Going Private

I’m considering switching my blog to a private setting where a person has to be “invited” in order to read the posts.  I’d certainly invite anyone that requests an invite……  does anyone have any initial thoughts on private blogs?  I know that I check private blogs a little less frequently than public blogs (because those can be added to my google reader), but are there any other downfalls to private settings?  Because I live in a small town and because I want to be honest and transparent, I do worry a bit that anyone could potentially find this blog and read my honesty and feel hurt.  I’d be interested in hearing any experience–good or bad–that could help me make this decision!  Thanks!

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AND there’s no sun

This afternoon:

A crabby, emotional 5 year-old who won’t nap, tummy woes (as in, I can barely move…), a 3 year-old who is napping wonderfully (which will mean an abundance of energy in a few minutes when she wakes), AND the sun still isn’t shining.  AND there is no way I am going to be able to run in this condition tonight.  AND I had to pay nearly $400 for eye exams last week (how can a person afford to buy glasses or contacts after that?!) and $118 for a lousy prescription this week and that leaves me with not enough money to hire that personal chef I was hoping would magically appear today…..

Ok, I complained.  I think I feel better.  As long as I don’t move….don’t move…..

Difficult People & Rainy Days

During a recent “decompressing event” (definition: me letting out a bunch of stress by talking about the stressors over and over again to my patient husband), my husband told me that he thinks that sometimes God allows difficult people in our lives in order to teach us something.  Like how not to act.  Ha, ha….but seriously…..often the very thing about someone else that so tries me becomes “the way I don’t want to be.” Have you ever seen this in your own life with difficult people?

A friend who always made glib sarcastic remarks about me or my family or my kids has made me more aware and careful about how I joke around with my friends.   I catch myself–sometimes before I say it, sometimes after–joking around and then I have to apologize for being insensitive.  It makes a person feel like garbage when someone thoughtlessly makes fun of them.  Of course.  But I wouldn’t have realized the full impact that even a joking manner can have if I had not been hurt so many times by a friend’s careless words.

When we have been given a heavy dosing of guilt or have felt manipulated by someone close to us, both my husband and I pray in earnest that God would help us keep our promise to never do that to our loved ones.  Sometimes the best reaction to a situation is to determine how to avoid causing the same kind of hurt to someone else.

I got a phone call from a friend today who asked to borrow a table for her garage sale.  I cheerfully agreed she could come pick it up, but later felt an awful churning of realization. The only few times this friend has called me in the last YEAR (we used to talk almost weekly) was to take pictures of her family (for which she never paid me, as agreed) and then to find out if my daughter could go to her daughter’s birthday party (which resulted in my friend crying on the phone because no other little kids could make it, either), and then finally, for this table.  THREE times in the last year and always to her gain, not to credit our friendship or even just to check in.  I felt incredibly used and that alone feels uncomfortable and unsettling.  Watching the phone call unfold (and being aware of the recent history of this friendship) my hubby, in what is becoming our usual response, felt reminded of a buddy of his that he hasn’t made much of an effort to see in the last year or so. I, too, tried to consider relationships where I may be doing the same thing.  I don’t want to be that name on caller ID that warns a person: “She’s calling!  She wants something!”

On rainy days I mull over these things and ask God what it is that He wants to show me.  I try to sort through the irrational (“Am I the bad person in this situation?  Should I have been calling this friend more often and then I wouldn’t feel this way?  Did I do something?!”) and the ungodly (“What a bunch of jerks!  I’m SO gonna leave this relationship out to dry.  And maybe their world can fall apart in the meantime if they keep treating people this way!”).  I want to hear the quiet voice of God that reminds me of the grace that He has shown me–the kind of grace that I can show others only with His help. In the last day or two, I have been whispering this mantra in my head, “More grace.  More grace.  More grace.”  God’s mercies are new and abundant, not just for me, but are there for all to receive.  I need to be less discretionary in my giving of mercy because ultimately it’s not even mine to give.  It was already given by One much greater than me to one as undeserving as me.  Should I not give as I have been given?

Quinoa!

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A friend recently confessed to not loving quinoa (you know who you are!).  WHAT?! It is my new favorite and versatile food.  Here it is dished up as pilaf with green and red peppers and carrots (all sauteed in olive oil).  YUM.  My sister-in-law made a delish quinoa and spinach salad (I love that I can eat it cold or hot and LOVE it!!!!).  And I even bought Quinoa Flakes and have put them in peanut butter cookies.  Also DELISH.  The glutenfreegoddess has a list of some yummy quinoa recipes.  {Carla, if you put your recipe for that salad on your blog the next time you make it, I’ll be sure to link to it!  It was SO good!}

Pictures, pictures!

I am SO, SO excited about my new camera!  I didn’t get a chance to use it until late last night when it was already dark and rainy.  But all the more proof of its power!  I posted some indoor comparison shots on my photo blog, but here is an outdoor one, taken late in the evening on the 7D.  I think the ISO was about 4000, which is incomprehensible to me.  My Canon 10D could only go up to 1600 and it looked junky around 400.  So far, I’m impressed with the Canon 7D!  I’ve got some photo shoots coming up that hopefully prove the value of this baby!

