Chasing Contentment

Friday, July 29

Taped onto my computer monitor is a quote that I cut out of our weekly religious newspaper several years ago. I like to have it close so that when I become discouraged about the arguements going on within religious circles, I can reassure myself that it isn't all about this or that rigid thought pattern, at least not for me.

"The most important religious distinction is not between those who worship and those who do not... but between those who love and those who don't." Anthony deMello

I've looked at that quote a lot this week as I've been discouraged and disappointed as I've seen too many incidents of people making too much of the little things and not enough of the big things like love and sharing Christ.

I know enough to know that I cannot control - or even attempt to influence, in some cases - the things that are swirling around me, but I can control how I view situations and what I focus on myself. And I can control what I tell my children is important. I can focus on love.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, July 29, 2005  ]

Thursday, July 28

One of the reasons why I blog is so that those family and friends who don't live close to us can keep up with us on their own time and at their own pace. So, for them, here's a round-up of us...

Yesterday at Eliza's daycare, another child in her class took a toy from her. Eliza's worker said Eliza sat there and got so mad that she bit. Herself. She bit herself instead of the other child. The worker said she didn't fill out an incident report about it because she just wasn't sure how to write it up, which makes me smile.

She's getting bigger this summer. Her 12-month shorts now fit (she's 21 months old), and she's growing out of a few 12-month outfits. She refuses to leave the house without her pink bag from Mandy or her pink backpack from Tara. She now says 'juice' and 'cheese' and 'M&M,' which sounds a lot like the singer's name, and which rounds out her favorite food groups. Milk, cheese, and juice with an M&M for good measure.

Following with the injured theme, Griff has a large bump on his forehead from where he and his sitter, Patrick, yesterday butted heads while playing on the waterslide. He'll be a bumpy-headed mouse in his play this evening.

In Griff's art camp, the acting class he's in wrote and staged their own play. They'll be presenting it tonight, and he's excited and, according to him, "a little nervous." The nerves are a sure sign of growing up.

Griff watches too much Nick, plays too much GameCube, and hates to read. A typical boy, I suppose. He likes the "Magic Tree House" and the "Captain Underpants" series of books.

He and I are going today to buy uniforms and school supplies. If things go well today, we're going to the movies ("Charlie and the Chocolate Factory")tomorrow.

Mike's appointment with the audiologist on Monday went very badly, and now he's backing away from being willing to get a hearing aid at all. The significant financial outlay bothers him, too, but he's got an appointment in August with a rehabilitation group who might be able to help with that.

He's hoping to be finished with chapter seven of his disseration this week which would only leave the wrap-up chapter eight. With luck, he'll defend in early fall and receive his degree in December.

I've enjoyed the summer of having Mike home (for the first summer since Griff was an infant) and not having Griff's homework or school and church activities filling our time. We've taken trips and played and just enjoyed our time together. The shingles are still bothering me, but mostly only in the afternoons and evenings now, which is an improvement.

I'm still reading a mixture of yummy romance novels and helpful spiritual books. I'm still watching too much tv and playing too much 'no I don't want to play GameCube with you.' I'm still worried about my body image and trying to use my gifts to help those around me.

So, in not so short form, that's us. A pretty good report, I think.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, July 28, 2005  ]

Wednesday, July 27

I keep a prayer journal in which I write down my prayers both for myself and for those around me. As I was writing the other day, I began to wonder whether or not it was something I wanted to continue.

At times, it seems wasteful to fill these papers unnecessarily (I've become more aware of my own environmental good & bad since Griff informed me that paper plates were bad for the environment.).

Much like the old journals of my youth sitting untouched in my hope chest, I don't reread these prayer journals very often, so their purpose is somewhat temporary.

The benefit of these journals, through the years, has been to focus my prayers so that I could get past the generic 'bless so and so' or 'help her' or whatnot. Writing my prayers helps me to move into more specific prayers.

I prayed for months and months for LeeAnn that she would either be given the baby she wanted to badly or that God would remove her desire for another child. I prayed this for her without telling her because I knew she was too frustrated and disappointed to pray that herself.

I'm now praying for another couple and another child. It's good to be able to look back in my journals and see examples of answered prayers - like LeeAnn's infant daughter, Emma.

On my Day-Timer (which goes everywhere with me) I go through and write one name a day for the entire month, and each day, I pray for that person and issues in his or her life.

Tara and I talked about standing in the gap, and I know how important it is to be able to do that for the people I love and to have people in my life who will pray with me and for me, especially when I don't feel able myself.

I've decided to keep doing the prayer journals because they do provide such a concrete way for me to direct my prayers. I'm not sure it's the perfect fit for me right now, but until I find a better solution, I'm going to keep at it with this.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, July 27, 2005  ]

Tuesday, July 26

Ah, how God provides encouragement when we need it!

