Posted in Being a Mom, Faith, Family, Inspiration, Uncategorized

The Secret

I’ll let you all in on a little secret that I’ve been carrying around with me for about the last 16 years. It’s difficult to share, but it is something I feel the need to get off my chest. So here goes. My secret is this. I’m a mom and I’m not doing it perfectly.

I know it’s hard to believe, but despite what my Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat feeds might depict, our family is far from ideal. While it pains me to admit it openly, our kids aren’t exactly faultless either. In fact, they are sometimes lazy, messy, selfish, disrespectful, ungrateful, judgemental, complaining, angry, — the list could go on and on. Here’s the worst part of my secret. Do you know who they learned some of these awful behaviors from? Yep, you guessed it. It was me. Now there’s a slice of humble pie that doesn’t look so appetizing.

Ever since they could walk and talk, our kids have been watching me. When I think of them, I hear the gravelly voice of Roz from Monsters Inc. in my head, “I’m watching you, always watching.” As their mom, my kids have seen me at my very best and my very worst. They’ve heard me say to them “Don’t judge,” and watched me do just that. They’ve listened to me say, “Stop complaining,” and have witnessed me grumbling with my very next breath. Unfortunately, they have seen a whole string of these unsightly behaviors over the years; and sadly, they’ve even repeated them.

It’s easy to point fingers at society, at their teachers, their friends, or various other worldly influences, but when I look at myself as one of their primary role models, I realize quite humbly, that what they’ve been watching over the years, is not necessarily what I always wanted them to see. I didn’t always do parenting the “right” way. I screamed, I yelled, I made poor choices, and my kids have seen it all.

Some parents will find failure in that admission, wagging their fingers or their tongues about the quality of my parenting skills. I have to admit, I’ve spent plenty of time in my life beating myself up over that very fact. As of late though, I’ve also found great freedom in the admission as well. Freedom in knowing that while my kids are quite familiar with my mistakes, they have also seen me at my brighter moments. They were watching when I chose to give of my time at church. They saw me take dinner to an ailing friend in need. They’ve seen moments of patience with the grocery clerk when there was a glitch in the system that was holding up the entire line. Just as often as they’ve witnessed the bad, they’ve undoubtedly also seen the good. I see that good reflected in them when they practice forgiveness, kindness, patience, love, compassion, generosity, unselfishness, hope, faith, honesty, and so much more.

More importantly, I believe God sees it too. When He does, I like to think He celebrates. Not that I’ve adequately done my parenting duty or that that they’ve done another good deed, but that we’re all growing. While I am not the perfect parent, He has created me as the perfect example for my children, that through His grace and mercy He is molding us all into the people He wants us to be.

I would offer this advice to my fellow parents and guardians out there today. Be kind and supportive to one another and to yourselves. Allow yourself to experience the freedom of knowing that in even in our imperfection, He is using both the unsightly and the good in all of us. While He did not create evil, He can control it. As Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Today I pray that as parents and guardians, instead of criticizing one another, we would all strive together to remind each other of this fact. It’s okay to admit you’re not the perfect parent and that you’ve made mistakes. It’s okay to admit that your kids aren’t completely blameless too. If we all were willing to make this admission, I think parenting would be a whole lot less lonely and wildly more productive. God bless and easy breathing! 0DC59459-3729-477E-BB5F-D1C1742CFB3E

 

 

 

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Posted in Faith, Family, trust in God, Uncategorized

It’s Not About Me

5FCC8903-44E8-4731-8ECF-19F369067BFEOver the past few years, I have had the joy and privilege to see God at work in a friend’s life. I have watched her intensely study the word of God and immerse herself in Christian reading. She has served in a variety of ministries at our church, often in a leadership role. She has ministered to the poor both locally and overseas, and that joy of serving has spread to her husband and her children in ways I know she couldn’t have even imagined. I see God’s light in her and I continue to be both proud and inspired by her example.

To be honest, I get frustrated too; not with my friend of course, but with myself. I get angry that my relationship with God seems so two steps forward and two steps back. I feel sad that even in my immediate family, faith is a topic of great debate. While we challenge each other with our different viewpoints, we don’t always agree on how following Christ should look. Our family has served in different capacities; but if I’m being honest, my kids are not eagerly seeking opportunities to serve right now. In a growing place of restlessness, I sometimes look around me and ask God, “What am I doing wrong?” In that moment, He hits me with an answer that feels a bit like a two-by-four to the forehead, “IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.”

