Remember the Simple Things

This morning while I was driving to my internship I was listening to the radio.  The hosts were talking about a recent news report that stated that the people of Norway (I think it was Norway) are much simpler in their parenting and in what they do with their children, and as a result their children are happier.  They then shared their memories of their childhood and what stood out as the best things that they remember doing with their families.  All three hosts remembered very simple things like going for a ride or playing a game in the back yard.  I thought it was interesting that even though they had “bigger” memories, such as trips to Disney as a family, these trips were not the thing that stood out to them.  It was the simple things.

I couldn’t help but think about what I remember about my childhood.  I remember, and appreciate the trip to camp at the beach and going to Creation as a family, but I think the memories that mean the most to me are much simpler.  I remember going to yard sales with my mom and/or grandmother.  I remember going fishing with my dad, or groundhog hunting, or sledding.  I remember renting movies and watching them over a snack.  Even today grilling and having a picnic dinner or sitting around the fire pit is the kind of thing that my family loves to do together.

It really is the simple things.

My kids are growing up.  I wonder what they remember most?  Is it the big planned activities?  Or was it much simpler?  Did my husband and I do enough of the quieter, easy-going stuff?

I’ll have to ask them.

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Christmas Thoughts…

The manger scene is set up right inside the front door, the first thing that is seen as someone walks in.  The Christmas tree is set up, with ornaments that tell a story of the family who live within these walls.  The lights in the tree and on the front of the house are colored lights, shining brightly with multi-colored beauty.  The snowman and Santa collection is spread throughout the living room, foyer, and dining room.  The setting is set for Christmas day, just six days from now.

This year has been a challenging one for our family.  Health issues took center stage, insinuating themselves into every decision and every activity for quite a portion of the year.  Along with the health issues came financial issues.  In fact, the financial issues outlasted the effects of the health issues. This year for Christmas it is very tight, and I am not able to go shopping for my kids like I am used to doing.  My husband and I are not buying gifts for each other this year.

As I think about our situation, and how I am going to provide some kind of Christmas for my children, I am tempted to be frustrated and upset because I cannot shop for them and for my family and friends.  I have had to step back and re-think how I do Christmas.

What is important about Christmastime?  What needs to be my priority?

I am a Christian, and as such I have always celebrated the birth of Jesus at Christmas.  From my childhood Christmas Eve services at church and readings from Luke chapter 2 with family have been a part of our celebration.  Gifts and getting together with family have also been a part of my childhood.

This year I am looking at my Christmas tree and thinking about what this season truly means.  It is a time set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and as I reflect on that I am humbled.  God himself loved me so much that he became a human being, stepping into history to make a way for human beings to have a restored relationship with God.  That little baby boy that we celebrate grew up to make the biggest impact on history!

My husband and children and I will be together for Christmas.  We will read the Christmas story together and we will attend church.  We will have hot chocolate and our traditional Christmas breakfast, and we will laugh and joke and hug and spend time together.  Then we will go to my parents house to spend time with my family, eating a Christmas dinner that my mom will make and again reading the Christmas story.  We will spend more time laughing and hugging and enjoying the gift of being together as a family.

Gifts will be a part, but they will take a backseat this year.  I don’t think that is a bad thing.  Whether a person is a believer or not, this season is about family and love and coming together.  For believers it is also about remembering the Lord and celebrating the way He touched history.  It is never about the gifts.

 

 

Self-Description

In responding to a comment made by her husband, a Facebook friend responded that she didn’t “self-describe” as pretty or motherly.  That comment got me to thinking.  You see, I think my friend is beautiful inside and out…not just pretty.  And she is motherly as in she loves her kids, foster kids, and other people’s kids and speaks positive things into these kids lives!  My own two children have benefited greatly from her motherly love!  It is interesting that my friend sees herself so differently than other people see her.

I started thinking about how I see myself versus what other people see when they look at me.  How do I self-describe?  Is it an accurate picture of me, or is it affected by my own insecurities?  I usually try to avoid any sort of self-description because I don’t always like myself.  I struggle with my weight, I cannot exercise the way I want to because of my Fibromyalgia, and I still feel somewhat awkward in my own skin.  I know that I am intelligent but I have difficulty in contributing to conversation because I feel like I can’t accurately vocalize my thoughts.  My self-view is very much tainted by my insecurities.  I know this.  I am working on this.  I have been making a lot of changes in the past couple of years, and have grown stronger and more confident, but I know I still have a long way to go!

What do others see when they look at me?  This one is harder.  I know my husband sees me as beautiful and sexy, whether I feel that way or not.  My daughter says I am pretty.  I hear people say I am funny, sensitive, caring, smart…all good and positive things!  I’m not always sure how to respond to this, though, because it often takes me by surprise!  I guess we are our own worst critics.

