Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

As the New Year arrives, I look back and recognize another year of just trying to keep up, just trying to survive, just barely scraping by. With Landon being my fourth child, I've come to allow myself a little leeway in "the year after" characterized by no motivation, a messy house, disorganization, projects gone by the wayside, lack of any menu planning, and bypassing other nice "comforts" all for the hopes of trading it in for the basic essentials of sleeping, eating, nurturing (others that is) and the most important, sanity. But now that my baby's no longer an infant (can you believe it?), and a new year starts tomorrow, I am filled with new resolutions.

A friend and I have been trading emails recently on the subject of intentionality. We've mostly focused on discipline, but in parenting, and I would add all of life, intentionality is key. It's hard to be intentional in many things, never mind everything. It requires a steadfast awareness of your life and all that you're putting your hands to and all that your mind thinks. On a day-to-day or even minute-to-minute basis, it's near impossible to have that kind of focus all the time. I fear though that we (and most especially me in this past year) have lost all focus and have given up intentionality in our lives.

in-ten-tion, -noun:
1. an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result
2. the end or object intended; purpose
3. intentions,
a. purpose or attitude toward the effect of one's actions or conduct

b. purpose or attitude with respect to marriage (from which the above definition is taken from) has eight different definitions for the word intention including meaning or significance and an interesting last one: the person or thing meant to benefit from a prayer or religious offering. All that to say, living with intentionality means living with purpose. No more living reactively, but actively living. I'm sure some of you have heard about Erin's resolution to blog each day for the next 40 days. She is blogging on the verses she reads each day and what they mean to her in her life in the here and now. This creates a keener sense of awareness, not only in feeding on the Word of God but in seeing how it applies to her life right now. I invite you to check it out.

Living with intention means consciously knowing your thoughts and understanding your actions. It's seeing where your energy is directed and how your money is spent. Living intentionally has the potential to eliminate bad habits, wasted time, lazy parenting and poor stewardship. It's about living a disciplined life.

The disciplined life is certainly something everybody should strive for, but when you're knee-deep in laundry, toys and dirty diapers and your to-do list is longer than Santa's Naughty or Nice list, it's hard to see where discipline comes in except for the occasional time-out or other behavioral management tactics. But discipline comes after deciding to be intentional and is the action of being intentional. We all know the saying, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." It takes more than intentions to live a life with purpose; discipline is what follows intention.

So how will discipline help me in this new year? Back to my resolution... Becoming more intentional in my living. This will require a new diet for my soul. Though I look at myself in the mirror and see the need for a physical diet, I want to go deeper and change my daily nourishment in more significant ways.
First, my media consumption needs to be stemmed. For me, this means less internet - it is my foremost addiction and time-waster. I am a voracious researcher, and the internet is my personal library, and thanks to email and facebook, it is also a big part of my social network. This is not altogether a bad thing, but if I don't have discipline over this area of my life, more important things fall by the wayside all in the name of research or faux socialization. Second, my quiet time will become more consistent; my nightly choice of reading will begin with the Bible as opposed to my historical novels or "brain candy." Plugging into the omnipotent, omniscient Power (no, I'm not talking about the world wide web) is the best and only thing I can do in becoming more intentional. "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..."* Third, becoming intentional in my life includes my duties as a homemaker, parent, teacher and wife. More consistent meal planning, home organization and in-depth homeschooling are goals of mine in the coming year. This includes much more focused time with the children, concentrating on bonding opportunities. I also look forward to more date nights out with my hubby! Fourth, my prayer life needs a boost desperately, and I am determined that my day will have set times where I take the time to sit and pray. I was inspired by this blog posting and am hoping to have the kind of discipline/reminders this blogger refers to in structuring her routine around her prayer times. The first thing that comes to my mind when I read her "reckless experiment with prayer" is, "That is sooo not me!" I'm not Catholic, I'm not Orthodox, I'm not Muslim and I'm not Jewish - and I'm jealous. Each of these religions have built-in times of prayer throughout the day - calls to prayer which help remind the masses or body of Christ to stop what they're doing and worship God. I'm not sure how I'll do it - I don't have a big church bell reminding me to pray, and our town doesn't have a loudspeaker for all to hear the call to prayer. I'm not meaning to get legalistic about it - I do believe and experience the prompting of the Holy Spirit to communicate with God, but like everything else in my life, I'm craving some sort of structure. And if it starts out or becomes rote, then so be it. At least, I will have talked to God more in each one of my days than my usual week.

