Monday, October 31, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 31

This post concludes the only marathon I have ever participated in. I call it my marathon of the mind. What a challenge it has been. What a joy it has been. I'm glad God drew me to participate in the 31 Days series when I first saw Melissa, over at The Inspired Room, tweet about it. It was one of those tickling, nagging, refusing to go away kind of issues (See Day 26).  I can hardly believe I really did it.

A huge thank you is due my sweet, patient family who did more than tolerate my constant droning about this blog post and that blog post. They cheered me on every step of the way. And Lou, your love and support enable me to fly. Much love.

I thought it would be helpful to end with the list. Now, at least, I have a place to come back to when I need to remind myself of some of the truths that are helping me navigate this adventure called life.

Here's also the link to the all the participants in the 31 Days series. Now that I'm done, I plan on meandering through those buttons to get some fresh inspiration.

Many thanks also, to you who visit my blog. My prayer is that you find encouragement here - to live life,  to love God and your family and your friends.  You certainly encourage me with your kind comments - here on the blog, and in person. So, until the next blog post, which I can guarantee won't be on Tuesday, many blessings!

Day 1 - 31 Days Introduction

Day 2 - If you have only 5 minutes, don't read my words, read God's

Day 3 - Hold a high head and a booming tail

Day 4 - The precious garden of my home needs tending

Day 5 - Live in day tight compartments

Day 6 - You are loved with an everlasting love. And underneath are the everlasting arms

Day 7 - Go invent something

Day 8 - Willful waste makes woeful want

Day 9 - It's all about the pioneers

Day 10- Do your best and forget the rest

Day 11 - A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver

Day 12 - Tell yourself the truth

Day 13 - Go ahead and ask. The worst they can say is no.

Day 14 - Many hands make light work

Day 15 - Lord, please let my kids get caught

Day 16 - Guard your heart

Day 17 - The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit

Day 18 - Do the next thing

Day 19 - It's just wood, hay, and stubble

Day 20 - Is that the kind of marriage you want?

Day 21 - He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose

Day 22 - Lord, teach me how to think about this

Day 23 - There is always time to do the will of God

Day 24 - God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason

Day 25 - So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day

Day 26 - But Farmer Hoggett knew that little ideas that tickled and nagged, and refused to go away, should never be ignored...for in them lie the seeds of destiny

Day 27 - You can never be too organized, just too inflexible

Day 28 - Don't spit in their soup

Day 29 - It's nothing but fun

Day 30 - Thank you, God

Sunday, October 30, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 30

I've recently read a book that is now on my list of most influential books. 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp is a powerful read, and speaks deeply regarding God, who he is, and his grace. Please know that the book is about more than the quote I'm sharing. But the quote is a huge theme of the book. It's a huge theme of God's book. It's a theme I hope to continue to grow in. And we've all heard it before.

Thank you, God.

Thank you, God....
     -that I was born.
     -that I am breathing at this moment.
     -that you know me and I know you.
     -that you saved me.
     -that you are coming again.
     -that "this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison"
     -that there is a mysterious, beautiful purpose in all you do.
     -that all you do is for your glory and my joy.
     -that I can trust you. 
     -that you are good.
     -that you are just.
     -that you love me.
     -that you gave us the Bible to remind us of all this and more - much more

And I could go on and on and on. 

Everything we are, everything we have, everything we know - everything is a gift from God. He is good. He is just. He is right. He loves us. So we can say thank you, God. And trust him. Even in the hard times. Especially in the hard times. 

It's all a gift. Thank you, God.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 29

It's been 7 years since my dad died. But I can still hear his voice - especially saying the phrase I'm going to share with you today. This is what he'd say, when, as a teenager, I'd be moaning and groaning about something. These were the words he'd say as he would hug a teary-eyed me goodbye when it was time to make the 8 hour drive back to college.  On my wedding day, this is what he said quietly in my ear  right after he said, "Her mother and I."

It's nothing but fun.

I never really pinned him to the wall about the veracity of this phrase. Obviously, not everything we go through is "fun." His death was not fun. I never questioned him about it because I knew what he really meant. At least, I knew the meaning I gave to it.

When he said those four words, I knew I was to look for the good in the situation. I was to seize the joy of the moment. And I was to be hopeful and confident about the future. Being alive was a great adventure, and you never know what's just around the corner.

Before he died, Dad self published a book - My Life as a Country Doctor.
This cover picture is of  my Dad in his office holding my now 22 year old, Luke
In it are some of his "nothing but fun" stories. His adventures. They are not all happy. One chapter is titled,  My Saddest Day in Practice. But even in that chapter, he shared the kindness and compassion that others showed to him. He saw that as a real gift. And he was thankful. It's that kind of living that is hopeful, that gives you confidence.

