Monday, August 22, 2011

"From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed; 
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I."
   ~ Psalm 61:2 ~

Dear God,
Blogs are a blessing and a curse. So is all information, I guess. Sometimes I am inspired by other blogs, sometimes I get discouraged, bogged down and my vision and focus get blurred. So many beautiful blogs by so many talented women. I feel I have nothing to offer, yet I want to offer. I want to be an eloquent writer, with beautiful photographs, a great blog design, and have lots of crafty ideas to share. Or at least something unique. I read recently that each woman has a beauty distinctly theirs. I've asked You to show me mine. I still don't see it. Yes, I can think of lots of things I'm interested in, but I feel a lack of resources from all angles: money, time, space, energy... talent and ability. I know that I am doing important work, just by being Coach's wife and Sweet Girls' mother. And I love being these things and serving them. But I want a creative outlet for me and a I crave to be exceptional, recognized. Is that bad? Is it an ungrateful spirit trying to make me feel discontent? Or is it a longing to be more - who you made me to be? I know I can glorify You in all that I am doing now... and I guess my desires for more are selfish, worldly. So can You please take them? Give me a content heart with who I am, where I am. I guess I should ask you to do this each time I enter the blog world... that I can stay focused and be inspired... not compare or judge. Thank You Lord for helping me feel better already. I feel a huge weight off and I am being reminded of your little gifts today... like the hummingbird. Thank You for being such a personal, loving Father to a distracted, ungrateful, wandering daughter. May You always lead me back and may I always follow. I love You Lord. Help me learn to serve You more and more... as myself in the way only I can.
Love Always, Your Daughter Hannah

Saturday, August 20, 2011

An Unselfish Act Reaps Unexpected Return

I was disappointed. "Why would he even think of going somewhere this evening??? I mean, he'll be gone all weekend. Doesn't he want to spend time with us? Doesn't he know I don't want to be stuck at home, again, with her? Doesn't he know evenings are the hardest? Why doesn't he want to spend time with us?" These are the unformed thoughts I was feeling when Coach asked how I felt about him going to a local high school football game. He'd be back in time for the bedtime routine, he said. "He's always later than he says. Why does he always do this?" The thoughts rolled. But, for once, I did not say them. Not one. Instead I muttered, "Let me think about it." Fortunately, we were running errands. I had time to think as we drove from one to the other... or rather, pray.

I told God that I was disappointed. Yes, I looked it straight in the face. And God must have been working on my heart because instead of dwelling on it, I just accepted it. "Yes, we are fallen people... we disappoint each other. He is not perfect... and (what?)... that's okay." I actually felt that! And God comforted me, reminding that He never disappoints and He is always with me. Yes, for the first time, I could rest in God when I was disappointed and be okay with Coach not meeting my every need or want. It was liberating! I was still not looking forward to another hour on my own with a stir crazy toddler, but I trusted God would give me the strength. "I'm okay with you going." I said simply. And for the rest of the errands, I thought about it no more.

As we pulled up to our house, Coach said, "Why don't I take her with me to the football game? You can get some things done or relax."

"That would be wonderful!" I explained. And I marveled how I was so blessed. Blessed with a thoughtful husband, blessed with a break... blessed by a caring, loving God.

So I got some things done, and they both had a great time! I hadn't hoped for such a great outcome when I chose to sacrifice. It was gift alone to be able to do so, and I got another gift in return. I know it will not always feel this good or have such benefits, but I pray I will be able to sacrifice again when the opportunity arises.

Monday, August 15, 2011

We traveled this weekend to see my in-laws. I was looking forward to it for many reasons. One was that I had planned a morning out for myself. The activity: shopping! Where we live, Wal-Mart is the main store, so to go where there are countless stores and several malls, usually there are a few errands to run. Now, I wasn't going to go crazy - an hour or two of shopping is my limit before getting tired. I was simply going to pick up something for Sweet Girl at Babies R Us, return, buy diapers and browse at Target, and then to the mall to hit some favorite stores to look for bargains.

Whenever I go to a mall, I am always reminded of what our culture is really about. I guess I'm a bit sheltered since I don't watch tv, my family and friends have the same values, and I don't go many places outside of the library and grocery store. By the time I'm done, I have a bit of a culture shock and feel the need to debrief in silence. The music, the people... all the stuff.

I surely saw plenty that I wanted. I was happy to purchase a few things I had on my list (to keep me on track) and that they were great prices. Of course, I could have pined about what I couldn't buy, but I didn't let myself go down that road. Still, I remembered what that felt like, and I remembered how easy it is to be jealous of those who seem to have everything they want, buy whatever they want. On my drive home, I noticed it was so close to Sweet Girls nap time, and I was sad I had taken up so much of the morning. I missed her yet I would need to put her down shortly after I got home.

