Celebrate

Celebrate: 2nd blog in a 3-part series Savor, Celebrate, Rest, Repeat.

Welcome to the second stop on our Golden Hour Tour of beautiful words and sacred practices.  This one may be a bit more lively than the last.  I hope there are cards and banners and high fives and parties.   I pray there are gifts and candles and music and laughter late into the night. We move on from Savor to Celebrate.

Celebrate: 2nd blog in a 3-part series Savor, Celebrate, Rest, Repeat.

The older I get, here On the Other Side of Middle, the more aware and angry I become that the enemy of our souls has stolen celebration from the people of God.  This world has robbed us of this gift.  It tells us what is worthy of celebration… it shoves it down our throats and blinds our eyes with the flashing lights of how it should go.  And I suppose if we desire to be a people set apart, sanctified and holy, then we must turn our backs on all the fun.  Right?  Oh, I hope not!

One of my nearest and dearest friends, a steadfast presence in my life for more than a decade, has a slight thing for the Green Bay Packers.  And by slight, I mean full on love affair.  She painted her laundry room green and gold.  She listens to Packer’s Podcasts as she drifts off to sleep (yep, that’s a thing).  She has a cheesehead hat and dreams of trips to Lambeau Field like I dream of trips to resorts and spas.  And she and her husband do it!  They go to the games and brave the cold and choose to spend vacation time and travel money on watching her team play.  She loves being in that legendary stadium with thousands of other Packers’ fans cheering for her boys.  I currently live in the literal home of Friday Night Lights… Let me assure you that the hype is very real.  So what is it?  From PeeWee to the Pros, from football to baseball, to basketball, to soccer, what is it?  Why is it so much fun to go to a game and shout with friends and strangers alike, to jump right into the crazy?  What does this speak to in our spirit?  I’m making the case for CELEBRATION.

My roots run pretty redneck.  Cheesy country music gets me every time and I don’t care who knows it.  I tried to be cool for 5 minutes in high school and tuned the station to “alternative,” but quickly found my way back to George, Trisha, and Martina.  So, when GARTH BROOKS made his way out here to West Texas this past Spring, I WAS HERE FOR THAT!  Being in that arena with my husband, brother, sister-in-law, and thousands of other fans singing every word along with Garth was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.  Why?  It was a CELEBRATION of memories and music, of family and “Friends in Low Places.”

I believe that great concerts, big sporting events, moving movies, beautiful ballets… they tap into something spiritual.  It’s called worship.  It’s called celebration.  See, we were created to be a small part of something much bigger than ourselves… something good and exciting and worthy of all the yelling and singing and high fives in the world.  We were created to do this in community with millions of other worshipers.  When we are in a stadium or an arena or a concert hall and the celebration takes over and we are swept away in the joy and emotion, I think we put a tippy toe into what heaven will feel like.

We all know this can go too far.  I will not belabor idolatry here.  My friend does not worship the Packers.  I do not worship Garth Brooks.  But the very reason it can be a slippery slope for so many is that we were made to be worshipers and celebrators.  When we let the world dictate what we will worship or celebrate, it gets funky fast.  Does the celebration terminate on itself… end right there at the game or with the last song? Or worse maybe, do we turn our backs all together on these little tastes of heaven, deeming them too worldly to partake in, and give celebration up to the world?  Or do we credit a big, fun, creative God with giving us the gift of sports, music, art, and community to share it with?  All this fun was His idea after all!

In the classic devotional “Abiding in Christ” first published in 1895, Andrew Murray writes these incredibly convicting words:

“So there is nothing quite so attractive as JOY, no preaching so persuasive as the sight of hearts made GLAD.  This makes gladness such a strong element in Christian character.  There is no proof of the reality of God’s love and blessing He bestows, which people so quickly feel the strength of, as when the joy of God overcomes all the trials of life.”  

Andrew Murray quote in JOY

Celebration, joy, gladness in our lives will win more souls for Jesus than preaching any day… certainly more than “holier than thou” or “holier than fun” living ever will.  So is it?  Is joy and gladness and celebration a strong element in your life, in your Christian character?  Never underestimate its power.

Let me state the obvious: we cannot celebrate what we do not recognize.  I’m afraid our fast-paced, drive-thru culture has rushed into our faith walks just like it has rushed into every other aspect of life.  We order up a prayer request, a new gift to savor, and by the time we make it to the window we are hungry for something else.  The Bible gives the command to “remember” over and over and over again.  We cannot celebrate what we do not remember.

Has God been gracious to you, even in hard times?  Has He answered just one prayer?  Are you in a different place in your marriage, with a difficult child, in your finances than you were 5 years ago?  Has He illuminated things in Scripture for you that have changed your life, your faith, given you hope where there was none before?  Has He spoken quietly, “this is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21) to you and now your feet are on a different path?  Has He just let the Packers win or granted you some sweet Garth tickets?  All of those things deserve recognition, remembering, and celebrating

In the Bible, the people of God not only remembered, they set up alters when God did a mighty work.  They rolled bolder upon bolder into place.  Their remembering took time and sweat and left sore muscles and a lasting, visible evidence of God’s presence in their lives.  Their celebrating took weeks, and preparation and travel and pause.  They knew, God knew, that they needed those alters and feasts so that they wouldn’t forget because they were human just like we are.  They had kids and jobs and natural disasters to worry about too.  They had a new set of desires every day just like us and they first needed to take a breath, say thank you, and celebrate.  We all need reminders that God was faithful before and He will be faithful again.

I know the hubs would think I was crazy if I started building actual altars around the Ranchito every time God answered a prayer or came through for us… if his weekend “honey-do” list included rolling stones on top of one another.  But I have my own alters.  I have journal upon journal of prayers prayed for my children, my husband, my tribe, myself.  I can go back and celebrate those victories over and over.  When things are tough and I am doubting, I can re-read those prayers and marvel at how far God has brought us.  Those are altars of remembering.  My youngest child sort of came into this world in miracle fashion and his birth was an enormous victory for my faith.  All our kids are special, but his birthday is an alter of remembering for me.  God hears.  This humble 7 acres that I sit and write these words from is an altar.  There is a literal pipe fence around an altar to obedience, and staying when we wanted to quit, and trusting and praying and honoring childhoods and community and messy floors and real life friends.  When my kids ask if I have ever seen a miracle I can open those journals and read them the stories of their God moving on their mother’s behalf, I’ll show them pictures of a crowd of warriors around a birth center bed and a 10lb. 11 oz “surprise,” I’ll walk them around the perimeter of the Ranchito and tell them of His goodness.  Build alters.  Remember.  Celebrate.