I think if I could ask dad what all he really meant by this statement, I think the words gift and thankful would be sprinkled in the conversation. Life is nothing if not a gift. A gift from God. But using the word fun is so my dad. It still rings in my ear.  And I'm thankful.

Note: My dad was thankful too. Below is the last paragraph he wrote in his book.

I hope you, as a reader of this book, know that I am blessed to have been a country doctor, and that I am blessed to have practiced where I did, when I did, and am fortunate to have been born in America.  Life has been good to me.  I am grateful.

Friday, October 28, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 28

Since I don't know if I'll ever actually meet Dr. Kevin Leman to thank him, I'm going to do it here. Thank you, Dr Leman. I wholeheartedly agree with a description on your website: You bring common sense to common problems.  One of Dr. Leman's books in particular has been helpful in my marriage, and one of his quotes has been particularly helpful in my parenting. I'll share the book at the end of this post and share the quote now.

Don't spit in their soup.

Really, until I heard this quote and had its meaning explained, I was guilty, guilty, guilty. I won't claim that all spitting has completely stopped at this point in my parenting career, but it has decreased. And, oftentimes, the spit stays in my mouth because I remember Leman's words.

As a parent, I am bombarded with questions. When the junior high and the high school years are in full swing, a lot of those questions begin with the words, "Can I go...?"  But here's the rub. You hear the request and as you are processing whether to say "yes" or "no," you begin leaning toward "no" even though there's no outstanding, blatant reason to say "no."  You just know that you aren't 100% excited about the doing of whatever it is or the timing of the subject at hand.

But you begrudgingly decide to say "yes." And the key word in that last sentence is begrudgingly. You're saying "yes" with your mouth, but every other part of your body is communicating things like, "I don't really want to say yes, " or  "Why do you have to go do stuff all the time? or, "This is really a bother to me." It's even worse when the negative nonverbal cues find their voice and you actually hear yourself following the begrudged "yes" with things like the joy killing, "Don't think we are going to make a habit of letting you do this." That, my friends, is spitting in your child's soup. It's like handing them a balloon they really wanted and poking it with a pin right as you place it in their hands.

Thanks again, Kevin Leman, for saying these words that have taken root in my parenting soul. My heart's desire is for my "yes" to be "Yes!" with my kids. And when "no" needs to be said, when it's the wise thing to say, I want to say it with the same amount of gusto and conviction.

And I want to remember what I shouldn't do.

The book I mentioned at the beginning of this post is Sheet Music. No matter how long you've been married, it's worth the read. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 27

On my Facebook info page, I have listed as one of my activities and interests: constantly trying to get organized. I wish I had worded that differently. It seems a little lame to me now. I'm going to change it - after this post. Unlike my friend, Sue Roweton, who is always organized, I tend to be behind the eight ball in this area. I'm making baby steps in the right direction, which is good, since I really like to be organized! And today, I'd like to share one of my favorite quotes regarding that blissful state.

You can never be too organized, just too inflexible.

Isn't that so true? Do absolutely all you can to make your life simple, streamlined, and stress free. But when something hits the radar that you weren't expecting, don't freak out. Don't believe that everything is ruined because it interfered with what you had planned or organized. Be willing to bend to new information that calls for new formations.  

Before Lou went to India in 2001, all informational papers that he brought home concerning the trip had a border around the edge. In small print, framing all four sides were the repeating words, Be flexible Be flexible Be flexible. I remember at the time thinking that we all need to remember that, not just the people going to India on a mission trip.

So, I love this saying. It frees a person up to be as hyper-organized as they want. But it also provides a much need flexibility check.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 26

I had to look up these next words. I didn't remember them exactly, but I remember the impression they left. The impression that's never left me. When I was thinking about the candidates for my 31 series, one item on the list is "Babe quote."

In 1995, I had 4 young children, so I was at a point where I watched most children's movies that came out. Babe came out that year and quickly became one of my all time favorites. The scene where Farmer Hoggett finally decides to enter Babe in the sheepdog trials contains my quote for today.

But Farmer Hoggett knew that little ideas that tickled and nagged and refused to go away, should never be ignored...for in them lie the seeds of destiny.

Our oldest child was 6 when Babe was released. Because of his July birthday and the cut off date for school, he was starting kindergarten as a 6 year old. (I was fine with that - glad that my son would be the oldest in his class rather than the youngest.)  The question remained as to whether we would send him to public school or would we homeschool.

