When I started this blog…

When I started this blog I was ambitiously going to get into more craft projects and make all my own Christmas gifts.  Now I am more than happy to visit bazaars, purchase hand made gifts made by other people, and support them in their endeavors.  Now I run my own bazaar out of my house.

When I started this blog, I thought I would have more food posts.  I realized I am happy to make the same familiar dishes, bake simple recipes, and leave the creative elaborate cooking to my husband.

When I started this blog, I was looking forward to the day I would have more kids in school and less kids in the house.  Now I have more kids in school and MORE kids in the house hence taking on in home child care.  I love it and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It is amazing to me how things evolve.  We make our plans.  We have our hopes, our dreams, our ambitions.  But God often leads and guides in HIS direction, which may not always be ours.

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Unlocking the truths of anxiety

If you have been reading this blog long enough or know me well enough, you know I struggle with anxiety.  I will never be cured from it.  It will always as my husband says, “be my crutch.”  We all have some sort of crutch we walk through life with.  If anxiety is yours, then you understand the racing thoughts, the sweaty hands, the jumpiness, the extreme emotions, going through your day in fight or flight mode etc.  You may experience deep fear that might even paralyze you.

Many of us will still fall into pits of anxiety from time to time even if we have fought for our mental health through counseling, medication, natural treatments, exercise, etc. We are broken, but God loves us anyway.  He cares for us. These are some of my favorite Scripture verses I read through whenever I feel like I am in one of those pits.

God’s plan for our lives is not one that will harm us or destroy us.  His PROMISES are to give us life so we can honor and glorify Him.

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For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. – 2 Corinthians 1:20

The Lord will keep you from all harm–he will watch over your life.  The Lord will watch over you coming and going both now and forevermore.  – Psalm 121:7&8

We all go through difficult times.  It is inevitable.  If you claim to know Christ you will endure suffering.  But God’s plan is PERFECT and it’s good.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6

Everyone quotes this verse when they think about anxiety, but don’t forget that key little phrase “with thanksgiving.”

“You thank God before you make the request because you’re saying, “Lord, whatever you do in response to this request is GOOD.” – Tim Keller

Seeking the Lord is a day by day sometimes hour by hour process.  

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,…- 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

“Peace comes from the same thing that joy comes from–the assurance of your salvation.” – Tim Keller

Nothing or no one can overpower you.  God is ALWAYS on your side.  He is NEVER against you.

 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 8:31

And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us.
And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?

– from Our God by Chris Tomlin

God is ALWAYS with you.  You need not walk alone.

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! 2“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you – Isaiah 43:2

God offers help.  Seek him for direction in your anxiety.

I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. – Psalm 40:1 & 2

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. – Psalm 121:1&2

Your faith in Jesus Christ is worth more than gold.  It is WHO YOU ARE.

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ – 1 Peter 1: 7 & 8

You are a CHILD OF GOD and it’s not because of all the nice things you do or the ladder of success you are trying to climb.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.…- Ephesians 2:8

 

To the mom with her iphone at the park and the one who leaves it in her pocket…

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There has been debate in “Mom blog world” over using your iphone while your kids are outside playing at the park.  Are you disengaged from them?  Are you not giving them the attention they need and deserve?  Some say yes. Others say, “Get real and stop judging us.”

First of all there is a lot of talk of “It wasn’t that way in my day as a stay-at-home mom.”  That is true.  Before we declare that the moms of the 1970’s and 1980’s were not distracted by technology. some children had moms who watched game shows in the morning and soap operas in the afternoon.  Some children still dealt with moms on the phone.  The phone, however, was attached to the wall with a long (but often not long enough) spiral chord.  My point is that there is, was, and always will be distractions.  Painting the past in beautiful colors and displaying the present as depressing is a temptation but does not always speak the truth.

