Christmas Challenges – Putting on Armor

IMG_0017It’s overcast outside.  Yesterday it rained all day long!  It feels like the weather has been a reflection of the emotions that I’m fighting right now.  Dreariness…discouragement…disappointment…and a bit of disillusionment.  

These are not emotions that I’m proud of…but they are real…and sometimes they are vicious.  They wake me up at night.  They torment me during my quiet moments.  They disturb my conversations.  Somehow, they seem to be at their “best” during the holiday season.

They sit on my shoulder and continually tell me lies.  Lies like…

  • …you are failing.
  • …no one appreciates you.
  • …what you are doing doesn’t really matter…you aren’t making a difference.
  • …your struggles are so much more difficult than everyone else’s.
  • …relationships aren’t worth the struggle and effort.
  • …protect yourself at all costs.
  • …no matter what you do, it will never be good enough.
  • …you are alone.
  • …things have changed, they will never be the same

And I respond with more questions of my own…questions that have lies cleverly disguised within them.

  • …When will life ever get easier?
  • …When will anything I plan go as I planned?
  • …Do others even notice what I do?
  • …Why doesn’t anyone ever say thank you?
  • …Why in the world did I choose to go into ministry?
  • …Why do I always feel like I’m the one left holding the bag?
  • …When will buying Christmas presents NOT be stressful?
  • …Why am I struggling while others appear to be thriving?
  • …Does anyone really know what it’s like?
  • …Why doesn’t anyone even notice that I’m struggling?
  • …Why must I always be the the strong one?
  • …Why does life have to constantly be changing?

The other day I asked a couple of my friends to pray for me…to pray that I could find my armor.  I was struggling…struggling with all the things  I have listed above and feeling like I was struggling with all of them simultaneously.  You know, sometimes to survive life, you need a good suit of armor.  Fortunately, I know where to find that armor.  The problem is that sometimes I just feel too tired to put it on…too tired to even look for it…and sometimes, too tired to even remember that I have been given armor. And yet, the most amazing armor is waiting for me…

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God,so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. – Ephesians 6:10-18

Sometimes I think the battle would be easier if I could *see* the enemy.  But instead, so many times, the enemy is unseen and seems to actually be my own mind and my own thoughts.  It takes putting on the “belt of truth“…telling myself God’s truth and turning away from the lies that I hear in my head. The “sword of the Spirit” contains the truth and when I wield that sword, I can silence the enemy…I can silence my own mind and thoughts.

I know that to be true.  You probably know that too!  But sometimes amidst difficult circumstances, disciplining myself to put on the armor is difficult.  This season is a busy time…a complicated time…a stressful time.  It has a way of magnifying trials and challenges. Before long, I can find myself discouraged, disillusioned and disappointed in myself, in my life, and in those around me.

But I’m really working at it this year…working at disciplining my mind and my heart to focus on God’s truth.  Sometimes I’m more successful than others and sometimes I fail miserably.  One thing that is helping me this year, is to methodically take my thoughts “in hand” when they start veering to the negative…to the self-pity. Instead of cutting myself slack and allowing myself to wallow for even a bit, I’m deliberately and quickly turning my focus on things for which I am thankful and I’ve been verbalizing those things out loud to others.  That probably sounds corny…but it is making a difference…at least for me it is.

Just this afternoon I came home from trying to squeeze the life out of an impossible Christmas budget (I’m sure you are too)…I was discouraged and frustrated on many levels and for many reasons.  When I got home, John asked how I was doing and I had to admit that I was struggling with a root of bitterness.  He took my face in his hands and acknowledged that he has been feeling the same way over the past few days.  But, he also reminded me that even with all the trials and challenges that we have faced the past few years…health, job, finances, major disappointments and more…that he wouldn’t trade our life or our family for anything.  We both ended up laughing.  It was like “seeing through a glass darkly” and then seeing the circumstances face to face…in the light of eternity.

I know I’m not the only one struggling with emotions this time of year.  Maybe we can lift each other up?  Maybe we can help one another put on the armor needed to walk through the season victoriously…to walk through Christmas seeing HIM face to face…

What are the words to that old song?

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will go strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.

