Hospital Blanket

Hillman with his Hospital Blanket

Last month I had one of the worst weekends of my life.

I say that cautiously, knowing that in comparison to what so many have walked through, it was a stroll in the park.  In the end, everything turned out fine and none of us are the worse for wear.  But in the middle of it, perspective seems far off and struggles in the mirror feel larger than they appear.

Part of the heartbreak was how very different the expectations for that long awaited weekend were from the complete mess of reality that unfolded.  You see, the adorable “Save the Date” card had been on the refrigerator for months… and the date was indeed saved!  The wedding was going to be out of town, and beautiful, and the perfect combination of time with friends, and time alone with the hubby.  The in-laws had been informed months ahead that the grandkids would be dropped off for the weekend, and their “Fun Aunt” was even coming to town to ensure, well, lots of fun!  Hubby’s suit to the cleaners, my new dress in the hanging bag, appropriate “alone in a hotel for two nights” sleepwear packed… CHECK!  Everything was taken care of and everyone was happy about it.

And then the blasted West Texas spring wind started to blow.  I mean REALLY BLOW.  In Florida we call those “hurricane force winds.”  In West Texas, evidently, we call that Thursday.  My youngest started having what he calls “rubby eyes,” then the next day it was a stuffy nose, and on the morning we were packing the car, it was a wheezy cough.  I followed all of my “seasonal allergy” protocols and we hit the road.  And he coughed.  And coughed.  And wheezed.  And cried.  And coughed the whole 5 hours to his grandparents’ house.  When we arrived, I sent my husband to the pharmacy to get some vapor rub and I put the little guy in a steamy shower.  Everyone went to dinner and I stayed behind to make sure he was going to be okay before we left for that glorious hotel room alone.  He wasn’t.

When the family got home we threw him in the car and took him to an Urgent Care for a breathing treatment… And then the nightmare spun out of control.  After a couple of breathing treatments, the doctors at the Urgent Care didn’t feel like they could get his O2 levels up enough to send us to the ER in our car SO THEY CALLED AN AMBULANCE.  All of a sudden, I found myself riding the the back of an ambulance with my (rather excited) son, instead of sipping wine in a fluffy hotel robe.  When we got to the ER they said he looked better but they would keep him for a 6 hour observation.

WE WALKED OUT OF THAT HOSPITAL 2 DAYS LATER.

No wedding.  No new dress.  No romantic hotel.  No fancy food.  No friends.

Instead it was a million hours on a hospital cot letting my 6 year old watch The Force Awakens at 2am for the 475th time.  It was the same t-shirt and jeans I had put on to travel in because, remember what I had packed?  It was trying to navigate pharmacies and doctors 5 hours from home.  It was being alone a lot because my husband was with the other kids and my entire support system was far away.  In the end, all that mattered was that my son was ok.  I am so very thankful for the care we received and would have cozied up to Kylo Ren on that cot for another decade if I needed to to make sure that my baby was well.

In the middle of it, though, everything felt out of my control… and my emotions followed.  Out of control.

When we made the quick decision to go to the Urgent Care that night, we didn’t change our little guy out of his PJ’s.  We didn’t even grab his shoes.  The only thing we threw in the car with us was his beloved blankie that his Belle (my mom) had crocheted for him before he was born.  He has never slept a night without it.  Even at 6 years old, I still catch him a few times a day holding it close to his face for a bit of a recharge.  It is tattered and worn.  There is even a hole big enough for him to put over his head so he can wear it like a cape.  When he was about one and I saw this blankie dependency growing, I asked Mom to make another one, in a little more portable size, just in case anything ever happened to the original (you know, like it had to go in the wash)!  Same pattern, same yarn, same colors, same hands making it… and he would have none of it!  He knew a fake, even as a baby.

So, in those first few hours in the hospital when he was scared and struggling, his blankie was there comforting him.  And for the days after that, when he was pretending to be a robot hooked up to the machines, and asking me to send his best friend videos of him making the bed go up and down (and up and down, and up and down), it was there too… like it always is, close at hand, by his side.

He had his blankie, I had my Bible.

Just like my son never leaves home without his blankie, I never leave home without my Bible. I know the app on my phone has the same words and is lighter in the suitcase, but I need to feel the weight of that leather bound book. I need to hear pages turning.  And though this particular Bible is just a year old, because you may remember last summer The Dog Ate My Bible, it is getting worn in all the good ways, marked, highlighted, falling open to the right places.  Just like my son, I feel a little panicked when I can’t get my hands on it, when it is too far out of reach and I need a recharge.  I can wear it like a cape too, like armor.  In the fog of those sleepless hospital nights and days that surely lasted more than 24 hours, I honestly cannot tell you what verses I read, but it was there, lending me comfort.

Over the last several years, I have cultivated the habit of writing the Word daily.  I have always loved to copy beautiful words.  The physical act of applying pen to paper helps solidify the spiritual act of applying truth to my heart.  Recently I have loved using Lara Casey’s Write the Word journals for this practice, but I write Scripture on notecards, on chalkboards, on mirrors, in the margins of books as well.  For me, it is grounding-first thing in the morning most of the time- to look up a Scripture, read it, write it out, re-read it, pray it, and then leave that sacred space with it on my lips.

I know Jesus is more than words on the page.  He Himself said in John       5:39-40, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life.  These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”  Jesus is life.  Jesus is alive.  He is dynamic, moving, loving, beckoning.  He is a person to have a relationship with, not just read about. And that relationship can be fostered and grown through spiritual disciplines and practices of all kinds… prayer, worship, fasting, service.  But the Word of God is foundational.  I know Him because I know it.  I spend time investing in this, the principle relationship of my life, when I spend time in those pages.

And that discipline, that resolve to dive deeply into the Scripture, that desire to be completely familiar with and transformed by those words… it comes before.

The commitment comes before the ambulance ride, before the diagnosis, before the pink slip, before the marriage is falling apart.  The life preserver is much easier to find in the sea of chaos and confusion when you have had it hanging on your boat for years…. when you recognize it for what it is- your life saver.  I think of Daniel, when he and the other captives were taken into Babylon.   I think of his resolve and I am inspired and convicted by it.  Daniel 1:8 says, “But Daniel  resolved (purposed in his heart [NKJ]) not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.”  I am sure it was much easier to make that commitment before the rich fare was placed in front of him.  His resolve strengthened him in his hunger and temptation.

My resolve to physically open my bible and apply pen to paper daily strengthened me in that hospital room.

It did not change my circumstances.  It did not magically transport me to the wedding I was missing or stabilize my son’s breathing sooner.  But it was my comfort.  It ushered in the familiar presence of Jesus to that cold hospital room.  Not only the words but the act of searching for them, the process of writing them. It was my hospital blanket.  My Bible.

Where do you go for your comfort?  Your phone?  Netflix?  Amazon?  Another person?  Pizza?  Wine?  Everyone of us will need a hospital blanket at some point, when our emotions are frazzled and our brain is foggy…  when life throws us a curve ball and we are crushed by disappointment.  What will ground you on those days?  What will pull you back?  What will be the most natural thing to reach for?

We must purpose in our hearts to be women of the Word before.  Every day.  In the mundane as well as in the crisis.  It is not about checking boxes or legalism, it is about resolve and strength and transformation. It is about getting to know Jesus and recognizing His face and His arm around us in the darkest of days.  You will find Him in His Word.  Touch it, read it, speak it, write it, feast on it, wear it, keep it as close as my son keeps his blankie.  It won’t let you down because He won’t let you down.  Resolve before. Resolve today.

 

Immeasurably More

Immeasureably more

I was honored to share a very personal story over on the TBarM Camp blog last week… a place we dearly love. Whether you are a “camp mom” or not, know that God hears your prayers…

Has God ever just knocked your socks off?  Has He ever come through in a way so personal and unexpected, you just had to laugh? We know we have a faithful Father, but sometimes He is just immeasurably more. 

