faith · perfectly imperfect · writing

Don’t Borrow Trouble

Sometimes, and I hope this is no secret to those of you who read my posts regularly, I get overwhelmed. I struggle with unrealistic expectations of perfection and knowing my limits. But I’m learning, all the time. This past February, I met Ashley at FCWC, and we clicked over blogging, WordPress glitches, and being big sisters. She’s tech-savvy and smart, witty and wise, and a joy to bring to my corner today.

Oh, and she’s the reason I figured out how to add a Newsletter subscriber page.

DontWorry

Do you ever imagine the person God wants you to be?

My perfect self is more compassionate and kind; she’s a better daughter, friend, and wife; she reads her Bible daily, prays always, and is completely focused on God.

My perfect self is a pretty cool chick.

I’m not there yet.

The Process

I know this is who God wants me to be, and I’m working on it. But, while my salvation was complete the moment I believed, being perfected by God is a process, or a journey.

Like any significant journey, we can’t start and finish in one day. In fact, God seems to have a plan for how far we should go each day and what we should accomplish along the way.

This is great news! Why?

The Steps

There is a huge gap between who I am today and who I’m meant to be. When I focus on that gap, I get overwhelmed and want to give up. But when God breaks it into small steps and reveals each step to me as I need it from moment to moment…well, that’s more doable.

I didn’t have to be the perfect friend or daughter today; I just needed to visit with my mentor and call Mom on the drive home. I don’t have to publish a book today; I just need to write a few sentences each day.

These are small steps, but they’re part of the greater journey.

No Skipping Ahead!

Sometimes I get excited and want to skip ahead to what I think God has planned for my future. (I’ll get up at 5am tomorrow and read my Bible and pray and write three blogs and finish my book and….)

That’s how I get in trouble. Not only do I miss the lessons I was supposed to learn today but—because I’m not following God’s timing—I fumble tomorrow’s lessons, too. I end up bogged down in confusion, worry, and even legalism, all because I tried to get ahead of God.

Jesus said we shouldn’t worry about tomorrow, for each day has its own trouble (see Matthew 6:31). I think He meant that He gives us the proper portion of opportunities and lessons for each day—as well as the grace to get through them and learn what we need to know.

We don’t have to borrow trouble from tomorrow; we’ve got enough on our plate for today!

Be Encouraged

I encourage you to seek God’s will for you in this moment. If you’re trying to skip ahead to tomorrow’s plan, then stop. Don’t put more demands on yourself than what God is putting on you right now.

Be content to wrestle with what God gives you today. Then you’ll be one step closer to the person He created you to be.


AshleyLJones

Ashley L. Jones received her M.A. in Biblical Studies so she could learn how to dig deeper into God’s Word. She uses her blog, BigSisterKnows.com, to encourage others to see God as alive and relevant by showing how the Bible applies to their everyday lives. She brings this same passion to her other projects, including her current focus, Girls with Gusto, a Christian living book for young women on how to navigate the eight major steps of the spiritual journey. If Ashley isn’t working or writing, she’s outside taking pictures with her husband Robby, and their cat Sue.

Show Ashley and Just Write Life some comment love. We’ll get back to you because there’s nothing better than a good heart connection.

linkups · motherhood · perfectly imperfect · reflections

When All You Want is Perfect Pancakes (and Maybe a Perfect Life): Behind the Scenes

I was supposed to make grits casserole.  (Which is this amazingly delicious way to eat grits and has been known to win over even the most cynical of skeptics and really it deserves a shout out on the recipe page.) But someone had eaten all the cheese.  Maybe it was Amelia during snack time or Joshua for lunch or maybe I just overestimated what could be done with one 16 oz block of cheddar in a few days.  Either way, I had to toss that plan and since I’d promised my husband a hot breakfast before he left for work, pancakes seemed like an easy out.

Except that lately my go-to recipe is Pioneer Woman’s sour cream pancakes.  Guess what?

Yeah, there’s no sour cream either.

