What you must know about spring (& growth)

What you must know about spring (& growth)
WARNING: This post contains graphic images, which if you didn't grow up on a farm, you may find shocking. If you feel queasy at the sight of blood (even a small amount), you might want to stop reading. ---------We bring you back to your regularly scheduled programming.... Spring places yellow daffodils in a vase on my kitchen table. Spring and growth dance with red and pink tulips. Spring is when we plant tomatoes and cucumbers in our vegetable bed. Spring is beauty and new life growing: no blood. Yes, right? If you believed that...Happy April Fool's Day! Photo with permission of Flickr Creative Commons User:Theresa Thompson I discovered the next two images when I typed "Spring" into the search box, and they resonated with my thoughts, which have simmered on my mind's back burner since my recent big event. Unknown to me, spring also means ewes birth their lambs. And releasing new life involves blood and effort. (I know, but I often need reminders...plus I gave birth in the fall.) Who knew a mama sheep could clean lamb #1 while also giving birth to lamb #2? Blows me away. (I know some of you already know this, so please forgive my amazement.) They didn't show these pictures in any books I've read on Psalm 23 or farm life. Photo via Flickr Creative Commons User: Karen Roe. The proud mama and her two babies rest. Photo via Flickr Creative Commons User: Karen Roe. Mama looks like she has worked hard to birth new life. Yesterday, a new friend, Linda sent me this e-mail, "God is doing a good work in you.  Not easy though, huh?" Yeah, not easy. Why do I keep longing for the easy way out? I want to avoid the pruning even though I know God prunes to make me more fruitful (John 15:2). I want the beauty of new life without the strain and the blood. And during this Lenten season, I realize my desire for comfort can become an idol if it makes me ignore the work God calls me to: a deeper soul work. So I stop running; I look and listen with God at the memories He brings to mind. We sit together. I don't sprint from the pain. Instead I run into God's loving arms, and His unfailing mercies (Lamentations 3:22-26). If you are in a season of painful growth, may I encourage you to run to God instead of from the hard work of birthing new life. God promises to be with you. Ask God to bring along midwives/good friends who can support you during this difficult time. Last October, when I was at Laity Lodge, I prayed to God for a "divine appointment" if there was someone I needed to meet. And He did. My new friend Linda and I bonded over lunch. Linda said she also had prayed that morning for a "divine appointment." And a new friendship was birthed. Soulstops moment:What new thing is God birthing in you this spring? Or maybe you are in a season of growth? What has God been showing you? Thanks for being here. I always learn much from your comments. P.S. Although I have not suffered childhood sexual abuse like Mary DeMuth, I know many have, here is part of her story to encourage you. Mary has allowed God to birth beauty and redemption into her story. Welcome, if this is your first visit, and you liked what you read, please sign up for my e-mail list and receive my Soul Care Manifesto e-book, blog updates and other goodies. And thanks to everyone who took the time to give me feedback about my manifesto.Linking with the lovely Holley Gerth of #coffeeforyourheart...read Holley's encouraging words here. Linking with Heather of Just Write Jennifer Dukes Lee, author of Love Idol, available now, and instigator of #TellHisStory. (Enjoying my copy.) Linking with encouraging friend Lyli Dunbar's Thought Provoking Thursday

