Friday, October 28, 2016

The power of joy



" I'm in such a good mood that nothing could bring me down today."

Have you ever said something like that? Exuding joy is like walking around as Mario with star power. There are no circumstances, thoughts, or temptations you cannot conquer. Empowering others even becomes effortless when you're owning the real estate of joy.

But we have an enemy, and he wants to strip us of our power. All power. If he can steal away our joy, we're left susceptible to innumerable attacks. In fact, when I get to heaven, I'd like to [respectfully] call the apostle Paul out on excluding this critical piece of spiritual armor from the list in Ephesians 6.

When we feel defeated or anxious or overwhelmed, the chances are low that we will make the call to go volunteer in the soup kitchen or cook up a meal for another family. We aren't going to offer to mow our neighbor's yard or take a friend's kiddos so they can enjoy a date night. When we are not joyful, we are not generous.

Unfortunately, joy is not a thing that can be conjured up-- especially the kind that brims over and leaves us feeling invincible. But there are things we can do to cultivate it.

The first strategy is simple: prayer. The Lord promises to grant us things we ask in His will. Being joyful is within that will. So asking to be filled with joy seems like a good place to start. :)

The Bible uses the words "joy", "glad", and "happy" a total of 370 times throughout and the word "sad" 6. I thought those were interesting factoids. That was free.

Moving on, it is helpful to identify joy-robbers in your life. Maybe it's a task, a person, an activity, or your in-laws' Christmas party. If you can't avoid the situation, try gaining a new perspective by injecting positivity into it. If you start to sweat every time you encounter your boss, see if you can learn something about him or her. What is their hobby? Is there a gift or an act of service you could give as a way to connect and brighten the relationship?

A third way to add joy to your life is to just smile. Slap on a big, cheek-squishing, eye-squinting smile for no reason at all. It triggers happy things in your brain AND it's contagious! Google it.

Here's a personal illustration. Just today I was working with my 10-year-old on math homework. After an hour transpired without completing even one problem, she stormed off to her room. By that point, I was ready to slam some doors myself. But since I'm writing about joy, I thought it wise to sample my own advice. So there I stood, angrily scrubbing dishes, wearing a phony, stupid smile. Through the plastic grin, I complained to God about how annoying and fake it felt, which actually made me laugh. So "point" for God. Bring on the authentic smile.

As a parent, I have a responsibility to lead my daughter and set a good example of how to handle difficulty. If I can't go into things with a good attitude, I certainly can't expect her to. I'd love to report that we reunited over bowls of chocolate chip cookie dough and the math homework solved itself. It didn't. There was still a lot of hard work ahead. On our second go-around, however, I was calmer, and she was naturally more receptive. There were no more tears, and I'm pleased to announce that homework is completed for the whole weekend. *fist pump*

Finally, like I said before, there is an enemy who is after every one of us-- believer or not. He'll rob us of joy and laugh at the ensuing domino effect. Because unfortunately, joylessness is also contagious. So kick that guy to the curb, and smile-- even at complete strangers.They may think there's something up your sleeve or you've missed today's dose of meds. That's okay; smile anyway.

I find it interesting that in 1 Thessalonians 5, the words "rejoice always" are followed up with "pray continually" and "give thanks in all circumstances". Based on this, I don't think it's possible to maintain a joyful spirit without prayer and thanksgiving. Fight the enemy, and choose joy.


*******Side note********
If you're wanting to ignite heat seeking missiles against the joy-robbers in your life, I recommend reading the book Boundaries. It is useful for identifying how we allow people or situations to wear on us, slowly eroding our ability to recognize where we aren't protecting our time. We find too many things to say "yes" to and then find ourselves at an emotional deficit-- confused and frustrated. The book is instrumental in helping to understand ourselves and our limitations so we can remain in a healthy state of mind, giving joy the freedom to resurface.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Cheers!




