“But It’s Not Like Last Time!”: Finding Joy in Unmet Expectations and Change

Remember this?

Her face was red and wet with tears. Her fists were clenched and she was shaking her head spastically making her blonde hair flail around her head. She continued to whine and complain, but I could barely understand her words through her deep sobs. She was having a full-fledged meltdown.

Baggage was to blame.

No, not figurative baggage, as in difficult life circumstances that travel with us from our pasts into our future, I mean baggage, as in, our suitcases.

My 9-year-old daughter, Kenzie, was sitting in the one back row seat of our van that we had not folded down so as to have more room for our luggage. The van was still snuggly parked in our garage, and we were testing out the seating arrangements for our twenty-hour drive to Florida. This would be our second year taking a Spring Break vacation as a family of five. There was a lot of stuff shoved into our minivan: golf clubs, suitcases, beach chairs, snacks. Kenzie was surrounded by all of it in this trial run of making sure we could get everything in the van, including the kids.

Kenzie wasn’t crying because she was crowded or uncomfortable, she was crying because the suitcases were not close enough to her.

Sob. “Last year when I sat here the suitcases were right up against me!” Sob. “That was one of my favorite parts of the drive.” Sob. “I want it to be just like last year!” Wail.

There are moments in parenthood where you lose your cool. There are also moments when you’re overjoyed with your child. Then there are moments like this one when you’re just plain confused.

“So you’re telling me that you’re throwing a fit right now because the golf clubs are closer to you than the suitcases?” I said with a bit of a growl in voice.

Sob. “Yes! I want the suitcases to be closer to me so it’s just like last year!”

And thus began year two’s vacation where we frequently heard the phrase, “but last year we ___________ (fill in the blank).

My kids are huge fans of tradition. They savor life and enjoy each season and activity that comes with it. Each fall, they want to make a trip to the same apple orchard. Each Christmas, they want to hang the garland on the banister just like we did the year before. They love each tradition and have big hopes, expectations, and emotions involved in each one.

Speaking of apple orchards… the apple has not fallen very far from the tree. I wish I could say my husband was the tradition-lover who has thus modeled big feelings toward repeating expectations, but he ain’t that tree, folks.

I’m going to have to take the blame on this one. This baggage comes with me.

I love tradition, and I have a lot of hopes riding on expectations. And for many reasons, I’m going to say that’s a fine way to live. We tradition-lovers are also big on noticing and appreciating things, and we are often full of gratitude. If I do say so myself, we can be really lovely people to be around when traditions and plans go as scheduled.

But hitching our hopes to tradition and expectations can sometimes lead to a bumpy ride when plans come unhinged.

Over the years, I’ve had to learn how to recalibrate when it comes to traditions and expectations. Just as an infant is trained to self-soothe when she cries in her crib and no one comes to pick her up immediately, I’ve learned to self-soothe when expectations turn into disappointments. I’ve come to understand that joy can still be found in the changes, even if joy seems to be wearing a disguise.

Our first year in Florida, we went to a beach on a beautiful intercostal waterway where we found about a dozen whole sand dollars. It was amazing, and the kids loved these fragile sea treasures. But on our second trip, when we returned to the same beach, the wind was strong and the choppy water churned in a way that made it impossible to find any sand dollars. The kids were super disappointed.

But, as we walked along a different beach, we found some really cool shark teeth, a treasure we hadn’t found the year before. I capitalized on this and starting saying a five-word phrase each time one of the kids, or myself, would let disappointment creep in over a failed expectation or change.

Sand dollars and shark teeth.

Guys! Think about it! Both are treasures! So we didn’t find sand dollars this year, kids. But, we found shark teeth! How cool is that? It doesn’t have to be just like last time to be good.

“But last year ate at that one restaurant that had the popcorn shrimp!”

Sand dollars and shark teeth.

“But last year we made those apple pies!”

Sand dollars and shark teeth.

“But it’s our tradition to have cinnamon rolls every Christmas morning!”

Sand dollars and shark teeth.

And this doesn’t just help my kids deal with changes and unmet expectations. It helps me!

