Accidental Pumpkins (A Story of Hope)

I have a confession to make.

I didn’t plant a garden this year.  I wanted to so badly but life has a way of forging it’s own will.  Spring was filled with so many activities, and the tiller was broken, and the chickens needed a new coop, and every weekend rushed past, leaving us breathlessly holding never finished to-do’s.

I had to let something go.

But the hard part of letting something dear go is that you have to do it over and over and over again.  I let the dream of a garden go during planting season, and I have let the reality of it go every summer day that I have walked by the overgrown, unplanted plot of earth.  No fresh okra to fry.  No oversized zucchini to surprise me.  No joy-filled gardening mornings.  No harvest.  No life.

I have another confession to make.

My hope has felt a little like that as well.  Not in everything, certainly.  The summer has been full and sweet.  But when I have gotten good and still, I have realized there is hopelessness in some areas of my life.  It’s a tricky thing to name because it doesn’t knock loudly on your heart making itself known easily.  It hides behind bigger, boisterous feelings.  Frustration.  Anger.  Jealously.  Fear.  But when I peer beyond, look closely within, I find the root of hopelessness.

It whispers subtle thoughts in my head:

“Don’t work so hard on this project.  It doesn’t matter.”

“Voicing that dream will make you look stupid eventually.  Forget it.”

“This situation is never going to improve.  Just make peace with defeat.”

“Connecting/reconciling with others is too much work, and too much risk.  It’s not worth it.”

Anyone?

So I unknowingly let go of hope in those dead, unfruitful places.  And I let it go again and again as I continued to make agreements with that sneaky hopelessness.

Now, back to the garden… only not the garden.  Back to the wild patch of ground right on the other side of the house.  This forgotten spot comes up with the best surprises in summer- wildflowers grow tall, reaping the benefits of the yard’s sprinklers while protected from the go-kart racing.  My husband’s tractor and I fight constantly- me standing guard for my daisy, sun-flower friends, him telling me there are sure to be snakes in the tall grass.  I know he is right but the momentary, wild beauty is worth the fear.

And this year, there is an accidental pumpkin.

I spotted the large leaves vining their way through the flowers in the earliest summer days.  I have watched the yellow blooms open and close with promise.  And now, there is a pumpkin there growing bigger by the day.  Not just your run of the mill, jack-o-lantern kind either….  one of those peachy, orange fancy Cinderella ones that cost $20 at the grocery store in October. An accidental pumpkin in the middle of the wildflower patch… 200 feet from the unplanted, desolate garden.

In the letting go, I had forgotten an afternoon in late November when the Fall decor was being replaced with Christmas lights, and nativities.  The children were tasked with gathering pumpkins from the porches and hearth but rather than trashing them, I let them smash them instead.  They had a grand time taking baseball bats, and golf clubs, big sticks and boots to every size, shape, and shade of pumpkin over in that forgotten spot.  I remember a fleeting prayer about all those seeds flying, finding their way into the cold ground.  But this is west Texas, after all, and tumbleweeds are the only things that grow without effort.

Tumbleweeds and hopelessness.

But sometimes God is just incredibly sweet, and surprises us with something we hadn’t even dared to hope for.  Sometimes, in the fog of discouragement and disappointment, he delivers a gift out of nowhere.  We may be focused on an area that is not producing the life and fruit we had imagined, when we see the supernatural fruit of the unexpected in a patch of wildflowers.

Maybe it’s not all on us.  Maybe it’s not all about our own agendas.  Maybe we don’t have to work so hard.  Maybe that’s what we need to let go of.

The garden may still be overgrown.  The dream still may lay dormant for a season.  But I bet if we all look closely enough, we may find an accidental pumpkin… the produce of a forgotten day, a forgotten conversation, a forgotten investment, a forgotten seed.

And so we put the focus there.  We hang our hope where there is growth.  We focus on the places sprouting life, instead of walking around the same ‘ole dusty, dried up space.  Let go of the particulars.  Let go of the results.  It will usually look different than we thought.  But hope is dredged up with gratefulness, with a focus shift, with eyes to see where life is happening, with a daily fight for joy.

So no, that prayer was not answered the way I had wanted it to be.  There still isn’t clear victory in this fight that has torn at my heart for years.  The changing of the season is coming at me with disappointments already.  And that project that I sowed deeply into may not ultimately matter.  But there is life and blessings somewhere else, I’m sure of it.  I may have to look to the forgotten spaces, beneath the tall grass of my expectations, and mow down hopelessness to get a better view.

And no, there hasn’t been any okra to fry this summer.  There have been no zucchini dishes to thrill my children with (insert sarcasm).  The summer harvest has not been what I dreamed it would be.  But hope is growing peachy orange among the wildflowers.  And I’ll have an accidental pumpkin for the fall.

“This is what the kingdom of God is like.  A man scatters seed on the ground.  Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed spouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain.”  Mark 4:26-28

Hearing the Hummingbirds

On slow summer mornings, you can find me greeting the sun at a rusted table on a vine-covered courtyard right off of my bedroom.  The kids sleep, the trumpeter vine blooms, the Texas heat is kind for a moment, and I sit surrounded by some of my dearest friends- a mason jar of colorful pens, my prayer journal, and a worn Bible.  It is my very own secret garden and it has my heart

I am never alone though.  I share the space with a couple of flop-eared pet rabbits, four creeping box turtles, and this summer, with 16 baby chicks.  They are too small to move out to the coop with the rest of the flock yet, so they are safely growing right there in my courtyard.  And I love the menagerie, it adds to the magic.  But the rabbits and turtles are quiet, respecting the holiness of the sunrise and this momma’s need for silence.  The chicks are not.  They peck, and scratch, they flap and fight over flies.  Honestly, their charm is quickly being overshadowed by their mess and noise.

 

And some mornings, I have another tiny visitor.  With a whispering whirl of invisible wings, a hummingbird occasionally sees fit to hover above as I pour over the Word, and pray over my heart.  I’m sure I have missed it countless times, distracted by the pecking and the scratching, struggling to concentrate among the flapping and fighting.  But what a blessing it is when I catch the faintest sound of its presence and look up.  In those sacred moments, I know Jesus is there.  After all, if the Holy Spirit can be represented by a dove in the New Testament, why not a hummingbird in my courtyard?

