Thursday, December 10, 2015

#GodRemembers

"Mom, we forgot to do the Advent calendar."

You'd think her accusation wouldn't catch me off guard any more. I mean, we forget a lot of things. Practically every day.

And yet, those two words "we forgot" prickled something inside me.

Of course I answered rationally, "No, Honey. We didn't forget. We didn't have time yesterday, remember? We had church all night." With that the matter was settled. Right. We didn't have time. It's not that we forgot. It's just that in the 30 minutes we had between school and church we chose to eat snacks and watch a show on PBS. 

Why does the word "forget" sting me so? This morning's observation didn't wound me nearly as much as usual. Such as when I perform my weekly grocery shopping and the kids keenly observe that, "Mom, you forgot the bananas."

You forgot the quarters for Popcorn Friday.
You forgot to wash my shirt.
You forgot to pack my shoes.
You forgot to return the library books.
You forgot to pick up stamps.
You forgot to make the appointment.

You forgot... you forgot... you forgot.

A simple remark becomes a glaring accusation.

#momfail

And we can debate whether I should make more detailed lists, become more organized, or make my kids responsible for all the minutia in their own lives, but the truth is that when I take ownership of a task and fail to meet that responsibility, then I become immediately and poignantly aware of my own shortcomings.

What better time to face my own failing humanity than a season when we focus so pointedly on God's invading divinity?

Because as I continue to spew my tired, irrational rants that "Of COURSE I forgot! I'm busy remembering things for everyone around me," I look at the unsatisfying parts of my life and make my own accusation. God, you forgot. I simultaneously celebrate God and criticize Him.

Blinding tinsel and blaring Christmas ballads are only the tip of the marketing iceberg that breeds discontent in December.Constantly there is the pedaling of the lie that what you have is not enough. That who you are is not enough. And when enough is not enough, you admit that God is not enough. With every complaint we point the finger at God and remind Him, "God, you forgot."

Which is why we need to celebrate the season all the more. Sing God's greatness all the louder.

Because at the heart of the Christmas
message is this, "God has not forgotten you."

The evidence is there, wrapped in skin. For those who waited long for a Savior, who looked to God, just as we have, and asked Him desperately, "God, have you forgotten me, "a baby's cry proclaims, resounding, "Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son from her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you." (Isaiah 49:15)

I will tell you a phrase that I hear far less often, yet when I hear it my heart aches with the pain of full love: Mom, you remembered...

That is gratitude at its simplest. Acknowledging that the caregiver remembered, was faithful.

Those who celebrate Christmas fully are the one who realize gratitude is the manger that cradles the God who remembers. Gratitude is the song of the angels, the urgency of the shepherds, the gifts of the wise men.

Gratitude utters to the broken, "Look at God. See how He remembers us."

Gratitude sees into the family discord and reminds us that Christ was born into discord, and in the darkness of it all God did not forget us, but sent His one and only Light because He loves us.

Gratitude heeds the voice that invites, "Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!" because the Holy One of Israel has not forgotten His covenant with us.

Gratitude is the cure of spiritual amnesia along with all its discontented side effects. It is the song, simple and constant, that sings, "God, you remembered".

Maybe you need to hear the song, remember deeply that God has not forgotten you. Maybe the grinches, bah-humbugs, and hopeless cases around you need to hear it. Chances are it needs to be heard by all of the above.

So as we await our coming King, our God who remembers, let's sing the song together in the hearing of our neighbors. We celebrate a God who has not forgotten us. A God who remembers us always. The only God who can fully satisfy. And for that we are eternally grateful.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Battle Cry of Thanksgiving

We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks...
 Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our Yes! to His grace.
-Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

We are officially one week out from Thanksgiving Day and I am officially unprepared.

Other years I might have had my act together. Other years I would have the majority of my Christmas gifts bought, wrapped, and ready to send along with my father-in-law to take to the other siblings' family Christmas celebrations.

Not this year.

Moving and health have slowed me down to notice a battle cry muffled under the Christmas sales, stuffing ingredients, and travel plans.

The battle cry of Thanksgiving.

First, let me assure you I have no problem with "premature" Christmas decorations and music. I would have no problem if those remained present throughout the year, so why should I mind if they cropped up pre-November? I also take no issue with early gift buying. You have your shopping done? I applaud you.

But under all the Pilgrim and Native American decorations, Thanksgiving has gradually become less a time to thank God for all of our circumstances, and more a time to prepare the perfect circumstances in which to be thankful. Because when things work out, that's really the time to be thankful.

History tells us the greatest believers of all time were set apart by their thankfulness to God for His mercy, His salvation, His Son. Just take a quick survey of all the times Jesus thanked God and you will see the tie between faith in a good, all-powerful Father God and thankfulness to Him.

Thankful living is a testimony to a heart that is satisfied in its Lord.

And since we are all quite aware that satan is a copycat liar, the best way to thwart the testimony of our thankful hearts is to parcel out a cheap, plastic, canned version of the same. A version of thanksgiving that says, "Things are going pretty well. I can be thankful for that." A version that draws thanksgiving from the perishable circumstances without, instead of the imperishable truth within.

Because thanksgiving that stems from outside circumstances alone is a thanksgiving that will be burned with the chaff.

Thanksgiving that stems from the Father who has adopted us into His family as His children, the Son who gave Himself completely so we His enemies could be brought into relationship with Him, the Spirit who dwells within and creates, sustains, and strengthens faith within us, that is the only Thanksgiving that will last.

So this year, I pray that we enjoy Thanksgiving Day- parades, football, food, family. But more importantly, let Thanksgiving Day wake us up, church. Let it not be the end of a chaotic year. Let it not become "the day before Black Friday".

Let it be a resounding battle cry of God's people.

A cry that tells the world that there is joy around us and in us because of Christ alone.

That all the sin and death and destruction around us will not extinguish our thankfulness to the living God because in Jesus Christ those very evils are brought under the power of the Father to bring about a greater good we could never hope to achieve without Him.

A cry that says we will not set ourselves up for destruction by being distracted by imitation joy that can be destroyed in moment.

