h1

Grace In It All

November 24, 2014

Rhythms

As I sat down to write this I stared at the screen for a moment. What am I even doing?

You see, every Monday my friend Kelli does a link up called Unforced Rhythms. When she started doing it I made it my personal goal to stop and think once a week about my life. The good, the bad, the funny. The ugly, the spiritual, the redeemed.

Two weeks ago I was done. It had been such a busy week. I was tired, my husband was leaving for another week of work away, my kids were at their wits end, we had done too much.

Fast forward to today and I’m wondering how to spend my hours. My husband is home, my kids are rested from a slow weekend, the calendar is wide open.

Lately I’ve been struggling with things that I thought I had worked through. I’m having trouble keeping my commitment to go to bed at a reasonable hour. I went back on my commitment to cut down on my technology use so I can be more present. I’ve been missing big things and dwelling on small things.

None of the struggles are huge. Independently of each other they seem like rather small goals that are “good things to work on.” Collectively, they have me spiraling out of control.

Every Monday Kelli’s heart for Unforced Rhythms of Grace comes to mind, I have it bookmarked…

The phrase comes from the dead center of one of my favorite Bible passages of all time. The words Jesus himself spoke in Matthew 11 (verses 28-30):

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

On more than one occasion, these poetic words have breathed life into my weary, burned out, religious experience. They have been a refuge and a place of peace. A resurrection, even. They have led me to the Rock that is higher than I and reminded me of who he really is, not just who they may say he is. These have been centering words. Words that help me hope again.

Some weeks I have easily seen the rhythm I am in and the grace that both precede it and follow it. In saying it out loud here I hope to encourage and help others see their own grace.

Some weeks are like today. The rhythm is off. I bring nothing to the table, I have no insight or words of strength. Yet, the grace remains.

I’m yielding. I’m giving in. Grace reminds me that in my struggles and failures, in my sadness and discontent, in my pride and frustration, I am still loved.

In acknowledging this gracious love and finally yielding to it, I am able to turn around and love others. My husband, my kids, my friends. This week my extended family, my sons teachers, my neighbors.

What is your rhythm today?

If your rhythm is forced and exhausting can I remind you that you are loved. You have been called. You can never do enough to save the world but you can be always enough to love someone near you.

If your rhythm is sweet and beautiful can I remind you to be an encouragement. You are in a place of joy and peace. Invite someone in.

I think on these things every Monday, yet today I may be seeing this unforced rhythm of grace for the very first time.

Grace in it all. Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Linking up today with Unforced Rhythms

h1

The Life Right in Front of Us

November 20, 2014

Coffee date

So I’ve been a bit bah-humbug lately.

It’s cold here. The weather report said “17 degrees, feels like -10”.

Sure, it could be the weather but that didn’t seem to be it.

For several days I thought about what felt like a “winter funk”. I am usually super excited for Thanksgiving , Christmas and New Years. I am that annoying friend that sees past all the potential seasonal drama and really embraces it fully and loves every moment.

I was in the car with my kids at school pickup waiting in the subzero wind and I figured it out.

Sad. I was sad. Everyone is just too busy.

Before Halloween there were Christmas decorations out at our local stores. Before Thanksgiving the radio station is playing Christmas music. Before the first snowflakes my kids are asking about Christmas gifts.

STOP. Just stop.

This is not a rant about a ‘war on Christmas’ or the freezing weather or even my own poor attitude. This is about being too busy to live the life right in front of us.

What makes this season so beautiful and joyful for me is the element of stopping and slowing. Of enjoying these once in a lifetime moments.

Yes, we have once in a lifetime moments every day but, in this season of one holiday followed by another, unique opportunities come more often.

This year, I feel like everyone around me is running towards Christmas, as if it were the finish line, and ignoring everything else. This is possibly a gross overstatement but I’m talking feelings here folks.

Our family gets busy too. Basketball practice, dance practice, Christmas Pageant rehearsal, random school breaks and the everyday work of life.

In these days it is easier to see life as a task list. Go here, do this, plan for this.  We measure our days by how much we accomplished, how prepared we were, how we gracefully navigated complicated situations because we constructed 3 back up plans, none of which we used . We pat ourselves on the back for finishing the to do list and being one step ahead.