So, I didn’t figure this was really a problem, I would just make the old standby that my mother whipped out in fluffy stacks by the dozen on Saturday mornings up until recently when she traded her spatula for a spork and the Appalachian Trail.

Buttermilk pancakes, no problem.

Also, no recipe.  Mama doesn’t write things down; she just cooks and then shrugs and says, “You know, it’s like biscuits but not exactly.”

Not exactly is the point.  I know where I went wrong.  I overestimated the flour and while it wasn’t the biggest deal in the world, for some reason yesterday, when all I wanted to do was be able to make a simple batch of perfect pancakes, it was the end of the world.  Maybe I should back up and admit that I was crying before I even started this process, and when my confused husband wondered what in the world I could be so upset about at 6:45 a.m. before the children were even awake, all I had was tears and fumbling explanations about email and being tired and how I just wanted something to turn out right.  For some reason, the past week had just been hard.  No reason, really.  Just one of those dips into the valley of despair that colored everything gray with frustration.

He ate those thick and chewy opposite of light and fluffy pancakes anyway.  He kissed me goodbye and urged me to have a good day.  I dumped the rest of the disaster in the trash and started over.

With a recipe for Farmhouse Pancakes I found on a quick Pinterest search.

This time I followed directions.  I didn’t second-guess or substitute or waver.  I simply did what I was told and earned the promised result: the perfect pancakes I was aiming for all along.

I know I treat my life like that failed batch of pancakes sometimes.  I want to just be able to dump all the mess-ups in the trash and start over with a clear and easy set of directions that fulfill my longing for perfection.

But there’s no simple recipe to follow that will guarantee me a life free from all the stress and fatigue that makes me imperfect.

If there was, there would be no need for grace.  No need for unconditional love.  No need for forgiveness.

I’d love to tell you that I cried a little more, prayed a little harder, and spent the rest of the day thankful for my revelation.  The truth is I loaded them up and took them waterfall hiking on a nearby paved trail because I needed to walk away from the mess of the house and the press of those four walls.

I’m sure people thought we were sweet.  There were probably some who thought I was either brave or crazy for bringing them here by myself.  But the truth behind this picture is it reminds me that even when I follow directions, the promised result can take a lifetime to achieve.

After all, that glorious waterfall’s still pressing on trying to find its way.

I might make perfect pancakes tomorrow, but a perfect life?

I’m learning that there’s no such thing as a perfect life.  Really, the perfect life has a lot of imperfect moments framed with a whole lot of grace.

Linking up with the Behind the Scenes community over at Crystal Stine’s today.  Check it out and be inspired to tell the truth behind the picture.

crystalstine.me


cooking · http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post · linkups · perfectly imperfect

Behind the Scenes with Blackberry Jam

yeah, so don’t let those pretty little jars fool you.

I did indeed make homemade blackberry jam yesterday.  A labor of love for my husband.  Seedless and old-fashioned canned and everything.

I also nearly burned the house down and have a blister the size of a dime on the base of  my thumb to prove it.  Because when you use a pot that is too small for 4 cups of prepared blackberries and 8 cups of sugar and one box of pectin AND a 1/4 of lemon juice and then you bring it to a “gentle rolling boil”, well, let’s just say it doesn’t stay gentle for long.

That pot of jam boiled all over my stove top and my hardwood floor and my kitchen cabinets.  It scorched dishtowels and the innocent simmering green beans and my thumb when I tried to stop the bursting black mess on the burner by swiping at it with a sopping towel. (i know, i know, not my smartest move.)  Finally a big cup of water and the box of baking soda kept that mess in check.  In the meantime, the smoke alarm was going off (nice to know it works!) and my seven year old was hiding on the porch with the little ones.

Not my finest Pinterest moment.

But as I camped out by the sink with my hand under cold water and surveyed the damage, I managed a little survey of myself also.  You see, I’m impulsive with recipes and directions.  I don’t always read from beginning to end and I’m notorious (at least to my husband) for substituting ingredients because I didn’t check before I started to make sure I had what I need.