And just like there is more to Savor when when learn to enjoy our “lot in life,” everyday gifts, we have more to celebrate when we learn to celebrate others well.  Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”. I think maybe we put the mourning on a spiritual pedestal while giving the rejoicing a bit of a cold shoulder.  How well do you celebrate others?  Rejoice with those who rejoice?  Just like discontent can steal our ability to savor, envy can steal the joy of celebration.

The older I get, the more FOR the women in my life I become.  I am FOR every single one of them running their race, doing their thing, finding their lane.  I may have given this lip-service in my 30’s but I am all in at 40.  I use to live under the cloud of a scarcity mentality.  You know, like there wasn’t enough to go around… Not enough blessing, not enough gifting, not enough calling, not enough Jesus.  Crazy, right?  We serve an endless God and if we believe Jeremiah 29:11, that God has a good plan for each of us, then how can your plan, your blessing, something to celebrate in your life ever steal mine?  It can’t.  Your calling does not lessen mine.  My race isn’t going to cause me to steal your prize in the end.  If I know anything about our God, it is that His character is generous- it is the opposite of scarce or lacking.  When we root ourselves down deeply in this truth, it frees us up to celebrate others well… which ultimately increases overall celebration in our lives, and brings us one step closer to looking like Christ on this earth.

The only way we can truly celebrate others well is by knowing them well… by being a real part in their real story, by letting them into your own, by honoring their vulnerability with your own courage to step out.  Every baby shower is a lovely celebration, but when you have walked through infertility and loss for years with a sister, that’s a whole different party!  The graduation of a friend’s child is exciting, but when you have sat on the floor with her for years praying and crying and believing for favor and maturity for that kid as they have struggled through school, that celebration is a victory!  Marriages restored, business succeeding, callings clarified… All of those celebrations are increased when you have driven a spiritual stake deeply into them.

So have you?  Are you?

Are you connected enough with a few souls, that their blessings, their celebrations feel like your own?  ARE your own?  Have you invited others into your own story, your own life deeply enough that they can celebrate with you when that prayer is finally answered… they can come over and help you roll some stones into place for the latest alter of remembering?

At this moment in history, when there are so many to mourn with, so much tragedy, so much loss, can we, the people of God wave a banner of celebration as well? Can we recognize God’s goodness, remember His works, and reclaim celebration in His name?  I believe it would be a kick in the face to the thief who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).

So, throw another baby shower, host another birthday party, keep someone’s kids so they can toast another anniversary.  Spill out little tastes of heaven everywhere you go. Joy is powerful. Celebration is holy work.

Celebration is holy work!

P.S. Don’t forget to subscribe for a chance to win the “Savor the Season” Fall Bundle, full of beautiful gifts to usher in a moment of HYGGE for yourself and celebration for your people (even if it’s as simple as sharing a yummy cup of coffee over candlelight with close friends).

Savor

Savor: a 3-part blog series on Savoring, Celebrating and Resting

The first stop on our three part series is a warm and cozy one.  There may be a fire in the fire place and a soft, plaid blanket to wrap up in, your favorite sweater, something hot to sip…

SAVOR.

What is the first thing you think of when you read that word?  Savor.  It deserves pause, a slowness all it’s own.  Maybe you think of food, like a savory meal.  Tell me I am not the only one who has gotten sucked into the Netflix series, “Chef’s Table.”  It is the most fascinating look at the world’s best restaurants (like there is a real ranking) and the chefs that have made them so… everywhere from rustic Padagonia to chic San Fransisco.  It tells the story of these innovators, their journeys with food, and their signature dishes.  Some of these meal are unlike anything I have ever seen before.  They bubble and fizz.  They are on fire or frozen inside of layers of something else.  They are simple and beautiful.  It is so captivating to me because, in the end, it is just dinner.  I mean, how many different things can be cooked in the world?  How many different ways can you plate grilled fish or chocolate cake?  After watching a few episode of “Chef’s Table,” I believe the answer is endless.

There are endless flavors to savor in the world.  Endless.  This is the world our God created, full of endless flavors to savor in food, people, seasons, experiences, and nature.

The definition of savor is this; “to give oneself to the enjoyment of; to savor the best in life.”. Does that feel a bit worldly to you?  A slippery slope perhaps?  Hedonistic even?  I get it, but I am here to fight for your right to savor as the people of God… honestly we should be the very best at it.

For wisdom on the art of savoring we will look to none other than King Solomon, the wisest man to ever live.  I Kings 3 chronicles young Solomon’s rise in wealth and wisdom by way of a dream in which God said to him, “Ask for whatever you want me to give to you.”  Wow.  I wish I could tell you honestly that I believe my request would have been as noble as Solomon’s.  Probably not.  But this is about him- not me!  

So Solomon says to God, “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David.  But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.  Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number.  So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.”

God is pleased with this request and answers, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked.  I will give you a wise and discerning heart so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there every be.  Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for- both wealth and honor- so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.”

So, that’s our boy Solomon… the richest and wisest man to ever live.  He was born to King David and Bathsheba as a healing balm after losing their first son as a consequence of their sin.  Though his father David desired to build the temple and the Spirit had put the plans for it in his heart (I Chron. 28), God said that it would be Solomon who would act as contractor for the job.  We fall in love with his hot and heavy love story in Song of Solomon… life is good for this guy.

