There was a time when I had an 8, 5, 3 and 1 year old. I remember pushing the double car cart at the grocery overflowing with kids. People stopped me all the time and said, “You sure have your hands full!”
“Full of love,” I’d respond, because a) my kids were listening to every word and b) it was 100% true.
When my husband, our four kids, and me are together our hearts are full of love. It’s amazing—hilarious, story pouring over story, laughter layering over laughter, card games, movie nights, adventures, ice cream runs, prayers, music, discussions, inside jokes and so very much love. Being all together is fantastic. It escalates our fun, excitement and energy. We grow from one another’s insights and experiences. As my kids get older (too big to push in the car cart) they have more places they need and want to be. I treasure the nights we’re all in one place.
But I also treasure the rare one-on-one time. When I get one of the kiddos alone and we go on a walk, run errands, grab a meal, or have a private conversation, it’s priceless. Because this time is more personal. It’s in this alone space that I hear their favorite songs, watch their favorite shows, hear about the things bouncing around in their brains—everything from music producers to World War II battles. This is where some of the important things on their minds and hearts come out. This is where it’s easiest to share.
This is how God wants to hang out with us, too. In big groups and in more intimate space.
God loves it when we gather to learn about Him and His grace, to ask questions about Him, to share stories about how Jesus guides and loves on or fights for us, to sing to Him, to praise Him. There is something tangible, electric in this space. A group of people can be everything from a giant conference to a couple of women drinking coffee with their Bibles open. It could be a weekly church service or a one-time event. But when people gather together to know or worship Jesus, there’s a passion of shared experience, an opportunity to learn something we couldn’t learn on our own, the gift of hearing how God has worked in someone else’s life, the knowledge someone else brings to the game, the buzz of a cluster of people all praising God.
“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”—Matthew 18:20
But Jesus also loves one on one time with us. Even Jesus would go off by himself to pray. Sure, God knows everything on our hearts, understands what we need before we need it, but He loves when we talk to Him about it. God knows we have questions. He surely doesn’t expect humans to understand the vastness of the Creator of the Universe. So, God is thrilled when we come to Him with questions, and when we seek knowledge about Him in the Bible. One on one time looks different for each of us on any given day. Just like individual time with one of my kids could be baking cookies or sitting on the porch listening to a thunderstorm together, alone time with God can be reading a plan on our Bible Apps, falling down on our knees in a quiet room, or having a conversation with Jesus in our heads as we walk through the grocery. But in that space, that quiet personal place, there is the opportunity for God to show us something that applies specifically to us—a gift He’s given us to use, a person He wants us to reach out to, something He wants us to stop worrying about, a reminder that He loves and accepts us unconditionally.
But Jesus would often go to some place where he could be alone and pray. —Luke 5:16
Relationships are unpredictable, messy, lovely things. Whether they’re with God or with a family member.
We can’t plan on lightning bolts, revelations and goosebumps every time we attend Bible study or say a prayer. Sometimes I get an hour in the car with one of my kids, and they fall asleep. Which is totally fine, because what they needed most was rest. Some days I’ll read my Bible, and be like, ‘okay, that battle was interesting. Next.’ But that’s fine, too, because God will teach me something through it. He always does. We can’t be guaranteed that all interactions will be life changing. But we can be guaranteed that when we show up to a relationship, when we make the effort, when we’re open to learning and sharing and communicating, that the relationship always grows.
How’s your relationship with God? Mine? Beautiful some days. On others it can use a hecka lot of work. But no matter how I’m doing, no matter how you’re doing, God is waiting with open arms. There aren’t many relationships like that. God takes us how we are, whenever we come to Him. Whether it’s with a big group at a planned event, or if we call out to Him in the middle of the night, His love is available and abundant. It’s unlike any other relationship we’ll ever experience.
Seek God this week. In big and small places. Learn and share with others what you’re struggling with and what God’s doing for you. Talk to Him alone, and see what Jesus reveals to you.
