Never Unwanted

A few nights ago, I was settled on the couch knitting and watching some of the videos from the American History course that Munchkin will be taking in high school this year. In one of the first video lectures, the teacher said something that stuck with me. He said that God didn’t create us because He needs us, but simply because He wanted to. I paused the video, walked into the kitchen, unloaded the dishwasher, and pondered this.

I’ve spent the better part of my lifetime trying to make up for not being wanted by making sure that I was needed. That burden of not being wanted always colored how I thought God viewed me too. It’s an awful thing for a child to feel like they have to justify their existence, and when you carry that into your faith, you wind up with a works-based view of salvation. Sure, it’s by Jesus’ sacrifice that your sins can be forgiven, but you still have to prove that you can be good enough to warrant that redemption. You never can. I know this now, and I know that my salvation is not contingent upon me “earning” it.

And yet… there’s still that spot in the back of my mind that can’t quite shake the label “unwanted”.

I put plates in my cupboard and hung mugs on cup hooks. I wondered if there was something to what that history teacher said. Dare I hope that God created me simply because He wanted to? Wanted me?

It’s hard to put into words the deep sense of shame attached to being unwanted by a parent. There’s something about that label that just sticks to you like crazy glue, no matter how much you try to scrub it away. Always thinking that maybe, if you can scrub hard enough, be good enough, and prove that you’re worth loving, then you will be wanted. It doesn’t matter how much you try, how hard you work, or how long you wait, it’s just not enough. You’re not enough. Even if you can get past that a bit and understand that you can’t possibly earn your redemption, there’s still that label, stuck to you, convincing you that God only tolerates you. He couldn’t truly want you. If your earthly father didn’t, then why would your Heavenly Father? The lie that comes with that label is a powerful one. Perhaps it can be countered with a more powerful truth:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27 ESV

The fingerprint of the Divine on each of us, even me. Not a mistake needing to be fixed, but rather an image-bearer of the Creator. Not lesser, and certainly not unwanted. Redeemed and refined because I am already valued.

Despite the scars left by labels and lies, the truth soothes old wounds. I was never truly unwanted after all…

Thoughts for Tuesday, May 1st

Outside my windows… there are some really loud frogs! None of the windows are open, and I have music playing, and I can still hear them! Not that I’m complaining though. I really do love to fall asleep to the sound of the frogs once it warms up.

Inside my house… my workspace got a little spring refresh. It’s amazing how much of a difference it can make when you move things around a bit and toss out some of the clutter on your desk.

Counting 1000 gifts… kind people. Social media would have us believe that kindness is all but extinct. That’s not true, and I’ve been on the receiving end of some of that kindness this past week. I’m grateful for that!

Prayers of the heart… for the busy season coming up, for the friends and loved ones who are grieving, and for the amazing folks I swap prayer requests with every Monday.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… would you believe they are all sleeping? At 10 PM, it’s just the frogs and my playlist making noise.

From my playlist… “Adams’ Summation” from the Amistad soundtrack by John Williams. The soundtrack is amazing, and the movie is a must-see in my opinion.

From my reading list… The Better Mom by Ruth Schwenk. I can’t read science fiction all the time, after all! Watch for a review of this book coming later.

From my needlework basket… I’ve been bouncing about between socks, a nearly-done sweater, and a lace vest. It depends on my mood and whether I want knitting that I’ll have to pay attention to, or one that I can do on auto-pilot.

In the learning room… the kids are getting oh-so-close to finishing out their math curriculum for the year.

Random ramblings… “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are gray. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take that sunshine away.” When I hear that song, I think of Mom, because she used to sing that to us when we were growing up. I also think about the family reunions back when I was a kid. It was my grandmother’s family that would get together each summer, and at some point during the reunion, there would be a sing along. All of my grandmother’s siblings have since passed away, but I will carry a snapshot in my memory of them gathered around singing, “You Are My Sunshine”. As much as I miss them, I will still treasure the memory.

Profound ponderings… “The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become.” – C.S. Lewis

Caught on film…

Thoughts for Tuesday, March 20th

Outside my windows… the sky is blue, the sun is shining, and I’m staring at a pile of snow that’s 12 feet tall. I’m not even kidding.

Inside my house… I’ve lit a garden rose scented candle. If it’s the first day of spring, then I’m going to at least pretend that there will be flowers blooming soon!

Counting 1000 gifts… words on a page.

Prayers of the heart… for the right words.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… finishing up school assignments and chores around the house.

From my playlist… Angel by Aerosmith. Yeah, I have eclectic tastes in music!

