Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Renewal - In the Edges of the Day

Today I have the honor of sharing words from one of my favorite people. We've written together. We've sipped tea together. We've watched our children play together. There is something about the way she writes that makes me want to jump up and down and say "YES!" When she agreed to share her thoughts with us for the Advent series, I knew it would be good. I wasn't disappointed.



Advent Scripture Readings:

“The people who walked in darkness
   have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
   on them has light shone…
For to us a child is born,
   to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
   and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:2, 6. (ESV)

“As a mother comforts her child,
   so will I comfort you;
   and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” Isaiah 66:13 (NIV)



Life comes with its own set of expectations, doesn’t it? I was supposed to be debt free and financially stable, have a house, a garden, a well-behaved puppy for the rosy-cheeked children to play with, all well before the age of 30. I mean, isn’t that what all the grown-ups do?


Oops. I’m quite a ways past 30 now. My ideas and ideals have been worn down a bit over time. I don’t know if that picket fence will one day be mine, or not. I do know that I have had to readjust my expectations many times over, and I know how hard it is to keep on looking up when life is letting me down. That’s when I really long for a renewal; of faith, hope, love. I want to be renewed to my depths. I long for the healing rain of joy and peace that refreshes my thirsty soul.


There are so many advertisements in my face during this hurried, almost frenzied time of year. They promise me joy. They promise me renewal. They even imply happiness. They assure me I can renew my home with gorgeous accessories; I can renew my energy with vitamins and soy; I can renew my skin and put a healthy glow on my tired face with magical serums. Eventually, one of those promises will wear my defenses thin, and I’ll buy into the sparkle. But it doesn’t long cure what ails me, if it works at all. I begin to see through the promotional spin. Who can actually guarantee this promise of renewal? Really. Are we destined an entire life of unmet expectations, or is there more to each story?


“Renew.” It’s not just a marketing term. The idea of making something new or strong again has a whole thread of redemptive stories across history.


Long before the geniuses of the business world began selling renewal to us, we all had this hunger and thirst for that something more, something filling, something lasting. Something to make what is broken a thing of beauty again. When we are born, it is from darkness to light, from contented to wanting nourishment at our mother’s breast. We spend the rest of our days reliving this journey of darkness to light, searching for sustenance and peace along the way, crying when we are feeling helpless. And God is here, to tend to our need for aid and comfort, as a mother her child.


In what must have seemed endless days before the Messiah arrived, Israel sat in the darkness of unrest, going back and forth between seeking distractions and praying for the Light of the world to draw near. We, too, have tried the distractions of buying and selling and trying useless things on. We have engaged in our share of wars and wanderings. We have wrung our hands waiting for that Savior to show up. We have cried “how long?”


For Israel, the long-expected Savior did arrive. But who was looking for him to show up in the arms of a poor young prophetess? Who saw beyond that girl named Mary, and into the very heart and soul of our craved renewal? There certainly wasn’t a line around the building when she gave birth to the Christ child.


Maybe we know better now. And I say maybe. Maybe we know where to look for this Savior now. We have heard the story countless times. We have let it touch us, change us, bring us hope. It’s the same every year, except maybe with the growing years and all their challenges it gets a bit harder to believe in what this Savior is doing for and in us. Maybe it’s just a little bit harder to wonder at this bible story and the miracles that we keep hearing about; miracles that seem so far removed from our present day. Maybe we wish some angels would appear in the sky reminding us to “fear not.”


Has the fire of Christmas carols past turned to ashes in our mouths? The children we once were are still inside of us, longing to have a kind, attentive parent come rushing to our side when we call out in the night. Embrace that inner childlike longing and pray with me:


Come, thou long expected Immanuel. Come, quickly, come! Shine your light on our present day. We feel the urgency. We know our needs cannot only be met through more products, more sleep, more friends, more heroism. We still need a Savior! More than ever. Be with us this Advent season. Sit with us in the pain of troubles, injustices, and unmet expectations. Restore our souls and renew our faith with your comforting Presence in this time of our great need. When we cry out in the dark, let us know that you are drawing near.


“O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, grant us thy peace.” (Agnus Dei)

“O Come, Thou King of nations bind
In one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease
And be Thyself our King of Peace.
Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.”

(O Come, O Come Emmanuel. A traditional Advent hymn, author unknown.)





Jamie Wright Bagley resides in Chicagoland where she spends her days wearing an assortment of hats, including writing, homeschooling, and being a special needs mom. She prioritizes family and simple living. She values quality time with friends, and will never ever turn down a good cuppa [tea]. In stolen moments she writes her heart out at http://www.jamiewrightbagley.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @BagsEnd04.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Palm Up, Palms Down


I spent a Saturday walking the grounds of a Catholic seminary this past summer. Most of the people there on the last day of May, as the sun burned hot on my skin, were on a silent retreat. For twenty-four hours the world was eerily quiet. The kind of quiet that leads you to have to face your demons, or in my case, face God. There was no hiding the anger and the fear that was coming out each time I opened my mouth.



