Sunday, March 31

The One Verse That Re-Centers My Heart Every Day


Oh friends, it's so easy to become distracted in this world of ours, isn't it? 


By what is right in front of us. By what is clamoring to be right in front of us. By all that is tugging at our hearts and minds, demanding our attention. 


And that's not even accounting for our kiddos who are asking for snacks, and reminding us that we were supposed to have washed their pink tights for ballet class...TONIGHT. 


For me, distractions tend to come from three places; 

1. What's right in front of me--

Things like the mess in my sink, the perpetual to-do list, the Christmas stuff that needs to be properly stored away and is still sitting in a pile in my basement,  the dust so thick on the entertainment center that we wrote our names in it last Friday night while we were queuing up a movie...this list is a hundred items long for all of us on any given day. 


2. What's trying to be in front of me--

 The websites, the podcasts, the television networks, the newspapers, the magazines, all of the social media outlets. They're all clamoring for our attention-- "Read me!", "Watch me!", "Click on ME, ME, ME"! 

And we give in-- we click, we listen, we read-- and that's not always a bad thing, but that's like saying chocolate cake or a huge plate of nachos isn't always a bad thing either. 


You know. 

Too much of an ok thing inevitably becomes a not so good thing...and raise your hand if it feels like there is "too much" of a lot of things sometimes? 


We know it, but we let the distractions pull us in always, don't we? 


I do it when I'm tired, I do it when I'm discouraged. I do it when I don't feel like making dinner, or this northeastern winter feels like it's going on two weeks too long. 


3. What's going on inside of me--

Overwhelm. Discouragement. Anxiety. Depression. Frustration. Anger. Tension. Impatience. Low self-esteem. 

Who has been there? In any of these places? 


These are ALL distractions to our days, this yucky list of "feelings"-- they pull us away from intentionally loving, from engaging with our kids, from being a blessing to our spouse and friends-- they even pull us away from mundane things, like successfully doing a load of laundry or just getting the things done that you need to get done, right? 


As I was listing all of those "feelings" I realized they are the a far cry from the fruit of the spirit that the Bible talks about. If you want to read more about the fruit of the spirit, you can read about it right in Galatians. Basically they are the characteristics that God promises will be evident in our lives when we are rooted in Him--



     Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, 
Self-Control

Wouldn't you LOVE for your life to be filled with those things instead?!


I know I would!!  


So, what do we do about it? What do we do when our mind starts to wander, when the demands poke at our soul, when our hormones or ugly emotions start to peck, peck, peck from the inside. 


Sigh. 


We could resign ourselves  to thinking that things are just always going to be that way. 


We could listen to the world telling us to try another self-help book, or to buy ourselves something new, or that it's ok to scroll through Instagram because you deserve to do 'something relaxing in your day'. 

We could engage in whatever numbing behaviors the world promises will temporarily ease our frustrations. 


OR...



We could stop looking at the world and all that is in front of us.

All of the images, all of the promises, all of the noise. 

We could even stop-- for a moment-- looking at all that stands in front of us that is literally bringing us down-- the to-do's, the responsibilities, the things that feel like they're never going to get better, whatever those things are for you. 


Here's where I am going to offer you the verse that I mentioned in the title of this post that steadies my heart every single day of my life...



        "Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things." (Colossians 3:2)

                                                               
Set your mind on things above...

Not on earthly things...the bazillion things that make us feel unsteady. Like we're on a catamaran, out to sea, with nothing solid to focus our gaze on. 


I don't know about you, but that just makes me seasick! 

I need to focus on something steady, unmoving, and unchangeable so that I don't feel swayed, weary and seasick. 

The only unmovable thing I know is God and His truth. 

There is action involved here-- you have to CHOOSE to do this. 

To set your mind on things above-- that means God, His word, His promises. That means making an intentional choice away from the chaos of the world to pray, to read scripture, to praise God for the bazillion blessings around you. 


Not on earthly things...this is EVERYTHING else! All of that stuff right in front of you, trying to be in front of you, and  all that you are feeling inside of you. 


It's all earthly stuff...it's temporary, it's full of empty promises, and it will continue to overwhelm our hearts and souls if it is all that we look at. 


Honestly, it's like eating fast food diet everyday and thinking you're somehow, magically, going to wake up healthy. 


A couple of weeks ago I was invited to speak at a local women's gathering here in town.  We talked about finding Jesus in the messes of our lives-- how do we see him, truly SEE him, when we feel confused and overwhelmed. 


Colossians 3:2 was one of the verses we talked about-- that we need to look UP and not OUT when things feel like they're falling apart. 



Photo from "Make This Day Count"
I wanted to give the women a tangible reminder to take with them, and found this printable on Etsy in a super cute shop called Make This Day Count created by Melinda Mickholtzick. For $2.80 I downloaded this printable, printed it on card stock and framed it to put in my office. She has a website by the same name, Make This Day Count, if you want to check it out. 