When the realization hits, I acknowledge I’ve done it again. I’ve let my need to control everything around me spin me into a state of anxious chaos. I have let that slick salesman of evil (also known as Satan) plague me with fear, rob me of my joy, and put doubt in my head. Instead of trusting God’s perfect plan, I am relying on myself to make things happen according to what I think they should be. As the admission sinks in, I once again realize my continued need for His grace and remember Romans 9:16, “It does not depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”

Do you struggle with trusting God’s plan and battle against the enemy of control? I recently discovered this prayer of surrender by Thomas Merton and I really love it.  I hope as you read the words, they bring you peace wherever you are in your own journey. God bless and easy breathing.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Inspiration, Womanhood

Crown of Glory

miss-universe

My husband, Bob, and I came across the Miss Universe Pageant while we were channel flipping before bed last night. When we first started watching, the top six contestants were being determined; but after two more rounds of elegant evening gowns and challenging political questions, we saw it narrowed down to the top three. The remaining three women were asked a final question, something to the effect of What is something that you failed at in life and what lesson did you learn from that failure? Whether it was because of nerves (which I’m sure played a tremendous part), international translations, or just the fact that these women have been pushed to succeed their whole lives, they all seemed to initially hesitate with their answers. It started me thinking about what I would have said if I had been in their shoes, and I realized I would have hesitated too, but not for the same reasons.

I fail daily. In 30 seconds it would be awfully difficult to come up with just one failure and one lesson that I’ve learned along the way. I’ve lost my cool and screamed at my kids. I’ve forgotten to acknowledge a dear friend’s birthday. I’ve gotten impatient with my extended family. Once, when our pizza delivery was running late, I called the store owner upset and learned I had mistyped the house number on our online order. Gulp. Instead of being supportive, I’ve rolled my eyes at Bob with a look that says “Are you kidding me?” I’ve overspent areas of our budget. I’ve told little white lies; in fact, I’ve told big lies in some stages of my life. I’ve been judgmental. I’ve been envious. I’ve failed to take care of myself. The list could honestly go on and on.

The most important lesson that I’ve learned from all these less than stellar moments, is that God’s grace is really BIG. Instead of being put on the spot in front of the world for 30 seconds with one chance at success, He watches me continually make mistakes and loves me despite them. No matter what I do, He is still there offering me the chance to share His crown of glory in heaven someday, and unlike the final three Miss Universe contestants, my chances are many because of His son’s sacrifice. What an awesome gift knowing I don’t have to be flawless because He loves me despite my failures! Today I pray for Miss Universe. That as she upholds the duties of her crown this year that she knows God’s love. While the world expects her to be perfect, He does not, and he offers the same gift to us all.

God Bless and  Easy Breathing!

Photo credit to People.com

Posted in Being a Friend, Dealing with Trials, Faith, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Lighting the Way Home

This past weekend my husband, Bob and I took part in a candlelight vigil for our neighbor and friend who went missing on December 16th under suspicious circumstances. The download-1search for clues has reached a feverish pitch for this husband, father of three, and township trustee. In minus degree temperatures, we gathered with his family and about 75 other supporters from our small community to share stories and pray for his safe return. There was such a mix of feelings during that vigil; of desperation and sadness to be certain, but also of hope, that our friend and community member would be safely led home.

This morning as I was reflecting on that event, it made me think about the times we turn away from a relationship with God, and how similarly, He must also desperately grieve knowing we are lost. Luckily, there too is hope. Just as the candles we held during our vigil lent light to the darkness, God gave us his son, Jesus, as light and hope for the world. John 12:46 tells us, I have come into the world as a light so that no one in me should stay in darkness and 1 Peter 1:3 says, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. God gave us Jesus to fulfill our hope, and the clues we seek in finding our way home are written within the truth of His gospel.

Today I pray that if you are feeling lost and don’t yet know God, you would invite him to help you find your way home through His son, Jesus. If you know Him, but something is holding you back from the truth of His love for you, I pray that you would again seek hope through His word. God bless and easy breathing!

Note: If anyone has any information regarding the disappearance of Bryon Macron, please click here for more information.

Posted in Christmas, Faith, Family, Inspiration

Eddie Walker Simple

TODAY’S CHRISTMAS FORECAST: SIMPLEEddie Walker Santa

Bob and I got engaged 17 years ago in November of 1997. That year we spent a great deal of time carefully picking out Christmas decorations together. He and I shared a vision from those first purchases that we would be creating Christmases for our family for years to come. I laugh now thinking about how seriously we took those first buying decisions. It was as if we believed we could preserve all our future happiness with the items we bought. That particular year, we both fell in love with a designer, Eddie Walker, who made carvings that reflected a simpler, country way of life. Her figurines are all retired now, but over the first few years of our marriage, Bob and I would collect many of them together.

Over the years, our tastes changed dramatically, and we opted for more modern expressions of the Christmas season. The Eddie Walkers found their way to back bedrooms or to the downstairs family room. Some years I just didn’t unwrap them at all. This year, however, I found myself desperately longing for those days when things were so much simpler. As I dug through the Christmas boxes and bins in the basement, I lovingly unwrapped those Eddie Walkers. I took them upstairs and placed them in plain sight for all to see who visit us this holiday. It was just one step, but in giving those figures a prominent place in our home, I felt like I was taking back a lost tradition from a time where dreams were big and expectations were few. Life already seemed a little bit simpler.