Soon after posting my latest thoughts on blogging (and much bemoaning to those around me about my current shingles pain!), I got a delightful and supportive comment from Katie (who I do not know). So, thanks to Katie for the encouragement... and to my God for knowing I needed it this afternoon.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, July 26, 2005  ]

I've been thinking lately about why I blog and about why I read blogs.

I'm a 35-year-old married, working mother of two. I work outside of the home because our finances dictate it. But, for me, there are great benefits of working in an office.

There are aspects of my job that drive me crazy, of course, but there are also aspects that benefit both me and my children (I tell my friends who are experiencing motherhood for the first time that the best mother is a happy mother. We teach our children a lot, I think, by the way we show them our own contentment). There are certainly days when I wish I could stay home with the kids, but there are also days when I love being at work and using the talents God gave me.

I've always kept journals, but as I've gotten older, I've had less time or inclination to do so. Blogging, for me, is now a quicker, easier journal method than pen and paper. I wanted a way to write essays that help me to keep my faith in perspective while dealing with the issues of any particular day. This blog provides that for me.

While my blogroll is in no way comprised exclusively of Christian blogs, I do make it a point to only list blogs that I find meaning in, for whatever reason. I am thankful to have found these blogs that touch me tenderly or encourage me or challenge me or just make me laugh.

When I look for new blogs to read, however, I am mostly looking for Christian blogs. I want my faith to be encouraged and challenged. But I so often become frustrated as I look for new blogs because so many of the ones I find (and I readily admit that I might not be looking in the right places) don't speak to who I am now.

I'm very driven by my relationships, and I readily admit that I see things in terms of heart over head. I want to read stories about women working to make it through their days, who are struggling with all of the different aspects of rearing children and maintaining grown-up friendships and nurturing marriages and excelling at jobs and finding creative outlets, all the while growing (hopefully) in their faith.

In essence, I want stories that mirror my own in order to encourage me that these struggles I face are both normal and temporary.

I make a concerted effort to find and read blogs of people with whom I do not completely agree because I think it's important that I consider different viewpoints. That's something we try to teach Griff... that everyone has a voice and a unique perspective and that we can learn things from those who are different from us. But I also long for that sense of community that comes from sharing common experiences.

So, for those reading this, if you have any suggestions of blogs I should check out, feel free to share them with me.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, July 26, 2005  ]

Monday, July 25

For me, it's the little things in life that make things bearable. Little sweet things, little funny things.

Earlier in the summer, there was an article in our local paper featuring one of the funniest quotes I've seen in some time. Someone mailed it to the Tonight Show, and it ran a few weeks ago in Jay Leno's "Headlines." Now, it's on their website. Funny like this is hard to find!

[  posted by Chel on Monday, July 25, 2005  ]

Friday, July 22

I've been tagged! I think.

Unless I've become overly egotistical, Jana tagged me with a book tag, which sounds like a lovely afternoon diversion from thinking about how annoyingly painful the shingles are.

It's also a good time since I've been all bookish this week. In general, one of my greatest goals in my day is to get both kids in bed and enough dishes and laundry done for me to sink into a scorchingly hot bubble bath by 9:30 p.m. and read until the water's cool. Mostly, I read paperback romance novels in the tub (I admit it!), but I'll leave those off this list, I think.

I am much more drawn to fiction than to non-fiction, though I am trying to begin reading more books to challenge my spiritual thinking.

1) How many books have you owned? I'm not sure at all. I buy books and pass them on to other folks who I think will like them. Mika, Tara, and I all swapped books this weekend, so it's hard to keep track.

2) What was the last book you bought? "The Guardian" by Nicholas Sparks, upon Mika's recommendation. (I loved his "The Notebook" and "A Walk to Remember.")

3) What was the last book you read? Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" by J.K. Rowling, which I am eagerly waiting for Mike to finish reading so we can discuss it. I also just finished both "Scandalous Grace" by Julie Ann Barnhill and "The Myth of the Submissive Christian Woman" by Brenda Waggoner.

4) What five books have meant a lot to you? I think that's a hard question to answer because I've had lots of books that meant a certain something to that period of my life. When I was a child, I loved the (1) "Uncle Remus" stories of Brer Rabbit and friends by Joel Chandler Harris because my dad read them aloud to me and did all of the different voices.

As a young teenager, I can remember sneaking (2) "Are You There God, It's Me Margaret" by Judy Blume into the house and reading it, being shocked and yet comforted by some of it. I also vividly remember checking out one particular library book (the name of which, I do wish I could remember) countless times because I was so delighted by the wordplay between the two female characters and the boys they began to date... my introduction to romance novels.

I read both (3) "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austin and (4) "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee in high school and college. Both are amazing books that touch me today. (Had our little Eliza been a boy, I wanted to name him 'Radley.')