What I learned in March

What I learned in March
"Uncovering your art does not mean you will find only rainbows and sunshine to pour out on everyone around you." -Emily Freeman, A Million Little Ways, 36 After I wrote my soul care manifesto, I understood what Emily meant. Photo via Flickr Creative Commons User:Smabs Sputzer "Uncovering your art is about uncovering what is really there within you, coming face-to-face with your profound capacity for beauty as well as sin, your deepest dreams and your longing for God." - Emily Freeman, A Million Little Ways, 36 * On March 17, 2014, I birthed my largest project to date: my soul care manifesto. I felt heart-sprinting-terror then great relief after I released it. God gave me a joy gift by letting me create beauty with him. Another gift appeared when a reader felt the same way. As I wrestled with my fear of failure and judgment before I released my manifesto, I saw (again) my sin of seeking another person's approval instead of resting only in God's unconditional love for me. I forgot I am "PreApproved," as Jennifer Dukes Lee wrote in her encouraging book, Love Idol. And when I wanted to berate myself for being slow to learn, God reminded me what I wrote in my soul care manifesto: "Real lasting transformation takes time and God is patient, so I will be patient with myself and the slow pace of true growth." Ouch. Time to practice soul care...again. Ah... I see how bare-boned hydrangea in winter slowly transforms to green leaves, little buds, and finally orbs of purple and blue beauty. Photo used with permission of Flickr Creative Commons User:nekonomania Sweet irony. God reminded me using my own words, which came from Him to me. It always returns to Jesus as the source, the True Vine. Tweet: Real lasting transformation takes time and God is patient, so I will be patient with myself and the slow pace of true growth.-via@Soulstops (Click to tweet) I wonder if that is why Jesus used so many agricultural examples when he spoke, such as how a branch cannot bear fruit unless it abides in the vine. Photo used with permission of Flickr Creative Commons User:Brian Shamblen Even a backyard gardener like myself, knows fruit doesn't ripen overnight. But, oh, how I long for the fruit of the Spirit to be fully evident in my life - quickly. Like the old adage, I want patience and I want it now. My soul longs for God, the Master Gardener, to pull the weeds of impatience and envy, as we plant seeds of truth about His unfailing love. And I continue to uncover art as I daily weed and plant seeds in my soul with the Master Gardener. I wait with growing patience and expectation. Soulstops Moment: What did you learn in March? Or what resonated with you from what I learned in March? Welcome, if this is your first time here, and you liked what you read, please sign up for my e-mail list and receive my Soul Care Manifesto, blog updates and other goodies. And thanks to everyone who took the time to give me feedback about my manifesto. Thank you for being here. Linking with Emily's "What We Learned in March" Link up, here. * I highly recommend Emily Freeman's book, A Million Little Ways: uncover the art you were made to live. I began to read Jennifer Lee's book, Love Idol, and I'm enjoying it.Sweet and gifted friend Laura Boggess,  So delighted we met. Wonderful Jen Ferguson Michelle DeRusha of #Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday...grateful for our chat at Laity Lodge  

What are the benefits of a slower lifestyle? (Book Giveaway- Part 2)

