April 21, 2015

A Hiking Family: A Fabulous Portable Lunch

Lately, most of our exercise and fun activity has involved half day hikes, though some children might take exception to my definition of "fun".  We have two reasons:  the weather is still nice and cool in the morning (and by cool, I mean less than 80 deg) so that we won't risk sun stroke;  and my hubby and oldest will be hiking down into the Grand Canyon on a rim-to-rim backpacking hike as part of their Boy Scout Troop in October, so they need to train for it.

We have also been hiking as a family more.  Last month, we camped at Picacho Peak, about 90 minutes southeast of Phoenix just off of the freeway between Phoenix and Tucson.   We were planning to hike the trail listed as strenuous for those in reasonably good shape and insanely strenuous for those of us who have been slacking lately.  We knew this trail would require a lunch stop, requiring at lest four hours to get to the pinnacle and return, so I went to my Pinterest Camping board to see what I could find for portable lunches.  I found a series of lunch recipes from Wild Backpacker and decided upon trying out the Ford Wrap, which is the second from the bottom.  It is basically a flour tortilla with cream cheese and smoked salmon, which is easy to prepare, doesn't take much space in the backpack and isn't overly filling.  I added fresh spinach for some extra iron and crunch.  We ate it as a lunch just before we began what became a rather arduous ascent. Immediately, we all felt so much better as the salmon provided salt and protein and the tortilla added carbs and we decided to make this our staple for long hikes.

This weekend, we camped at Chiricahua (pronounce Chih-ri-KAH-wah) Nation Monument, where a mountain rises from the desert valley hiding so many beautiful standing rock formations made of weathered ryolite (petrified volcanic ash).  We stranded together trails eight miles long, mostly downhill. It involved being driven to a peack called Echo Point by our friendly, neighborhood Forest Ranger and walking to the base of the mountain, where the campsite lay.  Once again, because we knew this would take us past lunchtime, we brought ingredients for the Ford Wrap.  This time, instead of cream cheese, I decided to use a garlic white bean paste recipe from A Little Bit Crunchy (A Little Bit Rock n'Roll), the last five ingredients.  The pannini recipe is also fabulously tasty.  The white been paste added some extra flavor and some extra carbs.  Once again, it gave us a lot of energy and it didn't have any milk products for those in our family who are mildly lactose intolerant.

My next blog post will have more details about our hikes with pictures.

January 16, 2015

Forgiveness vs. Restoration

This post is a result of several memes and conversations involving forgiveness.

The goal of relationships is to keep building upon them, whether family or friends, because Jesus told us that our #2 job as humans is to love our neighbor as ourselves.  But everyone is full of sin and so there are times when relationships are broken by selfishness.  When something happens, confession (acknowledging your sin/mistakes), repentance (a desire and effort made to change your behavior), and forgiveness can repair the damage and restore the relationship.  Jesus commands us to forgive others because, through his sacrifice, God forgives us our sins and he tells a story to demonstrate how seriously God is about requiring us to forgive others as He has forgiven us.  Here is a really funny video that tells Jesus' story:

However, I don't think that forgiveness always leads to restoration of the relationship, or at least not immediate restoration.  Some hurts are deeper than others and need more work from God to heal.  Some relationships are unhealthy because one person is a user or a bully and either they don't see it or they are unapologetic, which is functional unrepentance.  They are not safe people.

I had to drop a friendship this week that had started in the summer because the person revealed herself to be a bully who wouldn't listen.  The start of the conflict did involve me--I was a guilty party;  however, I acknowledged my poor behavior to her, apologized to her, told her I would change and made the changes.  I did all I could to restore peace and the relationship.  Her subsequent actions toward me, all antagonistic, demonstrated that she hadn't forgiven me.  As a result, the relationship was broken.  Each time she was unkind, the Holy Spirit gave me the strength to live out Ephesians 4:31-32 and forgive her unkind words and deeds because there was going to be a day when we had to work together.  The day arrived.  God blessed me with the ability to see the humor in the situation and gave me His love for her so that I was able to make peace overtures to her.  She responded with appreciation.  A couple more phone calls followed and she seemed to welcome the chance to talk about what happened.  I desired to meet with her in person and made a phone call to set up a time and place.  The phone conversation became troubling.  Instead of respecting my request to have the conversation in person, she started throwing accusations at me, for which I had already offered an apology.  The few minutes I was able to speak and give her my perspective, she responded with justifications for her actions and followed up with a renewed attack on me.  She demonstrated that she was unwilling to listen to or acknowledge the role she played in the conflict and in turning a resolvable issue into a raging inferno that burned everyone involved.   My trust in her, which was already waning because of the past problems absolutely disintegrated.