Now I know I will not remain intentional through every precious second of this coming year. I will have my lazy days, my sick days, my tired days, and my "I-just-don't-want-to" days - there will be plenty of those! I will fail as a mother, wife and friend in the new year. I will not be the kind of Christian I want to be, and God will not always be proud of me. But a resolution is just that: a decision meant to spur us to action; to transform in little or big ways so our lives become changed, hopefully for the better.

*Hebrews 12:2a

Friday, December 19, 2008

My Morning

Thump. Thump. Thump. Soft padding of little feet coming downstairs.

The chatter of little voices. Crying. I hear crying.

I slowly become aware of being conscious and head!

Getting out of bed.

Uh, nope! NOT getting out of bed.

Can't open my eyes, can't breathe out my nose, and is that a gosh darn headache? I must've gotten Jayce's cold. I sense my husband has, like me, chosen to stay under the covers.

"Honey, can you go get the baby?"

"...and change his diaper?"

"...and feed him breakfast?"

"...and stay home and take care of me too?"

Wait, I have Kajijis this morning. It's our holiday party. I have some things to bring...and food. Oh, the food's soooo yummy! It's nice to have, at least, one morning off from making breakfast. Wasn't Erin going to make that Spicy Corn Casserole today? Yummm-O!

Gotta get up. Where are the tissues?? Ugh...what is it about colds that make your eyes tear up and leak almost as bad as your nose? I just know this cold is going to morph into a bad cough from the sounds of Jayce. There's nothing worse than coughing yourself awake ten times a night.

Shower. A shower will help.

I can't believe I feel like *crumb*, and yet I'm getting dressed up. Not my typical attire for the day either like jeans or yoga pants, but an actual skirt and soft pretty sweater.1 And I can't forget my high-heeled, pointy-toed boots that I can barely walk in. What am I thinking??

It's Kajijis Day today! That's what I'm thinking. Even when I feel like this, I'm lucky enough to look forward to my KGs every Friday. Every Kajiji Girl is awesome - they're all such a great group of women. I'm blessed to be able to call them...ACHOO!!...friends.

Well, time to go.

Wait, I can't forget the coffee!

...and flavored creamers...

...and banana cake...wait, where's the chocolate?

Oh, right, the kids too.

"Everybody ready?"

I have to chuckle at the kids speedily getting their jackets and shoes on. They're just as excited as I to get out of the house and go play with friends.

"Jayce, hand me a tissue, will you?"

1. Dressing up is not required but is rather the exception.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Giving Back the Blessings

David sent this to me this morning. It so beautifully went with Crystal's most recent post here, that I wanted to add it. What will be our gifts to the One who has so richly blessed us - Us, who so pitifully don't deserve it?

My Gift to the Queen

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.'"1

I have read that Queen Mary made a regular visit to Scotland every summer, and how, on "one occasion she was strolling with a group of school children. Suddenly the sky turned gray and thick, and dark clouds appeared. The queen stopped at a nearby house and asked if she might borrow an umbrella. She told the lady of the house, 'I'll send it back to you tomorrow.'

"The lady was reluctant about lending a good umbrella to a total stranger, but she remembered that she had an old one up in the attic. One rib was broken and there were several ragged holes in it, but she nevertheless turned it over to this lady at her front door with a weak apology.

