Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sink or Swim: Rescuing our Sanity this Summer

It's here, it's here, IT IS HEREEEE! Summertime (unofficially) has begun...at least in my neck of the woods. School is out, kids are everywhere, and opportunity beckons. One of the perks of being married to a teacher is that we really do get a bit of a "summer vacation" together. Hubs works a second job in the summer but it is not as demanding as teaching, so he's got more time and more energy. It is so exciting to think of all the different things we could try to knock off our bucket list...and yet, this morning I woke up in a bad mood. I couldn't quite place it and then Hubs gently pointed out that I don't necessarily appreciate having my routine thrown off and here we were at the start of summer, with a completely different routine from what we've had the past nine months. He was so right! I felt a bit aimless and discontented--not because I wasn't excited about having him home or about loosening up the reigns of routine--but because I wasn't sure exactly what the plan was--what our goals were--and I kind of like knowing where I'm going. It might sound a little fuddy-duddy to the adventure-types out there, but with little ones at home it can be tough for me to break off from routine and run without a plan.

All that to say, if you are anything like me, than maybe you're feeling a little out of sorts about the lack of structure and routine that come with summertime. I have found that just being able to name that discomfort has helped to ease the edginess tremendously. Now I can think through what my overarching goals are for this less-structured season, so that I don't miss the boat on what I feel is most important. Then maybe I can sit back, relax, and enjoy some of this summer fun!

 How can we rescue our sanity this summer? Our boats are unanchored and our crew is off of their routine, but we still want to end up in port at the end of our journey. Let's start with a few questions to define our destination...so we can know where we want to end up when the day is done.

I will be pondering these questions and hopefully soon be posting some of my thoughts and goals for this fabulous season! I would love it if you would share some of your tips, tricks, dreams, and destinations with me! I am hopeful that this will be a journey to remember--with plenty of photo-ops and giggle-makers for both my family and yours! Happy Summer!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A God Who Takes Away Our Disgrace

We cover ourselves in it sometimes, don't we? We heap mounds and mounds of it upon ourselves, like some kind of ice cream topping overload gone terribly wrong. It's a wonder we can even walk a straight line under the heavy weight of the guilt and shame so many of us keep adding to our load. Especially us women, I think. The baggage of our disgrace...our not being good enough...who can bear it and still find joy? This insipid joy-sucker haunts the moments of life where we should find delight. It steals contentment by finding flaw in whatever action we choose--causing us to second-guess our motives and feel defeated in our lack of ability to measure up to perfection time and time again.

At the lack of sounding so not religiously-correct, I just want to say, "Eff you, inadequacy!" Because I need strong words to battle enemies that feel unbeatable. I need to pretend like I'm brave enough to stand up to this veritable Goliath who eggs me on and taunts me and stands between me and the grace garden that God has planted just for mud-spattered sinners like me. Tell me I'm not the only one that gets caught in this trap over and over again!? Tell me that the insane cycle of comparing myself to everybody and their mother and always coming up short is not a one-man show? I need to hear that there is end to this madness!!

And then, there it is. Nestled inconspicuously in the first chapter of Luke, I am reminded that we have a God who takes away our disgrace. You see, Elizabeth couldn't get pregnant. Like so many strong and beautiful and kind and good women throughout history who would make amazing mamas but for whatever reason are just not able...she felt like she had failed. There was loss, but there was also shame. Maybe she wondered what she had done to deserve this...where had she gone wrong. Or maybe she strove for years to be "good enough" to hope that maybe, just maybe...but it was all to no avail. For decades she was marked by her barrenness, it was her shame. It makes me mad as a hatter that this thing she could not even control had control over her. The unfairness that those around her would look at her through the lens of "unable to conceive" makes me want to scream, yet there it is in black and white, undetailed as it may be. And then...that grace garden blooms. It could have bloomed in a thousand ways but for her it bloomed through miraculous life within her womb. After all those years of hoping and begging and finally accepting and knowing that it was just too late, she was just too old...there it was. "This is the way the Lord has dealt with me...to take away my disgrace among men."

What strikes me isn't that she gets pregnant after all this time. It isn't even that when God does things He does things BIG and she ends up pregnant with the forerunner to the Son of Man...one of the Big Dogs in God's Story of Redemption--John the Baptist. What gets me is that even though God didn't bring disgrace upon Elizabeth, nor did He ever look upon her with disgrace, He was the one who took her disgrace away. What makes my breath catch in my throat and makes my eyes bug out in wonder is that despite being marked as inadequate and "less than" by her society and herself for longer than she could remember, it took but a moment for God to wipe away the disgrace of man and replace it with grace of Himself. I need that swap, do you?

We are so quick to cover ourselves and others with shame and judgment and expectations that may or may not be out of our control or ability. We stand at the garden wall and look longingly in, seeing the grace and smelling it's sweet scent, yet not daring to believe that it could be ours. Instead, too often, we turn from the wall and go back to the wallowing--knee deep in the mud of our own self-loathing, wondering when we will ever get it together. Anybody? The irony is, we won't. Not without venturing our imperfect little selves over that beautiful garden wall, and standing mud-streaked in the perfection of Grace--conspicuous and uncomfortable and...to our inability to comprehend...fully accepted and fully loved.

