Getting a grip on……

……griping.  

Here in North America we’re fully in summer holiday mode.  Or should I say summer vacation mode.  Our school district has been on holiday for three weeks now and we have ten weeks to go until school starts again.  

Thirteen weeks all together. Day in.  Day Out.

13 weeks.

For some Mothers this is glorious.  Wonderful.  Blessed.  For others, this is a struggle.  

Did you read that, above?  Thirteen weeks of having all your children around.

For me, personally, this time is to be cherished and for us all to enjoy – but – there will be some challenges along the way with expectations and behaviour and I know that my home will not be tidy or fully clean for this entire time.  

While no family is perfect and each family has their own difficulties…..I’ve noticed that school holiday time, no matter where in the world you live, is a time where Mothers seem to get together and they gripe.  They moan and they groan and they grizzle and complain and they gripe.  For the mostpart.  Sweeping broad generalization I know.  But I’m sure you all have people in your lives that do this – even if you make an effort not to join in.  And if you do join in….I bet ya don’t even realize you do this.  So this is for you.  ‘Cos you gotta stop.  Actually this is relevant no matter how old your kids are.

Yep.

 

‘Gentle words cause life and health. griping brings discouragement’ – Prov 15: 24

I’m a firm believer in sowing and reaping.  You get what you sow.  When you talk negatively about your kids and what they are doing or what they’re not doing….you aren’t actually sowing seeds that encourage improvement.  You’re highlighting an issue yes, you’re putting a spotlight on it, and you’re magnifying it.  But there is no solution and no resolution.  

Now there is a huge difference between confiding in someone and seeking wisdom – being real and honest with someone you respect who may be able to help you……a huge difference between being proactive and just griping about an issue concerning your family in particular.

And we know when we’re doing it.  We know if we’re just going on about a subject to join in with conversation.  We know in our hearts the difference between reaching out for help and going on, and on and on.

We had a great playdate yesterday with a great friend and her children.  For a short time our conversation focussed on where we were at with parenting and things that are happening in our lives – that comes with being Mothers and comes with being real about where we are at in life.  But the conversation wasn’t limited to that and wasn’t stuck on that.  We quickly moved onto other topics.  And I came away from that time with my friend feeling blessed and encouraged.

And shouldn’t conversation with friends do that?  We should come away from encounters with other Mums feeling like we’re in this together, that no family is perfect but we’re called to bigger and better things.  Not just to focus on our problems.  Our summer problems.  Our 13 weeks of having kids walk in and out of the house all day long, wet feet and all, leaving the door open and the constant wet swimsuits being left everywhere.Or the fact that the oldest kid is still learning some social skills.  Or the fact that the youngest really needs to learn some more words.  Those problems.

‘Let our conversation be gracious as well as sensible, for then you will have the right answer for everyone’ – Collosians 4:6

Have you ever noticed that the longer you spend focused on griping and verbalizing your own issues, the harder it is to be able to give the right answer to others?  To be able to speak a word in season to someone, because you do know what they are going through and you have the right answer through Jesus Christ?

 If you’re too busy joining in with the groans and grizzles, you can’t provide hope and truth.

Yes I believe in accountability.

Yes I need friends to be real with, to glean wisdom from.  

Yes I do not have a perfect family and my children are far from angelic.

But I am trying, really trying this summer to not join in when the conversations around me turn to griping.  I’m sure you know in your heart of hearts when your conversation turns to griping.

Let’s offer solutions to people, let’s offer the right answers to people – and we can, when our words are seasoned with grace.  

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My little graduate.

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Five Minute Friday: Dance

Five Minute Friday

No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.

Unscripted. Unedited. Real.

5 mins of writing on a set topic.

I’ve decided that if I ever wanted to do more writing….and to really get serious about it then I need to be able to just write.  Simply write.  So I’m going to join some friends linking up at Lisa-Jo’s blog and we shall see what fun ensues…..

Start.

Dance.

My feet are not pretty.  They are not smooth and soft.  No, they are the feet of a once upon a time dancer.  They are calloused and rough, beaten up.  I think I went through three pairs of big toe nails.  So not natural.