I am a praying momma. I boldly approach the throne of God daily on behalf of the 4 children we have been entrusted with (Hebrews 4:16), not because I am spiritually strong, but because I am full of weakness. Prayer is my biggest parenting tool, without a doubt, because I find myself lacking wisdom (James 1:5) with each new stage and season. Anyone else? 

So, a couple of years ago I found myself pleading with God for specific requests for my 2 “big kids” over and over during their school year. My 10 year old daughter was going through a “less than kind” stage here at home. Everyday, with every interaction, every time she left the house I would ask the Lord, “Please, please make her kind.” Her 9 year old brother seemed to be having a few issues with self-control, as 9 year old boys tend to have. Every night we would pray together for the Lord to help him have self-control with his siblings, with his reactions, and in his classroom. By the time summer rolled around, and the schedules and demands of life melted in the Texas heat, I relented a bit in pounding on the throne room room. The stakes don’t seem as high in the lazy days of June for some reason. And then we dropped those big kids off at Sports Camp Session 7…Hope on over to the TBarM’s blog to read the rest.Ryden Kids at TBARM

Fish, Trees, and Courage

Fish, Trees & Courage

It’s that time of year where summer is coming faster than you thought was possible and this has been on my heart a lot again lately.  It may be a different team this year and a different Ballet, but my heart finds itself in the same place…

The end of the school year push is upon us and the crush of it is almost unbearable.  Though I can see the summer light at the end of the tunnel, the path to get there is so fraught with projects, performances, tournaments, and tests that I may never reach that lounge chair by the pool.  Currently my four children are involved in T-ball, baseball, soccer, art, track, and a huge ballet production.  I am morally opposed to my own family’s schedule.  Every morning before the Hubs leaves for work we have to form such a precise game plan for the afternoon and evening that I want to get back in bed before the day has even started!

cleats and ballet shoes

Last Saturday morning I had to laugh at the absurdity of it all.  When we broke it to the 7-year-old that it was time for the sleepover with her bestie to come to a close and to don her shin-gaurds she pitched a huge fit because, obviously, she “hates soccer” and “never wants to do it again!”  No amount of reminding her that she was the one who had asked to play this season mattered.  About the time my hubs had reached his cheerleading limit and began yelling, the 11-year-old came in, leotard and tights on, hair in a bun with the exact 8 bobby pins required.  She proceeded to follow us around and remind us of the time as each minute clicked by.  No amount of reminding her that she has never been late for a rehearsal mattered.  So, my hubby began yelling at her for being too obsessed.  See?  We were frustrated with one because she didn’t want to go and frustrated with the other because she couldn’t wait to go….  After dropping the ballerina at the studio (30 minutes early, obviously) we drove to the soccer park with #8 and her two (thrilled) brothers in tow.  We waited in line to pull into the parking lot for 10 minutes and then drove around searching for a parking place for another 5.  Finally we get everyone unloaded and headed to field #17 to find the rest of the Heroes.

As I looked around at all of this I had this thought: “What if our grandparent’s generation could see this?  What if a family from a third world country fell in the middle of Butler Park right now?”  All around there were families carting wagons full of chairs and coolers and  fancy organic snacks.  They were toting crying children dressed in expensive soccer gear, hair fixed with huge color-coordinated.  Grown men were dressed in hot pink team shirts “coaching” 4 year olds in “drills.”  I just thought, “really?” This is how ALL OF THESE PEOPLE (myself included) are spending their day off?  I wonder how much $ is tied up in all of these tiny girls who are laying on the ground finding lady bugs and have no interest in soccer.  Really?  They could find bugs and pick flowers for free while I was sitting in the shade on my porch.  All of a sudden I felt duped, like we were mindless robots that had been brainwashed into thinking this was normal, or desirable, or beneficial at all.  Like, what else would all of these hard-working adult people do with a Saturday BUT sit in the freezing cold/ burning heat/ crazy wind and scream/yell/cheer/coach small children kicking a ball?

What are we doing?  Seriously ‘y’all, what in the very world?  Let me say this… I come from a family of athletes.  Both of my parents were college athletes.  2 of my grandparents were.  My father-in-law and brother-in-law were.  My brothers were athletes.  I played team sports. We all did.  I was a collegiate cheerleader.  It’s what we did, what we watched, what we talked about.  It still is.  But, like everything else in this culture, it has been turned up a notch to crazytown.   It seems the age of organized sports is stealing our kid’s childhood, and our sanity as adults.  No, I do not want to get my 10-year-old a batting coach.  No, I do not want to do a travel team for my 7 year old.  Yes, actually it IS my 5 YEAR OLDS first time to EVER play.  Seriously?  Crazytown.

Take a detour with me for a moment off the road to Crazytown….. Mamas, do you have a strategy for praying for your children?  Like do you hear these parents say things like, “I have prayed for my child’s spouse every day since conception?”  Really?  Have you really?  Or, “I pray for each of my children’s friends by name daily.”  All of this had me feeling a little behind the eight ball with my 4 kiddos growing up and going out into the world in front of my very eyes.  In the midst of my discouragement, I felt like the Lord dropped a plan into my heart that works for me.  Ready?  I’ll share…. I got a journal for my hubby and each of my 4 children.  On Monday I spend time in prayer for the Hubs…. write scripture I am believing for him, things I am thankful for in his life, petitions I am praying for him, etc.  Tuesday I do the same for kiddo #1, Wednesday is kiddo #2, Thursday #3, Friday #4.  There are seasons that I have filled pages and hours over certain behaviors, teachers, friends, heartaches, etc.  There have been seasons that I have had the luxury of praying for that future spouse because there are no pressing issues.   And, to be completely transparent, there may be certain children that fill up more pages in that prayer journal than others.  I may have a certain child that things don’t come as easy for…. I may have a certain child that I have cried more tears for, stressed over parent/teacher conferences about, held my breath at sporting events for more, prayed so so so many prayers about.  Maybe.

Let me tell you a little about this certain child.  This child has the kindest soul.  This child still yells, “I love you Mom!”  no matter who is around.  This child is a gifted artist.  This child will not go to sleep without me praying over them at night.  This child loves their friends fiercely.   This child can identify a plane in the air by the sound it makes.  This child knows every creature, bug, hole, stick, tree, and mound of dirt on the Ranchito.  This child LOVES nature and being outside.  This child can make me absolutely crazy but has the most beautiful eyes and head of hair you have ever seen.  This kid…. Let me tell you what they don’t give trophies for…. being a 10-year-old who still plays with your little brother kindly.  Let me tell you what will not be on a college transcript… how many birds, bunnies, cats, horny toads, and bugs you have saved in your life.  Let me tell you what doesn’t factor into a little league draft…. loyalty to friends.  Let me tell you what makes no difference on a report card…. hard work and honesty.  Nope.  In this day and age the only measurable successes kids have are how they do in sports and how they do in school. Culture fail.   What we are telling these kids is that how they perform on the field/court/track and in the classroom is all that matters at the end of the day… That is what we award.  That is what we measure.  That is what breaks my heart for certain kids.

I read this Einstein quote not long ago and it reminded me of a certain child:

Everybody is a genius.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Man, I’d like to give my fish an ocean instead of a tree.  Why are there only trees around?

So, back to Wednesday and my prayer journal for a certain kid.  Here is the best thing God ever told me, “I made him just how he is supposed to be for my purposes.  Everything he is good at and loves is for a reason… bugs, airplanes, art.  Everything He is weak in I will use.”  It was as clear as anything I had ever heard before.  So, do I have the guts to believe it?  Can I get off of the road to Crazytown and jump in the water with my fish?  How can I find the balance?  How can I protect them all from the thief of comparison?  How can I fight it myself?  Because, here is the truth…. I like it when my kid is the best.  I like a win.  I like the A’s, the hits, the starring roles.  Am I the driving force behind this?  Are we peddling trees to fish?

I Corinthians 15:41 says, “The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another, and the star differs from star in splendor.”  It sounds like there is plenty of splendor to go around, according to our Creator, certain kid’s creator.  It’s just different.

