Saturday, March 24, 2012

Things I'm learning this spring

These are a few more things to add to my 1000 gifts list - things that God has been teaching me.

At the End of the Porch, by John Sharman (1918
425. Being free from SAD (seasonal affective disorder)
The picture above reminds me of how I just love to sit in a pool of light and soak it in. Sunlight is supposed to be crucial to keeping SAD at bay, but God is teaching me there is more to it than just getting enough sunshine and vitamin D. Exercise is helps a lot (thank you, my blogging friend Faith!), and medication may help as well, but in the end, God's mercy seems to have the final say.

Even before we got our early spring, I was marveling this winter that I wasn't getting any symptoms of SAD, even though last year had been my worst year - lasting from February into July. This year I started medication in January in preparation, but it made me really nauseous and head-achy. Even cutting back the doses didn't help. I stopped taking it, after a couple weeks, figuring if the depression got really bad I'd have to go back to the doctor to try something else. But the depression never came, not even a mild case of the blues.

Maybe a short stretch of medication is what prevented it; maybe it was my important discoveries last fall from Beth Moore's Breaking Free bible study: "tearing down lies and re-wallpapering with truth" and "hanging on tight to my Daddy's leg". But honestly, I haven't been putting these into practice very much - because I wasn't "SAD" enough to really need them.

So I think God has taught me that sometimes he just extends His sovereign mercy and gives us an undeserved gift.  He gave me a year without SAD.

I am so thankful.

426. Not wasting time on the internet
Stars (my stepdaughter's nickname) decided to delete her Facebook account because it was turning into "Wastebook" - she was wasting too much time on it and she wanted to have more to focus on training her horse and getting into shape. My online weakness lately has been Pinterest and Tumblr - all those pretty pictures! It's like having unlimited access to hundreds of art catalogs and magazines (without ads). But when Stars deleted her Facebook, I decided it was high time I deleted my two temptations, as well. I brag at times about not wasting time with TV shows, but the internet can be almost as bad.

I do still visit Pinterest even though I no longer have an account (which has helped me cut back). But the other thing I'm learning with this temptation to waste time looking at pretty things is how to "give them back to God" so they end up being a blessing instead of waste. All it takes is to slow down, to take the time to really look at a piece of art or beautiful photograph, instead of rushing right on to the next one.

Take as an example that picture above, "At the End of the Porch".  I saw it on Pinterest, but it was on a board with lots of other beautiful art. I was tempted to quickly save it and move on.

Instead I forced myself to stop and really look at the picture, and pick out the details. At a quick glance I never would have noticed the color of her dress, or what is in her hands, or the patterns of shadows. I thanked God for the details. I thought about how I love to sit in sunshine like that (with a book instead of a craft), and I thanked him for having more time these days to sit and relax (now that the twins are 5 years old!) and for an early spring that's giving me lots more sunshine than I usually get. I thanked him for the beauty all his light and shadows give us. Then eventually I move on to the next picture, and look for God in that picture too - even if its just thanking Him for giving us humans so many creative ways to express all the beauty he's given us. After a few more painting or photos, because I'm more God-centered and not as self-centered, it's much easier to say "okay, that's been enough time on Pinterest. Time to get back to work."

427. Transcending time
Related to not wasting time on the internet, I'm learning when I put God first then I find I have more time to accomplish productive things and still have extra time to enjoy reading or visiting blogs or Pinterest.

"These quiet moments with me transcend time" (from  Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young). Whatever time you invest with Him you get back, sometime multiplied. I love the idea of transcending time - I can't wait to see what time in eternity is like.

Another nugget of wisdom: "On the days when your plans are thwarted, be on the lookout for Me."  I thought that was an unusual perspective - we know that sometimes Satan tries to deceive, and I think he tries to get us to blame God for inconvenient or upsetting things that happen to us, but really, we could look at them as ways that God might be trying to get our attention. My theme this year is "seeking Him" but I am saddened by how many days go by when I do not think to seek Him at all. Maybe when my day doesn't go as planned, that's God's reminder that I need "to keep my mind stay'd on him" (Isaiah 23:6).

Saturday, March 17, 2012

1000 gifts: an early spring

 Continuing my list of gifts, blessings that I write down to remember all the wonderful things that God gives me along life's journey (from Ann Voskamp's book and her blog, A Holy Experience).

I just love this painting by Michael Parkes.
410. Early spring
It's officially spring now (as of March 21) but usually at our high altitude, 7200 ft, March still means winter. Not this year! Our spring break last week was in the high 60 degrees all week and the kids played outside everyday. Our grass is even starting to green up! (our grass didn't green up until mid-May last year). Of course, the bad weather might very well return in April, but in the meantime we are all wearing short sleeves.(And not feeling a bit jealous of Blaze, my 10 year old daughter spending Spring Break in Hilton Head, SC. My mom treated her to plane tickets to come visit them).