What are the benefits of a slower lifestyle? (Book Giveaway- Part 2)
I am soaking in Ann Kroeker's wisdom, and I hope you are also encouraged and challenged by her book, Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions for Frenzied Families*. She wrote based on her own experience of raising four young children (at that time, ages 6 to 13). Now, several years later, her oldest daughter is in college. If you missed Part 1 of my interview with Ann, please read it, here, to discover what prompted her and her family to dramatically change their pace of life. 4. You mention flexing with technology--do you regret loosening up on that? I’m really glad we stayed firm on our restrictions when they were little—so much research reveals technology’s negative effects on young children. But as they grew, as I said, we loosened up, and now my eldest daughter, who showed herself adept at technology and computers, is now studying computer science at college. If we had never allowed exposure to computers, she would have been at a disadvantage, maybe never discovering this aptitude. Similarly, my next-oldest is skilled with photo editing, graphic design, and is exploring film editing—again, that would not have been possible without giving her time, resources, and access to experiment. However, I strongly recommend a protective, filtering program like NetNanny and later something like Covenant Eyes or Safe Eyes.  With regard to cell phones, we are allowing kids to have cell phones with texting by age 13 (we lowered it from 16) IF they have the money to pay for the monthly add-on fee. The privilege comes with the caveat that the parents can take away that privilege at any time, if the child abuses the use. Our youngest does not have any kind of phone yet. He's 12. The 16-year-old has a phone with texting, but she doesn’t have a smart phone with continuous Internet access. That, we don't allow until age 18.  We've had problems that we've had to address, but we felt that they would benefit from learning self-control and self-regulation with guidance from us. And having the phones means they can contact us when they are out and about. 5. Do you do any outside activities at all? For years we resisted joining a speech and debate club that was a good fit with our values—we resisted because the impact on family time felt almost like a travel sport in terms of time commitments and out-of-town tournaments. We felt like we couldn’t sustain that when the kids were young, but now that our youngest is 12, he can compete. We don’t have to herd little ones and worry where they are at every moment, so we waited until the time was right and joined. What a wonderful experience! We’re so glad to be part of this club, but now we have a taste of what travel sports and activities are like. I’m convinced we did the right thing waiting; and yet, I see why very family has to decide what’s right for them. 6. I appreciated how you quoted Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest to remind us to not compare our family with another family. We each have to “walk in the light of the vision” God has given us. Besides prayer, which you mention, what else helps you to not compare?Good question! The older I get, the more confident I am in the path God has us on and the less I worry about others’ opinions. Also, seeing the kids blossom and knowing that we did them no harm—that, rather, we gave them the best possible childhood we could offer—helps me relax and stop comparing. That’s not to say it’s been perfect; it’s just the best we could offer following what we believed God was directing. In my friend Jennifer Dukes Lee's book Love Idol, she tackles this very issue—how seeking the approval of others is an idol that keeps us from living only for the approval of God. Comparing ourselves to others elevates the other people too high and makes us want to be them instead of be the person God’s created us to be. So perhaps just having people like Jennifer remind us to keep our eyes on the Lord, and memorizing Scripture to that effect, can bring our minds back to gaze upon God and things above, not on earthly things. Ann is giving away a second copy of her book on Thursday. To enter the second giveaway: 1) Leave a comment about which of Ann's answers resonated with you, or a question for Ann about a slower lifestyle - this counts as one entry; 2) Share this giveaway on social media, and let me know in the comments as each share counts as an additional entry; 3) If you are already a subscriber, or you subscribed - let me know in the comments as that counts as an additional entry; 4) leave your e-mail on the Disqus form so we can contact you if you win. If you entered the first giveaway, and did not win, you are automatically entered in this second giveaway. The giveaway will end Thursday (3/27/14) at 5 p.m. PST. The winner will be picked by random and announced later that day. Congratulations to Alecia S. for winning Ann's book in the first giveaway. And congratulations to Ceil R. for winning the second book. If you missed Part 1 of my interview with Ann about her book, Not So Fast: Slow Down Solutions For Frenzied Families, you can read it here. Then on Friday, March 28, I will share what I learned in March. I look forward to reading what you learned in March. Thanks for being here. I appreciate your presence. Jennifer Dukes Lee, author of Love Idol, available now, and instigator of #TellHisStory. (I get my copy tomorrow.) Linking with the lovely Holley Gerth of #coffeeforyourheart...read Holley's encouraging words here. Linking with encouraging friend Lyli Dunbar's Thought Provoking Thursday

What are the benefits of a slower lifestyle? (Book Giveaway, Part 1)