From my reading list… finishing up Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado. It’s been a reading of starts and stops, and a bit of pondering. Good reading though.

From my needlework basket… alternating between a couple of cardigans. One I’m knitting to a pattern, and one that I’m using a pattern as a jumping off point, but charted out lace and cables from an inspiration photo.

In the learning room… It’s surprising me how much of the school year we’ve gotten through already. This year is going by fast!

Random ramblings… Story is a powerful thing. Whether it’s in the realm of fiction, or a real-life narrative, stories can impact us in remarkable ways. Maybe that’s why I love stories so much…

Profound ponderings… “Please underline this sentence: what you have in Christ is greater than anything you don’t have in life. You have God, who is crazy about you, and the forces of heaven to monitor and protect you. You have the living presence of Jesus within you. In Christ you have everything.” — Max Lucado from Anxious for Nothing

Caught on film…

Red Lipstick

Grammy Vivian was a tall woman with dark hair, and I’m told she was always stylish. She passed away when I was only two, and the only memory I have related to her is the hospital bed at our house. Still, I imagine her as one of those tall, effortlessly elegant women like you’d see in the “golden age” of films. My sister is like that too. Tall, gorgeous dark hair, blue eyes, and definitely stylish!

I’m sort of the exact opposite. At 5’ 7”, I’m a tall-ish woman, but not remarkably so. My once-red hair has faded to more of a medium brown with a healthy dose of gray thrown in! If I have a personal style, it’s closer to weird and quirky than effortlessly elegant. I’ve made attempts to look more “grown-up” over the years, but it always left me frustrated and feeling like I needed to be someone that I wasn’t.

Now, I’m a firm believer that Mom was right in the sentiment, “Beauty is as beauty does.” It’s far more important to cultivate our faith, and to be kind to people, than it is to look pretty. We can definitely go overboard and become too obsessed with appearances too. On the flip side, I don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with taking some care in our clothing. While I don’t agree with the sentiment that makeup is necessary for all women, there’s certainly nothing wrong with wearing it if you want to. (If you feel like you have to, then I think it’s a good idea to explore why you are so uncomfortable if you’re not wearing it.) Like so much of life, there’s a balance to be found!

I find myself wanting to make an effort in this area again. Blame it on the gorgeous red lipstick that I got a week ago. My mom’s makeup routine consisted of Oil of Olay and bright shades of fuchsia or mauve lipstick. She totally rocked the bright lipstick! In a fit of nostalgia, I decided that I was going to try wearing red lipstick. I hate having to fuss with touching up typical lipstick, not to mention lipstick smudges on my teacups! That led to trying out a popular brand that a number of friends had raved about because it truly stayed put. It’s a bold lip color, but I really like it! Maybe it’s OK to put a little bit of effort into how I look after all. My goal is to develop a simple, pared down wardrobe and a basic makeup routine that doesn’t make me feel like I’m trying to be someone I’m not.

My makeup routine is never going to be complicated. My eyeshadow palette and this stay-put lipstick are the only things I’m interested in keeping in my makeup bag. If Mom could get away with Oil of Olay and lipstick, then just pick the makeup I like to use and skip the rest.

My clothes style is going to be a bit harder to figure out I think. I can’t even walk on high heels. Skinny jeans are absolutely not going to make an appearance in my wardrobe. I don’t like most make-up. When it comes to jewelry, I’m definitely a minimalist. I don’t care if chocolate brown and pumpkin orange are my most flattering colors, because wearing them doesn’t make me smile. If it can’t be tossed in the washer and dryer, then it doesn’t belong in my dresser. (Hand knits are the exception to this rule!) I’m definitely keeping my bright teal crocs, tie-dye, and my favorite graphic tees. Most fashion trends end up looking ridiculous on me. Can we talk about the lack of any kind of rhyme or reason to women’s clothing sizes?!? Not to mention the appalling lack of decent pockets…

As you can imagine, I’m no one’s first choice to take clothes shopping. Unless you want someone to commiserate with you about how much we both hate clothes shopping while on our way to the ice cream shop, that is. In that case, let me know when we’re going out for ice cream!

The idea of these capsule wardrobes where you stick with a limited color scheme and fewer clothes appeals to me though. I prefer to keep my wardrobe pared down enough to fit in just one dresser. Sticking to colors that will pretty much go together has a lot of advantages too. It would be nice to be able to pull together either a casual or dressy outfit out of the same few basics. I’m still not touching skinny jeans or heels, and as much as I’m told I should pick “flattering colors”, I’m going to pick the colors that make me smile when I wear them instead. When I started pruning the clothes in my dresser, I saw a bit of a color scheme emerging. It appears that most of my clothes are black, gray, or navy, with a splash or two of red. I think I’ll add a few basic pieces following this color scheme. Maybe a couple of teal or deep purple items too because those are colors that make me smile!

