He Equals Enough

“God’s grace + my weakness = ENOUGH”

This quote from Introverted Mom by Jamie C Martin is sprawled across my three-pane bathroom mirror. The permanent black ink defying bathroom cleaner spray and toothpaste smears left by three sets of little hands. Truth standing strong against the changing emotions of daily life.

Each time I walk into the bathroom, it serves as a stark reminder to me of all that I am not and all that God is.

And when I am honest with myself, I hate it. I hate my weakness, my chronic health issues, and my dependence on others.

But I also love it because I cannot be enough on my own. On the many, many days I lack the physical and emotional strength to take care of my self, let alone a husband and three small children, I am reminded that God’s grace is powerful and limitless.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I [Paul] will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.(II Cor. 12:9)

When I am weak, I am forced to stop being self-sufficient and rely on that grace. It isn’t easy. Letting go of my control and pride is a messy process full of the cycling emotions of fear, anger, and hopelessness. I’ve cried so many tears this summer. I’ve pounded my pillow. And I’ve asked “why” a thousand times.

Accepting God’s grace is not a one-time decision. It’s a moment-by-moment choice that hurts even as it liberates. It hurts because it forces me to remember my fallibility. But it liberates because of its mercy.

And the liberation is real. I don’t have to carry the burden alone. I don’t have to rely on my own failing strength or emotions. When I push away my pride and admit I need help, the relief is overwhelming–like the arrival of a cool breeze on a stifling day. I stop berating myself for all I cannot do. I find beauty in the imperfections. And I rejoice in what I can accomplish with His help.

So I ask God once again for His grace. His grace to accept the life He’s given me. His grace to get out of bed and deal with one day at a time. And His grace to see the blessings He gives each day. Then I choose moment by moment to let go of impossible perfection and accept grace.

Cucumber Falls, Ohiopyle State Park

Finding Joy in the Tough Times

It’s easy to find joy when exciting things are happening. Each day seems full of new possibilities. And the sky is the limit when it comes to dreams. But what about the unexpected changes? The dark times? Where is the joy then?

It’s easy to find joy when exciting things are happening. Each day seems full of new possibilities. And the sky is the limit when it comes to dreams. But what about the unexpected changes? The dark times? Where is the joy then?

I started off this year full of dreams and ideals. After 6 years of difficult pregnancies and Post Partum Depression, I’d finally come out the other side. I’d survived! As I healed physically, emotionally, and spiritually, I started looking toward the future. I had big dreams, and I was sure God was behind those dreams.

Then, in less than a week, all those dreams came crashing down. And, to be honest, I’m floundering a bit right now. I’m confused, hurt and more than a little scared. I thought my dreams and plans were from God, but now everything is changing.

Memorial Day weekend we were in MA visiting special friends. The stress of a big church remodeling project and Jonathan’s ordination were behind us. We were having a wonderful time and looking forward to a great summer. It had been years since I felt so well physically. We spent the time on the 9 hour drive to MA making plans for our future.

Then on Memorial Day, I had an episode where I almost blacked out. The next day I had another one. Over the next 3 days, the episodes got longer, stronger, and closer together. (Can you tell I’ve had 3 kids–it sounds like I’m describing contractions!) I was getting scared, but determined to make it home before going to the doctor.

We arrived home on Thursday night. By Friday morning, I couldn’t even walk across the room without feeling like I was about to pass out. So Jonathan drove me to the ER. Do you want to know what is my new definition of humility? Sitting on the ER floor with my head between my knees because I couldn’t make it to the registration desk. My pride took a tumble, for sure!

And it was there in the ER I first heard the acronym POTS.

Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome–a failure of the autonomic nervous system to regulate blood flow throughout my body. My heart rate was fluctuating 70 beats per minute trying to get blood to my brain. I was light-headed, unstable, tired, and couldn’t think clearly. Four days later, after a tilt table test, the diagnosis became official.

At first I was relieved. I really was! I had a diagnosis. The cardiologist knew what was wrong with me. My heart was fine. It wasn’t terminal. They didn’t find a brain tumor on the MRI. Yes, I couldn’t walk across a room. Yes, there is no cure. But I knew what was wrong with me.

