Monthly Archives: December 2014

An Imperfect and Disjointed Reflection on 2014

Imperfect Reflections

Photo Credit

Whew! It is almost time for 2014 to become history and 2015 to bring with it what it will. If I’m being honest, this statement brings with it equal parts relief and nervousness because many of the events of 2013 and 2014 have wrecked me. As I reflect on everything I’ve lived through and learned, I am at the place where I am beginning to see some of the amazing blessings that are coming as a result of it all.

I used to be really good at putting words together about life. I wanted so badly for my life-long anthem to be focused on being a quiet, simple woman whose purpose was to focus on the exceptionally average. I’m starting to see and accept that, while the principles are something I will always hold dear to my heart, it’s not God’s plan for me to camp on that solitary theme forever. The season of living in a comfy cocoon is now one to look back on. There was nothing wrong with that time in my life, and one of the reasons I’ve been wrecked so much is because I’ve not wanted to let go of that simpler time in my life: the time before I took all of the words that used to flow so freely out of my fingertips and had to start making sense of them when applied to legitimately difficult circumstances.

The making sense of it all has left me speechless. I haven’t been able to piece together anything that could do justice to what I was realizing. I would either sound whiny, overly-dramatic, angry, or confused – likely because that’s how I felt. I was also paralyzed by fear at the thought of sharing too much of my story. One thing I’ve learned about our life stories is that some parts of them are meant to be shared while other parts need to be sacredly yours and God’s alone.  It was easy to be an open book before I had oppressive battles I was fighting, but when things started getting real, ugly, and resolved without a promise that this would definitely be the end of that trial, I didn’t want to even open up the book I was living some days.

So I’ve been the most quiet I’ve ever been in my life. Yet lately I’ve been feeling a gentle stirring in my spirit that it’s time to start sharing my story with others little bit by little bit.

Now that I’m realizing life isn’t about coming out on the other side of tough times, it’s about living a life of freedom in spite of the uncertainties that make up our time on earth, I’m not putting the pressure on 2015 to deliver a series of dreamy experiences because 2014 included some crummy ones. Life will always have struggles and challenges, but I don’t have to be defined by them unless I choose to be. I lived many good days this past year, and I choose to remember both the good and the bad because they have worked together to teach me some lessons I desperately needed to learn.

I’m in a peaceful place as I reflect on the life I lived this year. The word I chose as my one little word for 2014 was favor. It has looked dramatically different than what I pictured, but it has become beautiful to me. I have messed up, I’ve found victory in areas I never thought it possible in the past, I’ve cried hard and laughed hard. This has indeed been a favorable year. As I look ahead, I’m thrilled at the prospect of living out and sharing my one little word for 2015.

From Now On: A Christmas Miracle

When I read the Christmas story each year, God gives me the gift of a new lens, known as another year’s experience, to filter the spoken and unspoken details of those precious participants who lived out the story without the benefit of knowing what would happen next.

In our current culture, I’m constantly blown away at how much humanity seems to thrive on a good scandal. Before all of the facts are in, a vehemently-drawn line has been drawn with people spewing assumptions they believe to be true.  This problem isn’t a new one. Mary would undoubtedly agree.

We don’t know her entire back story. It’s easy to assume she was the best good girl you could ever meet, and while she very well may have been, one thing I’ve learned from living is that God tends to use us in big ways after we’ve proven our faith is genuine. We can’t prove our faith is genuine until we’ve endured trials.

When the angel visited Mary in Luke 1:28, he called her “favored one” and just a few minutes later reiterated that she had found favor with God. (Luke 1:30) My reading lens this year can’t help but ask what Mary had gone through to make the God of the universe point His loving finger at her and say, “Her. I want her to be a part of this fantastic plan I have for mankind.”

To live out the gift that God gave Mary, she had to have a faith that could endure all kinds of whispers of scandal. She had to be okay with the fact that some people would never believe the truth, that the very Son of God was divinely growing inside of her.

As I’ve thought through this fact this year, I appreciate the power of God’s grace even more. He gets His children through the most humbling and devastating circumstances so that we can come out on the other side clinging to a gift more precious than we could have possessed otherwise.

I was touched by the observations and declarations that Mary made in her song of praise to God shortly after she began carrying the Christ-child. The words that we choose to speak about God and to God say much about what we’re experiencing.

