Wednesday, April 11

Holding Patterns



     Just last week, while the girls were on spring break, we decided to escape the cold, gray winter that has been Buffalo, and head towards warmer weather for a few days. I've been holding out for signs of spring since March 21st, when the spring equinox supposedly started, but for all of you that live in the Northeast, you know that this particular winter has been long...so long...and the idea of "spring" is starting to feel more like an April Fool's joke than an actual reality.

     That said, we were very excited to get out of here last Wednesday-- we had our bags packed the night before, found the sweetest woman to watch our dog in her home, purged the refrigerator, printed our boarding passes and called an Uber at noon for our 2:15 flight.

     We checked our bags in, made it through security quickly and checked the flight board. While several flights had been cancelled due to high winds, ours was still "on-time"! Hooray!!

     That didn't last long. The "on-time" part or the hoorays...

     Over the next few minutes we discovered that our flight had been circling above the airport and couldn't land because of the wind. As a matter of fact, several planes from different airlines were all experiencing the same trouble, with  many of them already having been rerouted to Syracuse, Pittsburg, Rochester and Boston.  It wasn't long before we found that our own plane was being rerouted to Syracuse and that we would have to wait for further information on our new flight time.

     Fast forward five hours, several packages of chips, all of our coloring books and airplane entertainment for Aubrey used up, and an expensive airport restaurant meal later, we boarded our plane, and departed at 7:15.

   We landed at 10 p.m., rented our car, and arrived at our hotel in Cocoa Beach at 11:45-- it certainly wasn't the night we had planned, but I was so happy to wake up to 70 degrees and sunny the following morning, that I was ok with it all.

    As I thought a little more about that trip, I realized there was much to be learned in that long, full of waiting, afternoon. Namely, waiting isn't always fun, and it certainly isn't what we usually plan for (well, unless you're in line at Disney, but even then you can buy a Fast Pass these days!). Waiting is often unexpected and requires patience. Waiting requires a reframing of your expectations and perspective. Waiting grows your character.

      "Mooooommmmm!" Aubrey said at one point. Just. Like. That. Can you hear the dramatic, high-pitched whine?

      "MMMOOOOOMMMMM! When ARE WE GOING TO GET OUT OF HERE? This is...BOOORRING!"

       Yes, my dear it is. But it is also a part of life. A part of life that, in fact, God really likes to use to help grow our character.

      I love what Paul says in Romans 5. While he doesn't use the word "waiting", I think that the essence of his message is the same:

      "We glory in our sufferings (waiting, which can feel like a common form of "suffering" when you're 4, or 39 for that matter!) because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."

      There are many things that I have had to learn to wait to come to fruition:  There are relationships I have had to wait for healing in, people I have prayed for and waited for change to take place in, there are important lessons we try to teach our kids, and then wait and hope that our instruction takes root in their hearts. There are dreams in my heart that I'm still waiting to pursue, and perhaps most importantly, because heaven is our final home, there is a waiting in our souls for all of life to be redeemed through Christ.

      Life, it seems, is way more about waiting than anything...for the good stuff anyway.

     As I thought more about our original plane, circling above the airport in a holding pattern, I thought about how life can be so much like that sometimes. We are ready to arrive at our destination, we are impatient and ready to get to where we want to be, but life often reminds us that so much is out of our control.

     The formal definition of a 'holding pattern' is a maneuver designed to delay an aircraft already in flight while keeping it within a specified airspace. The plane may have arrived, but cannot land due to congestion, poor weather or runway availability.

     Ultimately, a holding pattern is not meant to frustrate, but to protect from danger. Hmmm. So, perhaps, when God has me in a season of waiting, my response should not be frustration or discouragement, but gratitude because I recognize His providence and protection.

     Because waiting produces perseverance, and perseverance hope.

     I have to remind myself, time and time again, that God is up in the control tower, with a much better view of the situation.

     Not only is His vision better than ours, but His omniscience allows Him to understand our past, present, and future and how it all ties together. He's not grounding you, or putting you in a holding pattern because he wants to taunt you, or challenge you. He's doing it because He loves you.

    As I continue to wait for this bitter winter to warm into spring, I am reminded that life is never static, it's seasonal and always changing. I am trying to embrace the seasons, see the blessings that God is providing in the midst of them, and wait with patience on God to reveal His plans, while I'm in my own holding patterns.