411. Restoring a working relationship
An issue with co-worker has been resolved after many months of uncertainty. I prayed about it a lot and finally worked up the courage to go meet with him and ask if there was anything I could do to restore a good working relationship. He explained his frustrations with how things had gone on our project and then, he even had some encouraging words for me, things he thought I had done well. So thankful!

412.  Donating hair to Locks of Love
Stars had her hair cut and donated, I'm not sure where she got the idea, but it really surprised me -and impressed me. She's always had really long, thick, beautiful hair, and the thought of getting anything more than a trim used to horrify her. Of course her short  bob is cute, too and surprisingly, makes her look older. Now Blaze is trying to grow up her hair to donate it, too.

413. War Horse, Black Beauty and the Black Stallion
In the fourth grade class at school  they've been reading War Horse and my daughter Blaze (nickname) loved the story. But one day she came home from school bawling because one of the horses in the story had been killed. She cried on and off that whole evening, and talked frequently about it for many days after that. I remember being similarly upset with Ginger's death in Black Beauty, when I was about her age. I have a feeling even though I'm in my 40s, War Horse would still make me cry (which is why we decided to wait until the movie comes out on DVD - to keep the sobbing at home and not at the theater).  When she finished reading War Horse, Blaze started the Black Stallion series, another favorite of mine as a child - and fortunately not so heart-wrenching. I love that Blaze is a horse-story-lover like I am - it's also motivated to ride her own horse, Spring, a lot more.

414. Learning not to whine
Speaking of Blaze, earlier this winter she just about had me and B. at our wit's end with her tendency to whine. She whined about everything! I never tolerated it (giving her more chores to do or taking away her allowance or playdates) but nothing seemed to help: she kept right on whining. Then I finally started praying about it. What a difference! More and more I am amazed at the power of prayer. I still catch her whining occasionally, but it's a lot less, and a quick reminder from us usually curbs it right away.

415. Who can snap fingers loudest?
All four daughters got into a "snapping" competition to see who could snap their fingers the loudest. The littlest one, Starlet, turned out the winner! I wish I could have captured on camera her proud flourish every time she snapped her fingers. 

416. Learning to write I Love You
Seven-year-old Dreamer helped the 5 yr old twins write the entire alphabet and even write "love you". Getting through all those letters took a LONG time, and I really admired their patience.

417. Lucid dreams and ideas
When I was younger I used to have these amazing lucid dreams (dreams where you are still partially awake) about story ideas - in fact, these dreams formed the basis three novels I've written. I haven't had a lucid dream in years, though - until recently. Upon waking I quickly wrote down all my ideas. So exciting - I don't get new "big" ideas very often. Unfortunately, I few days later when I reading a writing blog I saw another author had had a similar idea (soon to be published) but I still think, with a bit of twist, that my latest idea could still be original enough.

418. Memory tricks
Dreamer's teacher must be teaching the second grade some tricks to remember their spelling words, because one night when Carey was writing her spelling words, she said, "This is how I remember how to spell 'owl.' The bullies make you go 'ow' and after that comes a straight worm." (lowercase l). Loved it!

419. The truth about ghosts
We watched the movie "Ghost" (an old favorite from my teen years with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore) and it was the girls' first time seeing it. I was a little worried about it scaring them, but all their questions about ghosts and demons was a great opportunity to get them thinking about heaven and hell and reminding them of the assurance they can have about going to heaven - believing that Jesus died for them to pay the penalty of sin.

420. Winter gardens
We are having an early spring (yay!) but a few weeks ago when we still had snow, I found it somewhat cheering to walk by a "winter garden" on my walk to work every morning. The University has lots of rock gardens, with berry bushes and ornamental grasses, which still look lovely even in the winter, especially with a fairy-dusting of snow.

421. School Science Night
All four girls had a blast on science night (and I did too, much to my surprise), turning pennies "silver", floating paperclips, making "elephant" toothpaste, and creating color patterns in trays of milk with food coloring and various hydrophobic materials such as dish-soap. Here's a video showing more details about this fun experiment with milk.

422. Getting a "fev" instead of a fever
Dreamer came home from school one day and told me she had felt a little sick at school so she went to see the nurse. The nurse said she had a "fev" which is a very small fever that you don't have to worry about it. What a creative nurse!

423. Kids in gorilla suits
Blaze and Dreamer really, REALLY wanted me to come to their school performance. I really, REALLY didn't want to go, because you have to sit through all SIX grades (and kindergarten) while they do their songs and skits. I managed to get through it by texting jokes back and forth with my friend M.M. - and being amused by a few of the skits with kids in gorilla suits chasing other kids around. If all else fails to amuse an audience, a gorilla suit can save the day!

424. Dancing the Cotton Eye Joe
Getting the kids to dance this at a school performance also helps! This is the theme dance for our University's  Wyoming Cowboys and you have a fair chance of seeing it at just about any get-together in Laramie. Here's a video of two adults dancing Cotton Eye Joe which was the best example I could find on YouTube, but really when you get a bunch of Wyoming kids doing it its even better!