A cry that says, "Oh taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man that takes refuge in Him." (Psalm 34:8)

A cry that says we belong to a generous Father who lavished upon us the very life and death and resurrection of His only Son. And that because of that we know He will not withhold what we need.

Let this be our "fight song". What a mighty army is built on the hearts of God's thankful people. May God bless your day of battle this year. Love you all.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Why Speaking Life isn't Cute- it's Critical

The sentence that draws a groan from the mouths of parents of healthy kids everywhere... "There's something going around."

Sick. And the animated germs float through the various scenarios in our mind as we reluctantly, intentionally, put our children in close quarters with other potentially contagious human beings.

At school.
Work.
Store.
Library.
Church.

And the only way to escape contamination is quarantine. Not of the sick- of the healthy. Who has time for that?

So as the coughs and sniffles infiltrate our home atmosphere, I have to ponder another illness with symptoms just as apparent and far more damaging.

Toxic words.

It's not a new concept. As old as sin itself, toxic words have been creeping around here lately and it really is time to knock them out.

The breath God Himself breathed into the first man, that He gives us graciously so that we may praise and exalt His name, we transform into noxious vapors bent on destruction. And any ignorant, careless, even harmless statement injures us. The pain turns our focus inward and we perpetuate the pain in the ears of another. Continuing the cycle. Spreading the germ of hurt and hate.

I wish I could say there was a vaccination. A way to prevent the hurtfulness of others from invading our hearts and poisoning our words, but there just isn't- not yet. Pain, death, and sin are tight for sure.

But what sets us apart as God's holy people has never been that we remain emotionless and untouched by human wrongs. It is the Spirit living in us that gives us the strength to stop the spread of the toxicity, and provide the pain relief of love, mercy, forgiveness

What sets us apart is the new life we have in Christ that makes it possible to "Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil." (Ephesians 4:26-27)

Let's be honest, the devil will use it all if we give him the chance. He will twist words, thoughts, actions to offend us and break apart the relationships God intends to restore and strengthen. I know far too many families in strife over hurtful speech. Far too many people who have left their church home because someone chose to harbor hurt rather than foster forgiveness.

Left unchecked, the toxicity of our speech can lead to death. You've seen the casualties.


So now what? Now we choose. Do I truly fix my eyes on the Author and Perfecter of my faith? Do I really believe that I belong to and reflect the One and Only man who ever was healthy, who did not quarantine Himself away from the miserable patients, but who came to be Emmanuel, God with us?

Or do I bow down and worship my temper? My anger? My pain? My narcissism? My insecurity?

If you choose the latter, there isn't much I can do for you. But if you truly believe the former, then there is hope. Real, abiding, living hope. And it will refresh your soul.

But first, we all have to be quick to repent. Victim or no, we've knowingly infected those around us. Only through the eyes of forgiveness (not perfection) can we then spread the soothing balm of kindness and understanding to the injured around us.

We can use our platform, our influence, only for what is helpful. That means keeping our raw emotions about other people off Facebook, Twitter, etc. Venting is necessary, no doubt. Find a journal or a trusted and objective friend with which you can work out your difficulties. Sharing our rational opinions on Facebook or wherever, and being open to real feedback is fine, but veiled ranting does no good. In fact, I'll make you a deal. If you really have to get something off your chest, PM me on Facebook or Twitter. If you have my number, call me or text. I'll put it in the vault and you won't suffer the indigestion of eating your words later.

We can pray that God opens our eyes to the hurt snaking into our speech and gives us the resolve to say, "This stops here. I will not let that person's hurt rob me of my joy in Christ and affect my treatment of others".

We can take the difficult relationships in our lives and imagine better. Imagine the best possible way this relationship can be healed, and pray about it. Forgive generously. Then as far as it depends on you, work to make a better relationship. Leave the rest up to God. You do not have the one relationship God cannot heal.

Then when we screw up we can repent again and live in forgiveness daily. It might seem like a cycle, but I'd take a cycle of resurrection over a cycle of death any day. I think you would too.

Let's start a kindness epidemic.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why we all need to get ourselves some Radical Rest

Last night was pumpkin carving night. Well, that was the plan. Despite our requests, warnings, and threats, our kids couldn't get their acts together long enough to hold a conversation, listen to a story, or even pray. The annoyed look on my 9 year-old's face when I asked her to pray from someone (anyone) was the last straw. My husband closed out our prayer and I mouthed the words across the table, "We're done". He nodded, and announced that supper was now done. Everyone was to clear their dishes and find something to do. Pumpkin carving night was officially postponed.

The older two kids were bummed, but not surprised. They knew they blew it. But the kindergartner? She lost it. Full blown weeping and gnashing of teeth. No doubt she would have clothed herself in sackcloth and ashes had she the knowledge to do so. As she wailed bitterly and I repeated the daily question, "Has this crying routine ever worked for you," Scott remarked to our princess, "Honey, you don't have a leg to stand on".

This was too much. She went nuclear. Her voice growled, "WHAT?! That's NOT TRUE! What?! You think I CAN'T WALK? You think I'm an OLD LADY?!?!?!"

And we laughed. She didn't, of course. I try to make it a point not to laugh at my children's misery and anger unless absolutely necessary. After all, they should learn to be able to laugh at themselves. This was no learning moment. The tension had to break, and our sweetie had inadvertently crushed it soundly. I wish I could say she saw the humor, but she was too outraged. That was okay though, because the parents saw it and lightened up.

That is a glimpse of what limits look like at our house. And the repercussions of pushing each other past them.

I admit, I keep pushing my own limits. I suck at this resting business.  I am learning, slowly (very slowly), that I don't have to chase the distractions; that my limitations are a gift, not a burden.

Part of me wants to push past my limits. Often times that part wins out. Andy Stanley asserts that the driving force behind that is fear. That if he was to ask us why we do so much, we would likely begin our answer with, "Because I'm afraid if I don't..."

Rest then is radical. It whispers I have limits. It pries my hands open and forces me to offer up the control I keep trying to grasp. It abolishes fear. It is why the Sabbath was, and is, so vital for God's people. It acknowledges that we are reliant on the power, provision, and love of God.

Satan tempts us in our gardens with the lie that we can be "like God". Limitless. In control.

