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?

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Catching Up With Thankfulness

I am a big proponent of writing things down in a journal.  That principle applies to Scripture that touches my heart, goals that I have, things to pray about, things I have to do, and yes, things I am thankful for.  As usual, I’ve fallen behind this month in documenting those things that I’m thankful for…but I have definitely been pondering it.  Sometimes when you read lists like this, from the outside looking in, the list can appear trite.  But, I assure you…these are all things for which I am eternally grateful.  I did Days 1-3 in the last post…so, I’ll begin with Day 4.

Day Four – I am thankful and amazed that God reached down and saved me…saved me when I had nothing to offer and nothing good to bring before Him.

Day Five – I am thankful that God made each of my sons so unique and different from one another because He had unique and different callings and purposes for each of them.

Day Six – I am thankful that I am getting “older”….(notice I didn’t say “old)…because with growing “older” comes the ability to look back and definitively see God’s hand at work…orchestrating each and every event in my life.

Day Seven – I am thankful that I have the ability to work in ministry/business with my family.

Day Eight – I am thankful that my children love their God and are seeking His face.

Day Nine – I am thankful that God has allowed me to live in the state of Colorado…the state that brings me the most peace and contentment…and that I can be surrounded by such incredible evidence of God’s creativity each and every day.

Day Ten – I am thankful that we finally have a church in our area that we can attend knowing that God’s word will be preached each and every Sunday.

Day Eleven – I am VERY grateful that our third son, after struggling with illness for several years, appears to be on the upswing.

Day Twelve – I am SO grateful for my mom and the sacrifices that she made so that I could have such an incredible educational experience and training growing up.

Day Thirteen – I am thankful that I have a piano in my home on which I can practice and through which I can communicate with some of my deepest emotions.

Day Fourteen – I am thankful for the team of people that God has put together in the ministry of Artios Academies.

Day Fifteen – I am thankful that God brought Windy to my son John.  She is his perfect completer…and a wonderful addition to our family.

Day Sixteen – I am thankful that God brought Jessica to my son Jeremy.  She is his loving helpmeet…and such a joy to watch as a wife and mother.

Day Seventeen – I am thankful for our granddaughter Emma…and for the joy she brings to each of us as we experience life anew through her eyes.

Day Eighteen – I am thankful for the new grandbaby that will join us in December…I would tell you her name…but it’s a secret! : )

Day Nineteen – I am thankful for the new grandbaby that will join us in March.

Day Twenty – I am thankful for John Michael and the way he has allowed God to use him in the lives of young people as a positive influence and role model….and the way God has used him in our lives as an encourager and a colleague.

Day Twenty-one – I am thankful for Jeremy…for his desire to do the right thing and for his strong and determined spirit to be what he needs to be to his wife and children…and the way God has used Jeremy in our lives to inspire and challenge.

Day Twenty-two – I am thankful for Jordan…for his teachability and his strong desire to follow God’s leading in his life no matter what the cost…and for the way he has been willing to walk alongside us through good times and bad…and for him being such a great big brother to Jared.

Day Twenty-three – I am thankful for Jared…for his constant joy in every area of life…for his excitement and enthusiasm…and for the way he desires to study Scripture in depth and on his own at such an early age.

Day Twenty-four – I am thankful for my “in-laws” and the way they have welcomed me into their family unconditionally…and for their friendship and guidance over the years.

Day Twenty-five – I am thankful that God supplied an office space for us to have outside of our home so that we could have the work space we needed without it invading our tiny house.

That catches me up…but I assure you…I could easily write more.  God has been faithful to me…even when I have not been faithful to me….and for that…I am also grateful.

No Cooking with Grandma this Week

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This week there won’t be a “Cooking with Grandma” post as I’m traveling and interacting with 140 kids from the various Artios campuses while we are all attending the High School Fine Arts Competition in Greenville, SC.  But, hopefully, I’ll be back up on that series two weeks from today when I’m back home and in my own kitchen again.

In the meantime, I wanted to publicly do what I’m privately doing during the month of November and that is to each day focus specifically on different things that I am thankful for. It has been said that one can’t be worried or anxious if one is focused on having a heart of gratitude and thankfulness.  I have been trying this consistently over the past couple of years, and although I am far from perfect at doing it, I do know that when I put the principle into practice, it does prove itself to be true.