I had met some homeschooling families here in Bolivar, MO, that had impressed me. So much so, that I began researching the idea a couple of years before we had to make that decision. I read everything I could get my hands on, went to conferences, and talked to a lot of people. When it was all said and done, and for more reasons than I want to go into here, we ended up not homeschooling that kindergarten year.

But homeschooling was one of those issues that tickled and nagged and refused to go away. We revisited the idea the next year and decided to take the plunge into that lifestyle. And since 1996, we have been homeschooling some combination of our six kids. (With the exception of 1998 - the year our youngest, Mary Grace, was born in September).

When I first heard this quote in the movie, I immediately thought of the wrestling we were doing with the homeschooling decision. I continue to be amazed at all God uses to speak to our hearts. Who would have thought such a quote - a profound quote- would be in a movie about pigs and sheep dogs. I love how God surprises us!

Now, I'm not saying we based our homeschooling decision on this quote from Babe. I don't know if I ever even mentioned it to my husband, Lou, when we would discuss this issue. But it was in the back of my mind. Its truths played out. I didn't ignore the tickling, and nagging (I couldn't!). And our destiny has been affected. God has used homeschooling to grow us, to give us joy, and (hopefully) to glorify Him.

This post is not a plug for homeschooling. It is meant to be an encouragement to any of you out there that might have something deep down that is tickling, nagging and refusing to go away - like homeschooling was for us. Don't ignore it. Take it to God, ask Him to teach you how to think about it, and what you are to do with it. Your joy and God's glory may be about to sprout from a whole new place.

Please enjoy the trailer to this inspirational movie.
That'll do, reader. That'll do.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 25

If you are a Christian, and the reality of these next words starts sinking in, this post may get your heart pounding like mine is right now. Honestly, I am having to make myself not laugh out loud for joy at this moment. I am sitting in Panera Bread, writing this while I wait for my youngest to finish soccer practice. With people all around, I'm trying to control myself. But it's difficult. This verse, 2 Corinthians 4:16, is so full, so hopeful, so good, so God.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

Being at midlife (literally, I turned 50 this year), I have been seeing a few hints that this body of mine is not going to last forever. Since life in this body is all I've known, that reality doesn't necessarily make me want to stand up and do a tap dance. Because my body's demise is a certainty, I must wrap my mind around it. I must come to terms with it if I want to keep from getting depressed about this non-forever body that will do nothing but get weaker for the however many years I have left.

That's where God's word comes in. Never pulling punches, God first tells it like it is. Our outer self is wasting away. And, he knows that that news causes us to lose heart. Knowing what encouraging words are coming, he can lead off with the confident statement, "so we do not lose heart." And then, the news that shatters any dismay. That tells me what is really going on with the real me. The real me, my inner self, is being renewed day by day.

Look up renewed in the dictionary, and you'll find that some good things are happening to the real you. One of the strongest definitions for renewed is: give fresh life or strength to. Pretty much the exact opposite of wasting away. Fresh life! Strength! When the truth of this verse is running through your mind as a recurring theme, telling you the truth of what is really happening to the real you, that keeps you going. That gives you hope. That puts a whole new spin on getting older. That puts on whole new spin on living. I want to remind myself of it - often.

All I can say to end is, "Wow, God. Thank you, thank you, for this. It's so full. So hopeful. So good. So You.

Monday, October 24, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 24

It's difficult to argue with my next sentence. It is proven anatomically.

God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.

And we all know that everything God does, he does for a good reason. His reasons are all wise. I'm for wise and good, so I need to pay attention. I need to remember how I'm made. I need to listen twice as much as I talk.

The power and wisdom behind these words is striking a deeper chord the longer I am the parent of teenagers. What a crazy time of life the teens are. So much growth going on - physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. A lot of energy is being expended figuring out who they are, what they really think, and what they want to do in this life. When my kids have come to me with the issue du jour, most of the time they just need to talk. They just need for someone that they are 100% sure loves them, to listen to them. More often than not, a sincere "oh, wow," or "I'm sorry," is all I should say. They know I've heard and I care.

My problem has been that I want to completely solve their problem right then and there. Or, I want to change their attitude right then and there. It would help so much! To do that, I need to talk! To them! Right then! (Not!) In reality, because I've been down the road a little farther, I probably do have some information or insight that would help them. But because they have so much that needs to come out before anything new can possibly go in, I need to remember that I have two ears and one mouth. That I am to do twice as much listening as talking. Then maybe, at another time, we could have another conversation that is a little more give and take. But even then, I need to remember how I'm made - and that I'm made that way for a reason.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 23

Time management is a constant issue for me. We all have lots to do and we often say we don't have enough time to get it all done. If I ever had the chance to express that sentiment to Elisabeth Elliot, I know exactly what she would say because she's said it already.

