unpredictable.
I spent a few years of my own childhood in South Africa, so my heart goes out to this land. I love this country. I love this continent, and I hope and pray we can make a difference in the physical and spiritual health of the people we meet and serve this week. Thanks for joining us in prayer. Ask the Father of all Creation to do a marvelous work, to show Himself strong and mighty, and to let His love and grace and truth be known far and wide in Africa, Kenya, Nairobi, and Bomet.
C.H.I.L.L. O.U.T. – Outline Your Objectives
2 Peter 1:3
“…His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”
Chilling out can be difficult, if not impossible, when we are off focus. When we have forgotten why we are doing what we are doing, what the bigger picture is, what we are aiming for, we can be easily distracted by the unimportant, the trivial, the little stuff.
Stephen Covey wrote about the importance of focus in his best-selling book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The first three habits his outlines center around having a target. The first habit is “Be Proactive.” This means that we don’t wait for life to happen to us, but rather we set our course, engage in life, initiate, and participate. Second, Covey suggests that we should “Begin with the end in Mind.” We cannot start a journey until we have chosen a destination. And the third habit of the seven is “Put First Things First.” Again, we cannot know what the first things are until we have determined our objectives. Then we can know what the priorities should be.
As this applies to CHILL OUT, outlining our objectives is the next key step in our journey to being able to live life open-handed. What are we trying to accomplish in our roles as mothers? What should be our primary focus? This passage gives us help in answering those questions.
Our verse comes from the book of second Peter. This was written by the comeback kid: Peter. Yes, that Peter. The one who dared to walk on water towards the Master, but became distracted by the waves. The one who didn’t want Jesus to wash just his feet but his whole body. The one who denied Christ three times. The one who ran into the tomb. The one who was instructed by the Lord to, “Feed My sheep.” That Peter.
This verse emphasizes Peters reckless abandon and obedience to Jesus. Peter got Who He was. Here, Peter boldly declares what is available to us in the Lord. Here, he challenges us about our focus. Second Peter’s theme is Christian maturity. Peter’s book title would have been, “One Habit of Highly Effective Christians.” What’s the one habit? Knowing Him (John 17:3; Philippians 3:8).
For further consideration and study download your free study guide for Week 6 – dare to dig deeper!
In His Grace,
So, You Want To Hear From God?
Here is an inventory of question for you to pray through. You might want to journal through some of these questions. Go through them slowly and be honest as you consider them. Be quiet! I have taken the cues for the questions from Bible stories and noted the characters. Let Him speak to your heart through these stories from scripture. His Holy Spirit will lead you to the Father’s heart.
Perk your ears! If you find that He is silent, do not mistake that for disinterest on His part. He is listening. He knows and He cares. And He is in control. He may be waiting for you to ‘get it all out’, to work it through, to submit to Him. Let Him prepare the soil of your heart for His seed. His timing is perfect.
Do you really want to hear from Him or have you predetermined what you want Him to say?
Like Noah – Are you prepared to build a ‘boat’ to save yourself and your family? Are you prepared to witness to those around you even when all they seem to want to do is criticize and question you? Are you prepared to stay in the boat until He tells you go get off and not act rashly when the coast looks ‘clear’ to you?
Like Abraham – Are you willing to go wherever He asks you to go? Are you insisting on a map? Will you trust Him along the way? What is it that your heart has longed for that you sense He is asking you to sacrifice? Will you build the altar? Or are you trying to find a substitute when there isn’t one? Will you trust Him to keep His promises even in light of the required sacrifice?
Like Moses – Are you willing to ‘speak’ for God? Do you have excuses why you can’t instead of praising Him because He can? Are you arguing with the great I Am? What ‘Pharaoh’ has God asked you to approach on behalf of His people? Who is captive, waiting on you to speak up?
Like Job – Do you feel as though you have be stripped of everything? Do you wonder where God is? Do you find yourself surrounded by friends who are questioning God’s sovereignty? Or His fairness? Or His ‘right’? Are you praising God in the midst of your losses or have you chosen to curse your own life?
Like Esther – Are you in a position of influence? Have you forgotten by Whose mighty hand you have been placed there? Is there some issue or person you need to speak up on behalf of? Why are you hesitating? Do you fear God or man?