In another garden, Jesus Christ, gave us another option. Submission. We think Christ came to die, but He came for more than that. He came to do the will of the Father. That involved more than His unspeakably horrible crucifixion. It even involved more than His resurrection. It meant His life. His ministry. His rest. It meant all that is still to come.

His rest. His limitations. Isn't that one of the most beautiful truths of the Gospel? He was a real man. (Phil 2:5-8) He could have said, "But if I rest, then I won't get to heal these people... I won't be able to teach this truth," but Christ submitted. He trusted that God the Father knew best. Jesus knew that while He was true God, He was also true man. And that meant He physically. emotionally, spiritually needed to take time to be restored.

We watch eagerly how Christ helped the poor, taught the Word, shared the Gospel, loved the children, and we think, "Yes, I want to do what Christ did!" The times Christ rested are easier to gloss over. They are more mundane. Anyone can do that.

Let me tell you, rest is work. If you've had to do it, then you get what I mean. Rest is a big deal. Anyone can do it- almost no one does. What does that tell you? It is simple and complex. Theoretically easy, practically difficult. Spiritually essential.

Maybe you can't rest from everything. It can be a daunting proposition. In that case, maybe today we just need to look at one thing and say, "I'm going to rest from ______ for a certain amount of time." You can do this. We can do it. And if my permission isn't enough, just look to Jesus and the times He rested and when you get to heaven and He asks you why the laundry didn't make it into the drawers you can just let Him know you were just following in His footsteps. Wait a minute...


Then pray something like this, "Father, Jesus submitted to you and rested. Grant me the same humble and courageous spirit to submit and find my rest in You." Let's pray this for each other, ok?

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* And if you are looking for a morning Sabbath, "exchange whispers with God before shouts with the world" with Proverbs 31's new app, first5. It wakes you up in the Word. All lovely and refreshing. I highly recommend it.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Counting on Christ and Keeping Track

You should know I tried this ultra-natural ultra-moisturizing treatment on my hair. In my effort to get rid of all things scented, and not spend a fortune on hair products*, I read yet another article about the crazy miraculous benefits of coconut oil. So I did it. About 10 minutes before my shower I gently coated my hair with coconut oil. I let it sit, then washed it out. Then washed it again. And again.

I think I did something wrong, maybe? It took roughly 5 washings over 3 days to get all the oil out. During that time I shoved my head into a hat and called it good. One silver lining to having sick kids- I don't have to worry about facing the world with straight up greasy hair.

All this to say: I screw things up on a regular basis. And things bigger than tropical hair.

Which makes it tempting to play it safe. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Because I honestly live my life like a giant golf game. Unintentionally, I keep track. And the goal is to have the least amount of screw ups before getting it right. Failure hurts. Why oh why go through it unnecessarily? I look at my kids weekly, after another screw up, and go, "Hey look, I've never done this before."

It's true. I've never lived this day before, raised an almost 10 year old girl like my oldest, or raised any other kid like my other kids.

So the most tempting thing to do would be to tell myself to stop keeping track. I could tell you the same thing. Stop keeping track. Just live. There's only one problem. We can't seem to do it. Sure, some are better than others at it, but at some point do you ever look at something you've done or said, and think, "Really? Again?"

I am beginning to think there is a reason we keep track. God keeps track. For those in Christ, that doesn't have to be a scary thing. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of  your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross. -Colossians 2:13-14

I believe the "keeping track" part of us is part of God's character in us. The distortion and sin comes in when we use it to focus on ourselves or others. Job kept track of his good works, his faithfulness. God kept track of His own faithfulness, His own greatness. God won out big time. (Job 40-41)

I'm not going to tell you to stop keeping track. I will say that we need to redirect that very natural tendency toward a much more Worthy Subject. Let's keep our eyes fixed on the Author and Perfector of our faith- let's keep track of His faithfulness. His deliverance. His mercy.


We don't need to keep track of ourselves- He does that already. You know when I sit and when I rise... Psalm 139. 

And He does it in perfect love.

How would we live if we just kept our eyes on all the ways God shows us His love, namely in Christ, and stopped worrying about doing it all just right? It would be a messier life for sure, but so much larger than what we can fit into our safe little boxes.

So, can we make a deal? How about when we make mistakes or just blatantly bad choices, instead of putting another tally under our own "screw up" column, we put the tally under God's column- and count on Him to be faithful and forgiving? It will make all the difference.

------
* By the way, if you know what I did wrong with the coconut oil, or know of some inexpensive unscented products, I'd be so grateful if you shared your wisdom with me. :)


Friday, October 9, 2015

Why I'm Taking a Vacation From Exercising

I had been on my nutrition/lifestyle plan for all of five hours and I was already the expert.

I gave my husband a "chill out" look, and he shot me back an "are you serious", and it became clear that after we had dealt with the children before us, we would need a game plan on how to handle our new lifestyle changes.

Let me back up. I have rheumatoid arthritis. You may know this already. Shortly after it presented 9 1/2 years ago I realized that I was in good company. Or at least plenty of company.

I can tell you of a host of treatments that worked temporarily, but the list is long and that is not the point. Somewhere along the line I realized I was tired. Tired of pills. Tired of health companies. Tired of pain. And I'm not knocking the good people out there who manufacture and distribute things to make people feel well, but I think what I was tired of most of all was the feeling that I was owned. If my life wasn't totally dictated by the pain, then I was owned by those things that take the pain away.

So through a series of "random" events beginning with our sweet church in River Falls calling my husband (again) to be their pastor, I came across a man who pointed me to a woman who could help. Himself a medical professional, he gave me the tools to visit a woman who has treated thousands of clients with RA and seen amazing results. Her tools- foods. That. is. it. I already eat food. This could be a game changer.

Two weeks ago, I watched Karen Hurd's DVD, learned back almost everything I forgot in high school chemistry, biology, and physics, while being quite entertained by her theatrical examples of blood pressure, adrenaline spikes, and the like. You'd understand if you watched it. My husband and I watched bit by bit (it is a lot of information for our after-bedtime minds to absorb, and while watching it with fully functioning minds would be ideal, we have four kids who injure each other at the slightest hint of boredom). I asked him his thoughts. "She's kooky, but what she says makes sense".