There is always time to do the will of God.

This post is the third time related one I've done. You would think I'd have one "go-to" phrase that I'd hear in my head when I'm feeling the crunch. But sometimes, you need to hear the same thing in a different way. It's good to have more than one bullet in your gun. 

This statement pulls the God card. That's a big bullet. That's a call to check what you are involved in more than just how you are scheduling your time. Maybe you feel crunched because you are involved in some things that you shouldn't be. The "shouldn'ts" are using up the ''shoulds'" time. Does what you are doing line up under the priorities you have set for your family?

When our kids were little, Lou and I would talk through the goals we had for each of our kids. Homeschooling kind of forces you to do this. I even wrote them down and then we'd evaluate what we were doing with them, what things we were letting them be involved in to see if it all lined up with those goals. (I'm kind of impressed we did that.)Well, we've gotten lazy as we've gotten older and as they've gotten older and we don't do that any more. (I'm kind of depressed we did that.) All that to say that the process of thinking through the goals you really want for you and your family and how you need to spend your time in getting closer to those goals - is an extremely helpful process. 

We should ask God to give us wisdom in this. He is not behind the pressure we feel in our lives. He is not asking us to do more than he knows we can do. He equips for what he requires. 

I want to remember that. There is always time (and energy) to do the will of God.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 22

I ended my Day 21 post with a prayer. So it seemed fitting to continue in that vein and share with you one of my favorite prayers. I hesitate to use the word favorite in regard to this prayer, because almost every time I pray it, I'm in angst, and favorite is a word that smiles. Angst does not smile. But it is one of my most faith filled prayers. And by that, I mean that I wait for God to answer it. I often plead for God to answer it. I expect God to answer it.

Lord, teach me how to think about this.

When I am blindsided by an issue or information where my instincts point me in the direction of dismay or anger, I can feel my blood pressure start to rise. Caustic words start lining up in my brain ready to make the trip out of my mouth. Thankfully, about this time also, flashing red warning lights start going off. They signal that major regret is ahead if my course doesn't change. God reminds me of the words I need to breathe instead of the words I think I need to say. Lord, teach me how to think about this

When I am clueless about what to do in a particularly confusing parenting situation...Lord, teach me how to think about this.

When I'm confused about a decision where two choices seem equally good...Lord, teach me how to think about this.

All battles for right living are first won with right thinking. To ask God for help with right thinking has been one of my lifelines. It's been one of my life lessons. It is one of my life prayers.

Friday, October 21, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 21

I've already quoted Elisabeth Elliot three times in this series - herehere, and here. Figuring I need to spread the joy around a bit, my next statement hails from a different Elliot. Elisabeth's first husband, Jim Elliot, was one of five missionaries killed as they tried to make contact with the Waudoni people of Ecuador. In 1983, Elisabeth published his journals, and in that book is a quote that is one of those big picture quotes. It's one that I've gone back to over and over again as a check - a life check.

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.

The other night, my family watched Beyond the Gates of Splendor, a documentary about the five missionaries' lives. We had seen it before, and it moved me to tears once again. 

I highly recommend it. It will inspire you.

And we all need inspiration, don't we? We get so busy in life taking care of the urgent that we sometimes even forget to ponder the important. Pondering the important helps us live more purposely as we take care of the urgent.

I've first heard this quote back in the 80's and it impacted me then. It still affects me today. And as I've contemplated it anew, it's occurred to me that it would be a good prayer to pray.

Lord, help me always be willing to give what I cannot keep to gain what I cannot lose.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 20

My husband, Lou, left today for a couple of days to attend a meeting in Boston. Maybe blogging about him/us is my way of keeping him close, because I really don't like being apart from him. So, I'm going to share a marriage question today. A question that the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart one day in the early years of my marriage. I didn't hear an audible voice, but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that it was God speaking clearly to my heart. And He asked me the following.

Is that the kind of marriage you want?

My first sentence on Day 15 stated that I have amazing children. This post is going to state that I have an amazing husband. We've been married for 24 years and I'd marry him again tomorrow. But in the middle of and woven in and out of all that wedded bliss, are days when it was hard to be married. I could point to multiple culprits for those hard days, but the majority had their root in communication issues.

The first time I heard the above question was a day when Lou had hurt my feelings - inadvertently, I'm sure, because I don't think I can remember a time he's ever gone for the jugular with me. And honestly, I don't even remember what the issue was now, but I vividly remember how I felt. Whatever I had shared with him that day, was, in my mind, ignored and/or belittled. So much so, that I remember thinking, "Fine. I just won't share that part of my life with you anymore."