So I’m going to keep trying to put on the belt of truth and wield that “sword of the Spirit” which is the Word of God.  I want to walk victoriously this Christmas season.  I want to focus on the right things.  I don’t want to waste time or energy on things that would keep me from seeing what is most important during this season.  I have a feeling if I do that I will gain a new perspective on my life and my circumstances.  

What about you?

Ramblings on Storms, Babies, Awe and Gratitude

The sun is just starting to at least cast a glow through the heavy clouds and snow.  I look out the front window and it’s hard to tell how much snow has fallen so far because the wind has been blowing all night.  I can’t see the horses in the corral so I’m assuming they are huddled together in the barn stalls and oh boy, there will be some digging out to do out there so that we can get those doors shut again.  Our best guess is that we have 8-9 new inches on top of the 6 that was left over from the last storm.  They are predicting another 6-10 throughout the day today.  It looks like it is going to be a very white winter here this year.  Not complaining….all this moisture will come in handy during the summer dry season when our state has been so plagued by fires.

I woke up early this morning.  No special reason.  My eyes just opened around 4 a.m.  I tried to go back to sleep but about 4:20, I gave up, walked upstairs and made the coffee and settled in for some quiet moments.  We put up the Christmas tree last night.  It’s stunning.  One of the most beautiful and perfectly shaped trees that I have ever seen.  It was just the three of us putting up the tree.  The numbers keep dwindling.  This year Jordan is living down in Denver and between his schedule and our schedule, I knew we would never get the tree up if we waited on a common day for all four of us.  I wanted to be sure we got it up relatively early since we have a production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe on the 13th and 14th.  But mostly, because I know that at any time, we could get the call from John Michael and Windy telling us that Windy is in labor down in Atlanta and Christmas in Colorado will be over.  Yep, we are going to do our best to beat “Little Lane” arrival.  Should be interesting…and probably stressful….but “stress is a choice right.”

When Jeremy and Jessica had Emma we made it to the hospital in Los Angeles just in time.  As I walked in, Jeremy came out to get me.  I was shocked.  They wanted me and Jessica’s mother in the delivery room. Now I couldn’t have done that in a million years…but I’m OH SO GRATEFUL that they desired that.  I was a bit unsure of myself when I walked in and just quietly watched, listened and helped as each opportunity arose. And when Emma finally arrived, I felt an overwhelming sense of awe and gratitude.  Awe that God had allowed another precious little one to join our family…awe at the miracle of birth…awe that my son was now a daddy….gratitude that momma and baby were both healthy…gratitude that I had been able to be a part of the whole experience.  There weren’t any words for the way I was feeling.  And, I was still quiet…because there were no words.

Birth has always been kind of a quiet experience for me.  It’s such a miracle.  For the momma, it takes alot of concentration and work.  The daddy is quietly giving comfort and reassurance.  At least that was my experience all four times.  I wanted the room and the atmosphere quiet and peaceful.  When our first son was born we had Christmas music playing…Handel’s Messiah to be exact.  He (John Michael) wasn’t due until January 3rd but he arrived on December 20th…on our second wedding anniversary.  John Michael and Windy’s “Little Lane” is due on December 23rd. So excited!  It’s really kind of surreal that that they are having a baby so close to the time when John and I had our first son….who is now going to be the daddy to “Little Lane.”  It’s made me pretty reminiscent…and once again filled with awe and gratitude.  God has surely blessed our family.  We have had our fair share of struggles and trials.  At times, I think both John and I thought we had MORE than our fair share of struggles and trials.  But when I see the family that God has blessed us with…starting with the heritage that comes from my precious mom and John’s amazing mom and dad, to our four boys, to their spouses and now to grandchildren…all I can feel is awe and gratitude.

Those that don’t know me very well see the “work” that I do with Artios…and I love what I do believe me.  But honestly, all I ever wanted was a husband that loved me unconditionally, who would raise our children to love God and to want to live to glorify Him, and children who would seek after God with all their heart, all their soul and all their mind. As I watch that reality, I am filled with awe and gratitude.  As I’ve grown older, my dream expanded to include spouses for my boys…spouses who would also love God with all their heart, all their soul and all their mind and then, who would love my boys with everything inside of them…who would complete them.  As I watch that reality, I am filled with awe and gratitude.  Now, as God is blessing us with grandchildren, my dream expands yet again.  I want for them the greatest gift of all…a personal relationship with the God of the Universe.  I pray for that even now!