We are too busy because we have bought into the lie that at some point we will do enough to be enough. We can’t, we won’t. Life is not about all this doing.

STOP. Please.  I’ll stop with you.

There are always 3 weeks between Halloween and Thanksgiving, enjoy your fall traditions. There will always be 4 weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas to buy gifts, make time to be thankful. There is still a full week between Christmas and New Years, rest with your family and hold off on the resolutions.

Thankful tablecloths and carols. Family reunions and food. Holiday cards and faith. Celebrate. Have fun. Make time. Find those things that remind you of who you are instead of what you have to do.

There were “things to do” long before you and there will be “things to do” long after you. Work, planning, preparation will always exist but there is only one you.

Stop. Breathe. Live.

h1

Ugly Grace

November 17, 2014

IMG_0194.JPG

Ugly. Right now I’m in a season of ugly. Not to worry, my self image is completely in tact, it’s the rest of me that’s ugly.

My words are ugly. I’m harsh. Sure I can mask it as “being direct” or “speaking the truth” or “guiding my children” but really, it’s just harsh.

My actions are ugly. They are controlling. Of course I have called them “efficient” and “structured” but really, I’m just trying to be in charge.

My thoughts are ugly. Judgmental would be more precise. Under the label of “my opinion” and “the right way to do things” it almost appears nonchalant or worse yet, helpful.

“Feel the slip and the grip of grace again.”

How did I get here? How did I so quickly lose my grip on grace? Again.

I wish I could say it was all the recent long days with my son or the too busy week home with my husband or that it’s just this season of having little kids constantly at my feet.

It’s not.

Grace, the kind we extend to each other, it’s a choice. Yet, it comes from a place beyond ourselves.

Grace comes from the heart but not just any heart, it comes from the heart that is soft and tender.

How did I get here? I let me heart start to harden. I bought into a selfish view of life where I was the main character. I began to see myself as a victim of circumstance instead of a person created and equipped. It was easier to choose giving up over giving in.

Grace. I have felt it slipping and yet slowly, as I see my heart and life for what it really is, I feel its grip all over again.

To my friends, please forgive me, you are a welcome grace and dearly loved even if my words and actions have seemed otherwise.

To my children, my being the mom is not a license to be harsh, I’m sorry.

To my husband, thank you for being grace, especially when I am not.

Right now I’m in a season of ugly and yet I feel the grip of grace.

Hope amidst the hopelessness, this is grace defined.

***

Linking up with Unforced Rhythms

h1

In Defense of “Mom Voice”

November 10, 2014

Summer Joy

 

I did it, again. That voice I never knew I had came out and gave a short, direct command to one of my children. All the kids turned quiet and off went the child to do as asked.

Mom Voice. If you have a child who speaks in full sentences, you know what I’m talking about. That direct, commanding, clear voice that comes from the back of your throat.

It isn’t always pretty.

After this particular incident I felt a bit annoyed.

I had hosted our moms Bible Study just earlier that day. Here we are spending time in Advent talking about peace and I am breaking out intense mom voice with a child not hours later.

Practice what you preach they say.

The child completed the task and even apologized without being prompted. We hugged and laughed and moved on, but I couldn’t shake it. That feeling. That question of why.

Why couldn’t I just speak to my children like I do every other human being? Is mom voice wrong?

I thought about this for days. If I needed to apologize to my child, I wanted to do so sooner than later. While I don’t think I have this all figured out, here it is:

Mom Voice is okay.

Before you run off and call me unkind and lacking in gentleness, hear me out.

Why can’t I speak to my children like I do every other human being?

Because every other human being is not my child. Parent child relationships are deeply unique. Parenting is not like having a roommate and choosing someone whose personality you enjoy. It’s not like choosing a friend who may have the same hobbies and interests as you. Parenting doesn’t come with a lease or exit strategy. There is no choice. The children that are given to us come exactly as they are. Love overcomes the lack of choices in personality and interest, that same deep love also makes each parent passionately connected to that child.

Because every other human being is not a child. Children are just that, children. They are not adults in small bodies. They are still learning and growing. They still need guidance and care.

Most of the other people in my life are adults, they were already kids. They know about consequences and respect. They understand themselves and both the brokenness and amazingness that is human nature.

