Tuesday, January 29, 2013

moving on and Finding My Voice

Well, here's the big announcement...  I've officially launched my NEW BLOG SITE, and I'm really hoping that if you've been hanging out with me here, you'll make the quick hop, skip and jump over to my new digs. 

What will you find there, and why the move?

Well, I feel like it's a new season.  Time to kick things up a notch, and be a little bit more true to myself.  I'm sort of looking at this year as a 'coming in to my own', and just letting me be me.  Or, as I describe it there...I'm "Finding My Voice".

I'll be doing less personal, anecdotal stories, and delving into some more serious topics involving faith, family, marriage, women's issues and leadership.  Some of the posts here I've pulled over, and you'll still be able to find there, and I'll keep this site for the occasional personal stories that I might want to log...but I won't really be posting here on a regular basis.

I am really trying to grow the site, and expand my readership in hopes of getting lots of good dialogue going, and hearing from people of all different perspectives.  If you'd be willing to share the link, or recommend the site, I would be so very appreciative.  I'm also looking to expand my writing in general, so if you know of any opportunities that might be a fit for me, would you mind letting me know?  

I'm really looking forward to pursuing these new things and seeing all this season brings!! Thanks for the time you spent hanging with me here, and I hope you'll join me on the flip-side!!

Here's the link (click on the pic below)...look forward to seeing you there!!!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

20 Things...Date Nights

Sorry for the delayed "Marriage Monday" post, arriving late on Tuesday.  I've been hard at work trying to construct, decipher and unkink stuff over at the new site, which hopefully, I'll be holding the 'big reveal' for soon.  In the meantime...here you go..."20 Things in 20 Years" as normally scheduled...

I love date nights.  Need them. CRAVE them.  Time alone to connect with my hubby.  But they don't always quite live up to the romantic notions in my head.

Sometimes it's because the notions in my head are just too grande.  Not every week can be sweep me off my feet romance fests.  Let's face it...that's just reality.  Most of the time, in fact, I have to make-do and be grateful for an hour or two of half-price (after 9 pm) appetizers at Chili's, because that's about the only time that is convenient to get away, and it's what fits the budget.  Often, it doesn't feel like this is quite enough time, or because we are flying around doing stuff right up til the minute we dash out the door, it's not like we are relaxed, and conversation tends to revolve around the current (as in, happened an hour or two before) problems or issues or situations.  It's not really the gazing into each others' eyes type dinner, where we talk about in depth matters or future plans and dreams.  It's more like "who is going to be running this one to practice next week, and what days do we have appointments and meetings, and when on earth are we going to finally finish the bathroom project so we can get on to other things that need to be fixed and redone?!?!"

You know...those kinds of conversations.

While they are necessary, and far easier, frankly, to have when we are alone...they aren't the kind of connection-time that refreshes you both and reminds you why you love each other and are together to begin with.

While I still actually need those times on a very (read, *preferrably weekly*) basis...and all the moreso, I find, as our kids get bigger, schedules get crazier and it seems we have less time than ever to actually engage...on occasion, we still need the kind of dates that keeps the romance alive in a marriage.

Now, I'm not going to even attempt to tell you what kind of date this should be, because it varies enormously from couple to couple.  Lisa TerKeurst wrote about this very thing last week in her blog post 'Valentine's Tips for the Misters' (which, you should really read, if you haven't...and maybe casually share with your 'mister')...what a great variance there is in what women (and, of course, men) appreciate and find fills up their 'love tank'.  For some couples its a fancy night out on the town, and apparently for others it's a Duck Dynasty themed weekend...which, admittedly, I really don't get...but hey, whatever floats your boat!!  But I can share with you what works for us...and maybe it will set you thinking about what it will be for you.

For us, some extended alone time, is absolutely key.  By extended, I mean minimally one overnight would constitute as a great date night, and minimally 2-3 nights would constitute a getaway.  Now, because of tight budgets, and lack of babysitters, for many people (including us in the course of our years) isn't always a possibility.  But we do our best to get creative and make it work as much as we can.  Getaways are far harder, but we try to at least a couple times a year (this doesn't have to be saved just for Valentines!) try to do a long date night, and at least 1 time a year (usually our anniversary) for a getaway.  (Our big dream/goal is for a getaway quarterly.  Not yet a reality, but we are working on it!)

