What I Hope I’ve Taught my Children.

Have you ever held things together with a good old rubber band? Maybe your kid’s toys, or a bundle of rhubarb or asparagus fresh from the garden? They can hold anything! Heck, I even used them to hold my jeans together when I couldn’t afford to “splurge” on maternity pants.

Rubber bands are awesome, but generally they’re just a temporary fix. The asparagus gets cooked, we no longer need the toys, and our pants, well, you know.

Often throughout the last 20 years as a mom I’ve felt like our family was held tight by a perfect, stretchy, brightly colored rubber band. Sometimes I’ve been the rubber band, sometimes my husband or children, often our faith or our love for each other. Like a beautiful bouquet of flowers, we’ve been held together tightly, traveling as one from place to place, idea to idea, adventure to adventure. But a bouquet, no matter how beautiful, doesn’t stay rubber banded together forever. You take it home, trim the ends, and cut that thick, green rubber band. And then you watch it fall a little. It loosens up. You take the individual flowers and keep them together in a vase, but they are no longer tightly bound. They’re free! They still belong together, they still complement one another, but they each take up their own space. They are separate and together at once.

Last weekend we cut our family’s rubber band. We left our sweet, fun, capable daughter at a University that’s a few hundred miles from home. It’s the first time our family of six has been separated. The emotions were high, but it was time. Time for our bouquet to spread out and flourish.

We came home and the very next morning I went to our mom’s group where I actually serve as a mentor mom. I always joke that it’s because I’m old, but the truth is is I have been doing this for a pretty long time. I’ve earned every scar and delighted in every blessing. I’ve seen good days, bad days, and everything in between. And I’ve loved it!

I’ve learned so much along the way and I’ve tried really hard to teach them a few things, too. Here are some of the things that I hope I’ve taught them as they begin to leave home.

1. God comes first. I’m not perfect, and neither is anyone else that I know. You can’t fully lean on anyone else in this life. No one can be your everything, that’s just too big of a burden to bear. Everyone will disappoint you sometime, but God will be your rock. Lean on him.

2. You won’t make friends with everyone. That’s ok. Not everyone will appreciate your sense of humor or love of Star Trek. That’s ok. You will find your people, and your people will find you.

3. Be kind. Be generous. Be loving. Look for the beauty in everyone. Not one of us is better than another. Not one. We were all created in the image of God, and we are all worthy of love and respect.

4. Befriend people who are different than you. Actually, befriend a lot of these people. This is how we learn. This is how we grow. I pray that you never stay in a bubble or with only those who think how you think. You need people in your life who are of a different faith, a different color, a different party, a different ideology. Never forget this.

5. Don’t be gross, but there are more important things than a beautifully kept house. Like how the people who enter your home feel when they’re there. Be hospitable. Pull up another chair. Make your table longer. Cook for bodies, but feed souls. Let everyone who enters your home know deep in their bones how welcome they truly are.

6. Life is always better on the dance floor! Jump in. Take risks. Look silly. Be real. You’re not the best dancer, that’s ok. You don’t always have the best moves. I look like an old lady. Whatever. When we jump in and have fun the rewards always outweigh the risks. Just go for it!

7. You don’t have to be perfect to make a difference in someone’s life, but you do have to make a difference. Make a difference in the lives of those around you. Let your mark be a positive one.

I pray that I have taught my precious kids these lessons, not through books or words, but through my actions. As a mom of four amazing young people, I want to be a better person every single day. I want to be teaching them even when I’m exhausted or when I think that they’re not paying attention. I want to live my life in a way that when it’s time for them to live on their own (as that time has already come for one) they are ready.

Moms, Dads, friends, you can do this. Begin to teach the most valuable life lessons when your children are young and they will not forget all that they have learned.

To the friend who’s chasing perfection.

Sometimes I get caught up in the crazy. I think that everything has to be picture perfect, on a white background, with a beautiful font. It all has to match, or at least “go” and look good on my Instagram.