What is the answer, Moms?  Really, I want to know… I don’t have a cute summary for you here.  I am kinda drowning under all of these activities and expectations on our kids at younger and younger ages.  I know I could take them out of everything.  I know I could take them out of their (part-time) school and full-time home-school them. I know I could buck the whole educational system and “Little House on the Prairie” it. I know I could pretend we lived 100 years ago and shut the whole thing down. That sounds kinda great for sure.  But that’s not my life, my town, my husband, my kids.  Here we are.  All I know to do is to pray hard, no matter what day of the week it is, to believe the best thing God ever told me.. To embrace those qualities and gifts that may not win awards but will win souls one day… To honor kindness and creativity and love above honor rolls and select teams.  To have the guts, here in Crazytown to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18).  What if we all took it down a notch and let our kids fail, let them be mediocre, let them quit sometimes.  What if we had a big ‘ole tree burning session for our fish?  Would it make us bad moms?  Mediocre moms?  Are we brave enough?

So, total confesh…. I have another kid.  It looks like we will be traveling to a different state to get her professionally fitted for pointe shoes (again) by one of 4 “Master Fitters” this summer.  We spend the big bucks on shoes and training.  She will be dancing 7 hours a day, 5 days a week for the whole month of June.  She lives at the studio.  But she loves it.  She eats, sleeps, breathes it.  She watches documentaries and practices and speaks a language I don’t know. She is gifted and has been given great opportunity. I get it Mamas of tree climbers…. I’ve got one too. I’m not judging!  Right or wrong, I’ll make sure she has the tallest, strongest, prettiest tree she can as long as she wants it. I’ll water that tree.  Heck, I’ll hang lights in it if she wants me to. But… sometimes we have fish and they need to know they were created for a purpose too.  I hope you are encouraged today to listen as God whispers some pretty great stuff to you as well as you pray over your certain kid.  Sometimes trophies are overrated.  Sometimes A’s don’t matter so much.  Sometimes being an okay fish in the middle of a forest in Crazytown is the bravest thing they can be.  Maybe the only thing braver is being their Mama.

 

God of the Margin or Marginally God

God of the Margin or Marginally God

Since I am such a grown-up now, attempting to figure out life On The Other Side of Middle, I decided to take a big jump this year and get an official planner.  Before now, I have only had the Mary Englebright calendar my mom gets me every Christmas… If I was not standing in my laundry room, Sharpie in hand, I literally could not make a plan.  No more!  I ordered Emily Ley’s Simplified Planner and I love it!  Honestly, it takes me back to my childhood love of pretty pens and stickers as I sit down every week and write in everyone’s colors-coded schedules and organize meal plans.  Everyday of this beautiful planner has a blank for each hour starting at 6am and ending at 9pm.  And each Sunday, my Type-A personality resists the temptation to fill them all in.

The Lord had been teaching me a lot about margin lately.

All I asked for for my 40th birthday was Space and Silence… like monastery style space and silence (and a puppy!  Do those things feel contradictory?  Whatever!  Stay tuned, by the way, on the puppy front).  Anyone else?  Psalm 118:5 says, “When hard pressed I cried to the Lord and He brought me into a spacious place.”  That is what I find my soul desiring in the grind of life, and the role of ever meeting all the needs for all the people.  Although we live on close to 7 acres here at the Ranchero, I am literally never in a space alone.  You get me, moms?  There is always a child, a chicken, a kitten, or dog underfoot.  I could use some spacious places of the Spirit.  But, that kind of space and silence feels special to most of us, doesn’t it?  Like women’s retreat, girl’s weekend, spa day, romantic get-away with the hubs special… What I am realizing, here in the grind of real life, is that margin is much more attainable.

Margin.  Margin is simply the extra time built into our days.  Listen to me, not just happened upon, because we all know that never happens, but intentionally built into our days.  We have to have some margin in our lives not only for our sanity and well-being, but to do the work the Lord has called each of us to do.

A dear, wise friend once told me that hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit is like driving a car and listening to the radio.  Destination mapped out, we get in, start the car, and turn on the radio.  At first all we may hear is static so we keep pushing the search button or tuning the dial until we begin to hear music above the noise.  The closer we drive to the radio tower, the more “in range” we are, the clearer the signal and music is coming in.  When we begin to get too far away, the static overcomes the voices.  In our lives we should desire to be constantly heading in the direction that we can more and more clearly hear His voice.  We have all found ourselves, our hearts and minds in some static areas, places we can’t hear from the Lord at all, places His voice is drown out by the numbing buzz of routine, and hurt and hopes deferred.  Sin may have driven us out of range, but it may simply be because our agendas are so tight, the course for our day is mapped out in concrete, and we don’t even bother trying to tune in.  Perhaps He has appointed a  pitstop that isn’t on our route.  And my question to us all is this, what are we missing when we don’t tune in and leave the margin to listen and obey?

The idea of tuning in and allowing God to change our path reminds me of the absolutely wild story in Acts 8:26-40 about Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch.  Go read it right now and meet me back here!  Did you do it?  Crazy, right?  An angel of the Lord comes to Philip and tells him to “go south down a desert road.”   Philip listens and obeys and comes upon a carriage carrying a high Ethiopian official.  The Holy Spirit then tells Philip to “go over and walk along beside the carriage.”  Again, Philip tunes in and runs up to the carriage where he hears the man reading aloud from the book of Isaiah.  Philip simply asks if he understands what he is reading to which the man replies, “How can I unless someone instructs me?” and invites Philip up to do just that.  In the end, Philip was able to share the Good News about Jesus, baptize the official in a roadside ceremony, and then get beamed up by God and set on a whole new path!  If there ever were an example of the Holy Spirit changing your plans for the day, this is it!  Imagine that, if when the angel of the Lord had told Philip to “go south,” he had said, “you know, my trip is already plugged in here to my GPS and it is telling me to go north.”  He had no idea why he was supposed to split off from the rest of his group that day and head down a desert road.  He didn’t know what he would find when he ran up beside that carriage.  But what a powerful experience he would have missed if he had not changed directions when the Lord told him to.  His work that day, his ability to tune to the Holy Spirit and willingness to obey took the Gospel to a whole new region of the world!

I know we don’t usually have an “angel of the Lord” visit and give us exact directions, but I believe if we are tuned in, we can hear God’s voice above the static.  Here are some examples from my own life, “Stop the lazy scroll session and send that text to check on her.”  “Give up your quiet lunch at home and reach out to that new/hurting/estranged friend.” “I know you had x, y, and z planned today (it’s even written in the planner) but she needs some encouragement/help with her kids/a meal brought over, etc.”  See, if our days are filled to the brim WITH GOOD THINGS, if there is no margin to change directions when the Holy Spirit tells us to, then we will miss it!  We may miss our biggest calling yet.

If I could live my whole day, accomplish all I have on my to do list, get to my destination by bedtime and never tap into the power of the Holy Spirit, never tune in and hear His voice, then can I really say He is the Lord of my day?  Listen, you may have called on Him to be Savior without ever making Him Lord of your life, your days, your plans, your agendas.  If He is not God of your margin then He may just be marginally God to you.  We need to be intentional about putting margin into our days, and then invite Him in to Lord over it.

So the question is how, right?  How do we find more of this margin, these spacious places in our real lives of jobs, and kids, and laundry, and the grocery store- for the love of strawberries- ALWAYS THE GROCERY STORE!    We like a formula, don’t we?  “3 Steps to Space and Silence,” or “A Busy Girl’s Guide to Margin.”  I get it.  I don’t have that formula but I think I have found some clues.

