Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Why We Say No: Conviction vs. Personal Preference


I always know it's time for me to settle down and write something in this space when a topic won't leave my thoughts and it's not one that is specific to moms. I spend a lot of time writing and talking about mom stuff right here. But there's a lot of non-mom stuff I like to talk and write about too.

Today's topic is just that. It's one that won't go away and builds a fire in my belly producing lots of strong feelings, should-have's, and hope-to's.

Here's the thing. There are certain words spoken in conversations with friends (or even strangers) that cause me to freeze up. I go completely blank. In the moment, no coherent thoughts or words can get in or out. For a girl who isn't speechless all that often, this is big.

In those moments from the time the words leave the other person's mouth, until the time I'm supposed to respond, I become instantly afraid of appearing holier than thou or stepping on toes, so I freeze and retreat like a turtle popping back into his shell. I usually know just what I'd like to say in response, but I just can't eek it out in a loving and intelligent way (which is the goal), so I say nothing. When I'm back home or have hung up the phone I finally have the words. Of course. But it feels too late.

I've never called the person up to say, "Uh, yeah... you know how you said ___________? Well, I have some thoughts." I totally could say that. I know. But I don't. There's that whole thing where the other person might feel badly that I've spent some time thinking poorly of them or the words they spoke. It's quite possible that I think too much. Quite possible.

So this is me processing my not speaking up and an introduction to what sort of conversation it is that drives me to speechlessness. There's an important spiritual truth here that we all need to hear if you'll stick around.

Are you exhausted by me yet? 

I'll do my best to articulate what in the world I'm talking about. Here's an example:

Person A says, "I'd really like to have more children, but we wouldn't be able to fit in our current vehicle anymore if we did, and I really like what I'm driving right now. So no more children for us!"

*The names and circumstances have been changed to protect the identity of Person A.*

Person B (Me) freezes, laughs awkwardly and politely, while sputtering something like, "Yeah..." or "Hmmph..." while two questions begin playing ping-pong in my head as I continue to smile and nod all the while upset at myself for not asking Person A to explain where God's plan fits among their preferences:

1. Have you thought about asking God what He thinks?

2. Have you considered that God's plan for your life is so much more important than your comfort zone or view of a perfect life?

While I may be a really nice person, I still have some strong opinions, and disregarding God's possible plan for your life just because it might make you uncomfortable is one of my hot buttons.

With that said, what I'd really like to say out loud in response, and hopefully the next time I'll be in my right mind to press the unsuspecting person to consider this: "Has God placed a conviction in your heart about this, or is this a matter of personal preference?"

It seems easy enough. But it isn't for me. Being more bold in this area is something I desire.

If we are living our lives as Spirit-led children of God, it is impossible to answer a sure forever Yes or No about any circumstance or decision.

If we are Spirit-led children of God, we need to make sure we are letting the Spirit lead in our decision-making. Our personal preferences are bossy. They like to push us around and remind us of our fears. None of us likes to be bossed around, but if we're letting our preferences take precedence, we're getting bossed and fear wins.

Jeremy and I are often asked if we're "done" giving birth to or adopting children. I can imagine one would be curious, so I welcome the chance to respond.

Even though the eight kids I'm already mothering stretch me to the furthest reaches day in and day out, I can't solidly say Yes or No. I honestly don't desire more children at this point. But that's not to say God won't place another child before us and say, "He's yours." It's happened a couple times before in the most surprising fashion, so who's to say it won't happen again? I can't say we're "done" with a clear conscience, and I'm not about to say No to God's will for me or my family if I can help it.

God is a master at changing our desires to match His will. And I'm good with that. So I'm good with not knowing, because I trust His plan.

I want God's will more than I want my comfort. Though secretly I might be praying that pleading prayer from the Garden of Gethsemane. You know, the one that goes, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; ..." 

Shoot. Jesus doesn't stop there. He continues, "... nevertheless (or nevermind me) not as I will, but as you will."

I want to be like Jesus. He basically says, "Nevermind me, I want what you want, God. I'm willing."

If we're following Christ, we need to be open to the path we never imagined. Even a path we might not want or prefer. Christ never wanted suffering, death, or to bear the unbearable weight of our sins, but He allowed Himself to walk that path because it's what the Father asked of Him. He yielded. He took His discomfort and shoved it aside.

Christians spend a lot of time talking about emulating Christ, but then sometimes aren't willing to walk into the uncomfortable and scary when certain circumstances present themselves. "Surely God wouldn't want me unhappy. So... No."