Yes I was a dancer and I loved it.  Not a four year old dancer, plonked on the stage to live her Mother’s dreams out.  No, I was a late bloomer.  An eleven year old who wanted to be there, had to be there, even if it meant beginning with five year olds.

And now my feet tell the story of my once upon a time dancing.  My tiara sits in my bathroom…having travelled many miles with me.  One day I’ll pass it onto a friend’s daughter.  Or I’ll keep it for a granddaughter that I dream about.

The dancing world is o so pretty.  So full of whimsy.  But what lies behind the stages of tulle and chiffon and satin…..pain and heartache, muscles and dreams all pushed to their limit.  But that isn’t seen by the audience.

Much like we don’t see all that influential people have to endure.  The price they have to pay.  Not all is whimsy and tulle and delight.

STOP.

 

Aiming High

My littlest boy loves to stand beside our basketball hoop and lift the ball above his head and throw it up.  He’s nearly two, but in his head he’s convinced he’s at least six.  He’s seen that ball go in the hoop before – he knows that is what he is supposed to be aiming at, and he sees no reason why he can’t shoot a hoop.  He aims high.

There is a very precious email sitting in my inbox at the moment.  It is the receipt of acknowledgement of the application for our two oldest boys to go to a particular school, in about 17 months time.  This school has a waiting list, a state integrated Christian school.  We’ve applied to the school because that was what we felt called to do.  (I’m not about to turn this post into a discussion of the merits of christian/ public/ homeschooling options).  This is the one piece of the puzzle for our future back in NZ that we are feeling confident about.  We’ve been obedient. (please note we are not always!!)  Included in our application was a letter to the Board of Trustees, asking for financial assistance, should the boys receive places in the school.  That’s the audacious, aiming high, part of this whole gig.

Do you know how humbling it is to say to someone, to strangers, that ‘hey we’ve got no money, but we want THIS for our kids’?  We think this is part of God’s plan for our future.

When it comes down to it, we don’t even mind if we get a big fat NO in reply to our application, and/ or in reply to our request for help.  That’s not why the email in my inbox is significant.  It is significant to us, because it is a recognition of our obedience.  We’ve done what was required of us – and now the rest is up to other people and up to God.

The most heroic chick I can think of in the bible, who aimed high was Esther. Esther used her beauty – her natural giftings, she heard from God, she knew what was right in her heart to do and she stepped out.  She risked it all to save her people.  God allowed her to speak to the King, when he had not requested her presence.  She was audacious in her faith and in her obedience.  She was more concerned for others than her own security.  She combined courage with practical planning.  She prayed and fasted before stepping out.  She prepared in the natural and the spiritual.

And so I see a few lessons from her life, for us to follow when we too choose to aim high.

God gives us gifting and abilities for a reason. Let’s use them for Him.  If you can cook – cook to bless people.  If you have natural beauty like Esther did, use it to attract people to the Lord, not for self.  If you can write – write to encourage and bless.  If you have practical hands – handy with tools etc – seek ways to use them for others.  A mind that can problem solve, or market, or whatever comes naturally to you – you have these gifts for a reason.

When we step out in faith, for a lot of occasions a certain amount of homework, or preparation is needed.  Esther spent time in prayer and fasting and urged her people to do the same.  Research, research, research. Preparation, preparation, preparation.

And then, aim high.  Risk things knowing that you are doing what you are called to do – not what someone else is – what you are.  And know that the Lord will be there, urging you on.

Audacious faith.  Aiming high.  Go on. You can.

Esther aimed high, and was obedient with what she was called to do.

We’re aiming high with this whole school application process.

Asher may not be able to get the ball in the hoop, but that doesn’t stop him from aiming high.  He’s got nothing to lose.  Neither do we.

Five Minute Friday: Risk

Five Minute Friday

No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.

Unscripted. Unedited. Real.

5 mins of writing on a set topic.