Life isn’t really that way. Sometimes the Lord takes us for a ride down a path we never asked to be on. Sometimes we look at our lives and think, “I didn’t think it would ever be this way.” Or “I didn’t see this coming.” Or “I never expected this.” For two Sundays in a row, or maybe it’s been three, I’ve sat next to someone grieving something that’s “not supposed to be this way.” The tears flow and sometimes drop to the floor. We hug. Or maybe we don’t for fear that we might possibly, actually, literally break. This week I’ve prayed with sweet friends for deliverance from sin and I’ve hugged friends who want to be moms but aren’t and moms who’s babies never got to live and laugh and love on this Earth. I’ve been in hospital waiting rooms and I’ve been woken in the middle of the night knowing that I need to pray. All. In. One. Week.

This world isn’t even close to Instagram perfect. We messed that up a long time ago. But what comes after. . . well, that is. And it’s worth the trouble. And the prayer. And the trials. Job said it best when he said, “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?”

Know what other trap we fall into? Have you seen those posts on Facebook about if people aren’t for you, let them go. . . Let go of relationships that don’t serve you. . . If people don’t value you. . .
Guess what? Friends, we are to, “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) If I’m constantly shaking off that friend who needs a little extra grace, how am I bearing her burdens? How am I serving her? If I don’t sit with friends who are sick and in need, but instead rid myself of them because they don’t serve me any good, how am I showing love? How can I do any of the “one anothers” we see in scripture if other’s burdens are too much for me?

I’m not so good at this. I’m not great at bearing my soul and being open and vulnerable. I’m not great at hugging or showing empathy. I can rejoice with those who rejoice, but it is stinking hard to mourn with those who mourn. I forget important days and don’t finish everything I start. But, I want to. I strive to. I desire to live in community even if – especially if – it means people show up to my dirty house or if I have to muster up the courage to go places that make me uncomfortable. I want to live in a community that bears one another’s burdens and doesn’t care about having everything posted on a pretty background with a really sweet font. I want to see you behind the tears. I want to see you without the make up or the mask. And, I want you to see me, too. If I had the chance to never wear a mask again, I would. If I knew that this world was safe and my tribe wouldn’t make me feel less than, I would never “fake fine” again. And, I hope you won’t, either. That’s my next challenge, I think. I’ll be real if you’ll be real. . .

Last night, while visiting a friend in the hospital he said, “want to see my scar?” (Kind of typical because he’s funny and feisty and great.) His daughter showed me a picture of it and I can’t stop thinking about that moment. Not because it’s ugly, but because it’s beautiful. I mean, it’s ugly all right, but it means something huge. You see, what it took to make that scar is what it took to keep him alive. He’s here on this Earth shining the light of Jesus because of that scar. He’s cracking jokes because of that scar. His wife and kids can smile because of that scar. Listen, we all have scars. Some of them, like his, aren’t even actual scars yet. They’re wounds that need healing. They’re fresh and raw and come with a boatload of emotion. And we’re never going to post them on Instagram for fear of an unfollow. Or because people might know that we’re not perfect. They might find out that behind the make up and masks we have blemishes. We have actual, real live flaws that made us who we are today.

Today when talking to a friend, we both realized that perspective is huge. We’ve shared our struggles and disappointments this week. And then we realized how little our complaints from earlier in the week actually were. How our problems really seemed so small. Our bigger desire was to mourn with those who mourn. To listen. To love. To pray. To sit in a baby dedication or a prayer circle when every human instinct in you is saying run. This isn’t fair. I don’t want to be here. This isn’t serving me well.

Friends, let’s work at this. Let’s love one another. Forgive one another. Bear one another’s burdens. Live at peace with one another. Let’s take off the masks and show our scars and not run but stand strong, firm, and together. United in the One who gives us strength.

I love you, friends. Pass that on.

How do I Know?

Some people spend their whole lives in the community in which they were born and raised. To me, that’s actually a beautiful, sweet novelty that doesn’t happen often anymore in today’s culture. Others go off to college only to return for visits with family and friends. Some, like me, have even experienced life half way around the world. (and then ended up back in my home community)

Some people get married early in life, and some later.