The more ways and times you seek Him, the more your hands and heart will be full. Of love.
I have wobbly knees.
Apparently it’s genetic, but it wasn’t something I ever noticed like the hazel eyes from my mom or the extra large skull from my dad’s side (honestly, finding hats and headbands to fit my cranium is a struggle). But my left knee started failing me about a year ago. It would cramp and stiffen and felt like it didn’t want to bend. It was painful to go running, and I could no longer sit crisscross applesauce. I self-diagnosed. I figured I’d tweaked it running and took a month off exercise, which was a bummer, but seemingly sensible. I eased my way back in—walking instead of running, being more cautious during certain yoga poses, wearing a discarded knee brace I found in our closet. Someone suggested it was my running shoes, so I bought a new pair. A friend taught me how to frame my kneecap with kinesiology tape. I bought some and taped up. With all of these slight adjustments to my routine, my knee bent again. It was less sore. But every time I went for a run it would hold up its “on strike” sign later that evening.
So, after a year I went to see a doctor. I got an X-ray and an MRI. He looked at the soles of my running shoes and stuck his thumb in the tender, achy spot on my knee. Great news. I don’t have a torn meniscus or arthritis or any other word ending in –is or –us. I don’t need surgery or shots. The diagnosis—my kneecaps wobble like crazy. So, every time I take a step my knees do a mini version of The Charleston, causing my kneecap to rub against my meniscus until it feels raw.
Solution—physical therapy. Retraining my legs to work different muscles. Strengthening my hips and glutes to do more work, to absorb the shock of each step that lands when I run, so my knees won’t take such a beating.
I can’t remember the first time I ran. And I certainly don’t remember it being something I had to learn how to do. I was small and my brother probably taunted, “Can’t catch me,” and I tore off after him. In my twenties after dancing all my life, I switched to running as a form of exercise, but I had to learn how—how to pace myself, how to breathe. I needed a running partner to get me going, teach me the ropes, and urge me on. But in those laps around the local park with my husband, I never considered my hips or glutes or knees in the process. It’s fascinating to me, that in my forties I’m learning how to run all over again.
But it’s the same way with my faith.
I don’t remember the first time I prayed or realized there was a God. For me, as a child, there just was One. I prayed, “Now I lay me down to sleep,” before bed and, “God is great, God is good,” before dinner. I believed God was the Creator of the world and that Jesus loved me, this I knew.
But throughout my life, I’ve injured my faith. I’ve tried to ignore problems, self diagnose, and do things on my own. At summer camp during an awkward junior high summer, I found God outside of the steeples and folded hands where I'd always seen Him. I felt Him in the warmth of a bonfire and in the exhiliration of riding a horse through trails in the woods, in gooey s'mores, and archery ranges. He was everywhere. I re-learned what it felt like to love God, to worship Him. Even though I’d always known God, this felt good and new and right.
But years passed and the world demanded I perform—that I achieve good grades, be accepted into a good school, look a certain way, and do certain things. And I believed it. As a result, my faith got rubbed raw by my wobbly self-confidence. No matter how much I achieved, no matter how hard I tried to fix my wounds of self doubt on my own, I didn’t feel loved or worthy or enough. This time God had to step in and heal me. I couldn’t mend the damage on my own. He introduced me to my future husband—a running partner, so to speak. With Brett at my side, showing me what love and acceptance looked like, I picked back up my Bible, started attending church again, and found friends who also valued their faith. With God’s (and Brett’s) help I retrained my faith muscles to find my value from Jesus. During this season I had to pace myself and learn how to breathe, but it helped me remember God loves me unconditionally, no matter how many deals I did or didn’t turn in, no matter how much money I did or didn’t make, or what brand of shoes I wore. And it changed things for me. In beautiful ways. I got married. I became a mother. I quit my day job and began writing.
You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. —Matthew 5:5
With my physical therapy I am doing exercises to retrain my muscles, to change my gait, balance, and landings. My therapist said I’ll only need a few sessions with her, but I’ll need to maintain these exercises the rest of my life.