"The next day there was another knock at the door. This time, when she opened it, a man in gold braid stood with a big envelope in hand. 'The queen sent me,' he said, 'and asked me to thank you for the umbrella.' For a moment the woman stood motionless--speechless, but then burst into tears. Finally she cried, 'Oh! What an opportunity I missed that I didn't give her my best!'"

How embarrassing! But how often, I wonder, do I give Jesus my second best ... or even my leftovers?

In younger days ... much less tactful ones ... when I was the pastor of a small church, as we didn't have a janitor, I was cleaning the church. The vacuum cleaner we had was next to useless and I said to myself, "I'll bet one of the members gave this to the church because it wasn't any good to them."

I reported this thought to the church officers at our next meeting. Oops! Deathly silence. I was right. It was a gift from the key families in the church! As I often kid, my comment went over like "a pork chop in a synagogue!" But we did get a new vacuum cleaner!

Let's not give Jesus the King of kings our broken umbrellas, nor our leftovers--whether it's time, talents, gifts, or money. Let's give him our first-fruits ... not our last-fruits.

In the words of the old hymn: "Give of your best to the Master; Give him first place in your heart; give him first place in your service; Consecrate every part ... Give him the best that you have."2

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, in thanksgiving for your great love-gift to me and your so-great salvation, grant that I will always have the grace to give you the best that I have to give. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."

1. Matthew 25:40 (NIV).

2. Mrs. Charles Barnard.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Paradise Foreclosed

One of the biggest questions of the human race has been, "How does God allow such pain and suffering for humans?" If He were a good God, would He not prevent the tragedies that continually befall our race? We see pictures of those less fortunate than us all around the world living in shacks in the middle of a place that looks like our local trash dump. We hear about those who are sick and diseased because of unclean water, infectious mosquitoes, contagious viruses. People die by the millions everyday from starvation and sickness. But I think the real question is, "How do we as a people deserve anything more than that?" Living in tin shacks next to a river of sewage is the perfect example of the only lifestyle we can spiritually afford. Our souls are bankrupt when it comes to righteousness, and we gave up the good things of Eden when we chose knowledge over God. Once sin entered the world, our proverbial bank accounts emptied, and Paradise handed us a foreclosure sign. Since when do we deserve anything but tragedy and misery? When did we start thinking that God's blessings were a right of ours?

The Scriptures are full of accounts of God's mercy and grace to those undeserving. How many times did Moses plead for God to stay His hand of judgment from the Israelites? And countless times, God showed mercy instead.

"Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee" Psalm 63:3

We sit in our furnished homes and drive our luxury cars and eat our organic foods. God's blessings have been poured out on us abundantly. If we have a roof over our heads, we are blessed. If we are healthy, we are blessed. If we have food to eat, we are blessed. If we are warm in the winter and cool in the summer, we are more than blessed. If our children are without distended empty tummies, they are blessed. If we have a Christmas tree this season with gifts underneath it, we are abundantly blessed. If we have one dollar in our pocket to give to someone else, we are richer than most.

"Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful" Luke 6:36

Misery is what we traded paradise for, and yet God continues to shower us with His grace and mercy. Our life's wages can only afford us a life not worth living. Yet God took us out of our garbage dump existence and handed us a mansion. The world gives pain and suffering to us freely. But more than occasionally, God raises us up out of this existence to give us glimpses of Heaven.

"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit" Titus 3:5

God allows pain and suffering, because we chose it. It is not the right of His people to live like we do surrounded by every conceivable blessing; it is our ultimate privilege that God grants us the gift of His mercies and blessings. So the question truly is, "How does God allow us the tender mercies and bountiful blessings of which humans experience (even those with nothing to their name)?" How did we get so lucky in all that we've been provided and given? The answer is a simple one: "Because He first loved us..."

"This is how much God loved the world: He gave His Son, His one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life." John 3:16 (The Message)

In this season of Love, may the blessings you've received flow over into your charity to others so that those who are living in poverty, misery and poor health will see and experience Christ's love and mercy through you and be blessed. Merry Christmas!!
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