Now, one of my favorites is (5) "No Matter What" by Debi Gliori. It's a children's book that I read to Griff and Eliza that talks about how I'll love them no matter what they do or how they act. I'll love them simply because they are my children, which is something I try to remember about God and me, too.

I love the Claire Malloy series by Joan Hess... the Mitford series by Jan Karon... the Narnia series... the Nora Roberts trashy books. Clearly, there are more, but those stand out immediately.

5) What books should I read? As I said, I should read more non-fiction books to stimulate my faith. I've also got the ever-present list of books I want to read. "The Myth of the Perfect Mother: Rethinking the Spirituality of Women" by Carla Barnhill - "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" by Mitch Albom - beading books - "Hard News: The Scandals at the New York Times and Their Meaning for American Media" by Seth Mnookin - a the pile of romance novels by my bed.

Aleece at The Crisper
Craig at Parsonage Musings
Josh at Stupid Thoughts (maybe it'll inspire him to write something new!)

[  posted by Chel on Friday, July 22, 2005  ]

One of my biggest pet peeves is personal responsibility. Now, with my own leanings toward guilt and fault, that can sometimes be damaging for me, but still, I think it's important that we all acknowledge our own actions and the consequences of them. Whatever our choices, whatever our situations, I think we should own them.

I think our society is too willing to blame someone else whenever something happens that isn't according to plan. Now, I'm not saying that we are personally responsible for every bad thing that ever happens to us. I'm just saying that I don't think we should always be looking for someone else upon whom to pin the blame. Sometimes, unfortunately, bad things simply happen. They are a part of life, whether I like them or not.

While watching television last night, I saw the most horrific advertisement for a law firm. The visual was of this mother - youngish looking - next to an empty crib, and the voice over - along with the text on the screen - talked about how the mother did everything right but the baby was early and the doctors wanted to do tests and the baby was in the hospital. It kept saying that the mother did everything right, and it ended with the appeal to call the lawyer's office, implying that if the mother did things right, it must have been the doctor's fault.

I was stunned and irate! I admit that sometimes I still wonder if I did something wrong with Eliza, but never would I doubt the professionalism of my doctor. Bless the man, he and God are the reasons I'm here today. I was just appalled that this firm would prey upon women in such a delicate time, when they are already riddled with guilt (my friend the NICU social worker says that all mothers of preemies, regardless of the circumstances, feel guilt) and fear and sadness. These mothers are already questioning why something happened to their baby, and in so many cases, there are no good answers. But this firm is trying to give them answers by placing the blame upon men and women who may or may not have been at fault.

Despite thinking of myself as a bit cynical, I am shocked by the insensitivity this firm has shown. What these mothers (fathers, too!) need are compassionate friends and family members, church members, to come and rally around them. Not lawyers trying to prey upon their time of weakness.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, July 22, 2005  ]

Thursday, July 21

A strong leaning toward guilt and the total conviction that most everything is my fault are two of my less endearing traits. Active, to be sure, but not very enjoyable for me or anyone else.

Between the guilt and the everything-being-my-fault, I have moments when my self-esteem isn't what it should be. I am, thankfully, aware of the ways these things manifest themselves when I'm feeling this way, and thus, can hopefully backtrack to make things better.

I suppose everyone has something they do to mentally avoid thinking about unpleasant things. Most times, I do it subconsciously. Only when I've been doing it often enough in a short enough time span do I usually realize what's going on.

For me, when something (or more than one something) bothers me in ways that I don't want to deal with, I tend to turn inward, blaming myself (guilt and fault all in one) by assuming that the problem is with the way I look. And then I begin talking badly about myself, both to myself and to others, and becoming frustrated with what I look like, what I wear, and on and on.

When I become frustrated with something with Mike that I'm not comfortable talking about with him, I tend to become annoyed with his lack of help around the house (which, though well-documented, isn't always the actual issue).

I've been doing both lately, and after a particularly unpleasant lunchtime with him, I realize that I need to stop and acknowledge the things that bother me now, rather than continuing on this unhappy pathway.

As for me, I've been worried about money lately, about how we're going to pay for his hearing aids and how we're going to manage to pay off the credit cards and add to our savings at the same time when I also think there are things we need to do to our house if we want to sell it at some point. And thus, I've set off thinking that we wouldn't have these problems if I didn't like cute, new clothes, which is less true in light of the fact that we're about to drop another grand on tuition this month.

As for Mike, I'm a little freaked out that he probably won't manage to finish his dissertation by the end of the summer, yet another self-imposed deadline missed. And because I know he's working really hard on that, and I don't feel right being angry with him for that, I'm annoyed with him for not accomplishing any of the home tasks he and Griff were going to do this summer.

