Posts Tagged ‘contentedness’

Grace Period

I’m in a good spot. Around my birthday it’s common for me to think back on the year and reflect, and this one? I’m (usually) happy, content. You know how many blog posts I’ve written about desiring this very thing? For a semi-regular blogger, lots.

And it feels pretty great. Here’s what I mean:

Mental and Emotional Health. I’m closer than ever to people around me. I’ve reconnected with old friends (including one I hadn’t seen or talked to for 15 years!), found new ones, and allowed myself to grow deeper in current relationships. Steven and I are celebrating 10 years of marriage this August – say WHAT?! – and Wesley still thinks we’re the coolest people on the planet.

With nicer weather, we’re outside more – evening walks with the dogs “force” us to meet people in the neighborhood. And you know what? It’s fantastic! There are plenty of playmates within a three block radius for Wesley, and it’s been pretty awesome to have so many kids over for popsicles, homemade ice cream and the bounce house. And it’s not even summer yet!

I’ve connected with several of the kids’ moms, who are becoming close friends. Seriously, it’s just the best. My desired community has fallen in my lap.

Gardening is a new hobby, though there’s still so much to learn. I’m haphazardly putting together garden plans, researching best plants for certain areas, soil types, sun exposure. Several plants arrived in the mail yesterday, and after they were in the ground, I felt amazing. It’s this weird feeling of accomplishment after many hours of internet searches. It might be slightly more productive than my other go-to mental break activities like painting!

Physical Health. It’s no secret that I don’t exercise or enjoy running. I used to practice Pilates in college (well, from a DVD), I’ve taken dance classes and nearly 6 weeks of Karate. But that’s about it.

Gardening has been a bit of a workout for me, so there’s that. But remember my neighbor friends? About a month ago, one of them asked me to take a trial class of CrossFit with her. I’m not really sure why, but I shrugged and said, why not?

Since then, my body has contorted in all sorts of ways I didn’t think possible. I climbed a rope to the top of the ceiling! I can sorta do a handstand! I can run a half mile without stopping! It’s baffling how much stronger this body is than given credit.

Do you want to hear about my dental hygiene again? I’ll spare you the details, but this year has been a BIG WIN for my gums. Hats to my Sonicare toothbrush and WaterPik for granting me a gold star at the last dentist appointment.

Spiritual Health. I’m a little embarrassed, but also proud, to announce that for the very first time in my life, I read the Bible cover-to-cover in 2016. Many times tried, I never could accomplish this task. It’s taken nearly 34 years to get here.

Besides reading books I hadn’t read in their entirety, the best part of this accomplishment is understanding context. I used a One Year Bible, which broke up daily readings with passages from Old and New Testaments, Psalms and Proverbs. It helped during the dull temple plans and censuses that historically killed my desire to plow through the rest of the Old Testament.

Honestly, there’s a bunch of things in the Bible that really bother me. I don’t like war. I don’t like violence. Unnatural things like giants and two- or four-faced angels creep me out, and it’s uncomfortable to think about visions, speaking in tongues and demons. I get bored with the prophets’ repetition about destruction and the end of the world.

But after reading its entirety, I realized a few things: sometimes bloodshed and fire are necessary for healing and growth; it’s good to get uncomfortable and rediscover God’s authority over the realness of dark power; repetition is best for understanding and action.

We’ve been attending a church that convicts and equips us to be salt and light in the world. It’s what we’ve been looking for and needed. Our family loves people from various backgrounds, and we’ve felt anger, fear and confusion just like everyone else during these last 100 days.

We choose to be authentic in our faith regardless of environment or context. This doesn’t mean I will shake my finger; it’s not my job to be judgmental in that way. Nor does it make much of an impact. Instead, I choose to live authentically like Jesus – who at times DID approach and command – but for the most part, influenced lives just by being him. And loving people, regardless of background. But, you know what? I’m still learning how to do this.

SO,

Here’s what I’m working on for this next year:
Get out and be active in the community. Serve. Be kind. Get to know someone unlike me and be educated. Build relationships and bridges. And don’t be afraid to speak up when the Holy Spirit gives an opportunity among a friend or neighbor to talk about faith or beliefs.

This good spot I’m in right now won’t last forever, but I believe it’s a grace period given so that I can prepare for any rough times ahead.

For now, I readily welcome the mid-thirties, and I feel great!

Posted: May 9th, 2017
Categories: Leah
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A Heart Like Hers

mary_jesusIt’s Christmastime, and Mary, mother of Jesus, is constantly on my mind. She pops into songs on the radio (even though I loathe “Mary, Did You Know?”), she adorns front yards and window displays of nativity scenes, and she even makes appearances in the YA book I’m currently reading (The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz) – even if it’s only because the narrator is obsessed with the Blessed Mother.