Speaking to our children exactly as I do 90% of the other people in my life doesn’t make sense. They don’t have the vocabulary or frame of reference to learn and grow and change in that way.

We have to meet our kids where they are on their own journey, not where we are on our journey.

This is where Mom Voice is okay. There’s something about that “tone” that comes out when you have exhausted all your options. It is a unique call to your child that says “Hey, this is a moment of training, guiding, testing. You are up for the challenge. I believe, I know you can do this. Go. Do. You can.”

Mom Voice, while always a bit shocking when I hear it, is a vote of confidence. At least it can be.

Here is the thing. In our flawed existence as moms sometimes we cross the line. We let mom voice get the best of us. Our vote of confidence becomes a tool of destruction.

I’ve done it. Have you…

…Ever used Mom Voice out of anger

…Ever used Mom Voice because you were just tired

…Ever used Mom Voice in a moment of impatience

…Ever combined Mom Voice with unkind words

…Ever used Mom Voice as a threat instead of a guide

Like most good things, Mom Voice does have an ugly side. Used well, it gets things done in a clarifying and appropriate fashion. Used in haste or for our own self-interest, it hurts our kids’ hearts.

While kids are not adults, they are human beings. As parents, we are the people in their lives that should be speaking kind, loving and gentle words.

In the midst of educating these future minds our vote of confidence should sound more like a strong symphony and less like a death metal concert. Our directions should be clear but gracious, strong but kind, influential but wise.

Today, I declare I am for Mom Voice.

Mom, you were given your Mom Voice for a reason. How are you going to use it?

 

“Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.” The Message, Ephesians 4

 

Linking up with Unforced Rhythms…

 

h1

What We Crave

November 6, 2014

“We all love to be praised and celebrated. We want a name for ourselves. We crave a platform of respect. We desire to be important to other people. We want our work to be appreciated. In some shape or form, this is true for all of us — perhaps especially for pastors and Christian leaders.” ~Joseph Tenney

And moms. We want this too.

This work of being a mom is hard. Really, really hard.

(Sidenote: We can all say things are hard and not be complaining but be genuinely true to who we are and our situations. This is me, today, in these words to you. I say what I say from a place of truth, not complaint or discontent.)

Today, the hard things in my motherhood are sit on my couch and cry alone while my husband works out of town and my kids are sleeping kind of hard.

My son is just having a hard time, kindness and gentleness are not coming easy to him and self-control just seems like a myth. My daughter is just at a tough age, big enough to want to do some of her own things but not quite big enough to figure out what those things are, she’s frustrated and so am I. My next daughter is constantly running back and forth and back and forth, it is just plain exhausting. And the baby, sweet baby. So many sweet smiles and yet he cried so so so much today.

This work of being a mom is hard. Really, really hard.

At the end of the day I sit on my couch and I do cry. Then I begin to examine my actions.

I am doing everything I know how to do to be the right mom to these kids. I played soccer out in the 40 degree weather, I curled hair just because, I said ‘ready set go’ for the hundredth time and I put that baby in a wrap and washed dishes at the same time.

I do want to be praised and celebrated. I do want my work to be appreciated.

This work of being a mom is hard. Really, really hard.

At the end of the day I sit on my couch and I do cry. Then I begin to examine my heart.

Who do I do this hard work for? What am I seeking? How am I letting this role of mom define who I really am?

I want a platform of respect from these little people running at my heels.

This work of being a mom is hard. Really, really hard.

I don’t do this work of being a mom for them. I don’t do this work of being a mom for my husband, or my friends or for you.

I do this work of being a mom for love. I do it because I have been called to this moment, this place, these kids, by a God who loves and cares and knows.

In the midst of my desperation in the really, really hard I flipped open the Book of Common Prayer for today and read…

Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;

from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.
Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah
Psalm 61:1-4

This work of being a mom is hard. Really, really hard.

As the hard days come I do think about the things I want out of this life. Yet in my heart of hearts there is a song that sings a melody of love.

It may never happen. My children may never praise me or celebrate me. They may never respect me as much as I think they should or appreciate me in the ways I feel I deserve.

Even if they don’t, I will love them. I will still do the hard things for them, it is who I was meant to be, it is what I was meant to do for love.