And then we get to Ecclesiastes, the book Solomon pens late in life, and we read this opening verse: “Meaningless, meaningless, utterly meaningless.  Everything is meaningless.”  Great, right?  It seems that at the end of this very rich, eventful, blessed life, we see Solomon looking back over it and wondering what the point was.  In all his wisdom, here is his conclusion: “Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least that is good.  It is good for people to eat and drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life.  And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it.  To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life- this is indeed a gift from God.” (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 NLT)

Think about the experiences Solomon’s life had been full of… being born into royalty, riches and knowledge beyond anyone’s comprehension, every earthly pleasure known to man at his fingertips… And in the end he says it is good to eat, drink, and enjoy the health, life, and possessions God has given to each of us.  Our lot in life.  He says it over and over:

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil.  This too is from the hand of God, for without him who can eat or find enjoyment?” (Ecc. 2:24)

“I know there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.  That each of them may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all their toil- this is the gift of God.” (Ecc. 3:12-13)

Do you know what the wisest man to ever live is telling you today?  He is urging you to savor your life, to give yourself over to the enjoyment of the the stuff of everyday.  After all, what do we all do every single day of our lives?  We eat.  We drink.  We work at things.  So with each bite, or sip, or task, we can choose to accept the gift that it is.  We can savor our ability to enjoy the simple things.  King Solomon doesn’t tell us to wish for grand events or royal ceremonies.  He isn’t singing the praises of life in the palace.  He doesn’t say that the best thing in life is arriving at the place where wealth is so plentiful toil becomes unnecessary.  He isn’t talking about feasts and festivals and holidays… He says the everyday stuff is the good stuff.

Why is this so hard?

I recently finished Mark Batterson’s book Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God in which he discussed the six “cages” he believes Christians are trapped in, keeping us from wholeheartedly chasing God.  One of those cages he calls the “cage of routine” in a chapter entitled “Dictatorship of the Ordinary.”  He contends that that we easily lose the joy of living when the sacred becomes routine and says, “We take constants for granted.  And that is the problem with God, if I may say it that way.  God is the ultimate constant.  He is unconditionally loving.  He is omnipotently powerful.  And His is eternally faithful.  God is so good at what God does that we tend to take Him for granted.”

I would add that we tend to take His provisions, the gifts He gives, those common graces for granted as well.  In September, the eye wall of hurricane Irma passed directly over my childhood home with my parents, brother, pregnant sister-in-law, and two-year-old niece inside.  After a sleepless, scary night- both in Florida and here on the Ranchito- the damage was minimal and all were fine.  But, as you can imagine, they lost electricity and water for close to a week.  Something they had taken for granted just the day before, something most of us take for granted everyday, they were suddenly without.  After 6 days with no power and no running water, you can bet they savored that first night sleeping with air conditioning again, that first real shower, that first time to flip a switch and have a light come on.  Everyday stuff, a great gift.

Listen, I love a fancy hotel.  In fact, I think “Fancy Hotel” is my love language, but I seek to savor sunsets on my very own front porch.  I enjoy a beautiful meal, but I seek to savor pizza picnics with the kids under the lights at the Ranchito.   I love opportunities to speak to groups of women, but I seek to savor funny group texts with my tribe.  An expensive bottle of wine is lovely and never lost on me, but I will savor the dog out of a Route 44 Vanilla Coke from Sonic. Why?  Which of those things happen more often?  Which are the things of the everyday?  In my life it is the sunsets, the pizza picnics, the Vanilla Cokes, the group texts.    When we look through the filter Solomon is teaching us about, we have opportunities to savor all the time.

As my favorite poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning says, “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God.  But only he who sees takes off his shoes; the rest sit round it and pluck at blackberries.”

During this Golden Hour, may we take off our shoes.

I believe the disciple of savoring, of enjoying our “lot in life” as Solomon puts it, is deeply spiritual and much more than a warm and fuzzy word to throw around the fire.  Luke 16:10 says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.”  When you cannot savor the little things, the ordinary things, the constants, you may be blocking the blessings God has next.  When your tastebuds are burnt from discontent, you will never be able to taste new flavors.

Here is a bonus word on our little tour that I have recently come across it and am currently obsessed with…  I now own a sweatshirt with it printed on it and it will be my theme for our holidays (you are welcome to share):

HYGGE.

It is a Danish word and practice, pronounced “hue-guh.”  Here is a summary of what it encompasses: “a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary experienced as cozy, charming, or special; only requires consciousness, a certain slowness, and the ability to not just be present but recognize and enjoy the present; the art of creating intimacy, coziness, charm, happiness, contentedness, security, familiarity, comfort, reassurance, kinship, and simpleness, being aware of a good moment.”. Do you love it?

This is my goal as the holidays approach.  I want a hygge filter.  I want to create intimacy with my people my God.  I want to open our home up every chance we get and have the hygge spill out onto our community.  I want to not just be present in the little things, but I want to savor them.  I believe it is holy work.  I believe, as Solomon said, it is a gift from God.

So here’s to hayrides and hygge… to fires and friends… to something warm in your cup and Autumn in your heart… to Solomon and savoring… to S’Mores and simple gifts… to Ecclesiastes and every common bush being afire with God.

Take your shoes off.

And remember to subscribe for a chance to win the “Savor the Season” Fall Bundle, full of beautiful gifts to usher in a moment of HYGGE for yourself. (Can I win my own give away?  Seriously?  It’s all so pretty!!!)

Fall Savor the Season Subscriber Incentive

Savor, Celebrate, Rest, Repeat and a Basket of Goodies

Savor the Season Fall Bundle

This Savor The Season Giveaway is now closed!

I wonder if it is Fall yet where you are.  I am seeing everything from snow to beach vacations pop up on my feed daily and I think elusive Autumn is fighting for it’s place somewhere in-between.  My kids are watching Elf and listening to Christmas music while running barefoot and shirtless until after dark.  Not me.  Nope.  No Christmas until after Thanksgiving.  Let Fall have it’s day!  There have been some cool mornings here on the Ranchito… I am anticipating the debut of a pair of new boots I have been wanting for a year.  The pumpkin spice creamer is in the coffee, the Fall candle is burning beside my Bible.  Let it sink in.

I love this time of the year because the anticipation of the approaching holidays is just starting to tickle our senses without the crushing pressure of it all yet.  We know it is coming… the planning, the decorating, the cooking, the shopping, the wrapping, the school parties and full schedules.  We will be waist deep in all the fun and festivities and busyness soon enough.