And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,

  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
  For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

                        Luke 1:46-55

From now on, generations will call me blessed” she said. The specifics of what that young woman had endured to make that statement will remain a mystery to us, but that’s one of the things that’s so beautiful about the love and grace of God. He knows every detail of our stories, the things about our pasts that have caused us to feel shame, the dreams that fell flat, the tragedies that tore us up with grief, and He pours His love and grace all over them to make a beautiful gift.

Maybe you, like me, have had a difficult year. No one but God will ever know or understand how the challenges have wrecked you and changed your perspective on so many aspects of life. That’s kind of a gift in and of itself, don’t you think? Sure, what has happened matters, but what is actually important today and in the future is the from now on. My prayer this Christmas is that others can see how blessed I am by my almighty, loving, merciful, and faithful God and want even more of His grace themselves.

Merry Christmas friends!

The Abridged Tales of Car Buying with Kids

We bought a new car recently, which is the hugest blessing. The stories I could tell about why we needed this new car are enough to write an entirely new post, but we will settle for the abridged version: we now have two whole rear view mirrors (Hallelujah and amen!) and my prayer every time I get in the new car has changed to “Thank you so much, God, for blessing us with a reliable car!” instead of, “Lord, PLEASE keep this car from blowing up in a dramatic fashion that matches the noises coming from the engine.”

Anyway, the salesman we worked with was a nice young man who is completely happy with the status of being unmarried and not at all interested in being a parent. (Side note: Does it officially make me old that I used the term “young man” without catching myself until rereading the sentence? I think he said he was 26. Where has my life gone?) We talked with him quite a bit during several visits to the dealership to find the right vehicle, and on the second-to-the-last visit, we decided to be brave and bring the kids with us. Because car shopping an hour before nap time with an almost 2-year-old and a 5-year-old would obviously go well…especially if you remember halfway there that you forgot your daughter’s pacifier.

It just happened that this brave trip was not a bust because we found our car! By we, I mean my husband and the salesman. Meanwhile, I found several creative ways to convince Daisy that the fish in the fish tank were not going to make an escape and attack her while simultaneously reminding Dash that, while he was physically capable, he wasn’t actually allowed to help himself to the popcorn in the popcorn machine. Also, I did not have any change for the vending machine and no matter how many times the two of them said that the cookies and candy inside looked yummy, they wouldn’t be getting any today. At the point that nap time was officially upon us, my husband returned from the test drive and asked me if I was ready to go give it a spin. Daisy replied for me by throwing herself down on the front steps of the dealership so she could properly sob uncontrollably about not having her own water bottle. A girl is entitled to feel deeply about things.

CarRideOne of our last adventures in the old car. Here’s to many new ones as we drive around the new one!

Fast forward to later that afternoon when we had secured a babysitter and were back at the dealership to get the car. I was finally taking that test drive and we chatted with our salesman friend while we drove. He admitted that the very thought of having kids terrified him. I’m sure that observing the angelic behavior of my own kids earlier that day did not in any way solidify this fear. I chuckled inside as I contemplated how on earth I could convince this guy that it’s a worthwhile venture. I mean, until you’ve actually found yourself responsible for the health, well-being, education, nutrition, and discipline of a child, it’s tough to understand that the crazy that consumes your life is truly worth it. That it balances out with the incomparable love that you feel for your child.

The first moments after Dash was born and my parents were getting to love on him for the first time, my dad said, “Your life just changed forever.” I wasn’t prepared for the terror that I felt at that reality. How on earth had I not considered the depth of that fact until that instant when I realized he was so right? My life would never, ever be the same, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Then Dad finished his thought, probably because he noticed how wide-eyed and panicked I was looking, “But it is so worth it.”

These are all of the things that were going through my mind while I was test driving a car with a guy who laid it all out there to us by saying, “I’m far from ready to take on being a father.” I smiled and said no one is ever 100% ready, but when it’s the right time, whether you think it is or not, it’s one of the most fulfilling gifts you could ever get in life. I have no idea if he believed us or not, but I’m pretty sure my husband and I both drove home in our new car with not only a new plan for how to minimize the amount of kid-inflicted scuff marks on our new seats but also an extra smile or two at how blessed we are with the little feet and hands that will “accidentally forget” and make their marks on the car just like they do in our hearts.

