Simple living is my new passion. I am a complete failure but I am enjoying the journey.
Simplicity is a mindset. Simplicity takes commitment.
The air turned crisp here in Florida this past weekend. It was amazing. The dog and the middle Smelly Monster (my middle son) were frisky and playful due to the temperature change. I love this time of year. It is all about family, food and no… not football…. more food! I get all warm and fuzzy thinking about my kids and husband and how blessed we are.
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Habits are the threads that weave the fabric of our lives. What we value we repeat over and over. We value clean healthy teeth so we brush our teeth multiple times a day (hopefully). We like to eat so we visit the grocery store often or at least send our husband there often. Thankfulness is a habit that produces a strong vibrant thread that weaves a masterful pattern in our lives. A lack of gratitude undermines the integrity and strength of our life fabric. It leads to depression and bitterness.
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.
Thankfulness isn’t automatic. It is a habit we must cultivate. When Cliff, my husband of thirteen years and daddy to my three little boys, died it was easy to focus on our loss. It was true that we had lost the most authentic and stable part of our lives. However, when we focused on our loss we forfeited the blessings of remembering what we had. The boys and I decided to PURPOSE to be thankful and remember the good times. We posted signs around our house reminding ourselves to be thankful for the time we had been given and not to be bitter over our loss. We cultivated thankfulness. It helped us muddle through our grief and find our way to acceptance and joy.
Thankfulness has enriched our lives. We take time to notice God’s blessings. Long before Cliff’s illness he jokingly told Micah and Caleb that he was leaving them an inheritance. Of course, being normal kids they were ecstatic. Cliff solemnly called the boys to the back porch and pointed to the yard. “Micah” he said, “I am leaving you the dirt under our pool.” He then turned to Caleb. “Son, I am leaving you the leaves in the yard.” The boys laughed and jumped on Cliff and they wrestled around as only boys can do thinking that their dad was the funniest dad ever. Sometime after Cliff’s death, the boys took me out to the yard and reminded me that Cliff had promised them those things and then we spent time talking about all the other things he had also left them as an inheritance. He left them with a love for God even when things don’t turn out like we planned. He left them with joy even in overwhelming circumstances. He left them a love for family and complete acceptance. He left them with a desire for excellence knowing that average isn’t good enough. He left them a strong foundation of Bible knowledge that they have passed on to Lucas and to others. He left one of them looking just like him, one of them with his sweet joyful heart and the third with a little bit of both. He left them the knowledge that God is good and faith is rewarded. He left them with memories of how to truly love their wives as they watched him love me. He left them with a passion for ministry and a desire to serve God. Last but not least, Cliff left me with Micah, Caleb and Lucas. How can I not be thankful?
Link to series prologue post: http://wp.me/pFsxL-1z
Still Choosing Faith,
The secret to managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided.
After a brief stint in “management” I have come to realize that I am way better at managing tasks than managing people! I enjoy motivating, encouraging and empowering people but managing not so much. Maybe if I had attempted to “manage” from the viewpoint of encouraging and empowering I would have enjoyed my situation more. Unfortunately I seem to get caught up in the result rather than the journey that gets us there. The task overshadows the people. Lesson three that the boys and I learned after the death of their dad is to accept responsibility. My “management” life-stage helped me divide this lesson into two levels.
Accept responsibility when you have messed up.
We all make mistakes. I call it the “Three Stooges Response” when I ask my Smelly Monsters who left the milk out on the counter or who left their wet socks on the table or who ate my hidden stash of chocolate. They start pointing and ducking and smacking each other and then the little one starts wailing “You gotta believe me…” Now that the girls are with us, at least half the time the boys have someone who isn’t around to blame it on!
We are going to fail. Scripture says in Proverbs 28:13 “… whoso confesseth and forsaketh them (sin, failures) shall have mercy.” We need to accept responsibility for mistakes and failures. It is the first step to success. Acknowledging that we have failed gives us the power to make a different, better choice next time. We are no longer the victim. We are more than conquerors through Christ.
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
– Winston Churchill
Accept responsibility for your response to the circumstances that God sends your way.
Don’t you love the phrase “Life is not fair?” I have used it quite a bit as a parent but acknowledge that it is much easier to quote that saying than be on the receiving end of the quote. We do know that life isn’t fair and circumstances and situations come our way that seem overwhelming. I get deep satisfaction knowing that even in situations that are unfair we are not “victims of circumstance” but have been given the freedom by God to respond well and turn a bad situation into an opportunity to glorify Him. Just remember, it’s not a crisis, it’s an opportunity.
And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. – Psalm 50:15
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
– Thomas Edison
You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.
– Jim Rohn
Link to prologue post: http://wp.me/pFsxL-1z
Still Choosing Faith,
Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
Gardening has always been a love of mine. I love watching other people garden. I love looking at things other people have grown. I love eating the items that result from other people’s work. Gardening is great in third person. For example I might say, “Wouldn’t it be really cool to have fresh herbs for cooking?” Larry understands that I mean, “Please, build me an herb stand, buy and plant the herbs and water them so I can clip a few herbs on the random day I might want to cook.”
During the sabbatical I took last fall, I began baking bread and actually gardening in the first person. My family was very concerned and more than once my boys asked “Who are you and what have you done with my mom?” During this time, we cleared and planted a garden that was about 25 feet by 25 feet. Planning, preparing and beginning a garden is hard but rewarding work. Maintaining a garden isn’t so much fun. Our land has a nice layer of dirt over the top of thick, matted, intertwined vines. It takes hours to clear one small area. After the area is cleared it takes just as long to revisit the site and maintain the cleared out spot. Vines (smelly vines) are much more aggressive than tender tomato plants.
