Tap, Tap, Tap…

I wrote this post back in October, but never published it. I wasn't ready. But now, Lord willing, I am ready. Humbly I open myself up with hopes that only He will be magnified.

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 Is this thing on?

(answer: it is now, but it disappeared for a while—partly by my choice, partly due to my hosting company.)

Does Janet still have a blog?

(answer: it appears so, but the lack of signs of life make it questionable.)

Is Janet even alive?

(answer: yes, but hibernation has been necessary in order to preserve energy.)

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Often, when God is doing complex things in my heart and mind, I move towards silence. Those who know me “in real life” may scoff at that statement, attesting to the fact I am rarely without words. However, the deepest ponderings and stirrings of my heart seldom make it past my lips (or fingertips). Well, at least they don’t come out in the during. The sharing I do is usually in the after.

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There is definitely a lot of during still occurring in my heart right now. But, I think, there is also some after. There are ideas and thoughts and dreams and convictions which are ready to be formed into words and sentences. It is so very tempting for me to stay silent, to hide in the safe places of my mind and family. I am tempted to let all that rages in my thoughts stay right where it is, hiding in its juxtaposition of forceful conviction and fumbling cowardice.

The truth I am embracing, though, is that stewarding what God has given me necessitates letting it permeate the artificial boundary I have drawn between my heart and the eyes and ears of others. God has bestowed me with certain gifts He fully intends not to be hoarded, but rather, to be freely spent on behalf of His Body.

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I still don’t know exactly what that looks like, but I am at least asking the questions. I — the one with all the fears and insecurities and intense hatred of all conflict and confrontation — have opened not God's gifts (a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline) but instead, the gift of the world and its ruler (a spirit of fear.)

It's time to throw out the sparkly yet worthless trinkets and rip into the real presents.

I was not created to hold God’s gifts at arm's length, timidly placed within my fretful boundary lines, refusing to open these precious gifts because I don’t know what so-and-so will think or who so-and-so will make backhanded comments to. But I need to, instead, take my cues from Jesus: He knew when to remain silent and He knew when to speak boldly. Oh how I Iong for His wisdom!

But even with the wisdom I lack, I choose—with more feelings of insecurity and intimidation than is probably healthy—to take steps to share myself with others, to let the little sprouts I have kept buried finally see the light of day. I may look more like untamed weeds than a precise row of marigolds, but if I have learned anything over the past few years, and especially over the last few months, it is this: untamed beauty is often far more captivating than artificial perfection.

And so, I choose to share myself, untamed wildness and all.

Remember, though, it isn’t me I long to share. It is God in me. And those are two very different things.

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And so, I welcome myself back to the world of writing. And speaking. And proclaiming God’s goodness to anyone who will listen (or take the time to read.)  I am flawed, sinful, and arrogant. But what I must never forget is that my faith has been credited to me as righteousness. I am not righteous, but mercy says I have been found without fault and grace says I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. And because of these indescribable and indisputable truths, I must declare God’s goodness to others, with boldness and expectant hope.

Drawing From the Well

January 23 2017

You'll notice my absence from writing these past six months—it wasn't planned, but it was necessary. Wounds aren't to be displayed, but the story of scars should be told.

I'm not sure when I will be ready, but the story of my scars is one that will be told. Until then, though, I am ready to write again, to use words to communicate thoughts and dreams and convictions.

A cacophony of words from anyone with a keyboard has made me shy away. Why add to the noise? If for my own verbal processing and spiritual musings, there is no need to publish. That button is far too overused as people hide behind the confidence of their computer screens.

But it isn't my words I want to share. It is God's Word through me that is able to bring hope and healing. The words of others have been deep wells of blessing for me, and in all humility, I long to draw that same water up for others. Those who have spoken life into me over the past few years have literally raised my soul and mind from the dead. It is only with love and the hope of grace that I choose to speak life into others so that they too might live.

I make no promises as to frequency or potency, but in my heart I have offered up the work of my fingers to allow God to write His story of hope to those He draws in to read. One of those life-givers looked into my eyes and told me my words would one day be a blessing to others. This is my humble attempt.

