Tuesday, January 29, 2013

when e.n.v.y. strikes

I recently clicked on a blog I hadn't read in a long long while.
As I read, I found myself warming to the idea of bookmarking it as a "regular read" again.
Why did I cut it out in the first place?

The posts are too long. I argued to myself. And they are long. And these days, when I don't do a lot of blog reading, I am very particular about which blogs to follow. Shorter posts are easier to digest quickly.

The content is too deep for me. And it's true. Especially in those sleep-deprived seasons, when anything deep and meaningful can make my brain actually physically hurt. I cut out things that just aren't for me in that particular moment of life. Nothing wrong with that, right :)?

But you want to know one reason I found hard to admit??
I. was. envious.

Plain and simple.

She's a {much!} better writer.
She has more freedom in what she chooses to share with the world.
She's more articulate; she writes books.
She's intelligent.
And she's altogether a lovely person.

So there it is. I cut something out of my life, in part, because of envy.
A while back, I was sitting there with my little family, not feeling particularly great about myself.
I am fairly certain I had remembered to brush my teeth before dashing out the door.
I think I managed to put on a splash of make-up in the process.
But everything else felt very drab, dowdy, wrinkled-from-the-closet-feeling.
My hair needed a cut.
Clothes felt too tight in all the wrong places :). Which is really a terrible horrible feeling!!
It was a yucky-feeling day.

Which is fine. They happen. They come and go. It's all part of being human.
Someone sits down next to you. Polished head to toe. All put together.
And I could feel the old wrestle stirring.

You'll never be enough. Lovely enough. Nice enough. Good enough. Worth enough.
I am learning that the only way to fight these times is through prayer and confession.

As I pray, the LORD works a miracle in my heart. Sometimes relief comes quickly; other times it takes a lot of work and perseverance and careful examination of the nature of the envy in the first place. You see, I am discovering that at the root of envy lies the trap of insecurity. So often, when I want what someone else has, it is because that person seems to possess the very security I lack. I used to think, that when I "grew up," I wouldn't wrestle with self-confidence or trust or courage anymore. Because, well, I'd be an "adult," and don't all "adults" have it all together ;)???? Uh. Nope :). Not this one anyway!!!

And when I confess to someone I can trust, I discover the beautiful, bonding reality that I'm not the only one to struggle with this. In fact, the longer I keep it a secret, the more power it gains. The more open and honest I can be, I see the Enemy lies for what they are worth. Nothing.
As I struggled in that moment about how I felt about myself, I prayed that even this would not hinder me from communion with the LORD and with others. And into my heart the LORD whispered ... she is free to be beautiful. And it is true. And a huge weight slipped off my shoulders. Her beauty doesn't mean mine is any less. In fact, the more I sincerely encourage beauty in others, the less I am concerned about my own; the more free to worship I become. So THANK YOU all you lovely ladies out there :) - for the more you genuinely let your heart and spirit shine, the more beautiful this world becomes.

And do I go back to read that blog, or any blog that challenges me in such a way :)? Periodically. Really, uninterrupted screen time is limited (which is probably a good thing!), and I pick and choose carefully. But this way, at least it is from freedom, and not from fear!!

Of course, when envy strikes there's always this option :) ..... just be yourself!!!!

What do you do if .... when? .... envy strikes you?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mentor Me

One of the {many} gifts of 2012 was a mentor.

This was a complete surprise to me; something I'd been longing for and praying about on-and-off for 6 1/2 years. It was one of those lovely connections that came about in a round-a-bout sorta way, but it clicked and felt like it was always meant to be.

I've had both informal and formal mentors.

By informal mentors, I mean authors and friends that have spoken into my life. Some of my favorite authors in this category would include Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, Lisa Samson (novelist, but excellent books; not just entertainment!!) or even evangelists/biblical teachers like Charles Stanley or Kay Arthur.

