February 28, 2014

Musings

I'll be helping a friend host a yard sale for two sets of missionary families in our church later this spring.  Of course, that means that I now have a reason to clean up around the house and I have a place to send all the stuff we don't need or use.  Pretty much the whole morning was spent cleaning out closets and dressers.  I was almost sickened at  the massive amount of "stuff" we have that just sits around, unused and not needed, yet we hold onto it anyway.  Why?  Why do we even have all this stuff?  Most of it is pointless and was hardly ever, if ever, used.  And sadly, I was the one that bought most of the stuff.  I must stop buying so many "things" that are of no use.  I could do so many other things with the money wasted on that junk. When I got done bagging everything up I felt like I needed to sit down and read 7 again and remind myself that there are far more important things in this life than my comfort or just having more stuff.

Lent.  Been thinking about this off and on for the last week.  I can't believe it's already almost here.  I did not grow up celebrating Lent (and I am not sure you can call what I do now celebrating), but rather, just thinking it was some crazy thing the Catholics did to make their lives a little harder for a few weeks around Easter time.  I am looking at Lent kind of like I look at Advent.  It's a time to put myself aside and intentionally focus more on Christ and what He has done for us.  It's also a time to practice living out Is. 58; a time of fasting that allows me to focus on Christ and drawing near to Him, while also allowing me to give of what He has given me.  Living simply so others can simply live.  This year, for the 40 days of Lent, I will be drinking only water. The kids will help me to keep track of every glass of water I drink (which will not only help them out with their math skills, but will also serve to keep me and the kids accountable to praying for all those in the world with little to no clean drinking water.)  At the end of the 40 days I will make a donation of $.01 for every glass of water I drank during those 40 days to the World Vision Clean Water Fund.  I am praying that God will use those 40 days in a mighty way in my life, the life of my family, and in the lives of those who will be receiving the clean water.

Can I confess something to you?  I feel torn about the snow coming our way this weekend.  I am tired of the cold, but snow is so beautiful.  There's just something almost exciting about a snow storm coming our way...the beautiful snow, the not being able to leave the house, the bundling up and watching movies, reading books, and drinking hot chocolate.  Deep down I love it, I just wish it could happen when it was about 80 degrees instead of below zero!

Lord, thank You for this week, even though it has, at times, felt unbearably long.  Continue to mold and shape me into Your image.  Show me how to love others in Your name at all times.  Show me how to look past my circumstance to see Your faithful hand.

February 26, 2014

Pulling Back the Shades-A Quick Review

So, through what I can only describe as God's hand (either because I needed to really step out of my comfort zone or possibly as punishment for spending too much time on social media), I ended up being chosen to be part of the launch team for a new book by Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery.  The book is Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman's Heart.  If there is anyone who feels completely uncomfortable talking about sex and anything that has to do with that, it's me.  Yet, here I am, having to talk to my daughter about sex when she's in kindergarten because she read too far ahead in her science book, encouraging a group of moms and daughters to do dates that focus on modesty, leading a conference for girls on modesty and why it's important, and now this.  The Lord really does have a great sense of humor!

Alas, here I am doing what little I can to shed some light on an area of great importance, yet is discussed very little in the church because it's so private and personal.  Of course, this isn't really helping anything, but mostly hurting, as women have questions that just go unanswered.  All around us we are bombarded with images and characters, etc, that leave us confused and lost.  And that's the adults. Our kids are seeing these same images and characters, probably more, can you imagine how confused they must be?  Because of it's private, and often shameful, nature many parents never talk their children about it, either.  I honestly can't even imagine having any in-depth conversation with my daughter about sex, but I know that if I don't, the world will give her answers that are nothing but lies and a distortion of what God created this amazing gift to be.

Now, I did not read any of the 50 Shades of Grey books and have no intention of ever reading it.  Without even reading it, going solely based a few excerpts from it included in PBTS and what I have heard those that did read it said, there is nothing in this book that would be God honoring or honoring to my husband.  While there are portions of this book that are hard to read, I do encourage Christian women to read it.  It pointed out a lot of things I never knew or never even gave much thought to.