When my second book launched and it didn’t go the same as the first book had, I repeated “sand dollars and shark teeth” in my mind often. It was a mantra to remind myself that it didn’t have to be just like last time to be successful or good.

When my child’s schoolteacher didn’t run their classroom the same way my older child’s classroom was operated when they were in that same grade, I had to recalibrate. Wait, I thought I knew what to expect and how this was going to work! But it’s okay. Sand dollars and shark teeth.

When holiday plans changed last minute due to illnesses or activities beyond my control my gut reaction was, “this won’t be as good as last year.” But maybe it was. We made new memories! Sand dollars and shark teeth.

I’m going to be honest, Kenzie’s meltdown over not sitting close enough to the suitcases was a little over the top for me. I did not initially understand her response and I got pretty upset with her.

But after a week of finding zero sand dollars and realizing that unmet expectations and change were the reason for her tears, I understood a little more. I didn’t let her off the hook for behaving like she did, but I file the realization away in my mind.

“But, it’s not like last time!” can be baggage that travels with each of us. I get it. I’m a frequent flier in this club. But just because it’s different, changed, or not what we expected doesn’t mean it can’t still be good.

Sand dollars and shark teeth.

Tuck that phrase away in your baggage.

Gratitude through Gritted Teeth

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I knew there was a fee to park at the venue where I was taking my two young daughters to the Disney Princesses on Ice show. But I forgot.

Not until I was driving in to the large lot did it dawn on me that I had no cash. And they don’t accept credit cards for parking. I could not enter. Instead I was turned away and drove back onto the busy street. My daughters began to panic.

“Mommy! Isn’t that where the Princesses are going to ice skate?”

“Why did you turn around, Mommy?”

I pulled into a retail parking lot and searched the van’s cup holders for loose change. Not enough. I scavenged through my purse. I came up short. I did not have my ATM card on me, and by the time I drove home to get enough cash to park, we would miss most of the show for which my girls had been counting down the days.

I let out a deep sigh of frustration.

And then it hit me. I had friends who were also attending this show. Maybe they could meet me in this lot and let me borrow some cash. I called. They were already in their seats at the show, but in an act of complete kindness, my friend’s husband ran cash out to me near the front doors.

We made it! We settled into our seats just as the show was starting. It was a beautiful and mesmerizing performance. My girls, ages 6 and 4, had huge smiles and twinkling eyes as they watched the princesses twirl and jump. I had a huge smile just watching my girls.

It had taken me part of the first act to stop sweating and to settle in, but I had done so. I tried to take in each magical moment of making this memory with my daughters.

When the show ended, we walked down the long, concrete corridor winding our way out of the massive building. Hundreds of other people flowed along with us. Every ten feet or so, vendors were selling Disney merchandise. Princess dolls, toy swords, glowing sticks, and more. My girls begged for something. I hesitated, but gave in to the pressure as I again reasoned it was such a special evening.

The snow cones came in plastic souvenir princess cups. I forget the exact price, but it was somewhere near $400.00. Okay, maybe not quite that much, but it was probably close. I bought two. I figured my girls’ delight would last for weeks to come.

But I was wrong. As we continued to walk down the long hallway we passed more vendors.

“I really wanted a doll, Mommy!”

“Why won’t you buy me a Princess dolly?”the little one whined.

The complaints continued. Didn’t they know I had already spent a lot of money just on the tickets for this show, let alone the parking fiasco, which had left me indebted to my friends. Then, I had just bought them SNOW CONES in a PRINCESS CUP and I had about HAD ENOUGH of this giving spree to UNGRATEFUL little people.

A few more words of complaint came out of their mouths before I stopped. Dead in my tracks. I put my hands on their shoulders and walked against the flow of traffic until I squeezed the three of us into a corner and guided the girls to stand with their backs against a cold concrete wall.

“I am tired of this complaining. You have been given so much already. We are not moving until you guys are thankful!” I said in a huff.

I further stated my case. “I just spent a lot of money on tonight and instead of being thankful for it, you’re complaining and asking for more. I’ve had it! You will stand there until you are thankful. Do you hear me?”