Like Gideon – Is God calling you to a battle field? What is the battle for? Where have you been? How are you arming yourself? Have you asked Him for help by way of His Holy Spirit?
Like Samuel – Have you ignored His call in the night? In your marriage? With your children? With your in-laws? In your neighborhood? At your church? Is He trying to call you ‘out’ but you’ve gotten comfortable ‘in’? Does being different scare you? Intimidate you? Is it beneath you? Whose voice are you listening to? Friends? The enemy? The TV? The magazines? Would you recognize His voice? When was the last time you heard it? What did He say to your heart? Do you really want to hear from Him? Why?
Like Jonah – Has God simply asked you to do something you just do not want to do? What is it? Why don’t you want to do it? Does it seem silly? Or too much? Or unnecessary? Or a waste?
Like Ananias – Has God asked you to pray or share with some one who is too lost or too mean or too difficult? Do you resent the idea that He would care about them after the way they have acted? Or treated you? Do you wish they would just get what is coming to them?
Father God, Give us ears to hear Your voice. Perk our ears to hear from You, to discern Your whisper, to distinguish Your promptings. You are the Good Shepherd and I am one of Your sheep. I am listening for Your voice so that I might walk in Your ways. Grant me the desire to follow only after You, the strength to obey Your commands, the perseverance to persist. You are my Master and My Lord. You are Worthy of my worship. You are Faithful in all circumstances. You are Sovereign over all. I pray that You would grant me opportunities to be still, know and listen. Speak Lord, for Your servant is listening.
In Jesus name, Amen
What Is God Up To?
If you have ever asked this question, you’re in good company. Though not expressly included in the Bible, there are indications that many had this same question. What is God going to do? Where is He in this? Why me? How long? When will this end? What good can possibly come of this situation?
We serve the Great Redeemer. That means that He is able to take all of the negatives in our lives and turn them into praise of His name. All of the disappointment, the hurts, the death, the failures, the regret, the tragedies, the adversities, the devastations, the attacks, the confusion, are no surprise to Him. There is nothing in our lives that He is unaware of, nothing He doesn’t care about. You can rest assured that He knows, He cares and He is working through it.
God is always in the process of doing two things: Glorifying Himself and Growing us. Always. How does He do these things through our difficulties and challenges? Why does He work this way? What should be our response? Keep reading.
In our celebrations, victories, successes, and accomplishments we often forget God. We don’t remember Him and His grace, love and faithfulness. We’re often so anxious to forget the trial and it’s challenges, so anxious to forget what’s been lost, that we also forget the hours we labored in prayer, how desperate we were to hear His voice, how anxious we were for His provision, His intervention, His direction.
When it happens, the break-though, the dawn of a new day, we move forward with great excitement. We want out of the desperate place. We don’t ever want to see that place again, with all of its hollowness, endlessness, and isolation. We step out into the light and try to forget. We just want to go forward.
But there are things in that dark and lonely place of solitude and desolation that need to be remembered. As much as we welcome the escape and the hope that accompanies it, we must not forget our profound need for God. In spite of our abilities and talents, our character and integrity, our dreams and aspirations, we need Him. We know we need Him when things aren’t going well, when we’ve been broadsided, when we’re “down on our luck.” But the reality is we need Him all the time, not just in the rough spots.
Often in our lonely places we don’t feel His presence, we don’t hear His voice. It is then when He wants us to lean in. He wants us to long to hear His voice, to tune our ears and our hearts. He wants us to want to hear from Him. When everything falls apart, when we realize that we can’t fix ourselves or our situation, when we finally turn off everything else and tune in exclusively to Him, He finally has our attention. In the silence He is preparing our hearts for what He has to say, making us ready, eager to obey. Then when He speaks not only are we listening, not only can we hear, but we are enthusiastic to act.
In this He is glorified in two ways: when we trust Him with our circumstances and when He does what only He can do, when He brings beauty from ashes. When we acknowledge our inability and our need for Him we are actually praising Him for who He is. He alone is Able and Worthy. When we are trying to work our lives without Him our actions say that He is unnecessary, irrelevant. It reflects a low view of God—that we don’t get who He is.
