a personal revival

I was with a group of friends on Friday night and was telling about the prayer counseling I did this past summer. I heard about this program offered at our former church, Cedar Valley and the way this friend talked about it left me slack jawed and wanting what she had. She was free, fully herself and confident in her identity in Christ. I filled out the online form from their website and then had a consultation with the woman who runs the program. What she said at that first meeting was so new to me.

She said, "I'm going to schedule you for four sessions. Maybe five. But no more. Because all of the topics you have brought up will have one root. We don't know what that is yet, but God does, and he wants it removed so that he can fill that space. It doesn't take long for God to show how all of our troubles come from the same cause. And if we are willing and able, he is swift to pull it up and fill that space with his presence."

So I went for four sessions. And they were good and I was grateful and some big stuff was dealt with. Sessions were just an hour and easily half the time was spent in prayer. It was remarkable.

Then in the fall, Rory and I started our marriage counseling at our own church and something came up that the counselors wanted to deal with directly, just with me. I was hesitant at first, but ended up going and meeting with two women at my church for a three hour session of prayer.

And we found the root.

They had me tell my whole story, whatever parts I wanted to share, parts I thought were of importance. Unto itself, the gift of listening ears, eager to hear my story told fully was quite amazing. But even more amazing were the parts I chose to share. Things I hadn't thought about in a long, long time. The things the Holy Spirit was bringing to the surface.

They listened and we prayed and then they began to explain soul ties. That through relationship and connection, we give parts of our selves to others all throughout our lives. But this isn't actually healthy, allowing others to judge and critique us. Christ Jesus is the only one who our soul should be tied to.

My root was my need for approval and affirmation from others. I was raised in an awesome church where I was beloved by the congregation. I got strokes and affirmation constantly. And so as I moved on in life, I was still looking for those hits of approval and recognition.

Suddenly every part of the life story I had just told started to share the same theme. The professor at the seminary who wrote the hurtful words on my paper, the professor in college who used my final project as the pawn for her own inner-colleague battle. Stories of betrayal and heartache and still feeling misunderstood. All of the stories shared the same theme: I was still wanting resolution and approval from all of these people.

So slowly we began to pray, one person at a time. They helped me get started and then I used the words. We prayed first for my biggest soul tie, that in the name of Jesus we were cutting this tie. That anything this person still needed from me would be forgiven, and that the parts I had given them (ability to judge me) would be taken back and plugged back into Jesus alone.

We prayed like this for hours. I cried. I felt relief. And freedom. And peace. I had so many soul ties out there! At one point I saw myself wearing a hula skirt, all of these soul ties, dangling around my waist. And as I prayed each one tied back into Christ Jesus, my actual source for approval and affirmation. He calls me his child, he loves me without condition, he knows my sin more fully than I do, and yet he loves me with a love I can hardly fathom.

And oh, I slept like a baby that night. As Elsie would say, I slept like "a baby sister daughter." Because that's what I am in the eyes of my God.

I was thinking about all of this transformation that happened in my 33rd year. And as I drove home this past Friday night, after sharing a bit of this story with these girl friends, I realized how much God has done in my heart in one years time. I was so taken aback by all of the ground I have gained this year, while not really recognizing it at the time. And then I remembered that it was almost a year ago that I spoke at women's Bible study about praying for a personal revival. I hadn't been feeling much connection in my own faith life for a while and spoke candidly about this and that I knew the answer was to ask. To seek. To knock. To pray for a revival in my own heart.

And now, a year later, my eyes are wide open in awe and wonder. So grateful for all I have seen and learned. I have absolutely experienced a personal revival. Because this year I also have been reading through The Story with my church and discussing each chapter with our weekly small group. And the revelation and renewed belief I have gained through this time of exegetical study has been nothing short of a wonder. I am seeing the new testament come to life through the lens of the old testament and each week I am left more and more amazed at the story we are all still a part of.

I sat down to write this all tonight because earlier this evening I went to a Seder Meal at my church. For two-and-a-half hours we walked through the entire feast as a Jewish family would celebrate it. And for each prayer or practice our pastor showed in scripture how Christ has come as our true Passover lamb. The meal was holy for me, a feast of food but I also had a heart of gratitude for all the ways I have seen Christ come alive for me. The meal was a celebration of remembering my own exodus from the bondage of seeking the approval of others. To God be the Glory.

A life of faith is an interesting road. I do my part: I pray, and I can wait, and I can seek. But there is so much that happens that is without my doing a thing. It's sort of like this baby I'm carrying right now. I'm eating and sleeping, but other than that, miraculous things are happening every day in my womb and I can take no credit. A life of faith in Jesus Christ feels like that for me. I open my Bible and read God's Words, I go to church and pray for a personal revival. But it is not I who controls what He has next to teach me... or show me... or to grow in me.