But not yet.

This is the golden hour.

We are just on the cusp and from here the coming months still look dreamy and picturesque. We are full of hope that this will be the year that expectations will be met, that we will actually slow down and enjoy it all, that we will not lose our ever-loving minds.  So here we are BEFORE.  Before it is too late and the rollercoaster of demands has us strapped onto its dizzying ride.  My hope for us all is that we will anchor deeply here in this golden hour so that when the winds of the coming season blow we will not be shaken.

So here in this “Before,” while we all still have a moment to breathe, and a thought in our head, I want to share with you some of my favorites…

Beautiful words top the list.

They always have and they always will.  I love a beautiful word.  I was reading Elizabeth Barrett Browning when everyone else my age was reading Sweet Valley Twins and The Babysitter’s Club, because give me all the beautiful words.  When I was a little girl, I thought my dream job would be getting to name lipsticks, nail polish, and paint colors, because let me use all the descriptive words.  This summer, on a girls’ trip with 3 of my dearest friends, I noticed that my bestie would pull pictures up of potential restaurants and their fare on her phone to decide if it was a contender.  She is visual.  Unsatisfied, I inevitably would want to read the description of the setting or entrees, because tell me all the delicious words.  I am a verbal processor as well.  I need to say all the words.  And to be fair, in relationships, I’m going to want you to say a lot of words too… they don’t have to be words about me, or important words.   I just want to feel connected to you in all the adjectives you can come up with.  So when I come across good words that represent beautiful things, important practices, spiritual disciplines I want to imprint on my life, I hold them tight.  I want to talk about them and learn from them and write them on chalkboards in my home and share them with my friends… So here we are.

Savor, Celebrate, Rest, Repeat. 

Those are good words.  They feel good on my lips when I say them… chant them even, like a sacred mantra.  They feel like a breath of fresh air.  Like Fall.  Like this “Before” space.  Like a golden hour.

Let’s dive in and anchor ourselves in these important words and practices together over the coming weeks.  We will take each one apart and give it it’s moment in the sun, in our hearts.  We will roll it over in our mouths and in our lives.  I hope you will join me for this 3 part series.

In the end, these favorite words will be joined by a basket full of favorite fall goodies for one lucky subscriber to savor…

Savor the Season Fall Bundle

Just make sure that you have subscribed to A Word That Matters to be entered to win the following:

  1. This lovely Spiced Pumpkin and Clove Fall candle to cozy up with on a cool morning.

Seventh Ave. Apothecary Spiced Pumpkin and Clove Candle2. The cutest “Morning Pumpkin” mug you’ve ever seen {It’s currently SOLD OUT too!}.

Francesca's Morning Pumpkin Coffee Mug3. A bag of my favorite “Porch Blend” coffee roasted by my friends Travis and Megan Voskamp at their roastery Leapknot Coffee.  Drink it on the porch (obviously) in the cute mug while watching their inspiring story here.

LeapKnot Coffee Roasters Porch Blend Coffee Beans4. This beautiful gather” sign from Magnolia Market.  All the heart eyes… no explanation needed!

Magnolia Market "Gather" metal sign

5. “The Road Back to You” by Ian Morgan Cron.  I cannot tell you enough how into this book I have been over the last 3 months.  I have made all of my people read it because I am literally unable to have a face to face conversation that doesn’t involve the Enneagram.  (I’m a 4 by the way… thus all the beautiful words).  OBSESSED. That is all.

The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron

6. And last but certainly not least, a copy of a recipe for “Suz’s (MY MOM’S) Pumpkin Cookies.”  Seriously, these are the best things you will ever put in your mouth.  I am a terrible baker, (or at least a reluctant one), but if you come to the Ranchito from September to November, you can bet there will be a plate of these waiting for you!  So so so good!

So, subscribe for your chance to win a few of my favorite fall things.  And meet me back here soon for our 3 part series: SAVOR, CELEBRATE, REST (Repeat).

Happy Fall Y’all!

A Fall Freebie for You

John 15:8 Free Fall Printable

Hey Friends,

I know it’s been awhile since you have heard from me… Fall has come like a bit of a bulldozer in my life.  I am blessed to have the opportunity to be speaking and teaching at several women’s events this season.  There is really nothing I love more than opening the Bible with women and having it transform us together.  I deeply desire to serve those women well and spend every spare hour (and all the moms said, “Hahahahaha”) preparing and studying for my time with them.  Unfortunately, that leaves little time for writing, although I have so many things I want to share with you.

But, what I can offer you is a Fabulous Free Fall Printable with John 15:8 on it.  I have spent the last 6 months studying the Biblical principles of FRUITFULNESS and this verse has become my life’s cry…

“Dear Jesus, make me fruitful here on this earth so that my life will bring glory to your Father.”

So, I share it with you here… Print it, frame it, memorize it, live it, add it to your Fall decor, and let it be your heart’s desire as well.John 15:8 Free Fall Download

I hope to see some of you at an event soon!  Like I said, my Fall is pretty full, but my Spring is gloriously open right now… If you are planning a women’s event or retreat, let me know if I can serve you and your girls!  It would be an honor.  I’ll also be heads down writing a Bible Study as soon as the holidays are behind us so be on the lookout for those details!!!

Thank you for following along on this journey with me!  HAPPY FALL Y’ALL!!!

Lesley

 

Dear Strong Girl, I See You

Dear Strong Girl,

I see you.

They say the “squeaky wheel gets the oil:  Well, that’s not you.  In fact, most of the time you’re the one with the oil can, quieting the squeaky wheel… the needy friend, the fragile child, the hurting husband, the dark culture, the social injustice.

strong girl leaning on a fence

I see you holding it all together while they fall apart.  I see you putting your needs on the back burner so often that they’ve boiled down to a burnt layer of unidentified crust.   You catch the smell briefly and it’s a reminder of another dish to wash.

I see your loud strength… Your bold, boisterous, brave strength.  I see the way you defend the widows and orphans and underdogs.  I see your Mama Bear Strength when someone comes after your kid, your tribe, the schools and churches and missions you love.  I see the way you are misunderstood and pigeon-holed.  I see the labels they put on you, all the while noting that the next time they need bold, boisterous, and brave, you’re their girl.

