Time to Simplify . . . Again!

Two years ago during Lent, I embarked on a forty bags in forty days project. The idea, which came from Faith and Family, was to rid one’s house of forty bags of excess material goods – ideally through giving items away, although some items definitely deserve a place in the trash. I’ve decided it’s time to do it again. No, it isn’t Lent and I most likely won’t be able to accomplish my goal in forty days this time, but I desperately need to get rid of things.

While some people seem to be able to maintain well-ordered houses all the time, mine seems to attract clutter the way refrigerators attract magnets (did I mention that I have too many of those as well?). Some of it, I have little control over. After all, I don’t live alone and I need to respect my husband’s and children’s needs and desires as well. I can encourage them to live more simply and to give away what they no longer need, but no matter how much I might want to, I cannot simply bag up all their possessions and bring them to the local thrift shop. Part of loving other people is making the sacrifice of living with their “stuff.”

Still, I can set a good example and reduce what is within my power to do so. Right now, the sheer amount of stuff is weighing me down. Mary Ann Otto writes of a similar problem in “Boxing Day,” featured in the January 2012 issue of U.S. Catholic:

We tend to store things long after they have outlived their usefulness. I am not sure why; perhaps we document our life with them. Maybe letting go of them reminds us of our own mortality, with the realization that we will not be taking a U-Haul with us into the next life.

Jesus warns us against storing up treasures on earth. There is a reason: I find the more I keep unnecessary items, the more difficult it is to be at peace and in solidarity with Christ’s teachings. I am often distracted by clutter, and there is little doubt others could benefit from my surplus possessions.

There is obviously nothing wrong with owning things. We all need some items – things that are necessary for life, as well as things that are simply beautiful and bring us pleasure, and those items which have a strong emotional value. Yet, most of us own many things that don’t fit into any of those categories, items that we don’t use and which could be doing someone else some good. Those are the items I’m seeking to rid my life of.

I want to live a generous life. This is one way to do that, a simple way to share what I have been blessed with. I have never regretted giving something away. I have found that generosity is always rewarded. If I am generous with others, I trust that when the time comes that I need something, others will be generous with me. I have definitely found that to be the case.

I know I will never completely get rid of all the extraneous items in my life. No doubt, a couple years from now, I will once again desperately need to do a major decluttering. It is one of those on-going battles. Letting go of things is not always easy, however, it is necessary, for both my mental and spiritual health. Let the bagging begin!

– Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

When The Parent Feels Like a Child

My daughter fainted at school on Monday. We are not quite sure yet why it happened. I know that she is in God’s hands and I have faith in Him even though I fear for her. I am trying not to panic.

It’s hard as a parent when you know you are the one who is turned to for guidance and strength and support. Yet sometimes we feel so small and weak, don’t we? There are times when we don’t have all of the answers and we just wish that someone would wrap their arms around us, tell us it will be okay, and take care of things for us.

My husband leaves in a little over a week for a month long stay in Africa. I am supposed to be strong here at home. Take care of everything, provide for my girls, offer them safety and security – while daddy is far away. Yet I don’t, and won’t, feel safe and secure the whole time. I will miss the security he provides in our home. I will have questions about decisions that need to be made in his absence and I will feel like crying at times out of exhaustion and longing.

What do we do in times like these when we feel like a small child? We are supposed to be the adults. Regardless of how old we are, how much experience we have “lived” in life, or how mature we are – we all feel insecure and inept at times. We all desire to have our problems, fears, and issues placed in hands stronger, more wise, and trustworthy than our own.

I know that I have a Heavenly Father who is all of these things and more to me. He doesn’t laugh at me for feeling fearful. He doesn’t scorn me for not acting my age, or for getting emotional at times. He is simply there for me with His open arms, His gentle words, and His guiding strength. I never have to navigate through my challenges and trials alone. And I’m so glad. Because there are those weak or overwhelming moments in my life where I just don’t know what to do. It is in these moments, that I call out to God and ask Him to be real to me – to reach down to me – and to take care of me.

Do you know what? He always does. Maybe not in the way I would have imagined or hoped. But He has never failed me. Not once.

We don’t have to have it all together. We don’t have to know all of the answers. We don’t have to be super strong all of the time. We can be real and transparent with God – sharing our fears, our failures, our hurts, and our disappointments with Him. That’s what He’s there for.

When we can lay down our pride long enough to realize we need Him, I think we will find the strength, peace, contentment, and hope that we search for as a parent.


Note: This post was written a few years ago. Thankfully, my daughter was determined to be okay.