I find it intriguing that the meaning of the name Mary is “bitter,” yet so much warmth and purity is surrounded by that name. Her response to Gabriel shows a unique and humble spirit of willingness. Today, she is honored not only as the mother of Jesus, but also as his very first disciple.

This week I’m diving into Mary’s life. It’s fitting because of the time of year and because I can learn much from what we know about her. It’s my own form of advent, I guess. I’m not saying she was perfect. I know she wasn’t – she’s human. But I do think I can gain insight from her responses.

  • She quickly got over fear.
    Duh. An angel would scare anybody, but she listened intently to his message. I feel like I live every single day afraid of the unknown. I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate on anything spoken to me.
  • She didn’t ask many questions.
    But she did ask one really good one – HOW?! And when the answer was “nothing is impossible with God,” she knew she didn’t have to keep questioning. No doubting or speculating.
  • She accepted his will and rejoiced.
    Understanding this was a miracle, and that SHE was chosen for it replaced any hesitations she might have had. I would surely jump to what will Joseph think? Will he believe I didn’t cheat on him?? She praised God and announced her servant-hood. And yet remained humble about it all. No boasting.

As much as I admire her willingness, the concept of Mary’s new motherhood has been a struggle for me. I was so on-edge and nervous during my pregnancy with Wes, and I never related to Mary on that level of “awe” and anticipation. Christmas seems to be a time when people announce pregnancies and family growth – or you find out someone is expecting by simply seeing or running into them. It’s been surprisingly hard on me. I have been on a roller coaster of emotions regarding our family size over the years. Right now it’s particularly low, and I find that I’m actually a tiny bit jealous of Mary’s round belly, and later, her cooing little baby.

It’s no secret that this year has been the pits. I explained to a friend a few months ago that I felt like every pillar of my “house” felt weak and unstable. Usually one or two can (and does) lean a bit, but the rest of the foundation is intact enough that the ground settles within time. For whatever reason, God has chosen to shake things up everywhere in 2015 and test my/our ability to duck and roll with punches.

Speaking of, what were Mary’s thoughts when she saw her firstborn son beaten by the people he came to save? Remember that scene in John 19 where Jesus, while hanging on the cross, introduces Mary to John as his “new mother?” What ran across her mind? Surely she knew it was the end of his life at that point. A couple years ago, Wes had an asthma attack during the Easter weekend, and it scared me to the core. I remember reflecting on Mary’s amazing ability to trust God in spite of the world crashing down around her.

This week and leading up to Christmas Day, I aim to have a heart like Mary’s. It’s tiring to be fearful and sad. I’m sick of worrying and doubting. I desire to be willing, trusting and humble. Full of awe.

My prayer is that I look past this year’s terrible distractions and instead “bring” Jesus into my world by expressing his character, power, forgiveness and grace. He’s the best thing we’ve got.

Posted: December 15th, 2015
Categories: Leah
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2015: A real, raw Resolution

IMG_7933 - Edited

Christmas Eve 2014

Another year has gone by, and I’m reflecting on the year of 2014 while my son naps on this New Year’s Eve afternoon. It was a good year – many rejoices with friends and family over accomplishments, new life celebrations and new jobs. And it was a good year for our family, too – Wes’ continual learning has been evident, we have less debt and more savings, etc.

I’m not very good at typical New Year resolutions. I’m terrible at keeping a planned commitment together, so weight loss and reading schedules are out the window by week 2. It’s discouraging to set a resolution like that because I get irritated with my “lazy” self and inability to follow through.

Last year, I resolved to be a more attentive mother. I can proudly say that 2014 has been a year of many romps around the house, read-aloud book time, kitchen experiments, day-trips and excursions. We have had a truly fun and fulfilling year with our preschooler. Making that resolution wasn’t just for Wes, it was for all of us. Paying more attention to our family has brought us closer than ever, and there is a sense of joy felt when we’re all 3 together.

So, for 2015, I want to piggyback off that joyful feeling and apply it to the rest of my life, our lives. I know I blog about this topic often, but I so, so desire to be content, and it is a daily struggle that seems to only have gotten more difficult.

A few days ago, a local mother posted in our neighborhood’s “baby mamas” Facebook page. She was desperately looking for other women who were mothers of only children. I commented on this post, offering to talk, and we ended up sharing via Facebook message for the next two days.

Her experiences are very different than mine – after her third miscarriage on Christmas Eve, she was ready to stop trying for a second child completely and wanted to know (and confirm her decision) about the benefits of a 1-child family.