So I am in the process of forgiving her for stuff said in this conversation, and forgiving her again of her past hurts, which were resurrected as a result of the conversation.  I forgive her even though she is unrepentant, because I know that by releasing her into God's hands, I am freeing myself from her influence and can receive God's peace.  And because I want grow up to be just like my Heavenly Daddy, who is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

But in this case, restoration is not likely to happen.  The consequences of her behavior and attitude is that I have no desire to speak to her and she lives far enough away that it is possible to successfully avoid each other.  I am grieving, as much for the end of this relationship as for the fact that it will likely also affect our daughters, who became good friends over the past nine months.  Before I came to this conclusion, I did pray about it, because I know how much importance He places on relationships.  He reminded me that at the cross Jesus forgave his enemies because he knew they were blind, pitiful fools, but when he rose again, there is no Biblical record that he visited the people who had called for his crucifixion.  And yet, I also know that with God, anything is possible, and if he can bring a dead man back to life, he can resurrect a dead relationship.  I am leaving it in His capable hands.

You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
    for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.
--Isaiah 26:3-4

January 1, 2015

Not Another Resolution Blog

Last week, my husband challenged the family to set one goal, which is NOT the same thing as a resolution.  His explanation is that a resolution is something that you are going to try and do.  A goal is something you work to achieve.  In the past, I have tried to focus on one thing, through encouragement via oneword365.  Last year, the word was presence and the year before, it was joy. Looking back, I think I focused better on joy in 2014 than 2013.  This year, I didn't do very well with presence, though we made steps toward that goal near the end of it.  It is very hard to practice presence when you are overloaded with things to do.  I know people who can do a lot more than I can and part of me feels like a wimp for not being able to do so much.  But then I remember that there was a time when I was doing as much as they were and it made me impatient, grumpy, unable to focus and eventually, sleepless.  So now I am dialing it WAY down to recover before slowly, prayerfully, adding more things to do.  This year, my goal is focus--focus on my family, focus on small, daily activities and no more than one goal during the year.  Focus means that I need to get off the computer because it has become the enemy of being focused as well as the enemy of being present, at least the way I use it.  So you will be seeing me less on Facebook, Pinterest and other social media and maybe even less on the blog (though I am not very consistent on this).  What I need to do next is write down all the things I would like to do and figure out my goal for the year.

Happy New Year!

December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

Last year, we didn't send out cards except maybe to family and there was no Christmas letter.  The year before that I was crazily trying to get as many cards out as possible.  The business of our lives with activities is the culprit.  This year, I am posting the Christmas letter to my blog and sharing it on Facebook and Google+ for those of you not on Facebook.  For those few relatives who either refuse to use computers or are unable, I will send the Christmas letter with their card.

Easter 2014

December 4, 2014

Getting off the Gerbil Wheel

I wrote a while back about having a bit of a breakdown, that made me realize that I was trying to do it all, and I might add, do it all perfectly.  The purpose of the breakdown was to show me how wrong I was, not just about my abilities, but also my desire to even try.  In some ways, it is a message our society sends to us, making us think that we are not doing enough when we are doing more than we should.  Pinterest and all those other "helpful" articles about how to "do things better" only fuel the inner perfectionist, which should be killed quickly and decisively whenever it resurrects.  So the good news is that I have uncovered yet another disguise of perfectionism and through Christ, my battle against it is being won.