The question I had to ask myself was, “Why shouldn’t it be?” The birth of the child we’re celebrating was far from grandiose. The King of Kings was wrapped in nothing more than a cloth and laid among stable animals. Other than the gifts that the Magi bestowed upon Him, everything else was as simplistic as it could be. If such humble beginnings were good enough for the Prince of Peace, shouldn’t it be for us as well? In this age of instant gratification and constantly doing, isn’t Christmas the perfect time to catch our breath and find reasons to experience a bit of nostalgia and peace? Unfortunately, most of us do the exact opposite this time of year. I know I stand guilty as charged. I worry about the right decorations, the right gifts, the right food, the right time to go to church, the right outfit for each Christmas party. I become a product of my surroundings, a frazzled, hot mess! This year, I decided to take it back a notch. I did a lot of shopping online. I limited the number of social commitments we made, I even took Christmas dinner with extended family from a traditional, formal, sit-down to a finger foods and sandwiches party.

So I ask you, how can you simplify your holiday this season? Do you have your own version of our Eddie Walkers that you can dust off this Christmas? Or maybe you have a traditional recipe your family used to make when you were younger that you haven’t made in years. Maybe it’s turning off the phone for a few hours each evening or simplifying a usually complex meal. Whatever it is for your family, I hope that you can recover a bit of nostalgia this Christmas season that will help you to de-stress and remember a simpler time of joy and love. God bless you all and Merry Christmas.

Posted in Faith, Family, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Christmas Lists

I think I heard a communal sigh from some of you when you saw the title of this post, as in, “Gee Jen, could we get through Halloween first? Walking into any retail store and seeing it decorated for Christmas when it’s not even Halloween is disconcerting enough, but do we have to read about it in blog posts too?” Believe me, I COMPLETELY understand. I promise you all that the jack-o-lanterns are still burning brightly at our house as we gear up for Trick-or-Treat, Halloween parades and the like. It’s just that as November quickly approaches, there are those in both mine and Bob’s families who like to get their holiday shopping done earlier rather than later, so it is about this time every year that I hear the familiar call of “Christmas lists please!” and have to sit down with Bob and the kids to see what I can pull out of them.

Last evening as I sat down to begin to compile lists for our family, I titled my note “Christmas Lists 2013” and underneath listed each person’s name: Bob, Meghan, Jake and Jen. Even Daisy, our puppy, who is barely teetering on the “Naughty” into the “I’m going to have to find a new home” list found a place in my notes. As I began to jot down a few things for everyone, a quiet voice seemed to whisper at the back of my mind, “Where am I on your list?” to which I immediately responded by writing God at the top of my paper. I sat there pondering this a moment, feeling a little bit like the little drummer boy who claimed to have no gift to bring to the Christ Child. I began to think about what gifts I might give to God this coming holiday season and one finally came to mind, time.

Time I could certainly spare. Over the past several weeks I had realized that the time I had been spending in prayer with God had certainly dwindled. It was not until I was gravely ill and back in the hospital with health scares abounding, that I began to desperately call out to Him again and ask Him to help me keep my eyes fixed on Him. When I was sick, I received two devotionals in care packages from close friends. One is Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young. This book is uniquely written from the perspective of Jesus as if he was having a personal conversation with you. There are so many days when I have gone to that book now and the message for a particular day is exactly what I needed both emotionally and spiritually. The reading for each day is short and the supportive biblical verses are right there for you to examine more closely. I highly recommend it! The other is Prayers for a Woman’s Soul by Julie K. Gillies. For all your ladies out there, as busy moms and/or executives of our careers, it is easy to bombard heaven with prayers to meet everyone else’s needs. But how often do you pray for your own needs? As daughters of faith, we need to be open to a daily offering of our own needs up to God, and Prayers for a Woman’s Soul is a great way to begin.

Anyway, I’ve digressed a bit. The important takeaway here is that no matter how much time we’re currently spending in prayer, we could always give God a little bit more of our time. God is completely crazy about us and wants us to spend time with Him. Though He knows the interworking of our souls, He desires to hear our voices in prayer, whisper to us in the silence of our minds and hearts and bathe us in the joy of His presence.  Psalm 4:3 says, I know the Lord has set me apart for Himself; the Lord hears when I call to Him. Psalm 21:6 says, Surely you have granted Him eternal blessings and made Him glad with the joy of your presence. Did you ever think that you could make God happy just by being you in His presence? 🙂 Do you know that even in “seasons of silence” God is always listening to you and loving that You trust Him with your needs?

I know it’s not Christmas yet, but who says we have to wait? Give God the “treat” of your time at Halloween, share with Him the bounty of your thanks at Thanksgiving. Best of all, I dare you to include Him on your Christmas lists this year. What will you give to the Kings of Kings this year? I hope you will all challenge me to answer that question as well as we head toward these upcoming holidays.

God Bless and Easy Breathing!