We each have a life story, penned without ink, read by the people around us. Who's writing your story?

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Reading Between the Lines

For months now, I've eyed that quiet shelf in my office closet, the third one down, with a lifetime of journals and prayer notebooks arranged in order by date. Over the years I've moved them from place to place as we've repurposed and rearranged, but not once did I crack one open to read the chronicles within.  

If you've followed my journey, you're familiar with my occasional yet repeated references to simplifying and downsizing. I've spent the last four years wading through a lifetime of accumulated "stuff," highly motivated by my desire to spare my children the weight of it all.

It's one thing to toss 1984 homeschool catalogs, donate dozens of VHS documentaries, and find teachers and students who gladly receive Latin and Spanish curriculum. It's quite another to decide what to do with decades of handwritten stories. Stories about family, events, celebrations, school days, worries, fears, regrets, life lessons, and well . . . whatever else happened to come to mind on any given day. Memories recorded in black and white . . . someday to be remembered in living color.

On my birthday last September, I decided it was my job to take care of these volumes in one way or another. In March, I finally mustered up the courage to begin. Page after written page, I read. Sometimes I found myself smiling . . . like the time one of the girls danced around the living room singing, "I can read! I can read!" Or when said daughter couldn't decide on which socks to wear to make her "shoes feel good." Or the day she got her head stuck in a chair at school. Another of them dressed up like Polly Pepper, and at Thanksgiving, a native American, complete with fringe and papoose.

I found the record of when we paid off our house and the season we harvested 49 quarts of strawberries and canned umpteen quarts of tomatoes and pickles. I noted the day when Patches the Guinea pig died and how Daddy helped bury him in the garden under a stone painted yellow. I leafed through the celebratory stories of birthdays and end-of-the-school-year-parties, prayers and baptisms, swimming lessons and family outings.

But lest you think our lives were mostly idyllic, my eyes also traveled over pages of weary fatigue, frustration, busyness, uncertainty, and desperate prayers for wisdom and guidance. I scribbled, "God, where are you? I'm trying so hard. Why does it seem I will never be enough? Please take care of my girls." Tears sprang to my eyes as I laid the book down. 

Can you relate?

I happened to mention my bittersweet experience to a friend who parroted back to me what she and I had talked about in times past. "What is true?" she reminded me. "Read your journals as an act of worship as you recall God's work in your life. Let go of the pages that are no longer beneficial." 

An act of worship. Letting go of the If Onlys leaves room for us to read the grace of God between the lines. His unfailing presence. His steadfast love. His promise of redemption. He brought us through those days . . . the learning days . . . the growing days . . . all for His glory. 

It's been good for me to review my life through my own pen. Humbling, really. Words have a way of representing a more accurate picture than memory. All these years later, I find myself worshipping God with a sweeter appreciation for His faithfulness . . . and for His readiness to listen to the broken, hopeful prayers of a mother's heart. 

Behold, I am doing a new thing . . . 
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:19

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Four Questions to Ask Your Kids . . . and Yourself

When's the last time you "happened" to hear or read something not directed toward people in your season of life but nonetheless that grabbed your attention?

I turned in to Focus on the Family this past week while driving home and happened to catch an interview with Dr. Kathy Koch (Ph.D. in Reading and Educational Psychology) centered around her book, Start with the Heart: How to Motivate Your Kids to Be Compassionate, Responsible, and Brave (Even When You're Not Around).

Although my 24-hour-a-day parenting days are behind me, I found the discussion intriguing. She talked about (among other topics) the five basic needs of children, the four roles of parents, and the difference between rewards/punishment and consequences. But what I took away were four questions to ask children in order to understand them better . . .  perhaps every year on their birthdays or at the beginning of a school year. Asking questions requires active listening, follow-up questions, and healthy discussion.

And these four questions are just as good for parents/adults to ask themselves and perhaps talk over with a significant other. 

Here they are:
1. What do I want to BE in my life (can include character qualities, professions)?
2. What do I want to DO in my life?
3. What do I want to HAVE in my life?
4. What/Who do I want to HELP (causes, interests)?

It's good to take a few minutes now and then to prayerfully evaluate where we are and where we would like to be in, say, six months, a year, five years. Not that God can't change our plans (Proverbs 16:9), yet goals propel us forward. For me, if I don't have a list, I get nowhere!

C.S. Lewis once said, "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." I have a little dreaming to do this week.

So what do you want to BE, to DO, to HAVE, and who do you want to HELP? 

Here are the links to the programs from Focus on the Family:

Photos from bing.com/images/free to use