The more we understand who God is—His eternal nature, His power, His faithfulness, His grace, His mercy, His love—the more we trust Him. It really is that simple. When you get who He is, you can sing, “because He lives, I can face tomorrow; Because He lives, all fear is gone; Because I know, I know, He holds the future. And life is worth the living, just because He lives.”
As we face the trials and trust Him with them, others see Him in us. As we rest in Him, His sovereignty, His will, His love, others see us struggle well, they see us grieve with hope, they see us peaceful in the storm. And in this He is glorified. Through this He draws others to Himself. Beauty from ashes. Redemption.
The second thing God is always up to is growing us. God isn’t content with where we are today. He is constantly desiring our conformity with the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. His life here is the example we are to follow as we face each day. In Philippians 2, Paul reiterates the selfless, sacrificial life of Jesus that we are called to follow.
Our life’s path is one of sanctification. That is just a big word that means becoming more and more like Christ. Every person, every situation, every trial, every obstacle is meant to bring us closer in line with His life. As we lean into God and allow these circumstances to mold us, God is glorified. This is the purpose of our lives to glorify Him as we trust Him and as we are changed into the image of Christ.
When we can frame every life issue with these two truths we can face them, resolve to glorify God, and grow into the image of His Son. He wastes nothing. Nothing. There is no circumstance, no relationship, no problem, no dilemma, nothing that He cannot glorify Himself through and use to grow us. When we remember these are His objectives for our lives, we can stand firm, be strong and courageous, pray in all circumstances and let our lights shine.
For further reading:
If you don’t know God, this is the book for you. Tozer writes about the attributes of the Almighty. If you think your circumstances are too big or difficult for God, read this book. If you struggle with doubt, get a copy. It makes a great gift to anyone who is in a tough place, for yourself or for someone you love. It is in short sections perfect for discussion with friends or family, or even your kids.
This book was given to me when we were in the middle of unemployment. It dragged on for 22 months and this book ministered to my soul through the whole ordeal. Again it makes a great gift for yourself or someone you know is in a desperate place. It has daily readings of encouragement through the hard times.
When God Allows Rape, Joy Tan Chi-Mendoza (available for Kindle)
I met Joy this summer in the Philippines. She is married to the director of TMA, the home school organization there. She is one of the most joyful people I’ve ever met. I would have never guessed her story. If you’ve wondered about God’s ability to bring redemption, read her story. God glorified Himself through it and He not only grew her, but many others. The bottom line – she trusted Him who alone is able.
When The Going Gets Tough
Some days are bad. Some weeks are bad. Some months. Some years. Life is hard. Sometimes it’s just one thing, while other times trouble seems to come at you from all directions. Sometimes everyone knows, and sometimes no one even suspects. There are times in life that can only be compared to a wilderness experience, a lion’s den, or a fiery furnace. These are situations that challenge, if not shake, the core of your belief system. They demand your attention, your emotions, and your energy.
I have faced occasions like this before, but this time it was different. This time I wasn’t single. This time I wasn’t childless. This time it wasn’t private.
To say that unemployment can be tough is a gross understatement. When Davis lost his engineering job in April 2006, we tried to look upon it as an opportunity, an adventure. We couldn’t have been more right.
We thought we would land on our feet in a matter of months, certainly within a year. We thought that we might have to move—but hey, we homeschool, so no problem!
We thought we had the situation under control. More accurately, we hoped that it would be short lived. Friends who had walked this path before told us of long, arduous journeys that exacted a high cost, and we prayed that our experience would be different.
Our adventure turned into an odyssey, without an end in sight, but with plenty of mirages that tricked us into believing our destination was near. We seemed to be collecting broken promises and meaningless deadlines. We were constantly encountering incompetence and inaccuracy, but our inexperience was unable to identify it as such, which cost us dearly in money and time and opportunities and emotion.
Now, the point is not to compare our difficulties with those of others—that would be meaningless. When it comes to tough times, no one benefits when we enter into a competition of “My story is worse than your story.” Instead, we need to encourage those who are presently walking through tough times.
As we started to realize that our situation was not going to quickly resolve itself as we had hoped, we had to start finding ways to deal with the “temporary insanity” of it all.