There. I've said those things and maybe now I can quit hiding behind the fake issues and actually focus on what can be done to help the actual issues.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, July 21, 2005  ]

Wednesday, July 20

We all know that God gives us gifts and qualities in our personality that we can use for Him. It's been a hard path for me to walk to find what I consider to be my spiritual gifts. One of those gifts is a nurturing heart that is often represented in a loyal spirit.

We laughed this weekend about my 'stalker friendship' style. Bless Mika and Tara, they haven't seemed to mind being stalked by me all these years! My loyalty,though, to friendships and people has sometimes gotten in the way of good sense.

Now that I'm older, I know that some friends are only meant for a particular season in life. I don't like it, but I know it. And I'm trying to adjust my thinking so that I can accept it. I'm trying to see the people who come in and out of my life as blessings regardless of the length of their stay in my life... it's always been my mentality that once I'm friends with someone, I'm always going to be friends with them.

As we were laughing and talking about the way I view friendship and about some of the friends I've lost through the years for various reasons, I was able to honestly say that there was only one friend who I really regretted losing to that season of life. I suspect I'll always miss her a bit, and I'm comfortable with that now.

The others were these amazing blessings who God placed beside me for that time when I needed their unique qualities (or for when they needed mine). I love the ebb and flow of relationships, that idea that we can each be what someone else needs at any given moment in time.

I love that God orchestrates all of that to His glory (an amazing feat, in my control freak opinion). When I have been at my lowest, I've had friends who were strong and able to gently walk with my through my valleys. And vice versa. And I thank God that He knows that I both need to have these girlfriends to help me and to be of use to them in return. I like that the gifts I think He's given me both nurture others and my own soul.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, July 20, 2005  ]

Tuesday, July 19

What a breath of fresh air last weekend was! Despite four kids, two husbands, three jobs, pharmacy school, a Florida trip, and lots of miles, God brought me together with old friends for a delightful three days.

I've known Mika and Tara since college - it's been more than a decade of us keeping in touch. We shared about the struggles to stay in touch, and they laughed at my description of my own stalker-style friendship (once you're my friend... you're my friend pretty much forever, though I'm learning with age that the stalker approach isn't right for everyone).

I've always considered my friendships to be a very important part of my life, and these dear women reinforced to me why that is. They remind me of what is so very good in me, and they help me laugh at what is not so good. This weekend, they encouraged me and supported me and helped me see some things that I needed to see. I feel renewed after our time together.

God has blessed me with friends who not only accept me as I am but who inspire me to be better. I admire each of them for who they are and for what they are doing with their lives. I am humbled by their friendship - these amazing women pray for me and with me, and I with them. What a precious gift from God!

Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. Philippians 1:3-4 The Message

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, July 19, 2005  ]

Friday, July 15

While it's not a popular admission in some parts of the Christian world, I love Harry Potter. If I were 12, I'd probably think I was in love with Harry Potter. And I can hardly wait for my book to arrive in the mail tomorrow.

Initially, I borrowed the first book from a friend to see what all of the fuss was about. In looking to find the evil people were all abuzz about, I instead found a new series of books to love. I've bought and read all of the books, and I've read the first book aloud to Griff. We have all of the movies.

Teacher friends of mine say that anything that makes a child read is a good thing in principle. Given how hard it is to get Griff to read anything at all, I can see the validity in that statement. Our local library has ordered dozens of copies of the new book, and it's already got a waiting list twice that long despite the fact that the librarian says children rarely reserve books.

I love that in these books the grown-ups are often right. I love that despite the mischief the children get into, they never escape the punishment befitting the crimes. I love that their friends are integral to their lives, and I love that good families are presented as being very important to a child's well-being. I love the escapism and the hints of romance.

It was rewarding this morning to find a couple of other posts from folks eagerly anticipating Harry's arrival tomorrow. A Sort of Notebook shares her plans for a weekend full of wizardry and pizza. Sojourner gives a minister's view of the books, and Scott at Common Grounds Online gives a religious professor's take on them. On July 5, French Toast Girl posted her Friday Illustration of Quiddich, which was wonderful.

On a weekend when Johnny Depp and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" begin enticing children to the theaters, I'm delighted to think that more children may be spending their Saturday afternoons curled up with a book rather than screening a movie (a movie I'd love to see, by the way).

As I plan my weekend trip with Mika and Tara, I wonder if I'll be the early riser in the group... and if that would give me some extra time to sit and follow Harry and Hermione and Ron through new adventures.

Welcome, Harry. I do love new books in a beloved series.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, July 15, 2005  ]

Why is it that learning the things God would have us learn is never easy? Why does the growth and development of our souls and spirits so often have to hurt?

Back when we were younger and deciding to have a family, we only knew one other couple (Mike's brother and his wife) who were even considering children, and so we proceeded about it with an innocence since lost. I got pregnant quickly and easily, and we quietly accepted our little blessing without ever considering that it wouldn't be easy for everyone else to conceive.