 

33 Lessons from Life

You only turn 33 once, and today is my day. 😉 As I’ve reflected over some of the things I’ve learned in my years on this earth, I decided to record 33 of them on the blog today. Here is my list in no particular order. What would you add?

Lessons from Life

1. Reading is a joy that deserves your time. Read to learn, read to enjoy, read to escape, read to relate, read to unwind.

2. Take care of your body. Eat a balanced diet, exercise whenever you can, moisturize, get a good night’s sleep, work to maintain your spiritual and emotional health. These are all key to being able to truly take care of those you love.

3. Never take the lives of those you love for granted. I don’t think it’s possible to fully comprehend how to do this until you’ve come close to or have actually lost someone dear to you, but do your best. The pain of loss can’t be prevented when it happens, but it’s not quite as sharp if you don’t have lingering regrets.

4. Comparison is a dangerous friend. Don’t compare yourself to others; don’t compare one season of your life to another. It’s an exercise that will both exhaust and confuse you while keeping your from fully appreciating the life you have right now.

5. Wolves in sheep’s clothing are real. They’re dangerous and will attempt to devastate you. God is stronger than them, and He will ultimately be victorious, but be on guard and depend on Him for discernment and deliverance.

6. Now that I’ve had a taste of working outside the home part time after five years as a stay-at-home mom, I’ve learned numerous invaluable lessons. One of the biggest ones is the ability to say with confidence that being a mom is just as hard and rewarding whether you’re home with your kids 24/7 or not. (See number four about comparison.)

7. Hold onto good friends.

8. Find a hobby and carve out time to invest in it at least once a month.

9. Go on at least one date a month with your spouse. No matter how much you believe you’re being a great parent, employee, steward, or whatever adjective you want to believe to be true by putting it off, you’re only fooling yourself.

10. Parenting is not about you. It is in the sense that you have countless opportunities to learn how to improve yourself, but you have an obligation to let go of your children a little more each year that they live so they can be their own people.

12. That being said, your kids will never outgrow needing you on some level, so you have the gift of parenthood for your entire life. Do your best to find a healthy balance of being involved in all seasons of their lives.

13. You will never make everyone happy all of the time, and this is okay!

14. You can have wisdom! Pray for it. (“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5)

15. The Bible mentions the importance of rest, waiting, and being still far more times than our culture’s demands make you believe you need to be busy. Busyness does not equal a successful and fulfilling life.

16. Don’t take your health for granted. Each day that you feel good is a gift of grace, and there are many people who aren’t given that privilege. Cherish the days your feel strong, and ask God for strength on the days that are rough. Trust Him and thank Him in both circumstances.

17. No matter how many years and earnest efforts you put into being good all of the time, you will eventually need an abundant dose of grace.

18. Thank God every day for something you love and something that is a challenge for you to enjoy. Gratitude is a natural product of spiritual maturity.

19. Prayer is powerful – really, really powerful. God has changed His mind on more than one occasion after listening to the prayers of His people.

20. Life is not about here. It’s about the future, eternal hope we have in Jesus. When life seems to keep getting crummier, remember that heaven is where our treasure lies. You aren’t to the place where it’s all worth it yet, so just keep waiting for it.

21. Anxiety is a beast that wants to destroy your life. It can attack when you’re vulnerable and even when you think you’re going strong. Never stop fighting it with Truth. (Philippians 4:8 – “Finally brothers, whatever things are true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about things.”)

22. Perspective is one of the essentials to living a free, happy, peaceful life. Life can be hard, but God is always good. We all face seasons that are abundant in fun as well as times of trial. We need all of them.

23. You do not have to be defined by what others believe to be true about you, so choose not to be. Instead be defined by God’s love and grace.

24. You are able to survive on less than what you think you need.

25. You are never going to have it all together. Embracing this fact and owning your strengths and weaknesses are incredibly freeing and allows you the opportunity to relate to others and let go of the comparison game just a little bit more.

26. You don’t have to have all of the answers to trust God. The world is full of confusing and heartbreaking situations. Spending all of your energy to try figuring out why bad things happen will deplete your hope. It’s not your job to understand, it’s just your job to trust God. (Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the LORD with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”)

27. Love. It’s one of the most misunderstood words in the world. The expectations and definitions that the world, and even at times the church, place upon it are skewed. Look to the very One who is love’s originator to see it define and transform your life. The world will know you are God’s by your love. (John 13:34-35 – A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”)

28. God’s will for you life is not a specific job that you are never to waiver from throughout your life. His will for you is to fear Him, love Him and others, serve Him, and follow Him through each season of your life. The way you do that will change as you change. Just because you had success doing something in the past doesn’t mean you should do it forever.