I'm just now looking back on the road I have been on over the last year and I am grateful. And will be on my knees praying for another year of gentle teaching.

late night check in

+Well, if you checked my cupboards right now you'd say, "looks pretty tidy." But if you looked at my counter tops, floors and general upkeep of my house you might be skeptical that any cleaning is actually being done in this house. As my mom always said growing up, "a room always gets messier before it gets clean." And it's true. Even with three carloads of donations to goodwill I still have a lot of stuff and it tends to be all over my house at the moment. Baby steps.

+Our house has the sweet aroma of maple syrup this week. I'm becoming quite fond of this time of year for the smells. The evaporator fills our whole farm with the smell of bonfire, and the final syrup, brought inside to reduce, is awesome aromatherapy. Sap season is officially done. We collected a haul during the last snowfall and the next day Rory came in and said, "Sap is buddy. That's a wrap." It's pretty marvelous. When the tree needs the sap for it own leaves and development, the sap turns bitter and is no longer tasty. I love God's created order. There is a time we get to benefit from the sap flow, and then that time ends and the sap is just for the tree.

+I ordered my first Stitch Fix. It came and I liked everything in my box. They now do maternity fixes and after a frustrating shopping trip with Rory looking for maternity clothes, and decided to give it a shot. I am keeping two items and returning three mostly because they just didn't fit right. I have this ever growing body, and clothes are just awkward right now. But I'm going to continue with this shopping service. The online style assessment was intensive and if you don't like anything, you ship it all back (within THREE days! Annika caught this for me, after SEVEN days...but I think I'm in the clear) and they just charge the $22 styling fee. You pick the price ranges, you pick your style, they pick your clothes, you pick the ones you keep. I love it. And if you give it a try, use my referral code and I'll get $25 towards my next fix and then I'll blow you kisses through my computer. Referral code: 4879592

+I had a whole post ready to go up on potty training, but at the last minute decided not to post it for a few reasons. First, every kid is different and I know a lot of parents who are working hard and gaining little ground in this area. It's discouraging and I didn't know if a post of a success story would actually be that encouraging. Second, I have a friend who said her first two trained with no problem and then her third came and gave her a run for her money. I'm sort of waiting for that to happen. Third, the 3-day-method is out there and easy to find information on. We went cold turkey...no overnight diapers or training diapers. And it took just a week to figure that out. We are grateful. And finally, this was one of the first times when I thought, "I bet this personal story of my daughter doesn't need to be on the internet." I usually insert myself into the stories I tell...and when I did this I thought, "thank God my potty training struggles and triumphs isn't searchable!" Ha! What a hilarious and terrible thought! (Even if it was successful...I don't even know. I've never asked about my own training...) So that's my two cents. I'm happy to share tips and tricks (I have a few) through email or one-on-one.

+The chicks that we hatched from eggs are no longer chicks. They are chickens. But they are still living in our downstairs bathroom because it is too cold to put them outside and it is too early to introduce them to the bigger chickens. When Rory started incubating those eggs he reassured me, "Oh, this is just a trial run. I don't think I'll be successful until I have a bit more trial and error." But he was successful and now we have two large birds in our bathroom to keep guests company while they use our facilities.

+Rory taught a class on Saturday morning on "How to start your own business." I am a part of an online forum for area home school parents. We haven't fully decided if we are going to go this route, so I've been attending their meetings and keeping tabs on their forum and learning so much along the way. Anyway, in this forum (a few months ago) a mom said her 14-year-old son was antsy and looking for something to do during these long winter days. I read her post to Rory and he said, "he needs to start a business." Rory is so matter-of-fact like that. So I told him he should offer a workshop to this group and the response was awesome. He had all ages show up and did a really nice job explaining all the types of businesses and how to think through its viability and the bones of writing out a business plan.

+I sold a lot of stuff this week on our local facebook online garage sale. It meant I was logged into facebook all week long (usually I just pick one night a weekend to log in) and man, I cannot believe how much of my life is sucked away by that site. I just can't be on it indefinitely because it is such a distraction for me! The once a week, just one night thing is the best solution for me. Rory still has my password...I can't log in myself. And after a full week back on, I was happy to log out tonight.

+Along those lines. I sold a kitchen chopper for $15 and told the woman who purchased it that I would meet her at the cupcake shop in town to make the swap. So I brought the kids, swapped the chopper for cash and proceeded to use five of those dollars to buy two cupcakes for the kids. Then we walked down to the bagel shop and I got a bagel with cream cheese for three dollars. And there was something so educational about trading a tangible item for cash and then trading that cash for food that will exit our systems in the next day. Felt very wasteful. Rory was glad I learned this lesson, but then I had to defend myself that I also was supporting two businesses that I adore on our main street and I would be very sad if our cupcake shop every closed!

