Thursday, May 17, 2012

Where Is Your Elevator?

Attending a business workshop with my husband is the last place I would expect to hear great parenting advice, but this particular nugget, said in passing, has stuck with me and helped me so much that I decided to blog about it.

Our mentor was sharing that his 13-year-old son was his "best buddy."  Knowing these teen years to be quite difficult and distant (from what I hear) I was intrigued and wanted to know his secret.  He shared two profound things:

1.  For every word or action of discipline, you have to do at least 3 that show complete interaction.  "Get on the floor and really play, listen, be present," he said.

2.  Before you respond in a frustrating situation, ask yourself, "Where is my elevator?"

If you're not a visual person, what he meant was, if my elevator is already at a 7, it won't take much for me to reach my TOP FLOOR of angry tone, regrettable actions and rage.  If, however, I realize that this child's behavior has nothing to do with where my elevator is at, I can take a moment, bring it down to the lobby and respond appropriately.  Unfortunately for me, my children sometimes get a different reaction than they deserve because I already feel stressed from something else when they do something wrong.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this elevator principle truly applies to all areas of my life.  I can be operating from the 7th floor and snap at my husband or I can take a little ride and save myself the pain of conflict.  The same is true at the store, at church and in my personal relationships as well.

I guess to take it even further, EVERYONE is at a certain level in their personal elevator.  It helps me guard my heart against taking things too personally (something I constantly work on) and to calm down and be a better listener, even when I am tempted to jump into their elevator and hash it out.  It never does any good.

In the end, God's word says it perfectly.
Proverbs 14:29 A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.

I want to give the gift of my elevator ride to the lobby, especially with my children.  After all, I am their example, and I want them to learn that ride for themselves.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Brown World vs Rainbow World

Mr. Brown is very practical. He no sooner would notice the color of the walls than buy something simply for its beauty. He works very hard, is purpose-minded and budget-conscious. He enjoys people very much but doesn't fuss much with personal issues or dramatic displays of emotion. He tends to spend time with people who are close in proximity, rather than close to the soul. His strength is not keeping in touch. He likes music but wouldn't think to make sure the music is on. He doesn't need "inspiration" because, to him, work is mostly a means to an end. Mr. Brown feels secure when things make sense and are logical, which is why he likes to ask questions and even debate now and then. Intangible things make him a little uneasy. Mr. Brown is a creature of habit.

Ms. Rainbow can be practical, but doesn't want that to be the reason she does things. To her, practical equals boring, plain, mundane. She experiences a range of emotions and enjoys sharing those with her friends. She takes pleasure in the details, the colors, smells, sounds, decor. She likes to create and explore her imagination. She thrives on being able to please others, to be spontaneous, to make every day unique. She can express herself well and is sensitive to others' feelings. She lives in the intangible world of love, peace, joy and color. She is childlike and invites others to be their true selves. Routine can feel like a rut at times. Intellectuals and critical thinkers make her a little uneasy. Ms. Rainbow is a creature of the heart.

When Mr. Brown met Ms. Rainbow one day he was totally enchanted by her free spirit and exuberance. He felt "alive" for the first time in her presence. Ms. Rainbow became intoxicated by his attentiveness and questions, seeming to want to know everything about her. She deeply respected this hard-working, reliable rock of a man.

We all know the end of the story - they married and lived happily ever after, right? Well, yes and no. They did marry, but like every couple, soon noticed how deeply different they were. How does a Brown talk to a Rainbow and reach her without boring her or frustrating her? How does a Rainbow open up to a Brown and help him see in color?

God, the creator of both the Browns and the Rainbows understands us all. I know that for me, I knew God many years before I knew Joe and vice versa. When I find myself unable to relate to his world, I can turn to God, who relates to us both. I can find solace in HIM and know that I am known. I can pray for my Mr. Brown (whom I deeply love and respect) knowing that God accepts and understands him and knows just how to help him. I can talk to other Mr. Browns too and get their perspective, which helps me gain perspective on their language and their world.

Funny, 1 Peter counsels us women to be an example to our husbands "without words" - counter to most of our most popular way to relate. 1 Peter then counsels the husbands to simply love us - accept us, listen to us, help us. These things take a stretch from what comes naturally to us as men and women, but it's a beautiful way to refine us and help us grow.