Before it was half through I was internally apologizing to my adrenal glands. I'm sorry little adrenal glands. I won't beat you into labor anymore. I will stop jolting you with sugar and caffeine. C'mon adrenies, we'll do it together. You can trust me. We'll be friends. I told you I was tired.

The next day I decided to sneak peek the end while Heidy took a nap. So I folded my laundry and multitasked as usual. That's when she hit me with a curveball out of nowhere.

Her 18-24 month program to heal RA was not entirely food related.

Get this, she wanted me to rest.

Not take a nap every once in a while. We're talking minimize stress, and no formal exercise. None.
So, naturally, I cried.

To understand my tears I should tell you that where we live there are hundreds of non-profits, hippie grocery stores, holistic practitioners, gyms, coffee shops, music, theater, and art scenes, trails and state parks. On top of that, I have become so immersed in the desire to reach out into the community and join along other brothers and sisters, I have been on philanthropic sensory overload. And that's not even counting what is available to my kids. "I'm ready for something different, Lord. I'm ready for the next big adventure. Just point me in the right direction. What do you want me to do?"

His answer? Rest. She confirmed that answer when I met with her last week.

I haven't rested much. I am not allowed. You are allowed. I will give anyone else permission to rest, but me? Well, take a snooze when you get the laundry done. Rest when your flare-up doesn't give you the ability to be productive anyway. I alone put the pressure on.

And God says, that's enough.

In light of this first week I've noticed some things. 1. I really need to be patient and turn the "knowing" looks toward my husband off. Nobody likes a know-it-all. 2. I let too many things bug me. 3. Making a big influence with Jesus is nice, but it will not be accomplished by finding my own lane in the rat race. Things here have been functioning without me for some time and they will continue to do so. I need to pace myself. 4. We do too much. Then we feel like crap, take a pill or a drink, and keep going at the pace that is hurting us in the first place.

Then there is this: I have a lot to learn and a more than capable Teacher, if I will sit still long enough to listen and heal. 

Forget working out. We are working in.

We run such a tight ship in our lives, communities, churches, that we do not leave any room to sit and be still and know that He is God. For ten minutes in the morning? Fifteen, tops? For how long on Sunday? I pray we are beyond watching the clock. Are we taking, making, the time to recognize His presence every day?

So this gift of rest, I really don't think it is just for me. I think it is for you too. You can certainly tell people, "I'd love to, but no thank you. I need some time to heal." They'll give you funny looks, but who is going to say, "Heal? You don't need to heal!" (If they do say that, I recommend walking away and not punching them in the face.) Sabbath it up! Or if you are filled to the brim with life and need a tiny Sabbath, you can just come here, because my lack of running and exercise should give me some serious time to observe and report. I'll try to make it somewhat entertaining as well.

Or, if you are one of those folks who gets this whole Sabbath deal and takes the time and has some words of wisdom for me, share. Please. Share. I'll take all the wisdom I can get. And now apparently I will be able to sit and listen to it. Whatcha think?

Monday, October 5, 2015

True Life, True Love

I realized while trying to sleep last night... I can't even picture what the blog looks like anymore.

In the midst of moving and major life changes, this blog has fallen by the wayside and in the meantime I have been unsure as to whether or not to continue. In the back of my mind I think "Would anyone care anyway? It's not like you are an Ann Voskamp or Lysa TerKeurst. It's not like you have been signed to a book deal and been endorsed by the rad Jen Hatmaker."

I won't pretend none of that is true. But lately I have been questioning God seriously about purpose. He's opened my eyes to the areas in life where I lack spiritual maturity, and reassured me that He has it all in His control. While I feel like He is scrambling to find a niche for me, He has a plan. He has a place for me. He has a place for each of us and His grace is sufficient. In fact, it is all grace. Grace upon grace.

Plus, I physically feel better when I have worked things out in words.

This morning I intended to visit my own blog and remember the format and ambience once again. The funny thing is I saw this draft waiting in the wings and it's not too far off from how I am feeling. So I am posting it. It's incomplete, but I can fix that. It is my prayer that it speaks to you.

We're all a little too eager to define. Too quick on the draw to place our plastic cutout versions of self on the vehicles of life and add up the sum of our parts to create a version of ourselves that makes sense. So when we hit a bump in the road or a pop-up storm and the sticker starts to peel, fade, crumble, we stare in disbelief.

Really?

Is that all it takes?

And I've abandoned the truth of who I am in Christ for a stick version that shows one face, while I all the time fosters an ugly side, nurturing it toward independence.

I do not need to be independent.

I do not need to be co-dependent either.

But inter-dependent, that is the plan. It always has been.

And self-empowerment is a lie. The worst kind actually. The kind that smacks of truth, but skirts it because it doesn't want to step in the puddle of muddy honesty. Because truth is often simple, and almost always messy.

It is easy to say the words, to chug along life singing the "I can do it" mantra.

Until you can't.

Until your kids will not obey, no matter how you threaten and bribe.

Until you can't tie your hair into a ponytail, or open a cereal bag, or do VBS song motions, because your muscles and joints refuse to cooperate and "I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13) seems like a verse made for the truly exceptional. Not for the common struggling straggler. To those in the pit of chronic illness, pain, depression, parenthood, sinfulness, the strength isn't always as apparent and potent as we would like.

It could be the humbling that hurts the worst. Because then we admit that the standard we have set is too high (and way off base) even for ourselves.

It isn't that we can't do things, it is that we read "I can do all things" and assume the responsibility of defining "all" as, well, all. Anything. Everything. And that was never the plan. Adam needed a helper. He could do some things. He could do many things and he did them perfectly, which is more than any of us can hope for in this world. But it was still not good for him to be alone.

The temptation is to read the context of our life into the text of the scripture, instead of the other way around. Paul's situation was dire, but he was speaking of contentedness in all situations. In the face of abundance and need He found He had more than enough to sustain Him and His faith. He had Christ.

And the "all things" no longer means American Dream self-sufficiency.

Paul had Savior Sufficiency.

