Quiet

Two playdates were arranged today for my two little girls–one here and one at a friend’s house.  So things are quiet.  And calm.  (I invited over a sweet mellow playmate for my youngest–I know what I’m doing!)

And while life has slowed down and is at a much more tolerable pace for me, one thing that I have been lacking lately is quiet.  Rainy weather means we’re indoors a lot, the girls aren’t using up their abundance of energy so they’re not sleeping as much, and really, they’re just hyped up or at each other’s throats a lot.  It’s understandable.  It’s life.  It a few weeks out of summer.  I can deal.  But I admit that I can’t think straight.  I was not wired for a lot of noise.

I don’t know what it is about me–I can handle loud, rockin’ praise music or booming speakers when I’m driving around solo, but I can’t handle the clanging of pots and pans or loud conversations or worse–conversations and loud background noise (I constantly have to turn music down or off when I’m trying to have a conversation with someone).  Boisterous kids running around on hardwood floors and squealing and giggling should bring me great joy, but at some point it just starts to sound like fingernails on a chalkboard.

You can see that quiet has great meaning for me.  I’m able to function better, I’m calmer, I can think clearly.  A little quiet gives me strength to tolerate the noise pollution that my family sometimes emits.  (My 3-year-old and her friend giggling sweetly in the other room totally qualifies as quiet for me…..sigh…..cute little girls!)

Scripture talks a lot about quiet.  Psalm 23 says that the Good Shepherd leads us beside quiet waters (how that soothes my soul so much more than a roaring waterfall!).  We are also encouraged over and over again to speak wise and quiet words (Ecc 9:17).  1 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, and 1 Peter all encourage us to lead quiet lives and to have gentle and quiet spirits.

I often think of “quiet” as an outward condition that I long for.  It’s a circumstance that I want.  I’ve learned that it’s not just something I value, but it is something that has value.  But more often I need to remember that “quiet” is also a condition of my soul.  I need to be led quietly by my Shepherd, I need to live a life that isn’t obnoxious or hurtful or full of strife.  Isaiah 32 says that “the fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.”  Quiet is also a fruit of righteousness.  It is not something I can obtain on my own, but only by the redemptive and transforming work of the one who leads me beside quiet waters.

Be still, oh my soul.

Spring

Spring is a rather precarious thing in the northern landscape of the Midwest.  It arrives.  The birds return and begin to sing the promises of a warm sun and blue sky.  The wind seems to blow relentlessly, lest we forget that we are in that in-between season.  My husband reminds me each time the thermometer outdoors climbs over 60, “It is still going to snow!  It always snows in April.”  My mom looks at the buds on the trees and tsks, “The scary thing is that it could still freeze!” (love ya, Mom….)  I confess that these kind souls are wise to remind me of what may be in wait for us…..I fall into the habit of longing for warm rays of sunshine and green grass and falling into a mild spring funk when the skies go gray and that wind becomes bitterly cold.  Do pray for me if snow dares to fall yet this season.

But it is all good.  Stormy weather may swirl around us and frightful cold may grip us, but God is good and all that He gives us is somehow, in His beautifully unfathomable way, good. The book of James begins with a rather gloomy exhortation to “consider it pure joy…when you face trials of many kinds.”  Not just if you face trials, not when you face the trial, but when you face trials.  Just a few sentences later:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:17

Spring is here…..whether that means sunshine, snow, or wind.  And it is good.

Might As Well Face It….

I’m addicted.  To caffeine.  It’s bad, my friends.  Worse than I realized–isn’t that the slippery slope that every addict goes down?  It started out innocently….a cup of coffee a day, maybe a soda for lunch.  Soon it was full-blown: I NEEDED at least two cups of coffee at breakfast and a soda in the afternoon.  That was just what I needed to function.  Anything else was a treat.