When things are tough you start thinking, This won’t last forever. It’s just for a period of time, right? But what do you do when the sand runs out of the hourglass? What about when your financial, emotional, intellectual, and physical resources are depleted? What about when the questions significantly outnumber the answers?
Here are five invaluable actions we did together as a family that made all the difference.
At the beginning of a tough time, it’s easier to just keep on keeping on, holding it together and maintaining a stiff upper lip with squared shoulders. But time wears on everyone’s resolve, and determination dissolves into numbness.
The emotions started to build up as the roller coaster ride continued without a break. Our situation was overwhelming on several fronts. As circumstances became increasingly difficult, with needs we were unable to meet, my emotions came out to play.
I tried to hold it all in for Davis’s sake, for the kids’ sake, but finally the dam broke. I had to cry, and it had to be okay. And you know what? It was. It was more than okay.
There were days when I was just a puddle from the time I woke up. And there were other days when a silly thing would bring on a flash flood of tears. At first I felt guilty about crying. But you know what? My kids were feeling it too, and my crying in front of them allowed them to cry and acknowledge the stress of it all.
We would all just have a good cry together and admit how lousy the situation was and how we were not in control, though we knew that God was. Our tears and the freedom to share them not only began to heal our hearts, but we bonded over them as well.
Too often as moms we try to fake-it-till-we-make-it, but no one is fooled. Our kids deserve a safe place to admit what they’re feeling, and we must give them permission to do so by expressing our own emotions.
I grew up in a house characterized by laughter, but for a long time I didn’t realize that my childhood experience was not typical of most homes. As an adult I am so grateful for the abundant heritage of laughter my parents gave me.
Consequently, the Carman house has been a house of laughter. I believe that laughter is so valuable that I serve it up many times a day. But somewhere in the midst of our trials, I no longer granted myself permission to laugh. The situation was too serious, the stakes too high, the investment too extreme.
But once I stopped laughing, so did everyone else. The kids stopped out of respect for me and the seriousness of our circumstances. Our house became something it had never been before—way too serious. Big mistake.
It seemed to me that nothing was funny anymore. Nothing. My mother saw the danger and suggested some funny movies, classics like Bugs Bunny—my favorite! We sat down with some videos, and I started by allowing myself a smile. Then a giggle and an occasional belly laugh, before I burst out in a take-your-breath-away, eyes-teared-up laugh.
Talk about a good investment! Just like seeing Mom cry gave my children permission to acknowledge their own stress, seeing Mom laugh gave them permission to live again, to enjoy the day-to-day again.
Live Life Together
Bottom line: We were all in this together. The great thing about homeschooling is that you do so much of life together. You do things together that other families rarely do.
You eat three meals together. You do your grocery shopping and meal preparation together. You clean house together. You do school together—including going to the principle’s office. You go on field trips together. You go on business trips together. You exercise together. You are sick together. You see each other at your best and at your worst. You celebrate and you grieve together.
And when the going gets tough, it shouldn’t change the “togetherness” aspect of your life.
During Davis’s unemployment, we did things together that we had never done before. We cut costs together. We shopped clearance racks together. We did without together. We watched God provide together. We anticipated His faithfulness together. And we celebrated His goodness together.
Davis showed wisdom as he led us into the unknown of unemployment. He led us boldly before the throne of grace and continued to have regular Bible studies with us. We started in James and ended up memorizing part of Colossians. This time in God’s Word became invaluable to joyful enduring and faithful perseverance through our trial.
Davis and I also read several books together, including Heaven by Randy Alcorn and Joseph by Chuck Swindoll. These served to help us sustain focus in an ever-more-blurry situation. These times of Bible reading, memorization, and reading grounded us together in the truth that we needed as the enemy assaulted us with fiery arrows.
The children and I continued to read together, too. It was important to imagine faraway places with heroes and heroines, mystery, and intrigue. We devoured several biographies and some classics. These served as an escape from the everyday stress of the unknown we were facing.
In John 8 we are told that the enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy. And I believe his number one target is the family. The devil will stop at nothing to divide families, as he knows they are the foundational building blocks for churches and communities.
