Introspective Insights

Introspective - adj: Examining sensory and perceptual experiences. Insight - n: The capacity to discern the true nature of a situation.

Seeking the Light

I recently wrote a post for my church’s blog. Read the introduction here and click on over to check out the full post.

There is a mourning, a fog of sadness that covers me when I take down the Christmas decorations. For five weeks the sparkling silver, red, and green have overtaken our house. Lights twinkling in the darkness, glowing, guiding me during my early morning reading. But today, it will all be put away. The white cold, stark days begin. Days of waiting until we can decorate again. And as much as a dread the undoing, I crave the cool, clean crispness of January unfolding forward into spring, summer, and beyond. [read more…]

Knowing

It is 9:18pm and I am spent, empty, listless. Mondays can be like this, but today cast a heavier burden than usual. I drove to the kid’s school three times – almost four when I realized Kayla forgot her gym clothes. I baked bread, did dishes, made dinner, baked chocolate chip cookies. Helped Zach with four times as much homework since he missed school today. I drove to two stores and got my eyebrows waxed in an hour’s time. My activity tracker should say I walked the equivalent of five miles, but it only says 2.5 – a typical non-exercise day for me.

This weariness started at 5pm when I realized that today was all “doing” and not “knowing”. I did a plethora of things for those I love, but I didn’t invest in knowing them more and for that, I am sorry. I spent my time unwisely today. Yet, this is a typical pattern for me and I’m not sure how to change it. I sit in the living room, at the table, and look at their faces. I marvel how much they have changed over the years. In a few weeks, Abby will be five and do I remember how she looked when she was nine months old? Memories fuzzy, tasks always at hand. I don’t know how to get to know them better, to help them understand that they matter to me.

My failure to know haunts me with icy words. “They will leave you and never come back.” “You are missing out on everything.” “Why try to know them better, the time is so short.” And I withdraw into this gnawing pain. I don’t have an answer, I only know the question. And I usually have it together, which makes this all the more difficult. I understand the mechanics of the solution, but not the heart of it.

So I am quiet and listening and looking towards tomorrow, searching for grace.

31 Days

I don’t easily become emotional, but there are a few movies that get me every time. At the end of Night at the Museum, the director of the museum fires Larry the night guard and as he is walking him out and sees multitudes of patrons walking in, he silently hands Larry his keys and flashlight because he knows that it’s because of him that they are there.

Or when Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz, is at the Emerald City watching the hot air balloon fly away without her and she is overcome. Glinda the good witch appears and tells her she always had the power to go home. She clicks her heels together and chants, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.” It’s scenes like this that bring a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. Times when the hero of the story knows that he or she has finally made it past their fears.

Today is that day for me. I have met my goal to write and post to my blog for 31 days in a row. I’m honored and humbled that you have gone with me on this journey and I’m grateful for all of the encouragement and comments you have shared. Writing everyday has been a long term goal and I was too mired in fear to believe that I could do it, but here I am! Praise God!

What’s next? I will continue to post here a few times a week, but it is time for me to write quietly for awhile, to come to terms with what is stirring in my soul. There is a book in there, I’m sure, but I don’t really know what that means or what it looks like.

Thank you all again for reading and I will be back here soon.

Blessings to all, Jennifer

Perspective Changed

My husband is a sweetie and indulges me with jewelry whenever he can. Every once in awhile, I need to get my jewelry repaired or resized. It is then that I get the chance to wear items I don’t usually wear. As I put on my original wedding set, I am reminded of the first time I saw it – how it looked like nothing else you could buy at the time. The center round stone and teardrop side stones look like a flower with petals around it. The center stone is one of the clearest and most beautiful diamonds I’ve ever seen. The jeweler even remarked about how pretty it is as we stood in a sea of precious stones! I’ve been wearing my anniversary set for so long that I forgot about how remarkably beautiful and simple my original set is.

I often pursue the next, shiny thing without pausing, looking around, appreciating, and remembering what I have. Isn’t that how life is? We forget about the gifts we have because we don’t remember or write down all that God has done for us over the years. Our perspective changes when we focus on God and look around at the abundance we have already been given. November is almost here. Let’s prepare ourselves for a month of gratitude by soaking in all that is before us.

Captivated By Child-Like Faith

I’ve been a bit down the last day or two. Overwhelmed by the impending holidays, the dark days ahead, the time change, and my over committed schedule. Times like this, make me wonder how I can make it through each day.

Today started out sunny orange, reflecting the last remaining fall colors so brilliantly. But as I drove my little Abby to school, the inky gray clouds had settled in promising rain. As we rounded the corner of our block, I noticed a row of trees that had just turned yellow red in the last couple of days. “Look at those pretty trees, Abby!” All she said to me is “Glory to God”. Yes, my sweet baby girl, of course. Glory to God for the beauty he gives daily if we just slow down enough to look. Then she started singing the song of the same name.

I need to remember to look at this world through her eyes, in child-like acceptance of what God so freely gives to us. This child inspires me daily and I can take no credit for her faith. It is a gift from God and for that, I am grateful.

Sucker Punched

I’m not one to whine and complain, but there are times when a day attacks and wins. I’m not sure when it started, but by mid-morning, the headache began. By noon, I couldn’t keep my eyes open and by mid-afternoon, I was angrily yelling. In my self-inflicted time out, I asked myself the same question I always ask, why do I fall victim to this madness?

I crawl out of my hole, apologize to the kids. Start slow and quiet, helping with homework. Understanding fills the room. Hugs and silliness and laughter follow. Yet, I still face off to the fear, the sneaky lie that tells me that I push the kids away every moment and that someday they will give up on me. Yet, I know that even when I’m irrational, I always love them. And this broken, tarnished mom will always start again.