In I Kings 19, we find the prophet, Elijah, running for his life, distracted, despondent, and desperate in the face of Queen Jezebel’s threats.  He has known the victory of being used to bring a widow’s son back to life, called down fire to incinerate a drenched offering in front of the prophets of Baal, and watched his prayers turn from a fist-sized cloud to a drought-ending delouse.  But at this moment, he is tired and afraid.  God finds him, as He always does, and tells Elijah to “go out and stand on the mountain in the Lord’s presence.” (I Kings 19:11 HCSB)  Elijah obeys and a powerful scene plays out before his eyes.  A terrifying wind shatters cliffs around him, an earthquake shakes the ground beneath him, and a fire lights up the sky above him.   But the Lord was not found in any of these.  Finally, ears buzzing I’m sure, Elijah hears “a gentle whisper (19:12)” and immediately recognizes the voice of His God.

I wonder if your ears are buzzing today too.  I wonder if, like me, there are so many things on your to-do list, people clamoring for your care, and responsibilities weighing you down that you are struggling to hear God’s gentle whisper.  I am learning that distractions will grow as quickly as my chicks, in size, in volume, and in the mess, they leave behind.  They peck and scratch for my attention and soon the undertone of their clucking becomes normal and I forget what the still small voice sounds like.  

But He promises, “You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.  I will be found by you. (Jeremiah 29:13-14 HCSB)  Like Elijah, He beckons me every day to position myself, my heart, and my agenda in the path of His presence.  He asks that I step out of the crush of my circumstances to seek Him in His Word, to search for Him in prayer, and to listen to Him in the whisper.   He is always there waiting to be found, but unlike the crowded voices of this world, it takes a bit of effort to perceive Him. 

Can you hear the hummingbird?  This summer, can you catch your breath, find your own rusted table in a secret corner, and listen?  Are there distractions that have grown too large and noisy?  Is it time to kick them out of the sacred space so that you can discern the whispering of the wings, the still small voice?  There are seasons of storms, earthquakes, and holy fires, and then there is the faintest of flutters.  He may have something important to say, and He may just want to bless you with the beauty of His presence, like my hummingbird.  Either way, I pray you fight for the sunrise, the peace, the quiet and notice Him there. 

Now, I think I need to go move some chicks out to the coop.  

Proactive Happy

We hustle for a lot of things. We hustle for success and fitness. We hustle at our jobs, we hustle at home.  We hustle at our kid’s schedules and for our families’ best.  And let me be really honest, right now, at the peak of Spring activities, the hustle has left me out of breath.  I feel the grind winning.  Trying to “just keep up” has me feeling left behind… behind on my spring cleaning, racing the weeds in the garden, a slave to my planner and the ever-changing “GroupMe” conversations revolving around baseball practices, rehearsal schedules, and “end of the year” teacher gift ideas. 

Spring brings with her an urgency, like an enthusiastic friend who won’t take, “Just a sec…” for an answer.

The numbness that comes from being some kind of hustle robot is counterintuitive to the season.  I realized that though it is Spring all around me here on the Ranchito, it has not been Spring in my spirit.  And then one afternoon, on a mindless Pinterest scroll, I came across her and it broke my heart:  

It broke my heart because the answer is barely.  I barely remember her-carefree, crazy, wild, really, really joyful…. She is the exact opposite of “hustle robot.”

And then just yesterday this scene played out in front of my partly horrified, partly snickering eyes:  Our property shares one fence line with an elementary school’s playground and our unconventional schedule leaves my kids home while most are in class.  So yesterday afternoon, after their work was finished and they were released into the great outdoors, I caught my boys racing their go-kart along that fence line WAVING (y’all!!!) to the hundred or so children on the other side.  All that separated the freedom of my boys to the confinement of the other kids was a pipe fence and a wistful stare.  I recognized the look.

“Why is everyone else having all the fun?  Why am I stuck behind this fence?  Must be nice.”

But do you see what the second half of that “Meme Mantra” says?  She is still there… inside you… waiting.  LET’S GO GET HER!  Let’s go get her… Yeah, let’s!

Let me propose to you as I propose to myself that happiness is okay.  Maybe even important.  It just might be okay to pursue a little happiness in our lives.  Happiness, fun, delight, just a good ‘ole fashioned good time does not stand in opposition to godly joy or discipline. God is the creator of all good things, right?  Like laughter and silliness and fun and whatever it is in little boys that makes them want to take a victory lap waving to the kids stuck behind the fence (ok, maybe not that).

There is something about winter that puts us in a receiving posture.  The weather on the earth is limiting and inviting us to rest, to soak it in, to reflect.  But spring is proactive!  We plant, we clean out, we go after things in a different way.  Just like we have to hustle for an organized home, a conquered schedule, a fruitful garden, or success in anything, we have to hustle for happiness!  We have to plan for it and then go for it!  We have to be proactively happy!  Nothing worth having simply falls into our laps.  Let’s go get it!  Let’s go get her!

We have been trained well to name our blessings.  We have gratitude journals, and One Thousand Gifts,  and have been taught to focus on what we have rather than what we want.  It’s the winter’s savoring, reflecting mentality, and it is vital for our spiritual health.  We are told in scripture over and over and over (and 10 more “over’s”) to remember and recount the blessings of the Lord.  Yes and Amen!

But I am proposing a little something different this Spring.  What if we had a “Proactive Happy Challenge?”  What if we made a “Hustle for Happiness” list?  Do you want out from behind the fence too?  Is the grind grinding out your joy?  Have you become a hustle robot like me?  Y’all, what if we really go get her together?

In the hustle, God has been whispering this to me again and again; “In the midst.”   Because that is where life is lived- in the midst.  That is where we will find joy- in the midst.  That is where community is built and children are raised and marriages are fought for.  And listen, that is where God is always found- in the midst.  He promises us in Hebrew 13:5, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

As much as I would like for my hustle for happiness to include Pina Coladas on a tropical beach, a fancy book contract, or my West Texas vegetable garden to miraculously become an English rose garden… I have to be proactively happy in the midst, with today’s limitations and responsibilities accounted for.

(Confession: I am currently failing at this)

So let’s get proactive!  Here’s what I am doing and what I am inviting this community into (it would make me really HAPPY for you to join)!!!  I have made a master, ever-evolving, “Proactive Happy” list.  I have simply written down things I can do to bring real joy, delight, and happiness into my days- in the midst.  They are little and big.  Some are dreamy, and some are super cheesy.  But each of them, when plugged into my day, will bring me a step closer to that crazy girl standing in the sprinkler!

That’s Step One: Make a Master Proactive Happy List of your own.

*Make it possible in the midst (but throw a couple of dreams in there too!  “With God all things are possible” Matthew 19:26).