     After all, He's got us right where He wants us because He's deemed it the best thing for our lives...possibly for our protection, always for own own good.
 





Monday, November 6

A Forest, a Flood, and an Unlikely Star: A Book Review

          I recently received a copy of A Forest, a Flood and an Unlikely Star, a YA novel written by J.A. Myhre. The premise was a compelling one-- it's a story about Kusimma, a 13-year-old boy who lives in the tiny, fictional town of Rwendigo in the center of Africa. This young boy has lost his mother and has been abandoned by his father, is living with his grandmother and sick baby sister in a land where resources (money, food, proper health care) come only with great struggle, and sometimes not at all.



While the summary may sound bleak, the bigger story is about living life, one day at a time, in the midst of struggle and somehow finding hope and perseverance to live well. There are bits of family reconciliation and redemption at the end, and though they are imperfect moments, they are a reminder that we live in a broken world and that the best is yet to come.

 While I don't read a ton of fiction these days (mostly because mom-life is busy and I tend to lean towards non-fiction when I have the time) I figured I could make time to read  a book marketed as YA fiction, assuming it was a bit shorter than a full-length novel intended for an adult audience.


Here is a brief synopsis from the publisher: 

Just thirteen years old, Kusiima has no time for school, sports, or hanging out with the other boys in his African village. With no father or mother to take care of him, he works long hours to support his grandmother and sickly baby sister. Then one day, Kusiima’s life suddenly changes when he travels into a nearby protected forest. In the forest, Kusiima is presented with many choices, all with uncertain outcomes. Should he go along with illegal logging? Help to save an endangered baby gorilla? Follow a donkey to who knows where?
With each choice, Kusiima has to make yet another decision about what is right in front of him. As he does, he meets a mysterious doctor who holds the key to his past and his future. In the end, Kusiima is faced with the hardest choice of all. Can he forgive a great wrong and heal a broken relationship?

     J.A. Myhre, the author, serves as a doctor in East Africa and is passionate about health care for the poor. Myhre wrote this book, and two others as Christmas presents for her own children over the course of several years, which I think is incredible!

    A Forest, a Flood, and an Unlikely Star is an engaging and interesting story that explores a culture, and the multifaceted issues of poverty, the healthcare crises and other interpersonal struggles related to these things in many remote African villages. It is a beautifully written book, that excels in developing the characters, the land around them and how the people and the land impact one another.

    While I did find the book a bit slow in pace, I was intrigued by the story and wanted to finish. I needed to find out what happened to Kusiima and his family! It is a beautifully written story- I will always sit through a book-- even one that does feel slow-- if the writing is good!

    While this was written for the author's children and marketed as YA literature, it is not a book that many young adults (that I know) will pick up on their own.  That said, I think it's an excellent book to read alongside your young adult readers, to use as part of a classroom or homeschool curriculum, particularly while studying African culture. It's an excellent choice to help open a young person's eyes to the bigger picture of struggle in the world:  In summary,  YA's might need to be nudged towards reading this, but there will be great value in the experience.

    There is much to be learned and appreciated in this series of books.  I definitely recommend this book to young adult readers (maybe 10 and up?), as well as adults interested in the themes/landscape explored.


To learn more about J.A. Myhre and this book click here. To order A Forest, a Flood, and an Unlikely Star on Amazon, click here





{MORE ABOUT J.A. MYHRE}

J. A. Myhre serves as a doctor with Serge in East Africa where she has worked for over two decades. She is passionate about health care for the poor, training local doctors and nurses, promoting childhood nutrition and development, and being the hands of Jesus in the hardest places. She is married to her best friend and colleague Scott, and together they have raised four children for whom many of her stories were written as Christmas presents.









Friday, October 27

Are You a Woman Overwhelmed by Life? Check out This Book Review!

 




      What a title, huh?! 

      Wow, that’s a book for me if I’ve ever seen one, I thought.  

      Overwhelmed? Messes? Finding God in the middle? Yup. Yup. Yup. Sounds like my life. 

      But, I wish it weren't that way. I wish "overwhelm" didn't feel like my MO- my modus operandi- my go-to pattern of thinking and feeling. I wish my faith were so big, my perspective so holy, that I didn't let that bugger of emotion sneak in...stealing precious God-given joy that it has no right to steal. 

