When the Words Won’t Come

When I’m in a place that feels hard and confusing,  it helps me to write. So I sit down to do it, but the words won’t come.

My husband asks why I’m not smiling and why I am listening to my “sad music”.  I want to talk to him, but I don’t know what to say because I don’t understand either. I feel a big lump in my throat, and the words won’t come.

I have the dearest friends to talk to. But I find myself pulling away a little.  I struggle alone for a while, because the words won’t come.

So I take some time and look for the words. I search my soul. I pray. I read. I cry. I think. It always takes longer than I want it to.  But I keep searching for the words to express what’s happening until they are there. And in the meantime, I ask for grace and patience from those that mean the most to me when the words won’t come.

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Video Game Reset

Over the last several weeks we noticed that our three kids were spending more and more time on their electronics, mostly playing games and watching videos. It just seemed to become a constant thing and we were feeling like crummy parents over it. The whole “limiting screen time” thing is something we’d really like to happen. But when you have three kids that are going all different directions all day, it is impossible for a parent, or a child for that matter, to keep track of and document screen time every day.  Just doesn’t work.

Recently my husband Nathan said to me, “Do you think we should just say no to video games for a while?” I was quick to jump on board. We loved the fact that we were about to start Easter Week and our time of “no games” could correspond.

On Palm Sunday morning, I sat the kids down to explain to them what we wanted to start for the next seven days. I told them that no one was in trouble at all, but that we’d noticed that video games and idle time on electronics had become too big of a focus. I told them that we wanted to do somewhat of a “reset” and spend the next week without video games, youtube videos and other electronic time-sucks. The older two would still have their phones for texting and calling, but no games. (They don’t text much anyway. It’s mostly with us.) Everyone could still use the computer and school ipads for homework and we could watch television together, but that was all.

I was shocked that all three of them listened and then said okay. No one huffed, eye-rolled or acted irritated. No one asked a lot of questions like they were planning to try to get by with technicalities.

And all week it was never an issue. I didn’t find anyone breaking the rule. No one snuck around or complained. Two of my kids spent a lot more time reading. There was more conversation in the car. And my son Samuel told me he was surprised that he didn’t really miss it.  On Good Friday, I smiled to myself as I heard the three kids playing a card game upstairs together.

Now the “electronic reset” is over. The kids have no restrictions, and my son was back to playing a game in the car on the way to school today. I’m not sure what the long-term results will be, if any. But I hope that we will be more thoughtful about finding better balance. And I hope that the kids are learning that in life, sometimes things get out of balance and you may need to force yourself to reset and re-evaluate: your diet, your spending, and other things that become habits and patterns.

How to Iron Less

I consider myself to be a fairly capable housewife. But we all have our weaknesses, and ironing is for sure one of mine. I stink at it and I loathe it.

My husband early on in our marriage picked up a shirt from his closet and said “Doesn’t this need to be ironed?” Then he saw my face. He said “Oh, you already ironed this? ” Obviously he couldn’t tell.

Ironing is certainly not my special gift.  So I’m constantly on the hunt for tips and ideas to cut back on the amount of ironing I have to do. Here are some suggestions I put together for you:

1.Avoid ironing so long that people outgrow the clothes.

Meaning there is no reason to iron them.

2. Shame family members who wear clothes that need to be ironed.

They’ll be less likely to make that mistake again.

3. Put the ironing pile back in the dryer.

While staring directly into the face of having to iron, the clothes will come out of the dryer looking pretty good.

4. Put the ironing pile back in the washer.

This won’t get rid of the wrinkles at all, but it will make the ironing pile go away for a little while.

5. Put the ironing pile in the trash can.

Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.

 

Or if you are a newlywed starting out, you could try my all-time favorite ironing tip that my Meme shared with me several years ago:

6. Burn and completely ruin your husband’s shirt the first time you iron for him.

He will decide that you don’t know how to iron and take his clothes to the cleaners forever. Problem solved.

Hold Up My Hands

Moses in the Bible was a man that God used mightily because of his obedience.  In one part of the story, Moses and the Israelites he led were being attacked by the army of Amalek.  God told Moses to carry and use a special staff, and with it he was able to perform many miracles. In this case, when Moses held up his staff, Joshua and the Israelite army were winning the battle. But when he lowered his staff, the Amalekites were winning . (See Exodus 17.) So Moses had to hold that staff up a long time, and his arms got really tired.

Have you ever grown really tired in battle? You can be completely obeying God and yet do something for so long without seeing the end results that you grow weary. We all grow weary, and I think God understands this. Because do you know what he did for Moses?

Exodus 17: 12-13 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.  So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. 

Moses needed help. He was tired and weary, and he couldn’t do this thing on his own. He had other people that literally held up his hands for him so that he could finish. Have you ever had someone to hold up your hands? Have you ever held up theirs? I know I’ve been in both roles.

When I imagine how Moses must have felt, I think of a time in my life when I couldn’t finish something that God asked me to do with the gusto that I started it with. I was so weary and worn in this task that I was a mess. But a few friends came along to hold up my hands.  I was discouraged and even doubting if I was still doing what God wanted at all.  When I shared what was going on with my friends, I figured they would also conclude that I was no longer in God’s will, or simply agree with my discouragement and deem the situation a lost cause.  But instead they brought me a stone to sit on and held up my hands.

They immediately saw the weight of my burden and began carrying it with me so that I could complete what God had given me to do. Have you ever reached a point where you no longer even knew how to pray about something? This is when you rely on the Holy Spirit to intercede for you. (Romans 8:26) But it’s also when you need your friends to pray for you and with you, because they can do so with the confidence and passion that you may not be feeling in your weak moments. The holding up of someone’s hands may be in the  form of prayers, texts of encouragement,  speaking truths they need to be reminded of, distracting them with something ridiculous, listening, sending food, and on and on. I’m so glad that like Moses, I have people to hold up my hands when I need help. And I consider it an honor to hold up the hands of others in their weak moments.