*Make it personal.  There is no shame in what puts a smile on your face and what doesn’t (within reason… y’all know what I mean).  Happiness isn’t one size fits all.  Last week one of my besties told me she was “so excited” about being a chaperone on our kids’ 4 day “6th Grade Tour of Texas”  trip. So excited?  I felt guilty for about 1.7 seconds because all I could think about was putting my son on that bus and saying, “bu-bye.”  Nope.  I won’t do it.  That hustle is not for me!  Not on my list.

*Make it make it something you can do, a place you can go, something you get to eat or drink, a song you can listen to.  Make it a verb!  “My kids,” or “Jesus,” belong in your gratitude journal.  “Watching a movie with my kids,” or “taking a walk with Jesus,” is proactive.

*Lastly, this is not the place for, “having a clean house will make me happy so I’ll write vacuum on the list,” or “I want to lose some weight so this grueling work out that I hate will go on the list.”  Those things are disciplines- doing something for a future payoff.  And they are important!  Do them!  But the things on the Master List will be their own payoff!!

Step Two:  Plan one Proactive Happy activity a day!  Like write it on your planner, put it in your phone, on your to-do list, or wherever you keep up with your schedule.  Maybe even text a friend to keep you accountable (Proactive Happy accountability parterres?!?!  Fun!!!)  Remember, it’ll be a hustle.  There are plenty of things we have to do every day that keeps us on the other side of that fence.  Make sure you plan one thing a day, in the midst, that takes you closer to that girl up there!!

Step Three:  Enjoy it in the midst!  When you have made space for a little happiness hustle, don’t forget to fully delight in it while you’re there!  If it is as simple at 10 minutes on the porch, or a shower in a quiet house (mine yesterday)!, or turning on your favorite song and rolling the windows down, don’t let it pass you by without staking your claim in that feeling it brings! Remember, these activities are there own pay-off!  Be intentional in letting yourself engage right then!  For just a moment, put the rest of the world, all the responsibilities, all the hard, all the disappointments or stresses over that fence and jump in the go-kart!

Step Four:  Share your Proactive Happy and Celebrate Others!  Ok, so for the next 10 days I’m going to share my Proactive Happy activity in the midst on my Instagram and Facebook page using the #proactivehappy!  Come on over and see what I’m up to, and then, more importantly, share your #proactivehappy every day too!  Invite your tribe in!  Get inspiration from each other!   Jump in the go-kart together and go get her!  And let’s celebrate one another’s hustle!  Remember, if a friend is having that Pina colada on that tropical beach and you’re drinking cheap sangria from your bubble bath- her happy can’t steal yours. unless you let it!  Comparison may be the highest fence of all.

So who is on board for this Spring hustle?  Remember (1) make your list, (2) make your plan-everyday, (3) enjoy it in the midst, and (4) share and celebrate your #proactivehappy !  She is still there… inside you…waiting.  LET’S GO GET HER!

 

The Ingredients We Have

The Ingredients We Have

I’m not much of a baker.  Something about the preciseness of it intimidates me.  I’m much more of a “little of this, little of that, add a hunk of butter to the sauce and it will taste great, dance around my kitchen to old Jimmy Buffet” kind of cook.  I can host a holiday meal or a summertime cookout for 20 with my eyes closed, but will someone else please bring the pie?  

Unfortunately for me, something about baking with our children has been sold to us mothers as holy ground. There are times one of my children will bring home a cookbook from “library day” at school and request that we spend the afternoon making cupcakes that resemble butterflies or unicorns.  And though I always consider “losing” that particular library book and forking over the $12 to replace it, I walk to the pantry and try y’all.  But, because I’m not a baker, I never have the right ingredients for the unicorn cupcakes.  Inevitably, we find what we need for a cobbler, a dump cake, a loaf of banana bread, and the holiness descends anyway.  Because the magic is not found in the final product, but in the togetherness…in the journey…with the ingredients we have.

I have learned in my 13 years of motherhood so far, that many will tell you mothering is like the careful art of baking.  There is some sort of formula, exact measurements, perfectly timed outcomes, all the while trying to peddle just the tools we need.  “It should look, and taste, and feel this way… See, here is the picture.” But time and time again I have gone to the pantry and realized those are not the ingredients I have.

Motherhood, like all of life, is the journey to embrace what we have, while laying what we thought we would have, what others tell us we should have, on the alter over and over- day by day. 

I thought I would be living this life and raising these 4 children a stone’s throw from my own mother, just the way she had done.  Instead, I have traded the flip-flops of my Floridian youth, for the boots appropriate for planting deep roots in the west Texas desert.  I have cried a thousand tears for that dream, and yet… I have cultivated a sisterhood here I would not have known I needed had that expectation been met.  There have been seasons when my marriage looked very different than the fairy tale we all want, and yet… the muscles built in prayer during those years have made me a strong intercessor and know what miracles look like.  I have children that fit this culture’s mold, and I have children that do not.  When the only successes we know how to measure at this moment are in the classroom and on the sports field, so very much goes uncelebrated.  Things like kindness, and creativity, and epic forts in the back pasture, and childhood.  So I give high fives to the ones on the stage, and I honor the hearts of those who may never be, as I trudge out to admire their fort. 

See, I never want to live in the shadow of my expectations, letting them rob the sunlight of my reality.  This little unexpected piece of promised land may be thousands of miles away from my mom, but there is no more magical spot on a Fall evening to gather friends around the fire pit, lights twinkling in the trees above. It has my heart and has become my home.  And that cowboy of mine?  Oh, we will forever go round and round I suppose, but he loves us fierce and what more could “happily ever after” be made of?  As for these children of ours, so beautiful, so different, growing so quickly… they will all be just fine because they know how to love big even on the days they strike out.  And they know they have a mamma who is not afraid to turn her back on this culture of achievement to celebrate all that makes them unique.

We were not tasked with procuring the “right” ingredients.  We might as well rip that shopping list up the moment we say “I do,” the moment our first child is born, and every moment after.  I can fret over not having what I need on hand for the unicorn cupcakes- the sparkly life I thought I wanted- or I can lovingly gather the ingredients I have been given to create a life that is so much more delicious.  In the end, I have realized mothering is nothing like baking (except for the messy kitchen).  There are no precise measurements, perfect tools, or timers set.  The only way to count every bit of it as joy is to relinquish the picture, lose the book altogether, and dig into the sweet realness of what you have.  So, add a hunk of butter and dance around to old Jimmy Buffet, trusting that God knew the ingredients He gave you.  He only asks us to steward them well, Mamma, knowing that the outcome will be a sweet aroma to Him. 