In the end, if the world was only Brown, we would be seriously devoid of variation, color, beauty and emotion. On the other hand, if it were only Rainbow I am not sure how much we would accomplish, how reliable we would be or how much we would mature. We need eachother. As frustrating as it can be sometimes to understand, I am so very grateful that according to God's infinite wisdom, I married my Mr. Brown.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Organizing 101

Ten years ago, when I moved back to the United States from Israel, I had $3 and 2 suitcases to my name. I moved in with my mom for a few months and lived comfortably in my old bedroom. Fast forward to my life today, my own little family of 4 lives in a 2200 sq/ft home and it lacks nothing. Wow, in only 10 years I have accumulated a whole house full.

Lucky for me, our home has its limits, which keep me from over-accumulating and also forces me to organize. Geek that I am, I get a thrill from the age old adage "a place for everything and everything in its place." I start to feel the effects of clutter and disorganization in my being if I am not dilligent. It's connected to the aesthetics of my surroundings: I am at peace when I am surrounded by beauty and order. I also can bless others so much more, as I can use my home and possessions to encourage others when my home is orderly and I know where my possessions are.

I believe that maintaining order is a three-step process.
1. Continually assess.
Regularly rumaging through cupboards, drawers, cabinets and boxes is so much fun! I always find a treasure or two, reclaim a lost object and identify items I don't need. It feels so good to unload a garbage bag of clothes I don't need, knowing it will lead to order and peace in my closet and dresser. It's truly a sigh of relief! Plus, it may bless others if it winds up in a thrift store!

2. Keep what you need and use, donate or eliminate the rest.
It takes a dose of "tough love" to do this, but believe me, it pays off. For me, it starts with a vision for the room I am in. Here are some good questions to ask yourself:
-Does this item contribute to my vision or distract from it?
-Can this item be repurposed some other way?
-Would this item be of more use in another space? (Does it make the most "sense" here?)
-Do I truly want/need this?
-Is this donatable? Regiftable? Trash?

3. Reorganize the space, room by room.
We recently had our walls filled with insulation, which forced us to move everything out temporarily, repaint, and then move things back in. Wow, what a relief!! I had a real opportunity to choose paint colors I love, sort through our things and rearrange rooms. It was wonderful and it gave me a renewed sense of gratitude and satisfaction in my home.

One thing that really helps me is to have a theme for each room. I am not suggesting that your home become Disneyland, but what I mean is that if a room has a sense of purpose, then each object in the room serves that purpose, style, feel and decor. For instance, most of my personal objects and sentimental trinkets are in my bedroom, where I can enjoy them. They are all housed in a small shelf where they have a sense of purpose. If alone and scattered about the house, they would seem insignifigant. Here are some questions to ask yourself when determining what belongs in a room:
-What is the function of this room?
-What is the scale of this room? (The scale of the room or wall you are considering is a determiner of the amount or scale of the decor and furniture you select.)
-What colors will predominate here? (Sometimes your favorite will not be the room's favorite)
-What is my inspiration? (ie, the piece that ties it all together, such a rug, bedspread, painting, or a view. It gives the room order and creates a sense of direction for all new pieces that come in or out.)
-What will I honor here? (If everything is "special" then nothing is. You don't have to put ALL of your posessions out. Sometimes less is more.)

I have also needed to find a definite place for everything. Towels, linen, media, toys, Christmas decor, dishes - EVERYTHING. Not only does everything have a place, but each place is housed within its appropriate "theme room". Here is a brief rundown of what I mean:

Kitchen/dining room contains:
dishes in a cabinet
glassware and mugs in a cabinet
bakeware in a cabinet
cookware in a cabinet
tupperware in a cabinet
spices in a rack (frequently used)
spices in a drawer (infrequent, overstock and baking types)
teas in a drawer
foils, wraps and bags in a drawer
children's cup items in a drawer
cooking implements in a pitcher next to the stove (frequently used)
cooking implements in a drawer (smaller or infrequently used)
utensils in a drawer
china in a hutch (purchased to help me organize and create space)
platters in a hutch
silver in a hutch
wine glasses in a hutch (frequent)
serving spoons in a hutch
steak knives in a hutch
knives in a knife holder by the stove
salt/pepper on the stove (for cooking)
salt/pepper on the hutch (for serving)
linens in the hutch (frequent)
linens in the linen closet (infrequent)

I know it's exhaustive, but I always know where everything is, and when entertaining I can quickly set up my space, which helps when others are assisting (hint:husbands). When I clean up, everything has a place and I don't end up with clutter every time.

I could go room by room and give you the rundown, but this blog is already too long. I would love to answer any questions you might have, this is a passion for me. I delight in my home when it serves me and refreshes me. I feel beautiful when I am surrounded by beauty. My family life works better and everyone is content when I have a system. I have a lot to yet learn, but building this nest is a wonderful thing!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Forget and Remember

I sit here with many emotions about today. I am feeling humbled, knowing I was chosen by God, which leads to another one, gratitude. I am also a little awed by the fact that I have been kept by him for these past 19 years. The words of Jesus have come true for me, "nothing with snatch them from my hand." I have sure been through a lot, but two things have helped me in my journey with God and the fight for the faith: FORGETTING and REMEMBERING.