My faith therapy needs to be the same. Today I feel loved and full of purpose. But I need to constantly train my soul muscles to accept Jesus’ free grace, eliminating the need to legitimize my worth to anybody. I need to focus on how I go about my days, with what intent, for what purpose, for whose glory? I need to balance the things I want to check off my to-do list with the things God calls me to do. Every time I fall down, because I do, often, I need to land on Jesus—on His love, His forgiveness, His grace. It is a constant with me, but when I retrain my focus on Jesus and how much He loves me, He absorbs the shocks, bumps, pains, and challenges of my life and allows me to land softer with less wear and tear. He took the beating, so we don’t have to. Exercise your faith muscles today and allow him to soften your landings.
Are there any faith muscles you’re working on strengthening this year? I’d love to hear about it.
Do you remember in Dead Poet’s Society when Robin Williams’ character challenges his students to stand on their desks, “because we need to constantly look at things in a different way”? I didn't stand on top of a desk, but I did sleep in my daughter’s bottom bunk for a week. And I truly gained a fresh perspective.
My husband was sick, like wiped out. I love him very much. But I know if I catch whatever he has, the whole family will go down. To help me avoid his germs, my younger daughter made herself a nest of sleeping bags and pillows on her floor and insisted I take her bed. This gracious act of selfless love was so touching and so much like what Jesus calls us to do. It gave me an elevated appreciation of her giving spirit. Who knew sleeping in the bottom bunk, which is definitely not my usual routine, would help me see more clearly the love of not only this daughter, but of my whole family? This new perspective helped me see their true reflections more vividly.
The whole husband being down to the count thing heightened my realization of how much he contributes to our family life. I hope I always appreciate the ways my husband pitches in, but wow, when all of a sudden he can’t help get the kids to practice, or find the missing stuffed panda bear because he really needs to rest—it is in these moments that I am in awe of how much I rely on him on a daily basis and of how selflessly he loves me and our kids. I am also blown away by all of the single moms out there who do everything all by themselves every day. You ladies are awesome!
One night mid-week I noticed our refrigerator was leaking all over the floor as one daughter walked in the front door from soccer practice AND at the exact same moment a support board on my youngest’s bunk bed snapped—while he was sleeping in it. No lie. My fourteen-year old son, keenly aware of the absence of Dad and the insanity of the moment, said, “Mom I’ll take care of the bed (and his startled and alarmed younger brother), so you can take care of this.” He motioned to the soggy puddle spreading across our floor. I cannot tell you how grateful I was. Or how mature my boy looked to me. My little guy is no longer little. He stepped up in incredible ways without being asked, prodded, or bribed. The view of him from the kitchen floor was stunning. Like totally makes my eyes tear up proud of the young gentleman he is growing into.
Instead of our usual splitting up the evening shifts running the family shuttle to soccer fields, weight rooms, and band practice I was flying solo on taxi duty. I love this time with my kids getting them where they need to be, where they love to be. But I also love the evening routine at home—relaying stories about our days, getting ready for the morning ahead, reading books to the younger crowd and tucking them in. I love that my youngest still wants me to lay him down. But he stepped up too. While I was pretending to be an Uber driver each night, he showered, put on his pajamas, packed his lunch, brushed his teeth, read to himself, and crawled under his covers—by himself. Without a single complaint. Just a request that I kiss him when I got home. And as I kissed his sweet, sleepy cheek each night, I saw even more clearly how beautifully my youngest is growing into the person God created him to be.
There seemed to be more to do each day than in a normal week, because there was. And when I finally crawled under my own covers, well, my daughter’s polka dot covers in her bunk, I was exhausted. But despite my to-do list, every evening I still beat my oldest to bed. I know, because she sleeps in the top bunk. She is a hard worker, one of the hardest, but from the view in the bottom bunk, I witnessed her climb the ladder to the bed above me each night later than she would have liked, because she was busy helping her friends, doing extra training for her sport, grinding through hours of homework without a grumble. In the mornings, I’d comment, “You were up late.” And she’d grin and shrug without the hint of a grumble, “I’m fine.” Not only did I have a more vivid view of how intensely my daughter puts her all into everything she does, but also of how graciously she takes on her responsibilities.