Just this past weekend, we did a 'real' date night.  The extended, overnight, take your time and don't rush because no one is waiting for you or texting you "When r u coming home???"   (Yes, this is our currently reality.) 

It was totally budget-friendly, because it was a stay-at-home date...one of our favorite kinds.  We shipped the kids out to various places for overnight.  (In reality, half of them already having plans to sleep over at friends is what inspired me to give Grammy a call and see if the other two youngers could come spend the night there.)  This obviously, if you don't have grandparents, or aunts, or really close friends nearby that can keep them overnight, gets easier as the kids get older and are wanting to do sleepovers anyway.

After getting all decked out...because that's our preference and it makes the night feel more special, and amidst candlelight and some wonderfully relaxing music, we cooked dinner together.  We had thoughtful, long conversations while we took our good sweet time eating and sipping our wine.  We flirted, and danced a little, and ended the evening snuggling up and watching a movie...after we were all talked out.  Because, keep in mind, the movie, nor the dinner, is the main event...the relaxing, the talking...the being present is.  Don't rush.

Personally, I think the secret to making an evening like this happen is the 24 hours before the actual date.

I have to mentally (and physically) prepare...in ways like making sure the area of the house we'll be hanging out in is clutter free...free of any distractions or stresses.  Not the whole house, mind you, as this would be an impossibility for me.  But I just need things out of sight.  SO...just being totally real here...if that means taking the baskets of laundry that hasn't been gotten to yet, and piling in on one of the kids' beds while they are away...so be it.  If it means putting the entire stack of yet-to-be-sorted mail in a basket and putting it on the downstairs desk...so be it.  They'll all still be waiting for me the next day.  (Trust me, I know, because I've hoped that by the following morning they will have magically taken care of themselves...no such luck.)

But the point is...atmosphereAmbiance.  A distraction-free zone.

One time, years ago, when our entire house was overrun with toys, bouncy seats, exersaucers and sippy cups, and I only had the time and energy to clean one small room...I really straightened up our tiny bedroom, filled it with candles, and set up a tiny little folding table...and served dinner right there.  We shut the door...and shut out all the realities...and had a mini-escape for a few hours.  And it was wonderful.  And memorable.  More memorable than all the dinners out before or since.  Because it was special.  Unique.  And investedWe invested in making it be set apart from the every day.

We prepare mentally by thinking about the time, and about conversations that have been shorted-circuited just when they were 'getting good', or about books we are reading, or podcasts we've been listening to and wanted to tell one another about.  We pointedly focus our thoughts on something deeper than appointments and bills.  We send texts to each other throughout the day, saying how much we are looking forward to the time...and...*ahem* other niceties.

I'm 100% convinced that it's the investment in the preparation for the event, almost as much as anything, that makes our time together so good.  And when we don't invest the time, it usually comes off as, "Eh...that was ok..."  It's pretty much the idea...'you get out what you put in'.  You put in good effort, you get good return.  And it's SO worth it.

I'm hoping in the next few weeks, leading up to Valentine's, to share with you some date ideas...and maybe you can try something new to refresh the connection with your spouse.  I'm also looking for ideas that YOU have tried, that maybe I could pass on to others as well.

So, please comment and tell me about what you find to do that makes for great date nights!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

the little blonde with blueberry eyes

Almost weekly, as I play piano and sing with our worship team, I am reminded why I need to step up, and into, all that God has called me to be, and that if I pull back, if I shy away, there will be an effect.  Not a huge, life-altering effect, mind you…but an effect none the less.  My life…and yours…speaks a message.  We may, or may not, know who we are ‘speaking’ to. 

I know one person my life is speaking to. 