Munchkin was intrigued by this capsule wardrobe idea, so we spent Sunday afternoon going through her closet. We cleared out a LOT of outgrown clothes, and pared the rest down to reflect her chosen color scheme and a good variety of pieces that she could easily mix and match. It was surprisingly fun, and she was thrilled when she discovered how much easier it was to find the items that she really liked to wear when we cleared out the rest.

I started thinking about what kinds of messages about beauty that I want to pass along to her. I want her to know that you don’t have to have a huge wardrobe with lots of fancy and expensive clothes to look nice, because a few carefully chosen pieces can let you put together an outfit appropriate for just about any occasion. I want her to enjoy experimenting with makeup and hair to find what sort of style she likes, but I don’t want her to ever feel like it’s necessary to wear makeup daily. I want her to be comfortable letting her personal style reflect her personality. I’ve taken a page from Mom’s book too and told her often, “Pretty is as pretty does!” I’ve told her that the prettiest women aren’t always the ones who look traditionally beautiful, but are the ones who have a beautiful faith, and show kindness and compassion to others.

Ultimately, our outside appearance is of much less importance than how our heart looks. It’s our heart that God looks at after all! And while we should take the Bible’s warnings about vanity seriously, thinking a bit about the clothes we wear and using makeup doesn’t automatically mean that we’re flirting with vanity or obsessing over our looks to a sinful or unhealthy degree.

Now I want to hear from you! What’s your favorite wardrobe or makeup tip? How do you keep a balanced view of beauty in your life, and keep it from taking over your life?

White Shores

This week will mark nine years since we celebrated Mom’s last birthday, and also nine years since we said goodbye. I can’t help but be a little sad this time of year. Sometimes more than just a little.

Yet, as the verse in 1 Thessalonians says, I don’t sorrow as one who has no hope. I was reminded of this just a couple of weeks ago when watching Return of the King with my older kids. There is a scene where the hobbit Pippin and Gandalf the White are in the midst of a battle they have little hope of winning. Pippin remarks, rather sadly, to Gandalf that he didn’t think it would end this way. What Gandalf said next has stuck with me.

End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path. One that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass… then you see it! White shores… and beyond. A far green country, under a swift sunrise.

That sparked my imagination and painted a lovely picture of Heaven in my mind’s eye. Hope. And in Mom’s case, I could quote A Tale of Two Cities, “…it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

If I must miss my mother, then at least I can take solace in knowing that she is at rest, in a place that I could only begin to dream of. That’s why we don’t sorrow as those who have no hope.

As for me, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12b NIV) I’ve been redeemed for a reason, and there’s still more here that He would have me do before I reach the white shores. I will press on, missing Mom, yet reminded that her journey didn’t end here nine years ago.

Thoughts for Tuesday, February 20th

Outside my windows… a bit of rain today has made the icy driveway extra-slippery.

Inside my house… this month-long cold has been winning, but I’m hopeful that we may be over it by the time March rolls around.

Counting 1000 gifts… lovely surprises in the mailbox!

Prayers of the heart… that maybe next week won’t be too hard.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… playing cards while pasta boils for dinner

From my playlist… A Million Dreams from The Greatest Showman soundtrack.

From my reading list… Coiled by H.L. Burke. I won this e-book in a giveaway!

From my needlework basket… working on this month’s installment of the year-long knitted blanket project.

In the learning room… We’re halfway through the school year! 🙂

Random ramblings… You know those friends who you’ve known forever and they’re basically family? One of my friends like that is a playwright. We’ve been reading each other’s writing for the past 20 years now, and today I received a copy of his latest play in the mail. He mentioned me in the dedication, and I’m just so, so honored by that. There’s something special about seeing published work that was written by one of your friends.

Profound ponderings… “Is there any tea on this spaceship?” — Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Caught on film…

Thoughts for Tuesday, January 30th

Outside my windows… we got a bit of snow today to top off the ice skating rink in the driveway.

Inside my house… so much tea! It’s definitely the season for lots of tea drinking by the coal stove.

Counting 1000 gifts… the houseplants on my table.

Prayers of the heart… for everyone with this nasty stomach bug and cold that’s going around to get better quickly!

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… unloading the dishwasher for me, and I have to say that it’s rather nice to have the extra help with the never-ending flow of dishes.

From my playlist… Steve McDonald’s albums are a current favorite, and Loch Lomond is the track playing right now.