Fall

###

*Please go and read my friend Joseph’s whole article. It spoke to deep places in my heart. He goes on to say…

“There is a misconception that love for God should somehow spontaneously erupt in the life of the Christian. And yet, we all actively create scenarios that make us happy. We spend calculated time planning dinner parties and weekend getaways and vacations, actively planning things that we know will make us happy. But somehow we just assume our love for God should sprout from nowhere. It takes effort. It takes time to see him. If we don’t see him with the eyes of our heart, we can’t authentically fear him; if we don’t fear him, then we will be overcome by all the fears and worries of this world and miss out on our chief purpose on this planet — to glorify and enjoy him. If we don’t see him, we will end up making the aim of our life our own renown, rather than his.”

Talk about putting my motherhood role in perspective…

h1

Help a Girl Out. Celebrate.

November 4, 2014
drinking-glass

It’s November! It’s also my birthday month. I know women shouldn’t reveal their age but I’ll be 34. Here’s the thing, I’m not a big birthday celebrator. So instead of being stressed out and trying to come up with gift ideas, I have another plan.

I’m asking for water.

More specifically clean water for kids across the world that don’t even have access to it.

You want me to do what?

Every day, 1,400 kids under the age of 5 die from water-related illnesses. 

1 in 9 people around the world don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water.

 As part of a month of being thankful and the celebration of my 34th Birthday, I’m asking you to consider your financial position in the world. Full Disclosure: Worldwide, I am in the top 0.24% when it comes to our personal wealth. (Check out the Global Rich List to find your own ranking.)

Help a girl out! If everyone who reads this blog gave $2 (the cost of a single bottle of water from a convenience store) We could exceed my goal of a $340 donation to Charity: Water.

I Don’t Donate to Charity…Usually

For years I have struggled with the idea of giving financially. I really want to but I always have second thoughts. We have student loans we are trying to pay down, we would like to buy a home some day, we have kids we would like to provide a few “extras” for.

Financially giving beyond our tithe has been a very slow process for me.

But, grace and maturity has set it. This has been the year for my husband and I. The year where we have been really honest about our wants and our needs. The year my husband not only said “we should give more” but checked in and made sure we were doing it.

Giving to charity and asking others to join me, this is way outside my comfort zone.

Yet Christine Caine reminds me that “we are never outside our comfort zone if we are walking in the presence of the Great Comforter.”

So I’m asking, point blank, help a girl out. Join me on my journey to give more, fear less and celebrate the one life I’ve been given.

So Why Charity: Water?

I don’t know if you remember the “ALS Bucket Challenge” earlier this year. It was fun and an amazing testimony to what happens when people start talking and sharing and working together. I was blown away by the huge amount of money raised for that cause and I hope it makes a life long impact for many.

I was also a little distressed that at the same time this challenge was happening that Charity:Water was trying to raise a comparatively very small $1 million to fully fund a water project in the Sudan, and they were struggling to get there.

I’ve got a vested interest in water projects. A friend of ours works overseas to help clean water systems work for desolate and desperate communities. Following their story has been a lesson in patience and perseverance and celebration.

I believe in what Charity:Water is doing, in its simplicity and in its legacy impact. It is the thing that calls to my heart, perhaps it will call to yours too?

*I’ll be pointing back to this post every Friday in November but no guilt if you can’t give or this is not the thing on your heart right now. This is not how everyone is called to give. Right now this is what I’m doing, I’d love to hear about what you are doing and where your heart is these days!

h1

Thankfulness, Appreciation, Gifts, Grace.

November 3, 2014
Bursting Forth with Thanksgiving

Bursting Forth with Thanksgiving

All day. My son followed me around all day saying he had nothing to do and no one to play with. That wasn’t really true. He had community with friends at church, he played with our neighbor kids and we hosted small group so there were kids there too. What he really meant was that he didn’t get to do exactly what he wanted to do every moment of the day. Sorry little man, that’s just not how life works.

Let’s just say that by the time dinner started I was using all my self control to keep from losing it. At bedtime I was done, I had heard enough complaining for a week.

It was finally quiet and I decided to sit down and zone out to some browsing and surfing.

