The Incidental No

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I’ve gotten a lot better at saying no in the last couple of years. It’s easy now to say no to things that I’m not that good at, are not an efficient use of my time, or that become a source of frustration.

But there are some other things that are still hard to say no to. These are the things that I’m good at. The things that are in my area of expertise  that I could almost do with my eyes closed. People tend to expect these things of me.

But I can’t say yes to all of these things. Because there is only room for a certain number of yeses, and a misguided yes could cause a default no that I  don’t really want to see happen.

If you add a new yes without creating space for it with a new no, you will end up with what I’ll call an incidental no that you probably won’t like.

By not making choices carefully, the things you cut out of your life will likely be the last things you would have chosen. Here are some of the things that I want to always be a yes, but end up being an incidental no when I’m overbooked.

  • Being fully present for at least some time daily with the members of my family.
  • Having enough patience for my family.
  • Regular alone-time with Jesus.
  • Feeling good about myself at the end of the day.

Make sure you don’t just choose your yeses, but also choose your noes. Otherwise they will choose themselves, and nobody wants that.

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Desires of Your Heart

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What does it mean for God to give you the desires of your heart?

This has been on my mind a lot lately.  I’ve been praying, searching and studying the scriptures to remind myself of what God has to say. I wrote down scriptures that speak to me and used those to make my prayers more specific. If you haven’t tried this approach you should, because it can really give clarity and definition to your prayers.

I have personal dreams and desires in my heart at this stage that I want to see happen. Honestly, this is something I haven’t experienced in quite a while.  Earlier in life I pursued college scholarships, rushing to get my college degree in three years, marrying my man and starting a family. Once I did all that, I kind of stopped dreaming for myself for a while. Maybe you’ve been there too. Or maybe you had a better balance and kept pursuing the desires of your heart during that whole phase. I believe I didn’t necessarily neglect myself, but that I was just in a different season with different focuses than now.

And now I’m starting to find me again.  There’s a person in here that has unique opinions, convictions and concerns. She got a bit bogged down and buried in learning to be a wife, completing a project overseas, and surviving the first decade or so of child-raising. She still loves all that stuff, but she’s again becoming a whole person without all of that too. God still has me somewhat confused in this process and I have more questions than answers.  But I do know that I must incorporate into my life doing things that I love.

I’ve found the need to choose each yes very carefully, and not for the obvious reason of simply not having enough time for everything. I also need to leave time for doing what I love and look for opportunities to work and serve in ways that are actually in the areas I’m passionate about. And through this process, I firmly believe that the desires of my heart will be fulfilled, or that God will shape and change those desires into something different that he has for me.

A Letter To My Daughter On Her 13th Birthday

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This is a letter I wrote to my daughter on the day she turned 13. I am sharing it with you with her full permission.

Dear Abigail,

You are now a teenager. And I thought I’d done this all before because your brother came first. But yet somehow, it’s so very different with you.

I watch you and I see reflected back at me the girl I was at your age. My insecurities, struggles, and questions. You are so quiet and observant, processing things internally. My Meme always told me that my eyes were telling on me, and yours certainly do the same thing.  I love reading your eyes because they tell me so much more about your feelings than the few words you’ll say. But sometimes it’s hard to face the reality of what your eyes tell me.  It is heartbreaking to know that there’s nothing I can do, or nothing I  should do, to take away those feelings you have. I can’t keep you from experiencing this life for yourself and growing into who you’ll be on your own, even though sometimes it is tempting.

You see, there’s a lot of stuff in this growing up process that I wish you could skip. I’d like to just tell you everything you should know and somehow have you take my word for it rather than learning the hard way.  I guess I want to save you some pain, but selfishly I think it’s more about saving me the pain of having to watch. Because ultimately for you, the temporary hurts and hard lessons will make your life grander and richer. So we must both endure, and sometimes I just have to keep my mouth shut.

I remember some days as a teen where my heart was breaking. I thought my feelings were silly and trivial and that I probably shouldn’t feel them so I said nothing to anyone. You are one of the toughest people I know, and it’s a quality that demonstrates amazing strength. You push through physical pain so much of the time. You are able to set emotions aside to do hard things. But I need you to know that you don’t have to be tough all the time.  The thought of you feeling that kind of heartbreak and keeping it all to yourself is so hard for me.  I would do anything to help you understand that I want to share in your broken heart, and that carrying it alone will hurt so much worse.   I wish I could be the safe place for you to let those things out. But if I am not that place, I pray that you’ll find another healthy and safe person or outlet for those feelings.  I know I’ll  have to let you do it your way. but please don’t be tough all the time.

I want to tell you that it’s going to get better. That middle school is filled with braces and puberty and hormones and trying out for the team. It’s figuring out how to act and what to do. You’re looking for your niche, and you’re paranoid about everything. And in a couple of years, all of your growing up problems don’t just magically go away, but they are so much better. You just have to hang in there for this part of life. When you don’ t make the team, I’m so over-the-moon proud of you for trying. I’m beaming that you were brave enough to go for it when it wasn’t a slam dunk. And more importantly, I hope that you’re proud of yourself.

There are qualities in you that are starting to fade. The world is taking them from you by telling you that it’s not what everyone else is doing, or that there are others who do it better than you. I don’t know if this is just a phase of the paranoid middle-schooler or if you are conforming to the world’s desires. I’m praying that you’ll land somewhere within the balance of how God made you and how he is trying to shape you. Please don’t let the world take your uniqueness away from you. The thought of this world losing the person that I’ve seen in you is heartbreaking. This world needs the real you, so please be brave and don’t conform.

I want to tell you that you’re beautiful and make you really believe it. I want to explain how I see beauty in you because of who and how God made you. Your outward appearance only shines and radiates what’s inside. I want you to know that there is such beauty in every person that is good and kind and joyful. But it took me so long to gain this perspective, and I know I cannot skip the process of you understanding this for yourself.