Late to #internationalwomensday

“For He Himself is our PEACE, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”  Ephesians 2:14

Have you ever found yourself in a season where God keeps bringing you back to the same thing over and over again?  Like no matter what you thought you were reading, studying, listening to or talking about, you end up unintentionally swimming in the exact same waters?  All roads lead back to a single path He obviously wants you on.  In fact, at some point, it feels cosmically comical and you just have to surrender.

Please tell me I’m not the only one.

It seems strange that I didn’t choose these waters, this path, on purpose because I should have.  It is important.  Sometimes we have to jump into the deep end to “get used to it,” as my kids say.  But Mamma is more of a “one inch at a time” girl, and so it has been on this journey as well.  Now that I am here, I can tell you that the water is fine.

Women.

Women in the church.

Women in leadership.

Women with a calling.

It’s a frightening feeling to know that there is a fire burning in your bones that may have no way to escape.   What must it burn down to get out?  Will it just burn me up?  Such has the need to speak God’s Word aloud to the world been in me.

When I say “speak,” we are all comfortable.

What about “teach?”

What about “preach?”

Anyone squirming a little?

Maybe you are not.  Maybe you have been floating on your back comfortably in these waters for years and you are confused a bit by the girl on the shallow steps tiptoeing tepidly.  Give me a hand, will you?

Would God give me a passion and then give me so many perimeters that I bump into myself with every step?  That doesn’t feel like my Great Big God.  Is He just grand and big in creation, in the scriptures, for my brothers, but very very small with his daughters?  I can’t believe that.

But it’s exactly what I believed.

So, I began the journey in secret.  I was afraid that what I would find would challenge what I thought I believed.  But what I thought I believed was already being challenged by a calling I could not deny.  Where was my place?  Where were my people?  Were these safe waters for a 40 year old stay at home mom? Would the progressives laugh at me?  Would the conservatives shun me?  All I knew was that I needed my beliefs to reflect the Truth and the character of God. and nothing else..

So I picked up Sarah Bessey’s book “Jesus Feminist” and snuck around with it like it was porn or something.  I was terrified my husband, friends, or mother-in-law would see the word FEMINIST on the front of the dog-eared, highly highlighted copy and assume I had lost my mind.  (The cover is golden and so is every word on the inside in case you were wondering).  It led me to “Half The Church” by Carolyn Custis James and I could feel my theology being stretched like an underworked muscle.

And as it did, I became braver and left the books about to be seen.  And conversations were had.  Questions were certainly asked.  And I don’t know that I am ready to take some official stand, and I don’t know that it is what is being asked of me.  But growth is.  ALWAYS.  God is not afraid of hard conversations and neither should we be.

Here, from the first few shallow steps, let me whisper, speak, teach, preach (?) the three most profound lessons I have learned so far…

First, according to Genesis 1:27, God “created mankind in his own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”  There are masculine and feminine qualities to the character of God.  BOTH male and female were created in His image and BOTH male and female reflect aspects of His character.  Just like no one, imperfect human can represent the whole spectrum of God’s character and image, no one, imperfect gender can either.  There are parts of God’s character that resonate more strongly with me as a woman than they maybe do with my husband.  But, if the only voices we hear are male, won’t we be missing half of God’s heart?  I believe the answer is yes.

True, the Word of God is the Word of God, eternal, unchanging.  But a woman’s voice, a woman’s experience, a woman’s filter brings a different depth than a man’s.  Isaiah 49:15 says, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”   This is God’s love seen through a mother’s eyes.  A man can read this.  He can study it.  He can preach on it.  But he will never, with tears in his eyes, remember the first time his first born latched on.  His heart will never ache, searching his mind for the final time he nursed and rocked his last baby.  How it felt.  How tiny fingers wound around his hair.  How tiny heads smelled.  He has never lived it.  God knows.  And so do mothers.

Would that sermon not reflect a Truth more, well, true coming from a woman?  For BOTH men and women?  It isn’t about OUR voices at all. It’s about reflecting His.

See, my husband and I are raising 2 girls AND 2 boys.  Our fight is for all of them.  And in some ways, I think we as women have a richer opportunity for learning when we sit beneath BOTH male and female teachers.  We hear both voices.  We see a fuller representation of God’s character.  When men are only given the opportunity, are encouraged to only seek the opportunity, to learn from other men, I wonder if an echo chamber theology threatens them.  Is “half the church” cut off from half of God’s character because the other half of the church is relegated to children’s or women’s ministry?

So, first lesson… I believe both genders need to hear from both genders, in some form, to grasp more fully the complete character of God.

Next, my heart is broken as I hear from woman after woman that the world has so much more to offer them than the church.  More opportunities to lead. More encouragement to use their strengths.  More options.  More.

I cannot believe the Bride of Christ is less.

Recently I was chatting with a young couple that had just attended a marriage conference at their church.  They were eager to soak up some wisdom during a difficult season.  When I asked them about it, the husband said he felt like the material was “chauvinistic.”   They both said that the men were encouraged to lead and press into their callings while the women were encouraged only to support their husbands.  While I am a strong believer in headship in a home and traditional gender roles for the most part, I can’t believe a woman’s only divine assignment is to support that of her husband’s.

She doesn’t have a calling of her own?  Maybe even one that is distinct from that of her husband’s or children’s?  What about those women without a husband or children.  What of the empty-nesters or widows?  Nothing for them?

I’m sorry, but that is just not what I see reflected in the Bible over and over.

Ruth, Rahab, Deborah, Jael, Esther, Mary, Martha, Pricilla, Anna….

As Carolyn Curtis James points out in “Half the Church,” it was Joseph whose entire life became about supporting his (very young, pregnant out-of-wedlock) wife’s “calling”. She says, “I am not sure from our cultural context that we can grasp how radically self-denying this was in Joseph’s culture.  It was certainly not the “manly” thing to do.  Joseph doesn’t stop there.  When the angel finally corroborates Mary’s story, he shuts down his carpenter shop, gets behind Mary’s calling, and adapts himself to his wife and God’s calling on her life.”

Yeah.

When I hear that companies in the world are fighting over well-educated, driven women while the church is still fighting internally to make a statement about women, I am discouraged.  A friend who has her degree in theater and has been staging professional productions for years, just told me that though she had served at her church in a similar capacity for some time, when a lead staff position opened up in the department she wasn’t even informed.  The church hired a man from across the country.  I don’t know all the details but it looks pretty strange from where I am standing.  It makes me sad.  She hesitates to serve now.  I get it.

Just like the church should be the biggest advocate for social justice, and political reform, and the orphan and widow… we should have the very most to offer women!  Jesus’ church should always be more.  This has been lesson number two.