Through the years, the number of women I've known who have had one difficulty or another conceiving a child is almost certainly higher than the women like me who have no problems getting pregnant (Eliza's our little testament to my abilities in that area). And while I've learned great lessons through these women who've allowed me to share their journey (and I'm sure they've learned much as well), those lessons came at high prices.

This morning I saw an ad in the paper for a sibling class for expectant big brothers and sisters. We signed Griff up for one of those, but Eliza was delivered before the class was to be held. So much about her was unexpected and difficult, but we've learned so much about God and about family and friends and about ourselves through her life.

And we had an easy preemie/NICU experience! I was the one who was so terribly sick. Eliza, poor thing, just had to bear the weight of my illness. Her only real setback as she began her life was that she began it so very small. And in that statement, there is real blessing. Overwhelming blessing.

Through Jana's blog, I found Joe's blog, in which he describes both his ministry and his family's struggle with having a NICU baby. The realities of his confessions are heartbreaking. A year ago, I wouldn't have been able to read about what they're experiencing as the sights and sounds of a NICU were still too fresh. Even now, as I read, my heart breaks a little with each post.

But I'm encouraged by his family's love for their Lord and for one another. As he tells about friends and family giving such love and encouragement and support, I am reminded of how we are all connected and of how we can all be of service to one another, if only in tiny ways. And I feel led to pray for this young family that I have never met - and likely will never meet.

And maybe if I can pray for strangers, I can be faithful in praying for those closest to me.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, July 15, 2005  ]

Thursday, July 14

My perception of things is very much based in the relationships I have. I've been blessed by God to have had several dear, Christian friends through the years - women who've known me as a girl and as a woman, who've seen me at my best and worst. I am humbled when I consider how much these women have given to my life.

This weekend, Tara, Mika, and I are scheduled to meet in a little town mid-ways for all of us to spend the weekend together. We've planned to eat good food and laugh and visit. Of course, it always seems like life challenges the best plans... I'm fairly sure I have come down with a case of shingles (my left side is so sore!), and we spent all night last night with a feverish Eliza. Thankfully, I've been able to get doctor's appointments for both of us, and I'm still hopeful that the trip will work out for me.

As I get older, it's harder to make new friends. I don't have the time to devote to nurturing a friendship that I did when I was younger. So many other things vie for my time - worthwhile things, to be sure - and I find myself with more friendly acquaintances than with close friends. And because of that, I'm ever-mindful of how fortunate I am to have these women in my life.

God has used both of them through the years, at various times, to show me things about myself that needed work.
You use steel to sharpen steel,and one friend sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 The Message

I'm thankful they've been willing to be used by God in my life and in the lives of those around them. And I'm eager to see them and share in-person time and to make new memories to encourage us when we need a reminder that we are loved.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, July 14, 2005  ]

Wednesday, July 13

One of the things I find myself wishing for both of my children is for them to have good, Christian role models as they're growing up. More and more, I feel convicted that it's my place as a parent to help guide them toward certain people who can influence them in a Godly manner, especially now while they're young.

I pay more for Griff's after-school care than is absolutely necessary, but I make sure to arrange for him to have male Christian sitters who will interact with him and talk with him. I want him to know college men who are in love with the Lord and who will be open about that with my son. I arrange for young Christian couples to sit with Griff and Eliza while Mike and I go out so that the kids can see other couples interact.

I've always wished I had known more women - outside of my family - who could have served as mentors to me.

In all honesty, I have a much clearer picture of who I do not want to be than of who I do want to be. I have this vivid (though Mike insists mixed-up) picture in my head of a convicted, dedicated Christian woman. And she isn't me. And she isn't someone I want to be. And so, I think that sometimes I avoid certain things that might bring me closer to God, that might enhance my walk with Him, simply because I think they might also bring me closer to this image of someone I don't want to be.

That's an embarassing admission. I sometimes subconsciously resist becoming closer to God because I consciously resist becoming a woman I don't enjoy.

Now, I know logically that God wouldn't mold me into a woman who wasn't someone I could be comfortable being. He is the one who gave me the personality traits that make me ... well, me. And so, He plans to use those particular gifts for His pleasure. The image of a saintly, rigid, unwavering woman is just an image I constructed through the years, and it may or may not have anything to do with who God is crafting me to be.

But the resistance is a bit of a knee-jerk reaction for me. This summer, I've become more and more aware of it, which I'm sure is God's gentle prodding of my soul. And so I'm making efforts - small though they may be - to do the things that I fear, to work through the fear in a bid to get closer to God. Faith, for me, is about trusting Him when I fear myself, when I fear my ideas of things.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, July 13, 2005  ]

Tuesday, July 12

If we let Him, can God take our faults and flaws and leave them in us but at the same time use them to His glory? I hear so often about how we need to identify our faults and give them to God, presumably so He can remove them from our lives. But what if He chooses to leave some of those flaws because they make up part of who we are? And what if He gave us those very flaws for certain reasons that only He can know to be used by Him for His purposes?