Six days ago, I decided to call it quits.  With my husband (a fellow addict) on board, we started our morning off with decaf.  We both did great.  Until about 1pm, when the pounding headaches started.  I fought mine off with a Mountain Dew AND some ibuprofen.  It has been the same every day since.  One day I survived the whole day without any caffeinated coffee or any caffeinated soda, but the next day woke up with the pounding headache. Nearly a week into it, I am still at one soda a day and hoping to be caffeine free and able to survive in another week or so.   Oh, and did I mention the other annoying side effect of “detoxing” from caffeine?  Ironically, for me it is insomnia!  I’m exhausted and still can’t sleep well!  I’ve heard it is a side effect, though, and hope to be back to blissful sleep soon.

The good news?  The anxiety attacks, heart palpitations, and chest pains that I have been struggling with for a couple of years have significantly decreased in just these 6 days.  So has the reflux and heartburn that has been haunting me lately.  It’s what keeps me going–being free of these things.  Oh, and the scary realization that my body was evidently SO hooked on a little bean.

Confession: I nearly licked my hands after holding these aromalicious beans for the picture.  Yum.

Talkin’ ’bout Talkin’

Let’s talk…

Today I read about some research on conversation (that’s my kind of research!).  This particular research concluded that too much small talk can lead to loneliness and unhappiness whereas meaningful relationships and conversations contributed to greater happiness.  I would guess that most women would say, “I could have told you that!”  My husband has learned that it’s not just conversation that I need–it’s “deep conversation” that keeps me feeling connected and happy.  While this may all seem like common sense to some of us, I would venture to say that it isn’t that clear to all of us and at the least, it’s sometimes difficult to have these conversations on a regular basis.  Especially if a good part of our time is spent with young children in our home.

Some of us just don’t get out of the house enough or we don’t have opportunities to catch up with friends on the phone.  In my case, I get out of the house quite regularly, but often it’s shuttling kids around (where I just pass by friends and acquaintances with a short greeting) or I’m together with others in a large group.  On any given day, I might have a variety of conversations with a varying number of people.  But they are far from meaningful conversations.  They deal with things like schedules, the weather, basic information about my plans, my family, etc.  Certainly topics that qualify for “small talk.”  I realize that small talk is a part of life, but I cringe at friendships that never break the surface of small talk and I get bored with situations with friends where small talk reigns.

What Conversation Means to a Mom

As a new mom, I craved things like “Mom Night Out” with the girlfriends.  I faithfully went to a play group where as many as 15 moms were present in its “heyday.”  It was enough for me to just connect with people on any level.  Then something began to change.  Maybe it was me just evolving and settling in to my role as a mom.  Or maybe it had to do with spiritual growth.  Maybe it happened once I had a second child and my time felt more stretched.  Whatever the reason, I started feeling almost hostile about the shallow conversations that were going on in these situations.  I would come home feeling annoyed rather than refreshed.  After a playgroup with three other moms where the conversation revolved around things they wanted to buy (a conversation that went on and on for two hours+), I swore off these get-togethers.  The scripture that kept revolving around in my head was 2 Timothy 2:16.  Although this verse is talking about false teachings, I believe that it is generally Godly advice in any situation: “Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.”

Looking back, I realize that small talk isn’t necessarily “godless” (I was probably over-reacting, okay?!), but I was craving friendships and conversations that were real and nothing is more real to me than the Lord and my walk with Him.  It seemed nauseating to spend so much time talking about things that have nothing to do with that–particularly with friends who claim faith, too.

Pursuing Godliness, Even In Conversations

As with anything, we need to pursue what is good and uplifting and handle things that are otherwise in a Godly manner.  Sometimes small talk is fun and serves a purpose.  Obviously it serves a great purpose when getting to know someone or in a gathering where the focus is on someone or something (like a birthday party or a fundraiser). But too much of it leaves a big hole in that part of our souls that desires meaning and purpose.

Yesterday I briefly stopped by the library with my two girls to pick up some books.  We were all feeling under the weather with colds and I figured some new books would help see us through.  I ran into a friend from my church.  Although I don’t know this woman very well, I appreciate the way she and I can immediately get to the heart of what we are going through and what God is teaching us.  We definitely talked for less than 10 minutes, but in that short time, we shared some struggles and frustrations we were having in ministry and then finished up our conversation by sharing hope and encouragement that God had been giving each of us.  I was truly uplifted and refreshed by such a brief conversation.