Our family has been working hard to get off the gerbil wheel of activities.  Kyle's baseball season is over and we are taking a break from official games, which means one less thing to do Wednesdays and on weekends.  Jessi's First LEGO League tournament is over and we have our Monday and Thursday afternoons back.  Elizabeth's aerial's performance is next week, which will involve three days and that activity won't be renewed, mainly because we will in the near future be dealing with the extra costs of her having a driving permit.  John is the only one who still has two activities, Cub Scouts and Tae Kwon Do, but both of those at this point are only one day each.  The gerbil wheel of activties is being dismantled.  We are seeing positive affects on our family, which is even better news.

In the past three weeks, however, I have discovered another type of gerbil wheel as I have had to deal with increasing interpersonal conflict in one of the kids' activities and that is a gerbil wheel of the thoughts.  As a person seemed to become increasingly hostile, God gave me several orders, each of which were difficult and could only be done by the Holy Spirit changing my pride-filled, natural self:

  1. Philippians 4:8--Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever, is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, focus on those things. 
  2. Ephesians 4:31-32--Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander and every form of malice.  Instead, be kind and compassionate, forgiving each other just as in Christ Jesus, God forgave you.
The gerbil wheel of the mind is the bad stuff listed in the Ephesians passage as well as the critical attitude that goes against Philippians 4:8.  When we are in tough situations, it is so easy to fall into griping and anger and bitterness and to view ourselves as the "innocent victim" rather than the co-collaborator.  In this situation, I know that I was definitely a co-collaborator.  I also know that at the beginning of the conflict, I made every attempt to make peace by acknowledging what I knew at the time to be my sins, asking forgiveness and and asking the person to bring up any other offensive conduct on my part so that I could work on my conduct.  And yet it the conflict became worse.  The person stopped talking to me.  So I clung to these two verses and whenever the gerbil wheel invited me to get on, I made a Philippians 4:8 list of the person's good qualities and I forgave the person for any offenses against me.  The immediate affect was that whenever I actually did that, I felt peace regarding the situation, because I knew God was working in it and He was helping me.  He also transformed my mind so that I was able to feel kindness and compassion for the other person, rather than letting bitterness set in.  And this was really important because there came a time when we were generally avoiding each other because the situation was becoming too hard. However, we both knew the day was coming in which we would have to face each other.  And once again, when that day came, God helped me by waking me up with a vision of the humor in the situation--it really probably reads like a bad "womance*" novel if I went into all the detail.  I could laugh at myself and at the absurdity of it, which is just the first victory.  And because He had been training me, when we did end up looking each other in the eye, I was able to offer a compliment--one of the many "excellent and praiseworthy" things upon which I dwelt--as a peace offering.  I saw the person relax and we were able to talk again peaceably.  So the Prince of Peace worked his "magic" on two stubborn people through His word.   What a great Christmas present!  And as a result, we will be getting together to evaluate what went wrong so that we can both learn from the experience and so that our friendship can grow.  

Not to us, Lord, not to us
    but to your name be the glory,
    because of your love and faithfulness.
Psalm 115:1

* if guys can have a "bromance", women should be able to have a "womance".  And the plot of all bad romance novels is that the boy and girl meet  and like each other but some misunderstanding threatens their relationship because they refuse to talk to each other about the situation until the very end, when all details are wrapped up nicely and they live happily ever after.  I hate bad romance novels.  And this situation, even though good came of it, had some negative consequences, both for the adults and for the kids involved in the activity that only God can redeem.

October 4, 2014

Review of "Run Wild. Live Free Love Strong" by For King and Country

For the last few months, "Fix My Eyes" by For King and Country has been playing on Air1, whetting my appetite for the rest of their album.  The combination of great rhythm and encouraging lyrics create a great get-you-out-of-bed song.  And on the album, they include a drum prelude to "Fix My Eyes" that makes a great song even better.  I "got" the album for my birthday, as a pre-order, but had to wait for a couple of months to truly have the music.  I am not disappointed.  The songs on the album are meant to encourage people going through rough times, though they aren't treacly platitudes wrapped up in soothing maranatha chords.  The words are no-nonsense:

  • "It takes a soldier who knows his orders to walk the walk I'm supposed to walk" (Fix My Eyes)
  • "Beat up but won't be broken; lonesome but always searching; homesick but nobody's heading home soon." (To the Dreamers)
  • "What do you do when you don't get better?  Strong arms, get too, get too weak to hold on..." (Without you, featuring Courtney)

The music is complicated, with rhythms created by so many different instruments, including vocals.  They tend to have the music counterpoint the hardness and despair in the lyrics, both through the rhythms and including bits of chimes/xylophone and other sweeter instruments to lead us to the place where God is there to comfort and heal us, a little bit at  a time.  