Then on top of that God gifted Paul with the church in Philippi to meet his needs of body and mind.

There were a lot of things Paul couldn't do, especially while sitting in prison. "All things" couldn't possibly mean self-sufficiency because he was so incredibly limited physically speaking. So you shouldn't be surprised when I say: You can't do it all. You just can't. No one can. And while that means you are limited, it also is evidence of even greater truths.

It is evidence of a God who created you uniquely and who is not content to leave you alone.

It is evidence of a servant God who wants to bestow His love on you in new and exciting ways, often through flawed and lacking people.

It is evidence that God doesn't want to put you or your life in a neat box, but wants to add depth within the mess.

It is evidence that God doesn't do cookie cutter relationships, and His interest in you is the most personal thing in your life.

It is evidence that God has prepared good works for you in the lives of others and He has a purpose tailored for you, struggles and all. And those good works are far beyond anything you can imagine.

It is evidence that you are fully known, and God seeks to meet your weakness with His strength so you can enjoy the grace and fully abundant love He has for you. He loves you so very much.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Lessons from the Construction Zone {This Day Thursday: Perspective}

You may have seen me mention it on my Facebook page. The construction. Here’s an update- it looks good. And it’s still going.

The good news is that I am done waiting for the place to get to normal because that ain’t gonna 
happen for a while. I’m going to write anyway.

So here you go, lovely readers. A few lessons I’ve learned in the construction zone…

1. Not every interruption is an inconvenience- when people walk directly into our lives and start banging things around and making noise, our first instinct is to scream:  “inconvenient!!!” That does two things-it blinds you to any purpose that person may hold in your life and it makes you super ungrateful. Both of which make you pretty miserable and pretty miserable to be around. So before you play the "inconvenient" card, take stock of what is going on in your life right now determine if that is a fair assessment. Most times, in the grand scheme of things, it's really not. And it does a lot for your sanity to admit that.

2. It doesn’t help to just shuffle your baggage around- you need to clear it out. I was lamenting our closets the other day. I tried to put things in them, things that were currently homeless at the hand of our construction, and I found that the closets had no vacancy. I told my husband that this didn’t make sense- I’m a purger. At least once a month I go on a rampage and start filling boxes with stuff to give away and stuff to throw away. Therefore, it would stand to reason that we had a bit of closet space in which to hide the homeless stuff.

My husband reminded me that while it looks like we are getting rid of stuff, the majority of it is just being shuffled around. And that won’t do. 

Sometimes you just need to grab the heavy boxes of all the junk you’ve been accumulating and kick it to the curb. 

Other times, you need to gather up all those excess blessings you’ve been grasping and pass them around. Sometimes the baggage-what we receive from it- can bless others. It may look like a mess, but it gives clarity or comfort to our neighbor- so look for those who would benefit, make sure they want to benefit, then give it away.

3. Your house is a pigsty- so is everyone else’s. This is perhaps my most difficult lesson. I think I tried at the beginning of construction to hold up the fa├žade of a well-run household. But here’s the truth- I’m no maid. As much as I would love to have one, that is not in the realm of our financial reality. So I make due. Also, I don’t like to clean. I do it. I tolerate it. 

Cleaning, cooking, laundry, maintenance, shopping- all are necessary to run a perfect home, but I’m not sure the desire to do every one of those things lies within a single person. And that doesn’t even include the parenting. Maybe that means that you ask for help. Maybe that means that you and your friends work out a deal that you cook for them for the rest of their lives and they in turn clean your house. Not that I''ve ever made that deal...

So the real lesson is that you don't have to do it all. Well, maybe you do, but you don't have to feel like a failure because the laundry is sitting clean in baskets on the couch. Or the kids' shoes are everywhere except where they belong. Or that your family members refuse to wash the toothpaste spit out of the sink when they are brushing their teeth. (Just be glad they brushed.)

You need people and that's ok. No one has it all together. No one.

And to anyone who thinks I wrote these points for my own benefit:bingo.

There you have it- a glimpse into our world at present. And at this point it is far less dangerous to visit our world through words on a screen, let me assure you.

Pray for me as the funstruction continues and I will pray for you too. Deal? Good.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Family That Forgot How to Laugh {This Day Thursday:Laughter}

Once upon a time a man and a woman fell in love. They were married. And that is where most fairytales end.

But this is no fairytale. This is real life.

The man and the woman got on swimmingly, believing each other to be just the most awesome person in the world. An opinion that would not, and did not, change.

In fact, they were both so terribly convinced the other person was fantastic that they decided to replicate each other to the best of their ability. They did what many other happily married couples do- they had children.

Of course the beginning was hard. And the middle as well. The parenting thing was, as all good parents soon discover, hard. So they tried and prayed and… laughed. Each morning, the Mr. and Mrs. dressed for battle with the day, always sure to clothe their feet with the socks of humor before donning the shoes made ready by the gospel of peace.

But here is where the story turns grim. While the socks of humor always managed to warm their bodies and turn the odor of life into a laughing gas of sorts, there came a day when the Mrs. was tired, just soooo tired. Too tired to concern herself with footwear. So she made a choice. She padded around the house barefoot.

The Mr. noticed. (Right, I know I said it wasn’t a fairytale. Sometimes men do notice the things their wives change.) Maybe this is the thing now, he mused. And like all good husbands do when their wives change something, he waited to see if this was a permanent alteration or just the temporary result of a monthly catalyst.

Each day the Mr. noted his wife’s feet (a blessing to her since her exhaustion also forced her to neglect readying her face with the makeup of effort) and for several days he observed the bare skin of her soles along the hard and dirty floors of her life.

Convinced that this was now how they were doing things, he also removed his humor and peace, and treaded the world on naked feet.

It wasn’t comfortable. It was life raw and cold with all the crumbs of spilled cereal sticking to it. But you know the old saying, “If mama don’t think it’s funny, ain’t nobody supposed to think it’s funny.”

It didn’t take long and the kids followed suit. Each morning they would pack for school in their shivering feet, snapping at each other in their discomfort. Then when they were ready to step out on their way, they would pull on their humor socks, their peace shoes, and walk out the door. They would return hours later, remove their socks and shoes, and live life raw. Humorless.