The girls nodded as their little lips, stained purple and red from their snow cones, began to quiver. The whimpered and cried as the crowd slowly moved by us.

There they were. Two little blonde girls standing against a wall trying to feel thankful.

(PS. This was not my finest parenting moment.)

“Are you thankful yet?” My voice was firm. I demanded an answer.

They sniffed and cried and shook their heads. After a few more minutes I decided they were thankful enough and we continued on our way. I heard no more requests for princess dolls. Only sniffles.

Today as I was doing dishes, two years after that evening, I picked up the souvenir princess cup off the counter and smiled.

“Are you thankful yet?” I laughed to myself.

I’m not proud of how I handled that moment, but I am thankful for it. Today as I thought back over the memory, I realized that I was trying to instill gratitude in my children. I was aiming to make thankfulness a habit for them, an automatic response. And I was trying to get out of there without going bankrupt. But mostly, I was teaching my kids to be grateful.

And that’s a hard lesson to learn.

I know how they felt that night. Sometimes I don’t feel very thankful either. I get caught up in what I don’t have instead of noticing all the blessings in front of me. Sometimes I need someone to stand me up against a cold wall until I can get my wits about me and express the gratitude I don’t feel.

Feeling grateful isn’t necessary for being grateful.

Sometimes you say thanks though gritted teeth.

And, that’s okay.

It’s all part of the training.

 

 

The Christian Comparison Game: 3 Ideas About How We Can Stop Playing It


Part 2 of 2 In This Series About The Christian Comparison Game

In Part 1 of this 2 part blog series, we talked about WHY we should stop comparing our acts of “Christian service” to what we percieve other believers to be doing for the Kingdom.

You can read Part 1 here.

The three main reasons WHY we should stop the Christian comparisons were:

1. We are discrediting who God made us to be.

2. We are in danger of harming the Body of Christ.

3. We could be tempted to do nothing.

So what now?

We can see WHY we must stop playing the Christian Comparison Game, but HOW?

Here are three ideas.

1. Notice and embrace whom God created YOU to be.

It’s so cliché, but there is truly only one you. And like the old saying goes, “because there’s only one of you, there’s something only you can do.”

Look at Queen Esther of the Bible. She was Jew living in Persia and because of her great beauty, the king choose to make her his wife. When she is told by her cousin, a follow Jew, that their people are being threatened and there’s a plot to kill them all on certain date, she is asked to approach the King with the news that she is a Jew and a request for him to save her people.

Esther was the only one in the right position as both a Queen and a Jew to approach the King with this request. Her cousin Mordecia pleads with her to help by saying in Esther 4:14;

And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

And the story has a happy ending. Esther obeys and God delivers.

And that wasn’t a one-time deal! God will continue to deliver us as we obey His call.

So here we are.

This is our time on this planet. What is it that God wants to use us for in His Kingdom?

Notice what God is doing around you. Embrace who you are and what gifts and talents He’s given you to help you join Him.

2. Encourage your follow believers!

My friend Amy is a physical therapist by trade. She works with women who have issues that are very physical and private in nature. Amy is a gifted communicator and has a fire in her belly for justice. God is using Amy’s circumstances, her passions, her talents and training to lead her into a ministry that weekly visits strip clubs to ultimately share the love of Jesus Christ with the dancers. Amy thrives in this ministry and is making an impact for the Kingdom in a way that some other women would not choose. This ministry is the current thing Amy feels God has called her to “for such as time as this.” It may change tomorrow, or next year, or in thirty years. But she is faithful today where God is calling her today.

So instead of comparing our ministry to Amy’s we should pray for her! Do you know that’s exactly what Esther asked her friends to do for her? They fasted and prayed for Esther’s life and for effectiveness in what she was being called to do. We should pray the same things for others and encourage them to press on with our words, notes, texts, emails and whatever else we can think of!

My friend, Lindsay is a gifted teacher. She spends her days in a middle school classroom. To some, the call to a middle school classroom would be more daunting than a call to move to the jungles of Africa, but not to Lindsay. Lindsay teaches with intentionality and care. She pours effort into her lesson plans and she pours love into the classroom. She is building relationships with the kids in her school and when appropriate, she is able to share Christ’s love with them. She daily models what it means to be Christ-follower though she cannot always share it verbally. Her work is her ministry. She is called to teach these kids “for such a time as this.” It may not be her forever job, but she is faithful today where God is calling her today.

