Thursday, November 18, 2010

" Here's the hard truth: When we say yes to something, we say no to something else. We don't have an infinite amount of space and time, all comes down to what you want(emphasis mine) and making very intentional choices. I made my intentional choice: After three years, I'm putting my career ahead of my daughter, at least for a little while. Because balance is just a myth; choices are reality."

I read this quote today and it made my heart sad. It was written by a mother who said she wishes she could have it all, career, family, and lavish living. She recognized she can't have it all so she has chosen. How very sad. Some women have to work outside the home, I totally understand that. However, keeping up with the Joneses is far from a need. The reality is we do what we value. Sadly I think this mother will realize in 20 years that what she values is meaningless and what really matters will be off to college.

Whoever you are, dear reader, intentionally choose today to do what matters for eternity.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Raising Warriors

I hadn't planned to blog today. We host parenting class tonight and I have floors that need to be mopped and toilets that need to be cleaned, but I caught a scene in my front yard that inspired me and I won't get much done unless I take the time to journal it.

The job of training two future men has me often musing on the state of the world and how far we've come from the valour of George Washington to the likes of what we see everyday in the headlines. I ponder the fact that more and more young men are content with being "Kidadults". Living off of their parents, perpetually going to school, and taking pride in the reputation of being a "player". How is it that we got here? Heaven knows I don't claim to be a better parent then those who came before me, so how can I avoid the pitfalls of producing "men without chests"?

I don't claim to know much, but I do think there is something we've lost in our culture. Perhaps in our attempts to throw off stuffy traditions we've tossed the baby with the bath water. Perhaps no one has shown our young men the duty, honor, and joy of being a protector and provider. Sure most guys(notice I use guys and not men) wouldn't think of hitting a woman, and yet they don't even think twice when they play with her heart. I think most women would agree with me, that I'd rather take a blow to the face, than a blow to the heart. Even in the church we smile and say things like, "He's such a heart breaker". As if that is OK. Is it OK for a son of God to treat his sister in Christ like a toy to be used for his own ego gratification?

Now don't get me wrong, I think we ladies have played our parts in our own devaluation. How many times did I, as a young girl, derive a sense of worth from the meaningless flirtations of insincere young men? How often do girls(notice I use girls and not ladies)make themselves too available. Over and over I've seen girls allow guys to cross boundaries, that guys would never feel free to cross if they were dealing with a married woman. I think if more girls were ladies and demanded they be treated as such, guys just might rise to the occasion and behave like men.

It is my prayer that God will teach Matt and I how to bring up men, not boys. Men who understand that their God-given responsibility is to protect the weak, both physically and emotionally. To provide for their families, whether the job is "fun" or fulfills their emotional needs. To stand in the face of temptation, to trust in a God who offers more to this life then fleshly pleasure. It is also my prayer that some dear Daddies and Mommies are out there right now seeking God's wisdom to help them bring up young ladies.

If you have a moment today, please mention Matt and I to our Father. We realize that without His wisdom and His kindness we will fail. We need the true Warrior to teach us how to train Warriors for His kingdom.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Life Well Lived

Last week was a very full week. A week that has me thinking about the beauty of a life well lived. A week that has challenged me to live on purpose. To think about what kind of legacy I will leave for future generations.

Early in the week we took a field trip to a farm. One of my very dear friends is a bonafide farm girl. She was driving a tractor before I learned to ride a bike. Her parents still farm hundreds of acres and are currently harvesting soy beans. They graciously invited us to come learn about harvesting first hand. Unfortunately, it rained and we learned that you can't cut beans when they are wet. However, the boys had a great time driving, yes driving, the John Deere tractor around the acreage, sliding down the gravity flow wagon and playing hide and go seek in the barn with "Grandpa Blankenbecker". I learned a lot more than that. I stood in amazement at acres of land that this grandpa had cleared over the summer. Land that had once been wooded, the trees were cut, the stumps were pulled, the rough places smoothed, and the low places built up . This was his "side work". There were still fields to be planted(some more than once due to the weather) and the garden to be tended and fruit trees to be pruned and equipment to be maintained. The list could go on and on. His sweet wife works beside him tending their home and garden, growing more than they could ever use. These people are old enough to be my parents and the energy they exert on a daily basis is convicting to my 30-something sluggishness.