I see your quiet strength.  I see your steadfast, serving, show-up strength.  I see the way that families and ministries, care-calendars and friend groups are built on your steady shoulders.  I know the way they all just assume you’ll be there, do the work, organize the thing, send the email.  I know you fear they take you for granted.  Sometimes they do.

I see your big dreams.  I know how overwhelming the passion can feel swirling inside of you… like fire in your bones.  And I see how it threatens them.  You see it too.  Girls who really go for it feel a bit “much.”  I know you want permission.  You want support.  You want the blessing to be strong in a new space.  You may not get it.  Go for it anyway.  I see you.

I see the way some people need you and want you and like to take sanctuary beneath your strength, until they don’t.  They feed off of it until what they want is something a little easier to swallow than truth.  The thing about strength is, it’s strong.  The thing about Strong Girls is they don’t sway and crumble with circumstances or emotions.  That’s cool until it isn’t.  And then I see you alone.  I know that, much to the surprise of everyone around you, you actually feel lonely and question yourself, and wonder how this was the end of the story again.  I see you.  I get it.

I see that your strength is real.  I know it is not a blustery, bossy mask held together by tough words and attention-seeking self-interest.  . It’s not built on bullying others or taking them down.  It shines as you pour your life out again and again and again to those around you.  I know they assume your supply will never end, never run out.  That’s probably not true.  I see the tears you cry in your closet when no one checked on you.  No one returned the favor.  No one thought you might need a bit of what you give so freely… your time, your wisdom, your ear, your strength.  I wish I could sit with you there in the dark, but by the time I get there you’ll be up and at ’em.  No one has time for that kind of self-pity.  Well, no one like you.  Pour on, Strong Girl, but get filled too.  Everyone runs out.

I see you up there on that stage leading well.  Like a Boss, in fact.   I see you and I am for you as you blaze your trail Sister.  And I see you behind, hemming us in with the backbone of your very presence.  I am for you as you mix your strength like cement and hold everyone in place.  That work matters and I see it.

I see you standing like a rock in the middle of a river… The Culture River,  The Unconscious River, The River Selfish. Be careful, Low Integrity Crossing is just up the way.  And there you are, a rock in the middle.  Some will crash into you and curse the reminder you are as they  float away comfortably down stream.  And some will grab hold of you as you rescue them from the current to be so much more.  You’re good like that because you are strong, girl.

I see the people you gather and the causes you champion.  I see the kids you raise and the marriage you fought for until you bled.  I see the friends you saved and the ones lost to the very strength they asked of you.  I hear the songs you sing, the mantras you preach, and the secrets you keep.  I see the home you open, mess and all.  I see the gifts you use, and the ones you hold back.  I see the justice you fight for and the backlash you take.  I see the way you bear other’s burdens, and celebrate their victories like your own.  I see the muscle perseverance and patience and pressing in and all the agains have built..  It looks good on you.  You ARE strong.  I know they all think you “got this”, because let’s face it, you “got this.”   That doesn’t mean you want to do it all.  That doesn’t mean you want to do it alone.  That doesn’t mean you don’t need a safe, soft place every now and then.  I see you.

Maybe the only ones who can see Strong Girls for who they truly are, are other Strong Girls. Maybe the only ones who can understand them is someone cut from the same cloth.  Maybe the only ones who don’t feel threatened are those who possess their own strength in spades. It looks different on you than it does on the girl in the mirror, but familiar all the same.

They will misunderstand you… stand on truth anyway.  They will use you… give anyway.  They will hurt you… love anyway.  They will leave you… offer your hand anyway.  They will take you for granted… serve anyway.  They will hold on to you too tightly, let you go too easily, need you too much, ignore your loneliness too long., love your strength, and then resent it… Be you anyway.  I get it.   I see you and you’re beautiful.

That’s Refreshing

That's Refreshing blog image of girl squirting a hose

I love to water my plants.  It’s like therapy.  In the middle of a loud, long, busy day I love to go outside, take a deep breath, turn on the hose and water those plants.  Back and forth, back and forth on the sweet potato vine spilling over in the Sunset Porch… back and forth, back and forth over herb garden by the kitchen …. mist the mint in the window box, water the pots of geraniums in the front, the wheelbarrow of ivy by the door,  and the basket hanging from the shepherd’s hook out by the gate.  If you are stressed, peace may be as close as the nearest water hose.  Seriously, go try it and then come back to read the rest of this post…

Good, right?

One day recently, the constant drone of late summer “Mom,! Mom! Mom!” forced me outside for my daily watering wind-down.  I slipped out the front door undetected, slipped on my gardening clogs waiting there faithfully, and took several deep breaths as I went over to the closest hose and spigot.  As I reached down to turn the handle, I realized it had been left twisted in the on position.   When I squeezed the nozzle at the other end, sure enough the water rushed out with the appropriate force of “shower, jet, or mist” – whatever I chose.

And God blew my mind a little.

If it had been left on all night, where was the water?  Why was the ground dry?  Where was it stored?  The hose?  The wall?  The pipes? . How could it be on, but stopped?  Would the pressure not eventually blow my nozzle?

That's Refreshing blog image of girl squirting a hose

I was so excited and curious I called my husband. About a water hose.  In the middle of a work day.  “Babe, when the water is on at the spigot but the nozzle isn’t being squeezed, you know, where is that water?  Is it in the hose?  Is it in the pipe?  Does it not come out until the nozzle is being used even though it is on?”

“Which hose is it?”

“No, it doesn’t matter which hose.  Any hose in the world.  How does that work?”

“Is the nozzle stuck?  There is probably a wrench in the garage you can use to …”

“No, there is nothing wrong.  I just want to understand how it works.”

“Ummm, like the physics?”

“Yes, I guess.  The physics.”

[Insert slightly exasperated sigh] “So there is a ball valve……”  BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.  OK, NEVER MIND.  THANKS AND BUH-BYE.

It turns out that I didn’t need to understand the physics to understand that was me.  The nozzle.  I’m a nozzle.  You are too.