Friends have oh-so-often spoken into my life. Whether this stretches my work life, emotions, home life, parenting, health and body, I would not be a fraction of the person I am today without honest, sincere, different-than-me friends!!

By formal mentors, I am referring to those relationships that are specifically cultivated so that one can gain wisdom and insight from another, often older (but not always!) person.

Here are a few things I've learned along the way when it comes to selecting mentors.

1. If it's gonna work well, there's gotta be a game plan! What area is God inviting you to grow in? Is there someone who can help you walk through that? By selecting a specific theme, it might be easier to find someone who fits well. If it's too general and vague, you run the risk of totally missing each other's point - you may want mentoring in Area A, but this person is more skilled and fluent in Area B -- and the two may, or may not, be compatible. And yet there is much grace here, because the best part is, even if you do discuss particular "topics,"there's no tellin' how God will use that to shape and challenge you --- it might be in a completely different area of your heart than what you had planned!

At this point in my life, I have the privilege (and responsibility!) to lead music in church. So often I definitely feel like is way above my head and I strongly felt a need for a mentor in this area. However, often times music leaders are men, and not that men are bad ;), but I was definitely longing for a gal pal to hash out some of my questions and wrestlings with :). God led me to a very specific woman who lives in our community but is not from our church. There was a lot of liberty with what we could discuss. However, as we conversed, God used this to challenge so many things - my understanding of Holy Spirit, for example.

2. Create a date ;). Also, particularly in a world full of good (and often very good!) intentions, it is easier to note it on the calendar. For example, with this mentoring relationships, we aimed to meet every 4 weeks, the first Wednesday of the month. If that didn't work, we'd call and create a new date on the calendar. This was very versatile, but at least it gave us both the reassurance that we could keep the commitment without having to worry about trying to carve out the time. AND it gives one something good to look forward to!

3. Honesty is the best policy :). This is a bit of a no-brainer. But it's important to note. The first mentor I ever had was because of our church's practice upon being baptized. I was baptized at age 18, and the year following that was to meet with a mentor that I had chosen. Problem was, I didn't really know myself, and so to share honestly and transparently was a challenge. In my mind, things were fine, (though they were not always fine) and so she thought they were fine, and consequently, since things were apparently fine, we never met very often. Maybe once or twice. Over the course of a year. Not really an accountable mentoring situation! I realize now, that if I had been more honest with both her and myself, that perhaps some learning experiences could've been ... avoided :).

Also, honesty helps communicate expectations - how often do you want to meet? What would you like to discuss? Where would you like to meet? Are all great questions to ask up front.

4. Pray. Pray. Pray. For a period of my life, I was dealing with a very specific, intense situation. I felt like it was best to seek out a counsellor, who had been trained and was knowledgable, to help sort out the practicalities of life. My concern was that, even with a "christian counselor," there is definitely the risk of not being led biblically. The first counselor I met with, while helpful in many areas, fit in that category. Though I am still thankful for her input, I knew it was time for a change. When I initiated a second counselor-situation, I prayed many times :) that this person would be spiritually grounded, and willing to listen to the wisdom of the Spirit as we sought clarity together.

5. Set a time frame. This is fluid, but I recommend setting a time when you re-evaluate the situation. In this relationship, we agreed on 6 months. It's not like we couldn't continue to meet after 6 months, but instead of dragging something out, it would give us both the option of deciding whether the timing was right for this in each of our lives. Our time has come and passed, but I am hoping to connect with her again in spring. To sit and visit with a like-minded individual whose wisdom and experience far surpasses my own. To laugh and pray :). And enjoy a great cup of tea!!

Over the years, I've had the honor of having a few mentors that have been a blessing to me. Whether they knew it or not, they spoke deeply into my life. I am grateful.

Mentorship is a passing art in our culture. Things seem so busy, too full, and in our fairly-individualistic lives, creating time with others outside our immediate circles of influence requires.... intentionality.