Many people switch careers after 40.

But, this isn’t about where we live, or when we marry, or what career path we take. It’s about how do we know when “it’s time?” How do we know when God is shaking things up for us and ushering us into a new season of life? Is there a way to know? Does he speak to us in transition?

Let me be straight with you. I have no idea. I know that 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always,pray continually give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” So, what’s God’s will for me? Um,it looks like this. . . “Rejoice always,pray continually give thanks in all circumstances.”
Sometimes I think that God presents us with a couple of choices. Sometimes, they’re even two good choices. Or one good and one GREAT. Sometimes, it’s obvious. Sometimes, not so much.

Since my answer isn’t concrete, I’ll speak to you from my personal experience. I am a lot of things. And, I am not a lot of things. And, sometimes, I’m just meh. For example, I’m a wanna be gardener. I don’t have a green thumb, for sure. But, I also don’t have the blackest of thumbs, either. I want to do well, and I try. But, sometimes i do dumb stuff either because I lack the knowledge or I don’t try hard enough.

Last spring, I wanted to fill some empty spots with hostas. Now, according to what I know, hostas do fine in the shade and grow super crazy without much work. So, I thought I could just “transplant” some extras into a couple of the empty spots that I had in front of my house. Cute. Nice plan, right? So, I did. I dug a couple of holes, dug out the plants, and transplanted them. Here’s the thing, though. I did it really fast and didn’t adequately prepare the new spots. And, I’m not entirely sure that I got the whole root, anyway. I really thought that from everything my friends said, hostas cannot die. Even when you want them to. Wrong. Within a few days they started to get real sad and lie down. Then, they turned yellowish. Finally,they were goners. No disputing it. They were dead. I’m pretty sure I know why. I did it carelessly and a little too fast. I didn’t get the whole root (probably) and I didn’t adequately prepare the new hole. I should have made them a little deeper and (according to my hindsight research) a lot wider. Forget about taking good care of them afterward.

I think that unlike me, God adequately prepares us for our next place. Our next assignment. Job. Marriage. Kid. Difficulty. Broken promise. Good thing. Bad thing. Whatever it is, he’s preparing us. Sometimes we feel him digging us up and shaking off the old dirt. Sometimes we see him digging the new hole. Preparing us, so to speak. Sometimes we feel it, and sometimes we are taken by surprise. But, it is happening. We are being uprooted, for a time, only to be re-planted in an even better place. And, the care that he gives us in that transition time? Much better than what I could ever do for my plants. For sure.

So, how do I know when God is ushering change in my life? How do I know if I should take that job? Or move into a new home? Or start a business? When will I know if I’m ready to take on a new task, or if I’m competent enough to serve in a new ministry in my church? I think that you will know. Listen. Ask. Talk with him about it. I think that you can feel him uprooting you, shifting you, changing your perspective. Soon you’ll start to feel at home in your new place.

In the meantime, stay in his will. How? “Rejoice always,pray continually give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) It seems so simple, and maybe it really is. Maybe you really do just know.”

The Spiritual Practice of Waiting

One month. Yes, since the Slow Down challenge I have been absent for one month. A little longer even. But, I haven’t been absent from life. Or the presence of God. Or the joy of spiritual practices. Practices like waiting.

I have to say, I love the church calendar. I love Advent. And Christmastide. I love Lent. And Easter. And Pentecost. And, well, you get it. What I don’t always love is Ordinary Time. See, I love movement and excitement. I love a good celebration, a good party, a good gathering. I thoroughly enjoy any reason to get together with others and celebrate. Your birthday? Party! You bought a house? Party! Your day planner has flowers on it? Mine. Too. Yay! Party. Fun people are my people.

You know what’s hard? Waiting. Ordinary time. Silence. Quiet. But oh is it valuable. I mean, the truth is, is that most of our time is actually spent in the “in between.” Most of our time isn’t Friday night gatherings or once a year birthday celebrations. Most of our time isn’t spent on vacation or getting married or having children. Most of our time is spent in the in between. The waiting.

