God is Sneaky

>> Sunday, February 28, 2010

About a week ago, Lucas announced to Hubby and I that God lives in his heart! What a cool thing to hear your kid say! I don't think this means he said any specific prayer or had a "moment of decision." But I do think it is a sign that what we are teaching and talking about with him in addition to the solid faith-teaching he gets at preschool is really sinking in. Hubby and I talk to him all the time about how God is always with him and that God wants to live in our hearts so He can help us and tell us how much He loves us. But to hear him proclaim that God is living in his heart was still a very special moment. Hubby asked "What does that mean, Lucas? How does God get into our hearts?"
"It means God goes where I go. And He can talk to me." Yes, yes!
"And how did God get into your heart, Lucas?"
"He is pretty sneaky. God just sneaks in there." Hmmm.... maybe we need to work on that part a bit.

But maybe God is sneaky, sometimes. Not sneaky in the sense that He tries to trick us or deceive us in any way. But sneaky in that sometimes lessons come in the places we may least expect it.
It is no secret that this new job of mine has not been a smooth road so far. I worked so hard to arrange everything and labored so much over the decision to leave my boys an extra day a week. But in the end, I found a way and really felt God was leading me down this path. The first week or two was o.k. Even though Caden had a hard time being left and was extra-clingy when I was home, he seemed to calm down and I knew it was just the adjustment phase so I didn't stress too much about it. Well, it has now been 7weeks. Caden is doing much better. Lucas is a champ with all the coming and going and new routines. I am blessed by the people around me that are making this even possible. BUT.... But, the job is not what I had hoped. Well, the job itself is fine. I enjoy the challenge and the new specialty. But there are other factors (mainly one big one) that are making this very, very hard. It is just not what I had pictured in my mind when I decided to join this team.
But yet, I can see why God led me here. This is where His sneakiness comes in. I made the decision to join this team because I was honored that they would ask me and I felt it was an opportunity for professional growth I could not pass up. Also, Hubby and I are trying to eliminate some debt and move into a bigger house this summer so we were looking for a little extra income just as they asked me to join this team. Seemed perfect. And while it may still be a means of professional growth, I am seeing that that may not be the purpose God had in mind.

I am a bender by nature. I figure out what version of me people are apt to want and I bend to that. I assess what people are looking for, who they want me to be, and I try my best to conform in order to be liked and valued and accepted. We all do this to a certain degree, I think. I learned this skill as a military kid, trying to fit in each new place we would go. And it is not a totally bad thing since I think it is a survival and adaptation mechanism that seems natural to an extent. But at times, I take it too far and it leaves me feeling like I am not sure who the real me is since I am constantly bending and recreating myself. And then, I find myself in this new job environment that is so uncomfortable and even brutal. I can't for the life of me figure out how to be who my new boss wants me to be. She is so tough and demeaning and critical that I can't seem to be enough for her or do anything right. So the lesson in this, don't bend. Be me and that is all I can do. I stopped trying to be her friend or have interesting things to say. I stopped trying to impress her with my nursing knowledge and skill since she shot me down everytime anyway. Instead, I am letting her dictate to me what she wants me to do and I do that with my mouth shut no matter how hard that is. But beyond that, I am NOT letting her dictate to me who I should be no matter how hard that is either. And when I step back and think about all this, this lesson in not bending but staying true to myself, I am amazed at how sneaky God was to put me in this place. I don't think I would have signed on for this had I known what it would have actually looked like. I took the job because I felt flattered and like I was finally a little more in control of my own world. But as it turns out, God had something else in store. Something way more eternal and life-changing and perspective-shifting.

God is sneaky sometimes. Lucas may be on to something. But sneaky in a really, really good way. Sneaky in a "how can I best teach Farrah to trust who I have made her to be" way....
I am not 100% sure this job, this boss, is for me long-term. But I can see why I am here for now. So here for now I will stay until I feel God lead me otherwise.

