Susan in Real Life Blog

Full Circle and Beyond

I’ve realized recently that I try to create my own heaven. Through the way I decorate my house, the furniture I have, the bedding I use, the food I eat, the drinks I consume, the activities I choose. It seems I’m trying to make my life as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. Don’t get me wrong, I love to help people and serve others. But it’s almost a natural default to try to create our own heaven.

I don’t want to live with this as my default setting. I do think it’s ok to have a nice house and nice things and take vacations. But I want my default to be to live out my purpose here and now and enjoy heaven when I get there.

One reason we moved homes last year and purged much of our belongings is to get rid of things standing in our way of God. We had too much stuff. It takes lots of time, energy and money to have and KEEP UP with stuff. So what’s the next step in our journey?

We recently started reading Jennie Allen’s book, “Anything”. The basic idea of this book is to have your prayer be “God, anything. I’ll do anything you ask.” This should be our prayer anyway if we are true followers of Christ, but the human nature in us really struggles to submit it all. The flesh and the spirt still fight, but I hope that the Spirit will win on purpose factors in my life. And making choices and taking steps of faith even when I’m afraid.

God has brought me full circle in a few areas of my life in the last few years. It’s so fascinating how God works. When He brings me back to a place I once was it always humbles me. Like the time I graduated high school and couldn’t wait to get out of my little town and now He has me starting a business that markets this town to bring community together. Or the many times I have said “I’ll never…” and ALWAYS end up doing it. And the most humbling of all – when I criticize someone for doing something and then find myself in the same place, doing the same thing.

Growing up I had the opportunity to be exposed to inner city missions. It was an amazing experience and something I have always had a heart to do. Missions. Help others. Tell others about Jesus. When you get married and you and your spouse don’t have the same ideas or goals on how life should be lived you don’t always get to do what your heart was set on. I was always frustrating Josh because I was volunteering here or there and offering this and that and there wasn’t any time for him. It frustrated me that there would be needs all around him but he couldn’t see them. And so I prayed. I prayed this verse:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:1-2

It wasn’t long before God started really showing off. Josh had begun to grow so quickly spiritually it was crazy. He was reading book after book and then we sold our house to downsize. Then he started talking about moving us to Africa (don’t worry – we aren’t moving to Africa, yet). And when this change happened, I put my brakes on. Was this what I had been praying for? Not this God, just a little more compassionate husband. One who sees needs around him and does something about it. This is too crazy God.

So here we are. We sold our house. Josh is trying to move us to Africa. We keep talking about taking a mission trip over seas and reading books and praying. But we haven’t done anything. So when we heard about an upcoming trip to Haiti with Longhollow where they needed 2 more participants so the trip wouldn’t get canceled – we hopped on. I have read so much about Haiti from my friends Greg Blackmon and Abby Blackmon. You should read their blogs – they are amazing. I am really excited to get to experience this country and these people for myself.

The trip is from September 18-September 26 (less than 2 months away!). We are working to raise the funds prior to departure. I’m not yet sure they ways in which we will go about this. If you would like to make a donation, you can click here or the button in the side bar. Reading this blog and following me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter will be good ways to keep up with what we are doing along with learning more about what we will be doing on the trip.

Above all else, we covet your prayers. That we will prepare our hearts for this journey. That God will prepare the right places for our children. That we will build relationships with those we go with and those we serve. And most of all, for God to be glorified through every step.

What’s Your Truth?

There is only one truth. One basis of truth and that is the Word of God. Scripture. The Bible. That is our foundation. Our core truth. Unfortunately, even if we verbally will say this is our truth by which we live, it often isn’t. We don’t purposefully believe a different truth – but we inherently live it.

For years I lived by the truth of what I was verbally taught. Not that there is anything blatantly wrong about casually living by the basics of that, but there is something wrong when that becomes our foundation for truth. When we begin judging others or taking a stance about an issue based on what we have been verbally taught therein lies the problem. Whether that be by a teacher, a pastor, a friend, or your parents. None of these are an authority of truth. Scripture is the ONLY authority of truth.

If you grew up in “the church” or in a Christian home then hopefully what you have been taught is based upon scripture. But do you know that? Have you studied the scripture yourself to understand the real truth in any of those areas. I say this because I used to have very strong beliefs based on what I had been verbally taught which I believed came from scripture. The problem with this is that humans have an ability to slightly twist the scripture. Because – well – we aren’t perfect, and we trust the people who have taught us. And then when something is taught straight from scripture that goes against what we were verbally taught there is a very uncomfortable feeling. We question it. And we argue it based on what we believe to be truth. I have been here more than once.

If you are a believer, there is nothing more important than knowing what the scriptures say. It it the ultimate truth regardless of what you have been taught and regardless of how strongly you believe a different view. I’ve caught myself criticizing or judging others and myself based on a cultural manner or behavior that is not scripturally based. These ideas that we carry get in the way of us understanding what truth is and hinder us from doing what we need to be doing in the name of Jesus. These teaching take us down the road of being more concerned about not sinning instead of being concerned about going out in the name of Christ.

