Category Archives: Contentment

Attitude of Gratitude

ememby_bethankful
There are many phrases I’d like to cross stitch on a pillow… most are not child-friendly because it’s funny when you see something unexpected spelled out in prim and proper embroidery string Xs. But instead of being crass and embarrassing my mother, I graphic-designed a little cross stitch reminder that we can all use (well, maybe I should just speak for myself, but I have a sneaking suspicion that being more thankful is a universal goal to strive for).

Yes, it’s that time of year, with Thanksgiving looming for us in the States, that we turn to being thankful. Posting thankfulness updates on Facebook. Making thankfulness crafts/trees to do with our kids. Planning huge family gatherings focused on stuffing ourselves with turkey and taking turns sharing the things we are most thankful for with each other. And I love it, I love that autumn brings with it a new focus on gratitude, or perhaps a renewed focus. But I hope to let my own gratitude show year-round. Yes, I will make my lists for November and I will decorate trees with leaves of thanks with my family but after the fourth Thursday in November, I will continue to give things for my many blessings (and even the hardships). Don’t let gratitude be a seasonal phase, let it saturate your spirit and carry you through the whole year.

I think that finding the silver lining and appreciating the little things alongside the big things in life are part of the key to happiness. Gratitude doesn’t ensure that all will go your way or that you won’t have bad days (or weeks or even months) but it does give you some measure of defense against the bad in the world. It takes guts to have gratitude in the face things that could bring you down. Count your blessings. Name them every day. Appreciate what you have. Be thankful.

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Motherhood

Motherhood….

  • it ain’t for the faint of heart
  • it is often thankless
  • it is beautiful (and it is a mess)
  • is not the same for everyone – it comes dressed up in different clothes, is achieved through many different methods and definitely doesn’t fit into some mold or come from a cookie cutter
  • it is the hardest and best job you’ll ever have (unless your job is giving away someone else’s money to help worthy causes and then it might be a tie)
  • it is so many things and is so simple all at once

The list could go on and no doubt, having just passed Mother’s Day, your own ideas and feelings about motherhood are fresh in your mind. Here’s what I’ve been thinking.

a) I don’t always know what I’m doing. It sucks that there is not a how-to manual or a choose-your-own-adventure style manual (e.g., “If your child does XYZ… do ABC if you want them to develop good self-esteem… do CBA if you want them to learn from their mistakes… or do QRS if you would like them to go to therapy as an adult.)

Here’s a secret: no one else knows what they are doing, either. We’re all just taking it on with a wish and a prayer.

b) “Good” parenting is kind of a crap shoot. I have two sons but when I just had one son, I really thought I knew the secret to “good” parenting. He napped when he was supposed to, for as long as he was supposed to; most nights he even fell asleep nursing or taking a bottle, seldom stirring when I placed him carefully in his crib. He ate a fairly well-balanced diet. He didn’t try and get into things and was content not trying to cause trouble. Then we had a second child and we did all the same things with Jack as we did with Liam. Guess what? Jack never once fell asleep BEFORE being placed in his crib. Despite an early showing of a broad palate, he now is one of the pickiest eaters I know. And that kid was born with an insatiable curiosity and ability to figure things out that made all child-proofing efforts laughable (he could lock and unlock the fridge lock for us just days after we put it in place to keep him from stealing food).

Since no two people are the same, guess what, no two children are the same… even when they come from the same two parents and are raised pretty much the same. You can do all the “right” things and still end up with a little hellion child and you can pretty much suck and still end up with a fairly well-adjusted child (not that I recommend the sucking approach – the odds are a little more in your favor if you do put in some effort). So do your job as a parent, the best you can, but remember, worrying over every decision and moment of parenting will not at all ensure success (it will, however, make you an anxious wreck).

c) God made ME my kids’ parent. I have a confession, Trace Adkins made me tear up this weekend. I’m as shocked as you might be, because Trace Adkins isn’t really known for his heart-string pulling characteristics. But I went to see Mom’s Night Out (thanks to my friend, Melody, at grkids.com) and I cannot recommend the movie more to any parent out there that is currently in the trenches – I have not genuinely laughed to much at a movie in AGES, plus it had the best message delivered by the cute star and, yes, Trace Adkins, that made me get choked up. The main character is at the end of her line and her wits, feeling like she screws everything up and that she is an unfit parent and Trace Adkin’s character, a tattoo-artist biker, basically tells her that she is the perfect parent for her children because God made her their mom and that she is enough. Truth.

I am my kids’ mom for a reason – God made it so. If ever I question what I am doing, how I am doing or how in the freaking world I am going to make it through, I need to remember that I am enough. I have it in me to make the right choices for myself and for my family.