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Snow Day

>> Thursday, February 18, 2010

A snow day is usually a day where kids get a break from the normal routine and structure of a school day. They get to let loose and build snow-men and slide down hills and have snow-ball fights. Well, today I had my own little snow day. It didn't snow today or even last night. In fact the temps were even a bit warmer today than in previous days and the sun was shining brightly with not a cloud in the sky. But Caden hasn't been feeling well and now has an an ear infection with high fevers so I decided to stay home with him today and not go to work. Deep down, I think I needed a little reprieve from my new job which has been WAY more stressful and taxing than I anticipated. And today turned out to be just the little break from my routine that I needed.
I loved getting to take Lucas to school without the pressure to hurry to get to work. I got to linger a bit, help organize the school library a little and watch Lucas build a huge airplane hanger with blocks. Caden and I ran some errands including a craft-supply run for some crafts I want to do with the boys and for our church. I got back to L's preschool early enough to see them all playing outside in the snow. They had their snow shovels and saucers out and were having tons of fun in the snow. It was medicine to my heart to watch Lucas having fun with his preschool friends. Caden played with his ball in the snow nearby and I sat and watched with a ginormous smile. Later, as we walked back to the car, we took our sweet time and the long way around. And sweet time it was. The boys played in the snow and I joined in. We stayed nearly an hour just stomping in snow and making snow angels and throwing the ball between the three of us. It was spontaneous and light-hearted and joyous. It was a little gift from God to my some-what overwhelmed heart- an exercise in living life fully despite lack of sleep and the mental to-do list looming over head.
Thank you Lord for this snow day. It was truly a breath of fresh air and a marvelous time with my little boys. Sweet, snowy fun!

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Lent for Kids- reprise

>> Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I originally posted this last year but we are using a lot of the same resources and activities this year so I am sharing it again. I will try to post some new thoughts, crafts, links and pictures in the coming weeks.

With Lucas being almost 3 (and a human sponge) and our family attending a housechurch right now, I have been thinking a lot lately about the ways Hubby and I will teach him about Scripture and the church calender. He loves stories of all kinds so we try to use that vehicle as much as possible for teaching him about God. And just as during Advent, I want this Lenten season preceding Easter to be rich and full of learning experiences for our whole family. Lent is a unique season of focusing on prayer, on making God our priority and giving sacrificially to others. Last year, Lucas was a little young to be able to "get it." But this year, he is ready and eager to learn. He has the most tender and teachable heart and it is my job (and Hubby's) to fill his mind and heart and soul with the knowledge of God and the story of His redemptive work in us.

Here are some of the ways our family is observing Lent this year and making it inviting and exciting and meaningful for Lucas too.

Our big activity this year is our Jesus Tree. It is basically a felt tree with 47 different cut out characters (cut out by me, and yes it DID take forever!) that help tell the story of Jesus from his presentation at the temple as a boy through the resurrection. Each day, you and your little ones read a scripture or story from the Bible and then place the character on the tree. Lucas is WAY into telling stories so this is right up our alley. It is cool to work through the progression of Christ's life and parables and for me to have a plan and schedule to help me be intentional about it every day. Lucas is learning the stories and I feel like I may actually be teaching him something. Today was day4, Ash Wednesday being day 1, and there are 47 days in Lent total (including Sundays)- so you still have time to get going. This was a bit labor intensive (still is actually, I haven't finished cutting the pieces yet and they are quite intricate) but it will be something our family will hopefully use for years and years as we teach the boys about Lent and its significance in our lives and in the church.
Today's reading was from Matthew 4, the story of Jesus being tempted in the desert. The piece for the tree was a group of stones. Lucas said, "Mommy, why did Jesus not eat the rocks if He was hungry?" What valuable discussion we had then about obeying God even when it is hard and depending on God to sustain us! Cool lesson for such a little guy.
Here is our tree with the first week of symbols (I put extras up just so you could get a better idea of the concept.)

Our other little craft is a Lenten Chain. One of the ladies in our housechurch (God bless her!!) made these for all the kids. There are 40 purple links and 7white links for the Sundays. Each purple link has something for the child to do that day. Like draw a picture of why you love Jesus, clean your room, pray for kids who have less than you, tell your mommy thank you for all she does for your family, etc... Lucas loves to pull the link off for the day. Actually, he loves to pull links off in general so I have had to put it back together a couple times! :) But we have had fun with the activities so far. Tonight, he sat in his bed and prayed (with prompting) for kids "in Chicago and in Florida" (the main two places he is aware of in the world) that don't have a bed or food. "Help them to love God," he said (unprompted). Way to make your mama smile, Lucas!! I actually don't know what all the activites will be for the next 43 days, so kinda fun for mama too! :)

Another cool idea I saw last year and filed in the "cool idea to try someday" area of my brain... the Jelly Bean Prayer. I was recently reminded of this by a friend and, though we may not do it this year, we will do it someday because it is very, very cool. The basic idea is that the child earns a different color jelly bean for different tasks or behaviors throughout Lent. Then, on Easter morning, the jar is filled the rest of the way with white, unearned jelly beans teaching them the priceless lesson of God's amazing grace and love for us.