The night before I was reminded of a practice from Richard Foster, “Palms Up, Palms Down.”



Simply put, you find a quiet place, put your palms down, and release all of your fears and anxieties to God. You let yourself feel them drop from your tight grip and fall to the ground. Then you turn your palms back up and ask for peace and what you need. You allow Him to fill you back up as you sit in silence.



Silence.

Peace.

The things I am often lacking in my life.

 
Photo Courtesy of  byjenniferupton.com

But today the sun is certainly not warm. The cold air fills my lungs and the days are short. The only light that shines comes from the tree in the corner of my living room and the candle in my Advent wreath. 

The Hope candle.

Seeing past the darkness to embrace the Light. But it is hard to see when you are holding on to things that block your view.


 Palms up. Palms down.


Where is your Hope?

What is it that you need this Advent season? 

What do you need to give back?



Today I want you to carve out some time – even just five minutes – and pray a Palms Up Palms Down prayer of your own. Give back to God the things that are weighing you, the things that are holding you back from being the woman, the writer, the artist, the creator that you are designed to be. Allow Him to infuse back to you peace, inspiration, wisdom, strength, or whatever it is you need. Then share with us, if you want to, your experience. We want to encourage you and to pray alongside you.


Monday, November 24, 2014

We Remember - In the Edges of the Day

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving. Normally at this time I start to feel a surge of stress. I think of the gifts for teachers that should could be bought, the cookies for neighbors to be baked, the meals to be prepped, the Christmas decorations to be brought out and put up. Advent hasn't even started and I am lost in the noise of expectations and the trappings of making things look beautiful.


This year I am going to pause.



I want to remember.


I want to remember this year. The eleven months of memories we have made so far.

I want to remember the friends we have made. The relationships born and strengthened this year. The connections we made. The way life was shared. The evenings of talks around fires and children playing too late in the evening. The texts, the emails, and the phone calls. The prayers for each other and the belief that God has so much in store for us.

I want to remember the loss. I want to honor relationships changed. I want to let go of dreams that died. Plans that veered off course. I want to let them go, palms down, and hand them back to the Father who gives and takes away, even when it feels painful and unfair.

I want to remember milestones. I want to think of the lost teeth, the first days of school, and new skills acquired. I want to remember the times she tried something hard and succeeded! I want to remember the times she tried something hard and failed. The firsts and the lasts. The success and the failure. All of it is good. All can be remembered.

I want to remember the decisions I've made. The ones that were good. Even the ones I regret.

I want to remember the times I felt alive. The times I knew I was walking in my calling. The times I was hearing the Spirit speak to me and following. I want to remember the times I felt God’s love pour out of me. I want to remember the times I felt Kingdom come right here on earth because I was doing what I have been called to do.

And as we gather around the table on Thursday, I want to remember the meals shared. Memories made. Laughter. Tears. Prayers. All so good. All to be honored.


This week, pause and remember. Remember all of this. Release this year and leave room for preparation. We are about to usher in the coming King. We are opening our home and our heart for the Messiah. We let go of our success and failure so have room for the King of King and Prince of Peace to rule in our hearts.

We will wait with expectation.

But today, today we remember.



What do you want to remember this year?

******


Join us at In the Edges of the Day for some low stress, guided activities to help you remember this week as we prepare for Advent.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A November Reset

October ended with the kind of cold that you feel deep inside….the kind that whispers to you a reminder that it isn't going to be warm again for a very long time.



I can feel it, this restart in my heart November brings each year. The comfortable rhythm feels like home. I am pulled to the kitchen. I light candles without a second thought. I eat salads and soups because soon I will happily spend every waking moment in the kitchen so I better attempt to be good now. I drink cup after cup of tea.

I try to find a peace in the tension of simultaneously speeding up and slowing down. It is a reminder that this is more than the rhythm of the holiday season, it is the rhythm of our life. Fast, slow. Fast, slow. I am much more aware of it now, and find time in the fast to stop to see.


We spent the weekend in preparation mode. We began the mammoth project of cleaning out the basement so the girls have room to run around when the air is too cold for them to play in outside. We went to Nutcracker rehearsals since we are almost a month away from show time! And most importantly, we set up for our month of Thanksgiving.


It is important to me, each November, to use the month to prepare my heart. I know I cannot enter into Advent if I haven’t had this time to reflect. The same way I plant the last of the spring bulbs in the earth, I plant the practice of gratitude deep in my heart. I try to limit my use of social media and what time I am on I focus on #30daysofthanks. Each day I list one thing I am grateful for.