Then came our attempts at establishing a new normal. Our summer plans changed from hikes and trips to the beach to doctors visits of all kinds. We crossed plans and projects off our to-do lists, because we knew they weren’t going to get done. People from church brought meals or Jonathan cooked. Slowly we got started getting used to the fact that many days I couldn’t drive. Some times folding a load of laundry was a huge accomplishment for the day. Other days I felt almost normal.

I went through our schedule and assigned the kids new chores. It no longer seemed crazy to have a 5-year-old clean the bathroom. We canceled more projects, trips, and plans.

I’m actually doing a lot better now. The cardiologist started me on a beta blocker a few days after the tilt table test. It doesn’t solve the poor blood circulation or the brain fog, but most of the time it keeps my heart from wildly fluctuating, which helps with the light-headedness. On my good days I’m able to drive short distances or pick up a couple of items at the store (as long as there are no lines!). I can live an almost normal life about 1/3 of the time. Even on my bad days, I can usually get out of bed. But I have to be very careful not to overdo. If I attempt anything close to what I used to accomplish, I pay for it with several days where I can hardly sit up. During VBS, people at church got used to seeing me lying flat on my back in the nursery or a corner of the sanctuary, trying to get some blood back up to my head.

In March I began to think God wanted me to change the focus of this blog. When I got diagnosed with POTS, I wondered how that would play out. But I think I’m getting a sense of direction. And, actually, what’s been happening recently goes well with what I thought God was showing me last winter. I’m still formulating things in my head and my heart, but I’ll keep you updated!

Book Review: No More Faking Fine

No More Faking Fine: Ending the Pretending has an important message we often forget. I was challenged to find ways to be more authentic with God and with the people around me. I was reminded it’s okay to ask questions and seek for answers. It’s fine to express doubts and discouragement to God. If I ask Him to answer me, He will.

“Lament . . . is simply expressing honest emotions to God when life is not going as planned. . . . It’s a prayer that says, God, I’m hurting–will you meet me here? And as such, it is a prayer to which God always responds (No More Faking Fine 33).

The girl looked at me in shock: “Oh, no. Christians should never express doubt or frustration. We are supposed to always trust God. God only wants our praise. If we talk about our struggles, we’ll make Him look bad.”

Really? What about Job? His story is 42 chapters long–much of it expressing discouragement and frustration. He even said he wished he’d never been born! Yet God did not rebuke Job’s honesty. God answered him and rewarded him for staying faithful through his questioning.

And what about David–the man after God’s own heart. He penned dozens of Psalms expressing his fear, loneliness, and depression.

Yet how many of us have hinted at the brokenness we feel or the doubts clouding our thinking only to be told, as I was, that it was unspiritual to express our struggles?

Maybe it was a look someone gave or getting pulled aside for a private lecture. Or maybe it was a well-meaning Bible teacher who said that Christians are only supposed to express praise to God. But somewhere, some way we became convinced that “spiritual” Christians never share doubts, fears, or worries. We must put on our fake happy smiles when we go to church. Instead of being honest about our struggles, we tell everyone that life is fine and God is good.

This wrong misconception of what our communication to God and each other should look like is what Esther Fleece seeks to debunk in her book No More Faking Fine: Ending the Pretending.

Esther lived the first three decades of her life putting it all together for church and watching her life fall apart at home. She became so good at putting on the happy, praise-filled cover that few realized what was really going on inside her. Eventually Esther realized she had created a facade that prevented her from having deep, meaningful relationships with God, friends, and family.

Esther uses what she learned from going to Christian counseling and from several years of deep Bible study to show that “there is no ‘fake it till you make it’ in Scripture. When we fake fine, we fake our way out of an authentic relationship with God, others, and ourselves” (37).

(Let me give a caveat here! Esther Fleece is not seeking Biblical permission to go around with whining. Instead, she encourages her readers to learn the Biblical concept of lamenting–which is honestly expressing our thoughts and emotions to God and then asking Him to answer us!)