What Hovers Above

A few days ago, there were several sheriff vehicles driving and parked all around where we live. They were looking for a couple of guys who had run from them. We made sure our doors were locked and tried to go about our business as usual. But then we heard the helicopter. It hovered over the area for quite a while searching.  As it would come near to the house and I’d hear the sound louder, little feelings of fear would creep into my mind. It was a constant and unwelcome reminder of something out there that was unknown and scary. It was hard not to focus on the fear when I heard the helicopter.

There are a lot of scary things in our world, and sometimes there are unwelcome reminders hovering over us. The news we read and watch is a good example. It’s good to be informed, but sometimes too much information or a focus on it can cause a fearful response. It’s a constant reminder that fearful things are out there, and looming over us in our world.

I generally don’t let myself go to those places of fear. I quickly combat them with prayer. Sometimes a situation requires a response in order to keep you safe or informed as a citizen. But the responses you choose solely out of fear will often cause trouble. One of my very favorite verses in the Bible in 2 Corinthians 4:18 says “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” The stuff that’s hovering over your house, our country or this world is temporary. God does not want you to live in fear. Fix your eyes on what is eternal.

Growing My Circle

I have never had or wanted very many really close friends. I have lots of acquaintances and people that I genuinely like and enjoy on various levels. But I’ve kept a small inner friend circle, and I’ve liked it that way. By small, I mean that I’m not even sure at some points in my life it would have counted as a circle. It might have been more like 2 points on a line.

Over the last couple of years God has started growing my circle and I’ve been a bit surprised. Actually, I’ve even resisted. I tried to tell God that I didn’t need more people because I was scared. I was concerned that if I let them in, I wouldn’t be able to be the kind of friend that I wanted to what felt like “all these people“. And besides, there’s pain involved when someone leaves your circle. I’ve felt that pain as I’m sure you have too, and it tempts me to guard my heart and just hold hands very tightly with those in my tiny circle, refusing to grow it.

But God challenged this introvert to be bold, make some more space and take some relationship risks. God started bringing people into my life. They weren’t needy “Hi. Will you be my friend?” kinda people at all. They were just, well… there. Walking life beside me. Investing in our families together, or our church together. I wasn’t out to find them. I certainly didn’t pull them in with my welcoming and dynamic personality. But at some point along the journey, I looked up and realized they had become my people.

And now I cannot believe how many close friends I have in my life. I cannot believe how God has grown and changed me to create a bigger circle than I would have ever expected. And can I just tell you how amazing my people are? My people want to take me away for girls weekend and plan trips together and be our neighbors. They tell me I’m still lovable even when I’m mad. They teach me to apply eyeliner and invest in my children as their own. My people pout as much as me when we don’t have time in the week for lunch together. They seek my advice, and they can handle my honesty because they don’t misunderstand my heart. They talk me away from the ledge, encourage me to “just post it”, and give me the honor of praying for their specific requests.

How much richer my life is because of these friends. I look around and can’t imagine trimming down my circle. Somehow there can be enough space for everyone God brings into your life no matter your personality. I’m so glad for my growing circle.

 

An Awkward Conversation I’d Rather Not Have

This is a post unlike any I have written or hope to write again. But I have been feeling God nudge me to tell you this for weeks. Okay, actually pushing me quite forcefully now. Part of what makes this conversation even more difficult is that we are very restricted with the wording we are able to use, which will make some of the below sound even more unnatural even though I am trying to be quite honest.

Many of you know that we are full-time missionaries with  Wycliffe. All of our income is from church and individuals that partner with us monthly or with one-time gifts.  They send in money to Wycliffe and then Wycliffe pays us. It is a challenge and true faith-builder not knowing from month-to-month what our income will be. We are currently have one church partner, our home church. We are incredibly blessed with family and friends that support us and even help out in extra ways for our family. God has always taken care of us.

What exactly is this work I speak of? Nathan is the International OneStory Services Coordinator for our organization. He coordinates 75 projects around the world that are getting God’s story into  languages that have never heard it. He’s also the direct coordinator for the Americas Area, supervising the training and consulting for 15 projects in the Americas. He travels internationally about 12 weeks out of the year. When he’s not traveling, he works from an at-home office where he can do everything through email, Skype meetings and shared databases and documents. Technology is amazing, right?

Over the last couple of years, we’ve lost several monthly contributors, mostly who’ve passed away. Our finances have steadily decreased and we’ve barely squeaked by at the end of the last couple of years. This is especially a problem as our kids get older and it costs more now for our family to live. We really need more monthly income, and when people are able to let us know that they can give even a small amount each month, it gives us an idea of what to expect. There are also one-time needs, like medical things and braces for two of our kids, that we’ve put on hold because we could not add anything extra. We recently received an extra gift that is a good start towards the braces and have decided to move forward with that.

I hate asking people for money for anything. But God has taught me some things over the last several years in this area:

  • Some of you that I consider dear friends may have no idea that this is how we live and that partnering with us is even an option if I haven’t told you.
  • People can’t give to a need that they are not aware of.
  • There is a blessing you can receive from being a part of what God is doing around the world. We are all called to play different roles in spreading the gospel. If you are called to give, then I can rob you of this blessing by not giving you the opportunity.
  • Nathan and I struggle and have lots of dialogue with God over how and when to communicate these things.  It is more about my obedience to him than it is about your response anyway.

Well, now that’s out. If you do want to respond to this in some way, here are some options.

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