Jesus refers to Himself and the Holy Spirit as water, living water, often in Scripture.  I’m a water person so this metaphor resonates deeply in my spirit.  Sometimes in this desert town,  I can feel a longing for the Atlantic Ocean of my home from skin to soul. And sometimes, in a desert season, I can feel a longing for the living water even more.  I get water.  Let these words wash over you:

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”  John 7:37-38

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  John 4:13-14

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring and my blessing on your descendants.”  Isaiah 44:3

Isn’t that as refreshing as a Vanilla Coke in the middle of August?

So if Jesus is the living water, and His Holy Spirit is given to us at the moment of our salvation- if it is turned on- where is all the water?  In the hose?  In the pipe?  What are the physics?

The problem is the nozzle.

Though the water my plants need is ready, and on, and life giving, until the nozzle is put to use, it does them no good.  They can wither and die right there next to the hose, next to the spigot, next to the unused nozzle.

Though the living water is available to each of us as believers, though streams of living water are promised to flow out of every area of our lives, we can wither and die too if we don’t do our part.

You see, the Holy Spirit is a gentleman.  He is powerful, and life changing, but He is still and gentle as well (I Kings 19:12).  Just like I can choose how strongly the water will come out of my nozzle, I can choose to allow the Holy Spirit to flow, or be quenched in my life (I Thessalonians 5:19).  Jeremiah 2:13 says, “My people have committed two sins; They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

 Sisters, how are your cisterns?

Are you clawing at rock hard ground, trying to dig a dry cistern, all the while the spigot of the Holy Spirit is perpetually on and available?  Are you trying to refresh yourself with dust, next to a spring of living water?   Our lives, our culture, perhaps even our churches are littered with the broken, shattered pieces of cisterns that can never hold the water we need.  We know it instinctually, when we are pulling the bucket up from the dry cistern… of comparison, of wine, of beauty products, of social standing, of “likes,” of Netflix.  Don’t forsake the deep wells.

Use the nozzle.

Refreshing is what I need at the end of these long, loud, hot summer months.  I feel myself wilting beneath the grind of these days but already withering a bit under the heat of the expectations the next season holds.  Anyone else?  Here is how we get to the water we need::

“The law of the Lord is perfect, REFRESHING the soul.”  Psalms 19:7

He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He REFRESHES my soul.  He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.”   Psalm 23:2-3

“[You] will REFRESH the weary and satisfy the faint.”  Jeremiah 31:25

“Repent, then, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of REFRESHING may come from the Lord.”  Acts 3:19

AND MY NEW MOST FAVORITE VERSE:

“A generous person will prosper; whoever REFRESHES others will be REFRESHED.”  Proverbs 11:25 (Do you loooooovvvveeee it?) 

There is a big bucket of living water for you. There are the ways we squeeze the nozzle.  Here are the physics: the law of the Lord, quiet soul-refreshing time with Jesus, coming to Him when we are weary and faint, repentance, and generosity. We are refreshed in the act of refreshing of others.  So, who can you refresh today with a kind word, with a extra moment, with a smile or a hug or a listening ear?  With a Vanilla Coke?    If you look around and see some areas of your life drying up and withering like an English rose in West Texas, try one of these settings on the nozzle.  The spigot is on.

Let’s turn this thing to “jet” and claim what is ours!  Living water- deep wells of it, streams and springs and rivers of it… Now that’s refreshing!

 

The Daily Push Back

The Daily Push Back

I still marvel at it… the way that dreams can take twists and turns and dump you right out in a spot you never knew you wanted.  That is how I feel about my little Rancho among the tumbleweeds and sandstorms of west Texas.  Yesterday, as I pulled up to the gate, the old Dixie Chicks’ song “Wide Open Spaces” came on the radio and I began to cry.  I have loved that song since college (now I’m dating myself!!), but back then I didn’t even recognize the longing it was speaking to inside of me.  But yesterday I knew.  I saw it with my own teary eyes.  My very own wide open spaces, with my childhood cowboy, a herd of cow dogs, a flock of silly hens, and a bunch of free-ranging kids (and tumbleweeds and sandstorms).  The Ranchito really is my “unexpected promise land,” the one that little southern co-ed in the Dixie Chicks hat could have never imagined.

But do you want to know a secret?  My very favorite spot on these seven acres is not a wide open space at all.  It’s not the garden sprouting in the Spring, or the sunset porch showing off every evening.  It’s not the swimming pool filled to the brim with friends all summer, or the pasture where we pull the hayride every Fall Festival.  In fact, most visitors will never see this enchanting nook at all.  It’s a little patio enclosed by vine covered brick walls located between our bedroom and our daughters’.  We call it the “Bunny Courtyard” because in it our 3 pet rabbits run (hop?) free.  It also happens to be home to 2 turtles named “Cooper” and “David,” an accidental rooster named “Chickaletta” (long story for another day), quite a large family of not-so-shy mice, some free-loading dove, and unfortunately, the occasional slithering visitor.  (One day I am going to write a children’s book entitled “The Adventures of the Bunny Courtyard” because they are many- but for today, there are your introductions.) And in the warm Summer months, when the rush of school mornings are a memory, and postponed bed-times mean sleeping children, you can find me in the Bunny Courtyard as well… Bible, journal, countless books in hand… a mason jar of pretty pens, a cup of coffee, and. a sunrise.  Yes, and Amen!  So Jesus and I join the menagerie every morning, seated at the old garden table.  And sometimes He sends a hummingbird too, just to let me know He sees me… it’s kind of our thing.

bunny courtyard bible studySounds dreamy, right?

It is.  I feel like Cinderella many mornings out there holding a bunny in my lap while the turtles chomp a fresh leaf and the mice scurry behind the veil of vines, writing in my journal and reading my Bible.  The flowers bloom, the rooster crows, the bees buzz gently.  It is dreamy.

It is also a heck of a lot of work.