Many of David’s psalms are written in the lament format. David starts off expressing his raw, honest feelings to God. As he shares how he thinks and feels, he begs God to answer him or rescue him. And God does answer him. Most of David’s psalms end with God showing Himself to David and David reworking his thoughts and feelings so they express the truth God showed him.

Another way people in the Bible lamented was by sharing their current struggles and then reflecting back on the great things God had done in the past. When they spoke out loud their fears and then reminded themselves of God’s character and the many things He had done for others, they were strengthened and encouraged in their own struggles. (See Psalm 77 for an example.)

We all know “fake” people. It’s impossible to have deep relationships with them because everything is surface-oriented. Most of us want more than surface friendships. We crave friendships where we can be ourselves without fear of condemnation and where we can share the hard things we are going through.

That is the sort of relationship God wants with us, too. He doesn’t want a shallow relationship. He wants to be our “Abba Father.” But we won’t develop a deep relationship with Him if our communication is shallow. I’m not saying we shouldn’t spend time thanking Him–because we should. Or that it’s wrong to ask for things. But our prayers should include time being honest and genuine with Him–telling Him what is in our hearts: our fears, struggles, doubts, and dreams. And when we ask Him to speak to us, He will answer!

“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known” (Jere. 33:3).

No More Faking Fine: Ending the Pretending has an important message we often forget. I was challenged to find ways to be more authentic with God and with the people around me. I was reminded it’s okay to ask questions and seek for answers. It’s fine to express doubts and discouragement to God. If I ask Him to answer me, He will.

What kind of rating would I give Esther’s book? May I give two ratings–one on content and one on execution? I would love to give this book five stars. It started out strong. It’s premise is biblical and needful. I learned a lot. But Esther rambled and repeated a lot in the middle third of her book, losing the power of her message. I almost gave up halfway through because I felt she was saying the same thing over and over. I’m so glad I finished the book, though, because she regained her stride in the last third as she wrote about the connection between lamenting and forgiveness. So it deserves 5 stars for content, but I’d give it a 3.5 star rating for execution. (Keep in mind the fact that I’m very picky!) Nevertheless, it’s going to stay on my bookshelf. It made a difference in my life. And I find myself still talking to others about it several months after I read it.

Letting Go to Find Joy

The lies change our memories and our perspectives. Suddenly we aren’t focusing on the positives. Every interaction becomes tainted. And if those lies aren’t exposed, they will follow us through our lives, dragging us down a darkening path.

It started with a question at the doctor’s office: “Do you intend to go back to teaching some day?” A simple question, but it set off a torrent of emotions, many of them negative. Did I still like teaching? Was I any good as a teacher? What about all the mistakes I made as a new teacher?

The next morning, as I was still wrestling with my dark thoughts, I received a message from one of our home school co-op leaders: would I be interested in teaching a Shakespeare class to the high school students next fall.

Now my emotions were really mixed: excitement at the thought of teaching some of my favorite literature (I am that nerd that LOVES Shakespeare!) and fear that I would fail.

And then I got thinking. Why the mixed emotions? As I wrestled in my mind, I realized when I look back on my time as a junior high/high school English teacher, I don’t remember many good parts. I’ve chosen to remember the mistakes–and I made quite a few as a new teacher–and the disappointments. I’ve focused so much on my regrets and feelings of inadequacy as a teacher that I’ve forgotten the students who appreciated me. I’ve forgotten some of the wonderful learning moments we had together. I’ve blocked the happy memories.

I’d forgotten how much fun we had acting out Taming of the Shrew together as a class. (Even our foreign exchange student from Korea got into it!) Some of the wild and funny times in my junior high classes (the highlight of my day). The crazy speech activities. The deep discussions as we tore apart Night and Things Fall Apart. And watching students find books they loved for the first time in their lives!

It wasn’t always long days and mountains of research papers to grade. Or seniors with bad attitudes and angry kids taking out their frustration with life on whatever authority was in the room. Yes there were plenty of days when learning about adverbs or how to write a research paper wasn’t the most exciting thing to do. But there were many wonderful days as we prepared for speech meet, discussed good books, and allowed ourselves to get lost on rabbit trails that were hilarious, but had nothing to do identifying the parts of speech.