Before that seed of bitterness had a chance to take root and grow into something that could potentially destroy my marriage, God whispered that beautiful question to my heart. "Is that the kind of marriage you want, Shelley?"

That stopped me in my tracks. No. That is not the kind of marriage I want.

I want to share who I am with my husband - on every level. I want to be one with this man. I want to give this man, who I know loves me, the benefit of the doubt. I want to share even though I know this man will hurt my feelings again - just like I will hurt his feelings again. Because guess what?  We neither one are married to perfect people! I'm a sinner. He's a sinner. We mess up. We hurt feelings. We misinterpret words  or actions. We assume. And since we do all that (and more), we must learn the art of forgiveness.

As I typed that last sentence, I noticed that the word forgiveness has as its root word, give. In my hurt, I was wanting to stop giving myself to Lou, at least part of myself. But the word forgiveness, if said slowly and deliberately says just the opposite: for (or pro) giveness. And I want to be for giveness. Especially in my marriage. Especially with the one the Bible says I am now one with.

Now that is the kind of marriage I want.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 19

I've already quoted my brother, Andy, in my 31 Days series way back on Day 5. Now, it's time to do so again. When he said these next words to me, he was, no doubt, expressing what he really thinks about material possessions. But he was also comforting me. Who would have thought that the following simple words about combustible materials could be comforting?

It's just wood, hay, and stubble.

Years ago, when my children were toddlers, my crew visited my brother and his family in Rochester, MN. With their 7 children and our 6, the house was hopping. Mealtimes were interesting, to say the least. At dinner one night, and before I knew what was happening, one of my toddlers began banging his cup against their beautiful, new, wooden dining room table. For some reason, I was not in the immediate vicinity, so a few seconds passed before I could stop the vigorous sippy cup drum solo. The result? Nice small dents in their beautiful, new, wooden dining room table. I was horrified and began apologizing, all the while racking my brain on what making restitution for this table was going to look like and cost. My brother didn't even miss a beat. He said, "Don't worry about it. It's the first of many. And, it's just wood, hay, and stubble. It's gonna burn someday."

Lou and I have taken that thought and run with it. Now, when we buy something new, and we're discussing when the first scratch or dent will eventually come, we actually remind each other of its real place in this world with the words, "It's just wood, hay, and stubble." We want to remember that what we have is to be used freely by whoever, whenever. Hopefully, we will remember that material things are to be used to enhance or facilitate our relationships with people.

Because people do last throughout eternity, so let's invest the majority of our time and energy in them. Let's be more upset about the dents and scratches we inflict on them, either accidentally or - in our worst moments - on purpose, than we are the dents and scratches on our things, that are just wood, hay, and stubble.

 10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
                                                                                          I Corinthians 3:10-15

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 18

Two words that would accurately describe my life right now are dog paddling. And I am barely keeping my head above water. Or, more accurately, laundry and other housework. I feel like this is so same song second verse -ish, but I figure that a lot of you may be singing the same song and the same second verse. I have not been home much lately, running kids to and from activities. And then there was my daughter's soccer tournament this weekend plus my son's basketball games - all 25 miles away from our home. When I got home Sunday night about 8:30 p.m., I was tired and discouraged. I wasn't even sure where to start. Everywhere I looked I could see 15 things that needed doing yesterday. Thankfully, before I started hyperventilating, I remembered another Elisabeth Elliot saying.

Do the next thing.

On Sunday nights, at 8:30, the next thing is watching the Amazing Race with my family.
That was actually kind of hard to do with everything else screaming at me, but I can't pass up that time with the ones I love. By the time that was over, it was pushing 10 p.m. Doing the next thing, I made the kitchen semi tolerable for the morning, started one load of laundry, and hit the hay. 

After the alarm went off Monday morning, I rolled out of bed, and started immediately reminding myself to just keep plugging away at the next thing. Little by little, I began to see small improvements. Since Monday is the day I teach at Classical Conversations of Bolivar, I'm away from the house from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., so it's not like I was able to get the house to a presentable state. I was just able to see that I had made progress. I had just been doing the next thing that I was able to do - and I was pleased with that. Again, let me say that this was/is an exercise in focusing. Any time I wasn't focused, and my mind started listening to the cacophony of chaos that is my house right now, it was basically paralyzing. The next thing done became the no thing done.

Well something, albeit small, is getting done (thank you, Elisabeth Elliot). I might still be dog paddling a bit, but I'm not heading out into deeper waters now, where I might drown. I'm heading for the least for today - by doing the next thing.