From my reading list… Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado. Very good book that’s giving me plenty to think about.

From my needlework basket… working on a shrug for Munchkin… that needs to be done for Thursday night. This is totally doable, right?

In the learning room… Famous Men of Ancient Greece and Children’s Homer have been on the reading list lately. Lots of questions from the kiddos about how to properly pronounce some of these names!

Random ramblings… Winter is getting to me a bit earlier than usual this year. I think it’s been the extended cold snaps we had from Christmas to mid-January. Even so, when my cousin in Florida talks about the baby gators in the lake near where they live, I start thinking that the cold, ice, and snow probably isn’t the worst thing to deal with…

Profound ponderings… “It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.” – Excerpted from the Declaration of Arbroath, Scotland, April 1320

Caught on film…

Neon nails, Earl Grey tea, and a keyboard. #amwriting

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From Hidden to Healing

My past is a mixed-bag of good and bad memories. Sort of an odd patchwork quilt of a childhood. I had some wonderful, truly remarkable people in my life. And while no one is completely bad, there were still people who did damage. There are reasons why I don’t trust easily, and why I still can’t believe I’m worth a second glance. There are points in my life that haunt me to this day. Painful moments that I relive more often than I care to. How can something from decades ago still steal the breath right out of your lungs, make your heart race, and twist your stomach in knots? It sounds crazy, and some days I feel crazy.

I feel guilty too. So many people have been through so much worse than I can even imagine. And I wonder, “What right have I to be broken by things that are far less than what others have survived?” Maybe comparing our pain to others is just a way to avoid dealing with it. Healing doesn’t take place when you’re too busy deciding who’s wounds are deep enough to warrant care. Even the smallest scratch can become infected if it’s left untended.

Some of the old wounds have lost most of the sting. Scars may still ache from time to time, but scars are wounds that have healed. It’s the ones that never healed that cause the most problems. The ones that I ignored, glossed over, and pretended that they hadn’t caused any real harm. When I could ignore them no longer, I discovered something else hiding under the surface: bitterness. That surprised me at first. I knew that there were still things that hurt, and I knew that I was angry about some of them, but I didn’t know that bitterness had infected those wounds. The Lord and I have had a number of conversations on this topic lately. I can’t excise the bitterness rooted in my heart on my own. Truthfully? I don’t exactly want to let go of it. That’s the hardest thing to admit, because none of us like to come face to face with the darkness lurking in our own soul. As much as I’d like to hang onto that bitterness though, that’s not what I’ve been called to.

“Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many.” Hebrews 12:15 HCSB

And so I pray.

Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner. Forgive me for letting this sin take root. Cleanse my heart of this bitterness, so that I may be healed.

Infected wounds can’t heal, and those haunting, painful memories can’t begin to lose their sting until the bitterness is gone too. It’s a work in progress. One that will take a lot of praying, a lot of hard journaling, and a lot of scripture. By the grace of God, and through the blood of Jesus, the sin I harbor in my heart may be forgiven. And yet, the grace of God is so great, that His grace doesn’t allow me to remain lost in my sin. Rather, God in His grace will change my heart, renew it, and free me from carrying that sin around. There is so much hope in that realization. By grace, there is hope for all of us, even me.

“Therefore strengthen your tired hands and weakened knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed instead.” Hebrews 12:12-13 HCSB

Book Review: May the Faith be with You NIrV Bible

Because the FTC has nothing better to do than make life difficult for us bloggers, I’m required to disclose the following at the beginning of this post: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation, and the opinions expressed, whether positive or negative are completely my own. Personally, I’m waiting for sponsorship disclaimers from all of the politicians in DC, but I’ll probably be waiting a long time…

I’m familiar with the NIrV translation because I had a copy of it when I was a kid. The readability of it made me reach for my Bible more often, and while I’ve moved on to different translations as an adult, I appreciate how much I learned from that well-worn childhood Bible!

It was initially the cover of the May the Faith be with You edition that caught my eye. I love astronomy and night sky photography, and the metallic sheen to the cover picture really stands out. The Bible is a bit more compact than most full size ones, which is ideal for kids because it’s easier for them to handle. Spaced through the Bible, there are 7 groupings of full-color Bible helps pages. The space theme is carried through in these help sections with the eye-catching night sky images used for the page backgrounds. They are sure to appeal to kids who are fascinated by the stars! The full-color pages include helps like a list of the books of the Bible, short topical index, the Ten Commandments, lists of where to find the parables Jesus told, references for finding some of the most well known people from the Bible, brief answers to questions about prayer, the Trinity, etc. All in all, the added pages are nice reference materials for kids in the target age group.