I was commenting to my husband last night about the need for affirmation in life.  I had received some very affirming comments from fellow students on an introduction post for our class.   Their words lifted my heart in many ways, even though these people are not a part of my inner circle.  I told my husband that I receive more criticism than affirmation, if I receive anything at all, from people regarding my goals and calling.  It’s not a mean thing or anything like that.  It is just life.  I am realizing how much words of affirmation can affect my self-perception. 

I am thinking I need to be more purposeful in my affirmation of my family and friends.  I think maybe letting them know what I see as positive qualities may be an encouragement and help them to see themselves in a more positive light.  I think I also need to accept the positive comments from family and friends and allow their feedback encourage me to see myself in a more realistic light. 

leaving home

I will admit upfront that I am in a rather mushy mood.  You see, this time next week we will be moving our first-born child into college.  It is an exciting time and a scary time.  She is on the cusp of her future and she is ready to take this step.  She is leaving home and will be moving further and further away from childhood.  In some ways, this is good and right and we are all ready.  But I am her mom.  How can I truly be ready for this?

I keep thinking about when I was pregnant with her.  I was so scared that I would mess her up!  I had never been a mom before.  I had no idea what to expect, and there was so much conflicting information coming at me from all directions.  I was afraid that taking the wrong advice would adversely affect my child!  It took me a long time to relax and realize that though I wasn’t perfect, I was an okay mom.  We plodded through together.  I feel confident now.  I know how to approach things with this child and work through anything that comes up.

In some ways I am feeling like a new mom again.  I don’t know how to parent an adult.  I’m not quite sure what my new role should be in her life.  I know she is in college and still a kid in many ways.  I also know she is legally grown and her own person.  How do I make this transition with her?  I don’t want to handle it wrong and mess up her future.  This is uncharted territory for me, and again there is so much conflicting information coming my way. 

I guess the answer is that we will plod through this together.  We will build our adult relationship one step at a time.  I also guess I will be spending a lot more time in prayer for this child.  Time learning to trust God with her future and safety and maturity.  Learning to let her go.

Let her go.  That seems strange to even say!  Wasn’t she just learning to talk and walk yesterday?  Wasn’t my husband teaching her how to ride her bike yesterday?  Wasn’t she and I exchanging tooth fairy letters yesterday?

I guess that is how life goes.  Quickly.  But she does walk and talk, and even write rather well now.  She can ride a bike and keep her balance.  We exchange texts and talks about all kinds of things.  She is ready!  And she is able.  I am so proud of this kid!  So proud! 

I can let her go because I know she is ready.  I know that she will always need me, even if it’s not in the same ways.  I know that she will love college and will grow because of this experience.  I know that we will find our way.

But I am still going to cry my way through the next week at least!

Twenty Years and Still going….