As I stood in the field that day the thought went through my head, "What keeps them going? What motivates them to get out of bed when their bodies are tired?" I'm sure their reasons are many. But as an outside observer 3 things were evident. 1. They work as unto the Lord. I don't think they give it a lot of thought. There is work to be done and they do it. As a workman that needeth not be ashamed. 2. They think beyond the present. Much of the work this grandfather does is for the future. From clearing land, to maintaining equipment, to running with endless energy after little boys. All of this effort is put forth to build for something that doesn't fade away when his flesh does. 3. Others. The garden and fruit trees that countless family, friends and neighbors have benefited from through the years were not planted, tended and harvested for themselves alone. There probably isn't much in their lives that is done for themselves alone. And so as we drove away that day with garden ripe tomatoes and sweet potatoes, with full tummies from a delicious meal, with exhausted smiling boys who thanked God that night for the Blankenbeckers, my heart was challenged by lives that had been and are still being lived well.

At the end of the week we attended the funeral of our dear sweet neighbor Ms. Lu. Our family is so blessed to have known Ms. Lu. Through the years we've watched that as her body grew frail, her spirit seemed to grow stronger. I had the privilege to "sit" with Ms. Lu quite a bit and from my pathetic attempts to make salad dressing the way she liked it, to giving her a bath she was always thankful. Full of joy and encouragement. Just a year ago she would sit in her chair and play catch with my boys(they used a sponge ball). I can still hear her laughter. When her heart got so bad that getting out of bed was even too much for her, she would call the boys in and ask how they were. She graciously let them read to her and encouraged them by telling them how much they were improving. It was not uncommon to see both boys sitting on the bed with her, all three of them watching Paula Deen cook and commenting on how good the food looked. Lu faced a lot of adversity in her life, and even at the end, confined to bed, she never gave way to bitterness. In the final days of Lu's life, before she slipped into a coma she smiled and looked up and said, "Oh, I know you Jesus, and you know me!" What a precious testimony to leave us.

I'm challenged by Lu's life. No matter what we face in this life, whether it be hardships, sickness, or joy at the end of it all, all that will matter is if He knows us, and we know Him. Her life was well lived and her passing was sweet.

And so, thanks to the lives I've observed, I face this new week challenged to work hard, to love deeply, to help others, to focus on my blessings and to seek to really know Him.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Nothing Much

I'm in that stage of life where you feel like you are incredibly busy all the time. Where you fall into bed at night and sigh with relief. Where the calendar fills up faster than you can imagine. And then it happens. Someone asks THE question, "So what have you been up to?" I find myself forever answering, "Oh nothing much, how about you?" It's not that I don't care to open up or that I don't have a To Do list a mile long or cares on my mind that I could share. It's just that I'm living life. Some people might call it the day in and day out of living. You know, up at 7am for time with God, 7:30 breakfast, 8am starts the routine of violin, reading, math, history, grammar, spelling, science, geography...admit it, you're getting bored just reading a partial list. Late afternoon is mowing, cleaning, laundry, or paying bills. Then there is supper to be made, little guys to be bathed, books to be read, silly songs to be sung and sword fights to be won. In between, there are jokes to be laughed at and hearts and minds to be molded.

I have a very full life, but not what most would consider exciting. Or at least not exciting to hear about. It certainly is exciting to live it, that is if I have the right perspective. You see we tend to put so much value on going and doing and being that we can foolishly look outside the windows of our lives and think contentment lies out there somewhere. We don't see the ministry to be had in our own back yard or even in the next room, for all the sighs and longings of go over there and do that. We practically trip over the basin and the towel with which to serve our families or our neighbors, on our way to the couch because we're just so tired and depressed over the "meaningless" to do list that never seems to end.

When I finally understood that it is accomplishing my to do list that teaches my children constancy. It is dusting the furniture and washing the clothes that pulls me outside of myself.
It is checking the mail for an elderly neighbor that keeps me aware of the hurting and the lonely in this world. When I see the reality in all the "mundane" things in my life, it gives them meaning. It gives me purpose. It draws me outside of my natural tendency to "fulfill the desires of my flesh" by running from one thing to another in a never ending search for joy, peace, and contentment. And most importantly, it is being faithful in the "small things" that is pleasing to my Father.