"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you." Exodus 20:12

Today I'd like to take a few minutes to bring honor to my parents. They celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary this week, and I think that's worthy of public acknowledgment.

Earlier this week, I popped onto my phone to send a quick "congrats and happy day" text to them, and I was blindsided with a sense of gratitude.

Through the years, I've watched my dad grow in the ability to keep his head in difficult situations and walk away with the positives in hand. I know that hasn't always come naturally for him, so I really appreciate seeing it.

In contrast, my mom can be a little high strung (just a little, Mom. ;) ). I have countless memories of sitting in the back seat, observing her spaz about xyz while Dad continued to eye the road, sometimes sporting his weird little mustache-y smirk. Occasionally she'd catch him and reach over to whack him on the shoulder with an annoyed but playful, "Da-vid".

They make it look easy. I've never witnessed a blow-out fight. Nor have I heard either of them hurl insults or attack the other's character. Knowing myself (and, good gracious, my siblings), I'm sure there were plenty of "discussions" behind closed doors. We were not the easiest bunch to parent.

I can imagine there have been rough patches through the years. Times they felt strained to the max with outside stressors and then came home to join moody teenagers around a table in a shoe-box-sized kitchen piled up with papers, dishes, and Little Debbie's wrappers.

But they did it. They came home from work every night, not stopping at bars or keeping long hours at work. They came home. To us. To each other.

In lieu of our culture's growing weariness with commitment, I am proud to spotlight a couple who has persevered. My own marriage has not been without trials and difficult times. But thanks to their example, I have a clear understanding of what my expectation is to be in this union.

Additionally, my parents were not believers when they got married. They came to know Jesus and took that faith seriously enough to drag our family to church three times a week and sacrificially pay for us kids to attend a school that supported those believes. While I do not agree with everything I was taught (does anyone?), there's no way to know who I would be without that kind of bedrock foundation in my life. And I'm eternally grateful for that springboard into my own relationship with Jesus.

Because of their commitment to God and to each other, Rodney and I are able to raise children saturated in these same truths. Their influence didn't stop when I moved out of the house. They are impacting my children and, Lord willing, the generations after them.

So Mom and Dad, congratulations. And thanks. I love you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

I don't want to be a good mom.



This afternoon I had to apologize to one of my kids for losing my temper and yelling. Agian. This same apology was made just yesterday. And three days before that. What a humbling example children are of granting unconditional forgiveness.

This particular morning started off too quickly-paced. As a result, I skipped over investing that first sacred slice of morning with my Creator. So after a day of craziness and then my selfish uncorking, I decided it was time.

Down to my room I went. I apologized to the Lover of my child's soul and asked Him to make me a good mom. Almost before my sentence was out, I sensed Him silencing me with the words, "You are a good mom."

Ugh, He didn't even let me finish. But I knew it was appropriate, because I was praying in a direction I shouldn't have been going. So He shut me down-- with affirmation. Because He's cool that way. :)

For years, I've been trying to avoid that prayer altogether. Being a "good mom" is easy to say and want, but it can only be measured from one comparison to the next. Am I a better mom than she is? Am I too protective like that mom? At least my kids don't do _______.

Additionally, I have no control over whether my parenting style is ultimately resented or appreciated. So what use is it trying to be a "good mom"? Really?

Instead, I ask to be shaped into the image of Jesus. As I draw closer to the light of His face, I will reflexively mirror His attributes onto those around me-- inclusive of the three precious tinies I've been entrusted with. I will see them as He sees them. I will be gentle, patient, and kind. I will love them as they are, because Jesus loves me as I am.

As I am.

The conversation in my bedroom continued, and I considered the paradoxical truth that the Father cherishes me exactly as I am-- faults and all-- yet calls me to change.

What does that look like? How do I rest in confident contentment, knowing the eyes of the Father see perfection in me, and yet acknowledge the invitation to be sculpted by the Master Whittler? And if I accept this prompting, how do I resist the temptation to strive for achieving a better to-do list? How do I escape the performance roller coaster of feeling loved for good deeds and shamed by mistakes?