The third thing I have learned on these first few steps revolves around the identity statement and job title for women as man’s “helper suitable,” or “helpmeet,” from Genesis 2:18.  The English language has translated the original “Ezer-Kenegdo” into these familiar terms and in doing so, has lost so much of it’s depth and power.  The word “Ezer” appears 21 times in the Old Testament; twice for women, three times for nations Israel asked for military help, and SIXTEEN times for God as Israel’s helper.  In “Half the Church” Carolyn Curtis James points out that “Ezer” is consistently used in a military context.  She concludes, and this feels so right in my spirit, that an ezer is a warrior, a solider, a fighter.  Kenegdo, which we have translated “suitable” is more of “match.”  As in, “Boy, you have met your match.”  After Adam named all the animals, God gave him his match, his fit, his equal.

This feels different doesn’t it?  We are not merely men’s assistants, wives, managers of their homes, mothers of their children.  If this is all Ezer-Kenegdo means, then 60% of women in this country alone have no identity at all, as they are neither wives or mothers.  If it in fact means a co-warrior, a co-soldier, a battle partner, well this story just got interesting.

Why did God say Eve was needed?  “It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a Ezer-Kenegdo for him” (Gen.. 2:18).  To do his laundry?  To snuggle at night? I  mean maybe.  But I think it is not good for man to be alone because we are in a war.  God knew what would happen in Genesis 3.  He knew the battle that would rage for centuries afterwards.  He knew the enemy was coming for our souls.  It isn’t good for any of us to fight alone, to war alone, to solider alone.  It isn’t good for man to be alone in life or in ministry.  We are co-warriors and any man who doesn’t appreciate a woman having his back in this war, who isn’t willing to have her’s, isn’t going to last long.

A couple of weeks ago, a couple of months into this journey, I had the rare opportunity to spend some time with my parents without my husband and children.  I got to play the sole role of daughter for a weekend.   The conversation turned to books we had been reading, the things we had all been studying… and I learned the coolest lesson of all.  My mom is a boss Bible teacher, that I knew.  She has taught a large “women’s” Bible study every week for years.  She and my dad also teach an adult Sunday school class at their church.  What I didn’t know is that TWICE they have left churches because her teaching gift was questioned and the fact that men had the opportunity to sit under her, and were coming, was causing a stir.  TWICE.  I wanted to stand and cheer for my parents!  Instead, I took the chance to tell my mom that I honored her for how brave she had been in paving the way for women who know there is a fire in their bones too.  She didn’t mean to do it… she just had to speak the Word of God to those within her hearing.  AND I told my dad that I honored him for standing up for her, for being secure enough to affirm her, and recognizing the calling on her life as well as his.  To say I am proud is an understatement.

When I got home from that weekend away, Facebook announced one morning that it was #internationalwomensday.  I laughed to myself.  Of course it was.  I see you God.  I am here for this, even if I am a little late to the game.

So, maybe you disagree with some of this.  That’s totally okay.  Maybe you wish I was holding a bigger sign and shouting louder.  That’s okay too.  We’re all on our own journeys.  I just want to talk about it.

And I want to thank the women who have been brave and let their fire out.  It has lit the path for me… So to Kay, Beth, Priscilla, Christine, Ann, Jennie, Jen, Sarah, Rebekah, and my favorite Suz, way to go girls!  I’m honored to even be in the shallow end of this pool with you.

*And to my church, thank you for empowering women the way you do.  Thanks for being more.

 

 

Like it’s my J-O-B

“Mom, you should have a shop.  You could sell oils and Jesus stuff and coffee, and I’ll be the baker,” my 8 year old, entrepreneurial daughter tells me.

This is just one idea out of hundreds my kids have come up with over the years to secure employment for me.  (Our 7 year old son also thinks Daddy should own a bowling alley rather than “go to the office” because what could be cooler than owning a bowling alley?)  It makes me laugh and slightly furious that they think I need a full-time job to keep me busy… Like being their cook, teacher, taxi driver, laundry service, maid, and full time secretary, referee, and counselor is not enough.

I’m sort of tapped out y’all, but thanks anyway.

My husband and I decided 13 years ago, when our first child was born, that I would stay home and we would sacrifice what we needed to live on one income.  And let me be clear, at the time, that income was extremely limited and uncertain. The babies came much faster than the raises did but the hard roads of those years and the sacred treasures we found along the way deserve their own space.

For now…

I don’t own a shop.  I don’t sell a thing.  I bring no financial value to the household.  I doubt you’ll find a harder worker than me — the hats I wear are endless, as every SAHM knows, and my husband assures me I’d be “expensive to replace” (um, thanks?).  I have plenty of work but no pay.  But let me tell you about my J-O-B.

love like its my job

It’s Prayer.

More specifically, it’s prayer for favor over my husband’s job.

That is my contribution and I believe it is every bit as valuable as any bottom line you want to show me.

It’s February which means the twinkling lights of Christmas have been replaced (or not, whatever, don’t judge me, I like them) with hearts and ads for over-priced roses.  My hubs and I aren’t great at it, though he has always been a better gift giver than me.  But the way to my heart will forever be a cheese plate, hotel stay, and spa visit and that is a little hard to come by on a Wednesday night in the middle of basketball practices and little league try-outs.

So what I’ll give him this year is the same thing I give him everyday.  It may not be sexy but I know it is effective and powerful.  As he goes out into the work force to provide for our family, I pray for him like it is my job.

Do you know the story of Obed-Edom from 2 Samuel 6?  It’s crazy and a little scary but I have a point here so stay with me.

David has just been crowned King of Israel and, after a couple of key victories in battle, he decides it is time to bring the Ark of the Covenant to its permanent dwelling place in Jerusalem.   The Ark was more than just a sacred symbol to the Israelites.  It was the place the actual glory and presence of God rested.  Things were different before Jesus (understatement)!  The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament days was selective and temporary, meaning that it wasn’t available to everyone all the time.  David wanted the Ark near because he wanted God’s presence near.  But there were ancient rules about transporting the Ark.  Only the priests could carry it on poles and everyone else was supposed to stay about a thousand yards away.  These laws were a sobering reminder of God’s holiness in light of the Israelite’s sinfulness.

But high on victory and anticipation of a new reign, David and his men decided the rules did not apply to them.  They put the Ark on a cart pulled by oxen and headed to Jerusalem.  When the oxen stumbled along the way a good ‘ole boy named Uzzah reached out to steady it.

AND WAS STRUCK DEAD.

God is not messing around.