Psalms 16:5-6 says, “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.  The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”    He alone is what we should be filled up with- our portion and our cup- not our own plans and agendas.  How often do we yield them up, even as we are writing them in our planners?  A secure lot paints the picture of something to keep intruders out, right?  Maybe a fence, a gate, a guard.  The fence around our property and the gate we use to lock out unwanted strangers makes me feel safe.  Where is your lot less than secure?  Where has the gate been left open to intruders in your life.  It may be as simple as our phones… has that ringtone lied to your and told you that it deserves to trample every fence you have put up?  What about boundary lines?  Without boundaries there is no margin.  If the words on a page went from very edge to very edge, filling every space, there would be no margin.  How are your boundary lines?  I expect that for some of us, at least in some areas of our lives and in some of our relationships, those boundary lines don’t always fall in pleasant places.  We live in a boundary-less society, 24 hour access to everyone, to entertainment and distractions, to demands.  If we indeed let our days be filled with Jesus first, keep the worthless intruders out so that our lots are secure, and allow the boundary lines to be pleasant, I think we can find the margin we are longing for.

I believe that ultimately we all do what we want to do.  I believe we will find what we are truly searching for.  If that is Jesus, and spacious places, and margin for Him to fill with His voice and power and will for our days, we will find it.  If it is something to fill every hour of the planner, we will certainly find that too. Is He God of your margin or just marginally God?  My prayer is that God is never marginalized in my life, that I can’t get down a single road without tuning in and adjusting the wheel.  May we be a generation of women who are intentional about planning and protecting our margin and then surrendering it to Him.

What’s Your Scouting Report

scouting report

One of my goals for 2017 is to read through the entire Bible from cover to cover (again). As with any New Year’s resolution, January 1 feels great, right?  “In the beginning..,” creation, and all of that beauty.  Most of Genesis is rather exciting and I have been prayerfully asking the Lord to reveal new truths as I dive into familiar stories.  But in all honesty, somewhere around January 26, which is entitled “Civil and Ceremonial Laws,”  somewhere after the crossing of the Red Sea and the 10 Commandments, somewhere around Exodus 21, I am struggling.  It feels like there are endless chapters on what sacrifice is appropriate for what sin, where the blood goes after the offering is killed (gross), and what bodily fluids make you unclean and for how long (even grosser).  In this chunk of scripture we find the plans for the tabernacle and the priestly garments.  We find each and every teeny tiny little law for life in relationship with God and others at the time, and I am sure that the Israelites found it immensely helpful.  And because I believe that, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correction and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16),” I forge ahead.  (And I am reminded how thankful I am to be living on this side of the cross)!!!  But, at 6am, Leviticus, you are a struggle.

And then, about February 12th and 13th, I found myself in Numbers 13-14.  I could live in Numbers 13-14!     

Let me catch you up a bit in case you haven’t been trudging through the wilderness with Moses and me lately.  God has called Moses to be the unlikely leader of the Israelite people following centuries of slavery in Egypt.  After 10 insane plagues, Pharaoh does in fact “let the people go.”  So they start off on what should be an eleven day journey to the Promised Land of Canaan, the land “flowing with milk and honey.”

In Exodus 13:1-2 we read, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders”   So begins the story of the 12 scouts or spies sent to explore the Promised Land, what they found, what they said about it, and the consequences it held for a nation.  It is breathtakingly convicting to me… And it’s got me asking, “What’s my scouting report?”

scouting report

What is yours?

The command from God in 13: 1-2 is simply to explore the land.  He is basically saying, “Go take a look at what I have already given you, go give it a sneak peak and come back to tell everyone how awesome it is!  Let’s have a pep rally!  You get to be the cheerleaders!”  God does not say, “Go see if we can do it.  Go check it out and see if it’s going to work.  Go form a strategy on how we may be able to take them.”  Nope.  Just “go explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites.”

But in the cosmic game of telephone that we humans unfortunately play with our Heavenly Father sometimes, the command begins to get a bit twisted.  In Numbers 13: 17-20 Moses sends the scouts off with these words, “See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many.  What kind of land do they live in?  Is it good or bad?  What kind of towns do they live in?  Are they unwalled or fortified?  How is the soil?  Is it fertile or poor?  Are there trees in it or not?  Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.”  To be fair to Moses, he is still just asking for the scouting report but it feels like he is beginning to plant some doubt in the minds of the spies. A bit of negativity.  “Is it going to be hard?  Is it going to be good?  Is it going to be worth it?”

My question is this: if it is what God has for you, what He has already given you by His word, His plan for your life, then does it matter?  Does it matter if the people are strong and many, living in fortified cities with poor soil and no trees? Worst case scenario doesn’t change the reality. If this is the land God is leading you into, then this is the land you are heading to.  It reminds me of another conversation Moses had with the Lord earlier in Exodus 33:14 where he says, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”  This is it, Moses.  This is where His presence is going.  He has already given it to you.  Good, bad, or ugly.

I don’t mean to be hard on Moses here.  I get it.  When God sent my little family to this desert town I was asking some of the same questions.  The answers?  No trees, no water, poor soil, few restaurants, no good shopping, further away from all you know.  Great. The first time my husband and I came here for a bit of scouting of our own, I cried my eyes out.  As tumbleweeds hit our car and the constant wind whipped sand all around, I felt myself questioning this land that God had obviously sent us to.  Let me just say that I wasn’t feeling much like a cheerleader at the time.

Back to those Israelites… The 12 spies came back with a cluster of grapes so large it had to be carried on a pole!  At first glance this had to be good news, right?  But then the scouting report comes: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey!  Here is its fruit.  But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large.  We saw descendants of Anak there [giants] (Num.13:27-28).   We can’t attack those people, they are stronger than we are. The land we explored devours those living in it.  All the people we saw there are of great size.  We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them (Num. 13: 31-33)…” said the 10.

BUT, my boys Joshua and Caleb had a different scouting report.  “We should go up and take possession of the land for we can certainly do it (Num. 13:30)”. “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good.  If the Lord is pleased with us, He will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.  Only do not rebel against the Lord.  And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them.  Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us.  Do not be afraid of them (Num. 14:7-9)”. Same land.  Same obstacles.  Same challenges.  Different scouting report.

Why?  Why did the 10 see a land that would devour them, while the 2 declared they would be the ones to devour?  Why did the 10 see giants and the 2 see people without protection?  How could the 10, huge fruit of the land in hand, preach fear while the 2 advocated courage?  It was all in where they were looking.  So simple.  So profound.  So life-altering.

Where are you looking today?  Your circumstances or your Creator?  At all that is trying to devour your peace and joy, or at the Prince of Peace?  Are your human eyes so focused on what you can see that you can’t hear the promises God has spoken to your Spirit?  What are you trusting in?  Your experiences or your faithful Father?  Have you forgotten the Red Sea crossings of yesterday as you look at the giants of today?  What are you saying about your life, your marriage, your kids, your finances, your church, your country, your struggles, your opportunities?  The scouts came bearing the same good fruit, the same possibilities… It was in their words, what they confessed with their mouths that was different.  What are you speaking over your life?

It matters.  

Numbers 14:36-38 says, “So the men Moses had sent to explore the land, who returned and made the whole community grumble against him by spreading a bad report about it— these men who were responsible for spreading the bad report about the land were struck down and died of a plague before the Lord.  Of the men who went to explore the land only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh survived.”  Ummm, whoa!!!

Not only that, because of the faithless scouting report of these spies and the nation’s rebellion in light of them, the 11 day trip to Canaan turned into a 40 year wandering in the desert.  God said in Numbers 14: 33-34, “Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lie in the wilderness.  For forty years-one year for each of the forty days you explored the land- you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.”  Yeah, I’d say it matters.

I don’t think anyone will be struck down by a plague today or die in the wilderness but maybe your calling will, a relationship might, a testimony could.  I do think our faithless words steal blessings not only  from us but from the next generation as well.  I believe my scouting report now could either usher my children into places God wants to take them in the future, or keep them out for years.  Am I setting them up to be devoured or do the devouring?  Defeat or victory?  The decision to either focus on God’s promises or on the world’s problems matters.  I could still be one of God’s chosen people wasting my whole life in the desert of disbelief and fear.  No thanks.  

So are you a 10 or a 2?  Do you see the giants or the fruit?  What’s your scouting report?  It’s a much shorter trip to the promise land when it lines up with His promises!  Let us be Joshua and Caleb’s in a questioning culture.

