Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Other Side

I went for a chilly jog this morning. The crisp air and icy spots along the path had me taking my time along my run. I stopped for a quick minute for this picture. It's so interesting how perspective changes everything. Now that I consider myself a southern girl, I hope its fair to say after living in NC for 8 years, this kind of weather makes me want to bunker up and avoid the outdoors. This same sort of view used to have me thinking of the warm days soon approaching when I lived in the north. The snow and ice slowly melting away made the promise of spring around the corner.
I have been in a season of waiting for what seems like a very long time. I know all of us go through these dry seasons. They wear you out, leave your seeking, and even make you grow weary. Thinking of perspectives on my run this morning was such an encouragement in this time of waiting.

Every story has more than one perspective. I am in the waiting and it's frustrating to me. On the other hand, God has my undivided attention. I pray fervently that I seek my savior with each step I take. These times are probably, from a heavenly perspective, are when I am most in communion with the Lord serve.

I pray that wherever you are today, waiting in a low valley, at the mountain top, or somewhere in between you seek the perspective of our heavenly Father. He has put you where you need to be. Seek after Him and you will be richly blessed with His love.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Hang on Mama!

Have you ever had one of those days? I have just encountered one! The boys and I had good days at school and then BAM...trouble strikes. Levi has been experiencing some problems using the potty in the past few days. I will not go into great detail but after spending a good 10 minutes on my doctor's nurse advice line, it was revealed to me that this is normal. It can be a three year olds way of demonstrating their control. "You can't make me go!" kind of deal. The problem is that he is causing himself restless nights and obviously he just doesn't feel well :(

You would think that I could go into this situation, being informed by the nurse of how to combat this problem, with a clear and calm will. He gave me every one of his best shots. Refusing to eat the prunes, crying and screaming about coming within a few feet of the bathroom, he even told me that "I was not his best friend AT ALL!" That hurts when your babe tells you that! Although, I remained rather calm about the situation at the time, I had a very disgruntled heart.

You have no idea how much I wanted to take back my no facebook or tv pledge for this month! I wanted to ask for advice or just plop Levi in front of a show to distract him from the problem at hand. Then, it hit me, this is hard and working through real life problems can be just that. Escaping is not the answer. Committing to stay the course and rely on my heavenly Father is the only true way to parent. Not "escaping" through my usual avenues.

I also kept running a line from a book I recently read by Sally Clarkson and Sarah Mae called "Desparate...Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe" through my head. Sally had been having quite a day with her children. Her husband came home and she began to pour it all on him and ask why will they just not be obedient. He responded by telling her they will probably stop sinning whenever she learns how to.

Oh yeah, good reminder to me! I may not express my sin the same way but holding an angry heart at my child for his dilemma is just as sinful. I am also running our preschool Bible Verse on auto replay in my brain. "Cast all your care upon him; for her cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7

I'm hanging on to this experiment but it feels like only by a thread today!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Experiment - Day 3

We are on the third day of our shedding of waste for the month of November. I sit here this evening feeling like such a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Our family has just had a full day (beginning at dinnertime on Saturday) of keeping the Sabbath. I think every person has their own idea of Sabbath. I can tell you that I don't think I actually let myself embrace the rest until this morning. Yesterday I kept thinking of all the things that I hadn't finished and had to leave undone. Today I am looking around my house with a renewed sense of what is important and what is not. I began today with one of my favorite activities, running with my feet crunching the leaves and the cool weather without the jogging stroller. A half hour of exercise without my little guys was so rejuvenating to my spirit. After my run, we went to church and enjoyed worship and fellowship. We came home and relaxed while the boys took naps. We also joined some friends to see the movie Planes (which we decided is not violating the no TV rule ;) followed by a dinner out. We decided we will not be attempting another movie with Asher anytime soon because he just wanted to get down and move. Today was a breath of fresh air and our spirits are rejuvenated. Praise God!

This week I have pushed the facebook app on my phone twice and quickly backed out of it before seeing anything. It makes me realize how quickly I run to the world of facebook to escape the mundane in my life. I have to make the choice to serve my children by playing race cars, wrestling, listening to their stories, and taking time to discipline with love instead of distracting them with turning on the television or escaping to my own vices (aka facebook). It takes a lot more energy but I find myself feeling so much more at peace living the life God has given me rather than comparing it with everyone else's on facebook.

One of my favorite reductions of waste this month is to not purchase prepackaged snacks. I made homemade granola bars and Levi kept complimenting them. It's a big deal when he compliments food! We went to the Farmer's Market and I bought a whole box of "deer" apples (apples with a spot that can't be sold in the regular baskets) for $8. What a deal! I also left with 2 heads of lettuce, a few tomatoes, green beans, and sweet potatoes. I love how large the Farmer's Market is and how easy it is to get to. It makes buying local produce pretty convenient.