It says in 2 Samuel 6:8 that David was, “angry because of the Lord’s wrath,” and in verse 9 that he was “afraid of the the Lord that day.”

No kidding.

So, he decides the trip stops there.  Too risky, I guess.  Or too much trouble to follow the rules.  2 Samuel 6:10 reads, “He was not willing to take the Ark of the Lord to be with him in the City of David.  Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite.”

And watch what happens…

“The Ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the Lord blessed him and his entire household.”

The Lord blew the doors off of Obed-Edom’s life with blessing.  He blessed his wife and kids and extended family, his work, flocks and crops, his entire household.  In fact, the blessing of the Lord was so obvious and profound that word got back to King David and he decided that following the rules and risking the wrath of God was worth it.  He went back to Obed’s home and did what he had to do to bring the ark to Jerusalem.  Why?  He wanted the blessing!

Let me ask you?  What had Obed-Edom done to deserve the blessing and favor of the Lord?

Nothing.

All he did was live in the same house with the Ark, where the presence and glory of God resided.

Ladies, this Valentine’s Day, just call your man “Obed-Edom.”

You see, after Jesus came and then ascended, He sent His Holy Spirit to indwell in each of His followers.  In John 14:16-17 Jesus says, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever- the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him or knows Him.  But you know him for he lives with you and will be in you.”   We also read in 1 Corinthians 6:19′ “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? “

Now we are the place the presence and glory of God dwells.  We carry it with us wherever we go.  Just as Obed-Edom was blessed by the Ark of the Covenant dwelling in his home, your husband, his work and his company can be blessed by the nearness of God’s presence through you.

So we pray.  We pray for favor over our husband’s lives and health and work.  We don’t look for formulas, we express faith.  Learn about prayer, read about it, study different forms of prayer, by all means get a pretty prayer journal… but never let any of that take the place of actually PRAYING.  There are no guarantees.  Prayer will always carry with it an essence of mystery.  It cannot be more about results than relationship.  But I will tell you, God is faithful.  My husband has been granted favor and opportunities his degree and experience should not have afforded him.  He works with people of high integrity in a slimy world.  We have always had what we needed.  And best of all, he loves his job and his people.  Maybe all of that is coincidental, maybe it’s all luck and hard work.  But maybe it’s God listening to a wife’s prayers for favor over her man and his career. It’s not my job to figure it all out… it is my J-O-B  to obey and pray.

So today I am giving you two tools I hope will be helpful as you pray favor over your man like it is your J-O-B.  First, I have put some of my favorite scriptures to pray over my hubs in prayer form.  Praying Scripture is POWERFUL (I will never stop beating this drum)  but sometimes we skip over treasures because the language feels strange.  I hope these cards will make the verses more accessible as you “Ark of the Covenant” of your own Obed-Edom.prayers over husbands jobNext I have put the same verses in note form for you to give to your husband this Valentine’s Day and for the days to come.  I believe it is a gift for them to know they are being lifted in prayer by their wives.  I believe they will have a new confidence knowing the blessing you are calling down over them as they head out to the office or bowling alley.  Stick them to his mirror, in his wallet, on his dash, by his coffee mug… You house the Spirit and presence of the Living God and your man is blessed by it!notes of blessingSo whether you are a SAHM like me, or pound the pavement of the workforce right next to your man, the one thing you can bring to the table is prayer.  Get after it like it is your J-O-B.

Happy Valentine’s Day from my Obed and me to you and yours!

 

 

A Spark and a Bridge (Part 3)

A Spark and a Bridge Part 3

To Bridge: to make a way, to join, to connect, attach, bind unite

Be a Spark and a Bridge….  Those are the words I felt God give me as perimeters to all the other things the world would shout at me to be, to do, to accomplish in 2018.  A spark, even a small one, can light a great forest on fire (James 3:5).  An inspiration, even a small one can light a life on fire with passion.  So I have found the few fires that burn within me, and have committed to throw my spark.

A Spark and a Bridge Part 3

But sparks can be thrown from afar.  I have received sparks of inspiration from books I have read, testimonies I have heard from a stage, lives I have respected in history.  I bet you have too.  A spark cannot be held.

A bridge, on the other hand is solid under my feet.  It is trustworthy, for if it were not it would not be a bridge.  It is built and it is present, step by step.  A bridge connects and joins, unites and binds.  A bridge makes a way.

After a spark is lit, after an inspiration has caught in our hearts, do we know the way from aspiration to actuality?  The journey from idea to truth?  From theology to reality?  That journey takes a bridge.  And in my life, those bridges have always been flesh and blood humans that know the way.

When we made our trek to this West Texas town a dozen years ago, we were a family of 4… my husband, me, our extremely vulnerable and bruised marriage, our 1 year old daughter, and our 2 week old son (yep, you read that right).  I didn’t know a soul, but loneliness had been my companion for awhile.  Motherhood twice over in the same number of years had isolated me to the land of survival, but barely.  My soul was emaciated.  And then, by way of the unlikely bridge of an old high school friend of my husband’s, I found my way to an extraordinary group of women.  I recognized the wear of young motherhood in their eyes, but they were lighter than me, freer, bolder, connected.  I decided in the first 5 minutes that I would never let them go.

Very early on, while I was still wading in the extreme shallow end of these relationships, we sat in my living room for a Bible Study, and I surprised even myself when I meekly eked out a prayer request that had been weighing heavily on my heart.

And then Emmy prayed.

See, you just read that sentence as any other… words that conveyed information like all those before.  But within those 4 words, my life changed.  Dramatic?  Maybe.  True?  Absolutely.  I don’t know what to tell you…  I had never heard anything like it.  The passion, the authority, the authenticity, the familiarity…It was like prayer was the air she had been breathing all her life and asking for a miraculous healing was the most natural thing, the most logical thing she had ever done.

I did not know this scripture then, but I know it now and it is all I can use to describe this moment in my life: “For the Kingdom of God is not in word but in power.”  I Corinthians 4:20.  See, I had lots of words and I knew The Word, but I had never seen this kind of power.

And I wanted it.

This new friend of mine (please read “almost-stranger-in-my-living-room”) was no different from me, it appeared.  She was a stay-at-home mom just a few years further down the road than me.  She did the laundry and fed the Cheerios, and fumbled in marriage, and got frustrated when the toddler poured the water out of the bathtub by the cupfuls.  But when she opened her mouth that night, I knew there was a definite chasm between the two of us.  Not a shameful, or lonely chasm, but one that beckons to more.