     While wishing doesn't usually get me very far, hope and prayer always move me in the right direction. Hayley DiMarco's book does an excellent job of encouraging all women in that direction: Yield...Let go...Pray...Trust = Less Overwhelm. 

      The truth is, I wasn't always overwhelmed by life...really, I wasn't! Were you?

       It turns out that this gig as an adult, raising children, it isn't as much fun or as simple as it looked way back when I was a young woman with ALL of the answers. When my parents told me that being an adult wasn't as much fun as it seemed (while I was wishing to grow up quickly and do things my own way!). I never believed them.

     It also turns out that doing things "our way" really isn't the way to go anyways, which is where I've gone wrong too many times in my adult life-- relying too little on God and too much on myself to navigate my days as a woman, wife and mother.  This choice hasn't always been intentional...sometimes we think we just need to put one foot in front of the other and muster through,  but the truth is that God offers a much better and more peaceful way.

   DiMarco calls us to take a serious look at our lives, at the things that are "stressing us out" and to reconsider them all in the light of prayer, in the light of asking God to show us what He is calling us to. Chances are, when we bring our daily task list to the light of God's word, there are a whole bunch of things that can be crossed off. And, if they are supposed to be there, then we need to start trusting God at a deeper level to fill us to the brim with His supernatural strength to muster through. He will strengthen us where we fill weak, provide energy when we're tired, and replace anxiety with peace if we are faithful to turn to Him. 

    Hayley DiMarco's central question in this book is an important one: Are we pursuing our mission or God's mission on a daily basis?   One leads to overwhelm, the other leads to peace. The hard truth is that many of us are living overwhelmed lives by our own making...not by God's leading. 

   In summary, DiMarco argues that most women are overwhelmed because they are trying to control the details of their lives without fully yielding to what God’s purposes may be—perhaps God is using the things we see as messes, or interruptions or distractions to our getting things done, to grow us into more patient, loving, and selfless women: Sanctification from selfish to servant.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book that I felt really nailed the issue at hand: 

“Control is at the heart of the god complex that I struggle so frequently against. It’s a condition suffered by millions of women across the globe, each of whom is sure that if everyone would just do what she told them, life would be so much better…Jesus knows the tendency of our hearts to want to pull the strings of life and control our worlds. He knows that we have dreams, plans, hopes, and that they all revolve around our getting what we want. And that’s at the heart of our overwhelming lives—we aren’t getting what we think we need.” 
  
"What is your normal reaction to interruption, failure, rejection and inconvenience? The mission of me is overwhelming because it is forever being interrupted. But the mission of God is never wrongly interrupted."

"When the to-do list doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, it’s easy to get overwhelmed that faithfulness, and all that goes with it is gone. You know that’s not how things are supposed to go, but you feel powerless to change it."

”If you wake up tomorrow dead-set on the mission of God (instead of the mission of “me”) resolved that love is the Instagram filter of your life, and determined that you won’t do anything without love being job number one, then tomorrow will be less overwhelming than today. And if you keep God’s mission as your goal for the rest of your life, you will find yourself less overwhelmed by life and more overwhelmed by your God."

DiMarco is very honest about her own weaknesses and failures in this book. I wasn’t sure I liked the self-depreciating tone at first, but I came to appreciate it by the end of the book. Her honesty made her feel more like a graceful friend than a hard nosed preacher. Thanks Hayley!


If you are a women overwhelmed by life who would much rather be a woman overwhelmed by God, than this book is very much worth the time it will take you to read it, even in the middle of your overwhelmed life!



Publisher Prize Giveaway!!!!

DiMarco and her publisher are currently running a super fun contest to help with at least one potential part of your overwhelm: cleaning! You can win a $75 Merry Maids Visa Gift Card...Click on the box below for details!

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of A Woman Overwhelmed
  • A $75 Merry Maids Visa Cash Card
Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on November 3. The winner will be announced November 6 on the Litfuse blog.



To check out the book on Amazon, click here





{MORE ABOUT HAYLEY DIMARCO}

Hayley DiMarco is the best-selling author of more than 40 books, including multiple books in the God Girl line, “The Fruitful Wife,” “Obsessed,” “Die Young” and “Own It.” As the founder of Hungry Planet, a company intensely focused on feeding the world’s appetite for truth, DiMarco speaks regularly for women’s groups and events, including Women of Faith, dotMOM, Precept National Women’s Convention and MOPS International. Hayley and her pastor husband, Michael, live outside Nashville with their daughter and four dogs.
Find out more about Hayley at http://hayleydimarco.com.