You see, those adorable little bunnies and I go round and round..  Literally.  They go around the edge to the dirt perimeter of the courtyard and they dig.  They dig and dig and dig.  And I go around behind them and I fill in the holes.  And I fill and fill and fill.  And that rooster, well, he poops.  He poops and poops and poops- usually on my pretty little table.  And I clean and clean and clean.  And the turtles are messy eaters leaving a trail behind of leftover tomatoes and old lettuce.  They munch and munch and munch.  And I sweep and sweep and sweep.

bunnies in the courtyard

Every day.  Every single morning.

Seriously.  And I have to do it all before I can sit and enjoy Jesus and the coffee and the dreamy and the hummingbirds.  Please get the very real picture in your mind of me at sunup, either in PJ’s, or sweaty workout clothes, slippered feet and a shovel, filling in holes, an old towel cleaning off poop, the push broom sweeping up the mess. Cinderella for sure.   The dreamy Bunny Courtyard mornings are very real.  The bunny petting and praying, the Bible studying and hummingbird watching – it is alive and well.  And so it the daily push back of dirt and poop and mess.

One could never be enjoyed without the the other being endured.  Every day.

I guess I don’t know any part of life that gets all cleaned up, all accomplished, all checked off and then it is finished.  I don’t know any aspect that stays beautiful and dreamy without the shoveling and sweeping.  Marriage?  Try shelving communication for a season – even a dreamy season- and see if you don’t have a mess to clean up.  Friendships?  Try just participating in the pretty and not the dirty and tell me how deep those relationships go.  Jesus?  Just show up in your Sunday best and ignore Him during the mid-week muck and mire and tell me if victory seems far off.   .

Here’s the thing: Rabbits were created with digging in their hearts.  If I am shocked every morning when I join them on their courtyard, that they have once again dug a makeshift den, then shame on me.  Chickens poop.  It’s what they do.  I know this and am prepared- why waste the energy on getting exasperated?  And the enemy of your soul, then enemy of all that is good and peaceful and dreamy in your life?  Well, he steals, kills, and destroys.  It’s what he does, it’s what he has always done.  It says so right there in John 10:10 so please don’t be surprised when he attempts to do just that- steal your joy, kill your relationships, destroy your dreams and peace and testimony.   The question is not if he will try to make a mess of things, the question is if you will push back.  Every day.

The truth is, we can get comfortable with the dirt and poop.  We can get so used to it, we forget there is something better, something beautiful underneath.  If I take a few days off from the Bunny Courtyard push back, do you know what happens?  The area shrinks.  That dirt takes over more and more space and I forget where the pretty patio is supposed to start.  I can’t find the boundaries, the part that belongs to me, belongs to beauty.  A part of my promise land is lost.  The work increases when it’s not done daily.  It’s harder that way.

We can get hopeless with the prospect that we will have to fill the same holes tomorrow… fight the same fights, take back the same territory, invest in the same broken people.   Romans 5:3-5 speaks to this very thing. “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment.(NLT)”

You see, we are not hopeful that the dirt and poop will not be there tomorrow.  We do not put our hope in a task finished, a situation conquered, a burden released. a win.  We put or hope in the one who gives us the strength daily for the push back.  And this hope “will not disappoint.”  This life takes endurance, the kind of endurance that builds strength of character.  The kind of endurance that picks the shovel up again tomorrow and takes back truth, hope, and the beauty underneath the mess.  Every time I pick that shovel up, PJ’s and all, I get stronger.  Every time you push back the darkness from your promise land, you get stronger too.

Galatians 6:9 encourages, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  We will reap a harvest.  That harvest just may be some spiritual muscle and strength of character rather than a tidy bow on the situation.  The Bunny Courtyard can be beautiful but it will never be tidy.  James 1:12 tells us, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”  He will reward our perseverance in this life or the next… that’s the win.

I wish we could see what God sees.  I wish, instead of seeing the young mom hanging on by a thread, we saw the spiritual strength it takes to do it all again tomorrow.  I wish instead of seeing the unhappy wife, we saw the mighty prayer warrior she is, fighting in the heavenliness for her marriage.  I wish, instead of seeing a burnt out man, we saw the solider he is as he stands guard for his home and his family, daily taking back any territory lost. I  wish instead of seeing an aging generation weakened by time, we saw the ferocious band of grandparents handing over the legacy of strength of character and perseverance.  That is real.  And that is only attained in the daily push back.

I don’t know where you have been called to daily push back… fighting for hope as you believe the best for your marriage, pushing back the lies that you are less than in your singleness, filling in the holes the enemy is trying to dig into your identity and security in Christ, cleaning up the mess of other’s expectations as you parent that special needs child, taking back the territory of a dream, that promise you know was from God, finding your purpose under all that dirt.  But I do know the hard work, the daily work, is worth it.  When God looks at you He sees the muscle you are building by doing the work today, and tomorrow, and the next day.  There is no short cut to perseverance, to endurance, to strength of character, to the crown of life.  It takes the daily push back.  It takes getting your hands dirty.  It takes hope placed in the things that will not disappoint.

So, do it again.  Love him again.  Forgive her again.  Get in the Word again.  Pray again.  Speak truth again.  Get up again.  Be vulnerable again.  Believe again.  Wade though the poop again.  Shovel the dirt again.  Take back your territory again.  The daily push back matters.  He sees you too.  He may even send a hummingbird to tell you so.

Now I have a few rabbit holes to fill in…

 

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.

 

My Before Screen Time Checklist

Kids and Screen Time

Kids and Screen Time

After 10:00am in order for my kids to have screen time, they must do the following:

  1. Make your bed
  2. Have your personal prayer, Bible journaling, or worship time
  3. Straighten your room (Mom must check it)
  4. Feed your animals (Skyler-Rabbits, Canyon-Chickens, Brooke-Cats, Hillman-Dogs)
  5. Do one chore (Ask Mom)
  6. Read for 30 minutes (ReadLive and Nessy count too!)
  7. Do one math fact sheet
  8. Play outside for 1 hour

Open Door Callings

Open Door Callings

Calling.  It is a bit of a buzz word in Christian culture today.  And for everyone of us who gets passionate about the subject of our “calling” I believe there are at least as many of us who get annoyed, or discouraged, or feel shame.

I know because that used to be me.