So instead of comparing our ministries to Lindsay’s, we can pray for her. Again, we can ask God to use her and that she would be effective in what God has called her to do. I can also encourage Lindsay by being a friend she can count on for a fun evening out and a trusted ear she can talk to.

There are multitudes of ways to encourage others. Pick one. The important thing is that you DO it. And don’t forget, prayer should top the list!

As Hebrews 10:24 says,

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…

3. Get to work!

Your ministry is probably not going to look like my ministry.

That’s fine.

That’s perfect.

That’s beautiful.

Remember, if we were all called to Africa to be missionaries, who would be here to offer a loving home for the child in the foster care system?

If we were all called to the strip clubs, who would teach the inner-city drama club where kids are desperate for an adult to give them positive attention and a sense of value.

If we were all called to full-time ministry in churches or para-church organizations, who would go work on the line in the factories or sit in the corner offices where the lost, both the poor and wealthy, are in need of Jesus’ love and hope.

We all have a part to play on this team.

We all have invaluable work to do for a worthy God who calls, equips, and helps us.

What are we waiting for?

Let’s stop the comparisons, embrace who we are, encourage one another, and roll up our sleeves to obey God where He has called us each today.

The Christian Comparison Game: 3 Reasons Why We Should Stop Playing It

Part 1 of a 2 Part Series about the Christian Comparison Game

The comparison game. Ugh.

We all do it, even those of us who know better.

Women compare themselves to other women in so many ways.

Why can’t I keep my house as clean as she does? My pile over there has been growing since October. At what point does paper grow mold?!

Her kids are always dressed so cute. Does she think mine look like they just rolled out of bed? I mean, okay so maybe they did just stumble out of their messy rooms.

She’s got the cutest jeans and her hair always looks perfect. I don’t even want her to see me in these sweats. She must think I look frumpy… at best.

Oh my word, she feeds her family actual balanced and healthy meals. I can’t let her know I just ordered pizza….again. Is soda one of the food groups?

You get the idea. You could probably add a few more examples to the list.

But as Christian women, I’m afraid sometimes we take this comparison game in an even more dangerous direction.

Oh, I wish we didn’t! But if I’m being honest, I admit that I’ve struggled with this and I’m wondering if I’m not alone.

We fall into a Christian comparison trap.

We compare our “Christian service,” our “good works,” our “ministries,” our “Kingdom efforts.”

We can’t see the treasures that are being stored up in Heaven, but we think we can maybe estimate how much we’ve earned… and we’d like to make sure it’s at least as much as so-and-so over there, if not a little more.

For example:

She leads a Bible study every Tuesday morning. She gives handouts with detailed notes to the ladies. Doggone, she even put a cute Pinterest graphic on the pretty paper. I’ve never led a Bible study. In fact, I don’t even want to go to hers.

She is so courageous. She follows God’s leading to the most intimidating places. Can you believe she spends time with the homeless on the streets of the inner city?! I don’t even like to drive to the grocery store after dark.

That woman must be a saint. She’s been teaching the preschool class at church for 16 years. She even sits on the floor with them and patiently wipes their grimy little noses. I barely survived my own children being preschoolers.

Are you kidding me? She’s moving to Honduras? She not only learned the Spanish language, she’s now going to uproot herself and work full-time in a orphanage in Tegucigalpa. No hablo Español.

We fall into this trap, even those of us who know better have been guilty of doing it.

And I believe this Christian comparison trap may be even more detrimental than comparing who has the best home décor.

Why is it so harmful to compare our service to God to the things we perceive others are doing for Him?

I believe it’s dangerous for several reasons:

1. We are discrediting who God made us to be.

Psalm 139:13-16 says;

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

We were not thrown together haphazardly. God created us each individually, not on a homosapien assembly line where we all came out looking the same and performing the same robotic tasks.

