Monday, August 10, 2015

Back in the Wheelbarrow

I haven't been in a very good place lately... since my rant of January, I've struggled to find some forward momentum.  Work has sucked more than ever.  I'm overwhelmed with life and struggling to comprehend the tragedies hitting those who are so dear to me.  I'm questioning too much, and spending a lot of time fighting back tears I should probably just let fall.

My fingers are itching to type, and my crazy roller coaster of a mind has surely had some great tracks to record in the last few months... but I just couldn't get the two together.  At least not until today. I'm feeling a little nostalgic, so bear with me.

When I originally started blogging, I wanted to be funny... funny homemaker mommy blogger who made jokes about silly things and kids and life.  Then I started following lots of amazing women on social media and started feeling the pressure to find a focus... develop a brand.  A blog about something.  One thing.  The thing.  The topic that would make me cool and unique.  Crap.  

That was too much.  

I tinkered with fitness.  I'm a runner at heart, but I'm not too fast, and I'm not too fit... so...Crap.

Then there's homesteading.  We farm.  We garden.  We forage.  We hunt and fish.  We build things out of other people's junk.  But, we aren't off the grid or homestead-y enough.  At least not compared to those people in Mother Earth and Grit and Pioneer... so... Crap.

Aha.  Fashion.  No... I can't even put all my clothes away, let alone organize them into outfits or get it together enough to do a capsule wardrobe....Crap.

Foodie blog.  I can. I make fresh sausage.  I bake cakes.  I dehydrate everything I don't can.  I do all sorts of crazy things with food.  But I rarely follow a recipe exactly... and I can't compete with Hank Shaw or Alton Brown.  So... Crap.

Well, I could be a Christian mom blogger.  I adore Beth Moore.  I would die to be featured on (in)courage.  But I'm too cynical, and I really like IPA.  And I've already said "crap" five or six times in one blog post.  yeah...


I don't have a niche.  Or a brand.  Or a point, really.

That coupled with the fact that I've been kind of an MIA grump lately.  I've battled some guilt from my January rant.  So much so that I edited my original post about the lost boys.  It's not my place to single people out or rally for children's ministry.  Nothing I say or blast on the Internet is going to change someone's heart.  And it was pretentious and Pharisaical of me to think I had a right to point fingers or jump to conclusions about the status of anyone else's heart for God. 

God has been spending the past few months pressing me to look at my own heart.  And I've been kind of stubborn about it.  He is still working on me...  He probably will be until I'm dead.  And I'm okay with that, because all I need to be is okay with letting Him be in charge of my life... and my blog.

Today, it was crystal clear that I need to get over not having a niche.  I need to be okay with the fact that I will never have a fitness sponsor or my own recipe book or a featured article in Mother Earth.  I need to let go of my own agenda and secret desire to have fame and fortune for doing nothing more than living my life and drinking an IPA while I blog about randomness.   I need to get my butt back in the wheelbarrow and let God steer me in the right direction 

I'm not kidding. 

It couldn't have been more clear. 

Today our worship leader said (as we walked in LATE to church AS USUAL) that she remembered hearing those stories about people who would climb in a wheelbarrow and let someone else push them as they walked across a tightrope.  How scary would that be?  And I smiled.  Pretty scary.  

Today, our pastor talked about how we need to actively FOLLOW Jesus.  We can't just passively believe and call it good. If we don't choose Him first, above all else... then it doesn't matter what we do.  So.  That's what it came down to for me.  That's my brand.  


Jesus is my brand.  I decided to follow Him a long time ago, and I can't fall into the trap of letting something else come first.  

I can't crack under the pressure to find something else cool and unique and Twitterific.  

It doesn't matter what I blog about here or how many people read my posts.  What matters is I let you see my heart for God in everything I do and everything I write. 

I'm all the things I said before...and more.  Mom, wife, runner, foodie, fashionista, bargain shopper, homesteader, farmer, gardener... but above all else, I'm a child of God.  I've chosen to accept Jesus as my Savior, and that is not the easy path.  But I've decided to follow Him... and nothing else matters (cue Metallica (which is totally inappropriate)).

I'm back in the wheelbarrow, and I'm hoping I can do a better job of sharing my ride.

Thanks to those of you who have hung in there and asked me to keep posting. Your encouragement meant a lot. 