Priorities

The blog post I read summarizes by saying, “The bottom line is that maintaining friendships can help with emotional well-being. Friends buffer negative events and provide support.  Don’t be too busy to have a meaningful conversation.”  As a mother of young children, I would also encourage other women in my stage of life to pick and choose what to invest your time in.  Make sure that time spent with your husband and meaningful conversations with him are high on your priority list.  When it comes to friendships, choose to invest in ones that are meaningful.

As for get-togethers, playdates, women’s retreats, or Moms Nights Out, be selective in how you spend your time away from your family.  Make sure that you’re coming away refreshed and rejuvenated.  I find that the size of a group really effects the type of conversations that are had–a group of more than 4 but less than 10 often leads to group conversation, which rarely gets below the surface (my four kindred friends from high school are an exception here–there are always exceptions!!!).  A smaller group usually allows for more personal topics; I’ve also discovered that a large enough group (like 10 or more) means that I can seek out more intimate one-on-one conversations.  My time with my family is my priority, but I also need time away and I want it to be well spent.

Be happy–talk well.  “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil…..do not be foolish.”  Ephesians 5:15-17

There is nothing like tea with good friends……

First Impressions and Going With Your Gut

This post is something I want to expand on at some point, maybe dig in and get some research, but for now, it is mainly just a question that I have gone over a million times in my mind and still haven’t figured out.  What is the line between making a judgement of someone based on a first impression versus trusting your instinct and going with your first read of a person?

Now, we all meet people on a regular basis in which this question doesn’t even ultimately matter.  As someone who likes to study people, I tend to do a lot of thinking about and reading into people that I will never see again. Kind of a waste of time, but kind of a weird hobby, if you can call it that.  I think all sorts of things like “That person seems really enthusiastic and fun-loving.  I’ll bet they enjoy life.”  “That guy seems really reserved, but I’ll bet he’s a friendly dude once you get to know him.”  “That one really thinks highly of himself.”  “She acts like she thinks really highly of herself, but I think she’s really insecure.”  “I feel like that guy isn’t always telling the truth.”

All of those observations are pretty meaningless for one-time encounters–you know, when you meet your friend’s neighbor’s niece who is visiting for a weekend from out of state.  But do those kinds of observations hold more value if it is someone that you’ll be crossing paths with more than once in awhile?  Does “guy who thinks too highly of himself” mean a red flag if he’s your new co-worker?  How about “insecure girl” who is your new friend at the gym?  How about “questionable truth teller” who becomes your church leader?  Do first impressions say something?  Can you trust your gut instincts about a person even if you have absolutely no proof otherwise to be cautious of them or not trust them or avoid them?

Once again I have to speak against judgements.  More than once I have been wrongly judged based on a first impression (although I’m glad I learned about it in hopes of not giving that same first impression to someone else!). I have also watched a person of great character not get a fair shake from the gossip mill because of misleading first impressions.  I want to try hard to give people a fair chance to disprove any false notions I get about them. But I’ve also gotten burned by people I kept giving way too many chances to.  My husband laughs about a couple of situations in which his first impressions inclined him to want to avoid the “impression-giver”.  I accused him of not giving the person a chance, only to find out the hard way that my husband’s misgivings were right.  I think I might be a person who needs to give more weight to my initial read of a person.

So what’s the final word?  Is there any Godly wisdom in valuing first impressions?  Is there any research or studies that say something about the kind of first impression someone gives?  Does anyone have any experiences that incline them to say “go with your gut and wisely avoid dangerous people” or “ignore first impressions and fully, even foolishly, invest in people, no matter the risk.”  What did Christ do?

All I Have to Post Are Words From a Four-Year-Old

“Eyeball.”

My daughters, particularly the four-year-old, use that word whenever possible.

“You eyeball-head!”  “I’m hungry!  But don’t eat my eyeball!”  “What time is it?  Eyeball?”

It doesn’t even make sense.  But it is somehow so amusing to them.  Sometimes I’m too busy to be making sense of much of anything.  At the loss of saying anything that makes sense….eyeball.