(For the record,  I don't know Melinda, so this isn't a publicity thing- I just found her website, and loved her stuff!). 


I printed copies for the women in the group to take home and do the same (I hope that wasn't some sort of copyright infringement-- if it was, I'm sorry! But, it was all in the name of bringing more of Jesus into our worlds, and it was a small group!). 


At the time, I wasn't intentionally trying to find a scripture for my office, but it was as if it found me. I  found an unused frame in my basement, popped the print inside and took it to the women's group to show them how nice it looked framed. When I came home I figured I might as well put that print in a predominant place in my house because it truly is a reminder that I need to read every day. 


And, so now, here it sits. On a bookshelf in my office. 





My office isn't a nice, tidy little space like you see in the picture of some organizing magazine--it's full of life, and paper, and clutter. There is a 60 year old hand-me down corduroy chair in the corner where I read my Bible every morning, and more books and file folders than I can usual keep track of. 


Because I love books, and ideas, and because I have kids who have lots of books, and papers and projects, the space can start to feel like a cluttered artists studio at times with bags, and clipboards, journals, and assignments sheets all mixed willy nilly in no particular order. 


This used to bother me. 


Sometimes it still does. 


But now that that reminder sits there, artistically scripted words in black lettering reminding me of the bigger picture...the really big picture...


I don't let it bother me as much.





I read that verse. I pause. I ask, "Ok God, what's next? What do you have for me today because I know it's not get all anxious about these papers, or my to-do list, but that you have eternal goals in mind...settle my heart and give me wisdom." 


And He does. He settles my heart and my spirit in the midst of my day...no matter what is going on. 


I don't know what this looks like for you today, but whatever is, I urge you to take a deep breath, find a quiet space and talk to God for a few minutes. 


Read a devotional. Read the Psalms. Ask God to fix your eyes on Him, and what is truly important. 


Ask Him to steady your heart, and your eyes, in the midst of this overstimulating world that is clamoring for our attention. 


I promise you, His offer of peace is legit...It's a promise that always satisfies...


When you stop looking at everything and everyone else, and focus your eyes on the only thing that can actually steady your soul, you will find a quiet strength that can't be explained.  


Your heart will be re-centered. 


Your priorities will become more clear. 


You'll start to ditch the "icky" list of feelings for character traits that don't come easily, but are worth the fight.




Saturday, March 30

Measure: A Five Minute Friday Post


MEASURE...

I have three children, three girls, as a matter of fact…
     They are bright, hilarious, witty, energetic, full of life kids who we are trying to teach to be light in the world, “Be the light Jesus created you to be,” we tell them regularly.
     When you have children there are a myriad of measurements that become part of your life—at every check-up the doctor wants to know their weight and height—how much they have physically grown. At the end of every marking quarter there are grades that show us how they are doing in school- how they are measuring up to the expectations set for them.
     But, all stats and grades aside, what we hope is blossoming and growing more than anything else is what we cannot see…their heart. Their relationship with God. Their love for Jesus and how that love expands their hearts to love the world, and the people around them, in bigger ways.
     These things cannot be measured...the things that matter most.
    Several years ago, I sat in an elementary parent teacher conference for my oldest daughter, and as is typical the teacher began to go through her reading evaluations, test scores, her schoolwork, because that is what she is required to do.
     And, honestly, while I want my kids to excel in school—while I want them to do their best, it’s not what I care most about (given that they’re not slacking off, of course!).
    “I have to tell you,” the teacher said, after she put all of the grading, and papers away, “Ava is such a sweet kid. She is always kind. She helps others. She is a silent leader in her actions.”
    The same was said of her younger sister in several of those same meetings in later years.
    Can you measure compassion? Empathy? Kindness? Love for others? 
    While there is no tangible measurement, those observations by my girl's teachers were more important to me than anything that can be scored or ranked...
     To me, they were the most important measurement of all. 

(This post is part of Five Minute Friday-- a place where a bunch of writers join in the practice  of writing about one word for five minutes every Friday. If you'd like to check it out you can do so here). 















Friday, March 15

Place: A Five Minute Friday Reflection



There is often a great expanse of space between the "place" that I want to be and the place that I am...

This is currently the case for me professionally, personally,  and well...domestically.

Listen, I have aspirations for our house...the place where we do life...really, I do!

But, alas...I seem to be perpetually domestically challenged,  and so we all end up in this funny 'place' emotionally and literally with this place we call home.  This place we do life together.

I'd like this place that we intertwine as a family--where we share ideas, work through struggles--those we hold within, and the ones that stretch out, mingling with the moods and thoughts of all of the other family members-- I would like the place in which that all happens on a daily basis to feel more orderly...to be a lovely landscape for the happy and the hard. To not feel like it's adding to the chaos, but to feel like a balm to the busy. 