But the album is not only about hard places.  "To the Dreamers", "Fix My Eyes" and "This is Love" are anthems for living out the life God has given us and loving the people He has brought into our lives as the album's title envisions.  

The one song on the album that has been speaking to me most, however, is called, "Matter", mainly because of the words.  I started by making a slideshow on Google.  When my husband saw it, he liked it enough to encourage me to make a lyrics video.  I used Windows MovieMaker to create the video.

The video is dedicated to anyone who has experienced tremendous loss, anyone who is struggling to find hope in hopeless situations, to anyone who thinks that God has forgotten them and for those who think that He cannot love them because of what they have done. 
 {Hugs} to you all.


September 17, 2014

Breakdown of a "Supermom"

There is so much that I want to do.  There is only one problem.  Actually there are several problems.  I have limited time.  I have limited energy.  I have limited resources.  The warp drive and transporter beam that would allow us to get to places instantaneously still have not been invented.  I can't be in two places at once.

Kevin Lehman has a book entitled It's Your Kid, Not a Gerbil."  I haven't read it, but I have heard him referenced at various times and it touches on the question of how busy should we make our kids.  Of course, unless you only have one child, busy kids mean even busier parents.   We have four kids, each involved in one or two activities.  Of course, some of those activities require multiple days.  And I can justify each activity in which they participate. And generally, each individual kid does get down time, though Eric and I don't as much because we are coordinating our schedules to make sure our kids get to their activities on time.  If our kids are gerbils, then we are hummingbirds.

Every year, in addition to homeschooling, taking care of the house and kids, attending church and church events and trying to get the kids to their appointed activities on time, I have tried to do something "for myself."  Every year, I try something that doesn't seem like it would take that much time.  Every year, I get totally slammed and stressed out.  As our schedule has continually become stretched to the breaking point at times, something inside has been telling me that the things which Eric and I are putting our attention are meaningless and possibly destructive to our family. However, up until now,  I have had a hard time really putting these feelings into words because I haven't been able to pinpoint the root or even if what I have been thinking/feeling is right.  I have tried to fix things, I have tried to change the way I handle the situations, I have tried everything I know to make the situations better.  But there is only so much I can do.  I have tried talking to my husband about it, but if I can't put it into words, how can I expect him to understand me?

Up until a few weeks ago, I felt trapped in a gerbil wheel of my own making, but there didn't seem to be an exit.  I felt empty, like all I had to give had been spent and I had been burning through reserves for the last two years.  God is my helper and my source of strength, but I don't think that when He had Paul write, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13) He meant, "Over-commit your time and energy and use what I give you to barely get through it."  I started to break down and I could see in my kid's behavior that something was wrong with them, too.

I know that within five years, two of my kids will be off to college and life might get simpler for us, but do I really want the last few years of my life to be so busy doing that I miss out on being with my kids and enjoying them?  Do I want to tell my kids through my decisions and my actions that our value comes in doing and not in being with people?  No!  Definitely no!  Positively no!  As I went through a really bad couple of weeks, I realized that I could do one of two things.  I could keep MacGuyvering my life with emotional duct tape, chewing gum and hair pins or I could allow myself to break down, let the pieces fall into God's hands and let Him fix the brokenness I had created.

“Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves;
    therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty.
18 For he wounds, but he binds up;
    he shatters, but his hands heal.
Job 5:17-18

Good News!  God finally gave me the words and had been speaking to Eric so that when I finally was able to speak them, he listened.