The slowing down is good for my heart. And my girls focus as well. In the past, we have done a Thankful Tree. Each day they both write what they are grateful for on a leaf and the leaf is glued to the tree. But this year, I couldn't find any paper leaves (or even a leaf stencil) so we are doing a Thankful Banner. Each day they get to fill in what they are grateful for and write it on that day’s pennant. It is strung against the windows of our dining room and I have no doubt that when we sit down on Thanksgiving Day to share a meal with family and friends we will be blessed by the physical reminder of all that we have.


Snow is falling now. When I look out the window there is no denying seasons will soon be shifting. I am ready.

I hope and pray you are as well.





*What is it that you are doing to prepare your heart?
*Are you finding ways to practice gratitude this month?

*How are some ways that you cultivate a spirit of Thanksgiving in your kids?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dreaming about Christmas

I want you to close your eyes for a moment. We are going to use our imaginations.


It’s December 25th. We’ll say it’s around 10pm. The kids/relatives/guests are in bed. The room is only lit by the lights from the Christmas tree, leaving shadows dancing up and down the walls. You have a blanket wrapped around you and your favorite beverage in hand. The house still smells like all the wonderful food you’ve been eating for the past 48 hours. Everything, in this moment, is perfect.



Open your eyes. Grab your journal or a piece of paper and pen. Write down how you want to feel in that moment. What will your house look like? What will it smell like? Who was with you? Was there music playing? What kind? Will you be exhausted or peaceful? Will you feel satisfied? Grateful?

What will your memories of December be? Did you go Christmas caroling? Did you do an Advent calendar? What were the books you read? The places you visited? The songs you sang? Were there prayers held close to your heart you saw answered? Did you feel God with you? Write it all down.



Now let’s work backwards.


You see, if we don’t right now figure out the end result of the holidays and Advent, it is going to get away from us. It just will.


I know, you haven’t even finished gathering Halloween costumes. I haven’t had that slice of homemade apple pie that tells me it’s Fall. How can I possibly start planning for Christmas? Here’s how. 

Because on December 25th at 10pm I know exactly how I want to feel and what I want to have accomplished. For me, the biggest thing is to let me kids see Jesus and to experience the wonder of God with us, and they won’t if I spend the month trying to get little projects and shopping done.

I’m choosing to do it now.


So yesterday I filled a mason jar with rum and split vanilla beans. I tucked it into a dark corner and in six weeks I’ll pour the vanilla extract into individual jars tied with ribbon for the crossing guards and piano teachers. Next week I’ll do something else. And I’ll keep doing, a little at a time so on December 25th when I’m surrounded by my family, I’ll be able to smile contentedly without regret.

******

So here's your homework. Find some time to dream and plan out your holiday season. Do it from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Keep coming back to it over this week. And pray about it. Ask God to show you if there are people you want to give to, organizations to volunteer at, people to bake for, or just ways to make God's love shown a bit more. Allow God to speak to you. Let's start finding Him even here, in the edges of our day.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

In the Edge of the Day - An Introduction

I woke up the other day and somehow, it was October. Three months left of the year. And these happen to be my favorite three months of the entire year. 

This is how it goes for me, perhaps you can relate?

******

October. 

Yay! Bring out all the Fall decorations. Buy all the mums.

Pumpkin lattes! Pumpkin bread! Pumpkin tea! Pumpkin seeds! Pumpkin decorating.

Shoot. The kids need costumes. Let’s figure out what we are going to do. Start looking at thrift stores. 

Looked a little too late and now we are starting to run out of time. Hurry. Still can’t find what I need. Quick go to Target. Oh, and candy for the neighborhood kiddos. Costco run, stat!

Phew. That was so much fun. Can’t believe it is now November.


Shoot. It’s November. Thanksgiving is this month. I forgot to get the Thankful tree ready ahead of time. It’s already Day 2 and I haven’t made it yet. Hurry. Quick. Need to make sure we relax and can spend our days being grateful. Did I say what I was thankful for on Facebook yet? I’m going to look so ungrateful if I don’t catch up.

(Insert here frantic and exciting plans for anniversary – yay!)

Whoops, almost Thanksgiving. Who are we inviting? Let’s just have a small gathering, just immediate family.

“Mom, how come we aren’t inviting others? I don’t think Jesus would like this…..”

Cue inviting one other and then realizing that you now have 12 people coming over. Without fail. Every year. Why did I even pretend we wouldn't?

That was so life giving. I can’t tell you how glad I am we did that. Thanksgiving is meant to be spent with a full dining room, a messy kitchen, and an always open front door. Now let’s relax this weekend.

(Unless you are a Black Friday shopper, then God bless ya………)


Holy cow. How is it December first?! I need to do Advent!!! IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS PEOPLE!!!!