Not because she tells me, but because nearly every week, as I’m worshiping, I glance out, and am grabbed by her watching gaze.  I feel very aware that as I speak forth words of encouragement, or pray, or give myself to abandoned praise, there is a set of the the biggest, bluest eyes fixed on me, taking in my words, my actions.  I sometimes am gripped by the sense that she is a little girl, who, unlike myself, is growing up seeing women all around her respond to their God-given call to lovingly co-reign with men in the Kingdom of God.  Seeing women who, yes, give birth and cook and clean…but also create, debate and preach.  We are not only the women who meet for “Ladies’ Bible Study”, but who also wrestle the word of God with the men, and deliver it to the congregation of brothers and sisters with equal authority and passion.  We are living this concept of co-heirs to a next generation in ways that previously were not familiar to me.

And these eyes…these big blueberry eyes…watch, I imagine, with thoughts of how God will use her.  Where she will one-day take her place in ministry to the Body of Christ.  Will she teach?  Will she sing?  Will she intercede?  Will she minister to the physical needs of someone hurting? 

Of course, I know that my life actually speaks to many, on different levels, as all our lives do.  My life speaks to my own children, but to my chagrin, they see the convoluted, struggling side of my journey.  They hear my pleas of “can we just not mention to _____ that I am a pastor, pleeeease??”.  They see me pull back from conversations where I think my input is not necessarily welcomed.  They see me in my moments of brokenness and frustration.  And I do realize, all these things will form…for the good or the bad…some parts of them.  I pray often that God’s grace will cover my shortcomings in these areas.  That he will use my weakness to bring strength to them in some way.  They see me in the messy, everydayness of life.

But the little blonde with the blueberry eyes…she sees me a bit differently, I think. 

I have to add, this little one and I also share a connection of ‘difference'.  She, the only blonde among brunette sisters, same as I (she knows this, because her beautiful mama is my sister…so I tell her she gets her light locks from me).  She, the only softball player among cheerleader sisters, knows about my own passion for baseball.   I hope that maybe she senses from me that it’s okay to like things that might not be considered 150% girlie…the same way I feel about my interest in theological discussions and debates.  She, I think, if I don’t chicken-out, can learn from me that it’s okay to wear pink and still show up to the “boys' club”. 

And somehow, though I don’t know if she will ever preach or teach, or if her giftings lie elsewhere, she can learn from me to give yourself to whatever God calls you to, even if it’s a little bit different, with wholehearted passion…but only if I don’t pull back, shy away or give up.

Courage.  Not just for me, but also for those little blueberry eyes watching me.  You see, the things God calls us to are rarely just for us.  There’s always those coming behind.  Always someone else drinking in the message of our lives.

Who’s coming behind, and what are watching eyes learning from you?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Marriage Monday: 20 things...appreciate

Monday.  I have oft joined the throngs who dread Mondays...return to routine, to work, to the rat race.  But of late, and with many thanks to my protective knight in shining armor, Mondays have taken on a new tone for me.  One similar to that of drawing in a long, deep breath.  At least on the Mondays when I do what I'm 'supposed' to by making it a day to refuel myself.  A guilt-ridden, yet healthy choice for me.

Guilt-ridden only because this is a luxury that I realize not everyone is afforded.  And most of all, because when I see my husband needing such a reprieve probably even more than I...it's hard to not have twinges of feeling a bit spoiled. 

My hard-working and amazing man goes all week long at his job, comes home and tries to make the most of his evenings engaging and caring for us, his family, and continues with the pace straight through the weekend as he attempts to keep up with the never-ending list of projects and to-do's that come with a house that had some design flaws from the start, and the family has outgrown, but we are ever-trying-to-make-it-work, because reality is, there's probably just not any other option right now.  He also deals with all the situations, decisions and spats that I finally throw my hands up over and say, "Talk to your father!!" about.  He runs interference between the two females in this house who increasingly are both 'coming into their own', which is all fine and well until our 'owns' don't mesh so smoothly.  And then there's just me...he gets lots of point for just handling me with such love and understanding...because, though I'm sure you cannot imagine this, but I am not always the most loveable creature on the planet.  ;)

So...what on earth does this have to do with marriage, or what I've learned over the years?


It's huge.  Seriously.  I've argued with Todd about this idea of him insisting that I take Mondays 'off' to rest and refresh.  And about how I struggle because I know it's not fair, because he doesn't have...ever...this kind of down time.  And his answer to me is, that if I do it, it is better for me, which is better for him.  He doesn't want my 'martyr' complex...he wants a healthy wife.  And, honestly, doesn't feel any better if I burn myself out, especially in the name of 'fairness' to him.  He wants me to take what he is trying to provide.  He's not asking for anything in return.  But while he's not asking for anything, I know that he does appreciate...well...appreciation!!

