Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Homeschool kick off year 8!

Someone asked me how I can be a supporter of both homeschool and public school... I've been thinking about it this week. A few conclusions: I have confidence in our decision for this season of raising kids, I know we are doing what works for us. Therefore I'm not living for your approval; I'm not doing this to impress or gain status. I've got nothing to prove other than we're choosing this (because it's our choice to make) and aren't worried what other people think whether good or bad.  

BUT I also have confidence and support for your decisions, even and especially if they are different from mine! I support families, and raising kids IS NOT a competition. We can add richness and perspective to eachother's lives by encouraging and supporting, not in comparing. Each path holds its benefits and challenges. What a gift we can bring to relationships if we can learn to be a life giving source of support, encouragement and a different perspective. We can add new possibilities, enhearten through the challenges, and celebrate together the complete joys each path holds! You don't need my approval, but I'm wholeheartedly giving it.


School on families, school on!!! Hope it's a great year no matter how you're doing it!!! And in the spirit at trying this NON COMPETITION raising kids, what's your FAVORITE part of the path you're choosing? Mine right now is having the privilege to teach a new concept and see their minds click as they catch on.  

Monday, September 11, 2017

When the idol of sleep gave me the green light to sin

Motherhood and sleep deprivation go hand in hand. I "knew" this before I became a mom, but I didn't realize what it actually feels like to experience in real time. I looked forward to middle of the night tending to my newborn, and when setting up the nursery I remember sitting in the rocking chair with that deep longing to hold that babe in my arms. Truth is, I didn't mind so much the actual tending to the baby part, but the effects of night after night of very interrupted sleep was more wearing than I realized possible.  

We moms have this thing, we get together and catch up... a very common topic being a badge we wear about being tired. Almost a tone of bragging. We ARE tired so we get together and talk about how tired we are, we listen with our head tilted sympathetically to the side, nodding in agreement, to how tired our mom friends are while sipping coffee and feeling run down. Busy and tired. The top go-to topics in any mom circle. I laugh when writing this because I wonder how many people I have told over the years just how tired I am. "how are you?" 

"So. Tired."

My friend first challenged this pattern of thinking in her own characteristically sweet way one day by just responding to the routine question on "how's the baby sleeping?" with a very uncommon answer... "Oh, you know... well, I stopped expecting sleep" Or something along those lines.

Wait, what?  (gasp!) Sleep is this thing we all work towards, we all look forward to... we all strive for! and you stopped expecting it? What does that even mean?!  

The sleep idol.  This was a biggie (really) in my home.  Partly because it's not like sleep is a need or anything (note sarcasm) we need sleep to live, function, recharge and survive. So how can a real need become a real idol in my life? Well, it crossed the boundary from a need into idol territory when I allowed it to dictate my following day: my mood, my emotions and my behavior. Night before I was interrupted 3 times, cue selfish attitude, green light to be grumpy, my crutch to allowing the following day to be bad, because after all, "I was sooooo tired" 

me. me. me. 

idol. idol. idol.

Lack of sleep, being really really tired, not feeling my best, is NOT a green light for selfish actions. I don't get to be a grumpy mom just because I didn't get a certain number of perfect, preferred sleep hours. IDOL=SIN

Her gentle way of speaking to this issue (and she probably didn't even realize it at the time) really was used by the Holy Spirit in my life to do some convicting, and launched my "fake it in faith" morning routine. I didn't FEEL top notch, I didn't feel rested or recharged or good to start my days after pulling all night hours with little ones. The sin nature in me wanted to use it as an excuse that I had quite the pattern to green lighting myself grump status. The selfish side in me was TIRED. To take down this idol I had to break some pretty set in place habits (SIN).  I started a catch phrase that I would repeat to myself those mornings... "fake it in faith" what it really boiled down to was I was determined to take those actions captive, those attitudes, emotions and feelings that had overtaken so so many mornings and really truly repent... They weren't going to dictate anymore.  In faith I would smile at the boys, and give them a genuine "good morning, how are you today?" In faith I would meet their needs of snuggles, breakfast, sock finder, fight resolver, milk spill cleaner-upper, and attention giver without being a jerk. In faith I would read the Word for a true source of strength and give my day to God no matter how I felt. The sleep idol was torn the heck down. 

