Monday, November 29, 2010

The Place in Which We Grow

It occurred to me the other day, that life was like Kindergarten. God sits us all down and gives us each a blank piece of paper, which are our lives. Then He says, "I have have created you. Extend my creation. Let's see what you can do."

We are all assigned different art teachers. These are our parents. Some are better equipped than others, usually dependent on those who taught them. But they are our first and most powerful example of what we can make of our task. Later we get to choose other influences and the level of impact they have in our project. Some of us also get to teach as well, but we have the ability to continually learn, continually grow in the craft of life.

We kids are also given different tools. Some of us start with nothing. We have to find or make our medium. Others start with much - so many crayons, paints, markers, pencils and chalk - all that is imaginable. There are some who learn to share their pencils. There are some who steal chalk. There are others who try to keep all of their possessions to themselves, never trusting that they will have enough to finish their work if they give any away. And then there are those who eat the crayons - using what they have been given in a way God never intended. For those of us who never have any other tools, the work is harder, but our actions can still create something amazing. Mother Teresa would have given away all of her markers and made beautiful origami.

Some kids learn to admire the work of others, trying to imitate the strokes and patterns that produce pleasing results. Some kids rush forward, using all they have very quickly, making a big old mess on not only their own paper, but on the paper of all who are near them. Some kids intentionally ruin the work of others, jealous that their own is not turning out as well. Some kids sulk in a corner, refusing to do anything productive at all.

God is the one who decides when each piece is finished. For some, only the tiniest speck is made before He says, "That's perfect. You are done. You may come home." Others create large, varied pieces, a tapestry in it's own right. However, most of us create an average piece of work, never seeing anything particularly remarkable in what we've done. And yet, if we enjoyed the process and made it just for God, we can be assured that He will see it as a masterpiece. He will hang it on His refrigerator with a smile, saying, "Well done!". And you see, God doesn't see any of our lives as garbage. He will use each one and place it just so, fitting it perfectly into His mosaic master plan.
Artwork: Van Gogh knock off for homeschool art lesson (by me)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Such Joy

I do not think I will ever be able to express how much joy these children bring to me. Our days are filled with laughter, some bickering, occasional tears, good conversations and always surprises. I truly hate few things in life, but being away from my girls for very long is one of them. I am so honored to be able to watch every minute milestone, experience every addition to their vocabulary, see how their minds work similarly and very differently, and silently observe how they interact in their own relationship with each other. I do believe that I would have missed out on the majority of these opportunities to appreciate these awesome people, whom God created and loaned to me, if I had not chosen to homeschool. I am so thankful for every day that we have this lifestyle.

Yes, I do have my own interests in life and keep up with them to a limited degree. There are many things that I would like to do, but don't, in order to be with my children. It's not all roses every day, but I figure soon enough they'll be grown and making their own way in this world. I can save my ever growing bucket list for that time when they are no longer young and think their mommy is fun and cool. There will be a day when they stop begging for cuddles, I can no longer hold them in my arms, I can never tickle them again just to hear their giggles. There will never be another opportunity to experience this phase of life with them, so I call it what it is -unique, amazing, challenging, bittersweet and still

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I Do...

Women marry men expecting them to change, and they don't. Men marry women expecting them not to change, and they do. How true is that?

It could just be my observance of a minute portion of the population, but it does appear that men marry the woman of their dreams based on the woman they got to know through courtship. Let's face it, we're all typically on our best behavior through that dating phase. Even if you live together, you know it's not a "done deal", and you continue to react in ways that you know present yourself in the best light. Then you get married.

After the honeymoon phase, the first year or so, our expectations become somewhat altered. Men quite reasonably expect their woman to be the same smart, sexy, funny person she was when they were dating and so they "settle in" for the long haul. They become relaxed, just knowing she will love him because she vowed to. No need to woo any more, the job is done. Now he focuses on being provider. That typically means work harder, longer, better. He notices she changes, especially if a child is born and her attention begins to become less focused on him. He doesn't care for this much. Some men even act up, pouting or retaliating, attempting to gain the attention back. Others just assume it's a phase and she will become her regular self again eventually and they do their best to lay low.