Quick, check Pinterest because there will be tons of ways to keep this all centered on Jesus.

48 hours later…..

SO MUCH TO DO!!!!

What are we going to buy the kids for Christmas? Are we exchanging with family members? How come the tree isn't up yet?

We are losing precious memories people!!!!!!

Bake all the things.

TEACHER GIFTS! Who do we have to get to give to this year?

Get thee to Michaels!!!
Phew.

Wait. We forgot about _____________.

AMAZON PRIME!

Were we going to take a family photo? Do we have matching clothes? Who will take the picture? I should have done this earlier. 

Forget it.

Are we doing Christmas cards? Do I even have addresses?

Cue Facebook status, “Hey everyone, this year I am FINALLY going to send out Christmas cards. I mean it. Really. I will actually send them out this year.”

Go to purchase Christmas cards.

Realize you still have last year’s cards addressed but never mailed.

Are stamps the same? Did postage go up? Did I put old pictures in and then seal? Hmmm…. Can I steam them open? Will it be tacky to tape them shut? Maybe I can find big Christmas stickers to cover it up.

Christmas Eve. That’s our big meal day. Who is coming? Do I have enough things that are vegetarian/gluten free/dairy free/low-fat/low-carb/paleo/whole food/not spicy?

Did we get the kids’ gifts?

Did I get Adam a gift?

Christmas pajamas.

Santa cookies.

Please just go to sleep.

Put food in crockpot for next day because let’s face it, you aren’t lifting a finger tomorrow.


Christmas morning. Resist the urge to post a picture of your tree with gifts under it because let’s be honest, that’s just obnoxious. (Seriously, don’t do this)

Try to brush hair and put on lip gloss before kids get up in case you end up in a picture.

Be grateful they savor opening presents and that it takes all day.

Secretly wish they would just hurry up and open them so you can move on and rest.

Throw out all the wrapping paper.

Cuddle with kids on couch in blankets and wonder if you talked about Jesus enough this month.

******

Does any of this sound familiar?

In varying degrees, this happens every year. We start out the season with these beautiful ideas of how it will all look and we get sucked into some strange vortex we don’t want to even be a part of.


I don't want to wake up on December 26th and realize this happened again. I’m not going to get caught up in things that aren’t that important. I don’t want to get pulled under by the desire to buy more than I need, bake more than necessary.

Somehow the idea of bounty that flows throughout these months turns into an exercise in hoarding.


I’m over it.

This year I am doing it differently. And I’d love for you to join me.




In the Edges of the Day: An Advent Journey,” is a community focused on finding Jesus underneath the wrapping paper and in between all the things that vie for our attention. Each Monday there will be a blog post that helps us find our center. Then, on the community page, there will be different activities designed for you to reconnect.

Advent doesn't have to be fast paced and a blur. Let's redefine it for ourselves.


Let's find Jesus in the edges of the day.

******

Be sure to keep up to date by visiting either my Facebook page or the community page. We start in earnest on Monday, November 24th, but before that I will be posting each week some ideas of ways we can start preparing both our homes and our hearts now.





Monday, September 15, 2014

When I Don't Want to Forget the Light



It’s important to remember the basics. The things that root us and remind us of our center. When things get to be too much and I need to quiet the noise, I go to my basics. Yesterday it was pan biscuits before church. The smell of the melted butter as the biscuits crisped up at 6:30 in the morning centered me while I sipped my coffee with the pumpkin spice creamer.

(Saint) Florence and the Machine fills the room and for the first time I notice how dirty my windows are. We’ve lived here for almost a year and can I admit I’ve never cleaned them. So I got out the blue spray and a roll of paper towels and began the process of cleaning them inside and out. We don’t like to call the room the office, so we tried library, but that sounded stuffy. Mostly we call it the reading room. It’s where the rocking chair Adam gave me for the Christmas when Katie was a little over a year and I was pregnant with Sophie sits in the corner with the windows. The long radiator is covered with pictures, books, and a silver lamppost that lights up. It’s supposed to be a Christmas decoration but we call it the Narnia light and we turn it on when the girls come around for story time.

I wiped away a year’s worth of dust and dirt as my nose burned from too much Windex and my eyes filled with tears. I don’t know if it was the chemicals, the sunlight that poured in unfiltered, or the events of the weekend. But oh, oh that sunlight was breathtaking. The way it filled the room and warmed my face, even as the fall cool air snuck into our little brick house.

 I don’t want to forget the light.

******

So today I root myself in the basics.

Today is brought to you by holding hands and whispered prayers when waiting in the school playground and slow walks up and down the aisles at the grocery store, admiring each and every butternut squash and sweet onion.

Peanut butter sandwiches around the counter, with Lego carriages and castles.