Not that waiting is bad. It isn’t. Growth happens in the waiting. Change happens in the waiting. Good happens in the waiting. But, we need to learn how to daily engage in our waiting seasons. In our Ordinary Time.

It’s no wonder that waiting is hard. My husband is notorious for not responding to text messages in a timely fashion. When I ask him about messages, he usually tells me how it all went down. Someone texted him during the work day and he was busy, you know, working. And so he responded later. How much later? Oh, maybe a couple of hours. And people tease him. Do you remember the days of waiting a day or so for a return phone call? Not an instantaneous text message. We used to have to wait for things in life. Two hours? That doesn’t qualify for a “he doesn’t like me” conversation. Now, in this crazy consumer driven era I get upset if my purchase does not qualify for free two day delivery. We have drive throughs and fast food and grocery delivery. So many things are fast. So fast. And we don’t have to be still or wait for anything, really.

But what if the waiting is where we learn? What if the waiting is where we become better? What if the waiting is where we become exactly who God had intended us to be?

I think that the spiritual practice of waiting, of our ordinary time, teaches us a few things. First of all, ordinary time teaches us to seek God. When we have no answers, when we’re waiting on good to happen, when we’re waiting for God to fulfill the desires of our heart, we begin to seek him more. I don’t know about you, but as a follower of Christ, I generally expect my answers to come from him. If I’m seeking him for the answers, I’m seeking him more fervently. I’m asking. I’m reading the word. I’m seeing him in others around me. I’m in prayer. Which leads me to the next idea.

Our waiting time teaches us to pray. I don’t know about you, but when I truly desire something, whether it’s healing or deliverance or something for my children, I pray. And pray. I have friends who have been praying for years to have a baby. Or to find their spouse. Or for deliverance from substance abuse. And the prayers don’t stop in the waiting. They don’t give up. No. The prayers get more intense. They may feel rote at times, and they may feel desperate at times. But, overall, they are teaching us what it is like to lean on him.

Lastly, the practice of waiting brings us the joy of seeing Jesus in others. Maybe you aren’t going to get the perfect test result today. Maybe the disease will still come. Maybe the death of your loved one is near. Maybe it’s a tough waiting season. But, in that waiting, you can experience Jesus through his people. The church is a blessing, one that we get to take part in. He gave us the church and prayed for our unity. He still gives of himself through the church and we are blessed in our waiting by his people.

What have you been waiting for? What is your ordinary time like? I think if you sit back for an instant and think about the practice of waiting, you will discover rich blessings that you had never before realized.

Slow Down and Make Your Home a Refuge 30 Day Challenge! Day 30

Eek. Last day, people. This

month has been a lesson all right. A lesson in taking my own medicine! 😀

I have loved sharing with you. I’ve loved hearing all of your stories. I’ve loved seeing things work in my own house hold. It has been fun!

Last challenge? Reflect. Think about the good and bad. What’s worked and what hasn’t. All of it. Mull it over. And then share on the blog post or Facebook post what you’re going to keep doing. What’s “stuck” for you? What did you need in your life? I can’t wait to hear from you!

Slow Down and Make Your Home a Refuge 30 Day Challenge! Day 29

Two more days! Today and tomorrow and then we will have spent 30 days making an effort to slow down a bit. 30 days trying to make our home a better place. 30 days being mindful of our lifestyle. 30 days getting ourselves into some great habits before the busy holiday season begins.

I need to confess. I do. I need to tell you something, especially if you’ve had a hard time with some of the challenges.

I stink at being still.

I stink at slowing down.

I hate doing what others tell me to do.

I’m kind of hypocritical.

Does my family have margin? Yes. Am I decent at Sabbath? Yeah, mostly. But, ugh. When I have to be still, I have such a hard time.

Yesterday I had Drs orders to be still. Really. I never left the house. Didn’t even go outside. I didn’t even shower until 2:00. But, friends, it was hard. I noticed every little thing on the floor, every little thing that was out of place, and every little thing that I could be doing instead of sitting. But, I couldn’t really move. And so, I watched TV. I read. I listened. It was nice. It was fruitful, I guess. But, hard. So hard.