I've gone back and forth on the best way to share about this book with you, and I've decided that's just sharing quotes from the book.  Because of PBTS, I started reading THIS BOOK and I am really enjoying it, too.  I am even thinking about trying to get a group of ladies together to do THIS STUDY...(but still praying about that one!  That's REALLY outside my comfort zone!!!)  Anywhere, here are some quotes that I thought would let you know what the book's about and hopefully encourage you to read it:

"Erotica strategically and masterfully pulls you in by exploiting what your heart secretly longs for."

"All of us have a deep, imbedded desire to make a profound difference in the life of a man...God created you to be a completer or 'helper' for the man you marry. How wonderful that God gave you the innate longing to do just that."

"Sexually charged books seem a lot less harmful than having a bunch of 'hook-ups', cheating on your husband, or looking at pornographic images on the internet."

"We want to be very clear: your sexual desire is not wrong.  God created you to be sexual.  Your body and your mind are wired to long for sexual pleasure and intimacy. Unfortunately, many religious messages separate being a sexual woman from being a spiritual woman."

"The Hebrew word for sexual intimacy, yada, means 'to know, to be known, to be deeply respected.' It is a word that transcended the physical act to speak of a deep emotional connection.  In a beautiful expression of His desire to know us, God inspired that this same word be used in the Scriptures to express a deep knowing and longing for God. 'You have searched me, Lord, and you know (yada) me' (Psalm 139:1). Because sex is a portrait of God's love, Satan will do anything he can to destroy the beauty of it."

"Reserving sex, sexual fantasies, and sexual expression only for your husband means more than just what you do physically-it also includes what you look at and what you think about."

There are so many more good quotes, but then I'd just be re-writing the book!  Grab it, read it, and let's all figure out how to apply it in each of our own lives.  Let's truly pray and seek the Lord and ask how we can help to turn the tide of sexual sin inside and outside the church.  Let's ask God how we can do this in a loving way that points only to Him.  Let's ask God how we can use this topic to lead others to Him so they can accept His gift of salvation and eternal life.  Lord, show me how You can use me, even in the smallest way, in this battle for the hearts, souls, and lives of Your beautiful creation.

February 15, 2014

Would the Real Heather McSmith Please Stand Up?

I've seen a lot and hear a lot lately about the dangers of social media allowing us to present such fake versions of ourselves to others.  Facebook, Twitter, InstaGram, etc allow us to present only the best, leading others to believe that's what life is like all the time, which leads to much jealousy and bitterness.  Especially among woman.  So, I'm summoning the spirit of Jen Hatmaker and giving you a glimpse into the not-so-pretty, mostly boring, sometimes frightening world that is my life!

--I forgot to get my kids anything for Valentine's Day.  We made cookies and delivered them to some friends, we made cards for grandparents that don't live near us, we picked out gifts for daddy and Gma Carol, but I forgot about my own kids.  Their gifts were all Kevin!  He stepped up and saved the day!

--I have a terrible time getting up in the mornings.  It's not unusual for me to still be in bed at 7 a.m.  Don't be jealous, it's just laziness.

--If the living room gets vacuumed more than once a week, it's a miracle.

--I find little to no joy in domestic tasks.  Laundry, dishes, cleaning.  Not a fan.  I can find all kinds of things to do in order to avoid these tasks.  One of the happiest things these last two weeks?  Sophie now cleans out the dishwasher so I don't have to.  Glory Hallelujah!  Such a small thing, but so exciting to me.  It doesn't even bother me that things aren't always in the right place, but hey, I didn't have to do it.  I feel the same about both of the kids putting away their own clothes.  E's drawers are a bit of a mess, but you know what, that was one less thing I had to do.  And he's finally come to understand that he needs to leave them folded, so we are making progress!  ;)

--I struggle to make friends (or even feel the need to make more friends than I already have) and I fear that this is keeping my own children from having friends.  Because we home school, it's easy to block ourselves off and not have much to do with other people.  It is real work for me to invite others here or try to follow my daughter's lead on spending time with others.  At 35 you'd think I would have learned to move past this, but alas, not so much.