Well, this town still doesn’t have any water or trees.  The restaurants and shopping still leave a lot to be desired.  I wouldn’t say that it is “flowing with milk and honey,” although I do spy the grapevine starting to come back in the garden.  They won’t be huge but they will be sweet.   Last night, as I sat on my “sunset porch” with a good book, watching the West Texas sky do it’s thing while my children and chickens free-ranged, it felt pretty close to a Promise Land to me.  If there is ever a time when you hear my scouting report not line up with the promises of God, I give you permission to throw a tumbleweed at me.

 

 

My Family Christmas Bucket List

Can you even wrap your brain around the fact that we are barreling into the middle of December like the Polar Express on that crazy mountain?  Although the halls have been decked here at the Ranchito, we haven’t yet had time to press into the “chill” of that mythical December in our dreams.

ryden-christmas-decor

To be completely honest, so far December has looked like a lot of late night Nutcracker rehearsals, confounding calendar meetings, and quality time with no one but Amazon Prime.

It always feels this way, doesn’t it, every year?  We have the best intentions of soaking it all in, savoring every moment,  being completely present, inviting in the magic of simplicity and booting out the unhealthy expectations we put on ourselves… And then 35 trips to the grocery store later,  4 never ending email threads about class parties and teacher’s gifts, and infinite Christmas list revisions from my kiddos and you can just call me The Grinch!  And I want to be Cindy Lou!

the-grinch-and-cindy-lou

I think in this season, more than any other, there is such tension between the doing and the being.

Some of us Pinterest types have really gotten a bad wrap lately.  There is serious push back to anything perfectly planned and pretty.  Fancy automatically equals fake and all to-do lists must be burned at the stake immediately in the name of stillness and authenticity.  And a girl like me, and maybe you too, is left feeling just as much anxiety in letting it all go as she does in getting it all done.

Maybe the magic of Christmas will just land on your home like gently falling snow as you sit by the fire ignoring the grocery lists and emails, but it doesn’t happen like that for me.  The way of  anything left on its own is to unravel.  The way of Christmas with 4 kids, a huge ballet production, countless parties and commitments,  and visiting in-laws left unplanned would be complete chaos.  So here is where I am…

I am being proactively intentional with our Christmas this year. 

God is showing me a lot about my own wiring lately and how He has created me and here is what I know:  I AM A LIST MAKER.  There, I said it.  I like a Pinteresty party and a perfectly planned menu.  I send Christmas cards out the day after Thanksgiving, and every gift is already wrapped and placed under the tree.  What I am realizing is that the shame thing can work both ways, like “reverse shame.”  When we lift the mess up too high, then those of us on the other side feel like our organization and lists makes us less human, less real, and somehow the enemy to fellow women everywhere.  The pendulum has shifted and I am feeling it this Christmas.

family-christmas-bucket-listSo, this holiday season the family and I have made a different kind of list.  We are working on our Family Christmas Bucket List.”   We sat down at dinner one night and I just asked, “What do y’all want to MAKE SURE we do this Christmas?”  Now, in our little town options are pretty limited, but here’s what we have so far:  We will be attending the Living Nativity at the Baptist Church, the hayride through the best lit neighborhood at another church, and the candlelight Christmas Eve service at our own church home.  We will have a sleepover with our besties in bedroom forts.  We will decorate Christmas cookies,  make applesauce cinnamon ornaments, and drink copious amounts of hot chocolate.  We will watch big sister in her 7th Nutcracker and celebrate all of her hard work.  We will also watch every “claymation” Christmas movie we can find and sing all the songs by heart.  We will sit by the fire pit outside and listen to Daddy play Christmas carols on his guitar.  We are loving She Reads Truth’s advent cards at the dinner table and our Jesse Tree readings at bedtime.  We will probably see Star Wars’ “Rogue One” approximately 15 seconds after it is released.  Stuff like that.  The list is on the fridge and we can add to it as new ideas come to us.  I just don’t want to look up in the middle of January and think, “We missed it!”  We were too busy to do the good stuff.  Or everyone just vegged in their rooms so much we forgot to really go out there and embrace it all!  I’m proud of our list!  No shame!

Here is another juicy little tidbit.  The hubs and I are making a “Romantic Christmas Bucket List.”    It is NOT on the fridge.  After all, Christmas is the most romantic time of the year, and I don’t want to miss that either.  But if we are not proactively intentional, we will.  The only conversations we will have will be what to wear to the office party, where to hide the bike until Christmas morning, did you get those new addresses for Christmas cards, and when are your parents getting here.  Not sexy.  When I asked him what he wanted to put on the list via text the only response I got was, “Make out.” No.  But, if you say, “Make out by the fire with Christmas music playing” then yes! We will be watching White Christmas alone, have a hot chocolate and hand holding date, trying out the new coffee shop together, and some other stuff I’m not going to write because my dad has been known to read the blog but you get the idea.

So, list makers of the world unite!  No shame in our game when it brings some proactive intentionality to our Christmas!  You can schedule Selah as well as search for it!  I would really love to hear your ideas on what is on both your Family Christmas Bucket List and your Romantic Christmas Bucket List as well.  Don’t let the inertia of the season, whether it be crazy or lazy,  leave you disappointed come New Year’s Eve.

To help you cultivate the things that matter into your family’s schedule this Christmas season, I’ve created a printable bucket list for you to use. Just click on the image below, print and post on your fridge!

A Word That Matters

Let’s get proactive and intentional with this precious gift of Christmas! Joy to the World Y’all!

Forgetting the Fish and Loaves- An Open Letter to Myself

Dear Me,

We have a few things to discuss.  I’m not sure if this letter finds you at 14, or 24, or 34… It matters not.  What I have to say to you is the same regardless.  I could start if off with some niceities about not worrying about that high school boyfriend (or college boyfriend either).  You get to marry the only one who has ever really had your heart.  And depending on where you are on that journey, let me tell you that sticking it out will be worth it around year 10.  It’s really hard up until then, no sugar-coating it.  But ya’ll will find your way to good.  I should tell you not to believe those old-wives tales… you can in fact get pregnant while nursing.  Yeah, that’s a biggie. Chill.  (he is beautiful)  Hey, don’t go dark with the hair.  I know you think it’ll be low matinence and natural but I promise that magenta is not your color.  So many things to say, but they all end like this:

IT’S ALL GOING TO BE OKAY.

It is.  I know I sound like Mom right now, but trust me (you), she is right.  That thing you are in knots over today, I don’t even remember.  That mountain you are facing right now is merely dust on my boots.  See, it doesn’t matter if we are talking about an algebra test (yours’ or your kid’s), the number in a bank account, or the grown-up to-do list that is full-grown, it’s all going to be okay.

Remember the well-loved miracle from Matthew 14 where Jesus feeds the 5,000 (men) with a little boy’s sack lunch?  Remember the disciples’ concern and confusion when Jesus told them to have the crowd sit down for a picnic and bring Him the 5 loaves and 2 fish?  And then remember how the masses “all ate and were satisfied and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over?”   Amazing.  Supernatural provision.  The disciples could have never guessed how the problem of thousands of hungry people was going to be solved.  But Jesus came through.  And it was all okay.

So what you may not remember is this miracle’s lesser-known cousin just one chapter over in Matthew 15 where, according to the heading in our Bible, Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand.  Now, you would assume that as the crowds began to complain about the lack of concessions at this event the disciples would say something like, “Hey, no problem!  Remember how Jesus fed 5,000 just one chapter ago?!?!  We know how this is going to work out!  Relax everyone, it’s all going to be okay.”  But, no.