Welcome to those of you who are new and wondering what level of crazy I really am. You will soon find out.  ;) 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Time and the Lost Boys

I'm pretty sure there hasn't been a day in my life where I haven't wished for just a little more time. There's always one more thing needing finished, one more show needing watched, another game to play or mile to run.  Yeah - I covet time.  Maybe these days more than ever, but I'm not so sure about that.

Since I'm "young" and naive, I simply wish for retirement.  You know, the days when I will have all the time in the world?  Okay, well, I'm not naive, because my wise, retired friends have already clued me in about being busier than ever in retirement.

What do we do with our time anyway? The good Lord gives us all the same amount of hours each day.  Ideally we sleep for eight (although you know I sleep much less).  These days most of us work for another eight.  That leaves us eight hours a day for driving, cooking, cleaning, eating, visiting, snuggling, reading, praying.... etc.  Where the heck does it go?

I have a pretty good idea of where mine goes.  Driving two hours a day to work and back.  Hours of chores each week after work taking care of winged and non-winged animales (yes, I meant the Spanish spelling). Wasting time on Facebook and Pinterest and watching Netflix or Amazon Prime long after the kids have been tucked in.  I am a complete time WASTER.

Here's the thing.

I don't own my time.  Any more than I own my money or my own breath.  Everything I have.  Everything I am.  It is straight from God.  He's the One in charge.  I know I forget that.  A lot.  A super duper lot.  I second guess our finances all the time.  We are fairly faithful tithers... but I know without a doubt, this year... again... our tithe won't match the exact ten percent once our taxes are said and done.

Why is that?  In Malachi 3:10 - God says, "Test me in this."  He is in charge.  Our money is His, whether we tithe it or not.  God doesn't need our money.  It's in the power of giving where the real work is done.  It's in the power of trusting where the real growth happens.  I am without excuse.

I think we get selfish.  We forget our time and money was never ours.  We want control.  We want to dole it out as we see fit...  We struggle with the feeling of never having enough, of always being behind, and we hold some back to make ends meet.

God doesn't really need our time either.  He created the world and everything in it in a week, and He took a whole day off!  I'm lucky if my house is recognizable after six days... let alone if anything good has been created.  Who am I to play the expert of time?

Lately I have been on a reorganization kick.   During the past week of this New Year, I have spent the bulk of my free time cleaning or moving things around.  The laziest of the down times have been spent on Pinterest looking for more organization ideas. The point I am trying to make is that I haven't spent an ounce of time in the last week, with the exception of a church service, on God.  Not an iota in any way spending my time to further the Kingdom or my walk with Him.  When I think about the 24 hours God gives me... every. single. day. I get a pang of guilt.  How much of that do I really give back to Him?

Not much.  On a really good week, I *maybe* spend eight hours actively involved....praying, church, devotions with my kids, Missionettes.  That's less than half of ten percent.  (I just did really cool math on my computer calculator AND in my head!!) No matter how creatively I calculate... the reality is, I don't measure up.  I probably never will.

And, of course, this is all hypothetical.  God specifically challenges us to tithe our money.

Humor me, because I'm pretending I also live in an alternative universe where He has requested ten percent of our time.

Scratch that.

To make things more interesting, I'm going to go way out on a Biblical limb and say He actually requests 100 percent of our time.  He expects us to commit our LIVES to Him.  *Gasp*

Ten percent sounds really freaking easy after that, huh?

2.4 hours per day?  Cake.

Here's the thing.  We are lazy, selfish sinners who want our time to be about ourselves.  We think it's too hard to do extra when life has thrown so much at us already.  We make excuses for sleeping in or skipping church.  We create personal callings requiring little sacrifice and satiate our conscience.  We step down because we don't "feel called".  We interpret struggles as a sign that God has called us elsewhere.  We think we all deserve to retire from service to the Kingdom, just like we retire from work.  Guess what?  There are no Heavenly exemptions. God wants us to live our lives in service to Him.  When we don't... well...

The ones who suffer are the ones God has put in our paths to serve.  To witness to.  To build up. To pray for.  To be a light and a hope.  We are tangible, living, breathing beings.  We can't even begin to imagine the power we could harness for the lost if we would just COMMIT to serving.

I'm not perfect.  I am openly admitting my own guilt.  I am also throwing some pretty ugly pointer fingers right now.  I am beyond frustrated.  I am beyond manners and playing nice, because the ones who are suffering from the inability of the Body of Christ to follow through and SHOW UP FOR THE GAME are the children.  The boys who have never had a father figure in their lives.  The boys who are raising themselves.  The boys who don't know real men don't hit or abandon their families.  The boys who will never know that there was a Man who was God who bled and died because He loved them SO MUCH He gave His LIFE.  There are lost boys in our town looking for someone to guide them.