I need to go through my school tote and look at the pictures of the edible map from The Great and Terrible Quest, read some of the hilarious essays I secretly copied, and find those memories I lost.

But that is what lies do. They take over and rewrite history. And soon we forget the good times, the positive interactions, and the blessings. This can happen in relationships, at jobs, and in churches.

The lies change our memories and our perspectives. Suddenly we aren’t focusing on the positives. Every interaction becomes tainted. And if those lies aren’t exposed, they will follow us through our lives, dragging us down a darkening path.

That’s how Satan puts us in bondage. When we believe those lies, they become chains that we wear–robbing us of joy and freedom. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to live the lies we’ve received. John 8:32 says, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

When we put on the belt of truth Paul talks about in Ephesians 6, Satan can’t attack us with lies. We are protected with something far more powerful than any weapons he has in his arsenal. Lies cannot stand up to truth anymore than darkness can last when light appears.

But we have to choose to listen to the truth and believe the truth–and that is really hard (at least for me!). I hear the truth and tend to say, “But, but, but. . . .” It’s hard to accept the truths that I am loved, I am not a failure, I am who God made me to be. It’s easier to believe the lies that I failed, and I messed up, and I failed again. But those are lies. They are wrong. And they do not bring the joy God wants us to have. So I am striving to banish the lies and accept God’s joy-filling truth in my life–which means I have some major rethinking to do!

To go back to the question at the doctor’s office. . . . Will I go back to teaching high school English full-time at some point? I don’t know. I have other dreams I’d like to pursue, too. I don’t know what the future may hold. But in the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the teaching opportunities that come my way, because I do love teaching, whether it’s teaching my kids, teaching at church, or teaching a class at the home school co-op. Will I make mistakes? Yes, I will. I am human. Will I sometimes wish I’d spent more time preparing for a lesson or found a different way to make it interesting? Absolutely! But I’m going to let go of the lies I’ve been believing and choose to accept the truth that God made me to be a teacher. He is the one who gave me that passion. He does not make any mistakes in His creation. And I am going to use the passion and ability He gave me wherever I can to glorify Him and help others. I hope you can let go of any lies you’ve believed and do the same!

Photo by Bryan Schneider on Pexels.com

He Shows Compassion

“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14, ESV)

I don’t know if I can convey what these verses mean to me! In a world where we are constantly made to feel we need to be more and do more, they bring peace and renewed hope.

As a type A perfectionist, I view myself in black and white. It’s all or nothing. I’m doing great or I’m a total failure. I create expectations for myself that no human could ever achieve. And then I plunge into despair when I cannot achieve those goals.

But I’m the one creating impossible standards. I’m carrying a burden I was never meant to carry. I expect nothing less than perfection of myself, when perfection is impossible. But God offers compassion when I fail.

I berate myself for not having super human strength and stable emotions. But God knows I am an imperfect human and shows mercy when I falter.

I think and act like I’m invincible. And He remembers I am made from dust.

The pressure to perform, the guilt when I fail, and the exacting standard of perfection I can never achieve does not come from God. It is something I created and can never appease.

So each time I fail–each time the enemy whispers I’m a failure, I’m unlovable, I always mess up–I whisper these verses.

“He knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust.”

“As a father shows compassion on his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.”

He offers grace. He offers help. And He offers another chance, and another, and another. Because He is my Father, and He loves me in all my weaknesses and foibles.

And then I remember the preceding verse: “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (v. 12).

He is not holding my sin against me. He is not keeping a tally of my many failures. My sins and failures are gone. They can not be held against me any more.

If I’m hearing voices of shame and guilt, they are not from God, but from Satan–the accuser of believers (Rev. 12:10). Because God is not the author of condemnation or confusion. He has forgiven me. And when He convicts, He does it gently–as a loving Father–knowing my human frailty.

There are second chances this side of eternity. No more condemnation. Just grace.

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

Old Goals/New Goals

On the days I feel like I can’t keep going, I remember Psalm 103:13, which says, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (ESV). God has a lot more patience and compassion for me and my failures than I have for myself! He doesn’t expect perfection. He want us to lean on His strength and accept His grace as we try to become the people He wants us to be.