Over the summer I blogged about our trio family, and I still receive comments and questions about that post, even today. What might have been hidden between the lines was my despair. I have worked very hard over the last year to be at peace with our decision, and it has been most difficult. Granted, I haven’t been very consistent with praying about my contentment; many times my prayers have been only to take the pain away or distract me somehow.

I reached out to this mother because I have felt alone. It’s been a very difficult journey because it’s tough to know how and who to open up to. As much as I love Steven, he cannot understand my mourning for a child that doesn’t exist. And I hate to bring it up (as much as it’s on my mind) because it stirs up emotions that could eventually turn into fights disagreements. I don’t want him to feel like he’s “wrong” and I’m “right,” because that’s simply not true. It’s what we have decided, though it was a much more painful pill for me to swallow than for him. My yearning doesn’t do an ounce of good for our relationship.

My mom is sad for me and shares tears, and sometimes that’s helpful, but it’s draining and I can’t see that it will help for healing if it continues forever. My sister is a great listening ear and also shares my sorrow, but again, I feel the need to limit my open vomiting of sadness. My friends are great, but many are expecting or have had new babies, and it just makes for sometimes awkward conversation with a very large elephant residing in the room. And those that ask about our family planning open up a very raw conversation that is very strange – no, I will not sacrifice my marriage for another child. (I will not have an “accidental” pregnancy.)

I wanted her to know that when she feels lonely, there are other women like her and they can mourn with her. I was also truthful: that days can be tough – especially after wonderful, quiet moments with your existing child. While you’re loving that present moment, it’s bittersweet in that it’s the only child with whom you’ll be able to experience it. Every laugh with Wes, every sporadic ice cream trip – nearly all great things about this year have been shadowed with a dreadful black thought – this is it.

All that aside, yes, I’m grateful. I adore my little family and am truly blessed with my boys and dogs. Our life is full of silliness and experiences, and it’s better than anything I ever imagined. This Facebook mother was also grateful to hear these things, even though she very well understood black days…possibly even more than I will ever know. To know a life within you, and then lose it – I don’t know that I could fully recover on this earth.

I’m thankful that she publicly sought help. I guess that’s kinda what I’m doing now, by being real on this silly little family blog. Keeping it bottled inside isn’t allowing for contentment. Life is full of disappointments and sadness. But it’s also what makes JOY so amazing and wonderful. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think joy = happiness. But joy is a different sort of peace. It exists in my heart, but it needs to be more present.

I don’t ever want Steven or Wesley to think that they aren’t enough – they make my heart beat and burst to fulfilling levels. Heck, all we TRULY NEED is Jesus, and I already have him in my life and heart, so honestly, I am complete. Yet, we are fallible humans and my lack of trust in the Lord is a constant struggle.

So, 2015. Here we come. I realize I will fail some days, but overall, I am doing my best to be content with everything I have and need. These verses from Paul will be my yearly reminder:

I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. — Philippians 4:12-13 (NLT)

Posted: December 31st, 2014
Categories: Leah
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Thankful. (Still) Working on Contentedness.

This year is weird. So many twists and turns and never really knowing up from down. But since it’s Thanksgiving season, I wanted to take a moment to be still and reflect on our blessings. Because we do have a lot.

Around this time last year, I was not content. There were things I wanted to change about everything. I complained about the size of our house. I was overwhelmed at work. I didn’t feel connected to our church family. And I so badly wanted a better car. I’m sure I was a nightmare to live with. Poor Steven.

It wasn’t fun to live that way. This past spring, I prayed (not very hard, mind you), that I would learn to be content with my surroundings. I typically don’t like change, but it’s funny when you’re set on something new and different and it doesn’t phase you as “change.” Even though it wasn’t a very fervent prayer, I know God understood my heart and where I wanted to be. And this Thanksgiving, I can say, “it’s okay. I’m good.”

Our house isn’t big or glamorous, but it’s cozy. And I love that we are “forced” to spend every evening together in the same room as a family. Tough nickels, eh? Our neighbors are wonderful. And it’s a snap to clean since there isn’t much that gets dirty!

The most remarkable and difficult and out-of-nowhere change happened this summer. After 2012 passed and the dust settled, I became comfortable in my job again. I was happy, but things weren’t right. Just when I started to understand (and sob) that it was time to move on, my current position fell into my lap. It made so much sense that I’m still baffled today at the easy transition. Not that it was easy to leave; quite the contrary. But once the mourning period was over, I was able to spread my wings. My 4.5 years at Joy’s House taught me to fly.

Our church is small, and on a typical Sunday, we average 80 members in attendance. Most of those 80 people are older families or empty nesters. I have hoped for and desired a handful of people our age with young kids that share similarities with me and Steven to join our church so painfully much that it got in the way of the things that really mattered. I’m relearning how to love our congregation. Did you know that you CAN be friends with 50 and 60-year-olds? And heck, they have lots of living under their belts to give you straight answers and advice.