So the next time you ask me how I'm doing, I promise I won't subject you to the list on my calender. I'll probably just say something like, "Oh, I'm just busy living life." But I'm going to keep reminding myself of reality. I'm cleaning my house to serve my family , I'm educating my boys to make them sharp tools for God to use as He sees fit, I'm looking for the lonely and hurting in my sphere of influence that I can give a cup of cold water in Jesus' name.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

First Week of School

Well, we've almost made it. It's 2:45pm on Thursday and our first week of school is almost under our belts. Tomorrow should be a lighter day, not necessarily shorter since we have some "fun" projects to do. It's been a good productive week. I've sworn off Facebook for the time being and rarely touch my computer during school hours, what a difference that has made for us all. Now before you start feeling convicted and comparing yourself, let me explain. I'm not trying to sound like Super Mom. The fact is, I was giving too much of my time to the "cyber world" and too little time to my kiddos. So I've cut myself off, until I can re-establish my priorities and remember that being my boy's mom and teacher is my profession. Just as I wouldn't be a good employee if I spent my working hours cruising social sites, I'm not able to be a good educator cruising social sites either. So you see? You are a better mom, employee, or whatever than I am! Give yourself a pat on the back and keep reading guilt free. :)

Micah started violin this year, and boy was he pumped. Micah has a very bright mind, but a very wiggly body, so we waited until he was a bit older than his brother was when he started violin. The result is, he is SO ready to play the violin. Now if he could just convince his hand to hold the bow and his chin to hold the violin. :) Micah is also growing morally. Boy this has been a journey for his Daddy and I. The questions this boy can ask!! We find ourselves ever more in need of wisdom from our own Father. I may blog later on this journey, but in the meantime, if you think of us, we'd sure appreciate your prayers. We are joyful at the growth Micah is showing. Just a year or so ago, I worried that we would never "have his heart". He was so VERY strong Willed. Don't get me wrong, he's still Micah, Will and all, but it seems he is surrendering that Will and allowing us & Jesus to shape it.

Josiah is growing up so fast. He has completely lost the "baby boy" look. It's bittersweet to see my babies growing. Josiah is also facing a new phase of self discovery. It's human nature to put the best spin possible on our actions. As parent's it is our job to question our little ones on this tendency. Once again, Matt and I find ourselves seeking our Father's wisdom on knowing how to "read the hearts" of our boys. On a very simple level we are trying to help Josiah with this. To put the best spin possible, whether it be to get out of trouble, or get what we want is deception. Often times we shape a person's opinion by only sharing the information that best serves our cause. Never really lying, but deceiving none-the-less. The real danger in all this, is that we actually start to believe the lies ourselves. And dear reader, if we take but a moment to see where the road that self deception leads the "cuteness" of manipulation is gone in a flash.

I confess it has only been in the last 10 - 15 years that I've learned to really honestly see the workings of my heart and the thoughts and motivations that drive my actions. Actually, I'm still in the process of asking God to search me and show me. I believe this is a life-long pursuit. Even still, an awareness that my actions and words represent my values, changes the way I live and think right now. It keeps me honest about why I'm feeling what I'm feeling and why I am doing what I am doing. As I've told Josiah, "We are in this journey together, Mommy is still learning too."
And speaking of learning, that brings us full circle back to our first week of school. It has been good. Sure we are all learning more about history, science, math and literature, but more importantly we are learning to be more like Jesus everyday.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Plate is a Saucer

I was in a conversation with some friends recently and I described my plate as a saucer. We've all heard the expression, "She's got a lot on her plate", but time has taught me that it doesn't take much to fill my plate. I know that part of this is my own fault, I'm trying now to get my plate to grow. I spent a good deal of my formative years chasing after what was "fun". I didn't take a lot of things very seriously. Don't get me wrong, I don't regret the friendships I made or a lot of the experiences I had. Many of those friendships have helped me to develop good character qualities. However, I was terribly undisciplined about going to bed or getting up or getting anywhere on time or using the time I had wisely to study or or or. And so here I am in my 30's, working on those things and finding my little plate so, so full.

Recently, our boys have been growing. No shock for 5 and 7 year olds. They are not just growing physically though. They are starting to ask some pretty hard questions. Questions like, "How do we know God is good?" "What if the Bible is a trick and we do what it says, and then find out at the end of life we were wrong?" Explaining trust to a 5 year old is quite a challenge. Then Matt and I observed that our boys were forming loyalties outside of our home. There is a time and a place for that, but right now, while they are so young and impressionable, Matt and I believe that the primary influence in ther lives should be us. We were seeing that primary influence being transferred to their peers. As you know, children can't help children develop into godly adults. Adding to that, our youngest found his conscience. So a good deal of my day is spent encouraging him to question his motives and not just be legalistic. Then of course, I must help him to know how to do that. Then Josiah starts violin lessons again this week, and Micah will be going for the first time. And, oh yes, there's school, and the house and laundry and friends, and family. And probably the biggest job of all, is making sure my heart is where it should be. You see if I attempt to train our boys, or be a friend, or help my family, then I must have a heart that is crying out to my Father, "Thy will be done." I must be, as Peter says, adding to my faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self control, endurance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. Peter says the only way to do that is by the knowledge of Christ. I have to study Him, let His mind and perspective transform mine.