And as I did, holding her in my arms, nursing her to sleep, I was so very thankful that although I couldn't come home with all that I "wanted", I did come home to all that I needed and that which truly makes one happy.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I was looking online for salt and pepper grinders. Then we began our evening prayers. I remembered. I remembered how I had read about those in the Horn of Africa, living in a drought. Starving. I wrestled again. "What can I do?" We who struggle month to month. Who are living in poverty - technically - in our own country. But yet we are so rich...

What to do? I thought of different pockets of money we have left for the month... a little food money, a little personal money, a little money in case a birthday or some unexpected need comes up. All of this not adding up to much; all of this hard to let go.

It's not that we don't have plenty of food; we do. Or that I am not willing to eat less or not exactly what I want so that others may eat; I am. But I want to provide balanced meals for my family. The last little bit of money is for fruit for the rest of the month, our upcoming open house, and maybe cheese for Sweet Girl. How do I find the balance between giving to others and providing for my family?

And then the personal money. Money I have been hanging on to in order to make my wardrobe more modest, compatible, and more of my new sense of style. Do I give this up when it's an answer to a month long prayer... an answer to agonizing about clothes that no longer fit, are stained or simply OLD? I remember one fall when things were very tight, we had no money to buy a coat for me (not just a new one - I had none). My mother-in-law gave me $10 when we went to a thrift store together. I didn't find anything there, and that Sunday I put it in the collection for the homeless, feeling that they needed it more than me. Yet I still had no coat and I was cold! And I wasn't okay with that; I resented that I gave that money away. Where is the balance in giving? I know of saints who would continually give away money and items. Those things were given to them to provide for themselves, yet they gave it to the poor. But I am no saint, and I know God does not compare us or hold us to the standards others meet. What is His standard for me?

Which brings me to more questions. Why are we so blessed to have meat and cheese, when others don't even have water and grain? To have a home that is comfortable, roomy, clean, and safe... when so many don't? In this society of "more is better", it is easy for me to look around and see all that I don't have, but if I look at the rest of the world, I see how much I do have. Enter: guilt. Guilt because of my blessings. Guilt because I can't help. Guilt because I am too weak to give up more. How much does God ask to give? I believe it is different for everyone. So how do you know what that is for you as an individual?

In Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, it really helped me when she wrote about this topic. She had wise words considering it: "I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks... Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn't rescue the suffering." This has helped me many times. There is righteous guilt for our sins, but there is also guilt that Satan uses, especially on women. When I feel guilty for things I can't control, I give up trust in God. I put the responsibility on myself which is an act of control. Control belongs to God. It does not help or change anything when I feel guilty for the blessings God chooses to give me. Yet when I give thanks for these blessings, no matter how outrageous they are compared to the suffering others are going through, I give glory to God, live in Christ and therefore benefit the world. If I can do this, I can brings some peace into the world, which, in some great mystery, affects everyone in the world. It does not help to question God in His choices about who gets what. Only He knows and He knows best.

I am reminded of a parable Christ told about a poor man named Lazarus and the rich man. How, after they had both died, they received the opposite of what they had experienced on Earth. Lazarus - peace and comfort in heaven. The rich man - torment in hell. When I think of those suffering in Africa, I can't help but believe that they will be rewarded one day for their suffering. And I, who am without need, must desperately pray for the salvation of my soul.

I still don't know what I should do as far as my giving for this cause... what Got wants from me. I plan to strive to rejoice in all that I have, and give the glory to God. I plan to continue to pray for guidance and strength to obey, and to pray for those suffering. How do you respond when you hear of others' suffering?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Five Current Kitchen Loves

Homey, albeit make-shift, centerpiece.

SOS pads! I feel like a domestic dummy, but I did not know about these amazing things until this spring. Now my stainless steel pots and pans look brand new again! No elbow grease required!

Home made, customized (gluten-free) pizza. Coach's: little sauce, lots of toppings, Mine: lots of sauce, sparse toppings. Of course, both got lots of cheese!

And thanks to Cooking for Isaiah by Silvana Nardone, which allows me to make baked goods for Coach (and me!). Plus some other super delicious things!

The window above the sink. My little nook.

Friday, August 5, 2011

I have been trying to keep God a part of my day, throughout my day. This is a challenge for me when I have so much else going on... and so many thoughts clouding my brain. It's not that I forget Him completely. I (finally!) remember to bless my food, and I'll have other moments where I stop and thank Him for something or say a quick prayer for strength. But these can be hours apart and sometimes after much complaining, wandering or just dwelling in discontent.

