Posted in Faith, Thanks

I HAVE THE FREEDOM TO…

I do not take this day lightly.

My heart swells with thanksgiving that I live in a place where my innate need and hunger for freedom is met.

This framework of outer freedom bestows a space where my many-times trembling, but just-enough-times brave heart fights for my inner freedom, a sacredness no one, no thing can touch.

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I have the freedom to be kind.

I have the freedom to enjoy beauty.

I have the freedom to learn, grow and change.

I have the freedom to be generous.

I have the freedom to be trustworthy.

I have the freedom to love my neighbor, period.

I have the freedom to take risks.

I have the freedom to be gentle.

I have the freedom to walk with integrity.

I have the freedom to be filled with respect for all.

I have the freedom to show compassion.

I have the freedom to journey with humility.

I have the freedom to forgive.

I have the freedom to shine my light.

I have the freedom to be patient.

I have the freedom to be authentic and vulnerable.

I have the freedom to don the mantle of courage.

I have the freedom to open my heart to an abiding faith.

I have the freedom to work with all my might.

I have the freedom to always hope.

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These freedoms, similar to the outer ones, must be fought for on the battlefields of my heart, my soul, my body and my mind with great strength and courage, every moment of every day.

HERE’S TO BRAVING THE FIGHT OF ALL FIGHTS TOGETHER!

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Motherhood

A Blessing for My Fellow Moms (#refreshmentforyoursoul)

There ought to be a hall of fame for mamas
Creation’s most unique and precious pearl
And heaven help us always to remember
That the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.
Glen Campbell

To my Fellow Sweet Moms,

Each of our souls need blessing, someone willing something very good for us and asking God to grant it.   As moms, we are constantly blessing those we love and live with.  We give many times more than we receive.  As your kids (whether they’re three or 43) enter another new “school” year, I long to speak this blessing straight into the core of your mom soul.  I pray that God would fill your life and your heart with all the good things that God can give.  One of my favorite words is “HOPE” (It was my WOTY in 2015) . True, authentic, God-breathed hope is the confident expectation of good in your life.  This is my “HOPE” and blessing for you this year:

As you rise each morning, may you awaken refreshed with peace and hope for the new day that has been given to you (in your body, your mind and your spirit).

As you are getting ready, may your heart be excited about what gifts have been prepared by God’s hand, especially designed for you.  May your time be expanded so that you are not hurried and that you are filled with joyful expectation.

If you have a little one, may they have slept peacefully through the night and be waking with a brilliant smile and a warm hug for you.  May they respond with enthusiasm as you help them to dress, eat and be ready for their day ahead.

If you have school-aged children, may God speak words of encouragement to you during the morning flurry.  May peaceful and cooperative spirits reign over the rush.

If your child is now a budding or grown adult, may God fill your heart with peace as you trust Him with their journeys and what they may be experiencing apart from you.  May God comfort you as you wipe away the tears that come from missing them and may you experience joy as thoughts of them flood your mind.

As you walk through your day, may others speak words of kindness to you.  May you also have wisdom to know exactly what God has for you as you pursue the things you love, whether for work or pleasure.  May your labor bring much reward to you no matter what you endeavor. 

May you and those you love have safety throughout the day.  May each of you be protected from disease and harm. May you find yourself in a constant place of contentment and peace, physically, mentally and spiritually.  

May you be filled with laughter and joy as you unpack the special gifts God has designed just for you.  May you have times of seriousness and depth as well that speak to your inner being.  May your friendships blossom, your body flourish, your mind be sharpened and your heart be filled with love.

May your pre-dinner time be filled with peace and joy, kindness and motivation.  May those you live with work diligently to fulfill their responsibilities and be a help to you the best way they can.  May there be times of play and refreshment as well that nourish and strengthen your soul.  

Depending on what your evening’s activities bring you (family, a good meal, continued work, exercise, quiet, or friendship), may those who come in contact with you give you only words of comfort, understanding and support.  May the mouths of others be shut if their words are critical and unkind.  May your exercise (whether physical, emotional, relational or spiritual) be fruitful and bring life to you.  May your loved ones bring you blessing and life.

When you have a break from the daily grind of work (weekends, vacation, Sabbath, etc.), may your time be filled with restoration  of your mind, your spirit and your body.  May you have understanding of what to fill your time with and when to rest, when to be with others and when to be alone.

As you wrap up your day, may your mind turn to thoughts of thanksgiving for the gifts that were so freely given to you that day by God’s hand.  May all thoughts of despair and discouragement be banished from your mind, heart and soul and may they be turned to Christ, who has sustained and provided for you during this past day.