Post Options
My laundry room 10/18/11
"Breathe, and do the next load"

Monday, October 17, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 17

I write my 31 Days' posts the day before they are "due." This is Monday's post, but I'm writing it on Sunday. Today has been a somber day in my home town of Bolivar, Missouri. Three young girls were killed in a car wreck last night. Two of the girls were in my sophomore daughter's class. The other, a sister to one of the sophomores, was an eighth grader. My 13 year old daughter knew her. All day, one scripture has been running through my mind. It's Psalm 34:18.

 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Praying for the families and friends of these girls...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 16

I once told my kids that if I knew the wisest man in the world were going to be speaking in our town, I would take them out of school for the day, and we'd be waiting at the door to get front row seats. They didn't get too excited, because they knew where I was going with that statement. One of them mentioned something about Solomon, and another volunteered Proverbs. Then they heard me remind them that we all have access to the wisest man in the world's wisdom 24 hours/day, 7 days/ week. And it's from Proverbs that my next statement comes.

Guard your heart. 

That's actually the shortened version of Proverbs 4:23. The entire verse reads like this.
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
But when I'm talking to my kids, a lot of times I use the Reader's Digest version. It's short and to the point. And they know what I mean. 

This generation has grown up being assaulted with information and images like no other. The whole world is a click away. When I was growing up, you either had to hit Spencer gifts in your local mall or brave the smirks from the 7-11 clerk who saw what you were buying to see what is now available in the comfort our own homes. What our eyes see can be imprinted on our brains forever. And unfortunately, while we can delete the history on our computer, we can't always delete what we'd like to from our brain.

In the same way, our ears can also be assaulted with language, written and spoken, that empties your heart and soul instead of filling it. Or, it poisons your heart and soul. And we are warned, by the wisest man who ever lived, to guard our heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

And Solomon begins that sentence, with above all else. This is Old Testament for  "Hello!! This is important! This is critical!" Because we aren't talking about your little toe, here. We are talking about your heart. It is where our life bubbles up from. Who we really are comes from it.

When I think of other precious things that are guarded - the Mona Lisa, the Hope Diamond, our U.S. Constitution, for examples - I think of armed guards, bullet proof glass, alarms, and lots of locked doors. We humans have said these inanimate objects are valuable and need to closely watched, protected. Our creator God says that our heart, the very essence of who we are, needs to be closely watched, protected, guarded. In the thesaurus, "guard" looks like this:

guardverb1:protectstand guard overwatch overkeep an eye oncoverpatrolpolicedefendshieldsafeguardkeep safesecure.

This is not a lay-on-the-couch kind of word. It is active. And purposeful. And vital. Because your very life is at stake. Guard your heart.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 15

I have amazing children. I want to and could talk/blog about them all the time. They are the stuff even poems are made of.  If you only knew the powers of restraint I employ to keep them out of every one of my blog posts, you would be impressed. Even though they are incredibly special to me, they are normal kids, not perfect (kind of like me) and a work in progress. So today, I'd like to share one of the prayers that I often pray for them. This prayer, along with tell yourself the truth from day 12,  I first heard from my friend, Marla.

Lord, please let my kids get caught.

Let them get caught when they do something, say something, wrong. When they sin.  Even if the being caught is public and embarrassing. (I don't like typing that).  John Piper recently tweeted the following quote that solidified my belief in the rightness of this prayer. The only thing worse than being caught in secret sin is not being caught. 

Sin, even small and secret, is spiritual cancer. If it's not removed, death results. Jesus dealt with that on the cross, and if we confess our sin and take it to the cross, death is exchanged for life. And I desperately want life, real life, for my children.

So I'm praying this prayer, along with many others, for the six souls entrusted to their dad and me. It's prayed out of the deepest love for them. And I'm praying for the wisdom needed when that prayer gets answered.
Our six souls

Friday, October 14, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 14

Thursday, October 13, between 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., I could have videoed why I love today's words. I drove up to Bolivar High School with my car packed with food for the volleyball team. Moms of the players provide food for the team on away games, and I was taking my turn, along with three other moms. School was still in session when I arrived, and I was the first mom there. That meant I carried all the food I brought into the school by myself. It took four trips to and from the car. All I could think as I was hauling that stuff was how much easier it would be if I had a few more hands. I was hearing, though not experiencing, the following sentence.

Many hands make light work.

Fast forward one hour. The volleyball girls are fed and I'm packed up ready to take everything back to the car. I see some of the cross country boys hanging out nearby, about ready to walk out of the building. I think I've mentioned before that I'm usually not shy, so I called those boys over and asked for a little help. They were more than happy to oblige. Those many hands hauled my stuff to the car in one trip.  The only thing I had to carry was my diet coke. They let me take their picture and gave me permission to blog about them. Thank you again, gentlemen.