It’s That Time of Year

behindthename_web                                     Almost five years ago, I chose a new domain name and pushed publish on my first post. Although I had been blogging or five years, I knew it was time for something new. I wanted to start a new blog and a new place to encourage other moms in their walks with the Lord and in their journey through motherhood. The dream was there but the name wasn't. Convinced God had a name perfectly planned for this new space, I prayed and waited on Him. Although I put fourth my own ideas, my heart didn't feel the peace I was expecting. And so I continued to wait. In His good time, God gave me His vision through my reading in the gospels. Matthew 13 and Mark 4 revealed a truth to me that I would carry both through life and motherhood: the key to a flourishing life in Christ is to first, prepare the soil. Because my Bible reading plan lands me on the same chapters each year, my heart is annually reminded of God's whispers to me: "This is the way, walk in it." I choose to take some time each summer to reflect on what God has done and what He is doing, both in my children and in my own heart. I've shared the story before, but like with anything of value, it is worth returning to. The details may become fuzzier each year, but the lessons learned will remain forever. And so I reminisce with memories of summer 2011:
Five years ago, I sat on the balcony off of our master bedroom. My coffee steamed hot on the table next to me, my Bible in my lap. Jason and the four older kids were away for a few days enjoying the beach while I stayed home to write the book that was on my heart and to enjoy the extra snuggle time with my then four-month-old. 
 
I loved sitting on that balcony. One of my favorite things about our Indonesian homes was the balconies and their offering of a treetop view of the world below. Somehow I was able to think more clearly in the fresh air and unique perspective of life from above. That particular morning, with Bethany still sleeping and my coffee still hot, I opened my Bible reading for the day.

But before I finish that story, another one needs to be told. And I'll save that for tomorrow.

Let Them Be Kids {part two} : Our Sweet Puppy

PTS | Our sweet Puppy  

Everyone knows I love our sweet doggie.  My photos are proof:

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©janetphillips_april20_2016_web-50©janetphillips_april6_2016_web-31©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-252But we have another little puppy...her name is Bethany...or Beppy...or Puppy...Skye...or Marshall

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Yep, my daughter thinks she is a dog. She eats out of dog bowls (clean and unused my real canines), she insists on "wet food" (refried beans) in her bowl, she laps water from her bowl on the floor, she wears a puppy costume most days, and she is known to pant, bark, lick, and scratch.

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Naturally, back in March on her birthday, she had all-things-puppy:

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She's also been known to eat some dog bones (aka Scooby Snacks)

©janetphillips_march28_2016-3     It's weird...I know. I have had to ask her not to lick guests. I have had to remind her she must use words when I ask her a question (as opposed to just panting and wagging her little tail bottom.)  

And course with a puppy in the house, a kitty can't be far behind:

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But you know what...I love it.

It's just so her. She's our sweet Beppy girl and I adore watching her just be who she is. PTS | Let Them Be Kids3   Why do we try so hard to force our children to be what we think they should be?  I'm not talking about being a kid with character. We should do all we can to ensure our children are growing in traits such a kindness, gentleness, and respect. No, what I mean is the all-too-often push for children to fit into some shape they believe children should be. I've written about this before. Other parents seem to get it as well. And yet, others have so much trouble just letting kids...be kids. They want them to do this or do that. To look this way or to act that way.

Why not just let kids be kids?

Why not just let them be little? Let them play and swing and jump and get messy and be loud and pretend they are a dog? Having a 13 year old and having a three year old (and 12, 10, 8, and 5!), I know more than ever how fast this time goes.

They don't stay little long.

  • Their sweet baby teeth give way to crooked ones that are far too big for their mouths.
  • Those cuddles we were too busy for are much harder to come by as they get older.
  • The funny little things they say will be long forgotten.
  • The way the pronounce 'sketty will finally work itself into spaghetti.
  • They will stop calling their siblings Enny, Ca-bub, Wi-Wi, and Tatie.
  • They will stop asking you to draw a butterfly and snake at church every.single.week.
  • They will stop calling your family "our people."
  • They will stop dressing up as knights and princesses...and even dogs.
©janetphillips_PTS_loveletters-1 Oh, can't we just let them be little. Let them be dogs. Let them dress up, go barefoot, make a mess in the kitchen as they help you cook. Let them beg you to read the same book over and over. Say yes when they want their fifth bath of the day (and look the other way when they have chosen to use a new towel for every dip in the pool and the subsequent baths...if you are counting, that is no less than TEN towels used by ONE child in ONE day.) ©janetphillips_january2016-7 It's funny. I blog so rarely these day and I hardly remember what I have written about in the past. Apparently this subject isn't new to me. I was looking for something else and came across all of these:

A Time to Say Yes Saying Yes to Our Kids (audio post) Whatever It Takes

And a number of other posts on my old blog (which I need to resurrect!) And of course, there are times to say no. But this is what I have told many mamas:

There will be so many times we as parents have to say no. So why don't we say yes to absolutely anything we can?

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Because you know what? I love our sweet puppy...actually, I love both the furry one and the one who comes to cuddle with me each morning during my Bible time. (Oh wait, both puppies do that...I see where Beppy gets it from...)

And so—yes. When the little white costume with black spots was so small it was cutting off her circulation, we bought Skye Marshall Rover Fetch Puppy Bethany new puppy costume. And since it is summer in North Carolina and the temps usually hover around 95°, I am glad I talked her out of this one.