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Kind Words

There is always a way to be honest without being brutal. Arthur Dobrin

There are times that I am brutally honest with those closest to me.  I don’t always mean to be; I just think they must know my heart well enough to know how I intend my honesty.  Sometimes I am just a snot because I know I can get away with it—particularly with my husband and children. 

Ultimately, though, I know that the words that I may honestly and brutally throw around can really hurt.  They can sting.  They can tear down confidence.  They can manipulate or break trust. 

I don’t want to be that person.  In particular, I am guilty of this in my marriage and I am praying that God softens my heart and softens my words and gives me gentle ways to encourage and uplift my husband. 

With friends and family, I constantly have “foot in mouth” syndrome…late at night lying in bed wishing I hadn’t said something or wishing I hadn’t said it a certain way. 

My husband used to have a phrase he’d tell himself, “Keep your mouth shut!”  We were laughing the other night and wondering if we should try to take up this motto again.  So often we interject words or stories or opinions that are pointless or degrading or negative.  Scripture tells us in Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  When I am not building others up according to their needs, if I am not offering Godly encouragement or exhortation or correction, then let me invoke the motto, “Sarah, keep your mouth SHUT!”

Seeking Advice

I have been involved here and there in the youth ministries at my church and have formed a few really good relationships with some senior high and junior high girls.  One of the girls that I have gotten to know pretty well is struggling with depression.  She talked to her parents about it this last winter and they started by getting her some supplements (St. John’s wart and the like).  Since then she’s kind of been off and on herself.  Sometimes she seems fine and sometimes I get the impression that she’s not fine.  She isn’t great at opening up, so it usually takes some point blank questions from me to find out how she is.

This week I got a phone call from her dad (whom my husband and I know at least on a “friendly” basis–we’ve spent time with their family, but I wouldn’t really say that we’re “friends”).  He asked me how she was doing because he and his wife were worried about her at home.  She wasn’t talking AT ALL and they couldn’t get her to open up.  I told him my honest opinion–that I thought she was doing okay and just working through a couple of things. Later that night, I questioned her more and she admitted to me that she is doing far worse than she is letting on to anyone.  While I am not concerned about her immediate welfare at this point, I know that depression, especially untreated, can spiral out of control quickly.  I called her dad the next day to give him my changed opinion.  I then let her know later that day that I was not trying to betray any confidences, but that I was truly concerned about her and had called her dad.

So here is where I need help: she honestly seemed relieved that I had made the phone call, but has since said (it as been two days) that things are really awkward for her at home because her parents aren’t mentioning it to her.  In fact, she said they don’t seem to be going out of their way to even make sure she’s okay (of course, depression can alter our impressions, but the fact remains that they haven’t talked to  her about it).  My heart is breaking for her.  To me, one of the worst things about depression is isolation.  When I have struggled with feeling depressed in the past, I desperately wanted those closest to me to reach out and try to get me help.

Do I take any more steps?  I am becoming more worried each day that if no one reaches out to her, she’ll try something more dramatic to get their attention.  I may be over-reacting, but I’d rather err on the side of caution in this case.  Should I call her mom next?  Call the dad again?  Sheesh…can I take her to a counselor myself?!  Does anyone have a gut reaction on this or some experience?  Help!

Remember me?

It’s okay if you don’t.  I might have gone a few days without thinking about you, too. 

Life has been heavy lately.  It hasn’t been all bad—I remember that God is good and faithful.  I remember that His ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). 

To be perfectly honest, the last 11 months have felt heavy.  It began when a good friend of ours, who was married with four very young children, drowned in an accident on an area lake.  It was tragic and it shook us to the core.  We were overcome with grief and the inability to be all that we wanted to be for our friend who had become a 27-year-old widow. 

God has been faithful through that tragedy.  Through the grief and the wondering, I’ve often just had to accept that I cannot see the full picture and I cannot understand God’s ways.  I had to read the Word over and over again and remind my heart that GOD IS GOOD

Through this last year I have struggled to balance the desire to be there for my friend and her four young children.  (Praise the Lord that her church family operated as the body of Christ in ways I have never seen….mowing her yard, providing meals twice a week for this whole time, babysitting on occasion.  They have selflessly been there as a body and as a family in ways that I truly admire.)  In these last couple of months, I have felt stretched beyond my limit—not by her, but by all of the other demands and expectations and relationships in my life in addition to my commitment to her and her children.  It all became too much.  And again I struggled, wondering how I was to do all of this and had to wonder if God knew that I wasn’t, well, God.  I had to trust that He had a plan.  And that HE is GOD and He is GOOD

God has been faithful once again.  He has brought someone new into her life.  A great guy that my husband and I have known and appreciated for several years.  Suddenly she feels joy again (Hallelujah!  No one could have imagined seeing joy on her face again when she lost her husband.  God IS good!).  Suddenly she has a helpmate again.  Suddenly I have to go weeks without a chance to even talk to her because her time is filled….okay, as much as I don’t love going weeks without spending quality time with her, I love that she has something good to fill her time. 