I urge you to examine your belief system of truth. Especially if you were brought up in the church. The only the authority any teacher or pastor has to teach is the Word of God. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Time Marches On

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Susan Version 4.0

I don’t feel like I thought I would. I don’t look like I wanted to. I didn’t do what I thought I would.

Tomorrow, I turn 40. I am entering my 5th decade of life. As I thought about turning 40 in the last few years – then months – then weeks, I was going to be in the best shape of my life. I was going to go on a big trip. I was going to have a blow out of a celebration to mark this milestone of no longer belonging to the “young-adult” crowd. But it didn’t quite happen like any of that. Although there is nothing wrong with those goals or having a big celebration, the important and best part of turning 40 is the life I get to live as I hit that number.

As it turns out – I am quite excited about this new decade of life. The first two decades was spent learning how to live as a human being – from walking, eating, and talking to developing relationships, being independent, and managing finances. The third decade of my life was spent – well – figuring out who I was and how I fit into this world through some not so great choices. However, during that decade I met my most amazing husband and married him in my later 20s. Today is the last day of my fourth decade and tomorrow I begin to live my fifth. My fourth decade was spent turning everything I knew upside down by having children, living in 4 different homes (one of which we completely remodeled), leaving a full time job for full time business owner/freelancer.  And tomorrow I will start my fifth decade.20140226-inRL2014KaitlynQuote2

By this time in my life, I have learned who I am. I have learned what I like. I have learned my purpose. Now – I march on. It’s time for me to live out all that I have learned over the last 40 years with confidence, persistence, and intention. I am more willing to take chances, more willing to speak up (like I have ever had any trouble with that), more willing to keep my mouth shut, more willing to say yes, and more willing to say no.

To me, moving into this new decade is a responsibility. I have had the privilege to learn from so many people along the way and now its time for me to pass that on. People have invested in me and its my time to invest in others. I am not done learning, nor do I hope that people are done investing in me, but this is a point in life where I have been through multiple different types of experiences I believe can be used to help others. If we aren’t using our experiences, our trials, our mistakes to help others then they become a waste.

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I am ever grateful for the people – some of whom I know personally, and some of whom have written books – that are completely authentic and transparent with their lives. Knowing, not just that other people have been through what we have, but they they experienced similar feelings and how they worked through it is the only way we can grow and make better choices. If we each are walking in life and not using others’ experiences to help guide us, then we are just repeating trials and errors over and over. It’s really madness. Why would we do that when we can learn from each other?

It’s important for me to live intentionally. Living in regret in not my thing and I have the choice to not live that way. I’m not up for conventional though. Heading down the “normal” path we have created in our culture of high school, college, carrier, marriage, kids, retire. I want to shake it up.

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Finding Balance

It’s no coincidence that I had this on my calendar to be posted over a week ago. I am only 2 weeks behind in my writing and I am sure many other things on my “list”. Balance. Is there really even such a thing?

Seems like I am always trying to get everything all evened out and in some sort of controlled fashion in my life. My areas of focus consist of meal planning, money managing, fitness/health, work, homeschool, quality and quantity time with my children and my husband, and of course my relationship with God. I can usually get 2-3 of them at a time under control by my standards, but never have I been able to have them all feeling managed well at the same time.

There have been times when I was eating so healthy and exercising regularly. At the same time I was working hastily and completing project upon project with my satisfaction. But my finances weren’t so healthy. And my home making skills weren’t doing so well. Then there was the time I was managing the finances well and spending quality time with my kids and my husband, while eating those cookies and not getting much “work” done. If you are like me, it is super frustrating to not be able to just have it all working together properly at the same time.

During my morning times with God I have been praying about any possible idols I may have in my life. An idol is something that we worship, something that we work our life around and conform to, and something that gets in-between us and God. What God revealed to me was a little bit of a sucker punch to the gut. My calendar. My schedule. My lists. My structure.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do believe that calendars, schedules, lists and structure are all very good things to have and use. I even think they are very important tools to use in having a highly functional life. But the problem comes when my schedule for the day or my need to get something done kills my response to my child. Or pushes out my time with God. Or strains my relationship with my husband. Or causes me to miss an opportunity to teach. You see I have allowed my schedule to run me. To make my decisions for me. To come before what God is speaking to me.

My roles in life which currently include wife, mother, teacher, home-maker, entrepreneur, and financial manager are important. But my most important role is being a leader. A leader to my children. How can I lead well when I am consumed with what I have to do? How can I make other leaders when I am so busy doing MY stuff? You see my issue isn’t my schedule, but it’s be a slave to my schedule. It’s killing my purpose.

“Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.” Simon Sinek

I read somewhere recently that if we are trying to get our “stuff” done faster, the best thing for us may be to slow down and spend time with the one who created it all. When I don’t surrender everything to my Lord, my life is chaotic. If I was able to keep it all together and have all my nice little roles running smoothly and equally, well, then, why would I need God? We are not made to be self-sufficient or self living. We are created to need and desire God while living in community.

In the end, the definition of balance must change. Real, true balance is loving God the Father with all your heart, mind, and spirit. At that point, and only at that point, does it all fall into balance.

A Dedicated Planner

I am so excited to be sharing this with you. I have been working on a piece to share with you about finding balance. How I manage the different roles in my life as wife, mother, home school mom, entrepreneur, community member and friend. (Shew, I get tired just writing it.) And is there really any such thing as balance.

So, today as a precursor to my post on finding balance, this blog post is written by a beautiful friend of mine, Jennifer White. Jennifer and I have known each other for many, many years. She is such an encourager to others while always giving God the glory in everything she does.

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Our Daily Bread

If you are anything like me, you are a dedicated planner. As a mom, I find that life just seems to go smoother when I anticipate needs and prepare accordingly. The world tells us to plan for anything and everything. You can purchase health insurance, car insurance, even travel insurance. We hire financial planners, open Roth IRA’s, contribute to our 401K’s, and are sure to have a will drawn up by our attorney. I am usually the mommy with the biggest bag overflowing with anything and everything my little guys might need in the two hours we bravely venture from the house. Of course, there is really nothing wrong with planning. Or is there? This is a question I have been pondering lately and I think the answer has a lot to do with where we ultimately put our hope. Do you have anxiety about the future? Do you feel as though you must plan everything just perfectly or it will all fall apart? God offers us so much more freedom than that!

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How much we fret about our future has a lot to do with just how big we see ourselves. At the root of my desire to be in control is a deep seeded pride problem. I far too often take God out of the equation, like it is somehow up to me to make everyone healthy, happy, and on track in my little world. The simple truth is that it reeks of arrogance. Our persistent anxious worry also has a lot to do with how big we see God. Do I really trust God to do what is best for me? Do I trust that He really does KNOW best? Far too often, I believe those things in my head, but fail to live it out. I know a lot about God in my head, but when I am not daily walking in the Spirit by diving in to His Word and communing through prayer; I fail to apply those beliefs to my attitude in daily living.

This is a lesson I have had to learn over and over again throughout my life, but especially since the birth of my first son. Gavin has multiple disabilities and his journey to live, develop, and thrive has been the scariest and most difficult thing I have ever faced in my life. Trusting in God’s ultimate control and His character has brought me through this with stronger faith than I ever had before, but here is where I sometimes trip up yet again. I get greedy. I like to know the WHOLE plan. Give me the complete blueprint, so that I can make sense of it all. All you Type A’s know what I’m talking about!  Let me know it all, so that I can be prepared! Do you see the evil one trying to twist things all around again? Thank you God for being patient with me!!

The Lord says in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

We cannot fathom the why and the how of His plan for us. They are far too high for us to imagine. He has promised us that His love is deep (Ephesians 3:18) and that He delights in us (Zeph. 3:17). Corrie Ten Boom has said, “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.” We have to trust in His timing even when it comes to revealing His plans to us. Psalm 104:27 says that even the creatures of the earth look to God to give them their food at the proper time. That has me thinking about when the Israelites needed food in the desert, the Lord sent them manna every day (Exodus 16). They were to gather just what they needed for that very day (the only exception being the day before the Sabbath). He gives us exactly what we need right when we need it. We all know the verse from Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Have you ever thought about the imagery? Take a moment with me. Close your eyes and picture “a light for my feet” and “a light on my path.” In your mind’s eye, does the light illuminate the entire journey or just the next few steps in front of you? What if God is just waiting for us to be satisfied with our manna and simply trust Him for tomorrow’s food?

When Jesus was telling us how to pray, He gave us an example in Matthew 6. He starts with praise and the exalting of God’s will, but then He says in verse 11, “Give us today our daily bread.” Notice that He said, “daily bread.” He does not ask for storehouses filled to the brim. Jesus taught us to ask God for what we need and to trust in His ultimate Sovereignty. I want to pray more like Jesus! I want my prayers to look less like, “God, please help me understand!” and more like, “Lord, I praise you because YOU know the plan and YOU guard my purpose. Your purposes cannot be thwarted, so I trust in You alone!”

Let us help each other plan with kingdom purpose fueled by faith and devoid of worry. Let us do it wisely, not anxiously. Let us not lean on our own understanding, but seek Him and His kingdom in all we do (Proverbs 3:5-6). Planning is not the enemy. Pride and a lack of trust are what can rob us of so much peace that He is waiting to impart to us. Let us realize that our daily bread is a deep relationship with Jesus Christ, and when we taste it, we will see that it is good (Psalm 34:8).


You can find the original post of this at Longhollow Women. If you would like to read more by Jennifer, here is an incredible piece on living with a Chronic Disease.