I look forward to finding more and deeper revelations as this experiment continues. For now, I am resolved to continue to observe the Sabbath. It is truly awesome to feel such renewal after rest!
Our first Sabbath dinner

Monday, October 28, 2013

Our Month Ahead: Shedding some Excess

This year, the month of November is going to be different than it has been in the past for our little DeJong family. I have just finished reading Seven by Jen Hatmaker and it helped me pinpoint some of my discontent with the way I have been living. For a long time I have been frustrated with how I spend money, the amount of waste our family produces, the unneeded stress, the wasted time on facebook/tv/#younameit and the way this takes me away from my real mission.

I want to love God with all my heart which means, in turn, I want to be overflowing with love and energy for his creation, both our earth and all its inhabitants. I am turning a new leaf in the month of November by reducing my excess in 7 ways:

1.       Waste: I will not purchase any individually wrapped snacks or drinks (With the advent of preschool, I have started to purchase a lot more of these things which are definitely not as healthy as fruits, vegetables or snacks that I prepare and also produce a massive amount of waste!)

2.       Food: All food that I purchase for our family will be either locally grown/raised or the least harmful to our planet that we can afford.

3.       Media: I will not post or look at my Facebook newsfeed. (Sadly this will be very hard for me!)  I will make one exception. I am hoping to blog about insight that God grants me throughout this month. I will post the link to my Facebook page but I will not even read any comments!

4.       Media: Our family will abstain from watching TV (Since we do not have cable, this includes all modes of watching it! We are even suspending our Netflix account! Matt asked for one exception, Sunday football games once in a while and I thought this could be used a relaxing family time so I agreed ;)

5.       Time: I will take time to pause and pray each afternoon/evening alone to ask God to reveal other areas I need to reduce or reallocate my time and efforts.

6.       Money: I will wait 7 days before making a purchase outside of our necessary food and household maintenance items we need. This is intended to give me time to reflect about how I am spending money and evaluate needs vs. wants before rushing into purchasing things just because I want them.

7.       Stress: Our family will take time for Sabbath. For the glorious month ahead, we will begin our Sabbath with dinner on Saturday nights with candlelight, thanksgiving, and communion, and we will take time rest in Him until Sunday night. Our Sabbath may look different each time. It can include sharing it with friends, staying at home, hiking outside, going to a friend’s house. It will include worship with our church family (including setting up, teaching, and tearing down everything for church. Which I do realize is work but we decided not to become so overburdened by the law that we throw our hands up and decide there is no time for rest in our fast paced world.)

I can’t wait for the month of November to begin. I look forward to the shedding of excess in order to make room for the Holy Spirit. I can feel him calling me to walk closer but I keep getting distracted by all this noise. I am eagerly awaiting the crisp November air and the extra time with my family.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

My cultivation process

My life is full of exciting new things but with that comes a cultivation process that I cannot say I enjoy. I looked up a couple of definitions of cultivation and this is what I found:
  • preparation of land or growing crops: the planting, growing, and harvesting of crops or plants, or the preparation of land for this purpose
  • improvement: improvement or development, especially through study or education

  • As I read both definitions, I think they explain the process of working/learning in order to reap a harvest in the future. This means hard work! I started a new job (3 year old pre-school teacher 3 half days a week) and have some new item contract writing work (This is something I have done on and off for 3 years but there has been a lull in work for quite some time until the past month.) Combining these things with being a mostly stay-at-home mom has thrown me a major learning curve. I struggle balancing part-time work. If you know me well, you know that I like to plan, execute, and follow a plan the whole way through. I have many things remaining to set up in my classroom and more importantly, want to maintain a balance that allows me to be a mother above teacher. My friends who have done this; I give you a HUGE pat on the back.

    The bigger part of my cultivation process is happening within me. In the past several months I have really felt a call on my life to love and serve my neighbors and community within Raleigh. Matt and I started a new community in which our mission is to get out group members to start acting as the hands and feet of Jesus. This Friday we are going to be leading Children's Chapel at the Raleigh Rescue Mission. It has been challenging to find the right place for us to serve because we are a small group of people with children so I am so excited to see how this will work out!

    In the midst of all these new things, we had to "invest" (I do use that term loosely!) money in our van as well. As I was rushing around trying to fit everything in and "do" all the right things, I realized I had left God out of most of it. As I spend time today in rest and reflection, I realize that God has no interest in seeing me rush around. The number of things I do does not glorify him more. He cares about the people I meet along the way. I need to invest in them with my time and posture of love.

    Last Saturday, we celebrated my little guys first birthday. Even before we knew he was a boy, I loved the name Asher. I chose this because it means blessing. His little life has been such a blessing. Every day since we found out he was a boy, I prayed that God would use his life to bless others. Little did I know that God was cultivating a heart of service in MY life by praying this for my son. I realized, how can I expect this little boy to understand how to be a blessing if I don't teach him this myself. I thank God for his life and the little repeated prayer that has changed our lives forever. We appropriately celebrated his birthday by collecting donations for the Boys and Girls Club. Asher, even at 1, is using his life to bless others in the name of Christ.