It seems silly now to write about a car. But, you know? You spend a lot of time in that thing, and when you don’t love your car, it can be a problem. I’ve never really had a car I loooooved like some people do, but I certainly had affection toward my first driving-machines. The car I currently drive – it’s not its fault that I don’t draw a big heart around its name – wasn’t my choice of vehicle when we bought it. I had higher hopes outside of our price range. It’s a fine car, really: gets great gas mileage, has a wonderful warranty and everything. But over the last few years, I decided I NEEDED a Subaru Outback. I spent hours researching used Subies for killer deals, and it became salt in the wound for all of us. Instead of learning to love my car, I’ve become detached. Now, it’s “just a car.” Who cares, really? It gets us safely from point A to point B, and all Wes cares about is firetrucks.

So, there. Just a few things that I can now call blessings. There’s still a lot to be done to be fully content; it’s a work in progress. Honestly, it doesn’t mean that I’m always happy and life is full of rainbows. But being content with who you are, where you live and what you’re doing – well, that’s peace I haven’t known before. It’s nice not to worry so much about every little thing. To hand over the reigns and walk down the path set before you.

And I know I’m getting sappier as I age, but I embrace it. I like that I can morph this Leah into a gentler, sympathetic, more loving person. Well, actually, I guess it’s the guy upstairs who’s doing the morphing… but I’ll follow.

Posted: November 20th, 2013
Categories: Leah
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Comments: 2 Comments.

On Contentedness

My heart is not proud;
  my eyes are not haughty.
I don’t concern myself with matters too great
  or too awesome for me to grasp.
Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself.
Psalm 131:1-2a NLT

Antique White or Ivory Lace? Do you realize how many various shades of white paint you can choose from? I brought home at least 15 different swatches to find the perfect shade for our living room. This will be the third color the walls have seen since we moved in six years ago. You know what’s funny? The walls were white – or Bone Satin – when we bought the place. I can’t seem to find the right “aura” for this particular room. Yellow was short lived, and the current brown is just so dark. I need light, airy space in there…I think.

I’m not going to pretend that I follow the ancient psalm above. My resolutions for 2013 weren’t publicly announced, though I did tell myself that I would practice being content with my life. I’ve been a worrier for as long as I remember, and trusting the Lord has always been a difficult task. So when I poorly jerryrigged a new rod and set of curtains above our big living room window today, I nearly broke down with shame when Steven came home to find my disastrous attempt. He was able to pull them directly off the wall, and they clattered to the floor. I was so ready for a new look that I didn’t care to make sure it was safe.

Here’s the thing. I like our house, but it’s certainly not my dream house. It’s been a wonderful place for us as a newly married couple with furry friends. Sometimes a tiny kitchen is cozy and quaint, and original hardwoods, glass tile and Formica are sought-after in certain markets. While I love the features of our home, I’ve struggled over the years with being happy about its layout. Entertaining people in a small house can be a challenge, and add a toddler to the mix… you get the idea. So small updates, like my curtain and paint idea, have been my go-to remedy for rekindling that first house love.

Sure, you can tell me that it’s all good, I was just excited about decorating, right? Right. I am. And don’t get me wrong, we will install them (properly) soon enough, and we probably will get a wall color picked out eventually. But the point is this: my focus isn’t aligned. I’m not practicing contentedness.

I could easily put the blame to Pinterest or other social media. Everyone posts happy news because they want to celebrate with others, and why not? I do it, too. “Yay! I just saved $173849128374 on my grocery bill!” or “Hooray! Look at these before and after photos of my closet organization!” Some friends have good baby news, some are building a new house, some are going on vacation or bought a new car. While I am happy and rejoice along with them, I know that I’ve taken it to heart in a negative way. I’ve been downright jealous.

Surrounded by family and friends, a wonderful job, a sturdy roof over my head and reliable car to drive, I still long for more. Once the curtains are hung in a newly painted living room, the sting will likely lessen for a while. Then, inevitably, it will creep back. I’ve got to get a handle on this contentedness thing before it consumes. What kind of example will I be for Wes if he sees my unhappiness? Will he think that his love isn’t enough? That things are good for only a little while?

Oh, dear. I guess I’ll start small – like, with the living room. If it doesn’t turn out like a photo on houzz.com, it will be alright. After all, the whole goal for my white wall haven is to provide a feeling of calm and quiet. For Pete’s sake, be still, Leah.

Posted: March 17th, 2013
Categories: Leah
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Comments: 4 Comments.


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