Before we left for Spring Training this February, a friend gave me a wonderful book called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I read it slowly, soaking in each nourishing chapter. It was life changing, and it's still changing me. Slow, slow changing. Because of this book I started a list of "gifts" from God... little things that make me smile or let me know He is with me, big things that I had prayed about or am so very thankful for. I neglect it more than I'd like, adding only a few here and there. But mentally the list is longer... my physical list is not always at hand. This helps me remember God through the day, but not so much as I should. My thanks and thoughts are half-hearted, half felt. I'm too busy going on to the next thing.

I just started a devotional book titled Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. The baseball chaplain gave it to me as a gift before we left Maine. I was a little skeptical at first. Us Orthodox don't really use devotionals and this one is written like Jesus speaking to you, which seemed a little weird to me. BUT, I tried it and I have to say I love it. It has a simple, comforting idea that I can remember throughout the day. At least, my goal is to do so. Here are a few that have touched me:

  • Come to Me continually.
  • Trust Me in the depths of your being.
  • Nothing can separate you from My love.
  • Watch your words diligently.
These are the first lines. It expounds about that and there are three Bible verses that correlate to the message. For example, "Come to Me continually." talks about God being the anchor of our soul, the fact that our mind will wander, but how far will we let it? It urges to keep the rope short so we are continually coming back to Him. This was great imagery for me, and probably the one I remember most and think about the most. That day I prayed God would help me remember him more, to gently tug me back to Him. And He did. In little ways that only I would understand. How wonderful that we have a loving and personal (and patient!) God! It's hard to comprehend, and, really, accept, knowing the fact that He is also the awesome, all powerful Creator of the universe. Thank you Lord, for loving little, insignificant me. Help me to remember you more and more each day so that I am always living in You and for You.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

In the Home

We've been in our house only two weeks, but it feels a lot longer for some reason. We hung the pictures and set out decorative accessories yesterday. Ahh.... now it feels like home! I love coming into a room and seeing the pictures or icons. It puts a smile on my face. I need to update a lot of the pictures, so that's a new project to add to the list! 

Also on the list is to iron a sheet. Why? Because it covers up this outrageously large TV in the living room. The house is furnished for us and this huge TV came with it. Now, we aren't totally against TV, but we don't watch a lot of it and we don't want it to be the focal point of our living room. Someday, we hope to have a computer/game/TV room and a TV will be prominent there, but it won't be our main living room or where we entertain guests. Anyway, I agonized about what we would do with this TV! It's too big to put in the basement. It's stuck. Strong Man mentioned covering it with a cloth, which lead me to think of a sheet - off white so it blends in with the wall somewhat. In front of it we put a short TV stand with our icons. The top of the TV holds our prayers and various books where Sweet Girl can't reach. There is about two feet of blank between our icons and the top of the TV, so I plan to make a "garland" with icon cards - like a clothes line with icons paper-clipped to it. The living room also needs an update on curtains...

Another thing on the list is to really clean the sink. It's porcelain and I hope to find a good article on how to clean it to make it pretty and white. After that, most of the moving in housework will be done. Then I would like to move onto other projects like scrap booking and sewing (Sweet Girl needs real curtains in her room!). For sure, I love having a little home to take care of!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Writing Again

It's been almost a year, but I'm back for good. We have high speed internet connection, and I have lots to say! I get lots of ideas for posts throughout the day, but they seem to, of course, escape me when I try to recall them. Therefore, I will resume my "schedule" and post random things as I am able as well.

So what's going on with us? We moved two week ago, to the day, into a little house in town that my husband's work is providing. He's working as the assistant baseball coach at the local all men's college. I have enjoyed setting up the house and getting into good routines and cleaning habits (thanks to FlyLady - I recommend her book Sink Reflections). There are still things to do (especially before our open house in two weeks!), but daily life prevents too much of it getting done quickly. Bit by bit though...

Sweet E is such a little toddler now - no longer a baby! She is quite expressive and has her own ideas about everything! This is both good and challenging at times (like getting dressed). Also, there are times we both get frustrated because she is trying to tell me something by saying "da, da" (her word for just about everything) and I am looking at her clueless. However, she has started to sign some, which I had given up on! My favorite is that she can sign banana. She also is pointing, so that is helpful.

Today is thrift store day, and I'm very excited! I haven't been to them (there are 2 great ones plus a Goodwill here in town) in quite a while, and I actually have some money and things on a list to hunt for! W is not working this morning so he'll have E. I like shopping with her because she's good and fun, but it's also easier without her. I have a lot of little errands to do also.

I sigh when I think that this blog is not and never will be as eloquent or well written as other blogs I love and read. But this is me. This is my life. It helps me to share and maybe it'll help someone else too. Or at least be entertaining and enjoyable. No matter, I hope it blesses. I know it blesses me. Have a wonderful Wednesday!