Women are emotional creatures. They crave emotion, and at times, a bit of drama. Every woman wants security, she wants to know she is loved unconditionally and will be cared for always. However, that does not mean once she marries that she expects to sit back and just assume these things are, and will always be. We are most definitely designed to switch the bulk of our attentions from our man to our child once it is born. This ensures the survival of the infant. I have heard many men preach that a woman should always put her husband before her children. However, it irks me to think that any person would reasonably expect this to mean that she should love him more, or make him a bigger priority than her children. Marriages are designed for to people to compliment each other, make up for each others differences, support each other and learn life-long lessons from. Should she make sure she remains a suitable helper for him? Sure. She should do her best to save some energy to give him attention at the end of each day? Absolutely. But what if the energy just isn't there? What if there isn't enough to go around? Does guilting her into feeling inadequate really solve the issue?

At this point, women expect men to change and step up to the plate. To help out with the family they've created, to listen to her stresses, to do chores without having to be asked like she must with the children on a daily basis. This is when men can shine - become her knight in shining armor. But what if their stresses and energies spent at work are all they can handle? What if they have nothing left at the end of the day to offer their wife and kids? Does guilting them into feeling inadequate really solve the issue? It is a difficult problem to solve.

Eventually, once the children get a little older, she begins to feel like a woman again. And she wants to be treated like one. She may even feel the need to be wooed, chased a little, pursued as though just because she birthed your children doesn't mean she's a sure thing from then on. She is a different person than she was when you first met, and you may need to get to know her again.
If there is distance in your relationships, try recalling your dating days. What were those things you did to try and impress each other? Ask her out on a date? Fix your hair how he likes it? Cuddle in bed and talk for a few hours? Surprise each other with little love notes? Yes, I am talking about putting romance back in your marriage. Guys, get her to giggle a little. Gals, get him to go gaga every now and then. Through the diapers, the breastfeeding, the scolding, the beautiful yet exhausting demands of children, she may not want to have to even think about the marriage. But someday she will come around to wanting to know she is still the woman of her man's dreams. And he will always want to know that she respects and desires him. And in all things, pray. Invite God to rule your marriage. It is amazing how the Creator will touch your hearts and repair the bridges if you only acknowledge that you need Him. It takes effort and time, but if you constantly reevaluate your relationship, making shifts and balances as necessary, you will find the rewards are there to last a lifetime through. And when the energy just isn't kind to each other. There's a heap of happiness in just knowing that your life partner understands where you are at.
Photograph: Amicalola
Note: This blog post is dedicated to my husband - my best friend, lover, and knight in shining armor. He amazes me with his patience and desire to understand his woman, and give her all her heart requires.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Real Cream in my Coffee...

Today I will have real full cream and real sugar in my coffee.

Such a simple statement to start the day with, but it makes a clear point to my frame of mind for the day. How many mornings do we jump (or limp, slither, or crawl on our hands and knees internally screaming "Nooooo!") out of bed, to be met with a self-induced mental list of things we have to do, shouldn't do, or ought to do. That becomes our mindset for the next 16-18 hours or so. I need to eat right today, I have to run errands, I must make my appointment on time, I really ought to be exercising. We so often frame ourselves with guilt from the moment we arise. Sure, it's great to be motivated to do things we know are good for us, but not because of guilt.

What if I start my day with praise for our Creator, then move on to focus on a simple pleasure, something to look forward to. I mean, after all, God didn't say to Adam and Eve "I made this world for you, you screwed up so you now have troubles. Go, don't enjoy any of it, and then you die." God is an AWESOME creator. He made this world for His pleasure, and for ours. How dishonoring to Him is it to not appreciate what He has made as we care for it?

I am speaking of moderation, of course. If I said ,"I will have full cream in my coffee, real butter on my toast, lay outside and watch the grass grow and listen to birds sing, chat with my friends on the phone for two hours, then indulge in shrimp with real Alfredo sauce followed by a chocolate lava cake, and I shall do this every day!" obviously that is not honoring to God. He has given us work to do, and He has given us life that we cannot earn, and rewards we are not worthy of. I long to wake up every morning seeing and knowing the true beauty that is life. Today I have it so good, great health and few worries. Tomorrow may not be that way. Rather than worry about what curve ball life may throw me in a day I may or may not have, I will appreciate today. I will laugh with my kids, cuddle with my husband, listen to some good music, see the beauty in the rain, and yes, I will have real cream and real sugar in my coffee.

Photo: Reflections