We are all unique and our days were ordained for us each individually.

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 says;

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

We don’t get a say in what gifts and talents we receive. We just have the enormous blessing of having the Holy Spirit to guide us and enable us to use what we’ve been given to work to glorify one God.

When we compare our spiritual gifts with those of another, we are backhandedly telling God that the gifts He gave us are not good enough.

God doesn’t make mistakes. God made you to be exactly who He wanted YOU to be.

2. We are in danger of harming the Body of Christ.

The tendency for those of us who compare ourselves to other Christians is to then allow the comparison to turn into jealousy, and jealousy can lead to resentment. When we are resenting a sister in Christ we are most likely not encouraging her.

As a body of believers we are called to build each other up so that together we can glorify God and His Kingdom.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says,

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…

We are all on the same team. You might wish you were a point-guard, but God gifted you as a center. Stop resenting the point-guard’s swift dribbling skills and cheer her on. Those dribbling skills are beneficial to your team.

It’s not about you.

It’s not even about her.

It’s about the team, the Body of Christ, and we all should be working together and spurring each other on to do our best.

1 Corinthians 12:21 states;

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Let’s all be team players. That’s how it was designed to be. We were created to be a team that works together for one wonderful purpose and for one worthy God.

3. We could be tempted to do nothing.

When we compare ourselves to other believers we fight the urge to throw in the proverbial towel.

We think, “Well, if I’m just over here changing diapers in the nursery and no one ever seems to care or notice, then forget it!” We think that since our ministry is behind-the-scenes and no one has ever asked to write a story about our efforts in the local newspaper, then maybe what we’re doing is not good enough.

Idleness is a dangerous thing.

Remember, we are all striving toward the same goal. We shouldn’t stop doing our part because we feel it’s perceived as “too small.” Nothing is too small for God to use. And even more, nothing that God uses is small!!

God desires our obedience and not an impressive resume of things we feel are worthy endeavors.

Hoses 6:6 says:

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

It’s not about the sacrifice, it’s about our hearts. It’s about our obedience to what God has asked us to do. It’s not about what my Christian friend is doing and if it’s seemingly more amazing than what I’m doing.

We are the hands of feet of Jesus and we can’t be twirling our thumbs in resentment toward another’s gifts while trying to stand in the same place as everyone else.

Let’s stop the Christian comparison game.

We all should be laying up treasures in Heaven. Let’s start thinking of the treasures as being in one big pile lying at our Master’s feet instead of separate piles glorying us as individuals.

And let’s remember what an honor it is to be on this team in the first place.

Counting My Blessings

DSC_0452My husband and I have a little tradition we keep each Christmas season. We make popcorn and snuggle up to watch the movie, White Christmas, together. Real men watch Bing Crosby dance… in case you didn’t know.

Each year I get teary-eyed as the snow falls at the end of the movie and as Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney’s characters realize they’ve fallen in love.

My love and I get certain song lyrics stuck in our heads for days after we’ve watched the movie. And actually, there’s one song I try to recall often throughout the year.

There is a scene where Bing and Rosemary’s characters can’t sleep. They too snuggle up with a snack and then they sing a beautiful song with the following lyrics,

When I’m worried and I can’t sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep
Counting my blessings

When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep
Counting my blessings

I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds

If you’re worried and you can’t sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you’ll fall asleep
Counting your blessings (Irving Berlin, 1954, White Christmas)  

I like those lyrics.

I admit that I don’t often live by them (or fall asleep by them!) Unfortunately, I sometimes find myself lying awake worrying about various things. Sometimes my concerns are valid and other times I’ve created imaginary scenarios that will never come to pass, but I spend time worrying about them anyway.

My worries or complaints don’t just occur as I’m trying to fall asleep. Sometimes I find myself complaining out loud during the day or fretting as my schedule becomes full.

 And that’s when I start counting.

I don’t count to three to try to regain my composure or to get one of my children to obey.

I don’t count how many items I have remaining on my to-do list.

I don’t count how many times I’ve lost my cool that day (or hour!)

 I count my blessings.

It’s a game changer, folks.