Here is what we actually read in Matthew 15:32-33: “Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, ‘I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.  I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”

His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”

Are they kidding me (you)?  These are the same disciples that had just picked up 12 basketfuls of leftovers after a strikingly similar situation IN THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER!!! Obviously, we know their lives were not actually measured in chapters but, seriously, even if it was years later (which it was not), don’t you think they would remember?  Can’t you just picture Jesus throwing His hands up, rolling His eyes, mouth opened at their response?  How could they have forgotten the fish and loaves?

forgetting-the-fish-and-the-loaves
But, this is our problem too.  No matter how many times Jesus has come through for us, we tend to forget the fish and loaves miracles in our own life.  There will be situations, problems, heartaches, trials that you will have absolutely no idea how in the world it will work out, and then it will.

I know the anxiety that haunts you in the middle of the night.  I’m the only one who can, after all.  I know that it feels like a semi-truck you can’t out run.  I know that sometimes you can see the driver {name the problem}, the worry, the fear- and sometimes it is faceless.  Faceless fears are no less powerful.  I know.  And this is why I so desperately wanted to write you this letter, why I so desperately want you to get it, why I so desperately want you to remember the fish and loaves. It really will all be okay.

It doesn’t always look like the unexpected check in the mailbox, or the miraculous, instantaneous healing.  It doesn’t always sound like an audible voice from heaven.  It isn’t always a picnic lunch with more leftovers than you can imagine.  It usually looks like a lot of hard work.  It looks like tearfully taking the same test over and over until you pass it.  It looks like waiting, and self-control, and selflessness, and holding our tongue.  It looks like serving someone else in their hard times and putting our’s on the back-burner.  It looks like obedience in the face of rebellious feelings.  It looks like endless nights standing in the middle of the road to prayerfully face the semi.  Sometimes it looks like magenta hair.

And it will all be okay.

So, past self, hear me.  You will graduate from high school and college.  You did the right thing to wait for, you know.  #worthit  Your marriage ends up pretty great, not perfect, but pretty great.  Your kids are stunning.  Somehow the money thing always works out.  Your home is a ton of work, and you’ll have to suck it up and stick with the ugly tile floors longer than you want to,  but good friends will gather here and no one cares.  Texas will feel like home eventually though Florida will always be your heart.  Mom and Dad will be okay with it one day.  Hug Nannie and Papa for me.  Throw the ball to Zip a few extra times.  It will all be okay.  Not easy.  Not always fun.  But Jesus will come through.  When you have Him, you have the miracle.  That’s the only ending you need to know right now.

And future self, hurl some fish and loaves at that familiar, faceless semi tonight.  Please remind me that no matter the problem, the fear, the situation, it will all be okay.  Supernatural provision is what Jesus does best. I love you.  I’m for you.  You can do it.  Well, He can do it for you.

It Will All Be OKLove, Me (You) (Whatever)

Red-Zone Wisdom

I don’t know if you have items in your home that are in more demand than others, that you can never seem to have enough of, that seem to disappear on a regular basis, but we certainly do.  At times it has been tape.  Good grief, where the heck is the tape?  Scissors.  Why can I never find the stinking scissors?  How is there not one pair of decent scissors in this house?   It has been de-tangler, certain food items, paper, but right now it is chargers.  You know, chargers for the iPad, iPhone, iPod, and Kindles.  In theory each of these devices came with its own charger that went into the room of their owner.  In theory, each charger works and has the little white wall part still intact.  In theory there should be approximately 742 working chargers in this house.  BUT EVIDENTLY THERE IS ONE.  No matter how many trips to Best Buy I make, no matter how many Amazon Prime boxes show up at my house with replacement chargers, there is one working, fully intact charger that makes the rounds all day long in this house.  I have the iPad plugged in in the kitchen to refer to my Pinterest recipe as I am cooking dinner.  I then move it to my bedside table to make sure my phone is charged so that my alarm will wake me in the morning.  At some point in the middle of the night, my husband comes to bed, unplugs my phone, and moves the charger to his side of the bed to charge his own phone.  On Saturdays, I’m ashamed to admit that my 5 year old will often wake me with the question, “Where is the iPad charger?” because he is ready for a little weekend Power Rangers binge.  (Also, if you are wondering, a Beats Pill charger does work for a Kindle Fire, but Good Lord Child, where is your charger?)!

What this leaves us with is a bunch of devices all in the red zone.  You know the red zone.  The warning zone.  The less than 20% zone.  The “you better turn off and plug in soon or it’s going to shut down” zone.  Nothing is fully charged. Ever.

It is about capacity, isn’t it?  These devices only have the capacity to perform fully when they are fully charged.  There is limited capacity and the battery is always decreasing, it is always being drained.  When we are looking at our phones, we can literally watch it.  We can refer to an actual number to tell us what our battery life is, what capacity is still available to us.  47%.  32%.  Uh oh, 20%!  Red zone!  Plug in!  Shut down!  Or maybe you are like me and you push it to 12%, 8%, 2%, because for the love of Amazon Prime I can’t find a charger anywhere!!!

Don’t you wish we had that with ourselves?  With our lives, our sanity, our spiritual and emotional tanks? A little number that flashed in front of us to say, “Hey, warning! You’re battery is low.  You need to shut it down and plug in before you take this on.  You are functioning in the red zone!”  I could use a measurable signal, because just like I push it with my phone, and I tend to wait until the “miles until empty” is in the single digits on my gas gauge;

I function in the red zone most of the time.

I will never forget the day I found out I was pregnant with that little blonde, Power Ranger-watching, tornado of a 5 year old boy.  I hate to admit it, but I was crippled.  I was crippled with the thought of one more.  My oldest was going to start kindergarten in the fall and I was all ready to enter “big kid” world.  I had two others besides to drag with me to all of her school activities and functions.  We had barely put away the decorations from #3’s first birthday party.  Also, 4 kids seemed a little crazy.  I had come from a 3 kid family, my husband had come from a 3 kid family, my mom had, his mom had… 4 seemed excessive.  At the time the only person I knew with 4 kids was one wise, beautiful, gracious friend.  She kindly welcomed me onto her couch that evening, tears, snot, anxiety and all.  And she listen and she hugged me and most of all, she showed me that she was surviving.  And all 4 of her excessive kids were extraordinary.  And she said one of the wisest things anyone has ever said to me.  It went something like this, “Listen, everyone has a full plate.  Some of our plates are just bigger than others.” 

So this is what I know about myself: I have a serving platter sized plate.  It is big.  I have a long battery life.  I have a large capacity for life, people, activities.  Abundant life comes with ABUNDANCE OF LIFE.  Which is a lovely way of saying, A LOT OF STUFF, PEOPLE, SCHEDULES, ASSIGNMENTS, MESS, and DYNAMICS to manage.  And I can do it.  I don’t know if I was born with a serving sized plate or if it grew over the years out of necessity.  Get married and move a million miles away from all you know?   I can do that.  Have your first two babies 13 months apart (a million miles away from help)?  Got it.  Have two more?  Yep.  Part-time homeschool them all, manage 7 acres, keep the house clean, keep the laundry done, host the party, host every holiday, manage every activity, be the mom backstage every performance, shepherd your tribe well, decide what Bible Study we will do next, intercede for those you love, send the email, write a blog, teach a class,  pour into that friend who needs you, have grace when your husband doesn’t make it home for dinner again?  Right.  On it.  Done.  I can do it.  But even my serving sized plate gets too heavy, too full, messy with things falling over the sides.  I can do it, but I’m usually doing it out of the red zone.

Every time one of my tribe has a birthday, we go around on a Wednesday night, while enjoying her favorite dessert, and tell one thing we love or appreciate or absolutely respect about her.  What a gift it is.  A couple of weeks ago it was the birthday of my oldest friend here in this desert town.  There are so very many things I am thankful for in her life, but as I began speaking, this is what came out, “I really appreciate how well you set boundaries.  You know your capacity and you operate from it.  I have seen how well it serves you, your husband, and your kids.  I respect that in you so very much.”  Sexy, right?  I know.  But I sincerely meant it.  This girl does not suffer from FOMO.  She knows when she is run down, when her kids are, when her husband needs more from her therefore “out there” will get less.  She goes home when she is tired.  She says no when it’s best.  She is wise with her capacity and shuts it down and plugs in when she is in the red-zone.  I respect this quality in her so much because, obviously, I tend to be unhealthy in this area of my life.  In years past, I may have looked at her perceived smaller plate and scoffed.  I may have thought, “push through.” I may have felt judged by her boundaries, living exhausted in the margins.  I may have viewed her wisdom as weakness but not anymore…. It looks brilliant from down here in the suffocating red zone.