July 23, 1994 to July 23, 2014
Twenty years have come and gone since that beautiful day I became your bride. When we spoke our vows to each other in front of God and a room full of our family and friends, we were both so young and full of hopes and dreams. While we meant every word, I know we did not understand just what we were promising to each other.
I, Jennifer, take you Russ, to be my husband… The man who would take care of me, who would love me, who would buy me flowers and do the honey-do lists. Mr. Perfect-for-me who would never be less than perfect. And even if he was less than perfect, he would be the man who always apologized and never held a grudge.
To have and to hold from this day forward…Life was going to be full of cuddles and hugs. We were going to have a wonderful love life with frequency and fulfillment. We were marching into forever together, and would always have each other no matter what.
For better or for worse….although of course the worse part would be “not so bad” because we could do anything together! Get through anything. Our life was going to be full of better because we loved each other and what more did a couple need?
For richer, for poorer…we were both going to work to make sure that poorer never came. We just knew that we would be ok, that things could only get better financially as we tackled life together.
In sickness, and in health…While we knew that we could face some sickness, especially in regards to Russ’s genetic bone condition, we knew we were prepared to go through anything because we now had each other. It wasn’t going to slow us down. We were committed to seeing each other through.
To love, and to cherish…This was going to be easy!! We were so in love and couldn’t imagine that every changing! We were looking forward to loving and cherishing each other forever!
From this day forward until death do us part…We were going to have a long and happy life together, we just knew it. We were made for each other, and God had brought us together. We had that “special love” that people look for.
As we spoke these words while gazing into each others eyes, we both just knew that our marriage was one made in heaven and that nothing would threaten it or challenge these vows. Life was perfect.
Twenty years later I know the truth. Those promises weren’t just an expression of our love and hopes and dreams. They were a promise, publically made, to commit to each other in these areas. They were meant to be an anchor to cling to when we wanted to give up. They were meant to be a reminder of what we promised each other when we decided to marry, and what we needed to remember in the middle of the storms that inevitably come to every marriage.
Russ, you are still my husband and my best friend. I can honestly say 20 years later that I love you now more deeply than I did standing at the alter exchanging these words. I now understand the commitment that these words mean.
I, Jennifer, still take you to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward. No matter what comes to us in the future. I will cling to you, and fight for us, and hold on tight! I will never let you go, never neglect us, never let anyone but God be more important in my heart. For better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. We have seen too much of the worse, the poorer, the sickness over the years. We have been through more than most. We’ve spent so many months and years in the hospital, in doctor offices, in physical therapy, in therapist offices, dealing with insurance and government aid issues. We have spent years on unemployment or underemployed, trying to make ends meet. Finding ways to meet the special needs of our kids, pulling resources out of nowhere. We have had emotional and sin issues poke their ugly heads up at the most inopportune times. Some of our financial issues were our own doing. Some just happened because life happened. We had to deal with it all. We even almost forgot the promises we made to each other and let what God gave us in our marriage drift away. Thank God we remembered in time!
Russ, I promise to love and to cherish you and our marriage, from this day forward, until death do us part. We almost faced that, too, in twenty years. I came within inches of losing you to death. By God’s grace and healing, we are still here, still living our life, still facing challenges and still struggling. We are also still laughing. Still having fun together. Still working together for us and for our kids. We are a team. We are one flesh, brought together by God. We are learning and growing, both as a couple and as individuals. We have overcome so much. We have seen the good and the bad come, and we are still standing, together.
I love you, my husband. I am thankful for the first twenty years that God gave us, even though some of it wasn’t very fun to live. We have grown up from the naïve kids we used to be. We are different people now. But we have grown together, and are still learning about each other. We are still exploring life and its twists and turns together. We are still committed to those vows we made to each other twenty years ago. And I know we will live them out for the rest of our lives!
With love and commitment,
And with all my heart,
Your wife

Thoughts

Since the shooting in CT last week, I have heard many many different opinions and debates regarding several issues.  First and foremost has been the issue of gun control.  Advocates are calling for a ban on assault weapons and critics are calling for second amendment rights to be upheld.  Many are talking about mental illness and the difficulty in finding appropriate help when a loved one has a mental disorder of some kind.  Some are even talking about Autism because some media sources have credited the shooter with having Autism (as if this had anything at all to do with what this individual did!)  Many people blame the mother for what happened because she did own guns, after all.  Others blame bullying or mental issues.  Lots of blame to go around.

Lots and lots of talk.  Lots and lots of arguments.  Not so many ready answers.

Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?”  I believe that the answer lies therein.  The issue isn’t a gun control issue, it is not a mental illness or autism issue, it is not a bullying issue.  It is a heart issue.

We sin because at heart we are a sinner.  The shooter is not a sinner because he chose to shoot people, he is a sinner because he was born a sinner.  I am not a sinner because I do things that are wrong, I am a sinner because I was born a sinner.  Our actions are but a symptom of our state of being.  Not many of us will pick up a gun and go on a rampage against our fellow man.  Many of us, however, will hold bitterness or anger or hate toward people around us.  The Bible says in Matthew 5:21-22a that murder is wrong and the murderer is subject to judgement.  We know this.  It also says that anyone who holds anger and bitterness in his heart is subject to the same judgement.  Holding anger and bitterness our hearts makes us guilty of murder!

When a senseless act like this occurs it is very easy to play the blame game, mostly because we are trying to find a reason.  As if a reason will somehow make it all better.  Very rarely does personal choice and responsibility seem an adequate reason.  The hard truth is, though, that personal choice and responsibility are in fact the culprit.  This young gunman made a conscious choice to do what he did.  Yes, he was maybe dealing with some hard stuff in his life.  But so do a lot of people.  I do not believe that one can excuse away the culpability of another with excuses.

The only way to prevent things like this shooting is to deal with what is wrong with the heart of our society.  The spiritual void that is growing.  There seems to be a whole generation of people growing up lacking the skills to take personal responsibility for their actions.  A whole generation who sees right and wrong as relative terms that mean only what they feel it means in the moment.

The truth is, truth is hard.  Whether we want to believe it or not, truth stays the truth.  Life isn’t fair.  The choices we make do and will affect ourselves and others.  And evil does exist.  When we allow anger and bitterness or other selfish motivations to control us, things will go out of control quickly and pain will occur.  Sometimes it isn’t as dramatic and tragic as the tragedy we all witnessed last week.  But it does happen.

I think this is the conversation we need to be having as a country.  Maybe then we will have seen the last of this type of evil thing.