I’ve discovered that it’s hard to complain when you’re making a mental list of how many things have gone right for you on any given Tuesday afternoon. And even on terrible days, there’s always something that has been good.

I’ve found that it’s difficult to worry about the future when you’re looking around and naming all of the gifts you’ve been given in the present.

And I know that it’s hard to fret and bite your nails when you’re sinking your teeth into the blessings you’ve been fortunate enough to reap.

I have to admit that I don’t sound nearly as good as Bing Crosby or Rosemary Clooney when I sing this song in my head. But the attitude change that comes from putting these lyrics into practice sure does bring some beautiful harmony!

 

 

What A Mess.

I jolted upright in my bed awakened from a deep sleep by the sound of crying. I clumsily got up and walked down the hall in a stupor. The crying was coming from the Pepto Bismol pink bedroom of my girls. As I entered I continued to hear wailing sounds, saw two pj clad girls writhing on their beds and I smelled vomit.

What was happening here?

I kept blinking my eyes and tried to get a clear view of the situation. Had my girls gotten sick at the exact same moment? Who had tossed their cookies? Why were they both crying? What time was it? Why did it smell so awful?

I was so confused.

I continued to stand there assessing the damage. I tried to shake the fog of sleep out of my head.

The reports were coming in now and I was beginning to get word that one daughter had gotten sick and had made quite a go of it and had sprayed both beds. The other daughter was (understandably) crying because her pillow had been hit. As I continued to stand there looking back and forth from bed to bed the crying children got up and walked past me downstairs to get a drink of water. Thirty seconds later the youngest came back upstairs and said, “But Mama, where is our water?!”

At that moment I wasn’t really sure either.

Motherhood is like that for me. At times I see it with bright clear eyes and I feel like I’ve got things figured out for the time being.

Other times I have no idea what is going on.

Just the day before I had a brief moment where I felt like I not only had my head above the motherhood waters, but I was actually swimming along quite nicely. I had the laundry done, the house cleaned and my children were playing together outside in the sunshine. Yeah, I felt pretty good. I’ve got this.

And then the Pillow Puking happened and started a chain of events causing me little sleep and much frustration. One kid sick on the couch, laundry in nasty piles, a little one wanting another breakfast and a son asking me questions about the Iroquois Indians for a school project.

I go from feeling like all is calm and under control to feeling stretched thin. Sometimes in a matter of minutes. Okay… seconds.

But I’ve been learning that it’s just going to be like that. I’m never going to have it “done.” I’ll never be “all caught up.” It’s not like I can accomplish all the needs and demands of motherhood and then just sit back and feel the wind on my face as I smoothly sail through these years.

On the contrary, it’s a bumpy, smelly, mess.

I don’t want to wait to feel good about my life and my role as a mom until my kids are grown and the laundry piles are small and simple.

I don’t want to feel like I’m failing just because my kitchen table is covered in toys.DSC_0717

I don’t want to base my worth on appearances-whether it be of my home or my family, but instead I want to realize how much the mess is worth to me.

So I roll up my sleeves and hold my daughter’s hair as she looses her lunch once again. I act like I care deeply about Native American festivals and I put peanut butter on crackers for yet another snack time.

This place is a mess and there’s much work to be done. That’s the way it’s going to be.

And what a privilege it is to be the mom of this mess!

One In A Million.

My son’s bus came to a sliding stop this morning on the ice rink/road near our home. As my boy started to make his way up the steps and on to school, I jokingly reminded him of his teacher’s name. I was only half-kidding. Due to snow and cold weather our local schools have been closed as much as they’ve been open this winter. It’s been crazy.

Crazy… and kind of fun.

Did you hear that? It’s the sound of many of my local friends clicking the “unfriend” button. It seems from the status updates of many that I am alone in my enjoyment of this crazy snow and winter schedule.

In case anyone is still reading, let me explain.

I’ve not loved it all.

I’ve been frustrated with the lack of schedule. I’ve been bored with the monotony of the same scenery, same people, same things to be done day-in and snowy day-out. I’ve been challenged to keep a kind attitude and gentle voice when disciplining my kids for the umpteenth time over the same disagreement. And I’ve been just plain cold!