Is our “mom world” today different and affected by technology?  Of course it is.  Our world moves at a faster pace than it once did.  We feel the need to be “plugged in” often and respond to message as quickly as possible.  Yet that makes us more efficient.  We get more work done in a less amount of time.  I have a small writing job.  My editor lives in Canada, my headquarters are in Michigan, and I communicate with people all over the country.  I can do almost all my work over e-mail and Facebook from the comforts of my living room while my kids play in the backyard.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Moms can plan events with other moms using tools on Facebook.  We can text one another if we have a question about anything.  We can connect with other moms all over the country and even all over the world. It’s convenient, it works for us, and it is a blessing.

However it also distracts us and many of us lack the discipline to “shut it down.”  Throwing it out is not practical.  But if you limit yourself, you realize that you don’t need it as much as you think you do.

We grew up in a world that was more compartmentalized with kids in either public or private school.  The school day is no longer 8:30 AM until 3:00 PM for children who are homeschooled.  Many moms stayed home or had a job outside of the home. Now it is accepted (and easier with technology) to work from home hence the workday is not 9-5 anymore.  Sometimes my work day is in between naps or when the kids are watching a movie or when they are contently playing outside and I can quick send a couple of e-mails.

I think the majority of us function better when we have a schedule and are not juggling ten things.  In this world of diverse options and multiple networking opportunities we have to be more intentional…and sometimes a bit creative with how we schedule our lives.  Are the kids getting enough of us?  Are we spending too much time engaged in technology?  Is the picture of us texting or reading Facebook statuses how our kids picture us spending the majority of our time?  I can’t answer these questions for you. But if we answer these questions with guilt, than maybe we are not prioritizing our schedules the way we should.

Because the mom at the park may very well be surfing Facebook and missing out on her children’s play.  Or maybe she have spent the whole morning with them and is now trying to get caught up on e-mails.  We don’t know.  In this world of technology we don’t know and we should not assume.

All I can say is be the best the mom you can be to your kids.  If that means limiting your screen time, do it.  Don’t worry about the mom sitting next to you that isn’t.

 

Spring Break Plus A Bonus Week

So we had Spring Break plus “a bonus Spring Break” because my sister and her family ventured out to Oregon the week after our break. Since I had to dig my flip flops and shorts out of the attic for my trip to California and I am not about to put everything back, I feel like summer is on its way.  Especially with the warm sunny weather we are soaking up.  Yet I know well enough about the rain that sometimes invades in May and the June gloom here in Oregon so I am leaving a couple long sleeves and hoodies in the closet.

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So back in March we told the kids we were going to Washington because my husband had an all day meeting at a church. This was all made up.  There was no meeting. We told them they had to spend a full day entertaining themselves in the church nursery.  I hate holding the truth from my kids so I told them we’d stay in a motel with a pool.  Our plan was to surprise them and take them to Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, Washington.  And yes, they were surprised.

ImageOne of the best things about Great Wolf Lodge with a 8,6, & 4 year old (we have gone when they were younger) is we could do almost everything including all ride on a tube slide together.  There was just one slide my younger two did not meet the height requirement on.  It was refreshing and fun to not have to spend the whole time in the little kid’s area. However, it was nice they still wanted to play there at times giving us a little break too.

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It was a great time for our family.  I am in this new phase of parenting where I am doing more with the kids versus for them.  It really makes events like this enjoyable.

ImageAfter Great Wolf, my family dropped me off at PDX where I flew to LA to visit my friend Linda.  Linda was in the youth group I lead back in Michigan, and somehow she got all grown up on me and is now a graduate student at USC.  I love seeing my youth group “kids” all grown up finding their place in the world.

My first full day in LA I drove in my rental car braving the crazy six lane highways I am not used to.  I headed to Santa Monica where I enjoyed the festivities on the pier and a run along the beach.

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And an amazing sunset!

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 Linda gave me an “inside” view of LA.  We ate at several ethnic restaurants, drove to the Hollywood sign, I went to her Ultimate Frisbee tournament, and we even got to visit the LA opera.

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I could not get enough of the warm, sunny, LA weather.  I am not sure I could live the pace of LA, but the weather and the beaches are pretty amazing.