A spark was lit in me that night that burns still.  A spark for prayer and the presence of God’s power in my life and in the lives of my family.  A spark lighting the authority we have in Christ.  A spark for wanting to see- no EXPECTING to see-the miraculous in our day to day.  A spark for an authenticity and familiarity with the God of the universe I had never known.

And if Emmy had walked out of my living room and life that night, that spark would have been lit still, and been real, and life-changing.  But she didn’t.  She took my hand and spent years walking me across the bridge of my reality to her’s. She was the bridge in fact… steady, trustworthy, strong.  She showed me the way, in word and deed.  I watched her life, her relationships, her passions.  I listened to the heart behind her “yes’s” and “no’s.”  I followed a few steps behind as she pursued Jesus in a way that was new and scary and unsure.  But she wasn’t scared or unsure.  She knew the way.  She wasn’t perfect, but she was the flesh and blood picture of where I wanted to get to in my apprenticeship to Jesus.

In I Corinthians 11:1 Paul says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”  Does that feel audacious to you?  Make you feel a little twitchy at all?   I mean shouldn’t our eyes only be fixed on Jesus and nothing else?  Shouldn’t He be enough?  Of course He is our one and only Lord and Savior.  But this is how He does it.. It’s how it has always worked.  Flesh and blood examples a few steps in front of us.  Bridges from where we are to where we want to be.  From who we are to who we want to be.  Paul was.  Emmy was.  Am I?  Are you?

The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19 says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations….”  In other words, “Go. Be a bridge from them to the Father.  From theology to reality.  From ideas to truth.  Go take hands and lead them from there to here.  Bring them to Me.  Let them follow you as you follow Me.  Show them.  Be a bridge.  Bridge the gap.”

If “calling” boils down to  finding the fire that burns within and throwing your spark, maybe making disciples is simply bridging the gap between Christ and those a few steps behind us in our journey.

So I pray I am that for someone out there, someone close to me.  I pray I have the chance to take a hand and walk someone across the divide.

How about you?

Look around.  Is someone looking in closely to see how you mother, how your family functions, desperately wanting the same?  Is there someone looking at your marriage, your community, your friendships, the way you handle the grind of everyday?  Has someone asked what your prayer life looks like, what you are reading lately, to walk her through a study?  She is begging you to bridge something for her.  Be the bridge.  Take the time and take her hand and lead her to Jesus.  Have the guts and the character to join Paul in saying, “Follow my example as I follow Jesus.”

So, 2018 I am coming at you with a Spark and and Bridge.  I pray to inspire and promise to stick around and join theology to reality wherever I can.  It is simple, yet weighty.  A Spark and A Bridge.  Who is in?

And Emmy, I love you.  I am forever changed because of the bridge you were to me.

 

A Spark and a Bridge (Part Two)

A Spark & A Bridge Part 2

“Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small SPARK.”  James 3:5

In his book, “Chase the Lion,” Mark Batterson says this; “I have a theory; your favorite scripture will become the script of your life.”  That feels pretty weighty to me although I don’t disagree with the theory, in theory.  I like the focus it presents.  It’s like the “one thing” verses, the 3 point sermons, the 5 easy steps… It feels like the narrowing in on guidelines while the rest of the world shouts a thousand things I should be doing, be being… a sieve to shake my life through.

I don’t know that I will ever commit to a favorite scripture for life.. Specific verses are like beautiful words and new books, I love them too much to forsake all others.  But, as 2018 has landed on my doorstep, ready or not, I have found my way to James 3:5.  It boasts my first word for the year, and even uses and adjective I can get my heart around in the early morning hours of the New Year.  A SPARK.  A small one in fact.

In the context of James 3, the small spark is in reference to the tongue, and not in a positive way either.  The very next verse says, “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil…” (James 3:6).  Yikes!  So this scripture is saying that much can be burned down and destroyed by the tiny flames a careless tongue may throw.  Obviously, we know the truth in this.  There is not one of us that doesn’t bear the scars from such a burn.  And let’s be honest, we have all thrown a few flames ourselves… kindled a few ugly fires with our tongues, our words.

But I love the redemption Romans 5:20 promises; “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.”   If a tiny spark can be used to burn down, to destroy, how much more can a fire of inspiration, of hope, of grace be started by a spark just as small.

Does the idea of finding your calling intimidate you?  Worse than a word of the year even, a favorite scripture for life?  I have shared my own journey to my “Open Door Calling” here before… how I have found it not to be the crossing of a chasm from uncalled to called, but just through the next door that creaks open before you.  Even still, sometimes I have walked through that door into a space crowded with others, voices louder, testimonies stronger, words wiser, lives neater, and wanted to turn around and walk right back out.

What is my part to play?
Be a SPARK.  Even a small SPARK 

(Click on the image to download an 8×10 Print)

A spark is; “anything that activates or stimulates; an inspiration or catalyst, to send forth gleams or flashes, to kindle, animate, or stimulate.”

A spark inspires, even in a tiny way.  It starts something in you that may just build into the great fire of your life.  And we have all been given sparks… places we feel passion, things we are better at than our friends, natural abilities, subjects we just can’t get enough of.  The Bible calls these gifts, and tells us that each child of God has some.  When we use our gifts for the kingdom of God, modern Christian culture calls this Calling.  So what if a Calling could really just be a small spark?  Does that feel like less pressure?

See, we have crushed ourselves with the expectation of Calling… it feels like committing to one verse forever…like picking a major in college… like choosing a career path- and sometimes it is.  But gifts were not meant to be given with crushing weight behind them, like cannons blasting through our lives… Gifts were meant to be shared.  What if it was as simple as a Spark?  Even a small one.

Let me tell you a few things I will never spark in your life, never provide inspiration for: healthy eating habits, anything financial, really precious mothering, simplified/minimalistic living, anything to do with business, and SO SO SO many other things.  Those are all great things, good passions FOR SOMEONE ELSE.  I cannot spark that in anyone because those fires do not burn inside of me.

A few things I pray I spark in the people the Lord brings into my life:

A love for the Word of God.  I just love it with my whole being.  I don’t just write that because it is the good Christian thing to write, I genuinely love it.  It feels like a giant cheeseburger to me… like I can’t wait to get my mouth around it, I’m hungry for it, I need it to fill me (see what I told you about the healthy eating… I said cheeseburger!!!).  I want to study it and talk about it.  I have realized after years of doing life with other wonderful, godly women, not everyone just naturally feels this way.  They can grow in the discipline, but the fire doesn’t bun as freely as it does in me.  I know that this fire was first sparked by my mother who fans the same flame.  She inspired me, and now I know that part of my “Calling” is to “send forth gleams or flashes” from my fire to yours.