Note: I agreed to  write an honest review in exchange for a copy of the book via Litfuse Publicity. 







Sunday, September 3

Ode to a New School Year!



Today is September 3rd, and in our neck of the woods (Western NY/Buffalo area) that can only mean one thing...

School is about to start! 

I know. I know. I sound a little too excited, don't I?!

I'm really not, honestly. The beginning of September always comes with bittersweet feelings that must be reminiscent of my childhood days. Do I want school to start? Do I want summer to end? Do I want to say goodbye to my kiddos for hours on end while they head off to their classrooms? I know they certainly don't feel like heading off to their classrooms for hours on end.

As I flipped the calendar page this week I felt like I should hear a trumpet bellowing out a tune to alert me to an important announcement:
"Here ye, Here ye! 
Today ends the endless carefree schedule, late bedtimes, lack of structure, bored children, sleepovers, pool parties, don't make your bed, squeeze in the summer reading, roast marshmallows, fun in the sun, squeeze the most of life, kind of days. 
Yes, yes. I'm sorry to inform you.  
You may proceed to engage in picnics and parties for the rest of the weekend, but you must also get your supplies, shoes, backpacks, snacks, water bottles, lunch boxes and books ready. Another school year is about to commence." 
I must say, I'm thankful to have friends who live in places like Ohio, Massachusetts, Florida and Michigan, where school started this week. Their first day of school pictures always help me to acclimate to the impending transition....like easing into the water in a 0 depth entry pool rather than jumping right into the deep end (I like slow transitions!).

The hardest part for me about a new school year is reinstating the structured days...

The reality is, I'm a middle of the road mom when it comes to structure. There are moms WAY more structured than me and moms WAY less structured then me. I'm content with my middle of the road structure status.

Structure in the way of bedtimes, and chores, reading schedules and homework, a clean house and folded laundry...well, sure it makes me feel better! It makes me feel on top of things. But, when it comes to executing such structure....ahhh, well...I'm still waiting to take that class. Sometimes, when it's time for dinner, and backpacks are flying, and homework questions are coming at me, and the laundry is sitting pretty and piled high, I keep thinking the "real" mom is about to walk through the door and make it all happen like a pro.

And then I remember, I AM the "real" mom. Hahahahaha.

So, I'm bracing to re-embrace the necessity of highly structured days that I aspire to be good at, but don't always follow through on.  I'm a little bit sad to let the girls head back to their classrooms for hours on end, mostly because there are things I still wanted to do with them that we never got around to this summer...

I wanted to paint a picture with Ella (she's my little artist).

I wanted to go geo-caching with Ava (she's my little adventurer).

I wanted to take Aubrey to Museum of Play in Rochester WITH her sisters to show her all of the fun stuff...not just with boring mom (she's my embrace life as it comes, exuberantly busy 3rd child!).

I wanted to hit up a waterpark and food truck Tuesdays in Buffalo.

We did do other things-- lots of spontaneous sleepovers, playdates, neighborhood play sessions...the stuff summer should be filled with. So, you know what?  I'm penciling the rest of my little bucket list into the fall. Who says it all had to be done this summer and why would I have put such silly expectation on myself in the first place?!

I am looking to a few quieter mornings. There are house projects I'd like to tackle, more writing I'd like to do, and thoughts I'd like to find that have receded to the faraway, quieter places of my brain. I plan to recapture them, and sit with them...maybe write about them, or write poems from them, or use them to resurrect parts of our family life that I always have good intentions of trying to act on, but get too busy to actually follow through on.

Here's to yearly transitions-- I do love that September feels ripe for trying out new habits and setting a few new goals (even more so than January for me). Here's to embracing structure again. Here's to extending my "summer" bucket list into the fall. 


Ode to a New School Year

Here ye, Here ye. 

The summer days were long and fun
But the daily party has had its run

Structure, I say, is due to return
So back to school you must go to learn

It's time for new friends, classrooms and Fall
Lets celebrate a new school year, adventure and all! 



Blessing to all my momma friends and their kiddos as we start a new year!