Just because I can do it doesn’t mean that I should.  Just because I have a serving platter sized plate doesn’t mean I have to heap it full.  My insightful mother once told me simply, “Harder isn’t more spiritual.”  Ouch.  I think that I think it is.  No more.

Shauna Niequist’s breathtaking book Present over Perfect is speaking volumes to me in this area of my life right now.  In the chapter entitled “Happy Medium” she says, “What it seems the world wants me to be: really skinny and really tired.  If I could shrink and hustle, I’d be right there, skinny and tired.  Shrink and Hustle.  This is what our culture wants women to be; skinny and tired, from relentlessly shrinking and hustling.  Exhaustion and starvation are the twin virtues of that world, but I will not live there anymore.”  Me neither, Shauna. Exhaustion and starvation.  Obviously we know what our culture has to say to women in regards to body image, but I find myself starved of boundaries, starved of connection, starved of real rest, continually Searching for Selah, continuing to believe the lie that harder is in fact more spiritual, that I am somehow stronger than the red zone.

You see, I don’t want my life to be merely “do-able.”  I know I can do it.  I can check it off my list and accomplish all the tasks, and run circles around what is expected of me.  But, I think I am past the years of barely surviving.  I am over the red zone, the 8 miles til empty days, the heaping messy serving platter.  I am seeking to pour out into those things which in turn fill me up.  Life-giving relationships, not life-draining ones.  I want my “yes’s” to count, not just out there but in here.  I want the wisdom of knowing my own capacity for things and the strength to operate out of them.

So, back to the original question, WHERE IS THE CHARGER?  Well, that is the wonderful news.  Though there really is only one charger, He is everywhere all at once.  You don’t have to wait your turn or go searching for Him.  Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary (red zone) and burdened (full serving platter) and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Why can I not learn this lesson?)  He is our charger.  I am trying to sit with Jesus more and bring Him my agenda less.  I am trying to literally BE STILL and picture His eyes as He looks at my weary, burdened, red-zoned self.  I am trying to visualize His capable hands removing some of the demands on me- the one’s I asked for and the ones I didn’t.  I am trying to see the love, the energy, the simple life flowing from Him to me.  I am trying to watch the battery charge, the bars grow, the capacity be filled.  It is revolutionary.  It is the simplest thing.  You see, it is not just a shutting down, it’s the plugging in as well.  Not only to the One who charges you, but to the things He is calling you to do that charge your batteries.  It’s not only a cutting away but an adding to.  Necessary no’s leave room for life giving yeses.  Wise boundaries free up the margins for abundance in the forgotten corners.

So don’t be mad at me if I go home early.  Don’t take it personally if I don’t volunteer to host.  Don’t be surprised by some well-prayed-over “no’s.”  I know I will still have red-zone days.  As the holidays approach, I know large serving platters will be needed.  But I will reject the lie that hard equals spiritual all the time.  I will not starve myself.  I will not pursue exhaustion just because I know I can do it.  I will set boundaries that reflect the wisdom of capacity and shut it down and plug in more.  I’m not completely sure what this will look like but I plan to spend the next decade trying to figure it out.  And I’m sorry if I ever judged your small plate.  I’m sorry if I ever scoffed at your red-zone wisdom.  At almost 40 years old, I want to be like you when I grow up.

 

 

 

 

 

Wings and Words – A Revolution

Wings and Words: A Revolution

As I sit to type these words, we are on the cusp of November, and although the temperature here in West Texas is deceivingly warm, Fall is indeed upon us. This is the month we usher in the holidays with all of their wonder and crushing pressure. Make it count. Make it magical. Make it beautiful. Make it delicious. Get it done. But slow down! Enjoy! And for goodness sake, be GRATEFUL!!! Name your blessings. Write them down.

It can be a little dizzying. November feels like the top of the rollercoaster to me. We have chugged and clicked our way through the year, sometimes slowly, some times with a quick turn here and there, and now we teeter on the climax. In the span of the next 60 days we are supposed to cram in a year’s worth of joy, family, celebrating, food, and thankfulness. And I love it. I do. Don’t get me wrong. But, whoosh! And it’s over and we are facing a January, stumbling off the ride, attempting to find a resolution that will settle our insides a bit.

I remember last January, I felt timid as I stepped into the new year. I felt insecure in some relationships without explanation and prayerful for confidence in my own life. I remember clearly feeling as though the Lord spoke to my soul saying, “The courage you need will come from encouraging others.” I guess I wanted my courage to come from others encouraging me, but Jesus likes to mix it up like that, doesn’t He? The first will become last, the poor will be rich, the simple will be wise, the children will lead the way and all of that. So I have attempted, severely imperfectly at times, to become an encourager of women this year. I believe this little blog was birthed from that desire. I have had lots of stumbling blocks along the way. In fact they tend to pile high and form walls. When I look around and see so many others doing that which I desire to do, so much better than I ever could… a cinder block in the wall. When I fail a friend… a cinder block in the wall. When my motives get muddy… another cinder block in the wall. When my walk doesn’t line up with my words… a new cinder block in the wall. And I’m back behind sky-high self-doubt before I know it. As November dawns, I am convicted anew of the courage that it takes to encourage.

 

grateful-pumpkins-and-banners-1November is supposed to be about giving thanks. As a family we always try to set time aside around the November dinner table to name what we are thankful for each night. We have written these blessings on pumpkins to display. We have written them on paper leaves and hug them from a twine banner in the kitchen. This year I replaced my usual fresh flowers with clipped branches from the yard, threaded string through dozens of brightly colored tags and placed them in a mason jar with a pen in the center of our table.

Throughout this month we will name blessing upon blessing and hang them from those branches. All who gather here will be invited to do the same and by Thanksgiving Day it will be bountiful with gratefulness. It is good and right. But, as we began this tradition again last night, I thought that even in naming our blessings, we are selfish. We are thankful for the things we love, that make us happy, that make us feel good, that make us comfortable. I know we are indeed thankful for football, Darth Vadar, tigers, our rooms, our pets, our family and friends….

But, what if we took it a step further this year and made it a month of encouragement?

What if we didn’t just let those blessings hang on the cute tree? What if we wrote letters and texts to encourage the actual people who brought about those blessings in our lives? What if our month of gratitude grew legs and walked right up to someone and spoke blessing over their lives? What if it wasn’t just about us, what makes us feel warm and fuzzy, but it was about others?

Here is a truth I know to the core of my being: NO ONE IS OVER ENCOURAGED.

We are all limping along a little bit. We’re all tired on our own paths, running our own races. I picture this month as a chance to hand a refreshing bottle of life-giving water to fellow weary runners. And each time I find the courage to encourage I will be kicking down one of those cinder-block lies that keeps me behind the wall of my own insecurities. Join me?

Here is my plan: I am going to write the name down of one woman I plan to encourage on every day of my November calendar. There will be friends, and family for sure. I have two little women under this roof that I bet could use a bit of encouragement from their mom. I plan to pray to ask the Lord to reveal women from my past that have been an important part of my journey and find them on Facebook, or in the old address book and put wings and words to my thanks. I am even going to email women who have written books, bible studies, and blogs that have touched me. I cannot assume that just because they are well-known that they are well-encouraged. They are just women running their race and I bet they are thirsty too. I plan to tell each of these women what they mean to me, what their work has meant to me, what I love about them. I pray that the Lord will give me scripture that will be a balm to their weary souls. I intend to declare blessing over their lives, their work, their families.