But there are many things that I’ve actually enjoyed about being snowed in with my people. Granted, I’m a stay-at-home mom and so I’ve not had the difficulty of juggling a work schedule with these snow days. For those who have, kuddos for making it happen! You are amazing. But, like I said, I’ve just had more people at home with me lately.

And, I live in a heated home with people that I actually like to be with quite a bit. So, more time with them has been a bonus for me.

I know, I’m probably losing more of you. You’ve had enough and simply can’t stand to hear any more of someone stopping to smell the proverbial roses.

But just indulge me a tiny bit longer. I don’t want you to miss it.

I don’t want you to miss the beauty in all of this snow. Yes, I know it’s a pain. I’ve personally helped push a stranger’s car out of a snow drift (Have you seen my muscles? If so, you’re doubting that last statement… but I had help!) I’ve slipped on ice and had a sore body. I’ve been delayed and stuck. It’s not all been wonderful.

But I’ve seen beauty in it.

Yesterday I was outside with my kiddos as they worked on building yet another snow fort. While they were busy playing I had my face about two inches from the snow, just staring at it as the sun was bouncing off of it. And it took my vaporized breath away.

When I stopped to look at the snow, and I mean REALLY look at it, I could actually see the individual snowflakes piled on top of each other making up the frozen tundra that is now our yard.

And it was beautiful.

ALL of that snow and I could see one little flake. One in a million. One in a billion.

One. Beautiful. Snowflake.

Now, I’m not a photographer, but I got my camera and snapped away. My photos don’t do it justice, but they will give you the idea.

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Beautiful. Each snowflake is beautiful. And usually we miss them. We miss the forest for the trees. We see how this snow has wrecked our schedules, cars, and sanity, but we miss the beauty it has sprinkled along the way.

The beauty of more time with those whom we love the most.

The beauty of anticipation of routine and of Spring.

The beauty of quiet, slower days that force us to stop the chaos and be still for a moment.

The beauty of gratitude for things we usually take for granted, like school teachers and calendars.

The beauty of the snow.

The beauty of one single snowflake. One in a million.

What Are You Wearing?

When I was pregnant with my second child, my son was about three-and-a-half years old. And you know what they say about kids that age… “Inquiring minds want to know.” Right?

Karson had all kinds of questions about the baby that was soon to be joining our family. One day he asked me what kind of clothes the baby was wearing inside my belly. I smiled and told him that actually the baby didn’t have any clothes on at all.

“You mean she’s neck-ed!?!?” Karson exclaimed.

And when I confirmed that yes, she was in fact naked, he erupted into hysterical laughter. Apparently, when you’re a three-year-old boy, this is very funny stuff.

Karson went on to tell several people over the following months that we had a baby in the family that wasn’t wearing anything. Most of the time this was funny… and a few times a little awkward.

Our baby was coming into this world with nothing. Not a piece of clothing or material possession to her name. And she wasn’t the first to do so.

This reminds me of Job 1:21,

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

When do we start to forget this? Or perhaps the better question is, why don’t we try to remember it?

Somewhere in life we start to believe that our material possessions define our worth. We forget that life is about praising the name of the Lord, and we start to think it’s all about us. We want more. We feel we need certain things and perhaps think we even deserve them. We become discontent.

Contentment seems to be a hard thing for many of us to grasp. Maybe we get a grip on it momentarily, but then there it goes, fleeing quickly and leaving us wanting more.

Contentment equals godliness. That’s a pretty big deal.

Paul speaks of this when he is writing to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:6-11:

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.”

And Paul knew what he was talking about. He had found the secret to contentment. He said so himself in Philippians 4:12-13:

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

DSC_0718Christ gives us strength. It is through him that we are satisfied. It is through Christ that we find true contentment. Every other blessing and thing we are given on this earth is just a bonus.

Let’s face it. We all entered this world “neck-ed” as could be. Maybe we need to be reminded of that.

But what are we wearing today?

May we learn to clothe ourselves with Christ’s strength as we pursue true contentment.

And actual clothes aren’t a bad idea either.