I have had to forget hurts, my past and things or people I have wanted to hold on to, even if it wasn't good for me. I have been led by God to do so.

First, he decided to do that for us:
"I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more." Hebrews 8:12
Then he helps me to do the same. I am so inspired by these words:
"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!" Isaiah 43:18-19a
And again,
"as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Psalm 103:12

Forgetting has kept my soul alive at times and has allowed me to "move on" and keep my eyes on the prize. I have had to battle for it, but God knows what we need and so I will keep forgetting as long as I live.

Again God leads us by example to remember:
"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands" Isaiah 49:15-16a
Jesus said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 1 Corinthians 11:24

I see those two scriptures as one. Jesus will never forget me because he took the nails in his hands for me. And as long as I remember him and follow him, I will remain in him. He gave his body and blood for me. Dwelling on that fills me with gratitude, love and a deep desire to devote everything I can.

In Hebrews 2:1 I am warned to remember:
"We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away."
I am convinced that I will do just that without daily going to the word for its guidance and clarity in my life. But I do believe that God wants me, in gratitude of heart, to simply remember all the goodness he has lavished on me day after day, year after year. It blows me away. The love, friendships, marriage, children, teachers, leaders, trials, protection, not to mention countless material blessings. The most incredible is simply remembering that I am wholeheartedly accepted, forgiven, loved and saved.

Thank you, father, for these 19 years with you. I will continue with a humbled heart to forget and I will go on with a grateful heart to remember.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Way of Grace

I love when my world can be rocked by what I read and watch, when what is usually meant to kill time and numb the noodle actually produces good in me and sheds light on who I really am and what I need to change. Three things, working back to back, have changed my perspective so profoundly that I had to write about it, not so much for your benefit but for mine - so that I would never forget.

So, the first was, of course my recent trip to Spain. I was bathed in grace everywhere I went. I was given more than I deserved by my mother-in-law and everyone around me. The beauty I experienced truly impacted my heart. One sweet example that still leaves me with a little chuckle is when Kathy and I were walking on Christmas Eve to shop for dinner, and there was a little line of friendly folks holding up signs and smiling. We didn't know what they were doing, so we were about to pass them by. Out of curiosity we asked what this was about and they laughed and said, "Free Christmas Hugs!" We were so touched by this childlike display that we hugged them all and laughed as we went on our way. On so many levels I was swept away by grace in Spain- visually, humanly, materially and emotionally. It changed me.

Next, I read "Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo. Suddenly light and darkness, good and evil, eternal life, love and the human soul were larger than life. I walked with Jean ValJean as he experienced true grace - the kind that comes by example only and has the power to change lives. I saw him forgive, repay evil with good and ultimately, sacrifice himself, all in the name of love. On his death bed, Jean ValJean said, "Love each other well and always. There is nothing else but that in the world: love for each other." The beauty of his love in the midst of his misery inspires me and calls me higher.

The third life-changing event was a movie called, "The Tree of Life" with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. These are the quotes that keep echoing in my mind:
"The nuns taught us there were two ways through life- the way of grace and the way of nature. You have to choose which one you'll follow."
"Grace doesn't try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries."
"Nature only wants to please itself, gets others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them, to have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things."
"The nuns taught us that no one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end."
"Help each other. Love everyone, every leaf, every ray of light. Forgive."

After all I had seen and been through, this movie forced me to ask myself which way I was taking through life - grace or nature? With tears I realized I was more of the latter. But the tears were good ones, the kind that produce change. I deeply desire to love and follow the way of grace.

Les Miserables taught me that misery, like a thread, is woven through our lives. Here in America especially we resent misery and feel entitled to the fairy tale that is sold us from birth. We shut ourselves off, we divorce eachother we withhold love because we want to rip that thread of misery from the fabric of our lives. What we don't realize is, that thread is delicately and bittersweetly entwined with the threads of compassion, true joy and deep love. It is only in accepting and embracing it that we become fully human and yet even transcend the human into reflecting the divine.