--Deep down, I'm kind of hoping neither of my kids wants to play sports.  It has nothing to do with missing Sundays or Wednesdays and everything to do with not wanting our lives to be ruled by a sports schedule.  So much time is required and I am just not ready for that, yet.  I don't think I will ever be.  I also don't handle competition well.  I never have.  The thought of sitting among parents and other family cheering and clapping and hollering and shouting.  Ugh!  I would rather do the laundry!  However, though I know it's a double standard, I'd be totally fine adjusting our schedules for music or theatre.  I know, bad mom.

--I really struggle with having a quiet time at a consistent time of day.  Sometimes it's in the morning, sometimes at lunch, sometimes while Kevin is putting the kids to bed.  Part of it is the struggle to be able to get up early in the mornings, part of it is pure laziness on my part.  Sometimes 15 minutes is all that happens, sometimes I totally lose track of time and just enjoy digging in.

--The James devotional.  Oh, dear.  Where to begin!  It's going SOOO SLOOOOOWWWWLLLLYYY!  I got so much done on it over the summer.  Then school started.  And productive work has almost come to a complete halt.  I am still really enjoying digging in, but struggling to find the time to give it the attention it deserves. I guess if I was choosing to do that while I was choosing not to do housework, the problem would be solved, huh? ;)  We've learned the entire first chapter, but that caught us up to where I had gotten with the devotional, so we're taking a break from James while I get chapter 2 done.  This may take us until they graduate.  We're still randomly going back and remembering what we learned from chapter 1, but also taking time to learn our Family Quest verses and other verses.

--Some days we don't do school because I just can't.  I am grumpy and at least one of us won't survive if we attempted school.  So we spend the day reading books, playing games, and sometimes even watching movies.  This typically has nothing to do with the weather, just my attitude. (But, don't worry, we still always end up getting our work done.)

--Sometimes I envy those stay at home moms whose kids are all in school.  They have the freedom to volunteer in their kid's classes (for a short period of time, then walk away), get their house clean with no one around to undo all their hard work (the only way I can really focus on cleaning is when I am alone), and there is no way around not making friends or meeting new people (I realize this is both good and bad!)  Now, I know it's not that they sit around all day eating chocolates and watching TV, but sometimes just imagining time at home without the kids is nice!

--At least twice a week the kids and I never get out of pajamas.  That usually reminds of the joy of not having to get up at the crack of dawn to get my kids to school or having to look nice everyday for a job.  I am not sure my husband feels the same way.

--I love that Sophie has learned how to work Netflix.  Saturday mornings are now glorious!  We sleep in, they watch Netflix.  Yet another reason not to play sports.

--My children also get their own breakfast.  Every morning.  We love cereal and toast.

--Kevin and I have watched all 7 seasons of The West Wing at least 10 times. We could watch it 10 more.

- That insecure junior high girl still lives inside of me.  She's nearly impossible to get rid of.  She always makes me feel left out, less than, not enough, second rate, unwanted, and unloved.  And all of those are pretty much always unwarranted and figments of my imagination.  It's Satan wreaking havoc on my mind and my relationships.  He uses it to hold me back from giving my all to current relationships, from starting new relationships, and from giving my all to serving and furthering God's Kingdom.

Hopefully this will dispel any myth that life here in the McSmith house is glamorous.  Praying that God uses all these quirks to draw me closer to Him somehow.  Praying that I grow in Him each day and that my children see Him in me, even on the bad days.


February 01, 2014

Internal Randomness Exploding on the Page

It has been a long week and a half!  Sophie and I have both been sick, but whatever this is I have just doesn't want to go away!  Today is the first day that I've actually felt almost normal (though my ears and head are still very stuffy.)  I am such a baby when I don't feel well and I am so blessed that God gave me a husband who understands this and love me anyway!  During all this sickness I've had lots of random things running through my head.  Here and there I had some great blog ideas, but alas, I forgot them, so you're stuck with this post full of randomness. I apologize!  Aren't you glad you can just click over to a different webpage!?!?!  Anyway, here is the randomness that has been in my crazy mind:

--I placed an order on Amazon today.  This makes me feel almost giddy because it contains two new books for us to read, just for fun.  I'm a nerd!