So...can't we just let them be little?

And if you need to release some pent-up emotions, how about this song. I hadn't heard it before...guess I need to get back to my country-music-loving high school days.        

Lessons from the Strawberry Field

PTS | Lessons strawberry

We'd been meaning to go for weeks. However, with varying schedules and March-like weather in May, it just hadn't happened yet. Fearing we'd make it through another strawberry season without going, we chose to make it a priority. With one day left in the picking season, we finally headed out to the strawberry fields.©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-30 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-32 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-33 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-34 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-36

Without shame, I admit my favorite part of picking is the opportunity to take pictures and to just watch (well that and the forthcoming strawberry pie.) It isn't just because I like cute photos of my kids (which I do), but rather, it is because I know when I take photos and I slow down enough to to truly see, I notice (and appreciate) all the little things that are so easily missed in the hurry-up nature of our lives. ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-9 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-38 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-39 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-47

I see how little and innocent my children are. I notice what they find important (which is often far different than my own classification of important.) I see the way they approach challenges, opportunities, failures, and successes. I watch the way the older ones demonstrate the reality of their hearts as they reach out a hand to help a little one. I see small adoring eyes, with neck cocked back as far as possible, staring straight up to match the smiling gaze of an older sibling. With my camera, I am reminded to slow down, to notice, and remember.©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-81 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-93 strawberry picking_2©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-89 strawberry picking_5

When I am too busy experiencing my life and jumping to the next great thing (or the next strawberry bush) and I refuse to take time to notice and reflect, I miss out. I miss the beauty of my children in these carefree years of childhood and I miss the beauty of the lessons weaved through our moments, calling out to be learned.©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-20 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-59 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-60 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-89 strawberry picking_4 strawberry picking_7

After we managed to fill our bellies and our two one-gallon pails (I can see why this field was calling it the last day of picking—the fields were sparse!), we returned to the front in order to pay and clean up. As Jason dipped the kids in the sink (because simply washing hands and faces dripping with sun-warmed strawberry juice isn't nearly as fun as an actual bath in the sink), I chatted with the farmer as he shaded himself under the canopy.

Now I have a confession to make: I cannot keep anything green alive. Those who excel in growing anything other than weeds utterly fascinate me. I wanted to hear about how the farmer grows and maintains these amazing fields. "It's a long process," he said with half exhaustion and half idyllic reminiscing. "It all starts in August and continues straight through 'til opening day."©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-11 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-19 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-36 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-94 strawberry picking_3 strawberry picking_6 strawberry picking_8

After sharing more of what is involved in covering his acreage with strawberries for the masses, the farmer explained to me how almost half his crop this year was lost due to heavy spring rains. Having learned a bit about crop failure and insurance through my four days sitting on a jury for a case involving tobacco fields and insurance claims, I was curious as to how his loss was handled. Sadly, he explained, specialty crops aren't covered by insurance. His loss was simply that — a loss.©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-18 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-63 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-71 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-95 copy

Finishing his story with an attempt of an upbeat, "At least we'll break even," the farmer told me he wasn't likely to plant again. "Too much work for no guarantee," he said. "But," he qualified in a laid-back southern farmer way,

"The last day of the season ain't the time to make that kind of decision."

I immediately thought of the director of the camp where Jason and I met. I remembered the wise words offered as he explained how he and his wife were committed to never making a decision to leave camp in August or September—the two months following the busiest and most exhausting part of the year for a year-round camp. Wise words, indeed.

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Long lasting decisions aren't to be made—if at all possible—in the shadow of stress, exhaustion, or confusion (and, I would cation, nor under the glowing lights of recent success, first-week-of-school-determination, or brilliant newfound ideas).

PTS | decisions quote

Notice I said, "If at all possible." Sometimes, decisions simply must be made. In those moments, it is more important than ever to remember the imperative to "get wisdom," (before you need it!) and  "...He stores up sound wisdom for the upright..."

In the absence of a need for expediency (an actual need, not simply a felt need, belief or impatience), wise decisions are best made through the result of quiet waiting, wise counsel, and realistic appraisals of situations—all things we humans don't find all that exciting.

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But what kind of life would we live and what kind of world would we create if all our decisions—from what we choose to eat to what kind of businesses we build—were made not in defeat or fear, nor in excitement or glittery inspiration, but rather in wise waiting and slow steadfastness?

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What would happen if we allowed the still small voice, the gentle blowing, and the low whisper to have far more power over us than the strong wind, the earthquake, or the fire? 

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I sure haven't mastered this process, but oh how I want to!