I have experienced the joy of many hands making light work many times. I've mentioned here before that I have 6 children. Those 6 plus their dad and me = 16 hands. When we all tackle a project, we do a number on it. Lou and I first discussed the power of our many hands one night after supper many years ago. At that time, we were in the habit of letting the kids leave the table when they had finished their meal, even if everybody wasn't finished. They would take their plate over and place it by the sink, and then head on their merry way. Eventually, everybody would trickle out and Lou and I would be left to finish cleaning. On the night of our revelation, we realized we could be out of the kitchen in less than half the time if they all stayed to help. We introduced our plan at the next meal, announcing that, from here on out, we would all stay seated and visit until everyone was done. Then we'd all clean together and be done with it. This has been one of the best things we have ever done. We've had more time around the table as a family and we clean up after 8 people in no time flat. Many hands make light work. 

Our kids were not as excited about the plan as we were. Their focus was on the work, not the many hands. The focus has shifted now, with a few years and a little more maturity on their side. 

We still take full advantage of this phrase whenever we can. Cause we have many hands. And we all like light work.
Had to show a pic that featured hands, sort of

Thursday, October 13, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 13

Three of my kids are about to take the ACT. So we've been chatting about that lately. Our school is offering a practice test a few days before the actual test. The announcement for this pretest was in the sophomore newsletter. I was talking to my junior daughter about possibly taking that practice test also. Her response? Mom, it's for sophomores. My response to her response?

Go ahead and ask. The worst they can say is "no."

Really, what does she have to lose? The worst the counselor would say is, "No, it's for sophomores only. I'm sorry." Then she'd probably follow that with words that commend my junior daughter for coming and checking, for trying to take advantage of every opportunity. Or, because she asked, the answer might be "yes," and she would gain something valuable - test practice!

There's something empowering about knowing what the worst outcome could be. If you're prepared for that, then getting the opposite is even double the treat. It's a bit of a nice surprise, plus, you feel proud of yourself for having had the courage to ask.

As I finish this post, I do need to mention one caveat for you parents - parents of teenagers in particular. Your teenager will probably turn around and ask of you what you have encouraged them to ask of others. My senior son is most known for this in our house. He'll ask to do something that we've denied in the past. When we question why he does this, knowing we've said no to this once already, he'll say, "Well, the worst you could say is "no." Can't fault a teenager for trying.
The master questioner
So, a slight risk if these words reach the ears of your kids. Even though I know this risk, I think the potential reward is worth it.  I guess I could ask you all what you think. Is it worth it? The worst you could say is "no."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 12

My next phrase is critical to my well-being. Because, believe it or not, I can believe things that are not true - especially when I'm unsure of myself or I've had my feelings hurt. It's during those times that I definitely have to preach to myself more than I listen to myself. It's during those times that I must remember the following words.

Tell yourself the truth.

I credit my friend, Marla, with first saying these life saving words to me.  Do you have a Marla? Someone you can call any time with anything? They listen. They help. They tell you the truth. They love you no matter what. 

Friends for over 20 years, we have weathered a few ups and downs, twists and turns. We've spent a lot of those years encouraging each other in the choppy waters of parenting (she has 3 kids, I have 6). There have been a lot of opportunities to feel unsure of yourself. Sometimes, in tears and at the end of my parenting rope, I'd call Marla and blubber words along the lines of, "I'm ruining these kids!"

And Marla, sweet Marla, would say, "Shelley, tell yourself the truth. You are the parent God has chosen for your kids. They need you. You need them. God will give you the wisdom you need. Tell yourself the truth."

Such helpful words from such a helpful friend. Those words not only help me when I am unsure of myself, but also when someone I care about, like my kids, hurts my feelings. Away from the heat of the hurt, I know the hurt is rarely done on purpose. But in the middle of the hurt, I'm tempted to believe, "They don't really care about you. They don't even like you."  It's here I have to stop and tell myself the truth. Your kids do care about you. They are young, immature, and acting like kids.

Can you tell that this sentence is near and dear to my heart? It is my mantra on my hard parenting days.

Can you tell also that I'm thankful to Marla for first saying theses words to me? And can I tell you that I'm also thankful to God for Marla - her friendship, and her consistent truth telling in my life.
Marla and me, and our men

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 11

I blew a golden opportunity recently.

My hometown of Bolivar, MO, just put in a much needed sidewalk near the schools which are just down the street from my house. It looks so great. It's just begging you to walk on it. I pass it every day - multiple times. When the guys who had been building it were putting the finishing touches on it the other day, I almost, on a couple of drive bys, rolled my window down to say, "Great job! It looks awesome!" But every time, I talked myself out if it. I obviously forgot what Proverbs 25:11 teaches.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

In other words, the right word at the right time is beautiful. It's valuable. It encourages. And everybody needs encouragement.