I’ve decided that if I ever wanted to do more writing….and to really get serious about it then I need to be able to just write.  Simply write.  So I’m going to join some friends linking up at Lisa-Jo’s blog and we shall see what fun ensues…..

So here goes….

RISK.

I can’t help but think of the board game ‘Risk’ whenever I see the word ‘risk’.  Did you know in the interests of family harmony one should never ever play Risk with one’s Mother-in-love.  Mmm.  Never.  I think the last time the game was on offer at a family gathering…quite some time ago….it was definitely time for me to feed the baby.  For an extra long feed it was if I remember correctly.

Risk is that wonderful game with a thousand little pieces that vacuums like to suck up.  The aim – quite simply – world domination.

Kinda like us as Christians.  Bit by bit take over the world.  Winning people to Christ – by BEING Christ.

For some – the game of Risk requires them to play bold moves.  Be the up front people.  Be the ones with the voices for all to hear.

For others – the game of Risk requires them to be sneaky and go undercover….finding a way when there is no way.

STOP.

Extra Grace Required

  Vulnerable –  capable of being physically or emotionally wounded.  Open to attack or damage.  Comes from the Latin ‘vulnerare’ – to wound.  

  My blog is and has always been about being honest.  Real and honest words.  Today I’m taking it one step further and I’m making myself vulnerable.  Please be gentle – my skin thickening process is still a work in progress.

  When I was student one of my dear Pastors, with the most loving and kindest of hearts would talk about ‘extra grace required’ people.  Or EGR for short.  She coined this term to describe the people in our lives…that stand out from the rest…that possibly drain our emotions..they don’t always fit in so well. Sometimes they seem to suffer from the same ‘affliction’ over and over again.  They seem to listen but not hear.

  I think we all can think of at least a few people in our lives that fall under this EGR category.  Maybe you’ve dealt with them in the past, or are currently navigating doing life with them now.

  Sometimes people are very happy to be takers.  They turn up to events that they haven’t helped set up, they leave without doing their bit to help pack down. We can take take take in any areas of our lives.  It is easy to be  spectators in this life.  

  What happens when we constantly have people in our lives that want to take, take, take from us?

  How are we to react appropriately when friendship is NOT reciprocal?

  What is the correct response when communication only happens when the other party needs you?

  Yes, this is a real situation in my life.  And to be honest and vulnerable with you, I have had trouble knowing what my response should be.  As a women desperately seeking to become changed and moulded into Godly ways, into thinking of others and putting others first…..how can I outlive this in my own life?  When I hurt.  When I feel used and abused.  When there is a cycle going on.

  I’ve swayed in my responses so far.  I’ve done the rescuing thing. I’ve done the create some distance thing.  And neither option seem to help.  To my shame I have harbored real anger and frustration and I’ve thought such thoughts as  ‘Why can’t I fix this person when I’ve invested so much in her’.  Yep.  Not my finest moment.  Not the ‘better person’ option and I’m ashamed to admit it.

  I’m used to liking people.  I’m used to getting on with a wide variety of people.  At the risk of blowing my own trumpet I think my people skills and communication skills are ok.  

  Then why does it hurt so very much, to be in friendships that are not reciprocal?  To feel like I’m taken for granted?  

  Here’s what I’m trying to do to help myself…..

  *  Recognize that other people’s expectations of a friendship may be different to what my expectations are.

  *  Sit down and really look at the person’s strengths.  Focus on the positives. Not dwell on the negatives.

  *  Verbalize to others the positives this person has.  It does something in your heart when you jump to defend someone who needs defending – especially when they are not there.

  *  Make sure your EGR people know you are there for them – but know it is ok to remove yourself a little.  Even Jesus took time out from the crowds to spend time with the Father, but he was still accessible.  Now I know I’m not God – but I am trying to be like Jesus, so I want my friends to know that at the end of the day I still care and I still want to be there for them. 

  I’m still working out how best to honour and love on Extra Grace Required people.  It isn’t the easiest of things.    I believe strongly in loyalty to friends and that my word is my word. How do you love the extra grace required people in your life?  How can you be Jesus with  skin on?  How can you allow yourself to be vulnerable – yet still take some responsibility and not enable further behaviour that is going to harm your friendship?  