Each day the same. Each family member dressing in humor and peace for the outside world, then shedding both upon entering their “home”.

No one knows to this day exactly when they all realized this was the wrong way of doing things. 
Maybe it was when the Mrs. walked too long on heels too raw and figured perhaps it was just best to amputate the feet altogether. Maybe it was when the Mr. stood helpless, barking at children that were too noisy in their own complaints to hear his message of love and respect.

All the same, it happened. Divine Intervention no doubt.

The Mrs. knocked and the door was opened and she received help. Her calloused and bleeding soles nurtured and mended by the words of love and the hands of healing.  (And the acupuncture of attention.) In a short time she could wake and her heart throbbed because her feet didn’t.

She turned to the Mr. who was still just so awesomely awesome to her and he could see it too. And together they mended his feet. Followed by those of their children.

But they knew that if this healing was to continue, they would need to make an effort to protect it. So they resolved to clothe their feet. They searched under their bed, in their closet. They dumped out their drawers, but their socks of humor were as elusive as their children when it was time to empty the dishwasher.

To wear peace alone would be enough they concurred. So they picked up their shoes, slowly slipped in their soft toes, and felt it. There, hidden in the peace, was their humor.

They laughed. Really laughed. After all, it was funny how they turned their lives upside down looking for something that was exactly where it was supposed to be all along. (Admittedly, it is less funny, but just as relieving, when the items in question are the car keys. Or the cell phone. Or the wedding rings…)

That laughter was a miracle. A contagious, infectious, healing miracle.

The children caught on and laughed too. The Mr. and Mrs. smiled. Their resolve to clothe their stinky lives in humor and peace was strengthened by the soul relief that would otherwise become bitter, hard, cemented in life’s grime.


To this day they wake (many days they awaken exhausted) and sometimes the humor socks seem heavy and out of reach, but they put them on anyway. Because making merry makes all the difference when making life.


------
When was the last time you decided to meet the day with some humor? 
What makes you laugh?
Is there a connection in your life between your humor and your peace?

I'd love to hear from you! And stay with me this month for my next big giveaway! Monica won "Interrupted" by Jen Hatmaker and I am thrilled to include you in my next giveaway. Just as soon as I know what it is ;)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Comparing Grapefruits and Oranges {Messy Monday and a GIVEAWAY!!!}

I have a thing for oranges. By definition that's not an unhealthy thing. And I can stop anytime I want. And before I go on confessing, don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about. I'm talking to you, Orange Hoarder. Come into the light. This is a safe space here.

My orange infatuation has doubtless been passed on to the next generation either by nurture or nature, I don't care which. They love the citrus too.

So you can imagine my shock the other day when I cut into a fresh orange, delighted to share the aroma and sweetness with my own preschool sweet girl. It was an awesome thing, but the girl didn't agree. He cringed, recoiled at the sight of it.

"Blech! I'm not eating that!" She was emphatic and dramatic.

"What? Why not? You haven't even tried it! It's so good!" I insisted, but the girl dug her heels in. The more I coaxed the more she resisted. She wasn't going there.

Then there it was- the light bulb. Weeks beforehand my parents came to visit. My mom bought a bounty of grapefruit and offered it to my kids. They tried eagerly. So trusting. Suckers. They were repulsed.

Now I like grapefruit, but that was not always the case. And even you grapefruit enthusiasts out there must admit that they are an acquired taste. And they're not for everyone.

Apparently my preschooler learned this the hard way, so when she saw the pink fruit of the Cara Cara orange her defenses went up.

Remind anyone of Christianity?

Ever heard this Ghandi quote? "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." (Ouch. Not the promising endorsement you like to hear from a world-renowned humanitarian.)

We are doling (get it, Dole-ing? Ha!) out the sweet promises of Christ and the world recoils at the threat of a tart, even bitter, Christianity.

To be fair, I just ate a sweet sweet grapefruit, but to be sure if you are wanting an orange and getting a grapefruit you are going to feel cheated.

And I'm not going to get into whose "fault" all this is. Sinful humanity- that's who is at fault. Maybe it's the hypocritical Pharisee Christians, maybe its the blind stubbornness in unbelievers. Chances are it is both.

The point is the Gospel is becoming an "eventually" good message, you know what I mean? "Taste and see that the Lord is good" eventually- you'll acquire a taste for Him after you do this. After you give up smoking and drinking. After you stop spending your money on tattoos and lottery tickets. 

But here's the real deal- taste and see that the Lord is good is a right now message. We may need some more mature palates to catch all the subtle nuances and depth of flavor, but He's no grapefruit. The Gospel is sweet and juicy. It might sting the wounds of a life worn raw, but it is nourishment to the soul, blessing the mouths that are open to receive.

Now if you are thinking you haven't done a bang up job of presenting the Gospel, if you are concerned that you are hocking grapefruits instead of oranges, hear this: I'm not saying fake it. I'm not saying stand on the corner and pelt oranges at poor passersby. I'm saying it again- this time to you-

"Taste and see that the Lord is good." 
Psalm 34:8

You may taste the Lord is mighty.
You may see the Lord is merciful.

Those are true, but not the big picture. Those things play into the bigger picture- The Lord is Good.

Once you taste that, the rest starts falling into place. No kiosks and banners needed. Just talking with your neighbor and an invitation to "try this, It is so good."

That's what gets the listener. Genuine testimony to the goodness of God. No bait-and-switch. No eventually. Right now. The gift is mine and yours.

Are you needing a reminder that the Lord is good? Who will you share that message with today?

#JoyDare

56. New pictures in frames
57. After-school hugs
58. The winter sun emerging

GIVEAWAY ALERT!

Need a reminder of the Lord's goodness? How about a book to revolutionize and jump start a life of giving to the "least of these"? Then leave a comment here on the blog, or here on my Facebook page (heck, you can even private message me) and let me know one gift God has given you to reveal to you His goodness. In other words- a little grace you are thankful for. On Valentine's Day one randomly selected name from all who comment will receive their choice of either One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp, OR Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity by Jen Hatmaker. (And if you already own both of those books, but still want to enter then have no fear- we can work something out. This is so fun!)