This goes both ways, of course.  In my days of endless feeding, changing, and general tending of babies, there was often nothing Todd could really 'do'.  But I would tell him that just his appreciation of what I was doing...recognizing and valuing it...soothed my worn-out mommy soul, more than he could imagine.

Sometimes it's about 'doing' less, and valuing more.  Value each other.  Value what you each uniquely contribute to your relationship and your family.  Don't take for granted that you are 'entitled' to whatever it may be...'me time', meals prepared for you, date nights, the fact that he runs out for milk at 10 p.m. when you realize the kids need it for cereal in the morning (oh, wait...is that one just me?)...whatever.  I've seen more than I care to of relationships that lack the things that I take for granted.  Thing that I have tended to think "Well, he darn well better do such-and-such, that's a given!"...for countless wives (or husbands) are NOT a given.  And maybe it's even fair to say certain things are just 'needs'...but that still doesn't mean that it shouldn't be appreciated when your spouse contributes, helps out, or takes responsibility for meeting those needs.

In short...remember to say thanks.  To value each other.  To acknowledge, not only mentally, but to each other, how grateful you are for everything your partner adds to your life.  Oh, and while you're at it, thank the Giver of All Good Gifts as well, for the gift you have in your husband/or wife.

Appreciate.  (And do it in a tangible way!)

What is one (at least) thing that you appreciate about your spouse?  Tell me about it in the comments...and then tell them about how you bragged on them today!!

Seriously...do it!!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

stay tuned!!

I am nearly giddy.  Bursting with anticipation.  Doing twirls and flips.  Okay, maybe not so much that.  But I am really, REALLY excited. 

Unfortunately, I am under strict advisement not to disclose full details yet. 

However...I can say for sure that some big changes are on the way for me.  They involve a new season (unfortunately, not an actual, physical season...because on that note, I am SO ready for summer...yeah, summer!!  I'd even be willing to skip spring.  I want my flip flops!!)...a new chapter so to speak.  A brand new day for my writing and communicating in this world wide web that I've grown so fond of, with all my bloggy friends and social media communities.

So pardon my dust, as I'm over here in my little corner of the web busily constructing.  I'm actually building myself a new bloggy home, which I can't wait to have finished and fully furnished so I can invite you over for a visit.  There's gonna be lots of fresh new things...a new look, new content, and hopefully lots and lots of new friends!!

(I will give you a few teasers, such as...I will be continuing with my 'Year of Courage' posts, and also my '20 Things in 20 Years' posts...which will fit into something I'll be calling 'Marriage Mondays'.)

My 'new home' will also be revealing a lot more about the 'real' me.  I'm considering this the year not only of Courage, but by way that courage, a time of 'coming into my own'.  I'm planning to just let 'er rip, with all the thoughts, opinions and beliefs that I've been holding back from speaking of here.  Yes, that's right...I've been holding back.  Fearing offending.  Trying to keep things 'nice' and 'pleasant'.  But, I kinda think that time is done for me...I've just got this feeling that I need to be free to be me...  I'm hoping it will spark lots of responses, dialogue and really good conversations

 I am expecting it to be quite a fun adventure, and hope you find it a refreshing bit of change. 

Stay tuned...it won't be long now!!!

Monday, January 7, 2013

20 things...never assume

This past November my wonderful, amazing husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary.  I've been thinking for some time about doing a series of posts about 20 things we have learned over these 20 years...  It feels like a bit of a challenge, but I think I'll go for it.  And, in the interest of not boring you into a coma, I'll even break them down, as opposed to one post that would take you 20 hours to read!!

I've had to determine that these things will not come in any particular order...certainly not order of importance.  I couldn't even say that any certain one is more important than another.  And I would also like to say up front...these are things that we have learned for us.  The same may or may not apply or be true of you or any other given couple.  But hopefully they might make you think a bit.