The following are in no particular order.  Once again, I’m writing in “stream of consciousness” style.

Day One – I am grateful for the balcony people in my life.  These are those people that instead of negatively criticizing or complaining about me consistently inspire and cheer me on.  It’s like being on the “playing field” and looking up in the stands and seeing a group of people specifically cheering and encouraging you.  That means SO much!

Day Two – I am grateful for a husband that has been and continues to be my number one “balcony person.”  It takes a strong man to lead a strong woman.  So thankful that God provided me with a man that has what it takes to lead me and while leading to also be an encouragement to me.  Over the years, I’ve seen alot of examples of men that were looked at as “strong leaders” simply because they had strong and sometimes even overbearing personalities but i I never saw them demonstrate servant leadership or the type of leadership in the home described in Scripture as “loving your wife more than your own body.”  So very thankful to have a husband who is a strong man who wasn’t scared off by a strong woman.  He has raised sons that are demonstrating that same type of leadership in their own homes and lives…which makes me doubly grateful.

Day Three – I am thankful that God gave me a passion to work with and around young people and that every day of my life, I am given the opportunity to use that passion.

I probably won’t post every day this month…but will try and post from time to time and share with you the things I am thankful for as we lead up to Thanksgiving.

Faith and Courage, Lori

Cooking with My Grandma

IMG_2915As you know, the last post I wrote had to do with playing in the kitchen.  It was so relaxing.  This past week I’ve been a bit under the weather.  Nothing serious…just, you know, under the weather.  I’ve worked from the couch, read from the couch, watch the seasons change from the couch, slept on the couch, watched TV on the couch.  You know how it is!

I’ve also been doing alot of thinking while on the couch.  Sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes that’s a bad thing. For today, I’m just going to talk to you about one of the “good things” I’ve been thinking about.

I need a a distraction…I think people call it a hobby.  Whatever you call it I need one.  Most of what I do as a “ministry” or “business” (theater, art, music, writing, etc) other people often do as a hobby.  However, for me all of those things have to do with my ministry and work.  I need something else.  I have LOTS of other interests…but sometimes, because I love what I do so much I don’t take time to take care of me or develop other interests that I have.

So, I’ve been kind of analyzing what makes me relax…what makes me feel the most satisfied and content…and what brings me the most reward when I actually set aside time to do it and I came up with TWO THINGS.

1.  Playing outside.

2.  Playing in the kitchen.

But, if you know me…my playing always seems to have a purpose or a project!  So, I’ve been thinking about that to and here is what I came up with.

1.  I’m going to get back up on the horse…THIS WEEK…and I’m going to tell you about it…so that someone can share in my journey.  I may even start walking in an effort to build up some stamina and create more energy…but I’m not committing to that yet.

2.  I’m going to play in the kitchen…but I’m going to do it with a purpose.  I’m going to start cooking through some of my great-grandmother’s, grandmother’s and great aunt’s recipes that they left us when they went to be with the Lord.  Doing that adds to my personal satisfaction of celebrating my midwestern/farming/ranching heritage.

See what I mean…I have to have a purpose and a project.

So today, I’m spending some time going through some old cookbooks I have and I’ve emailed my mom and asked her if she can start scanning me some recipes that she has at her house.  I wish I could get to her and we could go through them together…but we have been down to one car since May…so coordinating travel has been a bit challenging.

I hope you will pop in every once in a while and see what I’m cooking, where I am riding…and IF I start walking.

Faith and Courage,

Lori

Facing Out

This post is for me….not for you few who read this blog…but for me.

Sometimes blogs act as a journal you know.  This post is one of those.

My school year is off to a fast start.  It’s full of homeschooling, teaching preparation, administrative tasks, running my home and keeping food on the table and clothes washed.  Sometimes I can be so tasked oriented.  I talk alot about people, process, product but sometimes I get my head down, working on a tas, focused on keeping up with my to-do list, that I forget about one person and that person is me.

But what does that mean?  What’s it mean to take care of myself.

I don’t think it means having to have lunch with friends every week, or have my nails done on a regular basis, or even a day of pampering.  Sometimes I think has more to do with focus.  Sometimes, I need to lift my head up…raise my eyes from the task at hand and look around.