Gathering people in my home.  I love it so much.  I can throw a party with my eyes closed.  A late night around my table with good humans, decent food and wine, lots of cheese, and great conversations are what my dreams are made of… except not just my dreams.  It’s what Friday night was made of too.  My house is not always clean, my table is too crowded, I’m not the greatest cook… but my door will always be open.  Usually there are 20 kids running around interrupting the adults, a dog escapes, and on Friday night the garbage disposal gave out before the spaghetti dishes were clean, but there was laughter and belonging.  And magic happened as we shared old stories with new friends, and new stories with old ones, eventually (always) ending up around the fire pit in the yard.  That’s not by accident.  My husband and I know that our Ranchito, our home itself, is a spark we are to use to light inspiration for community and relationships, and S’MORES whenever possible.  My Nannie’s spark burns on in me here, the spark of hospitality.  Her parties looked a lot different, a lot prettier and were a lot quieter.  An Australian shepherd never stole the ham off the counter at her house, but it is her flame that burns on just the same.  See, years after she is gone, thousand of miles away from her where she set her perfect table I can take her spark and light the lives of many.

I can reach down within me and light a torch for marriage restored.  That is my story so that is my passion.  God will honor obedience.  He can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).  He is in the business of restoration and it is worth it.  18 years in and I can tell you that no matter what, it is worth it.  It’s never too late and it’s never too far gone.

One more spark I can give you from a fire deep within me; I seek to always honor the childhoods of my children.  It’s never going to get too serious around here; not grades, or sports, or achieving much of anything but a good time and a kind heart.  Why?  BECAUSE THEY ARE KIDS, and in a culture that wants to steal that from my children’s generation at an earlier and earlier age, I will be the gatekeeper for childhood here.  I will wrestle “testing” and expectations and often my own pride because I really do believe kids with kind hearts who know how to have a good time will be better off than the hoards of little league select stars and straight A students in the long run.  We will buy go-karts and footballs before we buy gaming systems.  We will always say yes to friends walking home from school to have a snack at the picnic table, to forts in the pasture, and another pet.  We will forever add one more family to the pool party invite, and come visit the “mud pie shop” in the backyard because childhood is holy and, on my watch, it will be honored.

That’s really not so many sparks.  There are fires I wish I could sit around that I am not a part of, that aren’t mine.  I know those that are mine, and now you know them too.  It is my job, my calling if you will, to give you what I have, only what I have, and maybe inspire a great forest fire in someone else’s life. Fires always start with sparks.  So, be a spark.  Be a small one.  Look inside, name your fire… and then throw your spark!  And do the work of gratitude and recognize those who first lit the spark that burns in you.  I would love to hear their names.

Sparks are one thing.  Bridges are something entirely different.  I hope you’ll join me next week for Part 3 as we cross a few together.

A Spark and a Bridge (Part 1)

A spark and a bridge

For last year’s WORDS belong to last year’s language and next year’s WORDS await another voice.”  T.S. Elliot

Have you found it yet?  This year’s voice?  It feels like a lot of pressure, like a lot of weight.  And it comes so fast… before the last of the Christmas mess is cleaned up, before the leftovers are gone.  Red and green are traded for glitter and fireworks and a thundering demand to “be intentional, set goals, tackle the New Year” blasts over “Old Angzine.”  SHHHH 2018!  I’m still in my Christmas jammies….

We all know that New Year’s Resolutions are SO  2015 and now we are to declare our “word for the year.” And listen, I am here for that!  You know how I love all the words so that is enough to get me out of the Santa flannels pronto!  Therefore, as all good bloggers do in January, I will share my word of the year with you today.  But, here is the thing, I have two, because OBVIOUSLY I do.  And they aren’t brand new.  And they aren’t just words.  They are the filters God gave me as I desperately circled the drain of exhaustion and disillusionment back in the Fall.

Do you ever feel like your voice gets lost?  If so many others are living your exact life, only better than you, why try?  If so many other’s are closer to the calling you thought God put on your heart, what’s the point?  When the to-do’s and demands feel overwhelming, do you find yourself longing for clarity… for ONE THING?  I’ve always been attracted to the “one thing” verses in the Bible, the 3 point sermons, the “5 easy steps to _____.”  I suppose it’s because I don’t ever feel the luxury to focus on one thing at a time in my “real life,” 3 points always end up being 27, and there are no easy steps.  There are good steps, yes, but they are never easy.

So this is where I found myself, so many balls in the air I was dizzy.  Opportunities coming my way I had prayed for, and yet the laundry still needed to be done and groceries bought.  Was there room to be the old me but do new things?  Could I be faithful to old roles and forge new territory?  To do the things that made my heart sing, and do the things on my to-do list?  Was there room?  Was there time?  Is there ever?  Currently I am reading “Chase the Lion” by Mark Batterson and “Chasing Slow” by Erin Loechner.  Can I do both?  Chase a lion and chase slowness.

What divine rhythm does God have for me?  What divine rhythm does He have for you?

Dizzy I tell you.

“God, give me my one thing… give me a measurable filter for my days, my yes’s and no’s, give me a grid for my focus.”

Be a Spark and a Bridge.”

A spark and a bridge

Wait, isn’t the saying something about burning bridges?  Don’t sparks = fire which burn bridges?  How can it be both?  How can there be room for both?

Can I tell you something hard.  On the very weekend that my daughter’s hundreds of hours of hard work paid off in a breathtaking performance in The Nutcracker, I said goodbye to the best dog I will ever know.  So I smiled and cheered and checked eyeliner, and then laid on the floor beside my favorite nonhuman ever on her last night and sobbed my eyes out.  See, there is room for both… it’s always a tension.  New and old.  Lions and slowness.  Life and death.  Sparks and bridges.

So, that is it.  When the confetti welcoming 2018 cleared, when I quieted the voices and lies and expectations and noise, when I got up off the floor, that is what I heard.  Be a Spark and a Bridge.  Now, it’s not ONE THING, it’s two.  It’s not my WORD of the year, they are WORDS.  But they have given me a clear window view to my role.  Those signposts point me to what I need to focus on and what I need to let go of.  They are the rumble strips for my attitude and calendar.

I can’t wait to share with you how each of them will (prayerfully) play out in my mothering, gathering, and ministry this next year… I can’t wait to discuss ways we are all called to be sparks and bridges and to pay homage to those who have been that to me. Join me for part 2 and 3? And tell me, at this precipice of a New Year, what do you hear calling to you?  What is imprinted on your heart for 2018?  I can’t wait to hear.