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

When To Go With The Flow {Three Word Wednesday: Flow and Follow} (And A Brand New Giveaway for You!!!)



I enter haltingly into a change in my life.

I suppose that is what happens when you read One Thousand Gifts and Interrupted
simultaneously. Both very good books by extremely gifted authors who change the way you look at the gifts around you from a profoundly Biblical standpoint.

And I see a flow to all of this.

While reading (listening to) It Starts With Food I marveled at how God created our bodies to work. Without our knowledge, the body is in a constant state of give and take. One organ uses this nutrient to fuel this activity, which produces this component that tells this organ to do that. Its complex and my brain cannot hold all the information.

So when I put down It Starts With Food and picked up One Thousand Gifts and Interrupted, I seemed to be changing gears altogether. Only my journey just continued.Because this body is not our only body. This life is not our only life.

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, 
though many, are one body, so it is with Christ… 
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” 
1 Corinthians 12:12, 27

In previous readings of that passage my brain used macro illustrations to visualize the metaphor. The eye, the hand. You lose one sense, other senses heighten. You stub your toe, the eyes close, muscles constrict, nerves fire up.

But in these past weeks, it’s the micro that has gotten the play.

There is a flow to how the human body works, and there is no difference in the living, breathing, body of the church.

So when our cellular selves were ushered into the Body by Grace, we became a part of God’s processes and purposes in a very intentional way. I picture the writers of the epistles taking us on a "Magic Schoolbus" tour, “You are new here, so let me show you how all this works.’

Ann Voskamp sees the flow in the simple, "God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy."

Jen Hatmaker in the stewardship, "Hey, here's something crazy: In the Word, poverty, widows, hunger- these are not metaphors. There are billions of lambs that literally need to be fed. With food."

And then so many of us are tempted to get tripped up by the Gospel. In truth it’s the imitation gospel. The free gift of salvation becomes the free pass to consumption. It is what has so many churchgoers sitting on their hands in warm buildings for 1 hour, then ignoring their neighbors in need for the remainder of the week. It is what leaves us discontent and blinded to the small graces God gives us every day that we are too busy to unwrap in thanksgiving.

Because, after all, we don’t have to do anything because we are saved by grace through faith- not by works.

Have we forgotten the word follow?

When we end the story there our lives are at best average, at worst destructive. The flow is disrupted. The cells in the body are plagued by selfish cancer and free-resentful-radicals cause unspeakable damage. Discontent ushers death.

That is where the beauty of the Law, the absolute gorgeous power of the Law steps in.

This is how it works… it’s not a suggestion. It’s a fact. Just as solid as gas in your fuel tank works better than vegetable oil. Thanksgiving fuels joy, and vice versa. Love fuels service, and the reverse.
Taking the time to receive, acknowledge the gifts, and return thanks- those aren’t suggestions. They are medicine to heal our souls and strengthen the Body.

So what is the next step? I will be recording thanksgiving on these pages. Perhaps you would record your own as well. Or pray that God would open your eyes to the needs of those around you. 

#48.  Soft blanket paths on the floor
# 49. Tea party with Belle and Tinkerbell
# 50. Songs before the meal.

And I will be giving gifts as well!

THE GIVEAWAY!!! 


How do you receive? Simply leave a comment here on the blog or on my Facebook page with something for which you are thankful. You may even private message me. One name will be randomly drawn and I will contact you to inquire which book you would like to receive, Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity or One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are and you will receive it in the mail! Yay!!!

The "contest" will end on Valentine's Day. Love love love.

Sharing with Kristin for Three Word Wednesday!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

When Friction Starts a Fire {This Day Thursday:Renewal}

We tend to think of our values as neat nouns that fit in specific lists. The “values” list. And the “not values” list. At least that is how I tend to see them and explain them when called upon to do so. We don’t speak or act in certain ways because they just aren’t in line with our values. Some values are at the top and are indispensible. Some nearer the bottom and open to debate.

And then it happens, one value bumps into another. It budges in line. I value life more than money. Time more than money. But when money is required to enrich our lives or schedule, I’m forced to examine which I value more at this point.

It sounds technical, but it’s really not. Choices is all we call it. Maybe you sit and ask yourself, “Which do I value more?” Or maybe you just ask, “Can I afford to do this?” But what you are doing is weighing your values in the balances and seeing which holds more weight.

Where am I going with this? It has come into the forefront of my mind a lot in the last months as I’ve embarked on a brand new thought process with food. And no, this isn’t one of those “Watch out, she is on her diet again” moments. And yes, even if you have the healthiest body image in the world, you can still benefit from this line of thought.

Painful emotional times are often the result of friction between values in real life. For example, my RA is greatly influenced by the foods I put in my mouth. That caused some friction based on what I should eat and what I wanted to eat. I valued the health of my joints and the subsequent happiness of my home more than I valued bread (regular bread that is). So I eliminated gluten.

Cutting out gluten offered some relief, but not enough. So I took another step- no grains. Again, I valued health and happiness over overnight oatmeal (really, really yummy overnight oatmeal), so the sacrifice was made.

All the way until I found myself completing my first Whole30 and pursuing a paleo lifestyle minus the evolutionary theory.

It’s been a while since I researched anything so thoroughly, but in the process I came to a greater understanding of how awesome our bodies are and how God made us with such care.

But God also showed me more and more about the value of His law in my life, His Gospel in my renewal, His Word in my diet, and His wisdom in my decisions.


I will take four posts (at least that is the plan) to reflect on these things, because they matter to me and I believe they matter to you. But in case you are skeptical, take a moment to answer these questions:

* Am I sin-sick?
* Am I making choices that are inconsistent with my values, or harmful to those I value?
* Am I wearied by the junk I see happening around me?
* Am I struggling to see God's love in the events in my life?
* Am I enslaved to the bad choices I make?
* Am I in need of encouragment to keep making the good choices I am making?