I love my family, dearly. Every day I think they are awesome. But a week in a different bed was like getting a new prescription for my glasses. It showed me more acutely and crisply what treasures they all are.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Sometimes it takes getting outside of our normal routines, our normal spots and approaches to see the beauty in our life and the people in it. Just like hanging out with Jesus gives us a whole new life, letting the past be the past, and allowing each new day to brim with opportunities for love and grace.
Are you stuck in a rut? Going through the motions of getting from here to there, of getting through the day? Taking anything for granted? Try finding a different perspective. You can climb on a desk if you like. I recommend sleeping in a bunk bed. But maybe it just means changing where you set up your laptop or where you go on a walk. Maybe it means choosing a different seat in class, a different spot to unroll your yoga mat, or a change up in the table you eat at in the cafeteria. But I challenge you to find a different view this week. You just might be amazed by how blessed you are.
I act entitled. All. Of. The. Time.
I am so not proud of this fact, but it is true.
For example, I “need” Starbucks daily or I get cranky. I literally plan out my morning on how and when I’m going to get it. Even if it makes me late. Even if it’s inconvenient. I also “need” a handful of chocolate chips after lunch and dinner. Only dark chocolate will do. Preferably Ghirardelli 60% cacao. Of course, other chocolate makes a great substitute—brownies, chocolate cake, etc. And if they’re not available, I feel a little off kilter, a little growly. Do I sound like a crack addict? Yikes! I also feel completely entitled to buy that funky bracelet and that adorable dress, I mean they’re on sale, and did I mention how cute they are?
What do you "need"? That bottle of nail polish? A bottle of wine? To run another lap? Watch just one more episode of Friends? Read another chapter? Check Facebook, Twitter or Instagram real quick? A certain brand of athletic shorts or yoga pants?
I’ve been semi-aware of this behavior, but not really concerned, because lots of other people like Starbucks and chocolate and shopping, too. Right? But recently, after reading Jen Hatmaker’s book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, I was truly convicted. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with chocolate or Starbucks or great fashion finds, thank goodness. These are all gifts from God to be appreciated and enjoyed. But there is something wrong when I feel I deserve those things—that I need them.
So, to get myself back in line, I went on a strange sort of fast for the month of January. If you’ve ever made a New Year’s Resolution, given up something for Lent, or fasted in any other kind of way, we’re kindred spirits. This wasn’t about eating less; this was about being less entitled, more appreciative, more aware of how God has already taken care of all my needs. I decided I would take on three areas.
First, I ate only the following foods: whole grains, fruits and vegetables, dairy, poultry, and seafood. Which I really didn’t think would be a big deal considering I eat oatmeal almost every morning, followed by lunch of a turkey and cheese sandwich on whole grain bread, and I don’t eat red meat. But do you see the glaring omission of chocolate? Still. I thought this would be easy peasy. Until Day Two of the fast when after a Saturday jam-packed with kids’ basketball games and birthday parties all over Southwest Ohio, we tumbled back home around 6:00 PM and my husband, Brett, suggested we order pizza. It sounded heavenly. All I wanted to do was put on my jams, eat pizza, and curl up with the kids and watch a movie.
But that whole grain thing reared its head. I Googled our local pizza chain, and lo and behold they had a whole-wheat crust. Who knew? I’d never been so happy to see a whole grain. So I ordered my own little personal whole-wheat pie with spinach and tomatoes. And I was extremely grateful for it. Surprisingly, even when my daughter ate our favorite deep dish in front of me, I wasn’t envious. I was just so thankful I had the option to eat pizza.