Jordan Lake

JORDAN LAKE
  (If you are just here for pictures, feel free to scroll through this post to see a few. And then—if you have seven minutes of your life to spare—you can see a lot more in the video below. I am learning that with the number of photos I take and with my desire to be better at capturing video, putting together quick slideshows like this is a great way to remember our trips).
It's just how we are wired, I guess.

I've talked about it before — this need to get away, recharge, refocus, and be refreshed. I worded it this way:

When the beauty of routine starts feeling confining, I know it’s time. It’s time to find another place to lay our heads and new scenery to fix our eyes upon.

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And it is still true. When we get away for a few days, letting the worries of work, housecleaning, and life decisions slip away, we are free to focus on what matters most: relationships.

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Life has a way of robbing us of what we were created for. Life tells us to hurry up, accomplish this, prepare for that. Life rarely tells us to slow our pace, to look and speak and read deeply , to focus not on the breath of what we accomplish, but rather, the depth. Life fools us into thinking our frenzied pace is evidence we are truly living, when in fact most of our "living" exists solely in the fictional day of tomorrow — the day all the things will get done, the memories will be made, and our good intentions will come to fruition.

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The more we in the west try to do, do, do, the less we believe the truth: we have the time.

And so for our family?

We get away.

We camp.

We hike.

We enjoy creation and the wonders of what God has given us. We slow down, enjoying long talks around the campfire, slow morning snuggles, and kids piled on the bed for a sweet movie. 

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It's been a busy spring. Between work, finishing school, doctors and dentists, meetings, and more, we haven't had a chance to sneak away. And yet, we know how important it is. During another busy week, we looked at the calendar to see what we could say no to, and we carved out a few days to just be us. Jason still had to work, so we chose a state park close enough that he could drive back and forth. It wasn't ideal, but I know deeply that this is true:

If we're always waiting for the ideal, we will always be waiting.

And oh how we needed these days! They filled my soul, reminded me of what is important, and offered the rest our weary souls were crying out for.


Here is a seven-minute video of our time away (a mixture of photos and videos from both my phone and my regular camera).

The HAPPY CAMPER’S CAFE

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The natives were getting restless.

We've been taking an early summer break to give us all a rest before we start our summer school schedule (reading and math). After a few weeks of endless trampoline and slack line time, I started to notice a few mopey glances and a lot of "what are we going to do today?" questions.

I'm not the camp and cruise director type of mom. I believe it is good for kids to be bored and un-entertained. First, it teaches them that I don't exist merely to provide daily entertainment. Second, when children are bored, they naturally move into creative ideas to pass the time. Third, because our family does a lot of hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities, the down days are good for them.©janetphillips_may20_2016_web-41

That said, I do at times provide the kids with some activity ideas if they seem to be twiddling their fingers as they figure out what the afternoon is going to look like.

Last week, after a few hours of us drawing pictures, playing games, and having fun, they still wanted to do more. I had some work to do, so I told them I would give them an activity if they committed to doing it. I wouldn't tell them what it was, but I explained they would have to be creative and work together.©janetphillips_may20_2016_web-12

After being assured I didn't intend for them to clean the house (but what a great idea!), they accepted my challenge and I told them their mission:

Create a coffee shop for the family

"It must include coffee (of course) as well as fresh-baked treats. Each of you must have a role/part to play and you will all need to work together to figure out a plan and how to get it done. And no one individual kid (**cough**cough**Alaina**cough**first-born**) should take over the plans. "

With smiles on their faces and creative ideas churning in their minds, they kicked me out and I gladly obeyed orders to not return until I was called. A few hours later, we were requested to enter through the front door. And this is what greeted us:

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They did an amazing job. I love seeing their creativity! We used to do this kind of thing on a regular basis (like this hotel night a few years ago). But life has been busy and stressful and sometimes creative activities like this fall through the cracks.

I am so glad that even though the kid are older now, they still became really involved in the activity. It's good for the older kids to think through all the details and it is good for the younger ones to experience it in order to see how they can come up with activities on their own.

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I loved all the little details...the decorate your own cupcakes, the "employees only" sign, the Happy Camper mug, the menu, the picture frame, the kiddie play area, games set out, and more!

Jason ordering his food

Jason ordering his food

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Zach enjoying the play area

Zach enjoying the play area

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Katie helping Beppy with the decorate-your-own cupcake area

Katie helping Beppy with the decorate-your-own cupcake area

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Zach waiting for his turn

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Top notch service from the staff

Top notch service from the staff

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Roasting marshmallows over a candle was such a cool idea!

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After roasting marshmallows and playing games, it was time to clean up. That's when the older kids gave Bethany her role: being the janitor. Never has there been a cuter or more enthusiastic Cinderella.

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...and yes, that is a green potty on the floor. Zach feels the need to bring it with him to whatever room we are all in.

So, what do you have planned this summer?