--I've been trying to get back to the Dukan diet I was doing pretty well with before Christmas.  I am not following it to the letter, but I am trying to focus on eating more protein and less sugar and carbs. Oh.my.word!  This is so hard for me.  I LOVE bread and pasta.  Really, I could have just those two things and nothing else and be just fine! And less sugar?  Argh!  It is taking a lot to get used to.  Hoping to be healthier in the end as I do my best to match this with exercise (which has been non-existent while I've been sick.)

--Though I have made strides, I still find that I really struggle with reaching out and connecting with pretty much anyone outside of my home.  I have lots of relationships with people, but I really struggle with really attaching or going deeper.  And I think I notice it more because I know so many people who truly are just lovers of people.  They love to get to know people, cook for people, encourage people, get deeply invested in their lives, and just live life with them.  I know that I need to be more like that, that I need to get more invested with more people, but I just don't know why I can't.  I love working with our Afterschool Adventures kids.  I look forward to that time every week.  I love those kids and enjoy getting to know more about them each week.  But honestly, that connection is somehow just not there between the kids and I. The other ladies that work with the kids each week just have such a connection.  They invest so much more and dive in so much deeper.  I'm both a little jealous and very mystified as to how they do it.  Those ladies give so much in so many other areas, how in the world do they have anything left to give in this area, too?  Can I not develop these relationships because I am not wired that way and it's not something God wants me to do, or is it just because I am not willing to go the extra mile?  I honestly don't know, but I can't help but feel, to a certain extent, that God does want us to be able to dive in and love on and live with others genuinely, but I just have not figured out how to do that, yet.  Lord, please show me how to live for You in all I do.  Show me how to truly be Your hands and feet to all those around me.  Show me how to live life with others, unrestrained and with all I have, for the sole purpose of sharing and declaring You to all I know.

--I am so thankful for the conference I was able to be a part of this weekend.  Because of the weather, things were pretty crazy at times, but it went really well.  I was very nervous about my session, right up until I actually started to teach, and then I just felt so comfortable and in the right place.  Not sure if that is good or bad, but the session went really well.  The girls had a good time and I think they actually understood what I was expressing to them about modesty.  Praying that God will draw those mothers and daughters together over this conversation and it will lead them deeper knowledge of God and His Word.

--How crazy is this weather?  And why does it only happen on the weekends?  I enjoy the snow, but the ice, not so much!

--I love snow days.  I mean, I love the whole concept of a snow day....a break from the norm, a chance to just do something other than the normal, "boring" things.  Even when there wasn't much planned that day, the thought of a snow day is so exciting.  Around here, it usually means "guilt free" sledding...going out and having fun and not worrying about what school isn't being done or what things around the house aren't being cleaned.  I guess I just like an excuse to be lazy!!

--School still continues to be fun.  I am really enjoying our history and the glimpses we are getting of martyrs and saints from the early church as we go through medieval history.  I have also been saddened by the complete and total misuse of power and the Word by so many claiming to be Christians during this time period.  It's just appalling!  Lord, do not ever let me be one who tries to force others to turn to You.  Lord, let me be like those who spend their lives serving others in Your name.  Let me be like those who devote themselves to learning more about You and living out what they learned.  Let my children see this in me and let that lead them to You, even at this young age.

--Over the last few weeks as I have been watching videos and reading articles about the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham I have become even more thankful that I know there is a Creator and He desires that all know Him.  I am thankful to know that rather than just being a former monkey because of some chemical changes here and there, I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  And so is every other human on this planet.  I am thankful there is a creator because only with a Creator does human life have any value or meaning. The reason that we must love and care for each other isn't so we can get something from them or because we want good things to happen to us, it's because they are created by God and He loves them.  If we love and obey Him, we love His creations.  It wasn't until recently that I even realized how this line of thinking can and should change everything...everything.  I know I didn't really explain that very well, so I hope it made sense.

--We've been going back through and watching some Scrubs.  I forgot how creative, touching, and well-done the first few seasons of that were. I wish that Christians would work that hard to produce such high quality entertainment.

I know there was nothing earth-shattering here, and you probably wish you had that last 10 minutes back!  Hopefully I made you smile or think in there somewhere!