Second, I gave up Starbucks. Yep. Cold turkey. And me, and my Keurig and my Nespresso (I told you I was entitled) spent a lot of time together in January. I successfully used up a multitude of various brands and flavors of coffee pods I’d stashed in the house without having to purchase a single one. My son, Max, is an amazing barista, and made me some delicious mochas and lattes with the Nespresso. On the two coffee dates I'd scheduled, I suggested the local coffee shop, Kofenya, which is amazing, and savored every drop of the java they brewed me. Note to self, I can get better about buying local. Yes, there were Monday mornings when I missed Starbucks like crazy. But every morning, honestly, I was so grateful for coffee—for it’s warmth, and aroma, and flavor, and yeah, the caffeine. And as I sipped my home brew, I thanked Jesus for being the ultimate waker-upper, my perfect source of energy.
Third, I gave up shopping. I only allowed myself to buy food, beverages and household basics (dishwasher soap, toilet paper, shampoo--the boring stuff). We went on our annual family field trip to the mall to exchange ill-fitting Christmas gifts, and I exchanged both my yoga pants and jeans for better sizes. But contrary to tradition, I did not buy a single amazing, spectacular January clearance item. Not the Gap t-shirts for only $4, because I always need another black t-shirt, and another white one. Not that really cute top in the window of Francesca’s that was 70% off. Not even the socks at American Eagle, which they were virtually giving away. And although it took great restraint to not take any of those steals to the register, I came home feeling lighter. My closet is already packed. I didn’t need any of those items. I actually saved myself from having to root through more clothes to find “the right” items later. It felt oddly good. For the rest of the month I deleted every single email from a retailer wooing me with their “biggest ever” clearance events and steered clear of Target, Dollar Tree and TJ Maxx, because why tempt myself like that? And each time I had the urge to just click on that message, browse that website, pop into that boutique, I tried to remember to thank Jesus for His ultimate coverage, for being more fulfilling than a shopping buzz.
Was I perfect on my fast? No way. You want the dirt? Here’s just a sample.
There was the time Brett brought me home a gorgeous single serving carrot cake from Panera. “It’s whole grain,” he told me.
I looked at him.
“It is,” he said. “I asked them.”
He was clearly lying. But he also went out of his way to go inside a Panera, order me a treat mid-way through my fast, even one that contained a vegetable, and looked brown, like whole grains tend to. I savored every morsel, appreciating his gesture of love and that miracle of a cake. I enjoyed half of it that day, and saved the other half for the next day, instead of gorging it down in one swallow, or thinking, “gee, I wish this was a brownie.” It was so phenomenally delicious. I was learning from this fast—when I don’t expect a dessert or feel like I’m entitled to one, I can appreciate the ones I get so much more fully.
A similar thing happened while in Texas. My sweetheart of a host took me out to lunch at an adorable spot called Nostalgia. “The best part of this place,” she smiled, “are the desserts. They come with your lunch.” I inwardly panicked. I didn’t want to break my fast. I’d been so good. But the thing I was learning most from fasting was being grateful for what I had. Being grateful for a store brand dark roast pod in my Keurig, because it was coffee, and I had the pleasure of drinking it. Being grateful for fresh fruits and organic Greek yogurt, because they are delicious and sweet and good for me, and because I always have food on my table and in my stomach. And, so, I made the game time decision to be grateful here too. The Hummingbird Cake contained pineapple and bananas, leaning itself towards the fruit category. Each and every bite of this cake I’d never even heard of before was delicious. And don’t get me started on the rich, sweet cream cheese frosting. On this day, I was so grateful (after over 20 days of no desserts, well except the carrot cake) for a dessert. And yes, I ate peach cobbler with my same lovely friend that night, because, well, when in Texas.
There was the time when my mom made stuffed peppers with white rice. Agh! White rice isn’t a whole grain. Some of you are thinking I’m totally nuts here, but I am such a rule follower (too much of a rule keeper, too stringent, too much of the time). Add that with entitlement to my list of many flaws. Only brown rice counted on my self-induced fast. But this fast was all about being more appreciative. And not valuing a home-cooked meal from Mom, well that’s plain ridiculous. So, I counted every delicious bite, every grain of rice as sheer gift.