So whatever it may be that leaves you guilt-laden and ashamed today--bring it to that grace-filled garden. There is something magical about that place, I promise you. For it is perhaps only there where we can experience the fullness of the love God has for us. As we bring our sin-sick selves eye-level with the One who is love incarnate we will see that, truly, there is no agenda. Just glorious grace-soaked love held out for our healing, and a God who wants to be with us.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Motivated May

Since my last post was titled with alliteration I thought I might as well stick with the theme for this one too! And so, Motivated May is born. ;) I was talking with a friend the other day about planning and purposing in regards to our lives. We are reading Sally Clarkson's book Own Your Life and were both struck by these words: "Any great structure requires great planning. So it is with life." Do those words hit anybody but me?! If we don't have a blueprint for what we want to build...how are we ever going to build it?!

I'm going to be frank with you. More often then not, if I don't purpose myself to something I do nothing. I have thousands of ideas that fleet through my mind of things I want to do or want to try, ways I want to be or journeys I want to take. But none of them stick unless I purpose them to stick. I am one who desperately needs a bucket-list, of sorts, to get me where I want to go. I can dream all day long, but turning that dreaming into action is not always my strong suit. For that I need motivation and drive and, oftentime, a very specific plan.

I always know when God really wants to drill something into my head because He hits me with it again and again in a variety of ways. Being as I am a girl who loves analogies and being as I have a God who loves me very much, oftentimes He brings home truth to me via great analogies. Here is another one I was struck by: If we had half the tenacity and intentionality and game-plan as an NFL football team, we would be unstoppable (paraphrased from Mark Batterson). Think of it! You would never expect to hear that a pro football team opted to binge-watch their favorite program while eating mounds of junk-food all season instead of practicing and training and making choices to help get them to the top of their game. So why is it that I find myself opting to fill up with "junk" and then wonder why I feel frazzled, unorganized, and dissatisfied?! DUH!

I have a theory that if I start to purpose myself to small goals, over time they will snowball into me becoming more of the person I want to be. I want to be a woman of intentionality and purpose. I want my kids to know my delight and love through laughter and daily affirmation and purposed time together. I want my husband to know my friendship and commitment through intentionally finding ways to be a friend and lover to him. I want to see needs and have my knee-jerk reaction be to do something helpful. None of this comes naturally. It must be practiced and lived-out through our actions and choices each day.   

So this month I am purposing to be more present and more productive. Too much time is wasted on things that don't matter and don't bring life to my soul. So, for me right now that means less facebook and less television. It means more card games and more good music. It means ending the day with a clean kitchen so I can wake up with a smile of satisfaction, and starting my day with a few minutes in the Word so I can let it linger in my mind all morning. Little things to start my snowball into a more intentional life.


Friday, May 8, 2015

Absent April

Has this year been blowing by for anybody else? I mean, it is May already. What?!? How, I ask, HOW did that happen!? I can't believe it. I also can't believe I've gone through the whole month of April and have just, like, not been on here at all. I don't know--every time I had a break there was something else I wanted to do and so I barely even opened the computer last month. It was actually kind of nice, except that I think I have like 3,000 unread messages in my email box so that's a little overwhelming.

Wow. So here I am, not even sure where to start except to say that sometimes I wish I had more time in my day to do all the things I want to get done. Even now I have an indefinite period of time before the littles wake...I'm guessing only ten to fifteen minutes more... and there's so much I want to say! I want to sit down to coffee with you and ask how you are. I want to know what you've been up to, what you've been thinking, and how God has been working in your life. Do you know? Or are you, like me, so caught up in the here-and-now-just-trying-to-make-it-through-the-day that you lose sight of the Big Picture? It is something I want to change.

I want to step back and be reminded of how all the little things make the beautiful canvas that makes a masterpiece. How often I forget that? How often I need to be reminded that it is in the very midst of the mundane that beauty is waiting to be discovered. Artists spend hours and hours getting one single part of a painting just the way they want it. They start over, come back to square one, and continue to work until it is just right. Their sweat and blood goes into their art. I'm sure there are moments they believe it's just never going to happen. It's not worth all this effort. They can't do it. Yet, when they persevere, beauty comes into fruition. Can you relate?

I tell you in the middle of this parenting thing I find myself grasping for the lifeline that is this: God has a plan and is making a masterpiece. He is good. He makes beautiful things. That includes me and my marriage and my babies and my family. When things are messy and busy and stressful...it is a piece of the picture but it is not the Picture. In those moments we need to pan back and catch a glimpse of the bigger picture...we aren't going to completely ruin our kids because we haven't been on our A-game lately. God has not forsaken us because our Bibles are dusty and we have jumbled up our priorities (again). There is grace and goodness and renewed strength and mercy to be found, my friend. I have no idea what you need to hear today, but maybe it is this: You are loved right now. You will never ever be loved more than you are today, and you will never ever be loved less than you are today. God's love for you is full and rich and vibrant. And it is constant. An ever-flowing waterfall of grace waits to welcome you in, and bring you life. Let us stand under it today, and let it wash over us...whatever is holding us back or binding us down, may it be washed down the drain by the waterfall of God's grace.

Deep Love,