And through all the other tough things that we’ve watched in our community and family in the last couple of weeks, I have to remember that I will not always understand God’s ways.  I will not understand why He allows the things that He allows.  I will not understand why godly men are tragically taken from beautiful families, why strong and healthy men and women are attacked by cancer, why so, so many people hurt. 

In Isaiah 55, the Lord says that as the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth, “so is my word that goes out from my mouth; It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

I often cannot understand for God’s ways are higher than my own.  But He has promised that His will shall be accomplished. And so I trust. 

Staying Attentive

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Recently I was reading about 10 characteristics that are important for you to exhibit to your children.  Of the 10, I was challenged in some way by pretty much every one…..they included traits such as patience and practices such as encouragement and affirmation.

The one I took to heart, though, was attentiveness.  I want to have a good relationship with my kids.  As they grow, I want to cultivate open communication.  I want them to know that I can listen, that I hear what they are saying, and that it all matters to me.  With two chatty preschoolers, I confess that I probably rarely show them this.  I struggle to attentively listen to a 3 year old’s summary of the last Dora video she watched.  I debate the value of listening to my five year old’s complaints that no one loves her because we put her on time-out when she misbehaves.  I really think I spend a large part of my day not being attentive and I worry that in filtering out the aforementioned chatter, I might also miss something of real value.

So how do I begin to practice attentiveness without indulging every whim and complaint?  I spent a day trying to be attentive.  It took a lot of my focus and energy.  I was tired by the end of the day and I honestly felt like I was falling behind in so many things that fall under my responsibility (laundry was interrupted by a hurt child, the computer was off limits for me all day, and managing finances and being attentive to young children do not agree).  I was up until 11:30pm trying to catch up on what I failed to accomplish during a day of turning myself to my children.

But you know what?  The girls had a good day.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was good. I was exhausted but they weren’t clamoring for attention (neither good or bad).  We played games, I allowed them time to share what they hoped to do, I took time to rock and comfort when there were owies.  And I asked questions and I listened.

But now today I have already failed at being attentive.  From the moment we woke up, I failed.  And what has today been?  Lots of fits, time outs, fighting amongst themselves, and me hiding away on the computer because I’m too tired to stay up late tonight to catch up.  And you know what?  I’m more exhausted by the dramatics of today than the energy expenditure yesterday.

So how do we balance it all?  How do we take time to listen to our children, to be available to them and yet get anything done during the day?  How do we summon the energy and strength to work late at night in order to catch up on all the things that seem rightfully lower in priority than our children?

I want to be attentive to my beautiful little girls.  I want to build a foundation now that will be instrumental to a meaningful relationship as they grow and mature.  Lord, grant me the energy and the strength and the wisdom to know when I need to stop and listen!

Anything does have a price

Sometimes I will do anything to have a little extra time with my hubby.  We each have full days and are usually exhausted at the end.  I’m trying to be more intentional about doing whatever it takes to squeeze in time for just the two of us.  I wish that meant I was planning fun dates or exciting travels, but the reality of it is that a good 10 minutes uninterrupted by kids or work or responsibilities is a blessing lately.  There are always times like that.

When our schedules get busy this time of year, I keep one little trick in my back pocket: The Great Outdoors.  With a warm April in full swing, I figured out a way this week to make our schedules line up so that the whole family could steal a little time in the canoe one afternoon.  It meant my hubby working late and me pulling more weight around the house at the end of the day, but so worth it.  And I love that it invigorates my husband and gives him the ability to keep on keepin’ on.  Who can keep plucking away on a computer day after day when the sun is shining and warm weather is here?

This week he has been working well into the evenings.  It happens once in awhile.  We’re lucky to have him working from home so that even when he isn’t able to unplug from the computer, he can still take short breaks for meals with us and at the very least, we can catch a glimpse of his face during a heavy workload.  I know too many families don’t have that privilege, and so I cherish it and don’t take it for granted.  But we’re still lacking in time together as a couple.  Sometimes I find myself eager to just be around him, even if it means staying up late along with him and doing my own thing (laundry, reading, blogging,etc)….maybe even in the same room if we’re lucky!  I want to be willing to do anything to just be near him and be able to end the day together.

Today my five year old asked me, “Are you tired?  You look tired.”  (What the heck?!)  I asked her if she thought I was acting tired or if my face looked tired.  She responded, “Your face looks tired.  You should take a nap.”  I guess being willing to do anything–even staying up late–has a price: a haggard look.  I didn’t get to take my little one’s advice today (a much needed nap!), but those extra hours last night when the kids were sleeping and we were able to just be together was totally worth it!

Quality time with your spouse can be hard to come by when you have little ones in the family.  What do you do to make time to connect on a regular basis with your husband?  What do you do when schedules are extra busy and time is extra tight?