And I Lived to Tell About It

Cross-country skiing.  I went once when I was in second grade.  I mostly remember falling a lot, but having a lot of fun.  I haven’t gone since.  Partly because I didn’t have skis.  Then about 15 years ago my mom found some on a garage sale, but I didn’t have boots.  Then about 4 years ago my husband found some boots for me.  Then, about 2 weeks ago my friend waxed my skis for me.  I really just needed to give this cross-country skiing thing a try. FINALLY the weather and my schedule coordinated to find me out on the ski trails without a soul in sight to witness the horror.

I did the first loop that my friend suggested.  I know the trails well from running and knew that the loop started with a nice big downhill.  Eek.  I have classic skis, so I was trying to stay in the tracks, but out of fear for my life, moved over to the open trail and snow-plowed my way down.  After surviving the first big hill, I forgot that a second smaller hill immediately follows…..I was whisked down another hill and ended up on my rear with snow up my back.  After that I finished up the loop with some technical difficulty, but I was enjoying every minute.  Well, I was enjoying every minute AND I was thinking how wrong all the blessed souls with good circulation are–my feet and hands were FREEZING, even with hand warmers in my mittens.  “You’re moving so much, you’ll stay warm.”  Whatever.  Well, after surviving one loop, I decided to defy my friend’s advice and hit the big loop.  As much work as I was putting into coordination, I wasn’t going fast enough to get my heart rate up.  Oh, the big loop took care of that for me.  (And guess what?!  Most of my toes were numb enough for me to forget about and my hands finally DID warm up!)

It was on this loop that I encountered more hills and also the realization that there was another skier out.  Drats. Of course I only met him when I was going down hills and he was going up (quite smoothly and briskly, I must add).  I biffed both times–I’m sure I was quite a site.

But I survived and I really had a lot of fun!  I can’t imagine how fun it must be if you don’t fall all the time!  I’m hoping the weather warms back up and I have a few more chances to get back out.   I figure if it’s taken me this long to get all the right equipment and just get out, I’m probably not skiing a Vasaloppet or Birkebeiner anytime soon…..It’s baby steps…..just like up the big hills.

A Lost Art

I used to love writing letters to people.  I’d whip out a quick note of encouragement to a friend and pop it in the mail.  I’d fill page after page of life, thoughts, reactions and send it off to a distant friend or relative.  I love keeping in touch with people and that used to be the way to do it.  Until email.  And facebook.  And texting.  All of those things are great tools for connecting with people I haven’t seen in ages and whose address or last name has changed since the last letter went out.  But somehow they have drawn me away from the joy and art of letter writing.  Call me lazy or call me cheap, but I rarely even send “thank yous” in the mail anymore–consider me grateful if you get an email from me thanking you for something kind thing you have done for me or some gift you have bestowed on me.  Really it just has come down to a matter of time….with kids to care for, meals to make, a house to keep up, ministries to attend to, and all the other things that keep me running in circles, it is just much, much easier to shoot out an email or facebook message.

A Revival, if only short-term

A few weeks ago, a friend sent a kind thank you/encouragement note to me in the mail.  Out of nowhere!  Her words and thoughtfulness touched me tremendously.  I was reminded of what a blessing it is to know that someone has taken the time–a sacrifice for most of us–to go out of her way to send a note the old-fashioned way.

Fast-forward to the holidays when I’m sitting in my brother’s home and my sister-in-law is showing me letters that she has received from her cousin.  I held the paper in my hand, looked at the unfamiliar hand-writing and thought, “Who writes letters anymore?”  I felt nostalgic.

Today I thought of a woman from my church who has been involved in some ministries that have really been a big part of my life this past fall.  I reflected on her character, her strengths, the things that I admire about her. And I decided to write her a note.  It was great to put on paper my gratitude and the ways that she is an example to me.  I can’t wait to drop it in the mail tomorrow!

Bless someone in this next month and write a note of gratitude or encouragement to another woman in your life.  She may never tell you how much it means to her, but I assure you she’ll be touched!