What if we all did this? Put wings and words to our thanks? Found the courage to encourage each other? What if every person who reads these words found 30 others to pour encouragement into like that much needed drink on our long race?

wingsandwords

I can picture it like countless ping-pong balls bouncing all over our communities, our churches, our country, the internet, Facebook. Bouncing from one weary soul to another to another. And what if just one of those you chose to encourage REALLY NEEDED IT? I mean REALLY NEEDED IT? What if it reaches her right as she was about to fall, to give up, to quit? What if your encouragement is all she needed to take another step?

November is also a month filled with uncertainty in our country this year, isn’t it? It is charged with unrest, confusion, and perhaps hopelessness for the future. This little revolution can’t change all of that but it just may infuse us with the courage we need to face it hand in hand.

So here we go, putting wings and words to our thanks, becoming courageous encouragers. Get your calendar and notecards ready. It just might make the whoosh a bit less terrifying. We may make it to that Turkey dinner, that Christmas morning, that New Year’s Eve refreshed rather than out of breath. Now that would be a revolution, wouldn’t it? Just think… Are you with me?

Click on the image below to download the November calendar and fill in the names of everyone you will ENCOURAGE this month. I would love to hear how our little revolution changes your November!

yl_nov2016_calpost2

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today.” Hebrews 3:13

Save

Well Worn Words

We have a blind dog.  I’m talking completely, 100% blind.  Cannot. See. A. Thing.  Bless her heart.  It is amazing, though, to watch her navigate her surroundings without the use of her sight.  She knows where the water bowl is.  She knows where the doors are that lead out and can find her way back to them when she wants to come in.  She has only gotten lost out on the property once when she followed the sound of me and the other dogs out to the chicken coop and we forgot she had come with us.  She works in 90 degree angles most of the time following the sidewalk, the lay out of the furniture, the doorways.  She has a couple of favorite spots and she can find them without fail.  It’s fascinating to see her begin to lift her paw a bit higher when she knows a step up is coming.  Her paths are well-worn and automatic to her.  But, with 3 other dogs and 4 kids walking those same paths, they are not always unobstructed.  You leave one football on the ground, one tennis shoe on the step, one sleeping dog in the way, and my poor blind girl will trip.  Not only that, she will turn back, now confused about the direction she is heading.  Her paths are well-worn but they are easily altered.

well-worn-words

I am continually convicted of my well-worn words. (I was going to write “I have been convicted lately,” but that’s a lie.  Continually convicted is the truth).  You know the ones?  They come out of your mouth without thinking.  They are your automatic response.  The words you do not contemplate.  The words your mouth seems to find without trying.  I am not simply taking about R rated language here, I am not speaking of gossip or slander.  I am talking about the words you continually declare over yourself, your life, your circumstances without a second thought.

Let me give you an example… Multiple times a day I catch myself saying, “I’m so tired.”  I am so tired.  Am I really so tired?  I mean sure, I get up well before the sun most everyday.  I walk with a dear friend at 6am 3 days a week, I like to spend time in the Word and in prayer before anyone else is up.  And once that first bedroom door cracks open, the day is usually a rush of school, activities, housework, shopping, cleaning, laundry, cooking, more cleaning.  There are animals to take care of and friends to touch base with.  There are parties and events and holidays to plan for.  There are errands to run and phone calls to make and bills to pay.  Sure.  But, that is life.  That is life for most everyone I know.  Yes, by the time the last dish is loaded in the dishwasher, the last little tooth has been brushed, the last homework assignment has been checked, the last story read, I am ready to put my feet up and shut it down.  But so tired?  So tired all day?  So tired everyday?  No, I am not.  It’s a habit.  I assume I formed it when I had 2 babies 13 months apart and never slept for more than 2 hours at a time.  The paths were well-formed.  The grooves were worn deep.  And now I can’t stop saying these well-worn words.  Maybe it is, “I’m so stressed out,” or “I’m so frustrated.”  Perhaps, “I don’t feel good,” or “I’m failing.”  Possibly, “we will never be able to afford ___” or “I can’t get it together.”  I don’t know what your well worn-words are but I do know they have power.

One of the most fascinating studies I have ever embarked on was about blessings and curses in the Bible.  I had never given much thought to the power of words until then, reserving “blessings” for the dinner table, and thinking curses were a little hocus-pocus.  Not according to the Word of God.  Do you remember the story in Genesis 27 of Jacob stealing his twin brother Esau’s blessing?  Their father Isaac requested his last meal from his first-born son Esau, on his death-bed.  While Esau was out hunting, their mother Rebekah pulled her favorite boy Jacob aside and hatched a plan to fool poor, blind Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing that rightfully belonged to Esau.  They pulled a little Project Runway and dressed Jacob is Esau’s clothes, even going so far as to cover his smooth arms and neck with goat’s skin so that he felt like his hairier brother.  The deception ultimately worked and a suspicious Isaac indeed spoke the blessing of the first born over sneaky Jacob.  When Esau returned and Isaac realized what had taken place he said, “I blessed him just before you came.  And yes, that blessing must stand.” (Gen. 27:33 NLT)

Why?  Why must that blessing stand?  Couldn’t he just take it back?  At this point nothing had exchanged hands.  No property been deeded, no signature had been signed.  Just words.  Just the spoken blessing.  But when Esau begged his father to take it back, or at least bless him as well Jacob says, “I have made Jacob your master and have declared that all his brothers will be his servants.  I have guaranteed him an abundance of grain and wine- what is left for me to give you my son?”  (Gen. 27: 37 NLT)  He guaranteed it with his words.  They were binding it seems both in the natural and spiritual worlds.  His words held weight, they mattered, the blessing stood, and it altered their lives forever.

There are stories in the Bible where curses stood as well and an almost endless supply of scripture about the power of words.  Here are just a few to meditate on today:

  • Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.  Prov. 18:21
  • But what comes out of the mouth proceed from the heart, and this defiles a person.  Matt. 15:18
  • There is one whose rash words are like swords thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Prov. 12:18
  • I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak. Matt. 12:36 (YIKES!!!!)
  • For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.
    Matt. 12:37
  • Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.
    Prov. 13:3
  • Do you see a man who is hasty in his words?  There is more hope for a fool than for him.   Prov. 29:20
  • Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth keep watch over the door of my lips.  Ps. 141:3

And on and on and on I could go.  So here is my prayer for myself, and maybe for you too…  I’d like these verses to be the football left in my path.  I’d like to stumble over them as I blindly speak my well-worn words.  I’d like to bump into them, and have to wake up, turn around and recalculate what is coming out of my mouth.  Instead of “I’m so tired,” I’d like to declare, “I’m so thankful.”  Even in my prayers I have well-worn words that may not be what God has for me.  I pray everyday, “Make me strong.”  Maybe He is throwing an obstacle in the way so I will get out of my rut to pray, “make me soft, make me compassionate, let me hear, let me see.”   If words matter and blessings (and curses) stand, then I assume that as I declare over my day, my body, my home “I’m so tired,” I will in fact be so tired.  If you declare that you are so stressed, poor, sick, frustrated, depressed, then I can only assume, with the Word of God as my witness, that no matter what your actual circumstances are, you will in fact be stressed, poor, sick, frustrated, and depressed.

Here is something I have noticed about my poor blind dog’s well-worn paths.  No grass grows on them.  They are dead.  If we stay in a rut for too long it will get deeper and deeper, taking us lower and lower.  No life.  Just dirt.  Are you inadvertently heaping dirt on top of yourself with careless, well-worn, habitual words?  Wouldn’t that be a curse really?

I can study The Word daily, I can boldly use my words to pray big prayers, I can hope to write  Words That Matter and put it out there to all of you, but maybe all of these words get lost in my well-worn words.  Can you hear me from down here in this rutted path?  Evidently I’m the extremely tired one.  (Insert eye-roll).  Habits are hard to break.  They say you can’t teach an old (blind) dog new tricks.  Don’t believe it!   Join me in praying that God lovingly throws an old shoe in our path and stops us short before we keep on speaking those destructive, life-sucking words over ourselves.  They will stand.  A new path might be just what we need!

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.  Psalms 19:14