The thing that puzzled me about the May the Faith be with You edition of the NIrV, was the obvious reference to Star Wars printed on the cover. I’m assuming the idea behind it was to capitalize on the excitement over the new Star Wars movies and use that to get kids interested in the Bible. While encouraging children to read the Bible themselves is certainly a good thing, I think some kids would quickly see through the marketing tactic, as the cover title is the only real reference to the movies. I’d also tend to be cautious of anything that might imply to kids that all of the religious ideology in the Star Wars universe fits with a Biblical worldview. I’m just as much a Star Wars fan as anyone, and while I think there are some good themes and ideas to be found in the movies, I also realize that not all of it will line up with my faith. Of course, something like this could be a great way to start a conversation about that very topic with your kids!

Overall, I do like the May the Faith be with You edition of the NIrV. The translation is one that’s great for kids in the elementary age range, and the night sky artwork used is really beautiful. The helps included are right on target for this age range, but are not obtrusive when reading. I personally think it would have been a stronger product with a different cover title, but that’s my only real complaint. If you have an elementary aged child who is fascinated by space and the night sky, this would be a nice Bible to gift them. (Not to mention a fun way to start an interesting conversation with them about worldviews in media compared with a Biblical worldview!)

Start TODAY!

We start the school year off with shiny, new curriculum, perfectly organized planners, and the determination that this is the year when everything will go smoothly and according to plan! By the time January rolls around, life has happened. The new grammar workbook doesn’t work for your 4th grader, algebra is giving your freshman and run for their money, the toddler has caught every stomach bug and cold known to man, and you haven’t even looked at the planner in the last few weeks…

This is where it’s tempting to just chuck the planner and call whatever happens to get done good enough. Truthfully, most of us do better with at least some kind of structure to work with. How do you achieve that though when you are so far off track?

I’m going to give you four strategies that have been invaluable to me over the years.

1. Figure out where to start today.

Don’t worry about “catching up”. Figure out what point you’re starting out at right now. Decide what’s a reasonable amount to get accomplished today, write it in your planner, and then do that. Keep your goals manageable. Now is not the time to try and jam eight spelling tests into one day. Do the same thing tomorrow. Progress does add up, as long as we’re consistent about making progress! Keep your planner or to-do list on your desk, table, countertop – anywhere that you’ll see it often and be reminded to work on the next thing on the list.

2. Decide where to go tomorrow.

You’ve checked off your tasks for today, now you need to figure out where you’re going tomorrow and beyond. Sit down and determine what truly needs to be finished by the end of the year. Again, don’t try to cram in a bunch of assignments right now so that you can be “caught up,” but figure out how much you need to do each week, then break that up into daily assignments. Write out your lesson plans accordingly. Don’t forget to look at your family calendar and plan around any events, appointments, and the like. Add in a few buffer days, too, so that when something unexpected comes up, you aren’t completely thrown off schedule. Two tools that help me adapt and adjust are using the online My Well Planned Day planner and using erasable pens when I work in my paper planner. My Well Planned Day makes it easy to adjust our lesson plan schedule as needed, and writing plans in my paper planner using erasable pens means that I can adjust there too without my planner looking messy.

3. Take a quick look at yesterday.

I know that I’ve been telling you to focus on today and plan forward from there. We do need to take a tiny peek backwards, though, to get our record keeping up to date. Basic academic records are important whether or not you’re required to report attendance and grade transcripts to an umbrella school, organization, etc. These records will give you a picture of how your child is progressing and areas where they may need some more help. If your curriculum includes tests, writing assignments, or any sort of graded project, you’ll want to record all of the grades for those. If your curriculum doesn’t include those, then just make some notes about what your student has learned and how they are doing. Don’t overcomplicate it! Just get the grades and notes written down.

4. Make regular planning appointments with yourself.

Schedule a weekly record keeping appointment and a monthly evaluation and planning session. Keeping your records up to date every week is far more manageable than trying to do it only once or twice a year, and it helps you keep a better handle on your child’s progress.

Monthly check-ins have become a wonderful tool for my own planning, and I actually look forward to them. Sit down with your planner and a notebook. Make sure that you have all of the appointments for the upcoming month listed in your planner. Then, look at the progress that’s been made over the past month and jot down what you have gotten done. Take a close look at what worked and what didn’t so that you can adjust your plans for the upcoming month accordingly.

No matter where you’re starting out today, you can make progress and move forward. Stop worrying about what you haven’t gotten done and decide what you’re going to do today. Write it down and then go do it!