It’s burnt umber table cloths and burlap runners, centerpieces of gourds and mini pumpkins, and mums filling the front door planter.
Today is chicken in the crockpot with sliced carrots and celery, hand peeled and chopped apples simmering in the dutch oven with cinnamon just because we can.

It is Gungor’s “Beautiful Things”, fuzzy socks, dollar store necklaces trying to look like turquoise, and red lipstick.

The sound of the laptop keyboard as I write something just for me.

Today is Little House in the Big Woods, Murphy’s Oil Soap and Lysol.

It is the candle I burn when I pray on Wednesdays. And even now it is lit because it needs to be.

And it is the way the water and yeast mix with flour. The way the dough rises and falls and rises again, even after being punched. And in the end, though the outside will be tougher, the inside miraculously is lighter and softer.


Glory be. Amen.

Friday, August 8, 2014

When We Feel Scattered

In less than 25 days my baby will start school. And as many mommas who have sent their kids out for the first time, I’m a bundle of emotions.

I keep thinking back to the day we visited the school. An unexpected all gave us 24 hours to decide if we would take the spot. She grabbed my hand as we walked the hallway and pressed her body against my side, “You know it’s time, right Mom?”


We are making eggs for breakfast. Did I have her practice cracking the eggs into the bowl enough? If I knew she was going to start school, I think I would have had her practice more.



This summer has been full of Six Flags, gymnastics, bike rides, and community dance performances. Fingers greasy from popcorn and sticky from melted marshmallows. Dirty feet and chipped toe nail polish. Faint freckles across the bridge of her nose and hands toughened from practicing cartwheels. The smell of bonfires still in our nose.



Her hair is almost to the bottom of her rib cage. It’s been darkening over the years. It curls gently down her back and tickles my arm when she cuddles against me. She found a picture of me in kindergarten and she called us twins. I only hope to have a fraction of her spirit when I grow up.


We have less than a month. 25 days. Not that I’m counting.


She unpacked and tried on the clothes we bought for her uniform. Then she put them on hangers and found a spot on her rack in the small closet she shares with her sisters. She picked out what she wants to wear the first day of school, complete with shoes that light up. She’s particular about how she will wear her hair.
In four weeks she will start her newest and biggest adventure of her 6 ¾ years. And for the first time I won’t be there to hold her hand, or whisper in her ear, or give her a reassuring smile and thumbs up. I’ll pack her a lunch, write her a note, and kiss her on the cheek.

And pray.



I think we will bake bread today. She likes punching down the dough and checking on it as it rises.
And cookies. We will start baking lots of different kinds of cookies. It’s important to see what kind she likes best so she has her favorite when she comes home from school.


We have 25 days left. 25 days of bike rides and stories. Of trips to the pool and walks around the block. Of roller coasters and sand castles. There will be plenty more hot dogs, s’mores, and star filled snuggles. But in the back of my head, I hear the clock ticking. 



I feel scattered. I know I’m scattered. I am excited and nervous and happy and heartbroken all at once. I’m thinking about the time we’ve had when I’ve had her all to myself. I’m thinking about the way she blossoms when she’s around others. I’m already missing her.


I hope I did enough. I hope I told her I love her enough. I hope I gave her enough hugs. I hope I sat with her long enough. Listened long enough. Gave her my full attention enough.

It never feels enough, does it?



But she's got this.
I've got this.



We've got this.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

When We Push Back the Darkness

This is a post about Kingdom Theology. But it’s not.

Today the now and the not yet slam against each other with violent force, leaving aftershocks that shake me throughout each day. Just when I find that moment of peace, I feel a rumble. It’s like the whole earth is groaning.

Today I sat in the front row of a beautiful old church, holding my youngest in my lap, her head resting in the crook of my neck, listening to kids sing about God’s love and following after Him. Faces beaming they epitomized joy. This temporarily removed the thoughts about another plane that went missing this morning and the fact that my husband will fly across the ocean this fall and that planes seem to be dropping out of the sky with regularity.



Yesterday we went to our neighborhood farmers’ market and found some beautiful peaches and golden plums to take home. My oldest added up the cost of the produce and proudly made the transaction. We then held hands as we walked down the street and found our way to our favorite Indian restaurant. 13 miles away, on the other end of our city, a family is still mourning after their daughter was killed in their home. She was microwaving marshmallows with her friends to make s’mores at their slumber party. In too many areas of Chicago it isn't safe to go outside, so they stayed in their apartment, yet a bullet found its way through a cracked open window and a wall before lodging itself in the little girl, killing her.

The sun is shining, the wind is blowing, and summer feels perfect. I watch my kids play in the park with their friends. Their shrieks of laughter blend with the sound of the birds singing. Their feet pounding on the pavement as they run mark a rhythm and everything feels like music. Half a world away, 121 Palestinian children have died in thepast two weeks, with another 1,100 injured. My city of Chicago has seen 218homicides this year; 34 have been children under the age of 18.



I don’t know how to hold it all in anymore. I can’t even list the wars, the children fleeing danger, the hate, the murders, the drive-by shooting/hit a mile from my house, and the racism that I see seeping through everything. I vacillate between mourning and anger.

I have meditated on Psalm 103 the past two days.

The Lord gives righteousness

   and justice to all who are treated unfairly.


I don’t see it, but I need to believe it. And I ask God where it is…..where the righteousness and justice are. He doesn't answer me. I hear nothing other than the question, “What are your hands doing?”


What are my hands doing?

Today my hands type this lament, in hopes that somehow it helps push the darkness back. In hopes that it is part of making a way for the not yet. 

Today my hands tear sack cloth and pour ash on my head because I need to mourn. 

And today my hands will rock my babies, brush their hair, hold their hands, and wipe away their tears. 

Today my hands will turn palms up to the heavens and wait. Because they need to do something. 

They need to help push back the darkness.



I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

Isaiah 42:16


Kyrie eleison, Lord have mercy.

Friday, June 27, 2014

I Wish I Had Gotten Lost

I lived in London for six beautiful months immediately after my wedding. Adam had already been there eighteen months and had established a beautiful life for himself full of friends and adventures and all the things you wish for when you are in your mid-twenties.

I arrived in the winter, not the best time to see London. But even with the cold and gray hanging in the sky as rain and the occasional bit of snow fell, it was breathtaking. Each step down cobblestone sidewalks and along busy road breathed new life into me. I felt alive in London. I felt as if I were both a part of history and the future in one glorious moment.

I had my routine. After breakfast with my new husband, he’d head off to work while I had a leisurely morning with my Bible, a book, letters to friends, and writing (why, oh why, didn’t I know about blogging back then?!). Then it was off to the gym and the market to pick up the day’s produce (when you have a dorm size fridge in your kitchen you visit the market a lot!). I’d come home, prep dinner, and then relax until he came home. This time I had was so good for my soul.

The weekends were for exploring. We’d hit up tourist spots, see shows, try new restaurants, and just walk through all the different neighborhoods. Sometimes we’d hop on a plane. It was all adventure. I loved it. In London, I found a part of me I didn’t know was there.



I only have one regret from my time in London. I wish I had gotten lost. As much as I loved my days in London while Adam worked, I wish I had left with him one morning. Armed with my tickets and some money, I wish I had boarded the tube and seen where it took me. I wish I had hopped off at an unfamiliar stop and wandered until I found a cup of coffee. I wish I found a new park or garden to walk through. I wish I had made my own adventures.


Someday, many years from now, my girls will leave our home. They will go off to college, or on a gap year, or maybe start working. And what I hope for them is to get themselves lost. I want them to wander and search and explore. I want them to be brave and try new things and see bits of the world through someone else’s eyes. I want them to add to the knowledge and experience they have gained up to that point. I want them to be challenged and tested and come out on the other end true to themselves and true to their Creator.

I want them to laugh and cry and jump up and down with joy. I want them to feel what it is to find the new to them.


I want them to get lost in the story of their lives and in doing so, find themselves.


I started writing this yesterday, and when I woke up and saw what the word was for Five Minute Friday, it felt serendipitous! If you want to write on the word LOST, join in!


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Good Girls and Prayer

On Wednesdays I have the honor of sharing a thought, a prompt, a challenge, a prayer at the Well, part of the Story Sessions. I don't always link to what I write, but today I wanted to. I'd love for you to join me.

I don’t ask for what I need. I don’t ask for what I want.

If you are lucky, I might be able to squeak out how I feel, but only after holding it in as long as I can. But asking for what I need? Good girls don’t do that. We don’t rock the boat. We put others’ feelings first. We don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable. We stay far away from that slippery slope of selfishness.

I don’t ask for what I need. I don’t ask for what I want.

It’s problematic, and unhealthy. I’m well aware of it. I see the issues it creates. So many issues. And in the end it is a matter of trust. I have been taught not to trust the person I need something from. And I have been taught not to trust myself.

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When I pray, I don’t ask for what I need. I don’t ask for what I want.

I’m a good girl. And I’ve been taught in a hundred different ways that we pray for others. We pray for family members battling hard against illnesses that tend to win. We pray for children to be brave, to make friends, to hear God’s voice, to stay healthy. We pray for our spouses. We pray for our friends. We pray for Nigerian girls kidnapped from their school. We pray for Syria, Iraq, Egypt, North Korea…….

But do we pray for what we need?

I feel so selfish, so indulgent, so ungrateful when I pray for myself. I recognize the privilege I have. So how do I ask for opportunities in writing, favor with a publisher, an agent, and the ability to balance writing and family/all the other things that we have going on?

Is this you? Do you have a difficult time verbalizing what you need? Is it almost impossible to ask for what you want?


To read the rest join us at The Well.......

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What I Wish I Had Known (AKA My Baker's Dozen)

I sat in the coffee shop, wondering what to write, when I had the idea to make a list of things I wanted to tell my girls.

Looking back, I know I was told many of these things when I was young, but some lessons just go over your head. I wish these things had grabbed hold of me. I wish I knew how strong I could be. I wish I had that fearlessness that I see flash in my little girls’ eyes. I write this list for them. These are the things I want them to know deep down. We could all make our own list, and each would be different, but here is mine, in all of its imperfections and lacking.

You are loved. You are loved you are loved you are loved. Your parents love you more than you can imagine, but more than that God loves you. Walking with God isn’t about following a list of rules and trying not to mess up. Walking with God is waking up each day and realizing a little bit more how much He loves you. There are things you should do/shouldn’t do, yes. But you are only able to really do that list when you recognize how much He loves you. Remember that love when you make decisions and choices. You are living your life out of love, not out of fear of consequences or anger. Soak in His love and reflect that love to others. It’s that simple.



Use your voice. God gave it to you for a reason. Speak up for yourself. Speak up for the ones whose voices have grown hoarse from trying to get people to hear them. Speak out against injustice. Speak up when you see beautiful Kingdom goodness seeping into the everyday. Speak about love. Speak about hope. Speak on anything that beats wildly in your heart. Speak about the whispers in your soul. Speak it, sing it, yell it, call it out, whisper it, declare it, proclaim it. Do it however you want to, just do it. Let your voice be used. Make them hear.

Push through, even when it’s unbelievably hard and painful. You’ll be tired. You’ll second guess yourself. Just keep going. Life is a hard and you’ll want to take breaks, but if you push through you’ll see magic. You’ll see yourself do things you never thought you could. You’ll amaze yourself and then you’ll try more hard things and you’ll manage to do them too.

Do things you aren’t good at. Perfection is overrated. Play a sport you absolutely suck at. Try some form of art that you haven’t done before. Attempt a musical instrument you don’t know or a language you’ve never spoken. Allow yourself to perform horribly. Be able to have fun doing it. And if you find that you enjoy it, keep doing it, you’ll get better, promise.



You don’t ask, you don’t get. Your Dad taught me this. And while it might not hold itself to be universally true, remember these words. Don’t wait for someone to pick you or notice you. Find opportunities. Use that voice we talked about. Advocate for yourself (advocate for others while you’re at it). Seek out chances to use your gifts and do what you love. And keep going. Put yourself out there. We are cheering wildly for you.

Pastors, ministers, and mentors do not have perfect communication with God. They don’t have a crystal ball or a special hotline that gives them information you aren’t privy to. They aren’t always right. If you are given counsel that doesn’t sit well in your spirit, pray about it and follow your gut. There are so many wonderful, God-fearing people out there who want to help, but they are human. And sadly sometimes there are motivations behind those words of wisdom that are less than perfect. Let the Holy Spirit guide you.

Fear is the enemy of everything. Seriously. Fear of sin, fear of others, fear of different opinions. There is so much fear.  Fear turns you ugly. Fear ruins things. Fear breaks down communication. Fear can be traced back to so much of the bad in the world. Don’t be afraid to hear dissenting opinions. Don’t let yourself be ruled by fear. Don’t let it be your primary go to default emotion. When people lash out, when horrible things happen, take a minute and reflect – is fear in play here? It probably is. You’ll get through life so much easier if you learn to see when others are acting out in fear. It doesn’t make what they are doing right, but it helps you see their motivation.

Be brave always, but remember that brave doesn’t mean you aren’t afraid; it just means you are doing it anyway. Keep going. Keep trying, even if you are scared and trembling. You can’t get through this list I’m giving you without being brave. Life is scary. You need to find your brave. You were created for a reason. You have Kingdom stuff to do. Push back the fear that we talked about and find yourself in the center of the brave.



Being broken isn’t all bad.  You will work hard, you’ll try your best. You’ll say no to fear and walk in brave. But no matter what you do, at some point you are going to feel broken. When that happens, don’t try to hide it. Let yourself be broken. Don’t put up a fa├žade.  There is beauty in that brokenness. Lean into it. Learn from it. And find the beauty in the brokenness of others. Brokenness isn’t an ending, it’s just a part of the journey.

Boundaries are your friend. It’s up to you who you let in, who you share with, who you do life with. It’s okay to show weaknesses to others. But you control who gets to see what. You are the one to decide who to trust, who is worthy of seeing all of you. Don’t let people push you into anything else. Listen to the Holy Spirit and make your own choices. We’re here if you need to talk it out.

Your value does not lie in your virginity. Whatever decisions you make and whatever may happen, your intrinsic worth does not change based on your “purity.” You are more than hemlines and skirt lengths. You are a child of God. People will spend hours discussing on behalf of you and a generation of girls what is appropriate from your dating behavior to whether or not you can wear a bikini. Sweethearts, don’t listen to them. It’s not their business. Keep your ear to the Holy Spirit. Also, if and when men ogle you or say inappropriate things, it’s not your fault. Men have this thing called a mind, and God gave them self-control, just like He gave it to you. Their choices are on them. Period.



Do what you love – God gave you these desires. See where they take you. You don’t have to decide your freshman year of college what you are going to spend your life doing. Take your time, step back if you need to, and ask God to reveal to you your true passions. See how your skills and passions meet up and do it.

Keep your eyes open to those around you. Don’t look away when you see sickness, homelessness, poverty, racism, inequity, and loneliness. It’s hard. I’m not going to lie. You will cry. You will get angry. You’ll want to turn away for at least a little while. This is might be the hardest one, but you need to do it. Look people in the eye when you talk to them. See the image of God in each of them. It will make the world a better place.


There are more than thirteen things I want you to know. I’m going to keep telling them to you and you’ll probably get sick of it. But there are things I learn every day and we are in this thing together. And there are things you need to teach me. So you keep telling me too, okay? Don’t be afraid to let me know when my fear is showing. Don’t be afraid to tell me I messed up. That’s what this whole family thing is about – making each other stronger and better, so stick with me, we’ve got this.

(Photos courtesy of the amazing Alison Luna)


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What are the things you want your children to know?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

We Will Call It Good

I've been waking early the past few weeks. Each morning I have a fleeting thought that perhaps I can use this time to write, but I am usually far too groggy for that. More often than not, a little curly haired girl finds her way to where I am camped out and curls up, head on shoulder, for another hour of cozy sleep. Today has been no exception.

Each winter I look forward to May…..there is something about this month that fills me with such hope. But then May arrives and I remember how hectic it tends to become. Preschool wraps up and the end of school year picnics, recitals, concerts, and shows begin. And now that my big girl is entering public school next year, we add to it the mad dash of doctor, dentist, and eye appointments so all her paperwork is turned in on time.

My list today is a mile long. I have nine hours of babysitter time (a complete luxury I readily admit) and indecision grips me – use the time to clean the house and organize or write? The reality that I will be interrupted every 30 minutes even with the help is not lost on me, and as I stand in the dining room, coffee cup cradled in my hands as a cool breeze blows through my house, all I really want to do is sit on the couch with them all day long. I want a good day.


They tell those of us with little kids that it passes quickly and we will miss it. And while we acknowledge the truth, we roll our eyes because when you are severely sleep deprived and spend your entire day changing diapers and everything is so hard because you have three under three, it doesn’t matter. But here I stand with a six (and ¾), five, and three year old alongside me and I want this summer to freeze in time.



I want lazy days where they all crawl in bed with me as they watch PBS kids while I read. I want mornings of pancake breakfasts and pajamas. I want afternoons filled with sprinklers and sidewalk chalk and riding bikes through the park. I want cuddles on the couch as we read each and every book in this house. I want adventures in the city, days at the beach, and time at the pool. I want them to look back and remember each and every day was good.

I also want my house to be magically clean each day. I want the groceries to just appear in my refrigerator. I want to suddenly not care that the floor is sticky and that if it stays sticky one moment longer we will have an ant infestation. I want to not feel rushed to get everything done. I want to have hours to write each day without it taking away time from anyone.

I don’t want my arms to be so sore from constantly juggling my responsibilities.

But.

I know that’s not what my summer is going to look like.

It will have bits and pieces of that, yes. It will also have time spent cleaning rooms, putting away laundry, and unloading the dishwasher. It will have spelling pages and math worksheets. There will be hours spent in the van as we drop off and pick up from summer activities. And when the weather gets so hot that we forget how cold we were this summer, there will be afternoons camped out near a window air conditioner watching Frozen for the two-hundredth and thirty-seventh time.


So today I’ll try to write, but I’ll also do some laundry, clean up some rooms, and wash the dishes. I’ll let them sit next to me for a bit, passing over crayons and asking them to do the illustrations. Then I’ll shut the door and take all that love for them, and all my hopes and dreams that I carry for them, and put them on paper. I’ll write words about how my girls are whole. How they can do and be whatever they want. How the voice that God gave them is good and they are worthy of using it.


After dinner we will sit on the couch together, we will tell each other about our day, and call it good.


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What does a good day look like for you?