I worry. Everyone who knows me even a little knows that. I worry. It's one of my biggest challenges to a spirit-led life, or so I've always assumed.

Worry weighs us down; a cheerful word picks us up. Proverbs 12:25 The Message

I like that these phrases are paired together in this scripture. Worry does weigh me down and make me anxious. And cheerful words do pick me up. I realized this morning, though, that the bridge between the two phrases - for me - is very often God himself.

I worry some during the day, but usually I'm too busy doing the things of the day that need doing (including the daily rant that we live in a pigsty and that if my boys would pick up anything - anything at all - maybe we could fix that). It's at night that I worry the most. Something will wake me up while the rest of the house is asleep and quiet, and then, I'm a bundle of worries.

I worry about logical things and illogical (Mike prefers these because he says those worries are more easily talked away). I worry for me and mine and for other people. I worry, sometimes, about how much I worry.

And then I pray. In those still moments when it's just me and my fears, I pray. I take each of them to God for as long as it takes for a calm to wash over me and sleep to take me. My worrying - the act of it - takes me to God, which is where I need and want to be anyway. So does that make it okay? Does it make worry a personality trait rather than a flaw? I'm not at all sure.

But I do know that when I share them all with Christ, I feel calmer, more peaceful. Encouraged. And that's good enough for me, at least for now.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, July 12, 2005  ]

Monday, July 11

It seems a lot of the time like most of life happens in the in-between places where we aren't struggling but aren't enjoying that bliss we all so want either. For me, it's in those places where I am most challenged to call upon the Lord to show me His way. It's in those places where I beg Him to have patience with me as I seek to maintain a good attitude.

The doctor this morning didn't give us good news about Mike's hearing. But he didn't give us bad news, either. It felt more like he was simply presenting us with information. We will take that information and begin to make some decisions.

While Mike doesn't like the idea either of spending as much money as will be required or of having to wear two hearing aids when he's not yet 35 (the doctors kept saying how odd it was for someone so young to have so much hearing loss), I think he will eventually come around to it. (The idea that Eliza might be saying things to him that he simply cannot hear may be what turns the tide for him.)

This is one of those situations in which we know that if this progresses much beyond where he is now, and if the hearing aids don't turn out to be the magic help the doctors suggest they will, we will be looking at lots of changes.

And in the grey areas of those changes are the places where we will need the Lord the most. For now, I am content to know that He knows our future and that His plans for us are for good.
I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out--plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. Jeremiah 29:11 The Message

[  posted by Chel on Monday, July 11, 2005  ]

Saturday, July 9

Forgiveness is hard. Forgiving other people who have wronged me is crushingly difficult at times. Forgiving myself, though, seems even more impossible. When I face the task of forgiving myself for something - after I've already asked for and received God's forgiveness - I find myself most humbled by God's forgiveness of all of my sins.

Mike and I fought last night - a rare thing for us - about something stupid that I said (always that I said), and I feel guilty about it today. Mike, of course, is way past it. His forgiveness of me is quick and easy, while mine is slow and painful.

Years and years ago, I had to learn my first lesson in grown-up forgiveness. I had to figure out that sometimes I have to forgive someone in my heart even if they don't ask for my forgiveness... or even if they feel as if they've done nothing for which they need forgiveness. The forgiveness is always more about me than about the person who I feel wronged me in some way. It's a lesson I keep learning over and over as I get older.

And each time I learn a new lesson in forgiveness, I am brought to my knees by the power of the forgiveness of Christ. My sins cost Him such a terrible price, and yet, He forgives me for numbers of sins - both big and little - each day. And he does it quickly and easily, like my dear Mike. I'm thankful for God's constant love and forgiveness. And in my humility, I am thankful for Mike for teaching me so many things in this life.

[  posted by Chel on Saturday, July 09, 2005  ]

Friday, July 8

We stopped being afraid of our children's food allergies a long time ago. Parents of allergic kids pretty much have to adjust their lives and then move on without the fear or it will render them unable to go on. We just do what we can and trust the Lord to protect Griff and Eliza. It's really all we can do.

We've been thoroughly blessed, though, to have people around us who are aware of our children's allergies and are actively helping us to both protect the kids and allow them children's fun. The teacher of the camp class Griff was in this week called me more than once to make sure this or that was okay for him, for which I am grateful. He's going to a birthday party tomorrow, and the birthday boy's mother just called me to make sure she would have things Griff could eat at the party. Neither of these women had to do that, to go out of their way for us. But they did. And we are thankful.

God is merciful to give us people in our lives who lessen the daily struggles and who increase the daily joys.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, July 08, 2005  ]

A few days ago, as I was shaking more Hot Tamales out of the box, I looked at the nutrition information and did the math - with a calculator, obviously, given my poor math skills - and ... wow!