What are the benefits of a slower lifestyle? (Book Giveaway, Part 1)
Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to my humorous (I love her laugh) and wise friend, Ann Kroeker, and her book, Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions for Frenzied Families. She wrote based on her experience of raising four young children (at that time, ages 6 to 13). Now, several years later, her oldest daughter is in college. I thought her book would resonate with my readers as one key reason to slow down is so we can connect well with God, loved ones and other people.   As I read Not So Fast, I felt affirmed in the counter-cultural decisions we have made to slow down. Each chapter includes discussion questions for families and individuals, followed by stories from families sharing their slow down approach. I found so many good and useful ideas in her book, I wasn't sure where to begin. 1. Ann, what was the big life event that triggered your journey to evaluate the pace of life for your family, and to ultimately choose to slow down? Thanks for having me here, Dolly. I’m so delighted you enjoyed the book and wanted to share it with your readers. To answer your question, the big event was my husband’s emergency heart surgery when the kids were little. That wake up call served as the catalyst for our decision to find a sustainable pace of life. We processed a lot during that extended time of slowing, concluding that only a few things truly matter. From that time on, we made life decisions taking into account those things that matter most. We realized that if we got those main things right, the rest was just gravy. It’s been 17 years now, and our pace of life has remained quite slow and simple compared to most of the people around us. 2. What are some of the benefits you have seen in your family since you have slowed down as a family? Any surprises? Benefits include first and foremost, a less stressed, more attentive mom! That trickles down to a less stressed spouse and kids, and so our time together in general is more relaxed and fun. I think we’ve accumulated years of positive memories. Because we don’t sign them up for tons of activities that keep us on the go, the kids can focus on doing a few things well and still have time leftover to explore other interests. We have flexibility to travel more, and we laugh a lot. As for surprises, I think I’ve been surprised at how often I have to return to our basic values again and again because our lives have sped up without our noticing. Every stage of life requires a recalibration to get us back to that sustainable pace. 3. Let’s talk about that need to revisit and recalibrate. In your book, you are careful to say slowing down looks different at different stages of a family’s life, so slowing down is a continual work-in-progress. In what ways does “slowing down” look different for you today than when you wrote the book? Now that my girls are teens—as you noted, my oldest is in college and my next-oldest is graduating this spring—we’ve flexed with such things as technology. Our cell phone approach has remained almost the same, but we allow more overall screen time than in the past. However, I’ve seen that they are less interested in television, perhaps because we limited it for so long. And because we still have our televisions tucked away in inconvenient locations. And we don’t have cable. Ann is giving away one copy of her book on Tuesday, and another copy on Thursday. * Ann Kroeker's book, Not So Fast, is available in paperback, and in Kindle (affiliate links). To enter the first giveaway: 1) Leave a comment about which of Ann's answers resonated with you, or a question for Ann about a slower lifestyle - this counts as one entry; 2) Share this giveaway on social media, and let me know in the comments as each share counts as an additional entry; 3) If you are already a subscriber, or you subscribed - let me know in the comments as that counts as an additional entry; 4) leave your e-mail on the Disqus form so we can contact you if you win. The giveaway will end Tuesday at 6 p.m. PST. The winner will be picked by random and announced on Wednesday, March 26, 2014. On Wednesday, we will address, among other things, a key issue: technology. You won't want to miss Part 2 of Ann's interview. She will also be giving away a second copy of her book, Not So Fast: Slow Down Solutions For Frenzied Families. Ann has generously agreed to a second giveaway on Wednesday, March 26, 2014, during Part 2 of our interview. Then on Friday, March 28, I will share what I learned in March. It has been a fruitful month. Thanks for being here. I appreciate your presence. Sweet and gifted friend Laura Boggess,  So delighted we met. Wonderful Jen Ferguson Michelle DeRusha of #Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday...grateful for our chat at Laity Lodge  

When you visit the Palm Springs Art Museum (a surprise...)

When you visit the Palm Springs Art Museum (a surprise...)
To my new subscribers: I guest post about once-a-month at Tweetspeak Poetry, and this is my post for this month.* When my family and I arrive in Palm Springs, California, we see people posing underneath and between a giant pair of shapely legs with feet in high heels. Photo via Flickr Creative Commons User:John Picken As our eyes pan up, we see a 26-foot-high sculpture, Forever Marilyn, in her iconic pose. The front of her ivory halter dress ballooning slightly up while her hands hold it down. Her face tilts skyward, smiling. I mistakenly think she is in front of the Palm Springs Art Museum. A few blocks away from Forever Marilyn, we climb concrete steps to the recently renovated Palm Springs Art Museum. Its sleek exterior hints at the museum¹s extensive collection of modern and contemporary art. Not many expect to find a museum in Palm Springs with a Chagall and other notable works of art. On the main level, we walk through a gallery of paintings by Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years, 1953-1966. It is my first introduction to his art and I like the earthy tone and feel of his landscape paintings. I study Woman on a Porch, 1958, the painting of a woman with blurred facial features and short, amber-blonde hair sitting in a chair outside. What is she thinking? Please read the rest of my post at Tweetspeak Poetry, where I write once a month. I would love to see you at one of my favorite sites. P.S. As promised, I interview Ann Kroeker about her book, Not So Fast, next week, over 2 days, and we will be giving away a book each day. Exciting! You won't want to miss Ann's wise words on the benefits of slowing down. * We visited Palm Springs over last year's Christmas break for the first time; I began this post in January, 2014. Linking with encouraging friend Barbie...glad we met.