And in the case of the jam, I had an inkling (okay, a warning) that this would happen.  You see, I had to bring the fruit and pectin to boil before I added the sugar.  Which I did.  And I noticed then that the pot wasn’t quite big enough.  But I forged ahead because who wants two pots to wash when I can make do with one?

Or rather, who wants to wash two pots instead of the floor, the counter, the sink, the dishtowels, and the stove top?

I don’t think my stove will ever be the same.  But then again, I might not either.  I think I’ve learned a lesson the big-burning-blister hard way:

sometimes it’s better to slow down and actually follow directions if you don’t want to end up with a sticky mess.

And yes, I finished making that stupid jam.  It might not set correctly.  I think I false sealed a few lids. Oh, well.  I’ll just make a batch of biscuits and it will all be gone in a week anyway.

Linking up with Crystal for the first time today!

crystalstine.me

 

perfectly imperfect · pregnancy

Late Blooming

We have these three beautiful Bradford Pear trees in our yard.  They’re one of the best things about our house, really, and usually they are full and white and beautiful this time of the year.

But crazy early summer weather had them blooming early.  I’m just glad I thought to get these pictures before the March winds blew all the blossoms off and made the girls ask, “Mommy, did it snow?”

Third in line is the late bloomer.  Always a week behind the others, this tree kept its blossoms for days after the others were completely green, and it’s never quite as full or lush.  It blooms slowly, as though its afraid to hope that spring is ready and winter has gone.  It reminds me of a child peeking out her door to see if anyone else is awake before she tiptoes down the hall.

It waits patiently for its turn at perfection.  For its moment of readiness in this new world.

It reminds me of me.

Finally, at 32, I think I might be getting it.  I might finally be becoming comfortable with who I am, with what I believe, with the person, wife, mother that I am.

That I was created to be.

Sometimes I stare at others whose blossoms are full and radiant.  I wonder when I’ll be that confident.

Then I look down and see a rounded belly nurturing an unexpected and lovingly anticipated baby boy and I remember Who had confidence in me first.

I think I’m finally starting to bloom.

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
~Philippians 4:13

Linking up today at Capturing Motherhood

motherhood · perfectly imperfect

Beyond My Control

I am aware that even as I write this I have friends who are longing for a baby, a call from the adoption agency, two lines on the stick, the opportunity I’ve been given.

I pray for them and long for them and hope for them and wait with them.

And when I sit in the examining room waiting for my midwife, crying because I’ve already reached my ideal weight gain for this pregnancy and I still have sixteen weeks to go, I am racked with guilt that I am not more thankful for this blessing.

But sometimes one person’s blessing is another’s trial.

Please don’t think I’m horrible because I’m unhappy to be pregnant again.  I want this baby.  I really do.  We’ve named him.  We’re designing a nursery. His sisters kiss my belly, and I proudly tell people we’re having a boy after three girls.

But for a person who has always struggled with self-image, with weight, with being compared to everybody else, pregnancy can be a burden.  People assume I’m due soon.  Not really.  May is three holidays, a winter storm, and lots of rain away.  People assume I’m having twins.  Newsflash: Ultrasounds are pretty high-tech these days.  People tell me not to worry about it because it’s a boy and they’re just different.  People tell me I’ll lose it after.

But I’m still crying.

I avoid pictures.  I don’t feel beautiful, and since I rarely did before, 25 more pounds isn’t helping.  I have no confidence in any decision I make.  Eat a salad?  I’ll be hungry again in an hour.  Eat a cheeseburger?  I’ll swell up from all the sodium.

Today I counted carbs.  That actually helped a bit.  At least I was aware of what is too much.  At least I felt a little bit more in control.

Which is ultimately what this is about.  I constantly feel like my life is out of my hands.  That no matter how good a wife and mom I try to be, something is going to come around to remind me that I will never be good enough.