He certainly would love for you to be happy (contented, really), but He's more concerned about you being holy. Suffering and selflessness has a way of molding us into the person He had in mind for us all along.

Don't we desperately want to be the person He had in mind when He dreamed us up?

These words are coming from me as a friend who has struggled down the path of fear and preference and has learned there is nothing there for us. Nothing. The path of hope is one paved by walking in the Spirit.

That means we follow where He leads not knowing exactly where we're going. It's okay that we don't have all the answers, because we don't yet know all the questions.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

When Hope and Heartbreak Move in Together

She was stronger than I expected her to be, given the circumstances.

Her father was living in his last days. It was cancer. One year earlier, her family received the diagnosis no family wants to receive. It was terminal. This man who was dear to so many. A son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, pastor. He was one who made countless house-calls and hospital room visits, counseled, led, and loved. This man knew how to live compassion.

Now it was his time to receive compassion, his time to be loved.

We sat on my couch, tears pooling and falling down our faces. "After a lifetime of memories with my dad, I'm afraid these memories of seeing him so sick will be what I remember most." This is heartbreak.

"It's so hard to see him hurting. I'm not ready to let him go, but I'm ready for him to be whole and out of pain." This is hope.

In the same conversation.

This reminds me that it's possible (and okay) to be heartbroken and hopeful at the same time. So often we think we have to be "over it" and completely moved on from a painful experience before we can hope again.

Hope is possible whenever we decide to let it move in. I'm reminding myself today that sadness has a way of lingering, but it doesn't mean we can't hope.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

hello, New Year. a time for releasing and embracing.

Well, here we are. 2015! I don't know if I've ever been so happy to see a brand-new year arrive. Is anyone else with me? 2014 was a year for the books. Last year brought the highest of highs. Some of the most tangible overwhelming God-is-SO-real-and-personal moments happened last year. But there were also the lowest of lows. The lowest of my life.

But you know? I wouldn't trade the lessons learned or the grace received for anything. But still, I'm ready for something new.

Of course nothing has really changed, it's just a figurative change as we hang new calendars and the dial rolls to 2015. We're all still walking through our days one after the other in a grand succession, but it just feels different rolling into January, doesn't it?

How about we share a bit about what we're looking forward to embracing in 2015, and what we're looking forward to leaving behind in 2014? I'll go first. Please share anything you're willing to share with the rest of us in the comments.

In Ephesians 4:22, Paul encourages, "put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life ...". Each moment of every day breeds opportunity to put off our old self, but we seem to be most aware of our need for change this time of year. And that's okay. No matter what time of year we choose to purge old behaviors, habits, or ways of life -- it's always a good time. As believers we should always be growing. And usually growing means changing. So what is it we're needing to release this year, so the good kinds of change can take place? I can think of a few things for myself. By God's grace, I will be able to:
  • Charge my phone and iPad in the kitchen overnight. I've gotten in a unhealthy routine of reaching for a device in the morning before getting out of bed instead of reaching out in prayer or for my Bible. For me, this has to stop. I want to make sure I'm connecting with God before I'm connecting any part of me with anyone else.
  • Lose the obsession with others' opinions of me. Even though I'm strong in my beliefs and fully dedicated to the work God has set before me, sometimes I struggle with how I'm perceived by other women. Even though I only want to be living for an audience of one. This is something I'm carrying over from a work that was started in my heart in back in 2013.
  • Rather than grab for a device out of boredom or avoidance, do something intentional instead. I can think of several things and most importantly people who are needing my attention. Or if a breather is what I really need, I'll look to do that in a way that feeds my soul. To help, I've removed the Facebook app from my devices as well. Out with the old!
  • Lose the obsession with self. I love how author Tim Keller puts in my favorite little book, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, "The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less." This year, I seek to think of myself less.
 If we were to continue in Ephesians 4, right after the putting off the old part, we run right into the good part in verses 23-24: "to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." This sounds much more fun. But the other stuff is necessary so we can truly embrace the new. So what do you sense God is asking you to embrace this year? Here's my list. By God's grace, I will be able to:
  • Thrive and just breathe in the midst of a big change in our schooling ways. As I mentioned in this post over at The Masterpiece Mom a few weeks ago, our family has been facing some major change in the way we educate our kids. Starting next week, all three of our elementary-aged kids will be attending the same small charter school. The middle school-aged boys will remain at home, along with our three preschoolers. This is a huge stretch for us in our tenth year of homeschooling. But it's the right move for us, for right now. We've gotten that message loud and clear from the Lord. So no matter how bumpy or unsettling at times, I'm going to embrace the gift that it truly is.
  • Live fearlessly. No matter what God calls me to, I want to follow by faith. His ways are so high, and His plans SO good. I've learned He can be trusted with absolutely any and every area of my life. It's so freeing. You should try it.
  • Write in a journal. I write stuff down all the time. I'm a big fan of to-do lists and filling in squares on a fresh calendar page. And since I'm a writer, I spend a lot of time tapping out words on my laptop.  But the one sort of writing I'm really missing in my life is the kind that isn't for a purpose or an audience. It's more for the purpose of emptying this fast-moving, jump-around-y brain of mine. 
  • Read more books. See bullet point number three in the releasing section up above. Rather than reaching for a device, I'll seek to reach for a paperback. I have several going at all times. I'd really love to finish a few.
  • Be unashamedly me. For years I've sort of hidden parts of me from my friends and other people in my life that I thought were too different or strange. I don't want to do that anymore. I want to be fully me, walking into the calling God has placed on my life. With every passing year, I'm getting closer and closer to the place He's been leading me to all along. May 2015 be no different.
  • Soak up God's Word. Have I ever told you I've become obsessed with studying the Bible? For my birthday back in July, I requested this ginormous Bible commentary that I absolutely love. I'm so happy to get to spend the rest of my life at this pursuit, and then turn around and teach what I've absorbed to women wherever the Lord may lead.
Happy New Year to you. I truly mean that. I'll be praying for us as we purge the old and welcome the new. There truly is no better feeling.