~ Dionna Sanchez is vulnerable with her life so that in some way, she can help and encourage others. You can read more about her on her blog at: http://emphasisonmoms.blogspot.com

I’m Spending My Time

making-peach-crispHow do we spend the bulk of our time?

There are lots of things we love to do. For one person it might be gardening, golfing, decorating. Still another may love to spend hours reading, puttering around their house, or sewing. There is so much to do – scrapbooking, cooking and baking, collecting things, writing, etc.

Whatever it is we love to do – do we spend hours and hours of our time investing in getting it done – to use for the Lord? Or do we spend hours and hours of our time doing something just to have it done for our own satisfaction? You see, I’ve been thinking about why we are here on earth, what we are to do with our time, and what we can take to heaven with us. And it seems to me that God wants us to spend the bulk of our time either growing and learning more about Him, or sharing His love with others so He is glorified.

I know we all have hobbies, interests, to-do lists, etc. And I think we will always spend some of our time devoted to tasks, projects, and hobbies that may have no eternal value whatsoever. But it’s the bulk of our time that we should analyze. If we love to garden – that’s great. But then what do we do with it when it’s done? Do we donate produce to the church? Do we give flowers to the sick, lonely, and needy? Or do we just enjoy it for our own pleasure?

Almost everything we do and are interested in, can somehow be used for the Lord.

I am on the computer a great deal. I am constantly trying to reavaluate the time I spend on it and asking God to help me purge what needs to be purged so that I don’t waste hours and hours of my time when I have a family that needs and wants me with them. BUT — I can honestly say that most of my time on the computer is used for the Lord. It is the Mission Field He has called me to at this point in my life. And if a lot of my time is spent there – then it’s because I am willing and wanting to continue to let God use me to bring others to Him. And I think that’s okay. I think it’s more than okay.

Everyone has a different calling on their life and a different “mission” where God can use them. For you, maybe your mission field is working in the public school system. Maybe God has called you to leave your family and friends and serve Him in Chile or Germany. Maybe God simply has chosen to use you in a way no one else can be used by working through you at your local hair salon, or through your gifts of baking for others. For me – God has called me to the Mission Field of the Internet right now.

Whatever it is that you enjoy doing….wherever you spend your time – please make sure you aren’t simply doing it for yourself. Keep your ear tilted to what God is trying to tell you and ask of you. Be willing to open yourself up for HIS plans for your life. Allow your hard work and dedication to be vulnerable and open as God uses it to bring others to Him.

You see, we can spend hours and hours of our time carving, crafting, sculpting, cleaning, molding, or embellishing something — but if we don’t turn back around and allow it to be used for the Lord – we’ve merely wasted time.

It’s okay to enjoy video games, crafts, movies, and the what-not. Let’s just make sure that those things stay as periodic enjoyments from time to time – and never end up being focuses of our whole attention and time. Those areas need to stay open to be available for God to use whenever He chooses.

We are who we are for reasons. Allow God to use your natural “bents”….. your time will never be wasted, if you do.

~ Dionna Sanchez is the Founder of the Emphasis On Moms Ministry at http://www.EmphasisOnMoms.com – you can also visit her parenting blog at http://influencinglives.blogspot.com

Are You a Grump?

Hey moms – are you a grump?  Are you so busy, overwhelmed, and stressed that you don’t smile, relax, or laugh much anymore?
I went through a phase where I was a grump. I’m not proud of it. In fact, my heart is saddened by the fact that I allowed myself to become that way. But, it happened. My husband would start to say things like, “Leave mom alone,” Or “Don’t bother your mom,” Because he knew that I was on overload!  But it was mostly my own fault.  I had too much on my plate.
You know what? I WANT my kids to come to me. I don’t want them to feel like they are a bother or a hassle to me. I don’t want them to remember me getting irritated with their presence! I want them to remember a mom with arms open wide – with a smile upon her lips, and the ability to laugh and enjoy life. 
I realize that life is not all about having fun.  Not all moments in life ARE fun!  But I want my daily attitude to be that of a warm, enjoyable, feminine, and loving woman. I want those feelings to be conveyed from my heart. I don’t want to be viewed as someone who yells at her children in the grocery store, or yanks on their arms to hurry up and follow her. I certainly don’t want to be the grump responsible for the tears stinging their eyes!
It’s never too late to change your attitude, to ask for forgiveness (from both God AND your family) – and change your course. 
Just think about what your life has been like lately – and give some thought to how your children and husband view you. If you don’t like what you discover, then make the choice today to change your heart and focus.
~ Dionna Sanchez is constantly learning how to be the woman God created her to be.