+I need Lent. I love Lent. I love the somber, holy feeling of these forty days, going to services on Wednesday nights and feeling fully prepared mentally for holy week and finally the overwhelming gift that is Resurrection Sunday. Our church has an Ash Wednesday service, but for this season, I need to find a church that has Wednesday night Lenten services too. It's funny, because I remember in my childhood thinking those services were kind of slow and quiet and sleepy. The music was somber and the sermons deeply reflective of why Jesus came in the first place and why he had to die. Now I crave those sleepy services. They were dark, cozy, quiet and candle lit. Anyway, I'm writing this mostly as a reminder to myself to find a traditional Lutheran church next Lent and then go. The fact that tomorrow is Palm Sunday is crazy to me. I don't feel like I've properly prepared my heart for the start of holy week.

+It's 11:43 on Saturday night and I just felt like writing. If you're still reading, you are very kind. It seems I had much on my mind tonight. Fun to have a space for a brain dump.


tidying up

I just hit second trimester, the weather turned to springtime for a few weeks, and while in Mesa I read the book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I don't know it you could make a more complete trifecta to get a girl to deep clean her house. I'm nesting, it's springtime and this book was awesome motivation.

I have always loved home organization. When we were first married I had my awesome mother-in-law Marlene tape the shows Clean Sweep and later Clean House on VHS tapes for me to watch at our house since she had cable. I love the before and afters of a nicely cleaned and kept house. For a while Rory would ask me kindly, "tonight, when we sit on the couch, will you just sit by me and watch the show and not sort the junk drawer?"

We moved houses when Elsie was 6 days old, and a lot of our house was moved in and has functioned for two years but after reading this book I knew there were some things I could do to make our house more tidy. We have lots of things that don't have a permanent home, one closet upstairs that all four of us share and no actual toy storage.

The author is a home organization guru from Japan. Her book is a quick read, but offers a lot of new ideas for keeping a tidy home, a few that were pretty new to me. She has an order in which you are supposed to tackle your home, so as not to lose motivation. Clothes, books, kitchen and bathroom, papers and finally pictures. She also doesn't believe in spending months purging your home. It should be done quickly.

We flew in late on Friday night and Saturday morning I hit my house. I didn't even unpack my suitcases. I just started sorting my sock drawer. And by lunchtime I had three huge trash bags filled with clothes to give away. Because getting rid of stuff gives me some sort of contagious high. Once I start, I want to keep at it.

Her main technique is that you pick up every item individually and ask yourself, "does this item spark joy for me?"

The book is enjoyable because it's a little bit hilarious. Marie is really into the personification of objects and owning the feelings associated with getting rid of things. So she'll says when you find a shirt that still has tags on it you should say to it, "thank you for the joy you brought me that day in the dressing room." and then put it in the giveaway bag. She's really into talking to your stuff. "Thank you hand bag for carrying so many of my important treasures around all day. I am grateful for your help." I giggled a lot while reading it. And yet, she is hitting on something that really was helpful when I came across an item that I felt obligated to keep. Whether it was a gift, or something with a teeny bit of sentimental value, I could detach a bit and put it in the giveaway bag with no real unease.

In the days since Saturday I have removed every item from every cupboard in my kitchen and bathroom. I have hauled so much to our local clothes closet. I brought an entire huge rubbermaid full of kids books. We have a library in this house already and I feel awesome passing them along.

Incidentally, when I dropped them off I also donated the rubbermaid. Because this woman believes that, "organization containers are for systematized hoarders." Oh I laughed when I read that. Because I LOVE containers of every size and shape. But when I read that chapter I realized she is spot on. I am just moving stuff around, even if it is well organized. In the end, she says, get rid of it all. The stuff inside, the containers, less is more. So I've even been donating baskets, tubs and bins.

I have a pile to sell on an online garage sale with hopes that I'll get a bit of money from my cake platter, bundt pan, fondue sets, mini-crockpot and cappuccino machine that have all rarely been used. I love having them out of my cupboards and I LOVE the way things are set up in my kitchen now. I've adjusted shelves to fit specific items and next is going through my pantry and donating random foods to the food shelf that we haven't used since they were purchased.

I'm excited about this deep clean. The book is worth a read, and believe me, you will giggle too. But I think you'll also find yourself crazy inspired. I've been going strong for four days now, and hopeful to have the entire house purged fairly quickly. I did sort the kids toys, but of course they found the bin that was for giveaway and suddenly those are their favorite toys again. So we'll ride out this wave and then I'll sort them out again.

adult birthdays

I wrote this blog post almost a year ago and I never posted it. But I recently read it again and it made me laugh a bit and I still think it's true. So today I'll throw it out there...

I have something to write about, and it's not very flattering: I'm having a hard time making the transition to adult birthdays.