And we can't give two hours a week?! Forget 2.4 hours per day.

Today, I drove by a group of boys I know are living in those tough situations.  They were out in the pre-dusk hours wandering on the side of the road, wearing black and stumbling towards whatever meaning someone might show them.  And I fought back tears because I knew where they couldn't go.

Tonight, I watched eyes fill and faces fall when I told a few little boys they couldn't be with us after tonight.  And I bit my tongue so I wouldn't scream...  Where are the bloody men who attend this church?

One Man bled for us all. Jesus took the nails and the cross even though it kind of messed with the rest of His day.

He showed up when He didn't have to.

He made a way so we wouldn't continue to stumble in the dark.

He called the little children unto Him.

And we have the gall to say we are too busy.

We have the the impudent, self-righteous nerve to look the other way and stay at home when there are boys in our community who are as lost and searching as any boys could ever be.  Are our consciences so satiated no sermon will awaken them?  Does the fact that the women are busy ministering to the girls and doing their best to fill in with the boys and stretched as thin as the ozone just not bother anyone?

Obviously not.  And obviously not to the point that the few who were struggling to meet the needs of our lost boys threw up their hands and threw in the towel.  Because no amount of cajoling and glossed over sermons could convict any more men in our congregation to find an hour or two on a Wednesday night.

Because we can't just cut to the chase and be painfully honest.

My boys don't get Rangers anymore because not enough men from the church show up to lead.  It's not really about reorganizing anything.  We had more boys showing up than men who attend our church, and it wasn't safe anymore.  It's about our church's inability to answer the call.

Here's the real truth.

I'm not in tears tonight about my boys.  I'm in tears because of the boys I saw wandering the streets. I'm in tears because of the tears welling up in the eyes of the seven year old who counts on being somewhere safe every Wednesday night and just found out he won't have that anymore.

My boys won't miss a beat.

But other boys may lose everything.

And I'm assuming we can all live with that.

Even though Christ Himself died to ensure it didn't have to happen this way.

And all the people said, 'Amen.'

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!!

This year, I won't be resolving anything.  I've signed up for a CHALLENGE!!!


This is a short and sweet version of my previous post... it was funny, engaging, and full of witty sarcasm.  And then the Internet ate it.  Gone.

All gone.

I was too shocked to cry.

In short, (because I'm mad and it's already way too late) 2015 is the year of the 52 Weeks to An Organized Home Challenge.  And since I started the last week of December, this isn't related to a resolution.  I almost didn't want to commit, but it was set up in Nicole-sized bites.  So I bit.

My Family Calendar is hanging in true geek fashion on my fridge.  I've got birthday, meals, runs, challenge tasks, paydays and bill days marked in all their sticker glory.  This is probably year five of a family calendar... and I look forward to it every year.  Always there...not always kept up (like other things in my life), but always loved.

My next task is the kitchen counters and sink.  I'm glad I have a week for every task!!

And, I will start the year by being honest.

I changed some of the tasks.

We are farmer/homesteaders.  My springs and summers and falls... okay, and winters, look a lot different than the average suburban household.  Seriously... we would probably have to go to family therapy if I spent my summer months in the house going through DVDs and photos.  So, I switched some things around and added farm and garden chores.  And since we don't have an attic or a basement, I had some leeway to make changes.  Photos and DVDs will have their weeks... in October, when outside chores are done.  I love my marriage...and my ducks.

Y'all are about to see the dark and dirty parts of my life.  My goal is to post each week about this challenge. No holds barred.  It will get ugly.  I might be reserved in person, but I'm shameless on my blog.

Today, I started working on the countertops... which created a domino effect.  Soon I was asking the kids to help get their toys and clothes out of the living room.  My youngest pipes up, "Why Mom?  Who's coming over?"

Uhhhhh..... yeah.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Joining the Ranks

What an entirely cynical title.

I've spent the past few months quietly fuming and praying about crummy decisions a family member is making.  Hoping the switch will flip and her brain will turn back on to smart mode.  But it hasn't happened.  As her behavior worsens, my fuming has become more vocal.  In the past few days, I have started to rant to anyone who will listen.  Not a good sign on my end.

Today I found out she crossed the line.  The line that makes us set our own boundaries and build up our walls.

I shouldn't have to feel like I need to protect my kids from their aunt.  We shouldn't have to worry about what will come up missing from our garage or when (not if) our home will be broken into.