This morning I got up about 5:30.  Not because I wanted to get up that early, but because I just woke up…one of the joys of mid-life I guess.  Anyway, I got up feeling a bit unsettled.  I had experienced crazy dreams all night last night and I just woke up a bit on edge.  It didn’t help that yesterday I worked from morning until night without raising my head to “look out.”

So, this morning as I was thinking and praying about figuring out what was bothering me….I went to get my first cup of coffee and decided to change where I was sitting from my chair by the window which faces IN….to the couch which faces OUTside.  I immediately felt more peaceful and had a bit more positive perspective on the day ahead….all because I was “facing out”.

Sometimes taking care of myself is just as simple as that…it’s raising my head, looking out…and realizing there are more important things than completing that “to do” list….it’s not focusing quite so intensely on the task at hand for such long periods of time, instead it is taking a deep breath and looking out…it’s not focusing on my challenges, it is lifting my head and looking out at all the blessings I have.

Not sure if this makes sense to anyone reading…but it makes ALOT of sense to me….and today, I’m looking out.

Bathroom redo

We are in the middle of a bathroom redo…in fact we have been in the middle of the redo since last November.  HA!

Does that sound familiar?

Sometimes, I watch the HGTV shows and see these folks looking for a house where they can move in and not have to do anything and I wonder….does that scenario really exist?  Doesn’t everyone want to make a house their own….their home?

So…we had a limited budget for this bathroom.  In fact, there really wasn’t a budget so I started looking for bathtubs, sinks and toilets on Craig’s List.  Yes, I know that sounds gross….but I waited and waited and was picky and finally found a complete set from one home that had been on a second floor of a seldom used condo…so the pieces looked and felt almost completely new. We go those in before Thanksgiving last year when we had alot of family and friends coming for Thanksgiving.  Then, we had to think about the floor.

Found the floor back in July.  Unsealed natural slate flooring that was available for about $1.38 a square foot.  Can’t beat that. But, the installation process is quite labor intensive and we are still waiting to seal and grout…BUT, at least it is down and I’m not walking on concrete.  Once that’s done…we can put in the vanity (handmade by John) and the benches.

Here’s the thing!

Life is never perfect….and there is always some project that needs to be started or completed.

Sometimes that makes me tired!  But, I usually feel that way when I’m fighting against the process and just want the project.

I talk alot about priorities of people, process and product in our ministry with Artios…perhaps I should apply the same thing to this whole “perfect home” ideal I carry around with me.

 

Getting Back to Basics

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The first of the year brought a very decisive focus for us as a family and a family that has a “family business.”  From the 3rd of January through mid-May our lives and schedules were dictated, by a purposeful choice, by the goals we had set for our family, for restructuring our business and of course, by baseball season.  (John is a High School baseball coach)

When May came, we planned our summer with purpose to allow time to catch up on projects at home, projects at work and have some much needed family time and time with our beloved Rocky Mountains and our animals.  Then came the Artios Outpost intern retreat followed by the Littleton Outpost and the final push in August to get all the east coast schools up and running.

With most of that completed last week, we took a GIANT big breath over the weekend.   Oh yes, there is still more to do but it was time to bring life back into some sort of balance.  For me, outside of our family relationships, balance has to do with home management.  So bright and early on Friday morning, we headed down the mountain, into the valley and straight to the grocery store.

There is something magical about having food in the house and a meal plan in place.  Now, I’m not rigidly attached to a meal plan…but boy, there is a real comfort with knowing that I have one if I need one due to being completely and totally without creativity or energy on any given evening.

But, I digress!

The night before our grocery run, in excited anticipation of the array of produce and meats I would encounter the next day, I decided to put together a meal plan….a plan that included new recipes.

It’s not as hard as it sounds…when you have a tool and trick of the trade right on your phone.

Yep, I’m talking about an app…an app by the name of ziplist.

OH MY WORD!

It not only gives me great ideas but then, I can put that recipe in my recipe box and select for any given trip to the grocery story and it will make me a complete grocery list….and even remind me of things that I may have forgotten.

Nope, I’m not an affiliate of ziplist….I’m just know a good thing when I see it and I want you to know about it too!

What tool do you use to help you meal plan and shop?

I’d love to hear about it!