This is coming a bit later than I intended. We got derailed this week with some sickness. But that is life–just when a routine seems to be established, something always happens!

Does that discourage me from having a schedule? Actually, no! If routines and habits are established and maintained when life is going smoothly, everyone and everything is in a better place when the bumps do come. And it is faster and easier to get back on track once life settles down again. Which is why I determined to focus time and energy this year on reestablishing some of those schedules and routines that gradually and unintentionally disappeared in our lives.

After five years filled with three rough pregnancies, a miscarriage, and multiple bouts of severe post partum depression, I was exhausted and muddled. I didn’t have a consistent routine, because routines (when there is a baby involved) continually change, if they exist at all! I’d given up on any goal beyond survival. I’d learned to settle there. And I didn’t like it.

The biggest hang-up I had when it came to making new goals and routines was fear of failure. As a highly sensitive person with strong perfectionist tendencies, I tend to view failure as deadly. I’d rather not attempt something than attempt and fail. (Just ask my family what happened when I learned Spanish!)

But I couldn’t keep living the way I was living. And change doesn’t happen by accident. So last month I started on a quest to change my life–one month at a time.

To do this, I chose three goals. My intention was to work on them for one month. If it worked, I’d either continue them the next month or develop new goals to focus on.

And . . . it worked! I was able to stay focused on my goals for one month. I saw change and improvement. And I didn’t get burnt out or feel like a failure because it is much easier to stay focused and excited about something for a month than it is to stay committed for a whole year. That’s not to say there weren’t days things fell apart (because there were plenty of those!), but there were more successes than failures.

January’s goals were to get up earlier so I had more time to read the Bible and exercise, to exercise 5 days a week, and to spend less time on my phone so I could spend more time reading good books.

In order to find time to exercise, I started setting an alarm again for the first time since I started having kids. I hate alarms with a passion, but I found a ring tone that wasn’t obnoxious. And I’ve set it and gotten up to it almost every day.

By getting up at 6:20 (approximately 20 minutes earlier than I had been waking up on my own), I am able to have half an hour to read my Bible, pray, and read a spiritually focused book before the kids get too crazy. And it’s been wonderful! I’ve been having my devotions much more often. And I’ve been getting more out of them because they aren’t rushed.

I wasn’t too sure how the next goal would go either. I do dislike exercising! But I found my exercise pants, put together a Youtube playlist of JessicaSmithTV exercise videos, and started exercising.

I’m not a fan of exercising, but I am a hug fan of JessicaSmithTV. I started using her videos when I was pregnant with Elena in the middle of a cold, icy New England winter. They are fun, easy-to-follow, and I appreciate her clothing choices. So I found some of my favorite walking workout videos along with some core strengthening videos.

I was surprised with the results. No, I didn’t lose a lot of weight. But my core is much stronger. And–here’s the surprise–I have so much more energy!

Ever since Colin was born, I’ve spent almost every afternoon lying on the couch while the kids are resting–too tired to read or sew or do anything productive. But since I started exercising every morning, I’ve had the physical, mental, and emotional energy to stay moving. And this has enabled me to accomplish much more each day!

Since I have more energy in the afternoons, I’ve been reading more. I actually finished 5 books in January (thanks to two days of jury duty!). It has been wonderful to spend time reading again. It is my favorite hobby and greatest addiction!

Since the monthly goal plan worked well for January, I decided to move forward with it for this month, too. For February, I decided to keep getting up early and exercising, but cut back the exercising to 3-4 days a week. That gives me a little bit of freedom if we have to get out the door early for a doctor’s appointment or homeschool co-op. And, let’s face it, some nights kids are sick and don’t sleep well, and then it’s hard to wake up extra early to exercise.

I’m also continuing to read more. This month I want to specifically focus on finishing 2 non-fiction books. I struggle with finishing non-fiction. Too often I read the first half dozen chapters and then set the book back on the shelf. So I’m determined this month to finish No More Faking Fine by Esther Fleece and It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way by Lysa TerKeurst. (I’m reading the latter book as part of an online Bible study, so that should give me added motivation.) They are both wonderful books, so I want to finish reading them.