May your night be filled with dreams that bring you joy, recreation, laughter, hope, love, peace, kindness, encouragement, restfulness and even creativity.  May God grant you the full and daily restoration that your body, mind, heart and soul needs during this time.  May your whole being respond with healing and wholeness.  May God richly bless you as you sleep!

Throughout all of your days, may you be able to see, feel and receive the love and grace that God has for you in abundance.  And finally, “May the God of HOPE fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  (Romans 15:13)

Sweet Fellow Mom, we are on this journey together, one that is filled with the beautiful and messy, the light-hearted and complicated, the bitter and sweet!  We will keep trusting and moving ahead on this journey together!

From my heart to yours,

Esther #fourkidsisfun

 

 

 

 

Posted in Anxiety, Charity, Faith, Health, Word of the Year

Shattered Shalom (restoring it…in my home and in our world)

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”  (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

If you asked me even five months ago what I thought peace meant, I summed it up as “the absence of conflict.”  In fact, a quick search on Google backed me up on this. My husband also cheered this idea in spades.  He loves an atmosphere where everyone gets along (how one Facebook friend defined it), especially us.  It’s like heaven to him.  Having a house with four very unique and spirited children did not lend itself to this.  The constant conflict and fighting sent us to our beds exhausted many nights.  I would mutter to myself (and sometimes scream loudly to my kids which, if you take a second, is pretty ironic), “Just a few moments of peace is all I’m asking!!  Is it too much?”  I know I don’t have to talk any further without a bunch of nods of the head, muttered “mm-hmms” and loud “AMENS!”

Whether it’s the constant arguing of politicians and political analysts on “news” shows, gut-wrenching war across our world, bickering among children or family members over the latest “who-knows-what,” co-workers disagreeing over how a project needs to be done, or late-into-the-night discord (or should I say straight-up fights) among spouses, it is just plain tiring.  No wonder we want some peace.  Some quiet.  Some “everyone-just-get- along-please” moments.  We are saturated with it all day long.

YES, THAT IS MY SON AND HIS SOCCER TEAM AT HIS SENIOR PASTA PARTY!

Sorry for the diversion.  Back to the blog post.  I think you understand my point.

ALL.

DAY.

LONG.

To combat it and try to find some measure of inner calm, I find myself doing one of four things:  fighting, running, avoiding, or just standing there with a blank stare not knowing what to do next.  This is the natural response from our human bodies when we feel threatened and overwhelmed.  It’s our “lizard brain” (as I like to refer to the amygdala) doing what it can in the moment when the adrenaline rush takes over to protect us.  Psychologists refer to these responses as fight, flight, faint or freeze.

As I very feisty and passionate individual, I naturally gravitate to fighting.  As we all know, this does nothing to help.  It escalates the issue and then the whole house is in an uproar, hurt and angry.  It becomes a mess.  Allen, on the other hand, is drawn toward fleeing.  He shuts down, gets quiet and goes into another room.  Our kids vary on the spectrum, with some fighting, some getting quiet, some going to their room to watch TV or sleep, and some utterly dumb-founded, not knowing what to do.  It makes for a little bit of a “not-so-peaceful” house.

ENTER COUNSELING and the beginning of understanding that although, in the moment, those responses are normal, they don’t restore harmony.  We are working from brokenness not health.

ENTER BOOK, As We Forgive (Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda) by Catherine Clare Larson, suggested to us by our group leader before we head to this beautiful country to dig a well in September (HUGE SHOUT OUT AND MUST READ).

ENTER VACATION with family members (nine people plus baby for seven days).  Arguments and behavior patterns and all that good stuff.  (You know what I mean?!)  I figured out that nine people make up 36 different relationships.   That’s enough to start a war.

RE-ENTER BOOK.  Reminder that all of the above are really just shattered shalom (the fancy Hebrew word for peace).

I have always believed that shalom had the same meaning of peace that I had in my head.  Come to find out I am missing something.  A huge thing.  And it just might really make the difference in my own little world with my own little group of people.  But it also might make the difference in our huge world with all the groups of people (like seven billion and counting much to my son’s chagrin as he’s a little paranoid about over-population).

So what is it?  What is this shalom?

SHALOM IS NOT DEFINED BY ABSENCE.  Instead, it encompasses the PRESENCE of true human flourishing (my friend’s Word of the Year):  socially, emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Larson reminds me that it is “ultimate harmony.”   Shalom speaks of fullness, completeness and wholeness, hardly the absence of anything, except perhaps division (as another Facebook friend reminded me).  In Ancient Israel (where the word comes from), when a crime was committed, the central point was not on the outer (the broken law and restoration of order), but rather on the inner (broken shalom and restoration of peace) for all involved:  victim, community and even offender.  It was important that ALL would flourish, all would be brought back to wholeness.