An entire box of Hot Tamales has approximately 1,000 calories in it! And Linda and I have been eating about a box a day in our little summer addiction. EEK! It's no wonder my cute new shorts don't fit any longer. So, that day, we gave up Hot Tamales. It's been three days now.

In an effort to cheer us us, Aleece found and sent us this amazing illustrated story entitled, "The Hot Tamale Witch." The drawing of her is perfect, I think.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, July 08, 2005  ]

Now that I have children, I find myself thinking more and more about God as The Father. I come closer to grasping concepts that I didn't before. As a parent, I better understand the idea of a father reaching out to his children, yearing to give the stability they need, aching to have them reach up to meet his hand in return.

Relationships have always been primary to me. I can remember a time in middle school when my world history class was assigned a television mini-series to watch and report on. When my friend, S, and I compared our written reports, her report detailed the war and the political efforts depicted (the actual assignment, I'm sure) while mine detailed all of the relationships between the characters.

Because I value the interplay between people so very much, I have at times gotten my feelings hurt by this or that. As I think about how wounded we become when family or friends harm or betray us - whether by intent or accident - I also think about how our Heavenly Father must feel when we do the same to Him.

If we ourselves hurt when a friend falls out of contact with us or when a child disobeys despite having been lovingly instructed in the proper actions or when a family member disappoints us, how must God ache when we do the same to Him?

I've been feeling convicted lately about my relationship with Christ. For a long time now, I haven't been in the practice of having daily study time with God. My prayer life has always been strong (again, that's the relationship part of God's love for me), but I need to have a time that I put everything else aside so that I could read the Bible and meet with God over His word.

It's easy to say that I don't have time because of work or the kids or other things, but in truth, it hasn't been that hard to find those quiet moments. And it's been good for Griff to see me reading my Bible, and he and I have had chances to talk about scriptures. I know that's God using my willingness, not only to sharpen me but to lead Griffin.

I know that when I sit with Griff or Eliza and quietly talk and snuggle together, I am filled with a tenderness. I also know that they are gathering love during those moments, and I certainly need to sit at my Father's feet and gather His love so that I may redistribute it to those around me.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, July 08, 2005  ]

Thursday, July 7

Our world is under attack again, in a very visible manner. I know that there are places in our world that are under attack on a daily basis, but this brings the horror of terrorism to the forefront yet again. My prayers are with the families of the injured and dead, and I pray now for the strength of the medical and counseling teams caring for those left behind.

London is a dear place to Mike. He - and many of our friends - spent time there studying during college, and those memories are precious. A friend mentioned that one of the bombing sites was near a place that is important to her. The London tragedy is another tangible reminder of the turmoil in our world today.
Jana wonders whether it is worthwhile to pray for world peace any longer. I share her frustration, as I'm sure do countless others. We pray earnestly (and endlessly, it sometimes feels) and yet wars rage onward. Families are torn apart. Poverty and homelessness continue. There is such sorrow and hurt in this world.

I believe it is not by accident that these attacks happened during the G8 conference. I believe that Satan always attacks good men and women while they are trying to do good. Those moments when people come together to work for good are the very moments when his power is being chipped away.

And so I think that we should all join together and continue working to do God's good work. There was an energized volunteer movement in our country after 9/11, with more people wanting to help their fellow man. Maybe this will again renew our desire to offer a hand of assistance to another.

The ONE Campaign is an encouraging way in which we can all get involved in the lives of those people in need around the world. Mike said last night that any cause that can involve both P. Daddy and Pat Robertson must have some amazing common ground.

Today, I'm going to hug my family and offer a prayer of thanksgiving for their safety. I'm going to thank my Heavenly Father for the fact that His protection overshadows any other. And I'm going to ask Him to guide me to opportunities to give to those around me in need.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, July 07, 2005  ]

Wednesday, July 6

Griff's going to CSI for Kids camp this week, and Mandy did a feature story on the camp yesterday. It ran on the front page of our local paper, along with Griff's photograph. He was named in the caption in the print copy, and he's been a little celebrity in his seven-year-old world today.

Now, given that she's the crime reporter, I hope Griff's name or photograph never appear in another one of her stories. But this one was fun!

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, July 06, 2005  ]

Being a very girly-girl, I love bright new things and decorations, and so I'm thrilled with the new look of Chasing Contentment. It's thanks to a free template from Karysima and the dedication and creative/technical skills of my friend, Aleece, who tweaked the original template to make it reflect my style. My great thanks go to Aleece for giving me such a beautiful place in which to write.

I didn't comment here on the whole 'runaway bride' thing a month or so ago, though I certainly shared my opinions with those around me. I find it irresponsible of this woman to put her family and friends through such worry (not to mention costing the law enforcement agencies both time and money).