My next goal is something I should have worked on long ago. I need to spend more time with Elena. Because of many factors–she’s very independent and self-sufficient, she’s the middle child, I got pregnant with Colin so soon after she was born, etc.–she doesn’t get the attention she needs. I get too busy doing school with Quentin and taking care of Colin’s physical needs. So this month I’m trying my best to spend a few minutes each day playing with her or reading to her. And she is so excited!

There is so much I could work on and change in my life. There are days when I struggle with feelings that I’m failing in everything, so why even try to change? But I’m choosing to pick up the pieces and try again. Some days go great. Some days end in tears. But I want to keep moving forward and not just settle for survival mode. On the days I feel like I can’t keep going, I remember Psalm 103:13, which says, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (ESV). God has a lot more patience and compassion for me and my failures than I have for myself! He doesn’t expect perfection. He want us to lean on His strength and accept His grace as we try to become the people He wants us to be.

Photo by Krivec Ales on Pexels.com

Book Review: Sacred Privilege

There are some books that reach into our souls and breath life into our spirits. And this book was one of them. It brought me up out of a dark place and gave me a renewed vision for who I am and the calling God has given our family.

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Have you ever met someone only to discover he/she could be your identical twin? That’s how I felt when I started reading Sacred Privilege: Your Life and Ministry as a Pastor’s Wife by Kay Warren. Her book impacted me profoundly because our lives, interests, and personalities are so similar.

We both love English and history. We are both pastors’ wives. We both know the unbearable pain of watching someone we love battle a debilitating mental illness. We are both introverts who struggle with being in the public eye. And we both face some of the same struggles personality-wise when it comes to being a pastor’s wife.

But even if you aren’t an introverted, big-picture, dreamer-type, this book will bless and challenge you. In fact, though it is written for pastors’ wives, I think most of it would apply to anyone involved in any type of Christian ministry, full-time or lay. She includes chapters on accepting how God made us, taking care of ourselves, privacy, dealing with criticism, change, raising kids in the ministry spotlight, etc.

As I read Sacred Privilege, there were several chapters that stood out to me. One of them was Chapter 2, “Sharing the Dream.” I’m going to be honest with you. I wanted to marry someone who was involved in helping other people. But I never felt a sense of “calling” to be a pastor’s wife. I’ve struggled with that lack of calling on and off for a long time. So chapter 2 was exactly what I needed. We are a team. He needs me–my love, support, spiritual gifts, etc. in his ministry. It’s not an easy life, but it is a “sacred privilege.”

Chapter 3 on “Accepting Who You Are” was also life-changing. I know I’m not the only pastor’s wife who feels like I don’t have the personality or spiritual gifts of a pastor’s wife. Shouldn’t pastors’ wives be extroverted, fun-loving, and extraordinarily talented? Kay disagrees. She says, “Success in ministry is . . . . about thriving, flourishing, and growing strong on one’s calling and in one’s character” (58). She challenges her readers to accept that most of us are ordinary people, and that’s ok! God knew what He was doing when He placed us in the positions we have. We have our security in Christ. It’s time to accept that and flourish wherever we are using the strengths He has given us. (Side note: God uses our weaknesses, too, to further His kingdom [II Cor. 12:9-10].)

“Is my prayer life sufficient to cover this new responsibility?” (91). This chapter on “Adapting to Change” made me stop and pay attention. I used to take on new responsibilities because I felt I was supposed to. Then, a couple of years ago, I was challenged to never take on a new responsibility without praying about it first. So I started doing that. But Kay Warren says it goes beyond that. If I don’t have the prayer life to support my new responsibility, I’ll be doing it in my own strength and most likely burn out or fail!

I could go on and on (can’t you tell!). I loved the chapter on being authentic in ministry and sharing your life. But my absolutely favorite chapter was Chapter 9: Protecting Your Private Life. Kay went through 7 steps to make sure we are holding ourselves accountable to make sure our private lives match our public image, and (most importantly) God’s standard.