Really you could have just answered the first question, but if you answered "yes" to any of these please stick with me in the coming weeks. God might not be calling you to a pantry overhaul, but He is calling you to a fulfilling, satisfying life with Him starting now- and I would love to walk with you. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Hey, Me, GET OUT OF MY WAY! {This Day Thursday: Freedom}

So I've been in the midst of quite the internal struggle. Quite. At least, I think that's what it is called when you aren't sure you really love what you are doing, or who you are being, or how you are spending your time. You know, when things in your life change, but other things stay the same and you aren't sure if you should keep doing the same thing and ignore the freight train that is the rest of your life, or hop into a freight car and leave the same old thing behind.

Basically- to blog or cash my chips in. House wins.

Too many metaphors?

My first decision in this whole struggle was fabulous. I started reading Jeff Goins' book, You are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One). I love his blog, so when his ebook came up on sale I whooped and downloaded it to my daughter's kindle. Months later I got my own kindle and actually started reading it.

Goins compared writing to a relationship he had that just needed to end. I pondered my relationship with blogging. Unable to conceive of abandoning writing, I contemplated what I really love to write.

Fiction. No brainer. It's my candy. I indulge, but sparingly.

So there you have it. My dirty secret. I'm a fiction writer at heart.

I mentally wrote my breakup letter to the blog. It's not you. It's me. 

But I guess I'm just not done yet. Because so much good happens here.

And the good is about to multiply. Less pictures maybe. Less neat and tidy lessons- seriously, this blog is the tidiest thing in my life. (I'm just speculating here, but I think that's one of many reasons why there are so many mommy bloggers. Honestly- you don't see random words strewn pell-mell across the page. No one walks onto the screen and drops their stinky words everywhere, thereafter becoming immediately oblivious to their deposits. Even chaotic thoughts appear in straight lines.) There will be more variety. More life. I've started making crazy good food. So if I can share that with you, why the heck not? Or if there is a lesson better illustrated in fiction, I'm going to go for it.

Writing hasn't been the issue. I keep getting in my own way. You ever do that? Use the word can't for no reason other than imaginary expectations?

Ugh. I hate imaginary expectations. And then someone asks me why I do something and I have no idea why except the little voices that sound a lot like me tell me I should do it.

Done with that. At least in this arena. Now I'm stepping out and hoping you will walk with me. Will you? Let's get wild in the random, untidy beauty that is life and may our steps resemble the dance it really is. That's where real growth happens. So if you need a little growth in your own life, let's do this thing together, shall we?

Break it down.

Do you ever get in your own way? 

Have you ever thought maybe you are getting in the way of a bigger plan God has waiting for you?

Remember: "For freedom Christ has set us free..." (Galatians 5:1) Don't be a slave to your own expectations.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

One Word: Resolve

October 2014 was a big month for me. I didn't blog about it, because I honestly don't think I really understood how big it was.

Because it was just food. And this isn't a food blog. I don't share recipes, I share life. And my life doesn't revolve around food.

So in late September 2014 I posed a dietary question on Facebook- curious about the paleo diet in hopes to alleviate some arthritis pain.

Hold on- before I continue- this post isn't about the merits of the paleo diet or any other diet for that matter. It isn't about whole foods and I won't preach about the evils of legumes. This post is about choices. Resolve. So roll your eyes back into your head and keep reading.

A friend from college told me about the Whole30 program she tried and about how awesome it was. Another college friend agreed. I looked it up. Got a bit inspired. Decided to give it a shot. I didn't wait to start on a certain date- I just started. And so began a 30 day adventure in eating, cooking, research. Good days, bad days, but eventually more good days than bad days. And the 30 days left me feeling better than I had in a very long time.

After day 30 I was technically allowed to reintroduce food, but it didn't take long before I was back in the same ruts. The cravings that had disappeared were back with a vengeance and moderation skipped town with my resolve.

So when I entered 2015, I fully planned on trying again. Another Whole 30-this time with thousands of other people around the world. There was just one problem.

I didn't want to do it.

No matter how good it made me feel, I just didn't want to. I would take the pizza topped with pain and guilt because it just tasted so good. I was fully aware that what I consumed had very serious and direct consequences with my health, but the fleeting pleasures of cheese, and sugar, and grains was too much to bear. And what good was a life in which I had to think so hard about my food?

The Whole 30 was nothing more than an empty religion.

So why did I start it again?

Because I heard their voices.

I downloaded their book, It Starts With Food, as part of a free trial on audible.com. I'm...uh... thrifty. Which is why I didn't purchase the book in the beginning. I wasn't sure I was ready to invest. But now that I had the opportunity to own the free audiobook? I could do that.

And that made all the difference.

I was playing the game I see played out in Christianity every day. We settle for the abbreviated, free-downloadable version of Christianity. Enough information to get me started, get me to the deadline. Enough rules to tell me exactly what I need to do. Eat this, not that. Do this, not that.

So is it any wonder that I fall so far the moment a forbidden food crosses my lips?

We all fall for this all. the. time. It is an overplayed, and painfully effective, trick of the devil- to pass off rules and rituals for true love and service. To deafen us to the voice of a loving God who desires to lavish upon us grace upon grace (John 1:16). Who wants us to have a life full of joy (John 16:24) at His own expense.

The laws made in love become the landlords of our heart the moment they upstage the grace and mercy of God. Good intentions are ingratious gods when they attempt to commandeer God's intentions in our lives.

And no amount of resolve can stand under the weight of guilt heaped upon our shaky legs as all our works-laden aspirations crumble around us.

But just as It Starts With Food reminds readers that their health is directly affected by what they shove down their gullet, the Bible reminds us that in everything It Starts With God. Our salvation, our spiritual health. It all begins, and ends, with God.

I was a little nervous to announce my One Word for 2015, because the very word implies testing. It implies affliction and temptation.

It is: Resolve.

But these verses calmed those fears:

To this end we always pray for you, 
that our God may make you worthy of his calling 
and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 
so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, 
according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

Fulfilled in Him and by Him and for Him. We are more than conquerors in His power and grace.

In the spirit of those in the Bible who resolved to follow the Lord: Daniel, David, Jehosophat, Joseph, I rest confidently in the knowledge that no amount of testing will triumph God's power to accomplish His will in and through me.

And the same holds true for you. Now that's the way to enter the New Year!