29. Don’t resist dreaming. God has dreams for you, so you should dream about them, too.

30. There’s much learning that happens in the waiting. Enjoy the waiting periods in your life, but be ready to let them go when it’s time to take action.

31. Be responsible for your words and actions. When you’re mad, vent your frustration privately. When you don’t know the whole story, don’t assume you do and spread false information. Gossip is one of the most deadly poisons. No matter who shares it with you and tempts you to join them in partaking of it, run away!

32. If you do something because you’re inspired by guilt, God is not the one inspiring you to do it.

33. Everything you create doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. Strive for good, flaws and all. You never know what “good things” you share with the world will be a catalyst to change someone’s life for the better. Those who are truly inspirational in the world let go of perfection and chose to be brave enough to be vulnerable.

Favorite Christmas Movies

This intensely deep post is brought to you because of the fun little photo a day challenge I decided to take on this December. I’ve done these kinds of things before from time to time, and I really enjoy them in small doses. Now that I check my Time Hop app every morning, I’m even more happy I’ve done the challenges in the past because nothing is more sad now to see no posts for a certain day in my life’s history. Or if I happen to have some awkward status post from my younger years come up on my Time Hop to remind me that I really was that naive, immature, or obsessed about being without a phone for a week of my life, it’s much nicer to have a fun little picture to soften the reality check. Haha!

Anyway, my post for December 2nd asks me to somehow incorporate my favorite holiday movie in a picture. I’m feeling undue stress over deciding what movie is my favorite. Which one do I pick?!? Just one movie???? I feel like I need to break it up into categories or something.

The best classic Christmas movie award goes to……………………………extended drum roll please, because I am still trying to decide what makes a classic a classic. When I move past that, I feel like I’ll be snubbing so many worthy contenders. It’s A Wonderful Life has such a powerful message.

Its a Wonderful Life

White Christmas is the one classic movie I watch without fail every Christmas season in recent years while I’m wrapping or crafting presents.

White Christmas

I’m going to make my brain hurt if I start thinking of more classic movies. Then I’ll start hyperventilating if I think about the unfriendly debates that could ensue with people who would disagree with my choice. So I’m not going to pick one.

The best romantic comedy Christmas movie award goes toWhile You Were Sleeping for many obvious reasons.

While You Were Sleeping

Sandra Bullock is beyond adorable and relatable in this one. Is it over-the-top unbelievable? Absolutely. That’s one of the things that makes a Christmas movie so charming to me. I also distinctly remember the first time I watched this movie. It was with my mom and sister in our cozy little farm house on a snowy evening. This was one of the very first romantic comedies I watched, and it will always hold a special place in my heart whether it’s Christmastime or summertime.

The best animated Christmas movie award goes toRudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Rudolph

I remember watching it every year on TV and what a big deal it was when there were holiday specials on network television. Plus “missfit” (yes I spelled it this way on purpose) was my self-appointed nickname in my teenage years as a play off of my a common mispronunciation of my maiden name, Fite. (See why I spelled misfit that way? I had a reason. 🙂 ) It’s also my son’s favorite Christmas movie, so that makes me extra happy and fond of it, of course.

The best family Christmas movie award goes toElf.

Elf

Duh. It’s so quotable, and hilarious, and nearly the entire family can enjoy it, no matter their age. “I like smiling. It’s my favorite.” Don’t be a “cotton-headed ninnymuggins” and disagree with me on this one.

So I still don’t know what I’m going to pick for my favorite holiday movie picture. Oh, the stress I must endure. It is hard to be me. Perhaps you want to weigh in. What’s your favorite holiday movie?

Or maybe you want to join me and a few of my friends on taking the photo-a-day challenge. I got my prompt from A Content Housewife. If you decide to do it and share your pictures on social media, we are using the hashtag #capturingdecemberphotoaday2014

Yes, this is the first time I’ve actually used a hashtag somewhat seriously, and I know it’s excessively long, but I can’t go back and change it now. So if you’re up for the challenge, and only if you find it fun, join us!