So many Christian leaders end up ruining their testimonies because they are hiding secret sins, and then those sins get exposed. Kay uses II Corinthians as her basis for her 7 steps to keep a clean conscience and a right heart before God and man.

Kay Warren then closes out her book talking about criticism, radical forgiveness, and running the race with an eternal perspective.

Are you getting the hint that I absolutely love this book? In fact, writing this book review makes me want to reread it. (And I seldom reread nonfiction!)

There are some books that reach into our souls and breath life into our spirits. And this book was one of them. It brought me up out of a dark place and gave me a renewed vision for who I am and the calling God has given our family.

Photo by Tobias Bjørkli on Pexels.com

It Is Possible to Survive (and Not Hate) Jury Duty!

The presumption of innocence of the defendant and the judging of the facts by 12 impartial members of society is an important part of our legal system. It helps protect the innocent and convict the guilty. It is a solemn and important civic responsibility.

A few months ago I received my first jury selection summons. Based on what I knew about jury duty (TV crime dramas and 12 Angry Men), I freaked out.

It was right at the beginning of the school year. I had just started homeschooling Quentin. And I was also teaching a high school persuasive writing class at a local home school co-op. I couldn’t imagine how I would cope if I was selected for a trial that lasted for a week, or two, or three!

Making a long story short, I requested to be excused. A reprieve was granted–supposedly until school was out in the summer.

“Supposedly” is the key word here, because shortly before Christmas I received another summons to appear for jury selection in early January.

At this point, we had a school routine established. And I was feeling slightly less stressed by all my teaching responsibilities, so I decided to just accept it. Who knows, what if I reminded them I was supposed to do it in the summer, and then I got summoned the week of a family vacation or the week of VBS? There isn’t much to do in a cold, dreary PA winter, so why not spend a few days in the courthouse? They were obviously not going to forget about me! Besides, I had between a 66-75% chance of not even being chosen.

But I was! The odds were definitely not in my favor that day.

I cried on my way home from the courthouse after jury selection. I imagined days or weeks away from my kids while their education and the housework fell apart. I imagined shuffling them from one babysitter to another while all structure and stability disappeared. And I imagined the stress of trying to presume someone innocent and then sorting through the facts in a potentially complicated case. I did not feel emotionally up to the challenge.

But, as is often the case, reality is not nearly as bleak as our imaginings! The case lasted only 1 day. It was clear and concise. There was no need for hours of deliberations. There was a lot of down time, so I was able to get a lot of reading done! I had a quiet lunch hour by myself and a chance to visit some fun little shops without 3 kids breaking anything. And I learned a lot–about the court system, society, and life.

It is always sad to see someone who’s life is falling apart. It is a scary and sober responsibility to have someone’s fate in your hands–definitely not something to take lightly! And it is a sad reminder of how dark, broken, and dangerous our world can be.

Would I be upset to get another jury summons at some point? Absolutely not! The presumption of innocence of the defendant and the judging of the facts by 12 impartial members of society is an important part of our legal system. It helps protect the innocent and convict the guilty. It is a solemn and important civic responsibility.

(And, personally, it was a great chance to sharpen my speech and debate skills as I listened to and mentally graded each of the lawyers on the structure, content, and delivery of their arguments.)

Finding New Joy and Purpose in the New Year

Year-long goals don’t work well for me, so I thought I’d try something new this year–1 new goal per month. It only takes 3 weeks to make a habit, right? So a month should be long enough to enact some change.

(This post does contain affiliate links.)

I can’t be the only person feeling like I got stuck in a rut at some point last year. I’m overwhelmed and unmotivated and frustrated with where I am in my personal and spiritual growth. It’s time to get unstuck.

Year-long goals don’t work well for me, so I thought I’d try something new this year–1 new goal per month. It only takes 3 weeks to make a habit, right? So a month should be long enough to enact some change.

My goal for January is to exercise 5 days a week. It’s not that I’m horribly overweight or anything. But I just feel flabby and tired and out-of-shape. I had 3 babies in 5 years. (That does a number on one’s body!) I don’t like the way I look or feel right now. It’s hard to find time to exercise with 3 little people who wake up very early. But I’m going to make it a priority for one month and hopefully get some of this flab out of the way. If I lose a few pounds, that would be an added bonus!