As I stated above, our human body responds to conflict in one of four ways:  fight, flight, faint or freeze.  We are naturally drawn to one of those responses when it comes to personal conflict.  However, somewhere among attacking, running away, avoiding and becoming paralyzed lies a completely different way, one that is more difficult, but offers much in the restoration of this fuller peace, or shalom.  In fact, sometimes conflict and disagreement are required to achieve it.

Really?!?

In the flight, faint or freeze responses, the focus is on “ME.”  I am looking for what’s easy, convenient and non-threatening.  Protecting myself becomes the highest priority.  However, in the fight response the focus is on “YOU,” blaming you and expecting you to solve my problem or my pain.  Again, protecting myself becomes the highest priority.  The peace-making, shalom-restoring response shifts to “US.”   The restoration of the relationship and the flourishing of ourselves and the other becomes the highest priority.  Wholeness, fullness and completeness come to the forefront.  Conflict happens and disagreements occur, but the relationship is not threatened.  In fact, clashes and variance might just provide the avenue for greater wholeness than without them.  The move from YOU vs. ME to US changes everything.

For this girl who tends to blame others and fight, this is really BIG.  A huge change of thought.  And practice.  It’s not enough for me to “not have fighting,” the absence of conflict.  I want more.  I want wholeness and healing and true flourishing.  In every area of my life.  For me and for you.  When I think about Jesus, the “Prince of Peace (guess what the Hebrew word is there),” this makes more sense now than ever.  He doesn’t just want “quiet” for me.  He wants shalom.  He wants me to flourish.  He wants the same for you.  And he wants the same for our world.   Here’s to restoring it more and more every moment and every day.  I hope to start right now.

 

Thank you again for reading all the way to the bottom.  WOW!  Please like this here and especially out on social media if you can!  Comment here or there as well.  It means the world to me!  

 

 

Posted in Health

The Ta-Da List

“What did you do right today?”  (You’ll find out – keep reading)

Based on the fact that there are about 17,000,000 apps and web sites out there to manage your to-do list, many believe that the crossing off of such a list is top priority.  Get ‘er done.  The feeling of accomplishment and thus a sense of peace is promised at the end of the day when it’s all finished.

However, if I’m like anybody else, and I know you people are out there, I was trained from a young age to spend time at the end of each day focusing, not on what I had accomplished, but on what I had done wrong, admitting it out loud and asking God for forgiveness.  No matter how much good I had given to the world, my last thoughts as I said my bedtime prayers were how I had messed up and what I hadn’t done well and who I had offended (in many cases, this happened to be the God of the universe…yikes).

This line of thinking followed me into my adult years and into my marriage.  I ended most days, as did my husband, with final thoughts of how much I had done wrong.  For reasons I don’t remember, one night I changed it up and asked Allen this question, “What did you do right today?”  Crickets.  More crickets.  Finally, after several minutes, he answered with something like, “I smiled at the store clerk.”  If I know him at all, he had probably been kind, sought justice, served those he worked with, and treated everyone he met with complete dignity and respect, along with all the daunting tasks he had crossed off his list.

Appalled at how much of our day was taken up with negative thinking about ourselves, we decided to make this a best practice for the end of our days.  We spent time each evening before we closed our eyes to sleep asking each other this question, “What did you do right today?”  Instead of only beginning our days (which I do as you can see from the picture above…it’s my actual current list for the day I write this) with a to-do list, we ended our days with a “ta-da list.”

Although this was a really nice way to end to my day, something I enjoyed even more was when I slipped into one of my children’s rooms and watched them as they slept (something that still happens from time-to-time, even though they are literally giants at this point).  My heart would be filled with love, joy and peace (after all, this was mostly the only time there was peace) and no matter what had happened during the day, both good and bad, it didn’t seem to matter any more.  I was completely and utterly in love with them.  I was just happy at the thought of them.

To tell you the truth, this sounds a little like the God I have come to know and love.  While the to-do lists and the ta-da lists matter to us, they don’t seem to matter much to Him.  He has bigger things on His heart that He wants to share with us, His children.  He longs for us to hear His voice in the depths of our soul as He says to us at BOTH the beginning and end of each day, regardless of either of those lists, “I will quiet you with my love.  I will rejoice over you with singing.”  (Zephaniah 3:17)  This is what brings my heart the true joy and peace that I long for.

What did you do right today?   What can you say “ta-da” about?  I would love for there not to be crickets this time around.  Comment below and/or share the link with those who might need to hear this question as well.  I am off now to check some more boxes on my to-do list.

(One last thing, please check out my WORTH THE READ page and then tell me your favorite reads.  I would love to get to know you more!  You can either send me a note on my WHO ARE YOU? COME SAY HI page or comment below.)