When it comes to motherhood… or pretty much when it comes to life in general, if we set our sights on God first, the rest will line up. Again, it doesn’t make it easy, but it should lighten the load. We’ve got this because He’s got this.

ememby_youareenough

Tuesday Grace Letters: You Are Beautiful

Mundane Faithfulness

The assignment: Next weeks grace letter is a free week. Share your heart. Write a love letter of grace of your choosing.

I wrote this letter in response to the assignment from Kara at Mundane Faithfulness… click the image or the link to read more letters from other bloggers and to learn more about Kara and her heartbreakingly amazing story.


“God doesn’t make mistakes.”

We say it. We hear it. We know it. But do we believe it deep down in our hearts? Do we believe it applies to us? Or that it applies ALL of the time? Do we give ourselves that much grace?

We falter. We are human after all, so far short of God’s perfection. And yet… yet, made in His image. His children. Beloved and wonderfully made. We are are precious and loved. We ARE beautiful. We are short, tall, skinny and fat. We have bad haircuts, shiny foreheads, adult acne, unflattering fashion choices, unwanted moles, gray hairs, hangnails, stubborn hearts, bad attitudes and mean spirits. We ARE beautiful.  No matter what our perceived imperfections or shortfalls, God doesn’t make mistakes, we are His workmanship. We need to feel that and believe it. We are His.

Let yourself feel it. Believe it. Know it. You are beautiful.

ememby_youarebeautiful
Click on the image above for a downloadable (and printable) PDF.

Tuesday Grace Letters: Dear future self

I wrote this letter in response to the assignment from Kara at Mundane Faithfulness… click the image at the bottom of the post to read more letters from other bloggers and to learn more about Kara and her heartbreakingly amazing story.

The assignment: I want to you write a letter of grace to yourself 10 years from today. Include pictures of your life now, but hopes and dreams and fears you have for yourself, your loves, your life in ten years.


Dear 2024,
Ten years into the future doesn’t seem like a long time until I consider the ten years that have just passed – 2004 seems like a lifetime ago. So I think it is safe to say that another ten years will seem like another lifetime. Wow.
IMG_20140224_161740I will be fast-approaching 50 – likely more than halfway through life (Lord willing). I don’t know the heartaches that will have been felt and lived through, though I can imagine what they might be, I pray they don’t seem like too much to handle and that you remember to turn to God for strength – He will always carry you, especially when taking another step just doesn’t seem doable. He will also give you the best blessings and gifts you will ever know, be thankful for each and every thing. I pray you grow closer to Him, putting him ever first. I pray you love your family above all other people and serve them well. I pray that you are content with life – in spite of any challenges and that any area that feels like it is lacking is simply a blip on the screen, or an opportunity for growth and learning. May you be blessed with friendships to sustain you and love to surround you and a confidence in yourself and your abilities that allows you to let go of anxiety.
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My dear husband… you’ll be hitting 50 just before me. And we’ll be approaching almost 20 years of marriage – in fact,  I will have known you a greater part of my life than the part that came before I knew you. I often forget that you don’t know all the details of the time before you were around – not that I’ve kept anything from you, just simply that you weren’t already a part of it, you are so much a part of my life now, you fit perfectly and know me so well. I pray the years of working opposite shifts and single-parenting our kids are long behind us, that we will look to this current stage of our lives and know we are stronger for it, having made it through to the other side of this seemingly endless stretch that is having two younger BOYS and parenting in mostly single-shifts. I pray for good health and no knee replacements (darn rugby). I pray that you become the man that God wants you to be and grow in your faith and step into leading our family spiritually – setting the very best example of what a godly man can and should be for our two young men. I pray you feel loved most by God, then me and then our boys – that you know you are cherished, even when we humans fail at showing you that.
IMG_20130919_183317Liam – you will be turning 18 this year – practical adulthood by legal standards. You’ll be completing high school and heading out onto college (I sure hope) – leaving our home to launch into the real world (or as real as college gets). I am so excited to see the person you’re going to become – I get glimpses from time to time with the things you tell me and how you treat your friends. You have the potential to be so kind and generous, I pray that you lean in that direction and turn away from your impulses toward anger and frustration, that you train your heart to respond in love and empathy. You are a sponge for learning – about the world, about music, about God, about anything and everything – I pray you always absorb what the world has to offer you, discerning what is good and worth keeping and discarding the things that will hold you back. I pray you have someone to look to for guidance (whether myself, your dad or someone else), someone who is your voice of reason and sounding board. That you have built friendships that will last a lifetime and that make you a better man. I pray that you learn from your mistakes and never have to repeat them. I hope that you and Jack will be best friends, he’s the brother God gave you and you two will have each other no matter where you go in life. I’m excited for you to be starting a new stage in your life… heading out into the first step in adulthood, hopefully we have prepared you and you look to God first.
wpid-IMG_20130911_144247.jpgJack, Jack, Jack – you will be 15 and no doubt itching to be heading off the college like your brother but you’ll still have a few more years. At five, you’ve long felt that your life is just one long, unfair game of catch-up with your older brother – I hope that at 15, you’ve discovered the precious truth that playing catch-up is not the way to go and that there is a path set out just for you that has nothing to do with following along behind your brother. God put you second in the birth order for a reason, He has plans for you. You are on the cusp of adulthood, still dependent on us for rides to get you from place to place, straining to be just that little bit older. I pray for contentment for you, the same as with me, that you find happiness where you are, not where/who/what you think you ought to be. I pray that God safeguards your heart against frustration when it comes to your hand and gives you friends who make anyone who can’t see past that difference just not matter. I pray that just as you need strength, that you will also be given a gentleness that will allow you to love and let others in… your independence is a good thing but it should not keep you from needing others in your life.