The answer is to hover in a perpetual tension. To "keep in step with the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16)  and be guided by His voice. I must remember that although I inadvertently slip back on the handcuffs of Sin, I cannot forfeit the grace He's poured over me. I am broken and messy. Thankfully, this isn't about who I am; it's about who I'm becoming.

I can let go of who I've been. Tripping over what's behind me is not only lunacy, but it's devoid of value.

I can rest in who I am-- a redeemed daughter of the King, a princess, an heiress, a saint.

I can choose to see myself as God does, from my victorious future and not from my blunderous past.

So I will make the choice to get up, brush off the proverbial dust, and ignore the screaming accusations from my enemy that I will never be "enough". Most importantly, I will continue to climb into the lap of my Father every day to renew my mind and be transformed into so much more than a "good mom".


Friday, October 21, 2016

A Casual Letter

Hello internet world! It's been over two months since I started my Facebook hiatus, and tonight I'm just feeling the itch to share life digitally.

I'm not sure I want to thrust myself back into the blogging world with heavy thoughts, so I figured maybe I could just write a letter, of sorts. The goings-on of the Holum world, if you will. It's a little raw and simple (and lengthy), but it ends with pictures. High five for pictures!

Overall, things have been good. Our kids started their first year at a private school. I attended a private school myself, growing up. I'm thankful for MANY things about the experience, but I did get expelled. *Gasp!* In the end, it was of my own free will that I walked away (sort of). But it didn't leave a savory taste in my mouth for putting my own kids into the system.

This is different though, on a few levels. Here we learn about saints and rosaries. We whisper in church, talk to Mary, and chime bells with communion [we aren't allowed to take]. It's been a learning curve. But it's opened many doors to talk about what it is we do believe and why. I've also learned a lot about Catholicism for myself-- things I would've never delved into otherwise.

Anyway, Aspen (my fifth-grader) dove right in, joining the volleyball team and picking up the violin. Now she hates both. :) We have a tournament tomorrow that we have to leave at 7 am for, and she hates mornings more than she hates volleyball. So Lord help us. She also had strep throat, stitches, and an endoscopy all within the first month of school. Sprinkle in a pinch of learning disability, and you've got yourself a stew!

The other kids are doing alright, but none of them is convinced they like this gig better than the public school one. We've also talked a lot about homeschooling (yikes!). Time will just have to tell.

So, how about those Bears, huh? Yeah, there's not a lot to say there. #SoDisappointing

As you may or may not know, I started the year out on a sugar fast/contest with my girl Sara in Kentucky. We put money on the line, adding to the kitty each month with the agreement that if we could make it to October, we'd use the money to meet half-way in Illinois and spend a weekend together. I think we endured until mid-August before calling a truce. I won't share who it was that cracked, but her name ends with "air-uh". :)

So we got together earlier this month. Rodney hooked us up with his free hotel points so we could party it up in the booming metropolis of Normal, IL. Literally. That's it's name. Off.The.Hook. Not really. But we did go to the mall, eat at a hole-in-the-wall diner, drink fake champaign, and start reading "Raising Kingdom Kids" together in our hotel room, which was beautiful. We talked about how little we are truly present with people in our lives-- especially our babies. It's something I'd shared with my Rice-Lake-Lisa earlier, too. I know few people who can be in the moment with others instead of moving on to their own agenda. Being there but not really there.

Maybe that will be my "deep thoughts" post next. I think about it a lot these days. I want to be better, and public accountability helps with that.

At the end of August, Rodney and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary. We went to "the cities" and hit up a movie theater that had leather recliners for seating. *first bump* It was amazing. Seriously simple, but amazing. What's more, I realized that in five years, I'll have been a Holum as long as I was an Ivey. Hot dog! I look forward to the day when I've been "mom" longer than I was just Laura. *happy sigh* Life is good.