After four days of being home and trying to revert back into some kind of routine, we were thrilled to have my sister, her husband, and kids come visit us in Oregon.  They live back in Michigan where we used to live so we don’t get to see one another often.

While they were here, my brother-in-law did the Beaver Freezer Triathlon on the campus of Oregon State.  It was my second sprint triathlon.  He has done more and even completed an Ironman Triathlon.  It was fun to do one with a family member.

Amy runningMy time was very similar (only a thirty second difference) from my first triathlon last spring in Stayton, Oregon.  But the swimming went so much better.  Last spring I felt nauseous swimming and could not get into a good swimming pattern.  I felt like I could have increased my speed on the bike, but I am still not totally comfortable “bike racing.”  This is something I hope to work on this summer.  The run for me was by far the best and my run time was only about 1 minute and half more than my normal 5K time.

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My brother-in-law is the guy in the back with the blue shirt and sunglasses.  I thought this picture was funny with the “happy runner” in the front.

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One of the greatest things about having my sister and her family here is seeing all the cousins playing together.  They are ages 12,10,8.6,4–there was a baby every two years.  My brother continued that pattern with an almost two year old and a baby due next month.

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The weather cooperated and we were able to spend most of Monday at Silver Falls State Park.  We have been there many times.  We appreciate it more going with people who have never gone before.

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My sister, her husband, my niece, my nephew, and my oldest two hiked to Double Falls which was about a four mile hike round trip.  My youngest and I made it just past the lower South Falls and took a breather while the rest went on.  We were able to hike back together.

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And then return home to a wonderful dinner cooked by my husband.

After my sister’s family left I cannot believe how tired everyone was.  It has taken us a few days to get our energy back.  My sister made the comment that there is something relaxing about getting back into your normal routine.  I have found that to be true.  The house is slowly getting put back together and everyone is returning back to work, school & regular activities.

I Gave Up Complaining for Lent

6:45 AM is not early for me.  On many mornings my alarm goes off at 4:45 AM and I get a workout in before a day of homemaking/child care giving/everything else I do begins.  But 6:45 IS early when your kids do not have school, your husband has the day off, and YOU do not.  Crankiness done. Over.

And actually complaining especially about my schedule and responsibilities is something I gave up for Lent.  My husband often said how we should not give something up during Lent (such as chocolate, pop, Facebook etc.) but rather focus and tackle something we struggle with.  The year he gave up worrying he was hit with particular issues that caused tremendous “worry.”  Like he had to walk through a valley to make it back to the hillside.

That is exactly how I felt this week.  I thought it was going to be a light easy going week.  Especially with the kids being home extra days and the weather absolutely perfect.  But that instant need to complain is always on the tip of my tongue.  The things I want to complain about about are constantly in my sight–and no I don’t mean my children.

I mean the little cluttery pieces of toys spread everywhere.  I mean half colored pieces of paper all over the floor.  Shoes (including mine!) spread all over the eating area.  Toothpaste spots all over the sink.  Laundry where it should not be thrown–socks all over the family room store get to me even if they are mine.

And it’s not just clutter.  It’s the little jobs on the “to do list” that get carried over week to week because they never seem to get done.  It’s the desire to not want to do anything but bum around on Facebook (or write blog entries). It’s the fact the kids broke the space bar on my keyboard and typing has become a slow tedious task.  Or they ripped their Sunday pants.

Yet I ask myself, “Amy is it really that bad?”  Is it so bad you need to broadcast it to everyone?  The toys get picked up.  The paper gets recycled.  The shoes get put away.  The laundry gets done.  The kids are old enough that they actually help with this.  A lot.  The little jobs get done…sometimes on the brink of a deadline…but they do. Goodwill sells keyboards…and pants.