Our place, our home, does not currently feel like a balm to the busy. It feels like a busy bomb of life has scattered itself e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. 

Queue the laughter...it's o.k. Laughing is better than whining...in my opinion anyway.

I honestly thought, with the advent of my youngest of three daughters heading off to school this year that our place would finally feel al little more settled-- that I would find more time to clean, more brain space to organize and order the stuff of our lives, that there would be more intentionality focused on making our place feel  like the "home" that I'd like it to be...the "home" in the pictures of my mind.

Candles lit, cool art and home decorations that reflect our "style", laundry nicely folded and ready to be put away, a spice cabinet that doesn't assault me with plastic bottles of cumin when I open the door...you know...the little things.

And yet, it still looks like this...








Alright, to be fair...the first two pictures were taken the week we had our rugs replaced in our entire upstairs three weeks ago...so the entire upstairs had to be carried downstairs, and then back upstairs again...which was lots of fun (and sounds like a premise for a Dr. Seuss book!).

(By the way, did you spot the dog in the first picture...a friend of my suggested we start an IG hashtag titled  #whereisTanner)

And the third picture...well, that's how my ADD brain gets me into trouble during holidays like Valentine's Day with 3 kids, who all requested different cards and when I volunteer to do crafts in my daughter's kindergarten classroom...

Which was also fun...but, messy..

But whether we're installing rugs or not, these picture do depict our "place" on a pretty regular basis (albeit a wee bit exaggerated here!): Our menagerie of life lived, ideas in process, and everything in between.

This is our place in life right now; busy, messy, trying to be more organized, and trying to love one another well in the process, despite the mess.




This post was inspired by Five Minute Fridays, a place where a whole bunch folks write about one word, for five minutes,  and then link up their ideas.

It's lots of fun, you should check it out! 






Monday, March 11

Thoughts On My Years as a Mom



On Saturday afternoon I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote this at the top: 
“My Life As a SAHM”   (SAHM= Stay at Home Mom)
I intended to brainstorm some quick thoughts and ideas that would succinctly summarize my experience as a mom over the last twelve years.
I’m not sure what na├»ve part of me thought that such an assignment would be quick or succinct—that I would be able to adequately describe the experience, journey, growth, challenges, struggle, and blessings that the last 12 years have been.
These are some of the words I wrote down:
Hard
Good
Life-altering
Identity defining
Sanctifying
Chaotic
Overwhelming
Intense
Confusing
Maturing
Renewing
Only possible by faith
Deeper reliance on God
Emotional healing
Growth
Perspective
Time-flies

Maybe, I thought after jotting these down, it’s un-summarizable, these last 11 years of life.
And yet don’t we all, in some way, want to take stock of our days—of our experiences? Especially when some piece of our lives, some season, has been so soul defining that you realize you are a completely different person than when you began?
A completely different person, with the same name: Mom.
In the process of trying to write this post, I also tried starting three different times. 
The first attempt shared the story of a resume I sent to a potential freelance client last week. Given that my primary job description for 11 years now has been “Mom” my resume felt poorly outdated and strangely irrelevant. 
How could sending a list of bulleted “professional” experiences, mostly from over a decade ago, really communicate who I am and what my current strengths are?
I wanted to send a cover letter that said—“Let me tell you what lies between the lines: Between the lines of that last formal teaching job in 2007 and my life today in 2019. I promise you it’s far more interesting than what is actually printed on the page.”
I scrapped that post and started another one—I thought I could start at the beginning—the day Scott and I found ourselves driving to the hospital to give birth to Ava in June of 2007. How it was a week before my due date, and my “birth plan” went right out the window…and how quickly you realize that very little about parenting every really goes as planned.
But, that was going to be a l-o-n-g post, and I wasn’t sure where to stop—there was no way to draw a straight line from there to here…today.
I decided against that one too.  
I complained to Scott. “Babe, I wanted to write this post," I told him,  "but there’s no way to write about 12 years of motherhood in one post.” 
“Of course there isn’t,” he said.  
Of course there isn’t.
So here we are. 

Here I am. 

Offering a list of words, a few sentences… telling you it’s been a long, good, complex, often overwhelming, soul-defining journey, but not giving you anything specific.
I can, however,  tell you a few things I've learned about parenting in general...