So many of you have much more on your plate than I do. You are sole providers or mothers of multiple little souls or leaders in your church or community. I take my hat off to you and even say a prayer for you. Because the fact is, no matter how large your plate, when it's full it's full. Don't get me wrong, I'm not stressed or overwhelmed by my full little saucer. I just recognize that I need Jesus and that I must increase in my knowledge of Him if I ever hope to do the few things on my little saucer well for His Kingdom's sake.

2Pe 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:
2Pe 1:2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,
2Pe 1:3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
2Pe 1:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
2Pe 1:5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
2Pe 1:6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
2Pe 1:7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
2Pe 1:8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What's in your Backpack?

Sunday evening services at our church are full of variety. The first Sunday night of each month we each take turns being responsible for a service. The second, we have music night..the church orchestra plays and every family has one song or reading to share. The third, we go to a local boarding home for the elderly. The fourth Sunday, our pastor shares whatever is on his heart. I love the variety of this schedule, until it's our turn to take a first Sunday night. :)

Last Sunday was my Sunday to share. I roped Matt into helping me with mine. He and I had been thinking a lot about the fact that we all have baggage and how often that baggage can hinder our lives. We talked pretty extensively on what kind of baggage we were handed down from our families and other shaping influences. That led us to think about what it is we are placing in our boy's bags and what influences we are allowing in their lives that might help or hinder them someday. I'll share with you a bit of what we shared with our church family. We'd love your thoughts on this idea.

We started out with a skit. On the platform was a table full of concrete landscape blocks. Each block had a positive or negative character trait on it. Things like selfishness, insecurity, moodiness, honesty, integrity, loyalty, and thoughtfulness. There were 4 adults on the platform with full backpacks on . These adults were in the process of picking up different blocks and placing them in the backpacks of their children. It only took about two blocks before some of the little ones were struggling under the load. Everyone exited except one teen girl who questioned her need of hauling such a heavy load. She struggled with guilt for wanting to remove the blocks given to her by her mother. In the end she kept the good blocks and with the thought of Hebrews 12:1("Let us lay aside every weight and sin which so easily ensnares us") she removed the bad blocks and exited. Below is the edited form of what Matt and I shared after the skit.


We hope that this little skit helps to give you a mental image of what we all have had done to us and what some of us are currently doing to someone else. Whether we are willing to see it or not, everyone in this room has a back pack on…some people like to call it baggage. It would be nice if we could physically take the bag off and inspect what’s inside it. Unfortunately, the bag isn’t physical and the bricks that it contains are what has had a huge influence on the forming of our character, our individual personalities, and even our image of God.


Not everything in our back packs is negative. We can all think of some wonderful traits/tools that our parents instilled in us. In my childhood, my Dad was very conscious of others. He still is ever watching to open doors or lend a hand. Julia has mentioned many times how grateful she is that he placed that brick in my bag. However, there is a history of male infidelity in my family. That brick was also placed in my bag and now it’s my responsibility to take it out.


Going back to my roots is always an eye opening experience for me. When I am willing to see reality and examine my own heart to see the connection between my past, my bag and myself, then I can begin to really understand myself and why I do what I do. We are not suggesting for a moment to be unkindly critical. However, our own ability to grow beyond what comes “natural” for us is largely connected to our own willingness to be honest about where we come from and how that impacts us today. It really has nothing to do with where other individuals are, that’s just not the point. The point is when I see tendencies, attitudes and/or actions that contradict Christianity then I have to examine my heart and see if those same flaws are in my life. It’s just too easy to say in my mind, “Well, that’s just where I came from and who I am.” But my identity shouldn’t be being a member of any family or group, my identity should be that I am a daughter of Jesus Christ.


There are three different categories we’d like to look at tonight.