Steal it, sell it, get your fix.

Break into your own grandmother's house while she is sick in the hospital.

I'm furious.  I'm hurt.

I'm not alone.

Raise your hand if you have a family member like this.  If you are raising your grandchildren because your own children are too strung out to be parents.  If you can't trust your ex around your kids or your home.  If you have had to get a restraining order against a loved one.  If you've watched someone become unrecognizable as addiction distorts them.  If you've done all you can to protect a loved one from an abuser and watched them go back... again... and again....

This is my first time.  Not the first time I've been hurt by a family member.  Not the first time our family has had conflict.  Not the first time I've struggled to forgive a wrong.

The first time I can say we lock our doors to keep family out.  The first time we have had to tell our children to never leave school with auntie if she stops by and says she is there to pick them up.  The first time we have decided we will not be inviting her to another birthday or bbq because of what might come up missing.  The first time we have stopped offering to help our own flesh and blood.

We have joined the ranks.

Ironically, my girls picked Family Relationships this week in our high school group.  We've talked about relationships with siblings and parents and God's expectations of how we respond to our family and love our family.  This week is about healing hurts caused by family.

Well, my wound is pretty raw right now.  My husband and I are reeling... and we really aren't even the victims. I'm not quite sure if my reactions are very "Christian".  I know I have had to fall on the floor and pray for forgiveness for the thoughts I am having and the words I am saying, for strength to forgive her and His love to fill my heart so I won't wish hell on the people she is with.  It's awful.

While I work through the forgiveness, I am preparing myself for the worst.  I'm struggling to find the balance.

We refuse to enable.  We refuse to become enmeshed.  We refuse to participate, at any level, in her unhealthy behavior.

I want her to know she is loved.  I want her to know I am continually praying for her.  I want her to know my heart is breaking in pieces for her.  I want her to know she is better than this.

I want her to know we will never bail her out. I want her to know we will never give her money.  I want her to know we will be the first to call the police if she gives us reason.

I want her to know our kids have wept in church because they know she is "making bad choices".  I want her to know we have done our best to not discuss grown-up issues in front of them, and all we can do is hug them and cry with them.  I want her to know she isn't fooling anyone... not even her five-year old niece.

And I want her to know... most of all.... that the God who holds the universe is jealous for her.  He loves her with an everlasting love.  He has paid the price.  There is nothing she has done or could do to ever change that.  He is constant and unchanging.  His love never fails.  His mercy never ends.  Forgiveness is hers if she can accept it. When she is ready to come home, He will be there.... with arms outstretched.

...And so will we.  We won't enable.  But we can forgive.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Week 1 Recap - Active Living Challenge

My fitness, like my blogging, has been sorely neglected lately.

In true perfect timing form, Fit Approach and Lorna Jane started an Active Living Challenge!  August is seriously our craziest month of the year, with 4-H obligations at the county fair, a birthday, football practices beginning, and the prep for back to school and church activities starting up in September.  Not to mention gardening and harvesting and canning.  But I am gonna keep on keeping on and this challenge has been a great way for me to think about fitness and healthy food every day!

Day one got me planking again.

Day two was a great dinner - all home grown and harvested.  I followed the instructions in one of the Costco cookbooks for pan frying the steelhead.  The green beasn were sauteed in garlic and olive oil.  I splashed in fish sauce and soy sauce somewhere during the saute process.  They were amazing.

Day three we went on a family run.  I love family runs.  I love seeing my kids excited about running and pushing themselves.  Connor was frustrated because it was his first time running post broken heel, and he learned a hard lesson about fitness and what happens to your body when you've taken a break.  Jason and I were reliving that experience as well!

Day four I made eight batches of pizza crust... prepping for fair meals and quick dinners after football practice.  Food prep in my kitchen isn't always quiet, but it is definitely calming.  Being prepared for dinners and lunches reduces my stress level exponentially.  My KitchenAid just makes the work easier!

Day five and six and seven I have spent gardening and cleaning out the duck pen and the chicken coop.  I worked up more of a sweat moving wheelbarrows of duck manure than I did in all my running this week!  We've had record "hot" weather here. It's in the 80's and 90's, and we are all dying.  I know... we are wimps.  But, my post workout sweaty selfie was post wheelbarrow workout!

This week is our county fair.  Life is going to get insanely crazy with barn duty and kids' fit and shows and auctions and activities, but I'm staying in the challenge!