I am filled with awe and gratitude because I know from whence I came…I know the mistakes I’ve made, the sins I’ve committed…and I know how GREAT God’s grace is to have saved me, set my feet upon a rock and directed my path even when I didn’t even know He was there.  I am filled with awe and gratitude because I know that there is nothing I could do to deserve that grace…

and that’s why they call it grace…it is unmerited.  

Awe and Gratitude!  Yep…that pretty  much sums it up.

A Tribute to My Friend

Instead of posting something unique to this blog today, I’m going to refer you to another blog that John and I run called, Heart of the Matter Online.

Late yesterday afternoon, I learned of the sudden passing of a dear friend and mentor, Debbie Strayer.  She was so influential to so many people and a real pillar of home education.  Mentored by Ruth Beechick, Debbie passed along much wisdom, experience and insight to those around her.  I’m grateful to have been able to call her friend.

I’d love to share more about her with you.  You can read more at:  Debbie Strayer – A Friend and Mentor to Many.

See you tomorrow!

Lori

It’s Father’s Day…and Mr. Janke Called Me!

The phone rang yesterday.  I kept hearing it ring but I was outside planting flowers.  You know the ones that I will kill…or this Rocky Mountain altitude will kill off in the next few weeks.

Anyway, I heard the phone ring….and then ring again…and then ring again!  So, when I came inside, I checked the caller ID and guess who had been calling me.  Yes, that’s right!  Mr. Janke had been calling.  I quickly tried to call back but got his voice mail, so I ran to my computer and emailed him as well.

Eventually, he called back and we talked and talked and talked.  Laughed about old times and talked about life in general.  Kind of like we used to do when I was growing up.

You see, Mr. Janke was my “dad” growing up.  All my boys know his name.  Oh, how I wish they could meet him face to face.  Because you see, he has had an impact on them, even though they have never met him.  I’ve told them all about him.  I’ve told dozens of my students all about him.  And, when I speak to parent groups, I tell them all about him too!

Why?

Because, he invested in me so that ultimately, I could invest in them.

You remember the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.  Remember, what a far reaching influence George Bailey’s life had on those around him?  Well, that’s Mr. Janke!  Want to more of this story….be sure to read:

Happy Father’s Day Mr. Janke

I think this was probably the best Father’s Day weekend I have ever had.

May we all be “investors” in the lives of others!

Faith and Courage,

Lori

Overloaded and Overwhelmed

Too much work…not enough time or help.

I think everyone can feel that way from time to time.  Whether you are a stay-at-home mom, homeschool mom, career mom, husband, wife, volunteer…everyone feels that squeeze from time to time.  It’s when the “squeezed feeling” becomes a way of life that you start to have trouble.  I’m so predictable when I’m feeling the squeeze.  I usually react in one of two ways.

1.  I put my head down, put blinders on and just work until I drop…and I mean literally drop.

OR, if that doesn’t get results…

2.  I start feeling sorry for myself and allow myself to feel overworked and under-appreciated.

OR…if I’m being logical and level headed, I do the unspeakable.

I ASK FOR HELP.

 

With the challenges or opportunities we face, often comes the time when there is too much work…not enough time and not enough help.

So, I told you that I have faced some challenges in the past few months…well, past 2 or 3 years actually.  For awhile, I had reaction #1.  I put my head down, put blinders on and worked until I dropped…and I did literally drop.  I experienced some serious health issues.  Now, the doctor will tell you that the issues I had were due to a condition that I’ve had for years but had never really “acted up” before.  And, I can tell you why my Fibromuscular Dysplasia finally acted up…or at least my theory on that topic.  I had pushed too hard for too long.

So, I then went to reaction #2.  I let my self wallow a bit in self-pity and allowed myself to dwell on thoughts of being over-worked and under-appreciated.  Not a pretty sight.

Then, I finally realized that “stress is a choice” ..or at least my reaction to stress is a choice.  I also realized that the amount of work I was facing was due to a series of choices I had made within my home, within my family, within my relationships and of course, within my ministry.   I also realized I could alter the situation with other choices.  So….