Have you ever wanted a mentor? Been a mentor?? Been blessed through a mentor ;)???

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Baby steps and sweet victories!

Although I can't be certain, I am fairly sure that when we discovered that our Sweet K would have learning disabilities, one of the first things that flitzed through my mind I inwardly freaked out about was ....

oh boy.

Seems like a somewhat SILLY thing to worry about when your baby is teeny-tiny and precious and beautiful and doesn't sleep well at night :).
But for me, potty training has been one of those milestones that is.... well.... it's just not my favorite.
I had a sneaking suspicion that this time around, it was going to take a lot longer than I liked!!

Over the past 2 years, yes TWO YEARS, we've been working on this desirable skill around here. There had been some break throughs, yes, but a lot of setbacks, learning and tears (hers and mine!) along the way. So many days and prayers with "How are we EVER going to get this!???"

Well, timing is important to be sure. You can't ever force learning, and added pressure in this particular department is rather counter-productive!! Nothing like a little "stage fright" to prolong the issue.


After much prayer and hard work, in the past few weeks I've started to notice major improvements.
And I am doing the happy dance more than anyone else in this house!!

One of the blessings-in-disguise has been a far greater intuition regarding K's cues, needs, wants, preferences, etc. Especially when dealing with speech delays, cues are very important and easily overlooked. For example, most of the time when a little one has "success" on the potty, you cheer, you dance, you have a grand ole hoopla. NOT WITH K. If you react with any certain level of exuberance, you can guarantee a month before there'll be any more "successes." It seriously overwhelms her. Knowing her heart, it makes sense. Just takes some getting used to! That being said, you do offer subtle, g.e.n.t.l.e. encouragement. A simple high-five, a gummy bear and now a short Wiggles video seem to be the best reinforcement ever.

I clearly remember a difficult day in fall. With M settled into her school routine, K transitioned into school and life settling in a bit, I knew in my heart it was time to tackle this again. After hours and hours of trying and back-and-forth to the potty (if you've done this, you know the drill!!) I turned around to find an "accident" on the floor. As I mopped up the situation, I sobbed and sobbed. Frustration, discouragement and fear poured out of me and just about created a great big puddle of my own (ha, with tears, that is :P).

It was, however, a(nother) turning point for me. It is in these moments that I sometimes realize in these moments that I still battle with accepting things as they are.

With much joy in my heart, I see the step-by-incremental-step growth that is taking place, and my heart rejoices!

I'll share the "potty dance video" that we've been playing around here.
Oh the things you do for your kids, eh :)!????

Actually, I am so happy about this, it DOES make me feel like dancing!!!
And.... it's kinda catchy!

Curious to know - do you have any "learning challenges" in your family?
What are the blessings?
What are the challenges??

Monday, January 14, 2013

The day I closed the door in Jesus' face

It was in the weeks before Christmas.
It was suppertime. The time when many door-to-door folks like to make their visits!
I'd had a hard time wrangling up everyone for supper. And to think, we tend to eat later than the average folk, so you'd think that hunger would be a motivation!! Apparently not always ;P.
I was tired and frustrated, and when the door bell rang, I moaned. I groaned out loud!

WHAT NOW?? I thought.

The dog going crazy, the kids hootin' and hollarin', I slid off my chair and made my way to the front door. I opened it and sighed inwardly. Sales person. Great.

Did the look of annoyance show on my face?? I'm pretty sure it came close.
If not, I'm fairly confident the one hand on my hip gave it away.

"Ma'am, would you have any money to spare...." he began tentatively.
He started to show me something. A brochure maybe?? Not sure.
Turns out he was from Lighthouse Mission, goin' door to door asking for donations.
We just happened to be on his route that night.

I wasn't interested in anything in the brochures.

"Would you consider a smaller donation? Anything? Any amount helps." He tried again.
Helps to feed the homeless.
Helps to minister to the hurting.
Helps to spread God's love and mercy and grace through servant hands and feet.