As I've been ruminating on this thought of what we have learned, one of the first things that comes to mind is...never assume.  It's practically a joke around here, this idea of how bad 'assuming' is, that you can regularly hear us saying...  "You know what assuming does!!!"  (To which the response is..."It makes an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me'..."  Get it?  Ass-u-me...spells assume...  Yeah, I thought you probably picked right up on that...but just in case...)

Assuming is almost always a terrible thing.  It is based on a premise that someone can know something to be true without any basis for that knowledge.  Like, in the past, I have assumed that if Todd is quiet, he must be angry about something.  Turns out, he might be angry...but more likely he is thinking about something, or maybe just tired.  Huh!  How 'bout that??  (Leave it to me to jump to conclusions!)

I have assumed that if we haven't been out for a while, he certainly would know how desperately I'm craving some alone time, and will be scheduling a date without prompting.  Again...bad assumption.  Not because he's a bad guy, or insensitive.  (He's actually a great guy, who can, at times, be more intuitive than I.)  Simply because we are different people, who are wired differently.  More often than not, I'm craving alone time because our schedules have been hectic, we are flying around, and I need connection.  At the very same time, also because schedules have been hectic, and we are flying around...and he's at work all day long...he feels like he hasn't really had much good 'dad-time' with the kids, and his focus is more there.  Neither of us is wrong, but we just aren't necessarily thinking along the same lines.  And assuming we are just doesn't breed anything good for either party.

We have also wrongly and dangerously assumed (many years ago) that good marriages 'just happen' to people who come from solid families, with little or no histories of divorce, who were raised in the church...blah, blah, blah.  Generally speaking...'goody-goodies'.  Guess what, ladies and gents...even 'goody-goodies' have a sin issue, and none of us are above problems or major falls.  It took a near-fatal disaster to our marriage for us to realize this...and that one should NEVER assume to be 'above' or 'immune' to anything.  Good marriages do NOT 'just happen'...they require attention, cultivation, self-sacrifice, and prayer.  Lots and lots of prayer.  They also require commitment, and community.  It not only 'takes a village' to raise a child, it takes a village to have an awesome marriage.  People who are willing to get in the thick of it with you, and tell you when you're being an ass.  To tell you they will not stand by you while you destroy the good thing you've got, because of your own immature stubbornness.  They will tell you that you've GOT to forgive, even when it hurts...because you have also caused hurt, and you need to be forgiven too.

Never, ever assume...  On the other hand, when you KNOW something to be true...like, that you and your spouse are in this thing for life, you have an amazing God who can redeem anything, and you have been blessed by a wonderfully supportive network of friends...well, then be thankful.  And spend the rest of your life remembering, and being very, very thankful.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

hand-delivered messages

Ironically...or maybe not so much...part of my year of courage, begins with me stepping out in some things that stretch me beyond my comfort zone.  One of the things has to do with giving myself permission to try to stir up and tap into some creative sides of me that I have long said I simply didn't have time to focus on.  Do I have time now?  Well, probably (and realistically) no more so than I ever have...but sometimes we just need to go for it, and choose to make some things priority, that simply weren't in the past.  For me, this year, this will be writing.  Writing in various formats, which yet remain to be seen.  However, the thoughts of intentionally pursuing any of it scares the bejeebers out of me.  But, I've been praying, daily, that if this is something God wants to use for whatever His purposes are, then I want to be a willing participant.  Even if it goes no further than teaching me something about myself.  And almost daily, God prompts me to keep going...through something I read, a song or a word of encouragement.  Today's encouragement (or rather, one of them) has been through this quote from Emily Freeman, author and blogger (as shared by Simple Mom, Tsh on Facebook today):
"Creativity actually births courage. It comes after, not before. If you wait until you feel ready, you could be stuck in your small story for a very long time. Dare to see the art in everything, take small risks with great faith. You may find the fear fade a bit, and courage just might rise up within you like two great walls of water on either side, high enough for you to get lost in a good way in the bigness of it all."
Surely the message of cultivate creativity to birth courage was God's personal, hand-delivered message to me today...for which I am thankful and humbled.

Do you see God's personal messages to you today?  The gentle encouragement of His loving hand?  Where do you find them in the midst of your day?

 photo credit