The birthdays of my childhood are all pretty epic. The days were celebrated from sun up to sun down and I felt special all day long. But adult birthdays sort of come and go. There is no mom letting everyone know it is your birthday. There is no teacher waiting for you to bring in Tootsie Pops for all of your classmates (always Tootsie Pops, for me). This year I realized I had my facebook birthday still set to January 1st. I could have gone in and changed it mid-day, but I didn't want to come across as too, you know, needy.

But the truth is I have needs unending on my birthday. Many I don't even know about until they go unmet. Mostly a need to feel special, a need to have a day different from all other days. And somehow adult birthdays don't really allow for this. There are still diapers to change and kids to wrangle into car seats.
This might be some sort of passive-aggressive post towards my husband. Except that he did pretty well on my birthday this year. He planted me my very own bulb garden for my gift. Thoughtful in every way. And he had the kids make me cards. And we celebrated a bit at night.

The truth is, after ten years of birthdays with him, I think I'm finally letting him off the hook. Our very, very first fight in our history of togetherness was on my birthday. And it was over the lack of fanfare for my birthday. Not a pretty story, but a true one. He had big plans for me for the weekend after my birthday. And he learned a very important lesson that birthday about the need to celebrate on the very day. Never, ever, ever, ever after.

I get that none of this is very flattering of me. Many of you reading may even be thinking, "I'm glad I'm not married to her." But I have a feeling you are married to her. I brought this whole adult birthday problem up with my friends at ecfe and it was pretty much a resounding amen around the table.

Hence my openness in this blog post.

The trouble with my expectation for my birthday is a tricky one: I expect to be surprised. Not with a big party (in fact, I'd rather skip the big party.) I'd like little surprises. Like coffee in bed. Little surprise notes. Little surprise gifts. Little surprise outings. Or a surprise babysitter. I want to feel special all day long. I want to feel remembered and appreciated from sun up to sun down. And I don't want to have to be the one to plan it.

Can you see the problem? That last little expectation is a huge one: I want a day full of surprises and I don't want to plan it. I just want it to happen. But I have expectations, so when I'm up with my kids at 7:30, I'm already disappointed. Because I wanted coffee in bed.

So do I spell it out? Because then the day isn't full of surprises. Then the coffee in bed is obligatory.

My friends, I do not have the answer on this one. I do know that winter weather has thwarted my initial birthday plans two years in a row now and I'm beginning to believe the answer might just be to get out of dodge. To not be in Minnesota and instead have an annual warmer weather get away. I also have a friend who has a group of four friends who go out for lunch and each get a massage on each other's birthdays. They have taken birthdays into their own hands. I find that birthday plan pretty brilliant.

I don't write all of this to gain pity.  But rather just to say it. Adult birthdays are hard. They're a bit doomed from the start, in my opinion.

That was the end of my sorry post from last year. I read it before my birthday this year and knew I had to become the adult that I am, and ensure my own birthday was lovely. There were lots of ways I could have done this, but I chose Mesa, Arizona. We chose to go that week because I couldn't risk another snowy birthday with roads that would wreck my Minnesota plans. And my birthday was lovely. It was a beautiful day in Arizona, the plan from the start. And then my mom hosted a lovely party with family friends and aunts and uncles complete with my traditional bunny birthday cake. It was a fun party with lots of my favorite picnic foods, doubly awesome because we were in Mesa. 

So the lesson I learned during this 34th year is: Your adult birthdays are in your hands. Because you are an adult. So plan accordingly. :)

mesa, arizona

In anticipation for this trip we played many make-believes where Ivar would say to Elsie, "get on the couch! This plane is going to Arizona!" And Elsie would shake her head, "No! I'm going to Mesa!"

Lucky for us, they're in the same place and our actual plane knew where to land. We spent five nights with my folks in our own little house and had an incredible time. The weather was fantastic, the pool a definite highlight and all breakfasts were blissfully eaten outside on our little patio. We drove a golf cart around between my parents place and ours and got to spend time with my aunt and uncle from Alaska and my Uncle Don. 

The trip was planned by yours truly, to fall right over my birthday. This was my attempt to take my birthday into my own hands...something I think you have to do when you are an adult. (I have a post on adult birthdays written from a year ago that I never posted...I'll put that up tomorrow.) Rory and I even got away for a full day, also deserving a post of its own.

It was so good to be together. When we got off of the plane (midnight our time!) Elsie was sound asleep. I carried her down to arrivals and then I spotted my mom. I said quietly, "there's Grandma Margaret!" And she lifted her groggy head and scanned the horizon looking for her grandma. When she saw her my little sleepy head started laughing and smiling so big and lunged from my arms. It was a sweet, sweet moment I hadn't anticipated. My kids were as excited to see their grandma and grandpa as I was excited to see my mom and dad.