In that nano-second, I thought of all the ways in which we "gave" recently.
We enjoy giving, we really do. And we appreciate participating in Operation Christmas Child, our church's Advent Challenge, as well as many other opportunities of the season.

However, in that moment, I didn't feel like going to get looking for my wallet.
I didn't feel like taking any more time from this particularly rowdy supper hour.
We had places we needed to be and kids fed and readied, and simply I "didn't have time for this."
I didn't want the inconvenience.
I just didn't feel like it.

How awful.

As I was closing the door, I noticed the man had brown eyes.
Jesus eyes.
Click went the door.
And a flicker went through my heart.

Hadn't I been praying for opportunities like this? 
Seeing Jesus in the every day life, responding {quickly} with a worship-filled heart?

I would love to say that I opened the door and ran after him, humbled heart in hand.
But I didn't.
I would love to say that I gave generously in that moment.
But I can't.
I shut the door in Jesus' face.
Just. like. that.

How awful.

How many times have these simple gratitudes passed me by?
How many times have I been "too busy," "too lazy," "to apathetic" to stop and care?
It's not about the money; it's not about "giving."
It's about dignity and care and saying, "hey - we're on the same team, this serving the God we love, and I support what you are doing."
Here's a love offering, wrapped in prayer.

Sometimes Often I get caught up in the discouragement that I have not embraced this Christ-Lived-Example like I could; like I want to, like I need to. I miss opportunities. And I completely blow others. In the midst of this, I am trying to remember to pray for the grace to try again, to remember again, to love again.

I am so sorry, Man from the Lighthouse Mission.
I am ashamed of my response to you, to the passion it took for you to wander around on a cold December night, asking people to assist you in this ministry.
Please. Come back again.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

When I bought our Sonlight curriculum, I got way more than I bargained for!

It's been a year and a half already, since that July night by the family-camp-out-fireside.
Heart pounding, giddy with delight - I scored an almost-complete Grade 1 Sonlight curriculum on ebay for $225 (if you check out their prices, you'll see that's a darn good deal!!!). With the help of my super-techy brother and his little internet-gadget phone (all of which is way beyond my realm of experience, since we ONLY have a pay-as-you-go, no-texting-allowed type of phone!!!), I snacked on marshmallows and mom's goodies while waiting to see if I was - da winner!! And I WAS!

Sheesh! I'm not much of a shopper, but the thrill of that anticipation could become trouble :).

When I cashed in on this set, I had no idea what was in store for us; how I was about to get way more than I bargained for! At the time, I only knew I was following the prompts of Jesus, and waiting for Jon to catch up with me in terms of direction :).

I could've never guessed how many gifts that year would hold, how challenging it would be; how much we would all learn and grow and stretch.

I learned even more about moving through decisions with your life-mate. It's tough, sometimes, navigating through choices, especially when you each process things so differently. It's a challenge to "know when to hold em, know when to fold em" ;). It requires intentionality to wait, to rest, to research, to share, to dream without the security of knowing those dreams will be filled. Tough yes, almost drove me cuckoo bananas yes, good yes. :)

I learned that it is sometimes hard to explain grade 1 math, even though I've been there and done that --- but it was a long time ago! And of the select things I can do relatively well, explaining myself is not always one of them!

"Mikayla's spelling test to see if her ears are working...
no Kezia's allowed" !!!

I also met many people with whom I would never have worked or worshipped alongside had we not walked this path. This has forever impacted my spiritual journey, and thank you will never be sufficient.

I learned that I love to continue to learning -- well, that I already knew -- but I love to learn alongside my kids! The new-found confidence and stage of life we were at encouraged me to include my kids even more in what I was already doing. Rather than feeling forced, it began to feel a little more natural and a lot more enjoyable. And now, I often have little helpers (when I slow long enough to let them!) and it's easier and less overwhelming and a bit more manageable. :).