There was also the time, when I bought myself a sweatshirt. I wrestled with the idea. I mean, I wasn’t supposed to buy myself anything. I hadn’t even bought my kiddos anything this month. Not one cute notepad or t-shirt. But this sweatshirt helped fund the amazing event I was speaking at, Project Beautiful, bringing hundreds of girls together to remind them of their true beauty. And it reads, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made across it’s soft, cozy self. These words are what I long to share with everyone I meet—that they were created by God to inspire awe, that He created them wonderfully. And so, the decision to purchase was intentional, not entitled, and felt very right.
By the third time we’d ordered pizza in January, Brett finally ventured to try a bite of mine. Our whole family was gathered around the dinner table swapping stories and laughing when Brett exclaimed, “This..really is…very bad!” and spit out his bite. Which of course led to hysterics. My girls were curious, so they tried it too, only to prod, “How can you eat that, Mom?” “It is really gross! You don’t like it do you?”
And it was strange. I was so grateful each time we ordered pizza that I didn’t have to make another run to the grocery in the bitter January air, think about “what was for dinner,” cook, or clean, that I’d never considered the subpar flavor. All I had to do was hang out with my family and eat pizza. And that tasted pretty good to me.
My fast is officially over. I’m interested to see how it will change me. If I will be less entitled, more grateful, more giving. I pray I will be. I also pray I'll turn to Jesus more--for me to turn to my worldly fixes to fill my voids less. Because Jesus is sweeter than chocolate, more revitalizing than caffeine, and quite frankly, as my friend Holly Starr sings, He's "Everything I Need". Because when I decide that I “need” this and I “need” that, I’m truly not the best version of myself. But when I am grateful for the food I have, the roof over my head, the clothes in my closet, my loving family, well then, I can see my true reflection much more clearly.
How about you? Anything you “need” on a daily basis? Have you ever fasted before? How did it work for you? Let me know in the Comments below.
“You can do it!”
“That’s right, you’ve got this!”
“If you pull up your shoulders you’ll last longer.”
“Wow, you are doing so great!”
“Keep your chin up, it makes it easier.”
“If you can hang on for ten more seconds you’ll break your record.”
“You are so strong!”
This is what I heard as I walked past the climbing wall at the rec center the other day.
And this is what I saw.
An elementary-aged boy, hanging with two small, sweaty hands from rock holds, while his climbing team and coaches sat in a semi-circle on the floor around him, cheering him on.
This image has stuck with me for days.
I would love for people to shout these encouragements to me. All day. Every day. I mean, talk about inspiration. Really, what if we all did this for each other in life? Because there are days, times, trials, seasons of life that are downright tough, when we feel ourselves slipping, when we ache from trying, when we’re not sure if we can hang on for even a moment more. Currently, I have friends who are trying to sell their house, trying to get a job, battling depression, trying to get pregnant, discerning if they should marry their boyfriend or not, fighting cancer, and praying for their wayward child. And you, what are you trying to get through? How are you trying to hang on?
Because even when we have great days, successes, and promotions, and celebrations, there will always be a tough situation in our future, or one we’ve put off, or pushed aside, for now. And when it arises, we’ll be desperately trying to hang on with all our might.
What if there were people around us shouting, “You can do this!” “You’ve got this!” “You’re strong!”
What if we shouted this at each other, when we saw a friend or a stranger struggling? What if we reminded them that they have a God who loves them, who created them, who will never forsake them, who will be with them always, even to the end of the world?
You should have seen that kid’s smile when he came down from the wall after beating his record, after clearly hanging on longer than he imagined he could. He was beaming.
Is there anyone you know who’s just hanging on today? What can you do to cheer them on?
I woke up on the ninth, or was it tenth, snow day in a row to the sound of feet scurrying around downstairs. Recognizing the speed and lightness of the foot steps as my youngest; I hurried downstairs to see what he was up to.