I can tell you that I have become far more confident in my parenting decisions in the last few years. I know that I’m the mom, and that I know what’s best for my kids, especially when I’ve been praying about it. 
I can tell you that Scott and I realize we are creating a legacy.  That we are sowing seeds of character, courage, faith and a worldview into our girl’s hearts and lives, and that it isn’t a responsibility we take lightly.
I can tell you that there are some days I feel like I know so much more about how to be a good parent- what I should be doing, where I should be intentional, what the goals and vision should and can be.
But, I can also tell you that there are the days when I fall flat on my face because I’m tired, frustrated, or discouraged. On those days it feels like nothing I'm doing is amounting to anything the way I thought it would…and while I know this is a feat of perseverance and commitment, sometimes I just want someone else to be in charge for a little while.
I can tell you that I have legitimately locked myself in the bathroom and have hidden in the basement—ignoring the calls for “Mom”—and thought, Can someone else just be the mom today? I’m so done momming right now! 
But then…
Ahhh, but then…
A picture comes up on my Facebook feed that causes a huge lump to form in my throat. A picture of Aubrey just 3 years ago, sitting in the backseat with two binkies in her mouth, a huge winter coat smooshed into the car seat buckles, and her socks and shoes stripped off.
I laugh and remember how it used to drive me C-R-A-Z-Y that she took her stinkin’ shoes off every time we got in the car because it meant that we were going to have to take five minutes to put them back on before we went into the store (or, wherever we were going). Yet, looking at her chubby 3-year-old feet in that picture makes me think I would do it ALLL over again…I just wouldn’t let it drive me so crazy.
And the pictures of Ava and Ella—when they were in 1stand 3rdgrade and I used to pick them up from school and we’d go straight to Tim Horton’s for a snack because Ava needed to go to gymnastics and Ella needed to go to dance, and it became this weekly “thing”. 

You know, the ways things become “things”. 
They’re both wearing fleece hats and sucking on their smoothie straws, faces right next to each other, smiling with all of the joy possible in their sweet little worlds.  
They were all such sweet moments and there are hundreds of pictures to remind of how very sweet they were…thousands, actually. (I-cloud verified that there are 7,665 current photos as a matter of fact…and that’s not all of them!)



So, on the days when I feel like I can’t remember what we did last week, or what it felt like to hold a baby, or push a toddler in a stroller through Disney World, on the weeks when I feel like it’s all a hard, uphill battle, it does me good to look at those photos…because they communicate something to me.  They remind me of something that is sometimes hard to put into words.
They remind me of the beauty. The blessing. The joy. The thrills. The laughter. The love. The reasons we do all that we do—even when we’re tired, poured out, and feeling like we don’t want to “mom” for one more minute.
We are creating a legacy, after all.
We are writing a story.
It's actually a more beautiful story than I sometimes like to believe when the girls are complaining about cleaning their rooms, or about the chewy chicken I attempted to cook in the crock-pot.
Would I do it all over again? The sleepless nights, the toddler years with two kids 19-months apart who were always driving each other crazy, the commitment to stay at home full time with them until they all started school? 
Ha! Maybe…Maybe if someone promised me I’d get a little bit more sleep and that a free maid came with the deal. Then, I would definitely do it all over again.
Only, you know what I would change?
I would change my attitude about it all…I would do it with more joy. More appreciation for the small moments. More patience and intentionality.
It’s why all of those little old ladies stopped me in the grocery store to tell me the same thing over and over again, “Honey, it goes so fast. Enjoy the moments.”
I am quickly on my way to becoming one of those ladies.
In the meantime, I’m going to finish writing that long story—the one that starts at the very beginning, almost 12 years ago—with Scott and I, naively, driving to the hospital, understanding that we were at the starting line of something big, but having absolutely no way of knowing just how big and complex it would actually be.
And, how not knowing, it turns out, was probably a VERY good thing. 




Thursday, March 7

Getting Back Into the Blogging Swing of Things!

It's been a while since I've blogged consistently--

Honestly, it feels like it's been a while since I've done anything consistently-- clean my house, take library books back on time, make my bed.

Ahhh, mom life...the land of a bazillion tasks, unexpected crises that must be taken care of (big and small), and time that flies by faster than you can say, "Wait, stop! I wasn't ready for you to be asking me about razors and Snapchat! Can we just go back to story time at the library?!"

We're at the (hopefully) tail end up a bitterly cold winter. My January and February were full of so many unexpected snow days,  sick days, half days for a myriad of reasons, winter break, a 10 year old birthday celebration, and a couple of "small" house projects that turned so "big" that as of earlier this week I wasn't sure which way was North.

But, I'm here, at Starbucks, with my day planner, lots of paper, my colored ink jet pens and lots of ideas-- for life, books, blogposts and re-visiting my goals for the coming year...



I'm ready to jump back in-- back into posting here once a week-- on Mondays. I'm not sure that I've ever done that consistently...go figure (LOL!)...but, I'm here to try again...

In theory, I should be able to follow through this time because all of my kiddos are in school for the first time this year. In theory, that should mean that I have lots of extra time...

In theory...

But, somehow, the days get filled just as fast, and my "theory" of feeling like I would suddenly have a steady handle on life once the 'kids went to school' doesn't seem to be holding as true as I would have thought...

I'm planning to blog about that one of these days (;





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