I must have passed on my love for gardening to my Smelly Monsters. As a means of earning spending money, they have been given the opportunity to work in the yard this summer. The littlest Smelly Monster is fond of shopping but not so fond of working. His least favorite job this summer has been weeding. Therefore he has been given the most opportunities to overcome his aversion. Please don’t report me to Child Welfare Services. I am sure that making kids do their least favorite chore is in the “Parent’s Manual.”
Lesson number two has been a bit harder to put into practice. We have learned (doesn’t mean always put into practice) that we need to let go of bitterness fast and often. Just like the smelly, stink vines in our garden area, bitterness grows. The longer you ignore bitterness or heaven forbid feed or nurture bitterness the harder it is to deal with.
Hebrews 12:15 talks about the “root” of bitterness. After spending long hours pulling and clearing out vines and roots from our garden area, you would think that I would not have allowed even the tiniest little shoot to invade my garden. Not so! I was so tired of dealing with the difficult, painful vines that I gave up and went inside and pretended that the garden would be vine-free all summer. Thankfully, God blessed me with a plethora of children who want spending money and I was able to leverage that to my advantage. Our garden was cleared and I was once again gardening in the third person.
Unfortunately, personal bitterness isn’t as easy to delegate. We have to acknowledge that we are struggling with bitterness and not only deal with the obvious evidences but look for and attack the root. Obvious evidences of bitterness in my life have come in the form of self-pity, anger, a lack of compassion, sarcasm, depression, unreasonable expectation of others and the list could go on for days! Our scripture reminds us that “many be defiled” or made unusable by bitterness. Those evidences were outward signs of a deeper root. The root of my bitterness stems from trust issues. One of my favorite quotes from Cliff during his illness was that Faith is not us telling God what to do, but trusting that what God will do is right. Ick! I know! I struggle daily with letting go enough to trust God with the outcome of my requests.
So in review (I never stray far from my teacher habits) Lesson Two reminds us that bitterness must be addressed immediately and addressed over and over. I wish I could offer the silver bullet that would help you deal with your root of bitterness but I don’t. I hope it helps you to know that we all deal with bitterness and it isn’t easy for any of us. Don’t allow bitterness to keep you from fulfilling the God ordained part you are to play in the story of life.
Link to prologue post: http://wp.me/pFsxL-1z
Still Choosing Faith,
I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing:therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
It was the final step in the process. We made it through the funeral arrangements, the graveside and the memorial service. This would be our final trip to Garden of Memories for arrangements for my husband, Cliff. His sweet mother went with me to the funeral home to approve the headstone for his grave.
Before we headed over, I met my friend Melody and traded cars with her so that we didn’t have to move Lucas’ car seat and she took the boys. Kay, my mother-in-law, and I headed to the funeral home. We were able to make it through that last step with the little emotional energy we had left.
We walked silently out to Melody’s car parked in the reserved parking close to the front of the funeral home. Thankful for Kay’s support I smiled at her as she walked around to the other side of the car. Hurrying to unlock the car I put the key in the driver’s side door. This simple action created a chain of events that in retrospect are humorous but at the time were anything but humorous. As soon as I tried to open the door to Melody’s car the alarm began going off. This is a bit disconcerting alone but coupled with the fact that we were less than thirty feet away from a graveside service IN PROGRESS it became a full fledge crisis. Kay began pacing around the car and I was ineffectively trying to punch in the code that Melody was screaming to me in the phone over the piercing car alarm. The grieving family had stopped the service to watch us address the alarm crisis. Finally God had mercy on me and sent a kind stranger to talk to Melody on the phone and get the car code to disarm the alarm. There are no words to describe the silence that came after the alarm was finally disarmed. The grieving family collectively turned back to the graveside and the pastor picked up where he left off.
This is the point in my story that I make a VERY bad choice. I am left standing by the now quiet car and have to decide what to do next. Not understanding the nature of car alarms was a definite handicap in my decision-making process. I felt that since trying to open the driver’s side car door was what triggered the original alarm, I would outsmart the car. I made Kay climb out of the passenger side of the car and let me climb in my dress over the console to get to the driver’s seat. Pleased with my plan, I finally made it to my seat and allowed Kay to climb back in her seat. As soon as I put the key into the ignition, the alarm started again. I turned to get help and advice from Kay only to find that she had laid her seat back as far as possible and was doing her best to hide from the mourning family across the way. We were eventually able to start the car and leave the area. I am truly sorry for the interruption I caused that family by my poor choice.
Choices are never easy and always cause consequences. But, oh how precious is the principle that God allows us the freedom to make choices. In Deuteronomy 30:19 God says, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:”
Isn’t Scripture great? It tells us that we have a choice between life and death and blessing and cursing…. THEREFORE (this is the KJV version of DUHHHHH) choose life! We have been given the freedom to choose. We are not victims. When we accept that we can make different choices it empowers us to make changes. Those changes give us the ability to impact our lives. WE control our response to the circumstances. We have a choice.
When trials or difficult times come our way, let’s choose to turn to God and have faith. When failure has marred our life, we can choose to move forward and learn from those mistakes. When we are given life-changing news, realize we get to choose how we respond. We have the ability to choose and impact not only ourself but those around us.
Lesson number one was one we all began to learn during Cliff’s illness and continue to learn each day with new circumstances. It all comes down to choices. We can’t control what happens but we can control how we respond. Each day Larry and I beg God to empower us to continue to choose faith. What will you choose?
Link to prologue post: http://wp.me/pFsxL-1z
Still choosing faith!