And then this weekend, I saw a story about a woman who called off her wedding 12 days before the big day. Since her parents had already paid for the reception, they invited the residents of a homeless shelter to enjoy the meal (and sent all of the remaining food - three to four days' worth - to the shelter) and a night out. What a wonderful way to take a negative situation and create something positive with it.

In searching for contentment, I think that's one of the things I'm supposed to do in this life... actively look for ways to create positives from negatives. Seeking God first (and energetically) is the only way - I'm sure - to find the strength needed to find positive aspects to negative situations. I believe that He can make anything work for His glory.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 The Message

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, July 06, 2005  ]

Monday, July 4

It is such a blessing to have people in our lives who know us well and who are willing to overlook our countless flaws. Lunch with Mandy and Josh was delightful. They picked a spot for Mike to sit based upon their knowledge of his bad ear and his horrible hearing. They picked foods my kids both love. And they were kind when Eliza broke something.

I think the greatest testament to friendship is a comfort level in their home that is similar to that in our own. Griff laid on their sofa, shoes kicked off, watching their tv just like at our house. We're comfortable with them, and for that, I am so thankful

[  posted by Chel on Monday, July 04, 2005  ]

I hate this war, mostly because of the lives lost and the families damaged. As my family prepares to celebrate the Fourth of July in our traditional manner (grilling with Mandy and Josh, which we all love), I think of those men and women serving in our military right now and of how they probably aren't going to have burgers and ice cream sandwiches today. I think of their families here at home who are without, in so many ways. Griff's two best friends both are without their daddies right now, anxious for their safe return home.

There are people, I know, for whom our country represents greed and egotism, and in some ways, that's true. But it also represents self-sacrifice and generosity and freedom. Our minister talked yesterday in his sermon about spiritual freedom, and it was a powerful topic.

Today, I am so thankful to live here where I am free to worship in whatever manner I choose. I am thankful that we live in a heavily Christian area of the country where our faith is supported. And I am thankful to those individuals who are currently defending my freedoms, even if it's in a war I despise. The actions of these men and women - on the whole - are commendable. I am grateful for those willing to sacrifice for the rest of us, for the common good.

Happy 4th.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, July 04, 2005  ]

Saturday, July 2

I like to start new things at beginnings of other things. First of the year, first of the month, first of the week, first of something. I like clean starts. And so, for the first of July, I'm beginning a new prayer/Bible reading time. For something that's called a 'daily devotional,' I'm not very good at doing it daily.

And so, my goal for July is to read a passage each day and to pray for the specific person on my prayer list for that day. I've put a different person's name on each day of the month in my planner, and I'm committed to doing this. I'm hoping that if I carve out time to do this each day this month, it'll not only become a habit but a time that I look forward to each day. I know that the more time I spend alone with God, the better our relationship will be.

I figured that was a goal that would better serve me than giving up Hot Tamales. Maybe I'll tackle that one in August. I've certainly got enough self-betterment opportunities to take a new one each month for, I don't know... forever. I love the idea that we can be constantly changing and growing and becoming more of who God would have us to be. And I'm forever grateful that He's generous with the time it sometimes takes us.

[  posted by Chel on Saturday, July 02, 2005  ]

Friday, July 1

As part of my job, I write citiations honoring individuals receiving this or that distinguished award. They're flattering, listing accomplishments, family, and such. They're a bit like writing obits, except happy not sad.

As I write them, I often think about how I would want my life citation to read. I've come up with two scenarios, and I can't quite decide between them. I know that I wouldn't want a listing taken from my vita. I wouldn't want quotes from my high school yearbooks. I would want a simple listing, either of the people that I love and have loved or of the people who love me (I'm quite sure that would be two different lists, thankfully with some overlapping.). For me, it's not about my career or accomplishments but about the lives and hearts that I touch along my life journey.

My brother, John, and I were talking about funerals when our grandfather died. My mother and her siblings decided not to have a funeral or memorial service for Bud, and that was fine for them, but it was hard for John and me. We needed and wanted a tangible way to say goodbye to him. As we talked about that, we talked about what we would want for our own funerals. I had already decided (back when I nearly died having Eliza, but Mike wasn't ready for me to talk funerals at that point, so I first shared this with John).

I want a nice, dignified memorial service in our church (wherever that may be at the time) in which a minister will share about how life is about more than breath and that God is the only life that matters. After which, I want those who love me dearest to go to a really good Mexican restaurant (my very favorite food) and eat and drink good margaritas and tell funny stories about the things they loved about me. If they tell ugly stories, Mike can make them buy their own dinner.

John and I had the most wonderful time talking about Bud and sharing those things that we remembered and loved and that made us laugh. And I can't imagine a better legacy than that I gave people moments that remained in their hearts and made them smile, made them better, made them laugh.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, July 01, 2005  ]