Celebrating milestones and "nabrgse" (neighbors)!!

I also confirmed that I'm NOT so much a fan of "water experiments."
They are way to messy and make me grumpy!
I shudder at the thought. Give me play dough ANY day :).

We argued and squabbled. We made up and tried to start over ;).
We redeemed some days; others felt like a bit of a write-off.
We read a LOT, laughed a fair bit and learned life along the way.
Time was a lot more intentional in some ways, a lot more flexible in others.

A winter fun trip to Grandma's for a day of great food, cousins and snowmobiling!

And strange, even after 1/2 a year into this new-found rhythm of public-schooling, I still miss it.
M does too, and every once in a while she'll even admit it :).
She's having a grand time in grade 2, but every few weeks she tells me that she's only going to public school every other year so that she can home school in between. Riiiiiiiiggght!

We have 2 more years of full-time funding for K left, and then we'll re-evaluate.
Perhaps it will still be a burning desire.
Perhaps time and routine will have set in and our path won't change much.
Who knows.

Special craft dates once a week - complete with hot chocolate and marshmallows
on this particularly chilly winter day :)

In between, I try to make the most of the time we have together.

I recalled these verses from Ephesians 5 one afternoon this fall, while I was wrestling with all this and how to fit in family life and devotional times and a balance between rest and activity:

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 
16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 
17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
Our butterfly friend who decided to break forth from her cocoon
in February! This was her home until she perished several days later.
She was absolutely lovely!

Every so often there is a flashbulb of inspiration that somehow manages to clear even the fog of fatigue ;) that shows me how to walk this out in this season of our family life. The LORD graciously breaks things up into little pieces for me, knowing full well that I am weak and frail and if I get overwhelmed I shut everything out, including good ideas ;).

So yes, when we step out and follow the invitations of the LORD, there's no tellin' where it'll lead. Sometimes that load will seem light, other times you've never done anything harder in your life.
Either way, it's worth it!

Oh, by the way, if you are considering learning at home, give the Sonlight curriculum a second thought. Yes, it's quite expensive, but there are ways around that to some degree.

I really liked their outline; thought the "social studies" component was a bit heavy on the reading and not enough on activity for younger ones, so we rounded it out a bit with a few notebooking type activities. If you google notebooking, there's REAMS of stuff on the net.

Science was fascinating, but instead of dabbling in different themes at once, I reorganized it into modules. That worked MUCH better for us, and gave us the chance to include lapbooks, national geographic for kids resources, brain pop, etc. We worked through three major topics - world of animals,  human body (I found a lapbook online that helped piece it together) and space (I purchased a notebook for $4 that provided word puzzles, activities, a song about the planets etc. M loved it!). We read through See How It's Made, some water and magnet activities, etc. See, tons of variety!!

They include a spelling and early reading program, which was fine. I have nothing to compare it to, so I'm not sure how it stacks up against more popular methods (Hooked On Phonics, All About Reading for example).

We purchased our math books separately.

Oh, and one morning my mom asked M what she was learning about.
Of all things, of course she just happened to recall that women in the "olden days" didn't wear shirts!!!
The pictures in our books about early nomadic peoples indicated that they often didn't wear tops, not men or women :).
I guess at least something stuck!!!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Our eldest daughter is so much like me.
Sometimes it makes me giggly.
Other times I want to scream out loud. :)

Anyway, apparently we both have an appreciation for the white stuff!
After our quiet time one afternoon, I found this lovely declaration taped to our front window.
Loud and proud, I guess!!

We both like snow.
I personally prefer to enjoy it from the cozy confines of my house, with a hot cup of coffee in hand.
But, CAN be persuaded to enjoy sledding down the local hill (not that many around these parts!!), craft out a fort or go snow-mobiling. As long as it's not toooo cold!

So there you have it...
To: the World
Love: Mikayla

What message are you sharing with your world today :)?


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