Last weekend I went to two weddings in one day. Two. Across the state from each other. With all the kids in tow. And no husband. Wow. But worth it! Congrats to Sara & Derek AND to Aaron and Erin. No joke. A&E. :)

I have a sister-in-law who's going to Uganda in a few weeks. She's going to teach women there to sew with a treadle machine so they can make feminine supplies for themselves AND to sell. How awesome is that? Through this, I've learned that my SIL's mom is a world renowned treadle-sewer. I didn't even know that was a thing. But it is, and she's going on the trip too. I'm totes excited for them and more than a little nervous for her husband who will be left behind with four kids-- inclusive of  1-year-old twins. It'll be good. :) I have a feeling that the stories she brings home will be mega encouraging to my soul. I'm so dang excited for her.

Has anyone else's families started the discussion of Christmas parties and the like? My family literally group texted my phone battery to death. Dead. And when the phone came back on, there were 86 missed messages. And by the time I finally scrolled through to find where I'd left off, Mom posted a text about her miniature version of a real dog, which immediately transported me back to the bottom of the messages again. Oh.My.Lanta. #HolidayWoes

Three of my friends (that I know of) are pregnant right now. Three. It's nuts. That's like half of my social pool. Okay, not really. I've actually been quite surprised at how full my social calendar has been with the kids in school all day. And switching schools has opened many doors for fresh networking opportunities. If I was an extrovert, that would sound AMAZING! But alas, I am not. So I'm learning to protect my time and heart while still investing in the relationships God has set on my path.

Believe it or not, there's still more I could say, but this is getting out of hand. :) I'll throw some pictures up. People usually like that kind of thing. :)

Thanks for hanging with me tonight. Hopefully I'll be inspired to write meaningful stuff again soon.



Sara and I posed with our mini golf clubs in front of a cute little fountain for this shot. Not that you can tell any of that though. :)




Rodney and I celebrating the Libners' wedding at their reception.



Sorry if you're squeamish. Here are the stitches on Aspen's arm. And yes, we sang the song a lot that week.



Ezra being "fancy" at Miss Erin's wedding shower. #PinkyUp



The kids (and Daddy) all pitched in money so Mommy would make monster cookies. Jer also offered to be my muscle. Although he dropped out when the oatmeal was added and I needed him most. :)



Aspen at her first volleyball game.



Ezra at her apple orchard field trip.



Rodney helped coach Jer's football team this fall, which has been really fun. :) Jer is #8.



Here's Ezra crossing a bucket list item off, riding a mechanical animal at the mall on our date night.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Is it well?



Sleep evades me tonight.

I was lying alone in my bed, thinking of how many others are doing the same tonight. Except they're grieving loss. Whether in Nice, Dallas, Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, or elsewhere.

Unjust loss.

I am unaccustomed to this weight in my chest, pressing down like an asthma attack that won't take my breath.

For weeks now, I've been watching people I love utilize social media to smear one another with memes, articles, videos and the like-- standing behind beliefs in causes that are bigger than any one of us. Choosing to die on these hills. As if tainted, biased public posts are helping to bring change.

(Also, I decided that I'm bringing homemade cookies to my police department tomorrow. With my kids. We're going to take action to do something positive and encouraging, by jove.)

Then I thought about the phrase "it is well with my soul" and how untrue it is right now. And it made me wonder. If we could get away from the media, the noise, the "information", what would we would hear?

For me, it would be the gentle, familiar voice of the Creator.

He isn't pacing around, wringing His hands, trying to figure out what to do with "us" now that things are so badly botched up. No, He's seated. On a throne. Inviting us to His embrace of protection. Of peace. Of finding "wellness" in our souls.