Which brings me to this. What’s hard for you? What do you want to do, but it’s just hard? What intrigues you, but you aren’t sure how to accomplish it? What do you like, but don’t know how to make it real?

Today’s challenge is to think about something that you want to do but you feel like it’s a losing battle. Decide on one thing that’s important to you, one thing that you need to accomplish, but it’s just so hard – and then do it.

That’s it. For me, it’s listening. It’s clearing my mind of everything and just listening for God’s voice. I love prayer and spending time with the Lord, and it helps me slow down and focus. But, listening. It’s. So. Hard. So, that’s what I’m doing today. Listening. Being quiet and listening.

Slow Down and Make Your Home a Refuge 30 Day Challenge! Day 28

Well, what do they say? The best laid plans? Something like that, right? Yesterday, as I was headed down the stairs to change my clothes for a Zumba class (really, not joking) I felt a pop in my knee and was pretty much frozen. Like, immovable. My Dr said to head to the urgent care because I’ve actually been having problems with this knee. In fact, I’m waiting to schedule physical therapy on this very knee to get it feeling better. Only now. Well, now it doesn’t really move much. And, it hurts. Bummer.

So, the urgent care Dr said that I need to do an MRI. Until I can get that scheduled, I have some meds and crutches. Crutches!! I can’t believe it. I’ve never had the experience before, and let me tell you, I’m not very good at it.

Want to know what else I’m not good at? Being still. Having other people tell me what to do. When the Dr told me to keep off of it for a couple of days and not go to work, I kept thinking about how boring that sounds. What am I going to do? I guess this is the Lord’s way of keeping me still a couple more days, huh? Good thing that I can actually do today’s challenge. I must’ve picked it right.

Today’s challenge is to think about your why and write it down. Why do you want to slow down? Why are you doing this? Why do you want your home to be a refuge? Figure out your why and write it down. Always write it down. Even if you’re a minimalist and hate paper and know in your heart that tomorrow you’ll just throw it away, write it down anyway. It always makes it sink in just a little more. So, take a moment, think about it, and write it down. Why?

Slow Down and Make Your Home a Refuge 30 Day Challenge! Day 27

28 days. Roughly one month. This is what we discussed at the beginning, right? That is officially how many days it takes to make something a habit. To make something habitual. To make something a natural part of our lives. Tomorrow is day 28. Tomorrow marks 28 days of intentionally taking time each day to figure out how we can slow down and ways to make our home a loving, inviting place that we want to be! I am thrilled to have made it this far. And, I have practiced much. My heart is happy. Today’s challenge will make your heart happy, too.

Today’s challenge is to pick your favorite three things and redo them. (If you aren’t already doing just that.) I can tell you that I’m lighting a candle, playing uplifting music, and meditating on a scripture that I will place in my pocket. Um. Also, I’m playing inside today. 5:45 Zumba class. Pray for me! And, I’m recleaning out that closet we talked about early in the month. That. Is. All.

Slow Down and Make Your Home a Refuge 30 Day Challenge. Day 26

adult animal beautiful cold
Photo by Daniel Frank on Pexels.com

Happy Monday to you all! And, as we head toward the end of the month, I truly do hope you have a HAPPY Monday. I hope that as you have found ways to slow down and cherish your time and love your home that you are actually happier. I am for leading these shenanigans. I’ve truly been having a good time. My favorite part is hearing from you. I love hearing what scriptures you’re meditating on. I love seeing before and after pictures of your closets and hallways and bedrooms and storage areas. It’s been so fun, and it’s not yet over. We still have a few more days to cherish.

Today’s challenge is to PLAY! I want you to take at least 15 minutes and do something FUN! Anything that you love. Read. Go outside. Give your kids 15 minutes in the snow. (If you have snow where you are!) Play a game with your family. Go for a walk. Spend at least 15 minutes playing. Tell us what you decide to do, and have fun!

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