Our spouses.
Our kids.
Our friends.
Our coworkers.
Our pastors.
Our teachers.
Our salesclerks.
Our drive-thru attendants.
Our sidewalk builders.

I have quoted this verse often to my children. And I'm not usually shy about speaking to complete strangers. But, for whatever reason, I was to those hard working sidewalk guys. And I regret it. I missed a chance to encourage.

Today, however, is a new day, with all new opportunities. Let's do something valuable. Let's do something beautiful. Let's speak an encouraging word.

Monday, October 10, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 10

Many of you may have heard of the home fitness program P90X. My 22 year old son, Luke, has been on and off that regimen throughout his college years. For "fun" one night, he wanted me and his dad to try the 15 minute ab ripper workout. In the middle of that fun session, amidst a few groans and expressions of "I don't think I can do all these crunches," Luke parroted what I now know is one of Tony Horton's  (the creator of P90X) famous lines.

Do your best, and forget the rest.

I've been saying that to myself over the last couple of days - and I haven't been trying to do crunches. At least not physical ones. I've been crunching out these blog posts!

Don't get me wrong. I'm enjoying writing them and I'm energized by the challenge of this 31 day series.  (Confession: I have wished at times that my topic had been 31 Days of a picture that makes me smile.)

This picture makes me smile

But when you have perfectionist tendencies like I do, you can always think of a way something could have been better. For instance, I've already rewritten yesterday's post a couple of times in my head. I thought of some great pictures I could've included and a clever way of saying one of my thoughts.  But that's really wasted energy. At the time I wrote Day 9, I did my best, so I need to forget the rest. Learn from it, but don't lament over it.

Let's spend our energy continuing to do our best knowing that the very doing of that will help our best get better. Squelch any pesky perfectionist voices that threaten to paralyze the doing. Instead, let's hear Tony Horton's voice  reminding you (and me) to: do your best and forget the rest.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

31 days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 9

This next phrase pushed its way to the front of the 31 Days' line because of the verses that so impressed me this morning. I was so impressed, I tweeted about them.

 Shelley Harris 

3x in Col 3:15-17 thankfulness is stressed. "be thankful." "with thankfulness in your hearts." "giving thanks to God." //This is not small.

Those verses and my sentence may seem like a unlikely pairing, but here goes.

It's all about the pioneers.

This sentence is one that really, Lou says to me more than I say to anybody else. My related sentence that prompts the above statement usually starts, "You know, back in the pioneer days..." and I finish it with some hard way they had to do something compared to the easy way we have to do, well, pretty much anything we have to do. We discuss that for a while, and then our conversation ends by talking about how thankful we are that we weren't born a pioneer.

I admire the pioneers greatly and hope that I possess some of their grit. Maybe I'm looking back at them through rose colored glasses, but I don't think they were quite the complainers that we are. Things were hard for them. They expected that. Things are pretty nice for us. We expect that. We whine when they're not. Now, I'm not saying that we don't seek to change a changeable, uncomfortable situation. But I am saying that an expectation of instant gratification, and the instant complaining that happens if the instant gratification is not met, has a seed of ingratitude in it.

Remembering the pioneers is a gratitude check for me. And gratitude or thankfulness - like I said in my tweet - is not small.

Colossians 3:15-17

English Standard Version (ESV)
15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17Andwhatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

31 Days of Words for the Daily Dash-Day 8

My family is a three meals a day kind of family. Thankfully, with all that food consumption, we are also leftover kind of people. So, I'm regularly deciding whether or not to keep the food or throw it out. You can then know that three times a day I hear my husband's grandmother's voice reminding me that:

Willful waste makes woeful want.

I don't remember all the details of the first time I ever heard that, but I obviously must have been about to willfully waste. Lou's grandmother, Thelma Faubion, though small and wiry, was of hearty stock. She was independent, hard working, and opinionated. She always added lots of color to our life when she came to visit. And now, daily, it's her words that drive my leftover decisions. I try to never willfully waste. I certainly don't want any woeful want. Yikes. Scary. Any noun described as woeful is not welcome at my house.

With those words never far away, you can imagine how loud I laughed when I was out shopping for a birthday card the other day and I came across this.

My next thought: That card lady never met Thelma Faubion.

But I did.
And I'm glad.
She spoke into the life of a man who's a good husband to me.
She has been part of God's grace to me.
And, without that grace, all would be woeful want.