#1 – I hired a virtual assistant.  Yes, I went on odesk and put an advertisement for someone that was familiar with homeschooling, had corporate administrative assistant experience, social media manager experience and most importantly, could work with a personality like mine.  Meaning…needed little direction.  Someone I could throw a “long pass” to…and they could complete the yardage for a touchdown.  Tall order right?  Well, God supplied one…and not only did He supply, but He supplied one that just happens to live in Denver so that we could occasionally see each other face to face.  She started helping me in late October of 2012 and life began to change.

#2 – I hired an administrative assistant for our local campus of Artios Academies.  Again, I needed many of the same qualifications listed above, but I also needed someone that was completely sold on the ministry of Artios.  It soon became clear that God had supplied this person as well.  Since I would see this person more often, I needed someone that wouldn’t try and “mother” me.  Does that make sense?  I needed someone that would assist me…but not boss me around.  I needed someone who respected my strengths and could “shore up” my weaknesses.  God supplied her too!  She started in May…and life changed more.

#3 – I started to take back control of my calendar.  I’ve always been a planner.  Most people think that an artsy person never plans and is always unorganized.  I haven’t found that to be true in all cases.  What an “artsy” or creative person does do, is commit to too many things and lose control of their calendar so that details start to fall through the cracks.  Back in the fall of 2012, feeling the stresses I’ve been relating, I began reading some good leadership and personal growth books again. One of those books was, “Creating Your Own Personal Life Plan” by Michael Hyatt.  He didn’t say anything new.  I had heard it all before.  But, under the weight of my responsibilities, I had forgotten some of these principles and strategies and needed reminding.  So, in the spring I began to really plan ahead and say no to meetings, responsibilities and deadlines that would not fit into my overall goals for my family, my marriage, my personal growth and my ministry.  Yep…as expected some people started feeling slighted.  Others didn’t understand why I couldn’t take time to do some of the things they expected of me.  But, it was the right move for me and for my family.

#4 – I made some needed staffing changes.  These were changes that needed to happen about three years ago but the timing wasn’t right and the right people weren’t in place.  But as I was reading in the fall, it became clear that the time was right and that I needed to take the bull by the horns, step out of some of the minutia, and let my leaders lead.  That’s what I began to put into place after the first of the year….and I can’t wait to feel the effects of those changes when fall rolls around.

#5 – I lowered my expectations in specific areas.  In other words, I quit trying to do it all…and do it all at the same time.  I realized that at certain times when I was facing a huge deadline in one area, that it was very likely I needed to let another area slide for a bit or to delegate that area and/or ask for help.  This wasn’t just at work.  This was also within our family with regards to meal preparation, house cleaning, errands, and more.  Guess what?  Everyone was happy to help…eager to help.  It bound us together as a team.  Why did I wait so long to communicate that to those who loved me?

#6 – I also became a bit realistic on the whole homestead thing.  You may remember, that at the other ranch we had chickens, goats (we had gotten up to 12 of those critters), dog, cat, and six horses.  That’s alot of responsibility.  Moving to a smaller location and a smaller, less equipped barn was a reality check.  Not having the space needed to “contain” the chaos that comes along with animals, all of us began to realize our sojourn into the world of goat herding was over.  So we gave a large family a couple of the goats that would soon be in milk.  We sold some back to the original owners and we took the rest to the sale barn where they were purchased by a rancher needing them for weed control.  So, no more goats.  Then spring came, and I knew we needed more chickens to replace those that were getting a bit “old”.  But, the thought of dealing with chicks during all the spring snow storms along with the need to expand the hen house, well, once again reality set in.  We didn’t buy any new chickens….we sold one of the horses and have two more up for sale.  We are “simplifying” our “ranch” I guess you could say.

I could go on with other changes that I’ve made and am in the process of making.  But, I guess my point is this.  Feeling overwhelmed and overloaded happens.  Most of the time, it is a result of my own decisions.  BUT, it is not a hopeless situation.  Just as my decisions got me into the mess.  I can also make decisions to begin to pull me out of that mess.  The challenge then becomes an opportunity to grow personally, to work with a team of talented people, and to become even more effective.