I want to tell you that your character is what I love the most. The way you give generously, look out for those around you and fight for justice. Your loyalty, your honesty, and your responsibility. The way you can laugh at yourself. They way you handle success, and more importantly the way you handle failure. Your heart is beautiful. Everyone doesn’t know that yet. Actually, everyone never will. You’ll let in a chosen few over your lifetime. I know, because did I mention that you are like me? Your real person is a treasure reserved for those few that you let in and that will really take the time to get to know you. And I feel so incredibly honored to be in that select group.  Being your mom is one of my very favorite things. There are no words for how much I love you.

Love Mom

And then my husband didn’t leave and I got irritated

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I was reminded this week that I am not so great at dealing with the unexpected when there are high emotions involved.

I’m a very plan ahead and stay on top of things kind of person by nature. But I have adapted pretty well over the years and come a long way in this area. Something about having three kids, living in a third world country, not having a set income and being married to Mr. “Keep Your Options Opened”.  So by now, I’d consider myself to be pretty darn flexible.  I can roll with the punches. I face schedule changes and unexpected twists several times every day without flinching.

Usually.

So here comes the story.  On Monday morning, we told Nathan goodbye and went through our regular send-off routine and rituals and he headed off for two weeks to Africa. He was technically going to some meetings in Dallas all day on Monday and then would fly out Tuesday morning from there. But this was our final goodbye. So we thought.

Around noon on Monday, I got a call from Nathan. Bless his heart. He was super thrilled to get to tell me that he forgot his passport at home. So he would be coming back home that night since obviously he couldn’t fly out without it.

I almost immediately said “Do we know anyone that might be driving to Dallas to bring it to you?” Because even though I couldn’t explain it, that seemed like the best option. But he said he was already on the way back home.

And at that point I realized that I was irritated. What? I was IRRITATED. That my husband was coming home. Makes a lot of sense, right?

I guess it showed, because he said, “Well it sounds like you aren’t going to be glad to see me.” And we both laughed. And sure, I was glad that he would be there for the band concert and the softball game and the tough parental conversation that needed to be navigated with one of the kids that night.  I was glad I didn’t have to do that stuff alone. I was glad that he would be right there beside me in the bed that night. But yep. Still somehow there was no denying that I was feeling irritated.

Because we already did goodbye. I was a good ways down that road of all those emotions, and now I was supposed to just instantly back up  and redo?  How do you  do that? This compares, but on a much smaller scale,  to the feeling that you get when someone you love is dying and you say your final goodbyes to them. And then there is this miraculous turnaround and suddenly they don’t die and are right there talking to you normally again. And your emotions say “HOLD UP. WHAT IS HAPPENING? WE ARE SO CONFUSED RIGHT NOW THAT WE ARE FROZEN.”  And that makes you irritated, so you tell your husband that since he wasn’t supposed to be home, you didn’t make enough dinner for him. But then in the next breath, you find something for him to eat and give him a hug. You accept the confusing and awkward,  live in the moment and love his presence.

And then you do goodbye again the next morning.

All the Feels Before Takeoff

Nathan leaves tomorrow and we won’t see him for a couple of weeks. Even though he travels a lot, it seems I still cycle through the same feelings every time. This weekend as we prepared to send him off, I’m already experiencing all of these feelings on the emotional roller coaster.

Panic

Quick, get him to put away the boxes that go up high! And do the download I don’t understand how to do on the computer. What else am I forgetting? Do the kids even know he’s leaving? Did we tell them? Oh crud, they are definitely going to need therapy.  It’s just a lot of panic that sets in.

Grateful

I feel so incredibly grateful to have a husband that leaves a gaping hole when he isn’t here. Because he prays at bedtime, checks the math homework, unloads the dishwasher, catches for the pitcher, and answers the hard questions. I think how sad it would be if we didn’t feel that empty spot when he was gone.

Mad

Some moments I feel straight up mad that I’ll be at a band concert and my daughter won’t have a parent there when she takes the mound, catches a foul ball or strikes out at bat and tears up. I know people will be there to cheer her on and I know this is life. But I am just telling you that sometimes I am mad, if only for a moment.

Complete

Yesterday we spent a lot of time together as a family. Some of it was fun, but most of it was helping each other with various projects. The moments are so much sweeter when I know how much we need to store them away and savor them for a few weeks. Yesterday we felt and really soaked in the joy of being a complete family.

Sad

I try hard to keep the moments of sadness tucked away until he leaves so I don’t make his departure more difficult. I try hard to put on my brave face. But sometimes at night when we have him all packed up for the next morning and we crawl into bed and turn out the lights, the tears start to quietly flow. Listening to his goodbyes with the kids is probably the hardest part for me.

Guilty

Because some of you do this single parent thing all the time. Some of you don’t have a husband at all, or live without him as a part of your household for way more time than I do. So then I feel guilty that I am even feeling any of this at all. Like I’m not allowed to feel feelings that other people have to deal with more than me.

Responsible

Like the weight of it all is falling on me. And God thinks I can do this. And Nathan is counting on me. And my kids are counting on me. So I pull it together and don’t let any one negative emotion pull too hard or stay with me too long.

Dread

This looming sense that something is coming that I don’t want. I don’t talk about it and I try to block it out to enjoy the moments that are happening rather than anticipate what’s coming. But sometimes it’s just dread.

Loved

By my husband and my children who are so crazy-sweet to me in these times. My precious prayer warriors that carry us through. My friends that just flat out figure out whatever weird things are needed to take care of me. The grandparents that come to the things that they know Nathan will miss. I am so loved, and my heavenly father uses so many people to remind me of his love in the most unique ways.