So Quiet

Last Wednesday, after seeing radar and the forecasted winter storm about to hit our state for Christmas, the hubby and I decided to fast forward Christmas and drive down to family a bit earlier than expected.  We quickly opened gifts with the girls, threw together a bunch of suitcases and food and hit the roads.

As planned, after Christmas Dave went back home to work in silence and the girls and I decided to do a “tour” and stay with family and friends until New Year’s Eve, when my in-laws will drive us back up north.  Because of the early departure, it will be over a week that we have been gone.  The girls have done well considering a new bed every night, lots of driving, less sleep, and winter colds and sniffles.  I’m exhausted–upon arriving at my parents’ house today, my four-year-old and I crashed together and each took something like a two hour nap.  Whew! 

Although I’m tired (traveling around with two kids is exhausting), I have felt really blessed by all of the visits I have had with people.  I’ve kind of enjoyed staying quiet in the internet realm and have not minded being momentarily disconnected from “regular” life.  Plan on me staying quiet for a bit longer.  Upon returning home to what I assume has been transformed into my husband’s bachelor pad, I predict that I will have a lot of organizing, cleaning, and putting away of Christmas goodies.  Any suggestions on how to tackle the mountains of Christmas gifts that we have sitting at home waiting for us (i.e. toys and clothes for the kids)?  I feel slightly panicked about the lingering question of where to put everything.

“And who are we seeing today?”

You know how they ask that when you show up at the clinic with a couple of kids in tow?  Let me tell you how embarrassing this question would have been to me today…

I had an appointment at a clinic that I have been to a couple of times–I say this to assure you that I am very familiar with the location.  Well, I was a wee bit early for my appointment as I pulled in to the parking lot and parked my car.  Something about the lot was kind of throwing me off, but I figured it was the ENORMOUS brand new white suburban parked in the middle of the small lot.  It just was really big and really white.  Anyway, I took my time pulling myself together, turning off the car, looking ahead into the clinic’s office to see a couple sitting at the reception desk.  This also kind of threw me, but they looked older, so maybe they needed to sit to fill out forms.  I got out of the car, slowly strode up to the doors where I saw “Office Hours….blah, blah, blah”–you know how you don’t process things that aren’t important.  As I walked into the entrance, something else grabbed my attention.  I halted, waited a second, looked straight ahead and saw, “Please keep your cat or dog on a leash in the office.”  I actually stepped one more step into the entrance when it occurred to me that I was at the VET!  The veterinary clinic that is the driveway before my (human) clinic!  I quickly retraced my steps back to my car and rushed out of the lot and took the next turn into the clinic.

What is funny to me is that I ignored SO many subconscious “checks” that were telling me that things were wrong!  I was aware of them, I just dismissed each and every one of them. After I got in my car, I noticed that I could still smell that “vet smell” in my nose.  I realized it was the smell that had made me pause in the doorway and gave me time to read the sign. To be honest, for a brief moment after reading the “leash” sign, I assumed they meant seeing-eye dogs (or CATS?!).  Let’s suggest that dog-sitting this week altered something in my subconscious and drove me to the clinic that I went to so many times with Chance.  I obviously didn’t have Cheyenne with me, so imagine how MORTIFYING it would have been to make it into the clinic, go to the desk and be asked, “And who are we seeing today?”  “Sarah….”  “And your pet’s name?”  “Uh…I don’t have a pet, but I am dog-sitting.  But she’s at home.  Why do you ask?”

Warning: Unsolicited Advertising

Now, that story being told, I have to give props to the clinic that I went to today: http://www.newspiritwc.com/ The PA that I saw visited with me for close to an hour regarding some problems and symptoms that I have been having.  She suggested different tests, gave me the choice to be tested as I deemed appropriate and was empathetic and understanding.  I don’t think I have ever had that experience in a doctor’s office.  I highly recommend this clinic!  (BTW, one test I decided was not worth getting was the Celiac test…it cost $300 to test for a gluten allergy.  I think I’ll be test-driving the gluten-free diet after the new year rather than have a $300 test tell me whether or not I have an allergy.  Can you believe that?!)