My only other goal at this point, which I hope to make a year-long goal (Wait, didn’t I just say I don’t do year-long goals?!) is to read 2 books per month: 1 non fiction and 1 fiction.

If you know me, I love fiction–especially the classics and WWII historical fiction. I’ll read Dickens or Bronte or historical fiction all day long (and neglect my family, too!). I struggle to stay motivated reading nonfiction.

But part of learning and growing is reading nonfiction–whether it is being challenged by someone’s life or reading a book about spiritual growth. So I am determined to read 1 non fiction book per month.

This month I’m reading The Clockmaker’s Daughter: A NovelTby Kate Morton. I love Kate Morton’s books, especially The Forgotten Garden: A Novel! (I should probably add the caveat that The Clockmaker’s Daughter does contain some supernatural elements not all readers may be comfortable with reading about.)

I also started No More Faking Fine: Ending the Pretending.

When I started Esther Fleece’s book, I thought I was reading something for someone else. But I quickly realized we all have things we block instead of dealing with them in a healthy manner. I intend to write a review of all I’m learning from the book after I finish it.

I already have a couple of ideas for February’s goal. But I’m not sure if I want to stick with a practical goal (like I did this month) or branch out into an emotional or Spiritual goal. I still have several weeks to decide what I’m doing. And maybe I’ll end up choosing two goals and see how that goes.

In the meantime, my kids are bouncing off the walls from a too-long Christmas break, so we are getting back into a school schedule. My abs hurt from the Jessica Smith TV workouts I’ve been doing every morning. I have jury duty next week (first time ever). And I really want to find time to finish my books!

Photo by Bryan Schneider on Pexels.com

When Waiting is Best

Some things just take time. Like Simeon waiting for his messiah.

I don’t like waiting. In fact, I am probably one of the world’s most impatient people. I am always looking for ways to make things better or do things faster. And I don’t want to wait for change to happen.

But many times we need to wait. Lasting relationships usually take a long time to develop. Pregnancies need to last 9 months. Some decisions turn out better for having been made slowly. And sometimes we have to wait a long time for an answer to prayer.

Like Simeon.

He had to wait a long time to see the Messiah. Some times he probably felt like giving up. Maybe he wondered if he’d misunderstood God’s message. Maybe he’d been sick or distracted and missed his savior’s arrival.

But he waited.

And so did Anna.

She had served the Lord at the temple for many decades. And still she waited.

God’s timing isn’t our timing. We pick our “deserved” timeline based on our needs, wishes, hopes, and prayers. We forget about all the other people in the world–people we may never meet–who’s lives are connected with ours. They have needs, wishes, hopes, and prayers, too. And sometimes someone else needs more time. Or an event needs to take place. Or God just has a different timeline.

It’s hard, when we are weary with waiting, to remember that He knows what is best. The creator of the world and savior of mankind knows far more than we can ever know. He knows when our best thoughts and dreams will not produce the best results. And He knows we cannot, should not, be forced into accepting Him.

Some times we find out the why of waiting. At other times, we never know. It is frustrating and lonely when we fight it. But there is a joy in waiting when we trust He knows best.

I was reminded of that this week. We’ve prayed for a friend for over twenty years. And laughed, talked, sweated, and laughed some more with her. And there has been no answer. Well, no visible answer. No interest. No change.

And then Friday I received a letter. She’s studying the Bible. Willingly. Eagerly. And then she says the words I thought I’d never hear: “I want to find a church family.”

It wasn’t God’s timing twenty-three years ago when we first met her. It wasn’t God’s timing a few years later when we gave her her first Bible. And it wasn’t God’s timing when my mom tried to have a Bible study with her. But maybe now is the time.

And if it’s not, God knows the perfect time. He knew her and loved her before the world began. And I have to accept it.

In the meantime, I’ll keep loving and waiting and praying. Some things just take time. Like Simeon waiting for the Messiah.