Extra grace is certainly required of me. The challenge is how to outflow this grace in a real and even a tangible way.  

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The lifting of my hands as sacrifice

I love the line of my title today.  The lifting of my hands as sacrifice.  It is as simple as that.  To me – a servant of God – the lifting of my hands in worship is a posturing of sacrifice.  Not my will, Lord, but yours.

Read the words of this song and then listen to it.  You may already know the chorus.

Such truths.  Such power.

If you’ve been struggling with anything – just stop – and focus on these words.  And how about you raising your hands? I know it goes against the grain with a lot of people and how they prefer to worship…..but I reckon  it does something to your heart when you lift your hands to praise.  The lifting of my hands as sacrifice.  Yep.

It is Friday.  Time to get yer praise on.

[Verse 1]
May my prayer like incense rise before You
The lifting of my hands as sacrifice
Oh Lord Jesus turn Your eyes upon me
For I know there is mercy in Your sight

Your statutes are my heritage forever
My heart is set on keeping Your decrees
Please still my anxious urge toward rebellion
Let Love keep my will upon its knees

[Chorus]
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You

[Verse 2]
To all creation I can see a limit
But Your commands are boundless and have none
So Your Word is my joy and meditation
From the rising to the setting of the sun

All Your ways are loving and are faithful
The road is narrow but Your burden light
Because You gladly lean to lead the humble
I shall gladly kneel to leave my pride

 

Like Incense

From where I sit……

Once a month, women in my valley are gathering together.  We meet to become better.  We meet to collectively meet the Father.  We meet to become fighters for what God has placed on our hearts.

From where I sit I can feel the evening breeze dancing upon the evening.  The tall grass sways to the rhythm.  Every so often the chorus of birds change-up their evensong just a bit.  Enough for us to notice their presence, but not enough to distract from our own harmonies and choruses.

From where I sit I can see the beautiful brown horse, hair glowing in the fading sunlight.  Undeterred from munching on his supper, this surge of estrogen is nothing new to this handsome animal.

We call this hill,’Hope Hill’.  From on top of this hill we can see out to two sides of this valley, two perspectives of the towns that most of us live in.  It is only two minutes away from our Costco, but it may as well be two hours.  Up here we are separate from demands and expectations, norms and the usual.

This hill does indeed hold some precious hopes and dreams.  We’re hungry to see something new.  To walk in forgiveness, to grow in Godly stature, to encourage and unify.

Behind us sits a house, a glorious house built with love by the community.  How appropriate that the community gathers here, to work on strengthening this community.

From where I sit we could turn our heads to marvel at the sunset, to see the pink fingers stretch across the sky.  Instead we keep our heads ahead.  Seeking to know Him better.  Wanting to lift our hearts as one.

From where I sit I feel the longing for more, for His power.  Not all may know it, but what that longing is, is really the in filling and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  To overflow with love for His people.  To move in new and mighty ways – not to bring glory to self – but to point the way to Him.

From where I sit I remember how joyful it is and what an honour it is, to pray for one another.  To seek the Lord for clarity, to be able to speak truth and life into being.  And how humbling to hear the stories of the women.  Hurt souls.  Pained souls.  And the glorious exchange for forgiveness, freshness and new beginnings.

For some this is the hard part.  The gathering with women, when some have been bruised from judgement, gossip and scorn.  To me it is the beautiful part.  To see unity – regardless of denomination, age, socio-economic background or past.  I think the hard part is the tomorrows.  The putting into action what the heart has declared to be changed.  The replacement of bad thinking with God’s thinking.

From where I sit there is the knowledge that where there is unity, then God commands a blessing.  A blessing to be poured out to love on people.  As we continue to gather may our hearts never be completely satisfied, may we want to know Him more.  May our voices declare the truth in song, boldly and harmoniously.  May we be truly repentant and emptied – ready to be filled anew.

May we not sit, but run.  Run the race we were individually called to – united in Spirit, love and truth.