    As you can probably tell by the random trailings in my blog, I have a lot on my mind and heart. My prayer as I start this week anew is that I take time to cultivate without trying to rush ahead to an early/weak harvest. I pray that I will take the time to have a posture of love in the midst of new stresses.

    Tuesday, July 23, 2013

    Not Right Now

    "Not Right Now" is one of those phrases that tops my least appreciated answers list! As a child I remember my parents using this phrase occasionally. Looking back, I remember it was usually because not only was my question out of line but also my timing to ask was not very well thought out. Rather than hurting my pride in front of others, they would give me that answer and I knew a sit-down was put on the books for later.

    It's funny and also kind of sad that still at 29 years old, I struggle with this answer. I am learning to spend time in thought, prayer, and discussion with my family before forging ahead with my plans. That is usually the problem, they are my plans that are centered around ME. Sometimes I may sugar coat it by saying that I want what is best for my family, or my husband, but ultimately I am usually looking to satisfy myself. I was reminded of that this week as I was slapped with a "Not Right Now".

    Let me back up a few months to fill you in on the details. In the past months I have seen my friends and family take steps forward by moving to new places, starting new careers, advance their careers, start/finish their master's degrees, etc. As I watched all this unfolding around me, I started questioning why isn't my calling in life to be more glamorous, prestigious, holy, you name it and I thought it. Now please don't get me wrong, I love my children and I love fostering a loving and highly engaging learning environment for them.

    In the midst of all this, I decided to seek after a preschool teaching job which I am so excited about! I can't wait to be in the classroom part-time again and also allow my boys to have that social interaction as well. In the process of applying for the position, I decided to locate a copy of my teaching license (the original is probably lost in a box in the attic but I searched for a while and then decided to order a new copy!) I knew that my renewal year was soon but I didn't realize it was THIS year! I immediately started looking into all my options for renewal and it turns out that it really is not too bad at all!

    I am taking a couple of online classes through Wake Tech and enjoying them so far. This got my brain thinking in another direction...why not go for your masters Alex. Obviously, I have nothing but time on my hands and quiet...right!?! I started looking into programs and I was really getting ready to take off with it. Then, several events happened...

    1. As I was trying to rush through several things at once so I could have time to research Masters programs further, I was getting very agitated with Levi (who wanted my undivided attention). I took him outside with me to do some yard work and next thing I know, there was a bee trapped in his sandal and it stung him (I had to pull the stinger out kind of sting!) and he immediately started sobbing.

    2. My sweet husband (and I do mean this Matt!) reminded me that he had put his Master's on hold so that he could be home more while the kids were young.

    3. I prayed that my motives and heart would be laid bare. It turns out my motive is mostly when it comes down to it...fear. I know that I want to go back to the elementary or middle school classroom eventually. Deep down, I am fearful that after taking time off schools will be reluctant to hire me.

    4. I took a look at my boys this morning and realized this time is SHORT! I am the kind of person that carries stress around like its a full time job. I don't want to carry stress like that as I raise my precious little boys.

    5. I answered myself "Not Right Now Alex". Just as I finally have really begun to make progress and life changes to live a kingdom centered life, I start to waiver.

    I have decided that I am asking the wrong question and definitely at the wrong time. Maybe my future will entail pursuing that Master's of Education. However, my boys are little and my life is focused in the here and now. I sit here and look around at pictures of their smiling faces, cute art work, and listen to their sleepy breaths during naptime. Thank you God for renewing my mind and heart for its purpose in the here and now. For the first time, I appreciate the answer "Not Right Now."

    Saturday, July 6, 2013


    My East Bridge Church family embarked on an exciting new adventure today. We served lunch at the Helen Wright Center today. It was amazing to see all the planning and preparation come to fruition today.

    Meet the crew (missing a few here!) 

     A few months ago a seed was planted in my mind after reading the famous Great Commission in Matthew 28:19. "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations..." Some reading material I had been reading got me thinking about the church (as a general population...not all!) so often focused on the making disciples part and looking right past the key word "Go!" More importantly, I am learning the importance of taking the time to build relationships that matter by sacrificially loving my friends, neighbors, and even strangers by sharing what I have been given.

    Levi helped me make the dessert :)

    I am overwhelmed by the way that everyone eagerly jumped in to help provide food, their time, and their positive attitudes in providing this meal. I can't thank my meal provider team enough for their help in preparing everything in the morning and helping to get everything transported and ready to serve today. Another key element to this entire operation came in the form of childcare (8 kids for 5 hours) Go team!

    I will leave you with one final thought. "Freely you have received, freely give." Matthew 10:8
    If you are reading this, chances are you have the resources to give something: time, kind words, a shoulder to lean on, food, finances. I challenge you to find a way this week to freely give what you have freely received. Please share how you have impacted your community if you'd like!