Already annoyed, I opened Facebook and there they are, all those posts. I’ve already seen them popping up but every other post was showing up this way. It is November after all, the month we celebrate Thanksgiving.  You know the posts I’m talking about, “Thankful Day 3: Today I am thankful for…”

In my mind, this is a great idea. A tangible way to think through all the things we are thankful for. Ann Voskamp wrote an entire book about the beauty of being thankful and I wholeheartedly agree. Being thankful and numbering the gifts reminds us of the greater, deeper and everlasting meaning of life.

Yet this year, as the reminders have started to come, I have felt a little like pushing back. There is no one thing that has put me in this place but here I am. I just don’t seem to want to hear it. In the middle of my own crazy life all the thankfulness doesn’t seem very tangible to me.

Nothing like a little negativity about a very positive idea like thanksgiving to make me stop and think.

What is my problem? Why all the bad feelings toward blessings? Didn’t you just spend all last month finding the joy and giving thanks through the difficult?

So I’ve been sitting in these feelings for a few days. As I was outside raking leaves and watching my two older kids run around in the yard, it hit me.

Thankfulness, appreciation, gifts, giving, grace.

As I continue raking and sitting in these thoughts I begin down the rabbit hole. I think If we were just thankful all the time like we are called to be I wouldn’t feel this way? Shouldn’t we actually be having days of thankfulness during December when we are about to celebrate Christmas, wouldn’t that make more sense? And then this thought stops me, the thankfulness we share during this month of Thanksgiving and the thankfulness we celebrate during the month of Christmas are drastically different.

 

Thankfulness at Thanksgiving

The thankfulness we have around Thanksgiving is drenched in gratitude. Gratitude is the “readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”

Here in November we are showing appreciation for all we have in the present or those things that we have recently had in the past. We are grateful for how people and events and objects have made our life something we didn’t know it could be.

In returning kindness we point out people who have loved us and hopefully we have shown love in return. We manage to think through the simplicities of life that make it easy and with any luck we’ve used these same simplicities to return kindness to those around us.

Thanksgiving thankfulness is tangible. The ability to proclaim thankfulness in this month of thanksgiving does not begin with us, it always begins with someone else. An inventor, a friend, a creator. We are thankful for all that has already been done.

We are then kind in return. We say thank you to those who have given. We pass on the gifts we are steeped in. We give back to those that have given to us.

Thanksgiving thankfulness is what I feel for therapy and therapists and loving teachers and great schools for my kids.

 

Thankfulness of Christmas

Then the season of Advent and Christmas begin. We begin again to give thanks and be thankful, but in a whole new way.

If Thanksgiving is thankfulness through appreciation for what has been, Christmas is thankfulness through grace for what can be.

Grace at its simplest is unmerited favor, kindness we do not deserve.

It is a different kind of thankfulness than our numbered lists this month. It encompasses a different kind of beauty.

Thankfulness in grace moves beyond the physical gifts, the graciousness of others and the objects we appreciate. Thankfulness in grace thinks on forgiveness and compassion. It gives before it has received. It gives permission where it should be denied. It embraces where it should reject.

Christmas thankfulness is what I feel in knowing tomorrow is a new day for my son and I, it is what I feel and hope for our children as they learn and grow in beauty and grace.

 

Thankfulness in it All

So what about my bad attitude and negative judgments? What IS my problem?

My problem is that I have neglected to be thankful for all things. I have compartmentalized my days. In some seasons I have embraced the thankfulness of gratitude and appreciation, Thanksgiving. In other seasons I have celebrated and given the undeserved kindness of grace, Christmas.

In this season I mis-stepped. I put myself in the place of judgment and ranked thankfulness. Since I could not be genuinely thankful in my hard days, I was judging everyone else who could be. We can not rank the gifts. There is either thanksgiving and grace or there isn’t.

My response, humility and confession. I wanted to sit right there in the leaves and cry. I wanted to get out my journal and write all the things tangible and graceful that I am thankful for in this moment until I had no words left.

I finished raking the leaves but a different person entered my home then left it just a few hours earlier.

Please make your lists. Speak words of beauty and kindness and grace. As you do I am allowing my heart to be changed and softened and molded as you celebrate the beauty you are living.

Be thankful and give back. Be gracious and love first. Thankfulness in it all.

 

Linking up with Unforced Rhythms today.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 511 other followers

%d bloggers like this: