God: Where are You Taking Me??

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“Faith is taking the first step, even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Back in January, God planted the word “thrive” on my heart. I told the hubs about it; basically my convo went like this, “God wants me to do something in ministry with moms that somehow surrounds the word thrive. I don’t know what it is, I’ll let you know when I know more,” and he responded as he usually does to my bizarre tangents, “okay cool.”

“Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your purpose.” Aristotle

It’s not the first time that I’ve felt God give me a glimpse at what’s to come. However, it doesn’t come in the form of a road map or a lightning bolt, but more like an itch I just can’t scratch. It started when I told hubs I would be leaving the salon and working in children’s ministry–even though I had no reason or desire to leave my current job.  Six months later in a  twist of events I went from giving blowdries to wiping snotty noses as a preschool teacher. The most unnerving was when I told him we’d be moving and he’d be getting a job that was more missional. A year later he interviewed for a position as pastor of missions and outreach, and we accepted the call at our new church  and moved six months later.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

I don’t share this because I want you to think I’m gifted, and certainly not that I’m psychic. It really has nothing to do with me at all. For reasons I cannot explain, God has chosen to give me these small glimpses into what he has in store for me next.  There have been other times I’ve been dead wrong, like when I insisted I was having a boy, and we now have a very healthy 2 year old girl.  The difference is when I try to make a prediction for my own benefit, its as hopeless as dowsing for water in a desert. Rather, these ideas enter my life as a thought in the middle of an ordinary day. Before I know it that thought has found it’s way into my chest where it rattles around insistently. Then at inconvenient times, like when I’m trying to sleep, it knocks hard on my heart.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”         Proverbs 3:5

This brings me back to “thrive” and my deep conversation with the hubs. Everywhere I turn, the word finds me, in books, in devotions, even in blogs and social media. Lately the clattering  in my chest has gotten louder as I hear about fellow moms who are feeling loneliness and / or hopelessness. They love their families, but struggle to find a sense of identity and community in their role as a stay at home mom.  As women, how can we grow and thrive personally  in a world where our children, our husbands, and our responsibilities are constantly clambering for our attention? This is a question that I grapple with as the wife to a busy husband, mother of a toddler, and mother to be of another beautiful girl.

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, I used everything you gave me.  Erma Bombeck

I don’t have the answer, but this word and this calling will continue to knock on my heart and awaken me at night until God reveals what He has in store. I wanted to let you in on the process so you can pray for me, mentor me, or share the things that keep you up at night.

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Am I Pretending to be a Grown Up?

Sometimes We’re So Busy Looking Back, We Forget to See Who We’ve Become…

My big brother had soccer coach training in our area, and so he stayed with the hubs, B, and I overnight. First may I note, that if you had told me ten years ago that my brother would be the coach of his daughter’s soccer team, I probably would have laughed in your face.1451495_10102307916179303_1474626142_n

It was amazing to see him, but I’ll admit the whole experience was a little surreal. As I made up his bed, and gave him bottled water, and made his coffee in the morning, I think we both had this weird feeling like, “woah…we’re grown adults.” We laughed about when I would brave crashing on his futon in his college dorm, and hit a coffee shop after we’d rolled out of bed midday, because…what was a coffee maker anyway?

As he said goodbye, he brushed his lips to my cheek, and I felt the tickle of his beard. I said “love you bro,” and he said “love you too.” As my door shut I actually laughed out loud to myself. My brother, the soccer coach, who wears a full beard, gives kisses goodbye, and says “love you” without mumbling or blushing. Who was this guy?

I’ve always loved my brother, but my heart swelled with pride at the man, the father, the husband he has become.

It made me think at how I allow myself to forget about the adult I’ve become, and to go back to the mindset of an insecure teenager. I  question my decisions, my words, my feelings and actions, placing myself as judge and jury of my own life; and all to often, my verdict is that I come up short.

I will always come up short, I will always make mistakes–but I’m no longer the shy teenager that was too timid to say hello to classmates in the halls of school.

I need to value the sum of the lessons I’ve learned, the experiences that I’ve had and realize that I’m no longer the kid sister.

All too often we ruminate on the mistakes we’ve made, or we think about the people we want to become. In the movie Bridget Jones’ Diary, Mark Darcy tells Bridget “I like you just as you are,” and though it sounds quaint, the scene is completely romantic and sweet (if you’re a sap like me). But rom-coms aside, it draws me to my point:  how often do we like and accept ourselves “just as we are?” Yes we’re all a work in progress, in one of my favorite books we’re compared to clay jars.

We’re cracked. But we’re also beautiful and useful, and exactly how God created us to be….just as we are.

What would happen if we lived in this day instead of reliving the mistakes we’ve made and all the ways others have hurt us? What if we thrived in the opportunities placed in front of us knowing that the sum of our experiences has equipped us to live in this moment?

Maybe then, we could be the husbands & wives, fathers & mothers, brothers & sisters that give kisses, and say “I love you’s…

the kind of people that mentor, that speak truth, and don’t allow fear or self doubt to discourage us from being the people we are called to be.

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I’m Mediocre and Happy

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Blogging Barbies Move Over–I’m Mediocre & Happy!

We are surrounded by images on TV, in movies, magazines, and ads of women that seem to show no signs of “real life.”

Somehow in print, and on screen, celebrities have managed to avoid the ravages of child bearing and aging.

At 31, I have a pretty good self image, but I can’t help but notice the lines around my eyes, the stretch marks on my hips, and well, the other imperfections that come with babies and age.

But as if “keeping up with the Kardashians” isn’t enough, I find myself facing another group of women that challenge my sense of reality.

I will dub them the “Blogging Barbies.” Like Barbie, they manage to spin a reality of their domestic life that is shiny, and seamless, and pure plastic perfection. From their designer decorated homes, perfect pantries, down to their immaculate underwear drawers, these bloggesses (no auto-correct, not blouse, I’m inventing a word here!) seem to have every stitch in place of their effortlessly homespun life.–And don’t forget their gorgeously dressed and beautiful children with sweet and original names like Harlow and Dax–who also manage to put their toys back in the adorably labeled toy bins tucked away in their color coordinated closets.

I’m not dissing women who love pinterest, and are crafty, and have cute homes. I know quite a few, and I hope someday some of their talent will rub off on me!

But as I browsed the black hole of pinterest today, and fell deeper and deeper into my own black hole of negative thought, I’m so disorganized, my house isn’t cute, what do I do with all my time, why isn’t my bathroom matching down to the toiletry bottles?!

I decided to take a step back and celebrate that my house is relatively clean, my pantry is 65% stocked, and my kid and husband are fed, smiling and their clothes mostly match.

So today, instead of worrying about a reality on blogs that I will never achieve in my real life, I’ll celebrate giggles, sticky hands, and overall domestic mediocrity!

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A Belly Full of Butterflies; A Heart Full of Hope

“Because butterflies mean God is doing a new thing…”

As we signed the final documents for buying our new house, I felt a flutter begin in my stomach. No matter how much I do to prepare for a changing chapter of my life, it all usually boils down to a moment where my new reality crystallizes, and I lose every grain of control that I’ve scraped and grasped tightly onto. With clenched fits, and butterflies doing their practiced flight within the walls of my tummy, I close my eyes and leap to the next blank page of my unwritten story.

“…although my life story isn’t written, He knows the ending.”

But as I walk to the bank to transfer our life’s savings into what feels like thin air, the familiar butterfly dance I feel, fills me with excitement. I remember the last moments I felt butterflies: when I found I was pregnant with baby E, when Bree was born, and when I vowed my life to my husband. These butterflies mark something new and exciting. I realize as a grown woman of 31, butterflies mean I’m still growing up, and I hope when I’m 85, I still get this fabulous and unnerving flutter in my stomach. Because butterflies mean God is doing a new thing, and although my life story isn’t written, He knows the ending, and He’s written my name on the palm of His hand.

” For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'” Revelation 21:5

 

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Cracked

 

We all have voids in our lives. Those areas where we don’t feel complete. As kids they may look more like pin pricks, but as we emerge into teenagers and adults, these pin pricks grow into gaping holesimage.

To each other, we appear whole, when beneath it all we bear wounds that scar and disable us.  The mom who was criticized by her own mom and now is debilitated by guilt, questioning every parenting decision she makes. The breadwinner who never achieved the success in his career that he’d hoped for, and walks around disillusioned. The teenage girl who lost her innocence to soon, and now fears and mistrusts every man she’ll ever meet.

We mask the holes that ravage the landscape of our lives, only to stumble and get trapped in them again and again. At times we find ourselves in the midst of a minefield, feeling bullet torn and helpless. No matter what we look to to fill up the emptiness in our lives, it always comes up short.

But instead of walking around with our emptiness, the apostle Paul promises that when we understand Christ’s love for us, we “will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:17-19  So while our lives and bodies may be as broken as clay jars, our God fills us from the inside out with a transforming love that not only repairs our brokenness, but empowers us to live beyond our circumstances.

We can try to build our identities around who we are in our relationships, mother, daughter, wife…but when we fail to perform in those roles, our foundation becomes broken. If we construct our identity based on what others think of us, we become like shifting sand, with our confidence ebbing and flowing with the changing tides. Money can be lost; and success is a clever magician, tricking us into false security.  But when we build our identity on the foundation of Christ’s love for us, our confidence and security is no longer a commodity that we have to earn, but a promise that is already fulfilled.

“The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease.” Lamentations 3:22

We live in a performance driven society with our lives defined by deadlines, milestones, and Facebook status updates. But when we allow our lives to be made whole by God’s love, and what Christ has done for us, we can live with a confidence and hope that doesn’t depend on our accomplishments. We can soak up the fullness of life, power, and love that empowers us to be Jesus’ disciples: making other’s whole through the power of Christ in us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Giving Birth to Love

BIG LOVE: if only I didn’t automatically  attach this phrase to HBO’s sensational drama about polygamy.

imageIn a beautiful blog article I just read, a mother uses this to describe motherhood, and that’s a much better fit.  In fact, staring at my peacefully sleepińg toddler, with her pink flushed cheeks, her smacking pouted lips, and wild halo of fine blonde hair, “big love” captures just what I feel for her. A love so sizeable that it makes my chest feel like it’s full of bubbles.

Once you’ve felt this intense, primal, “I will hunt you down and hurt you if you hurt my baby” kind of mama love, you know that love comes in different shades and sizes.–Big mama love is BIG and bright, and beautiful and painful. Big mama love will rock and hold your baby after shes scraped a knee. It will stand up and cheer loudly when he graduates kindergarten, 1st, 3rd, or 12th grade. It will say “I love you & I forgive you” when she’s crashed the car, drank at a party, and broken your heart into a million pieces again and again.

But here is my favorite part of this BIG LOVE. It gives me a glimpse of God’s love for us.  Gods big love is the kind of love that celebrates our smallest victories. It weeps over the pain and suffering sin causes in our relationships and lives. Instead of piling our sins and mistakes against us, Gods big love says we will start fresh each day–I died for every mistake you will ever make.

“Dear children, let us not love with words and speech, but in action and in truth.” 1John 3:18

 

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We Make Plans: God Directs our Steps

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Whenever I’ve had to make life’s biggest decisions whether it was about colleges, getting married, or buying a house I’ve wanted God to give me his direction in a major way–like with fireworks and stuff. But it seems that most often in these major moments of indecision God is the most quiet.

As frustrating as this silence can be, I realize that if God had a megaphone, shouting directions at me, I wouldn’t grow in the process of decision making.

When a ball of clay is shaped into a clay pot on a potters wheel, it cannot be formed into its desired shape right away. There is first a process called centering, where the clay is shaped into the perfect circle, opening , where it is hollowed out, and flooring where the base of the pot is formed. Without these steps, the pot would  be unbalanced and without a foundation.

The finished product is beautiful , but the throwing process is a artful dance that is just as significant as the pot itself.

Being in a state of indecision is uncomfortable, but God reminds me to take it one step a time with Him as he uses the process to shape and prepare me for my next adventure.

 

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Blessings Always Come with Responsibility

“Every good and perfect gift is from above…” James 1:17

Blessings always come with responsibilities. The greater the blessing, the greater the responsibility. When I was a kid, if my pockets were full of a few quarters and a couple cubes of bubble gum, then I felt blessed and other kids felt jealous. But when I got my first car, I quickly learned that cars don’t run on quarters and bubble gum. The blessing of a car meant the hard work of babysitting and odd jobs to earn enough money to fill the gas tank.

When I became a mom, the blessing of my daughter came also with the heavy weight of responsibility. Not only do I receive the pure joy and pride of being a mother to my gorgeous, stubborn, and independent little girl, but every time I look at her, I’m reminded of the great calling God has put on my life to care for her, to teach her, and to love her, even when that means the tough kind of love.

A person can respond to responsibility in a few different ways. We can resist it or even grow to resent the extra work that comes with responsibility. We can become a slave to it, allowing the responsibilities to run our life and become an obsession. Or, we can embrace it and lean on God to strengthen us in fulfilling our responsibilities.  When we remember the blessings that are attached to the extra work, it’s easy to see that it’s worthwhile, but our perspective can determine  whether we treat our blessings as gifts or burdens.

When we think of the James verse, it’s easy to think that a perfect gift means something that is lovely, flawless, and uncomplicated, like quarters and bubble gum, but in life we quickly learn that the most perfect gifts come with responsibility and sacrifice. We can choose to embrace God’s gifts and draw closer to him, or miss an opportunity for God to touch our hearts and lives with His call to greater responsibility and trust.

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How Often Do We Ask for What We Want?

After two days of battling naps and bedtime with my two year old, I was fried. That afternoon I’d walked nearly a marathon pushing a stroller (minus 25 miles) trying to get B to go down for a nap. Finally, tired and frustrated, I looked her in the eye. I said “Mommy really needs time away from you. I’m going to put you in your bed with a bottle of milk, and your job is to fall asleep.” She looked at me earnestly and said, “otay.” I layed her down, left the room, and a miracle happened…. she fell asleep.

It occurred to me then, how often do we ask for what we want? So often we either play the martyr by going without, or we expect others to be mind readers and meet our needs without communicating our expectations.

How often do we ask God for things we want? He may be better than a husband, He can read minds, but God still calls us to pray to him about our wants and needs.

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