Not very long ago I was standing on the annoyed-discouraged-shamed hill looking over at the perceived “called” ones, all joyful and fulfilled on their hill, and I couldn’t figure out how to cross the space in between.  And honestly, I didn’t know if I wanted to.  Something felt flashy and superficial about those pretty “callings” and something felt a little more holy and gritty down here in the martyred trenches of “real life.”  “Oh brother,” I would think.  “Who has the time or energy for a calling?  My calling is to keep these kids alive.  My calling is to not kill my husband.  Maybe I can muster the ambition to read the Bible after I catch up on sleep/housework/laundry/ (fill in all the blanks to infinity). Is that a calling?  Whatever.”  And I was prideful.  And I was jealous.  And I was anemic and desperate for an adventure with Jesus that would rescue me from my hill.

And then I realized that I didn’t have to cross the chasm between the hills.  I did not have to tumble down one side and scale the other.  There was no magical bridge spanning the distance.

There was a door.  And it was open.

Open Door Callings

You see, when I did get that Bible out, I couldn’t get away from the idea of calling, of fruitfulness, of this whole thing having to turn outward at some point to really be the point.

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”  John 15:8

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit- fruit that will last -and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”  John 15:16

“For we are God’s handiwork created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:10

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have command you.”  Matthew 28:19-20

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore to send out workers into his harvest field. Go!”  Luke 10:2-3

So, the open door… I began praying earnestly, humbly about my “calling,” my “what else,” my “fruitfulness,” my “good works.”  I had to lay down the mantle of harried stay-at-home mom just trying to get a shower.  I had to put down the shovel that was digging me further into the trenches of martyrdom, and genuinely ask.  And He answered.  He does that you know.  When we shut up for a moment with all of our complaining and justifying and whining (or is that just me?), He likes to speak to His children.  He likes to let us in on His plans for our lives, even if it’s just a little sliver at a time.  He has a lot to say to a humble, quiet, seeking, patient, surrendered heart.  He told me some things He wanted to do in my life.  He spoke clearly into my calling and He told me the things I would do (and with that so many things I would not do. For every yes there is a no).

The first open door I had to walk through was to choose believe it.

My first open door off of the fruitless hill of shame and discouragement was simply belief.  And I didn’t just secretly believe it in my heart.  Y’all, I wrote it down on the last page of my journal.  I boldly proclaimed in black and white, “I will be: _______,  _______,  and _______.”   Next He invited me through the open door of telling another human being what I thought my calling was.  Guts much?  I mean that feels risky, and presumptuous.  It feels like you are officially turning in your uniform, your allegiance for one team and bravely putting on a new one.  And what if it doesn’t happen?  And what if I look stupid?  And what if they judge me (you know, like I had been judging so many others before)?  It was a risky door down the corridor of calling but I timidly stepped through.

And before I knew it, there was another door opening to me, and another.  Not flashy doors.  Not doors that led to huge stages or followings or fame.  But new doors that led to fresh air and another “yes” from the Lord.  And it struck me that it just may be this simple.  Our calling just may be to walk through the open door in front of us.  I don’t think we need to manufacture the door, or crow-bar it open, just step through.  Maybe it gets super complicated when we spend more time looking at someone else’s calling rather than at the door standing in front of us.

Lately I have been reading through the Old Testament, following Abraham’s decedents, the Israelites, from promise, to slavery, to rescue, to wandering, to Promised Land.  God tells his people over and over that He will give them this land, that He will go before them and fight their battles, that they are to be strong and courageous and take their Promised Land.  But then I came across a few interesting verses in Deuteronomy 2.  Moses is recounting the 40 years in the wilderness and he says that God finally told him they were ready to head to Canaan, their Promised Land.  Along the way God says, “Give the people these orders: ‘You are about to pass through the territory of your relatives the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir.  They will be afraid of you, but be very careful.  Do not provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of their land, not even enough to put your foot on.” (Deut. 2:4-5). He says a similar thing about the Moabites in verse 9 declaring, “I will not give you any parts of their land,”  and about the Ammonites in verse 19 saying, “I will not give you possession of any land belonging to the Ammonites.”  

I find these verses so interesting in the middle of all the “TAKE THE PROMISED LAND! DO NOT BE AFRAID! GO FOR IT!” pep rallies.  God is saying, “This is the door I have opened for you.  This is what I have called you to.  This is your Promise.  Right here.  Come this way.  But be careful… That is their land, that is their’s to possess, not yours.  That is what I have called them to.. You can’t have that.”

Do you remember the scene from “Monster’s Inc.” with all the doors?  There were certain doors for certain monsters to walk through, leading them to their own jobs.  I think heaven may have a room like that.  Each of us have doors with our names on them, with our calling behind them, with fruitfulness waiting on the other side.  And just like in the movie, chaos may  ensue when we are swinging around in the maze of everyone else’s doors… all the while ours is ready and open for us.  It may be a small door and you may not even recognize its threshold as you sit at that lunch, answer that call to serve, intercede for that injustice, do that thing that just comes naturally.  But until you walk through the first one, you won’t see the next.

So if you are still on the seemingly “un-called” hill, know that really you are not.  If you can’t find an open door right now, then use this waiting time to train.  Read books about what you want to do/gets you fired up/feel passionate about/are good at. Pray.  Follow along as someone walks that path ahead of you.  That way, when the door does open, you aren’t starting at a 0.  You will be strong and ready.  God does His best training in the waiting.

And if you have timidly wrote a big dream in the back of your journal then under it write Matthew 7:7-8: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.. For everyone who asks receives, the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Believe it.  And  I challenge you to tell someone.  Scary?  Yep.  But Hebrews 10:38 says, “But my righteous one will live by faith.  And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”  He takes no pleasure in our bitterness, in our envy, in our judgement, in our discouragement… It is to His glory that we bear much fruit.  So take a step through your door, timidly, boldly, just step.  And cheer someone else on as they walk through theirs.  Like so many things in the Christian faith , it is not easy, it take guts, but I think it is much simpler than we’ve made it.   And remember:

“The one who calls you is faithful, and HE WILL DO IT.”  I Thessalonians 2:14