I am moved. I resolve to put love in the highest position. What else can we take from the earth with us to heaven? What greater legacy can we leave behind? I fear a life lived without loving to the full. I leave you with one last quote which I have been chewing on from the movie:

"The only way to be happy is to love. Unless you love, your life will flash by."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Spain Part 5

So, after about 30 hours and lost luggage, we are home - sigh. I am in love with Spain and could have stayed. When I left off last blog, we were in Algeciras, heading towards Gibraltar. Gibraltar proper is it's own little country so we were denied entry due to only having our passport cards with us. But we made the most of it and enjoyed the beach right outside of Gibraltar, under the enormous rock. It was quite a thrill to see it. So, my little toes had the privelege of touching the very tip of Spain where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic. As Valencia is on the Mediterranean, we decided to drive up the coast on our route home.

My parents had been to Spain several years ago and mom told me to definitely check out Marbella, which we hit just in time for paella mariscos on the beach. It was a perfect day in a posh and very modern beach city. At twilight we reached Malaga, a large coastal city with beautiful architecture and interesting ruins. Joe and I only had about an hour there but it was worth it. Our next goal was to find a hotel on the beach for our last night of our adventure. We simply headed up the coast and landed at Salobrena just in time. There was a hotel on a high cliff overlooking the sea on three sides. It was surreal. Joe and I rang in the new year with some unforgettable time on our balcony: the moon above lighting the sea, lights from a small beach city in the distance, the sound of gentle waves below and a million stars over head. A perfect moment in time.

The next day our focus was on getting home, as our rental car was due back. It was fun to continue our coast drive and arrive in Cartagena just in time for lunch. Cartagena is a larger port city, built around the late 1800s. We had our small meal in a restaurant called La Patacha, which was an old boat docked in the sea. Dalton was thrilled. We reached Kathy's apartment just in time for the kids to drop dead asleep. It had been eventful, but worth every second. My eyes had seen radiant beauty at every turn and I am blown away not only by the landscape but by the people and the culture. The Spanish ENJOY life. They are happy and content and will rush to your side if you are in trouble or in need. They are generous in spirit. They take time to rest each day. The cities literally shut down from 2-4 pm each day. Families are close. It took me a few days to "mellow out" and just ENJOY. It was a little embarassing to see my own stress and impatience in light of their gentleness and joy.

On our last day in Valencia, we took some time to walk the city, pick up some keepsakes and have our last meal at an outdoor cafe. I ordered some "Valencian Paella" which was saffron rice with delicious seasonings and olive oil, veggies, chicken, rabbit and snails. It sounds terrible, but wow I loved it. Kathy took us and the boys to the circus in town, a real exciting treat for them and a grandmother's dream. We again had a perfect day.

I am grateful for our time in Spain. We had no choice but to fall in love with it. We had unforgettable family time. It was simply surreal and my mother in law is amazing for giving is such a gift, to see this breathtaking place. I do hope to see it again someday.

Happy New Year!!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Spain Part 4

We made it! I am writing this from a hotel called Alboran, in a city called Algeciras. We just finished dinner of atun, patatas, arroz cubana y helado. We are at the tip of southern Spain. I cannot adequately describe the beauty of what I have just seen, having driven 3 hours throught the mountains on our slow descent to the sea. The land is untouched and looks as if it must have for thousands of years. From the olive groves at the top to the orange groves at the bottom it was simply surreal. Unforgettable.

This modern hotel vastly different from where we have been for the last two days, a country paradise called Cinco Lunas, a bed and breakfast little inn that a man named Gonzalo built with his own two hands. It was impossible to find, but amazing when we did. Situated near the hill town of Zahara de la Sierra, in the hills of Andalusia, about 40 km from Ronda, it is an untouched feast for the eyes. The soul breathes a deep sigh. Gonzalo and Anja have two small children, Merlin and Marai, who were the ages of our children. The couple have sheep, chickens, olives, apricots, nuts, figs, oranges, all kinds of organic veggies and breads and cheese. They make their own olive oil. A stream runs through their little slice of Heaven where green hills snuggle them in. Everywhere you look nature beckons you to come and enjoy, eat drink and be merr.

Our kids, 3 and 1 have been absolute troopers, patiently enduring and even enjoying the worst of it, like our 13 hour car trip from Valencia. We left at 7AM and headed south west towards Cordoba. What an amazing little city. Ancient and beautiful, with cobblestone streets and the largest mosque in Spain, built in the 15th century. We then drove to Andalucia and got lost. But getting lost in Spain is a treat. You encounter charming small towns and farms and the sunset seems to last forever.

Today we head to Gibraltar. We forgot our passports at home, so we can't go to Morocco today, but at least I will be able to put my foot on the very tip of Spain.

Finally, I must give God the glory. At every perilous turn, every worry, every uncertainty, I felt his guidance and he kept us safe and answered our prayers. More to come. Today will certainly be another unforgettable time.