So what sort of things will you be releasing and embracing as you walk into 2015?


Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Finale. {hello, Alaska}

Here we are, friends, at the end of 31 Days!

I'm giving myself lots of grace here as I've had to slow my pace way back these last couple of weeks. Nevertheless, it's been fun to share my great state with you.

I love talking about Alaska. It's spectacular.

I'd planned to talk about so many more of my favorite things, and take you so many more places. But since that didn't happen, here's a list of favorites with links, so you can go explore them for yourselves. Lame? Maybe. Or maybe it'll give you something to talk about around the dinner table for weeks to come. That's my hope.

Anchorage - Alaska's largest city
Alaska Native Culture
Polar Bears
Grizzly Bear Viewing - Live Webcams at Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park, Alaska  (You really need to visit this link again next summer. SO amazing.)
Ice Sculptures
Footwear (I must say, I own a few pairs of Dansko clogs and my favorite pair of boots ever: Bogs. This article was spot on. But in summer, we're all about the flip flops and ballet flats!)
Alaska Railroad

Thanks for taking a virtual trip to Alaska with me this month! It's been fun to have you along.

Find each post in the hello, Alaska series HERE.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

One of the Many Cool Things About Alaska {hello, Alaska}

As promised, I'm back with more hello, Alaska! Life has been on hold these last couple of months while I worked on a big project that was presented at an event this last weekend. Well, it's done (whew, I survived!) and I'm back with a couple more posts to close out the series this week.

I've lived in Alaska nearly thirty years, and I just learned that if you skip a rock across a newly frozen pond or lake, it will make the most amazing sound! (I got the idea from THIS viral video.) Have a listen for yourself, and tell me what you think!


This post is part of a series called hello, Alaska. Find the complete series right HERE.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Iditarod- The Last Great Race {hello, Alaska}

There's this race. It's amazing. Maybe you've heard of it?


Imagine one person on a wooden dogsled being pulled by a team of sled dogs racing 1,000 miles through ice, snow, storms, fog, frozen rivers, mountain ranges, vast tundra, and we can't forget the cold. Ooh, boy is it ever cold! Iditarod is one tough and amazing race.

As a kid, Iditarod went right by our house. We'd walk down the driveway and hang a right to watch musher after musher begin the week and a half long trek across Alaska. I have a crazy amount of respect for these men and women.

Iditarod is so fun to follow. We enjoy it each year in the month of March. You simply must scroll through last year's photo gallery. Whoa, right?

I couldn't possibly tell you all there is to know or see. So I'll let the experts do that for me:

This is a great informational article right HERE. Along with Iditarod's Official Website! A must read.