First let’s talk about the positive things in our bags. These are traits like kindness, discipline, persistence, consistency, loyalty, and integrity. It’s not a bad idea to thank our parents for these kinds of gifts. Let’s face it, without their willingness to chisel away at our characters we’d be pretty obnoxious. In our home, we try to associate our family identity with these kinds of positive character traits. We will say to the boys, “Guys, we are Thomases and Thomases treat people with respect.” Passing on a heritage of godly character is what we are called to do. Each person in this room has a part in filling the back packs of the children in this church. The bricks in our bags are primarily placed their by our families, but I think we all have found bricks in our bags that were placed there by ideologies and people who had a lot of access to our lives. I think we will all live more carefully when we realize that our words and actions can be adding bricks to little people’s backpacks.


Did you know there are probably some neutral things in your bag too? You’ll discover this about 10 minutes after you get married. The way your family did things like celebrate holidays or cooked the ham seems like the right way to you. After all, that’s how you grew up, isn’t that how everybody does it? Then you get married and you are living with another person, someone who has their own idea of how hams are to be cooked or Christmas is to be celebrated. The fact that Matt’s family celebrates Christmas with extended family and my family celebrates only with immediate family doesn’t mean either of our families were wrong. It simply means they were different. Now you can spend the next 50 years fussing over this fact, or you can appreciate the positive aspects of each family’s traditions and then decide together what is best for your new family. Just because your family does things in a certain way doesn’t make it right, wrong, or sacred…it just is.


We can’t avoid talking about the negative things in our bags. Let’s face it, while it feels nice to focus on the positive bricks in our bags, we will do most of our growing by recognizing the negative bricks in our bags and then doing what is necessary, with God’s help, to remove them.

In Isaiah 56 and 57 we learn of a people who were filling their children’s bags with lots of negative bricks. Their leaders were sinful and they attempted to treat God as a gumball machine, putting their works of religion in and growing angry when the results they wanted didn’t come out. But in chapter 58 things begin to change. God offers them a new deal. IF they will choose to do what is right from a heart of trust in God and not out of legalism as they had been taught, God will change their future. Vs. 11 says, “The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”

God offered them an opportunity to change their “fate”. To be a spring of refreshing water to the world around them. They didn’t have to continue to pass on the ungodly things from their bag. If they would choose to truly trust God and accept that what had been handed them was wrong, they could change the lives of generations to come. Vs. 12 says, “Those from among you shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of streets to Dwell in.” Don’t we all want to be repairers of the breach? We don’t honor our parents by passing on a heritage of sensitivity, anger, control, bitterness, laziness or any other number of negative character issues.


We all have different things in our bag. Generations of women in my family had babies out of wed-lock. My Mom pointed this out to me as a teen. She challenged me to be a “restorer”, to change the trend. I had to see that weakness in my bag and remove it…to change the future. Some of the things in our bags are not as blatantly sinful. But if I have attitudes and actions that are as natural to me as breathing, but that are unchristlike, then I have a choice at the moment I recognize it. Do I shrug it off and say, “Well, I’m an Imhoff, we tend to be…..”. Or do I be honest and say, “I am a Christian first and this is not how my Father behaves.” With God’s help, we can remove the bricks that pull us away from God.


So the question is, What’s in your bag? Only you can know. Only you can be honest enough before God to see what is in your bag and remove with God’s help the weight that so easily besets you. We must remember this is a generational changing challenge. Being aware of what is in our bags will not only impact who we are and our relationship with Jesus, but it will impact our children and their children. And hopefully one day our children will look in their bags and see fewer negative bricks. It is my prayer that when my boys see bricks that I didn’t know to remove, they will be strong enough to choose Jesus’ ways over my ways. I also pray they will come to me and show me the brick so that I can remove the one in my bag as well.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Reading Your Way to a Great Relationship

We are a reading family. One of the first conversations Matt and I had was about a book. You know when you meet someone there's a bit of awkwardness at first. You ask how they are, they ask what you do, you comment on the weather. Then, if you are kindred spirits, you hit a topic that rings true to both of you and the friendship is begun. For Matt and I it was the Chronicles of Narnia. Actually the conversation started because we ended up in the same vehicle while heading to a church service with a group of friends. The van we were in had a video player and someone had the bright idea to watch the infamous "Find Me a Woman" video. If you have no clue what this video is, well, how do I describe it? Let's just say, it was a home video several friends and I did as a joke for a single friend. Needless to say, I had no desire for someone who didn't really know me well to watch that video. So to distract Matt from the video I asked him if he enjoyed reading. The rest, as they say, is history.