And you know what, looking back at this period of time where I committed to using God's strength and victory the cross offers us, I really saw His hand of faithfulness.  He took my "in faith" choices and started to work on my raw and real underlying feelings.  He took my choice to do what was right even when I seriously didn't feel like it, and He changed me at the heart of things.  He used my "fake it in faith" mornings and honestly reprogrammed my emotions, He helped me submit my green lights to sin, and gave me the strength, grace and ability to do it differently. and to actually BE different.

Do you wear the "tired badge" proudly?  Has this tired mom thing stepped into idol ground? Take notice. Take action. Fake it in faith, and see how God works!  

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Glamour of Wedding Vows


Happily Ever After
Riding off into the sunset

As a young girl the image of what a marriage relationship would look like was formed by our culture- by Hollywood, by marriages I looked up to. It isn't that these dreams of what I would one day experience and live out were 100% wrong, I am married to a great man who I deeply respect. He has been faithful, is an excellent dad to our boys, loved me unconditionally and has weathered ups and downs alongside of me through the years. But I wasn't prepared for how hard marriage is in real-life. Until you are in the thick of it, you really can't grasp the challenges a relationship will face, how life will press in hard on all sides and try to choke the life out of your relationship. Pressures from work, school, taking care of a home, car and yard maintenance, PARENTING, schedules, balancing it all. And the ever present but sometimes far too ignored spiritual battles that go on in a home; there is an enemy who wants to destroy us. It's not easy, and over the years we've had patterns of living more like peaceful roommates than that deeper connection of husband and wife that we dream of. We've had seasons of storms, and deserts. But marriage is GOOD, I know this because God created it. He made for Adam a help-meet, and said Eve was in fact not just good but very good. He created the blessing of intimacy that comes with a marriage relationship, He created us with different needs that when we put the other first can be met. He created marriage to draw us closer to eachother and I truly believe to draw us closer to Him as well. So real-life marriage isn't the same as a Hollywood movie, but it IS such a blessing to live out in real-life.  

To take someone for better or for worse, in sickness and health, richer or poorer, as long as you both shall live seemed almost glamorous when those vows were spoken on our wedding day almost 14 years ago. I'll never forget the actual rawness of our first real "worse" we weathered together- how it almost took the breath out of you how hard those storms can be. The glamour was gone and what was glaring in our face was two selfish people trying to work together as one.  It was about as unnatural as could be! We didn't think the same, we didn't respond or communicate the same, we didn't have the same priorities, or emotions or even expectations.  But we DID have the same foundation- we built our marriage on Jesus, and what has shown itself time and time and time again over the years, is that having that common ground, that solid Rock we are building our life upon IS ENOUGH. And not just enough, but is what really matters. It doesn't make everything easy, but it is what makes it possible. Establishing our marriage, our home, our family on Him has been the best decision we as a couple have ever made and one that we've never regretted.  He is the strength to get us through, He is the wisdom, the balm of forgiveness, the joy that comes. He is the love that is far far greater than any love we could muster up on our own. He is what has made this marriage work. He is our courage, our eternal perspective, our peace in the storm. He gives us Living Water when we are in a desert chapter. As we continue to grow in our faith, we continue to give Him glory in all the ways we can look back over the years and see His faithful hand at work in us. We are thankful! I am humbled and awestruck to see the miracles He has worked! Being married to this man of God is really good!   

So if your marriage is rocky, I encourage you to look at your
I promise to keep
standing firm
foundation and see if it's built on The Rock. If your relationship is feeling a little too suffocating, I challenge you to turn to the one who Breaths in the breath of Life.  If you are feeling restless or discontent, I'm telling you to replace those emotions with thankfulness. Serve a little more, love a little harder, laugh a little longer, pour out more grace, and let the natural mountain tops and valleys be a journey you continue to embark on together. Vows fleshed out aren't nearly as glamorous as when they were spoken on your wedding day, but how incredible it is to get through a time of "worse" and realize you're back in a time of "better" again, having grown through the challenges, and are now stronger. Your foundation never once faltering.  

A wise man builds his house upon a rock and the rains came down and the floods came up but the house on the rock stands firm.

Stand firm.  