During our journey through unemployment, the enemy worked overtime to wreak havoc in our family relationships. Immaturity ran rampant as our circumstances worsened and emotions fluxuated. The storm raged around us, and panic began to set in.
The answer to panic is fervent prayer. When we respond with prayer instead of doubt or entertaining notions of to jumping overboard, we can know that the Prince of Peace hears and answers. Sometimes He calms the storm, as the song goes, and sometimes He calms His child.
Praying together as a family through the ordeal of unemployment was both the greatest and sometimes hardest thing we did together. Prayer is humbling. It levels the playing field. It lays the soul bare and exposes vulerabilities.
Just when I thought I might hold it together for the day, we would kneel as a family to pray and the tears would start.
Please understand that I am not talking about doubting, questioning, or blaming God. I am talking about openly admitting that the situation is tough and stressful. Simply put, I am talking about taking the mask off and being real before our children and the Lord. My kids have known for a long time that I’m not perfect. During this time they got to see Mom desperate for God, and it was a good thing.
Stress has a way of paralyzing us. It can sometimes inhibit reasonable thought processes. But God, in His infinite wisdom, has equipped His children to perservere through tough times.
Remember, overwhelming situations often bring tears, but it’s okay to cry together. Find something to laugh about together. Enjoy and embrace your life together. Read a good book together, especially the Good Book. And don’t stop praying together.
God is on the throne, and He will see you through.
I admit it, I don’t have much time to write a post this week. All of the kids are gone this week, and I get to plan for our school year. What I would have given to have this in years past. But I didn’t.
This week the two oldest boys are in Texas, all three girls are at a service camp, and the two youngest boys are at a Taekwondo camp (They will be home by 2:30). So the house is quiet, and I don’t have anyone to feed lunch or anyone who is asking me questions or needing to talk. I actually miss all of the activity, but I am grateful for this week to be able to think.
We actually have been blessed with a room we call the school room. It is nothing fancy, just a room with books and tables and my beloved chalkboard (a real blackboard). There are many projects who call the room home, too. Art supplies including glitter, construction paper, and a multitude of crayons, colored pencils, and markers also reside there.
When we first decided to designate the room the official ‘school room’, optimism reigned. I thought having a school room meant that all things pertaining to school would stay in there and when I wanted to, I could close the door. But it has not worked out that way.
Our school continues to spread throughout our house, onto the porch, into the yard, and of course into the car. We school everywhere. We cannot contain it. And I am finally all right with that. As the kids have gotten older they have created their own spaces for their main study area. Additionally they independently adopt places they like to do some specific subjects or projects.
For example, Savannah Anne likes to do her Mandrin Chinese at the bar in our kitchen, Molly likes to read on our gold sofas, and Lilly loves to take her reading outside. Ben and Joseph like to do as much as possible on the porch when the weather is nice. Otherwise they like a variety of places including the kitchen table, the sofa, and their desk.
So this week, with everyone gone, I get to do a reboot. The school room often become a ‘catch all’, a ‘holding room’, a disorganized pile of important I’ll-get-to-it-later stuff. This week I sort what I need to sort and make piles for each of the kids to sort through later.
I have found the top of my desk, which is encouraging. Now I will be scheduling and laying out our year in my fresh new Ultimate Homeschool Planner by Deb Bell. I enjoy filling in my new planner. The whole year looks like the pages: fresh and clean and open to great possibilities.
I love taking the time to consider all that God has done this past year as I list each child’s name and the goals for each one. This year I will technically only have two students. Clearly, I am working my way out of a job. Ben and Joseph are the only two that need help with their weekly planning. The girls will get their own planners (The Ultimate Teen planners) and lay out their studies. Next year Joseph will be doing that and I will only have Ben, but something tells me that he will want to be doing what his brother does. So, goodness, this might be my last year planning like this. Snuck up on me.
We are members of a co-op and I will begin working on the syllabus this week, too. Our group focuses on Bible and we also do worldview, history, and science. We have students K-12.
It is a great privilege to work with other families as we seek to honor God in our homeschooling journey. I will be teaching the whole group New Testament books as we begin each week. Then we break out into ‘grades’ to tackle history and science. Everyone is studying world history. And in high school we are doing several different Apologia books. This year we will be using the new Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics textbook as well as the new title in the What We Believe series: What On Earth Can I Do?