**You many have noticed that hello, Alaska posts are no longer being produced every day. Whew! Life's too full for that right now. But I will be popping in throughout these next 10 days to finish out our series! What more would you like to learn about Alaska??**

You can find all posts in this series right HERE.


Monday, October 20, 2014

moms who think outside the box {hello, Alaska}

Alaska is a wonderful place to be a kid. The opportunities for fun outdoor activities are endless and there are plenty of wide-open spaces with clean air to breathe. It's a kids' paradise.

It's also a great place to be a mom. But moms here have to think outside the box. We have to be prepared in ways moms in other parts of the country might not have to be. For instance:

1. You can't just go on a hike or walk with your family like normal people without thinking of the large and dangerous animals you may encounter. (See the above large and protective mama in the above picture.) Some of which have large teeth and claws or a stomping ability that can do great harm. Many moms I know (myself included) are skilled at using firearms to protect their family in the great outdoors. It just comes with the territory.

2. We have to be prepared with cold weather gear in the form of hats, gloves, boots, coats, and snowpants in case our vehicles break down or we're in an accident. The temperatures here reach dangerously frigid temperatures for most of the winter and we're used to driving long distances to get somewhere. Being unprepared in the cold is not something a mom wants to deal with. It's the worst feeling when your children are cold and there's nothing you can do about it.

3. As you learned on day 4, it gets dark early in the winter. Moms here have to get creative since we tend to spend crazy amounts of time indoors during those months. It can be a trying time. But it doesn't always have to feel that way. Our kids actually love to play outside in the snow when it's dark. We turn on all the outside lights and they build snowforts until it's time for dinner or bedtime. It does get long and arduous in the darker months, but having Christmas right in the middle of it all breaks things up and gives us something to celebrate!

4. This is one I know all Alaskan moms without a heated garage can attest to. Let's chant together, "Bring the diaper bag in the house tonight or the wipes will freeze." I don't need to spell this one all the way out for you. But I bet you can imagine the horror of trying to change a baby or toddler's stinky diaper when you're out and about (and you have no other choice) once you realize the entire container of baby wipes is frozen. I've been there more times than I can count. Oh.my.word. Picture a mom defrosting wipes in front of a car heater one at a time while said baby or toddler screams and all the other kids are waiting for you all crammed into a small space together. Fun times. Fun times.

What else, Alaskan moms? Please share! What makes Alaska a unique place to be a mom?

This is day 20 in a 31 day series about Alaska! Find the entire series archived HERE.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Seward {hello, Alaska}

This weekend, I want to make special mention of our family's favorite town on the road system in Southcentral Alaska:

SEWARD.  (Learn even more about Seward HERE.)

We love, love, love this place. Isn't it gorgeous? Actually, I've never met a person who didn't have a special place in their heart for this little town.

Seward is situated on the Kenai Peninsula on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, in Resurrection Bay. Sea life and cascading mountains abound, and it's just a fun little town complete with fun hikes, camping, glaciers, a gorgeous harbor, deep sea fishing, tourist-y shops, and the Alaska SeaLife Center which is a blast to visit.

There's so much more to say. So much more to do. So many fun events. But I'll whet your appetite for this area of Alaska by leaving it at this.

Seward = My Favorite


Friday, October 17, 2014

The Ferry and Jefferson Starship {hello, Alaska}

Because Alaska is disconnected from the continental United States, sometimes we have to get creative with our travel needs.

Obviously, most people fly to and from Alaska, but the Alaska Marine Highway is great alternative. And amazingly beautiful! The ferry system is in place to carrying passengers, vehicles, and goods to and from 33 Alaskan communities, Canada, and Washington state. There are currently 11 ferries in operation. Don't I sound like a smarty-pants? I cheated. Of course. Hooray for Google.

Our family moved to Alaska on the ferry. It was quite the adventure. We boarded in Bellingham, Washington with me crying my eyes out as I waved goodbye to my best friend since birth with the 80's hit "Sara" by Starship playing in the background. (You simply have to watch the video. I died. While you're at it, you need to watch this one too.)

And wouldn't you know it, her name was Sarah. I'm not kidding. I vividly remember crying so hard I could hardly breathe. It was the cruelest of circumstances. With our great big motorhome on board in the belly of the ship, we made the gradual trip north. Though it was a slow way to go, it was still jolting. But not as bad as jumping on a plane and being in a new state and climate in just 3.5 hours.