Friday, May 19, 2017

Floods in life and The Living Water

This week we had some major storms move through our area- a tornado demolished an entire section of homes not far West of us, extremely large hail (baseball size reported) caused damage to buildings and vehicles, and the rain just kept coming.  Strong wind knocked down trees and took out powerlines in widespread areas. We weren't effected as badly as some, but our power was out. The duel combination of no power and heavy heavy rain, we were at risk for flooding.  My husband was out of town for work, so I was trying my best to handle the situation on my own-  Lugging out 5 gallon buckets of water from my basement couldn't keep up with how rapidly both of the sump pump tanks were filling. I was unable to handle the situation so I called for help.  My dad, who lives not far from us, hauled over his generator and got it started. Once connected to its source of power, the sump pump could function to do it's job, it started pumping out the water from the basement. We caught it in time, we acted quickly and with urgency and prevented it from becoming a much much worse situation with much more damage to our home.  

The rain has stopped, puddles are slowly going down, the concrete is drying out. As I reflect over the past few days, I can't help but feel relieved it's over and grateful for the help that I was able to get. I also can't help but look to the bigger picture- it's always there, but I don't always make the connection. Taking the time to make this connection really helps my perspective with the real-life situations we all face.  It helps me process it all, cope in a healthier way and also fixes my eyes on Eternity, where my hope is anchored securely.

In the basement of my home we were fighting the flood waters, we were pulling a late night, battling the storm and getting the damaging water out of my home.  We worked hard. My back and shoulders feel the strain of the 5 gallon buckets I hauled. Upstairs in my home we didn't have power, so that meant no running water, no flushing toilets, no washing hands, doing dishes, or having fresh water to drink.  The same storm - 2 different problems on both ends of the spectrum.  Water that we needed to get out absolutely as soon as possible, and water we needed to live; water to sustain us.  

I know there are areas of my life, looking back through the years and also presently that flood waters came rushing in, flood waters that in reality were and are sin. I need to get that damaging water out. It came in the form of bad decisions and continual bad choices, unforgiveness, a bad attitude, how I react in moments of stress (this one is really something I keep dealing with)... the list could literally never end. If left alone, if ignored or justified or even just "hidden", the flood would keep rising. The damage would take place. Even the smallest amount of flood water has the potential if left undealt with to cause problems. I called my earthly dad in for reinforcement in my emergency during the storm, but we also have a Heavenly Father who alone is capable of bringing in the necessary tools, the machinery, the knowledge far greater than our own to enable us to deal with sin in our life. He alone has the "Power Source" that can offer forgiveness of that sin. Complete and total forgiveness that not only can get the flood waters out, but can restore us and make us new.  Those floods of sin left un-taken-care-of will destroy us. They rob us of the present, and effect the future. They will crush our joy, wreck our relationships, wipe out our purpose. Wash away the reason we're here. Water left to rise in a basement would eventually destroy the entire building, mold would grow and it would become a contaminated place to live. Sin is much the same, even if we think "it's not really effecting anything" even if we believe that lie or justify the situation, or think it's hidden, the damage IS taking place.  We need to treat sin with urgency and in order to do that we need to connect to the life giving power source of Jesus, who alone is able. But not just able, He is available & willing.

During this storm I also needed the life giving water to drink, to cook and wash and clean.  Just like we need water to live here on earth, even more desperately we need The Living Water.  In John 4:14 Jesus is speaking and says,
"whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life"

How our life literally depends on this Living Water- on the work Jesus did on the cross that was, is and will forever be, the only sacrifice offered that can forgive sin. Our eternal destination is hinged on our response to the free gift He is offering us. Just like most would consider it foolish if I would have denied my Dad's offer to come help, his offer to rescue, to bring over his power source that could get the job done. Foolish! How much more foolish is it if we deny the gift Jesus is offering each and every one of us. But how incredible that it doesn't end there, He isn't just out to save us for eternity (as if that wouldn't be enough to offer!) He loves us so completely, so thoroughly and FULLY, that He even wants to come along shoulder to shoulder with us through each and every storm we face in life, and help us with those too.  The small ones like we face everyday, and the HUGE ones that threaten to wipe us out. We are't facing any of it alone when we make the decision to do life with the Life Giver, the only TRUE power source that exists! My heart is completely overjoyed!

Thank you for taking the time to read, 
                Blessings, Stef