Linking up to Capturing Motherhood today and planning to read the article she’s linked to because clearly I’m out of sorts today and need to remember Who is on my side.

faith · perfectly imperfect

(Im)Perfectly Patient

I’m not a very patient person.

I can’t sit through commercials and will walk the grocery store until a register is free.

I sometimes get bored halfway through a book and read the ending.  Alright, that’s not true.  Usually I’m so into the story I can’t wait for the end.  I have to know now.

I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in one day because I refused to allow myself to be so impatient.  So I just didn’t put it down until I was finished.  Somehow I don’t think that was better because I had to go back and reread so I could appreciate the details.

I don’t usually appreciate the details like I should.

And lately I’ve been really impatient with my Lord.  It doesn’t make for a happy home.

But I want to know now and how and when and where.  I want a blueprint of my life, or at the very least the next few months, and I want to be able to see how we’re going to get through this valley to the other side.

Faith doesn’t work like that.  It’s trusting in the unknown.

I’m not so good with the unknown.

So everyday, and many times a day, I’m having to remind myself that Paul wrote a long time ago about how to combat these “fits of rage” that come with my fear of the unknown.

But the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, PATIENCE, kindness, gentleness, and self-control…..I used to think it was the self-control that would help me cultivate patience, but guess which comes first?

And then we read in our Advent devotion on Monday how God always provides.  Always there’s a ram in the thicket if we’re patient enough to trust in Him.

But sometimes he brings us to the very edge of that dark place before we see the light.

motherhood · perfectly imperfect

Always Justifiying

Since I became a stay at home mom, I have developed a habit of feeling I have to justify all these things I do all day long so it makes sense to folks (like my husband) why I need to be home right now.

By the way, Joshua never asks me to justify.  He’s so grateful I’m keeping mental breakdowns to a minimum these days that he doesn’t care I’m about to radically rock his world by making a lot more meatless meals.  Well, he cares a little bit because he hates beans.  That’s why I’m going to ease him into it with this yummy sounding deliciousness with no meat added from one of my favorite blogs.

Potato Lasagna.  Shhh…don’t tell him it’s on next week’s menu.

Anyway, I’ve got many things I could be doing right now.  None of them earn me any money to contribute to the family finances, but some of them save us money.

Like I’ve been researching our upcoming Fall Family Getaway to the Shenandoah Valley.  We figure we won’t be vacationing any this summer, we’ve got vacation points to use or lose, and we can swing by and see Joshua’s brother and his wife for the first time in two years, so we’re going to be away over Thanksgiving.  Which is kind of fun.  It helps us recharge as a family and gears us up for lots of quality time with the rest of the fam over Christmas.  We’re staying at a resort near Charlottesville, so any tips would be great.  I really want to know if Williamsburg will be worth the 2+ hour drive with three kids or if we should wait until another trip.  When it’s warmer and we have 4 kids.  And how about Montpelier and Monticello?  I love history and it sounds great to me, but will the kids have fun or will they drive me crazy?  Tough call.  The loved Biltmore, but it was a really big house with a really fun farmyard.

Oh, that was supposed to be about how research saves us money.  It’s because now I know the locations of restaurants I have coupons for and where to find the Walmart so we can cook in the cabin.  See, now we’re not being impulsive.

And my potato lasagna blog also has this post about homemade laundry detergent.  I bought the ingredients, now I just need to make it.  But, I cleaned the kitchen this morning and after cooking all day yesterday and the day before that and the day before that…..I don’t feel like grating soap on my cheese grater today.

Homemade Laundry Soap

Maybe tomorrow I’ll save us money doing that.  For today, I think I’ll just fold the already clean laundry and plot how I can make leftovers enticing and work on another article to submit somewhere for publication.

Did I mention I’ve already had lunch at school with the girls, reorganized the pantry, filled an open childcare slot at jazzercise, looked at Christmas card possibilities, and put Amelia down for a (hopefully) long nap since she was up at 5:20?

See the justification?  How did I ever manage to do all that and work full-time?