I pray that both of my boys, nearly men, look to God for guidance, comfort and wisdom. That they are beacons of light in the world. That they will love us as parents and friends, and always delight in coming home.
wpid-IMG_20130821_172705.jpgGeorge (I’m not going to pretend he’ll be reading this but he is a part of our family)… our first “practice” child, born the day before we got married. Just the other day Jack started crying because Liam was talking about the dog we theoretically will get when George dies and my sweet youngest didn’t “want Georgie to die.” Me neither. But that heartache will come, through hopefully not for many more years. Our lives are better for having loved and cared for our neurotic little pet.

No matter what has happened, I pray we have no regrets, no worries that cannot be handled and lives warmed by friendships, laughter and faith.

We are never promised easy, but we are promised heaven and all the rest is part of the journey.
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Mundane Faithfulness

A year of contentment

ememby_yearofcontentmentWe were going around the circle in our small group, sharing our prayer requests and things we were planning for the coming year and I realized what I wanted for my/our life: a year of contentment. Almost immediately after saying it out loud, I followed it up with saying, but if Simon were to switch to first shift at work, I’d take that, too – that’s the kind of change that I’d welcome to throw a wrench in the gears. Gee, I don’t ask for much.

This has definitely been a year of change and I’m well aware that God answers prayers in ways we aren’t always expecting, despite what our hopes may be and sometimes He goes above and beyond what we could even imagine (this house is our above and beyond because it is so much more than the dwelling itself). So I realize that in praying for a year of contentment, I could be opening up the door to God teaching me to be content, despite the circumstances (Note to God: I’ve got finding contentment in all situations down pat – not perfected by any means, but I’m willing to learn other lessons.) And I’m not praying for boring, or hum drum, but just simple contentment.

From Simon’s mom leaving this world last July to our move on July 1st, it was as near to a year as you can get and it has been quite a year. Plus, there is almost another year in advance of her passing that we were making plans to visit and then saying goodbye and after our move there has been a good three months of settling in, unpacking and adjustment, so we are all set to chill – to take a minute. Now, I can’t make that actually happen, but I can prepare my heart and mind and focus on the things that matter. Enjoying the every day, not looking for the next best thing and not preparing for another great adventure, or a great sadness (though most great sadnesses cannot be planned). Life is an adventure. And life is good and life brings with it hardship. That’s life. But making this house a home, starting a book club and entertaining friends and family whenever we can, these things will do me just fine.

Life is seldom boring, but we are also seldom content. We crave change and excitement and when we don’t, it tends to come looking for us and rocking our boats in ways we weren’t prepared for. And that may still happen to me, to any of us, but in the meantime… I’m going to strive for contentment, though I know I can make no promises to myself that it will fully happen. There are little things that I’ve already been doing that certainly lend themselves to contentment… figuring out ways to deal with the kids and their unsavory behaviors (an allowance system has been put in place and rather than yelling or punishing when they do something on the offense/deduction list, I simply say “That’s ten cents” and mark a tally down on their post-it note); keeping track of things I’m grateful for (dear friends, I need to revive our year of gratitude… you know who you are) and revisiting the things I love like reading, crafting and hanging out with my favorite people (girl’s nights out and date nights/days with my Australian hubby – FTW). And then I know I also need to re-focus on my spiritual life and look to God for my ultimate contentment, the rest is just filling my life with nice things, but without building it all on the rock, I will get easily washed away when the rain comes down or the flood waters rise.

Please join me in praying for contentment, in seeking it out. And please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas on contentment – maybe we can get there together.

Also, if you’re going to tell me I’m crazy or unrealistic in hoping for a year of contentment – just can it. That’s what I have my husband for and I’m not married to the rest of you so I don’t have to hear it from you.