We exited the ferry in Haines, Alaska, located just north of Seattle, and drove the rest of the way to our new home. It was a LONG trip through Canada, icy mountain roads, and then back into Alaska. This road is known as the ALCAN, Alaska-Canadian Highway, or the Alaska Highway. This journey was not without excitement and a little danger, but it was also a really fun thing to do as a family.

Back to the Marine Highway. So fun. Sightseeing. Whales. Wildlife. Wow.

For the most amazing sights and more information, click the links above!!

This is day 17 in a 31 day series called hello, Alaska. Find all posts in this series in one place HERE.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

it's the strangest thing {hello, Alaska}

I'm thinking that if you're interested in Alaska, you already know that it's cold. You already know there are polar bears way up north, right? And I'm thinking you already know lots of cool, obvious stuff about Alaska.

But here's something you may not know:

Even in the coldest of cold days in winter, some people wear shorts and dare I say it? Flip flops.

I've seen it with my own eyes. And I've (ahem) maybe, probably done it myself as a teen. I'm perpetually cold as an adult, so this is a no-go these days. Says the girl wearing socks and fur-lined slippers as I sit next to my twelve and thirteen year-old sons who are both wearing shorts. And it's 36 degrees outside.

I thought you should know that while it's bone-cold up here, it just doesn't phase some of us. That's why we laugh when folks in Florida or California wear down jackets when it hits 50 degrees. That's the start of (or the continuation of?) flip-flop weather in these parts.

This is day 16 of a 31 day series called hello, Alaska. Find the complete archives HERE



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

ain't no mountain high enough {hello, Alaska}

I couldn't help myself. I'm crazy about that song.

We really are going to talk about mountains today though. Ohhhhh, the mountains.

But before we do, I want to say something about what I posted on Monday. Many of you shared that post (I'd love to know why), and a couple of you commented to say you thought it was great I was taking time off to be with my family. Thank you. Honestly, life is difficult right now. Jeremy and I are great, but we're dealing with some pretty major issues that are affecting every area if life. We covet your prayers as a family.

So if I ever need to take another break, you'll know why.

Back to mountains.

I've lived in Alaska since 1986, and back then I wanted nothing to do with mountains. I wasn't old enough to be hormonal, but I was a bit stubborn. My family used to taunt me, "Amanda, aren't the mountains beeeyoootiful?"

I would say, "NO. I hate the mountains. They're ugly." I was such a stinker. They'd rub in the beauty of Alaska because they enjoyed my Mr. Scrooge-esque answers. And I enjoyed indulging them.

It didn't take long for me to fall head over heels in love with the rugged terrain surround me on nearly all sides. Other than my kids, it's by far the subject I take the most pictures of.

Here are some fun facts about Alaska's mountains:

**  17 of the 20 highest peaks in the United States are in Alaska.
**  Mt. McKinley is the highest peak in all of North America standing tall at 20,320 ft.
**  There are potentially more than 70 active volcanoes in Alaska. Several have erupted in recent years.

Mt. McKinley from the air this last Spring as we flew over. This does it no justice.
It honestly looked so small from up in the air. It has such a different look from the ground. But it's stunning, no?
Mountains add so much to life in Alaska. We climb them, we gaze at them, and we even play favorites. My favorite mountain is Pioneer Peak. Pioneer Peak means home. It stands as the tallest mountain in our area. It's a true landmark. Here it is from a few different angles.

Though I can't write from the experience of all Alaskans, I can write from mine. And mountains are a big part of the magic of the Last Frontier for me.

Find the archives of the hello, Alaska 31 day series right HERE.


Monday, October 13, 2014

I'm human {hello, Alaska}

Today and tomorrow we are taking a break from all things Alaska.

I am human. Life and family isn't affording me the time to work on this series.

Come back on Wednesday for the continuation of hello, Alaska!




Sunday, October 12, 2014

facebook news feeds look different here {hello, Alaska}

I just thought you should know that facebook news feeds look really different in Alaska.
Dead moose, bear, birds, sheep, caribou, and fish fill our news feeds year-round depending on what's in season. In the fall especially, when moose and caribou are in season, be prepared for lots of hunting pictures.
Alaskans love to celebrate a successful hunt! Wild fish and game in the freezer is a huge WIN.
I mean.... whoa. Hello, Kodiak grizzly!  


A huge thanks to my friends Andrea, Mindy, Kristi, Kate, Courtney, Ivy, and Paula for the great pictures!

To see all posts in this 31 day series called hello, Alaska click HERE.

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