And so we read. Before we had children Matt and I read aloud together. The first book I read aloud to Josiah was "The Two Towers". I was nursing him every 2 - 4 hours and so for something to do I would read. I thought why not read aloud? And so I did, he ate, I read. Micah got to hear the Ben Carson story entitled, "Gifted Hands". I don't suppose there is a child alive who doesn't enjoy being read aloud to. It works out nicely that I enjoy reading aloud. That's one reason I love Summer so much. We get to read. Throughout the school year we read aloud, but we usually only have time for 30 mins to an hour 3 or 4 times a week. In the Summer we can read in the morning and then after lunch and again before bed. So far this Summer we have digested several Hardy Boys Books (I confess, Matt reads these and I pretend to listen. The plot lines are a little too predictable for me. Not to mention, I feel so sorry for poor Chet.)

Stuart Little

The Indian in the Cupboard

The Return of the Indian

The Sign of the Beaver

The Matchlock Gun

Currently we are reading Ben and Me

Various short stories

Various lapbooks

Reading aloud is not only a great way to ignite the flames of learning for your children, it boosts their vocabulary. My favorite benefit from reading aloud though, is the bonding that takes place. In our world it's so easy for families to be disconnected. Each individual is doing their own thing, in their own world. Reading aloud puts you in a room together, most likely cuddled up. You are sharing an experience. And if you choose the right books, you have lots of opportunity for discussion. For instance in The Sign of the Beaver, we talked about being teachable, trustworthy and responsible. We talked about making judgements before really knowing a person or situation. Valuable character lessons and opportunity to transfer your values can come from reading good books.

If you don't believe me on the merits of reading aloud, check out the studies done by Jim Trelease. We don't just read aloud because Mr. Trelease says so, but he does give a lot of evidence for the educational benefits. And so I would encourage you to curl up with your kiddos and a good book. It is another tool to building those strong relationships with them that will pay off now and in years to come.

Monday, June 21, 2010


I've written, or attempted to write two blogs in the past 4 or 5 weeks. Each time blogger was slow and wouldn't post or I couldn't cut and paste as needed....on and on it goes. So here is try number 3. I really don't have anything too profound to say except that I miss blogging.

I've been inspired of late to blog more about my journey of parenting. I can hear all my single or non-parent readers groaning. I'm sorry in advance and will not be in the least offended if you choose to skip reading any posts that have "mommy content". In fact, I plan to always tag them clearly so that you know which posts to avoid. :) I've done a bit of traveling this year and I've run into a few women out there that feel alone. Don't get me wrong, they are surrounded by people, but it seems not a lot of people are really parenting on purpose these days. I am blessed to have several friends and family members who encourage me on this journey of molding my boys. I gain so much wisdom from other's input. And so for those who are feeling a bit like an island and for my own growth I'm going to address parenting issues more often.

In other news, Matt and I went to see the musical based on the Wizard of Oz entitled "Wicked" last weekend. It was so fascinating. Great music and acting are pretty much expected. And our expectations were met and surpassed. There were a few themes and songs that elicited some lively brain activity for us. I always walk away from something like that thinking, "I wonder what the writer was trying to communicate?" It's so easy to read, watch, or listen through the filter of my worldview. And so I can end up "translating" messages into my language. Or I end up accepting the writers premises without thought. That's why I hesitate to watch anything in passive mode. I want to understand what goes into my brain, because I've learned that what I feed my brain shapes my thinking and my values. For instance, in one scene Elphaba (green witch) meets the "Wonderful Wizard of Oz". As you know, he is far from wonderful. He is a charlatan, to say the least. However, he argues that he is wonderful because people think that he is wonderful. In short, truth and reality are defined by popular opinion. Sounds a bit dicey to me. Elphaba argues, but is eventually drawn by his ideas due to her own longing for other people's approval. In the end, she escapes his influence and goes on to do what she believes is right in spite of other's opinions. I still walk away wondering if the writer sided with Elphaba or The Wizard. Finally, the Wizard is punished, but he is punished by a "leader" whose good reputation and is based on popular opinion and not on reality or truth. So what makes the new leader better than the last? Hmmm? Good question.