I would love to hear from you about steps you have found that helped you make the challenge of being overloaded and overwhelmed into an opportunity for personal growth and change.

 

Challenges or Opportunities, Part One

After yesterday’s post, I received a comment telling me not to leave everyone “hanging”…but to get into what has been going on in my life.  For whatever reason, I always hesitate doing that.  Yet, I know that the blogs that I’m drawn to have a transparent feel to them, one in which the writer is just sharing of herself.  So, at the risk of feeling a bit “naked”, I’m going to share a bit.  I could share about the health struggles that seem to have affected every member of our family this past year, the finance challenges, the work challenges, the church challenges….the list is pretty long.  But today, I’m just going to focus on something a bit more “trivial”….housing and space challenges.

You remember…or maybe you don’t, that we moved back to our original Colorado home late last August.  We had been “managing” another ranch and facility with the hopes of purchasing that property.  But, God had other plans, doors closed, and other doors opened.  One of the challenges of moving back to our original house included a space challenge.  Our house is small, open concept and very little storage.  Yes, I knew all that when we purchased it…but we had plans, big plans to expand it.  Again, God has had other plans or at least delayed those plans.

I don’t know about you, but when my “nest” is not settled, I just can’t think.  Once we moved back in, school almost immediately started.  Yes, we homeschool.  But, we also own Artios Academies, which is a arts and academics program that assists homeschool families.  We have several campuses in several states.  So, as you can imagine, to move right as all of that was starting up for the school year meant that I needed to delay some of the projects that needed to be handled around here.  I wasn’t going to delay them for long.  I just wanted to follow my mantra and priorities of “people, process and product” at home as well as within Artios.

But that delay meant I never felt settled.  So thankful I had lots of help from my sweet 15 year old who loves to organize.  But, when he organizes that means I don’t know where anything is.  Get the picture.  So, in some ways I have felt like I was staying in someone else’s home.  Don’t get me wrong!  I’m SO glad to be back for SO many reasons.  But, you know how we women are…we like to “nest”.

The space challenge has continued to bug me and instead of embracing it and rolling with it, I’ve just continued to hit my head against a brick wall and chafe under the confinement that I felt it brought to me.  I knew I didn’t have money to buy things to “make things better” and I, (for whatever reason) refused to try and be creative with what I did have.

Put all of that together…and I’ve been fuzzy headed.  Can you relate?  My frustration and my lack of thinking “outside the box” has had me stuck in this area.  Well, I’m still struggling!  But, I’m starting to make progress.  For example, one morning I got up and had “had it” with all the clutter in my kitchen cupboards.  So, I began cleaning them out and throwing things out and giving things away.  Well, that was a step in the right direction.

Yesterday, I tackled the laundry room.  Something that has totally been on my nerves.  Now, before I go any further, let me describe my house layout to you.

When you walk through the front door you are immediately in the main room which is open concept to the kitchen.  The kitchen (yes the kitchen) has the one main bathroom off of it.  There are log stairs going up to a loft where the boys sleep….and stairs going down to a ground floor where there is another large room which is our bedroom.  Off of our bedroom is the laundry room and an “in progress” master bath.  That’s it.

So….what is the point of this post!  Well, I guess you could say I’m “exhorting” myself to think of this house as an opportunity instead of a challenge that holds me back….one that I can’t overcome.  The fires down in the Springs reminded me….I have much to be thankful for.

What about you?  Are you facing some challenges that just might be opportunities in disguise?

Catching Up!

Yes, I know!  It has been months since I blogged here.  As my friend said to me yesterday….”If I didn’t know you, and know that the events you have experienced are real, I would never believe all this could happen to one family.”

I have to agree!  If I wasn’t “living it”, I wouldn’t believe it either.  But, God is faithful and I’m trying to be the same.

It’s been full….it’s been challenging…and it’s been a time of growth.

So, as I get started back blogging a bit, perhaps I will share some of these things with you.  Sometimes, it’s hard to know if anyone is out there listening..but that’s really not the point.  I blog here to record my life…and if that’s helpful to others…that’s an added blessing.

Catching up soon!

Faith and Courage,

Lori