And isn’t God good ALL the time?  He know what we need, what valleys we need to walk through, and what hillsides we can rest on.062-DSC09008

How to be an even better pastor’s wife

 

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I have read quite a few articles in the past year about how churches can better treat their pastor wives.  I am going to turn it around and share with you how pastor wives can better treat their church.  I know,  I might take some flack for that one.  The truth is if we wallow in self pity about how hard ministry is, how we are Sunday morning single moms, and how we can’t be friends with anyone in the church–we can’t serve effectively.  We will sink.  Sometimes we have to look outside of the walls of our church and look deeper within ourselves.

1)  Just because you tackle it alone Sunday mornings, please don’t think of yourself as a single mom.  I know how it is.  Baths, showers, finding clothes, socks, shoes, breaking up sibling rivalry–there have been times I have showed up to Sunday School emotionally exhausted.  But we have a husband again when we return home again after church.  Before thinking of yourself as a single mom, remember the single moms who are going at it alone every single day…not just Sunday mornings.

2)  Don’t always expect people to pursue a friendship with you.  Sometimes you need to make the first move.  Have people over for pizza.  Invite ladies to a movie.  Meet at a park with your kids.  Friendships sometimes takes some patience and some effort.  Yes you will have seasons of loneliness, but some of your dearest friends can be sitting in the pew next to you.  You might just need to work at it.

3)  Venting might not always be the right way to handle your frustration.  Ministry is tough and working with people can be messy.  If you are struggling, where are you sharing your frustrations?  Are you seeking the Lord?  Is it burdening your husband too much to talk about it?  Do you have a trusted friend?  Do you know of a good counselor.  While the Internet has its place, I have honestly found prayer, counseling, and sharing things with my husband and/or one dear friend the most helpful.

4)  Remember the impression you are making on new pastor wives.  Soon after my husband graduated seminary and we were officially a pastor’s family, I attended a pastor’s spouse conference.  I was surrounded by some newbies, but also some seasoned PWs.  One thing I learned very quickly was there was lots of frustration, depression, and strong anger towards the church.  Had I not grown up as a PK and knew somewhat was I was getting into, I might have been anxious about my new role.  New PWs needs lot of encouragement.  Be careful what you say around them and the impression you are leaving on them.  Watch this especially at conferences, facebook groups, forums and other churches etc.

5)  Don’t be afraid to listen to other sermons or attend a Bible Study outside of your church. Don’t feel guilty about it.  Except for two short years, my pastor has always been my dad, my supervisor, or my husband.  Yes, there are some things about that situation that are absolutely wonderful.  But I do enjoy listening to other pastors and once in awhile attending a different church.

6)  If you are getting fired up, take a step back.  Some of my most difficult times in ministry as a youth director and pastor’s wife are when I get upset about what I am not getting, what others are not doing for me, and how everything seems to be against me.  This is a terrible way to serve especially if you constantly feel like a victim.  Think about out what you need.  More volunteers?  More money?  Better space?  More time?  Maybe a break?  If you ask for what you need in a diplomatic way, you’d be surprised how people respond.  If your need is not met, maybe it is time to take a step back.

7)  You aren’t the glue that holds the church together.  Many of the comings and goings of church members are totally out of your control.  It’s hard to see people go.  It’s even harder to not take it personally when there was some kind of conflict that involved your husband, or worse yet…you.  Make amends, apologize, forgive…do what you need to do.  And know that people will ALWAYS leave and knowing you can’t really control it is the first step.

8)  When your husband takes a vacation, take a vacation from church projects too.  I would recommend attending a different church that Sunday too.

9)  Know you aren’t much different from other women.  Sometimes we think we have it so hard because we’re pastor wives.  Don’t forget about military wives, doctor’s wives, or small business owner’s wives.  And your husband is not the only one who works on Sundays.

10)  Most people don’t mean to offend you.  Sometimes they just don’t know better.  The older generation might have a different view of the pastor wife and her role versus the younger generation.  It also may vary culture to culture.  While comments or criticism hurts, take it with a grain of salt.

11)  Remember the joys and write them down.  Unfortunately so many pastor wives discussions are problems.  Think of the joys and keep “a joy journal.”  Maybe it’s something simple like a smiling baby in the nursery or a choir singing at Easter or the chance to pray with someone in need.