Halloween Decorations

Halloween decorations, I don’t get it, I don’t understand. The tombstones, gore, skeletons – what is this celebrating, really? It seems natural to compare Halloween decorations to Christmas decorations. It seems that if you decorate for Halloween, you should do an equally awesome Christmas display, right? Well, that doesn’t always seem to be the case. Does that mean we have officially crossed over to the dark side by focusing on Halloween more than Christmas?

Halloween decorations glorify death, dismemberment, gore and evil. For what purpose? Why do you want symbols of death and horror on your lawn, in your house, on your body? Really, someone, somewhere, please explain this to me, because I just.don’t.get.it. Are you doing it because it’s “fun”, “silly”, “everyone’s doing it”, “I never really thought about it”. Yes, that’s what I’m getting at.

Have you thought about it? What you are doing, why you are doing it, what it represents? We all want to deny the spiritual unless it’s convenient, but the truth remains that there is a spiritual world around us. What are you glorifying or unwittingly supporting? Do you want death, dismemberment and gore? It seems that decorating this way invites this into your life. Maybe I’m going too far, getting too deep into something that isn’t your intent. OK, maybe, but how do you feel when you see tombstones and gore in front of someone’s house? Does it seem “frighteningly inviting”?

Maybe it’s time to ask questions about what the decorations represent and how they are perceived by others. What are the consequences and thought behind the display? Do they glorify depravity or a twisted sense of values? Do they represent a lack of respect for the dead or dying? Do they disregard the sensitive nature of children?

Entitlement

You’ve heard it before and maybe even fell victim to the entitlement trap, believing you deserve something when you don’t. Popular thinking states that I was wronged by this person / organization / workplace and therefore I am entitled to apologies / compensation / salary adjustment. While that seems plausible, the world doesn’t work that way and we would all be happier if we stopped engaging in these unrealistic expectations.

Let’s try a different way of living. Here are some ideas:

  • If you loan money to someone, don’t expect it in return. They likely won’t repay you anyway, so why go through the pain? Make sure that you are not enabling and not giving in a debilitating way and don’t repeatedly do it for the same person.
  • If you fall victim to an accident, don’t sue the other party. They feel bad enough about the incident, especially if it was their fault. Of course, there is a chance they will think they “got away with it”, but in the end, their choices lay on their own heads.
  • If you are insulted and ridiculed, ignore and walk away. Better yet, find a way to sincerely compliment the person, within the right time frame, of course. After repeated incidents, they won’t know what to do with you. If they continue, you have the right to cut off contact to secure your own mental health.

Expectations kill relationships. We expect a certain response, behavior, or outcome and when we don’t get it, our opinion of the person plummets even further. How about accepting them as they are and taking responsibility to change yourself and your situation if that is what is warranted?

Every single person you know will disappoint you at some point in life. No one is perfect and putting anyone on a pedestal of perfection and expectation is a dangerous, relationship fatality.

Connection

For years when the kids were infants, I craved community. It seemed as though other people had relatives, friends, and acquaintances that helped when their babies were born and while we had that kind of help, we had very few meals made for us. Sharing a meal, to me, was what community was all about. My fondest family memories were around the table. My husband cooked for the first full year of each of our children’s lives and I am very thankful for that.

At times, when the days were tough and long and the baby was crying or my ears were ringing in the quiet, I angrily asked God why we didn’t have neighbors or close church friends that could come along side us during this time. God was quiet, as he is sometimes.

My third pregnancy was challenging with gestational diabetes, my terrible attitude, and incredible stress at my job. In some ways, Abby’s birth was a relief and a stark realization that my negative outlook needed to change. Our doorbell was quiet, the phone collected dust. Community seemed like a utopia. And it was then when I needed it most.

After leaving my job, I remember feeling like I was on a free fall. In those first few months, God answered my prayer for community. In fact, he answered it a few months before when I was invited to a women’s Bible study. I joined MOPs a few months later and from there we finally found a church that we loved. We were welcomed with open arms, wherever we went. That leap of faith, leaving my job, broke down barriers for the connections we longed for.

Now I’m blessed with many friends, along with those faithful few that I’ve always had. I’m reminded of this transition today as I sit in my parent’s house full of family. I realize that when I am home, my church family and others fill my heart, ring my doorbell, and chime my phone every single day while away from my biological family I love so much.

Connection, community, we were made to crave it, seek it, and engage in it. I’m grateful for this yearning and the beautiful community God has given us.

Who is in your community? What was your path discovering those connections?

No-Spend Challenge?

While the stereotypical stay-at-home mom sits home and eat bonbons (said no one ever), I am usually out and about looking for the latest bargain. Most of the time, I’d like to think it is to find items we need, but that probably is not true.

Since all three kids are at school, it is difficult for me to be home. Being alone is not the issue, it is the quiet. Before the first frost, I could literally hear crickets. I miss my little people and a vibrating restlessness overcomes me and I leave the house.

It is true, I have found phenomenal deals on things that we need, but I have also purchased some nice-to-haves and want-to-haves too. This spendiness problem daily challenges me. One of the ways I show love to others is buying them gifts. But I can’t buy gifts all the time and ironically, I’m terrible with remembering birthdays. So I end up with a bunch of pretty awesome items that are reasonably priced, but the sheer sum is the issue.

I’m considering a no-spend challenge. I’ve heard of others doing this for either 10 days or up to 30 days. I honestly don’t know how to do it, and yes, this is definitely a “first world” problem. It seems there should be some rules – number of days, possibly some exceptions such as getting gas or food (and a fluffy latte is not food).

Ideas? Thoughts? Have you ever done a no-spend challenge? If so, please tell us about it in the comments.