I want to encourage you to take some time this summer to do some planning, to set some goals, and to consider what God might do. Dare to imagine great things in His mighty name. He is Able!
Back to it.
Talk About a Slip Up – Better Make That Down!
Okay, so before I get to my story of what happened to me during a presentation this last week at a conference, I must back up and tell the story of my husband’s grandmother Nonnie.
Nonnie was a dear woman. Truly she was a woman who chose to live joyfully through all of life’s challenges, struggles, and trials. Nonnie chose wisely. She chose God, she chose peace, she chose joy.
She loved to tell stories when we would get together for a visit. One of her favorites was the time the elastic on her slip gave out. First I probably need to make sure we all know what I am talking about. I hope that you know what a slip is. I have noticed that they are not being worn very often these days, which is unfortunate. Anyway, for the purpose of review, a slip is an undergarment worn principally for modesty’s sake, so that no one can see through a skirt or dress. Like I said, slip sales are down.
Moving on, Nonnie was all dressed for that most important day of the week. She was in her Sunday best, walking in the church to worship God one Sunday morning. As she walked down the center aisle to find her regular seat, she noticed a friend and stopped to visit for a moment. It was during this interchange that she discovered her slip was not where it ought to be. Her slip, she found, was slipping. Already it had fallen below its intended station for maximum coverage and minimum distraction. The coverage and distraction locations were actually trading places.
All of this became apparent to Nonnie mid-conversation. Her mind was going back and forth between the conversation and the situation. Nonnie was a talker, and she was not going to abandon a conversation just because her slip was not cooperating. I do wish I had a transcript of that dialogue. When did she make her decision to act upon the impending catastrophe? She was center stage, in the middle of a casual chat with church about to begin, and her slip was letting her down — quickly.
Without skipping a syllable, without warning her friend, without the slightest blush or acknowledgement of even the possibility of embarrassment, standing center aisle, Nonnie allowed her slip to fall to her ankles. And as she continued to converse with her friend, she simply stepped out of the slip circle, she bent down, picked it up, folded it, and placed it into her purse. She kept her cool, never even apologizing, never mentioning, never a moment of self-consciousness. All was done. It wasn’t worth discussing at the moment, but it sure makes for a good story and it always made her smile to share it.
This last weekend, almost the exact same thing happened to me. I was speaking to an audience at a conference when I discovered that my slip wasn’t where it was suppose to be. It was a complicated moment. My slip was falling down and everyone was looking at me. I had to quickly access the circumstance. Here is what I knew: There were about 50 of us in a small space. There were mainly moms, but also fathers and some kids. The lights were dim so that they could see my Power Point presentation. And upon looking down, I noticed that my slip was visible below my skirt. Obviously it was decision time. Should I have them discuss some question among themselves and excuse myself? Should I just make a joke about it? Should I ask everyone to just close his or her eyes while I made an adjustment? Should I ignore it and passively let it do whatever it was going to do, hoping for the best? Should I be proactive and expedite the retreat of my slip by taking it off?
What would you do?
In a spit-second decision, I chose the last option. I do not know where I was in my outline, but we were too early in the hour to just let the slip dominate my thoughts. I had to do something. Since my slip was already dragging the floor, my maxi skirt hid it pretty well. I stepped behind the table, which held my computer, stepped on the edge of my slip, and pulled it completely down leaving a slip circle on the floor behind the table. Now I could finish my presentation.
When I was done, some attendees came up to talk with me, and there behind the table on the floor was my slip. I had to laugh when it was discovered. “It wasn’t cooperating with me, so I had to take it off,” I explained. Then I pushed it on under the table out of the way of our discussion.
So here’s what I learned. This was a minor thing that needed to stay a minor thing. When things which are intended to help us begin to hinder us, we need to make some decisions about how to go forward. The defective slip did not need to become the most memorable part of the conference for those in my workshop. In such instances, it is better to act proactively instead of passively. Most slip ups — or downs in this case — are best dealt with by doing what needs to be done and moving forward. No discussion was necessary as there will be opportunities to tell the story later. It will make the teller smile and the listener laugh. But at the time, all that could be done was to discretely step away from the slip!