So that's where I'm going to rest tonight, choosing to believe that He sees every empty bed, every missing plate at dinner tables-- every broken heart-- and He's calling us to Him. The waves and wind still know His name, and so do I. It is well, because He is good.


Side note: this is the song that inspired the post. :) Give it a listen.



Sunday, March 22, 2015

Change of Plans



Today, my husband Rodney took off for Chicago to attend some kind of robot convention. This trip was somehow miscommunicated, and I only learned of it 3 hours before he left.

Mind blown.

Anyway, with Daddy gone, the kids and I ditched our conventional dinner plans in favor of a Redbox and some Chinese take-out.

Once the babies were all tucked in, I went to work picking up the remains of a weekend which consisted of bathroom renovations, two kids with respiratory infections, many guests, several outings, and two sleep-over nights including three 8-year-old girls. #SoMuchGiggling #SoLittleSleep

While cleaning my wonderfully quiet house, I began to pray out loud. I thanked God for my kitchen and dining room. Powerful ministry has been done because of those rooms. Beautiful things have transpired in my home-- and much of it over or around sharing food. Breaking bread, pouring out, doing life alongside people.

I thought about the fullness of our lives and the abundance of love and relationships we have. I thought about how we'd have none of that without small groups-- without God using Rodney to constantly inch me further from my very introverted comfort zone.

Tears came as I wiped down my table, realizing that the Father has straight-up used my discomfort and reluctance to bring about this fullness and joy. What a trade! In fact, my three closest friends all came into my life through small groups or through something outrageous that Rodney manifested for people to attend together.

I felt grateful for my crazy husband and for the realization that the Kingdom of heaven is relationships. Ultimately, it reminded me that if God can use a misfit hermit of a small group leader like me, He really can do anything through anyone, if we let Him.

So to anyone I've ever shared a small group with, thank you. Thank you for stretching me, for encouraging me, and for being a part of God doing His work in my heart.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Burn the Box



My pastor has recently taken on the task of preaching through the book of Revelation (no, there is not an "s" on the end of the word, thank you very much). If you've ever read it, then you already know that some of the text is straight-forward, while other parts of it are steeped in seemingly cryptic symbols.

One of the undeniable truths is that Jesus is coming for His bride. To rescue, redeem, and cleanse her. This time He isn't coming as a gentle, smiling, humble carpenter-- approachable by all. The book describes Him riding in on a white horse, wearing a coat dipped in blood, with fire in His eyes and a sword in His mouth. I don't even know what that would look like, but it sounds pretty hard core (and I'm grateful that He's on my side!).

Typically, I try to kick off my morning quiet time with some form of adoration or praise. It's how Jesus taught us to pray, and I figure it's a good way to make sure my heart is focused less on myself (because that's where it invariably wanders every time, which is a different post for a different day).

The other morning, I began by thanking Him for being so eternally gentle with me. I was appreciating His compassion and tenderness despite my constant state of rebellion and self-indulgence. Then I thought about this second Jesus-- the Braveheart-style one. And the contrast silenced me.

Too often, I'm guilty of making Him my own personal slot machine. I pull the handle of prayer, hoping that the outcome will result in my favor, my comfort, my happiness. It's like Jesus is my on-call safety net. It's so humanly one-sided and small.

He is infinitely patient and gentle, yet He comes with a sword IN HIS MOUTH.
He is a still, small voice, yet He conquered Death.

In light of that, I have nothing to give. My only response is reverent worship.

The thing that makes this even more beautiful is that He loves it. In chapters 5 and 8 of Revelation, we learn that our prayers are the incense that God uses to fill heaven's throne room. I am in awe of Him, and He is grateful for me.

The fierce warrior King is grateful for me. For you. So unpack everything from the box of what you think know about Him. Don't just upsize the box, either; He is limitless. Burn the thing to ashes, so you can pray bigger, expect more, and let Him flex. He's stronger, vaster, more colossal, beautiful, boundless, glorious, dazzling, and holy than we can comprehend.