Links to other Lenten Activities for kids:
CatholicMom.com- some really great ideas and resources, even if you aren't Catholic (which I am not)
Homemaking through the Church Year- a great blog I often refer to for ideas and activities; She is hosting a Lenten Carnival which will have more lenten links than a girl could hope for! :)
Two Square Meals- one of my dearest friends who wrote a great post last Lenten season on how to include your kids in fasting during Lent.
Domestic-Church.org- some cool craft ideas, including this Lenten cross craft which I have prepped to do this week.
Heart Prayer During Lent- prayer ideas and scripts for leading your child in prayer and confession
Another cool list of activities... and yet another.

I hope this is helpful to you and inspires you to do some fun and teachable activities with your kids this Easter season. If you have ideas or resources to add, I would love it if you would share. If you want a copy of the templates I used to make the Jesus Tree, comment here or send me an e-mail.

May this Lenten season be reflective, refreshing to your soul, a time of deepening your faith and nurturing your heart. May it be full of precious and tender moments with your little ones, teachable for you both.

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Trying to Live and Not Just Survive

>> Monday, February 15, 2010

It is already the middle of February. Dear Lord! How did that happen? A dear friend e-mailed me recently asking about a post I wrote last year (which I am gonna re-post later this week) and that was the first I had honestly thought about Lent and what I was planning for my family for this season. The last four weeks have just passed me by and I am doing well to just keep my head above water most of the time. Actually, that is not entirely accurate.

We are busy and still adjusting to my new job. And we are just getting over some pretty nasty viruses which always complicates life. And this new job has challenges that I did not expect. But even so, this past weekend has been wonderful and just the refreshment my soul needed. Hubby and I had a great date on Friday night, we had a low key day on Saturday filled with craft time and reading time, we took the boys bowling and out to lunch today and had a blast. The fact that my job is pulling me away from the boys more makes me a bit more aware of how I spend my time with them. So in that way, I am actually being more intentional than before. But the rest of life is just flying by and I am left with my head spinning.

I am in need of time to reflect and order my thoughts and my world. And what better time than Lent, a time that should be set aside for just those things. There are crafts I want to do, things I need to work on to grow my businesses, books I want to read, blogs I want to write (and read). But mostly, I just want to feel like I am in control and living life purposefully and I know in order to get there I need to take some time to get my feet back underneath me. I feel confident that God means for us to live life and not just survive it. And I am fully aware that life is busy because I have built it that way and I could "un-build" it in a minute. But that is easier said than done. The things that make life busy are also the things that often make it meaningful. I actually have cut back on certain things and am in the process of subtracting more. I am learning what I can handle and the importance of getting sleep above all things (thus the extreme lack of posting here). It is a process, and sometimes a slow one.

I am also realizing that it is very important to me to look back on the day, the week, the year and not say "where did the time go?" I want to use my time wisely, intentionally. I want to enjoy my boys and not just manage them. I want to experience things as a family, to create memories and strengthen our bonds with each other so that nothing will ever be able to break them. I want to live life, not survive it. I want to be the best me, the best mom, sister, friend, daughter, nurse that I can be while staying true to myself and who God has created me to be. I want to learn how to be the real me at all times and not let frustrating moments or people bring out sides that aren't truly who I am. At this moment, I am still very much in the middle of figuring out what that looks like for me and for my family. I have come to terms with different parts of it which I can go into more details on later. And I am making decisions about our lives that reflect this priority to make life as meaningful as possible. I just need some time to get all these thoughts in order and think about how to put feet to some of these words and thoughts.

It is almost Lent- a time to be intentional and reflect. I plan to do just that. With myself and with my boys. And hopefully more often, here in this space too. Just surviving is hard sometimes and I know everyday can't be filled with photo-album worthy events. But I also am starting to learn that there are simple ways to make even the smallest moments more like living and less like surviving. If you have this figured out or are farther on this journey than I am, please share.

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