12)  Parsonages are not all bad.  Everyone regardless of what home they live in deals with repairs and updating.  Sometimes pastor families have the advantage of someone else taking care of the problem for you.  Every church handles their parsonage a little bit different…some better than others.  Don’t forget to show love to your Buildings and Grounds people–make them cookies at Christmas.

13)  Maybe the problem is deeper.  Are you dealing with anxiety or depression?  Marital issues?  Maybe your struggles in the ministry is a symptom and not the underlining cause.  Counseling can help tremendously with that.  Maybe you don’t know why certain things trigger anger or depression–maybe you can figure out why.

What it all comes down to is we have to have humble hearts if we are going to wade through the trenches of ministry.

Marriage: Broken Not Bent

Last June my middle schoolers and 20 something leader introduced me to the song Just Give Me A Reason by Pink when they were singing it perfect unison while riding in the church van.  Me a 30 something who is a little late on the pop culture bandwagon immediately loved the song.  I thought to myself–“Wow this song describes marriage.”

Broken not bent.  Learning to love again. A nice break from all the “touchy feely” love songs.

These lines sung by Nate Ruess were said to me at one time or another in some form:  “I’m sorry I don’t understand.  Where all this is coming from.  I thought we were fine…Your head is running wild again.  My dear we still have everything.  And it’s all in your mind.”

As a child you sit in church and see all the couples sitting around you–moms and dads and grandparents.  You assume they have happy marriages and love one another.  After eight, nine or ten years into your marriage you realize how difficult and sometimes complicated this relationship can be.  Sometimes you carry within you brokenness.

I always have a small army of children in my house.  I watch them play…most of the time very well.  Sometimes there is a squabble over “When is it my turn?”  or “Can I be first? I wanted to go first.”  There is an anxiety that the child will not get a turn so he or she sometimes resorts to begging, pushing, bossiness, or entitlement attitudes.  They are kids.  You and I were probably the same way.

Broken marriages can be the same.

We’re adults but we never fully grow out of that mode.  There is an anxiety about our needs not being met, being walked over, taking advantage of,  or mistreated.  Sometimes we do not express what we need.  Or we do so in a overly dramatic or condescending way.

The other day my youngest (who sometimes struggles with being grabby and pushy) said to one of the kids–“May I please have that toy penguin when you are done playing with it.”  The other child realized she was not really playing with it anymore and saw my daughter really desired to have it.  So she politely passed it to her.

Sometimes we simply do not say what we need using kind words.  We resort to pushiness and self consciousness.

Marriage is day by day renewal.  Recognizing your own brokenness.  Examining your own faults.  Figuring out what triggers your anger. Healing the hurts deep inside of you that might even be scars from your own childhood.

When my husband would go out of town on business (he’s away right now as I’m writing this so I’ve been reflecting), I would feel abandoned.  Yes, of course I missed him.  But often I missed his help or his way of keeping me from losing my mind in my crazy stay at home mom world.  

After we put the kids to bed we often sit on the brown couches in the family room.  We watch a TV show we both love.  Right now we’re deep into the Bones series.  Last night as I sat on the couch he usually sits on (I sleep on his side of the bed when he’s away too), I felt an emptiness.  I had a difficult time enjoying myself and I could not fully relax. I don’t miss his help (OK I do a little–he’s a better cook than I am).  But I simply miss him.  I miss the little things, the companionship, the laughter.

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Over the years, like many couples we had bad days and bad weeks.  Even though I would never have changed anything, having babies close in age was challenging.  We did not always work as a team.  Sometimes my struggles with anxiety got out of control.  Some times might be classified as broken.

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But not bent.  God has taught us many things over the years and we have  learned to be loving servants to one another (while still being a work in progress obviously).  Servant hood.  Sacrifice. (Romans 5:8)  Not words you’ll find in touchy feely love song either.  But without it, there is no love.

I totally know what people say when they share–“I love him or her more today than the day I married her.”  Because I feel the same way.

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