So would I go again? Yes I would. Like I said, the music was mostly wonderful, the acting was all wonderful, and the story was so very clever. Just be sure if you do go, do not check your brain at the door. I'd love to hear what you think about it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cause and Effect

Dear Reader;

I've written 2 times since I last posted. And yet, still it is the "Monster Tree" you come back to every time you visit. The first post I wrote, I wrote while I was in a very emotional state. If there is one thing I have learned, it is to wait and think before I speak when my emotions and hormones are walking hand in hand. Fortunately, I did wait and saved you the burden of my spewing. The other post I wrote was a lovely Christmas/2009 overview letter. It took me a full hour to write it and alas, I was thrown off the Internet and blogger had not saved my draft. Obviously, I was too disheartened to try writing that one again.

So here we are today. A theme keeps coming back to me and so I will attempt to share with you where my thoughts have been this week. Through a myriad of differing situations, the reality that what we do right now effects where we will be in the future has been glaring me in the face. How we think right now, will impact where we are tomorrow. What we value this moment, will effect our contentment now and in the future. I was trying my best to communicate this idea to my 6 year old today. Not an easy task. I placed a small red stool in the middle of the room. Then I placed a package of hole reinforcement stickers(what I had handy) on the floor next to me. Very dramatically I said, "Oh I really want that package on the red stool." I went on and on about how badly I wanted this. I looked at Josiah and said, "I really want the hole reinforcers to be on that stool, why isn't it happening?" He thought his mother had lost her mind and said, "Because you haven't picked it up and put it on the stool." I said, "Oh but I really want it to be on the stool, isn't that enough? Or do you think that what I do shows more what I desire than what I say? If I really want the package on the stool I have to cause it to happen. I have to pick it up and make my actions match my words. If I say the words, but don't do the action, my words are meaningless."

I think about how where I am right now, is a result of the good and bad choices I made earlier in life. I was a "good" kid in school, but I was a lazy kid. My junior and senior years of high school I was late nearly every morning to my first period classes. I hardly studied, I slid by on "average" grades when I could have done so much more. The result today? Well, I still struggle getting anywhere on time, especially in the morning. I'm working on it, but years of habitual lateness doesn't go away without a lot of struggle. I'm having to teach myself about civics. Poor Mr. Jones was there every morning of my senior year teaching his heart out. Planting in the other student's brains things that I really wish I had a better grasp on today. Now I'm reading and trying to learn on my own things I could have learned from Mr. Jones had I been on time or even awake enough to listen. Time management and personal discipline are a constant uphill climb for me. How much better would life be now, had I started these kinds of disciplines earlier in life.

On the other hand there are some great things I learned too. For instance, at some point in my adult life I started studying people. Where they were, how they got there. I asked a lot of questions. I listened as much to how they lived, as I did to what they said. When Matt and I were getting to know each other, we looked around at marriages we thought seemed healthy and happy. We went to those people and we asked them what they did to get where they were. We listened and we applied what they suggested. We understood if we wanted what they had, we had to follow a similar path to get there. We did the same thing with parenting. We didn't just listen to philosophies, we looked at results. We watched families that seemed to have children who really loved God, had good relationships with their siblings and with their parents and were pleasant and thoughtful of others. We talked with these parents, asked their advice. As we have parented, we have tried to apply what we learned from these godly examples. We know that if we want the effect that we've seen in their families we have to cause it to happen by following their examples. It goes without saying that their examples pointed us to Jesus and a strong dependence on Him.

And so I am reminded again today of my new list of desires. If I want to know the heart of God , I have to study His word and seek His mind. If I want strong relationships, I have to trust and be vulnerable. If I want well educated kiddos, I have to do the hard work to educate myself.
If I want my boys to become godly men, I have to be a godly woman. If I want to be/stay debt free, I have to sacrifice temporary pleasures. If I want to fit in that new dress, I have to set the cookie down. :) The list can go on and on from my deeper more serious desires to the lighter more shallow ones. The bottom line is, there is a cause and effect relationship to where we are in life. It's up to me to seek out what it is I believe would please God and then follow hard after that, no matter how difficult that path may be. If not, I'll end up somewhere very far from where it is I say I want to be.

I hope this encourages you today. It sure has helped me to see it written here. I am determined to press hard toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Disclaimer: I know in life there are times when things are thrown at us that are not the direct effect of choices we have made (ie the death of a child etc...). However, at this point in my understanding, I believe that how we respond and react to the unexpected things life throws at us is a result of our perspective. And therefore, is the effect of the choices we have made in the past to trust God etc...