Maguire was standing on top of a stack of books stacked on top of our step stool surveying the kitchen counter littered with bowls, bottles, bananas and the iPad.
“Good morning, sweetie,” I said, trying really hard not to freak out about what might be breaking or burning, “whatcha doing?”
“Making banana bread,” he answered with a smile and a small flash of eight-year old pride.
“Wow! That’s awesome. Did you find a recipe?” I scanned the counter for a cookbook or piece of paper.
“Yep.” He nodded, pointing to the iPad.
Sure enough on the screen was a recipe for gluten free banana bread Maguire had Googled. He’d also apparently found the ingredients listed, including measuring cups and had started portioning them into a giant glass bowl. I was impressed.
Slightly less panicked, only slightly, because I wasn’t sure what exactly he’d poured into the bow, I took a deep breath and said, “You are so sweet to make breakfast for everyone. Did you find everything alright?”
“Mmm hmm. It says it takes 45 minutes to bake.” He nodded.
He’d read the recipe all the way through before starting? Impressive.
“I couldn’t find the baking soda, but then I remembered I had some in my science kit, so I got it out,” he continued.
That explained the Ziploc baggie with the white envelope from his science kit, labeled “baking soda”.
“Very resourceful.” I applauded.
“And, I wasn’t sure what vanilla extract was, but then I figured out that must mean vanilla.”
“It sure does.” I was the one nodding now.
“Can I crack the eggs?” Maguire asked.
“Sure.” I leaned over the iPad and scanned the ingredients. “It says we need four eggs.”
“I know. I got them out,” he pointed to the four eggs lying behind the large bowl.
We all ate large portions of warm, sweet banana bread laced with melted chocolate chips that morning. It was gluten free and nut free just like our family’s allergies demand. It was delicious and perfect on a stay-at-home, snowed in kind of morning. All because a little boy decided he wanted to make it for his family, and he wasn’t going to let the fact that he couldn’t reach the flour and the sugar even with the stepstool stop him. Nope, he piled some thick books on top of that to get him where he needed to go. He wasn’t going to let the fact that he didn’t know what a baking soda box looked like or where we kept it stop him. Nope, Maguire went into his reserves. He didn’t let the fact that he was eight, that he’d never baked anything by himself or that he was the only one awake stop him. He didn’t let anything get in his way.
How about you?
What’s in your way today?
What’s stopping you?
If you took a look around, might you find something to prop you up a little higher so you can reach your goal? Or, if you seem to be struggling to find or attain something, maybe you could find an alternative source of a key ingredient to accomplish your goal?
I’m not saying be unsafe (my son was responsible enough to not have turned the over on yet, he knew he had to wait for someone bigger to do that), but I am saying be brave. Put on your adventure cap. And don’t let obstacles stop you from baking up something amazing!
Yesterday my husband and I took the day off.
It wasn’t a snow day.
It wasn’t a sick day.
It wasn’t some obscure bank holiday.
But we took it off anyway.
Because we need to slow down.
I’m sure you don’t. I’m sure you feel incredibly relaxed and rested and haven’t done anything in so long; you often tell people you are idle and your time is unoccupied. Right?
If you nodded your head then I haven’t chatted with you in a lonnnggg time. I can’t remember the last time anyone responded to me about all the free time they have. It’s all about busyness, achievement, enriching, accomplishing, isn’t it? Even snails these days are zipping around racecourses and going viral. Or so the kids’ movie, Turbo, depicts. That snail is fast!
And all of those things are good. Grand even. Until they become too important. Until we forget to take time for others, for ourselves, for God.
Even Jesus, Son of God, Creator of the Universe, Savior of the World, took time off. He would wake up early in the morning or take off late at night by himself, not to check scores, or statuses or headlines. Not to file one more report, or do one more set of sit-ups or tidy up one more room. But to go up the mountain, or out of the way and pray.
But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray. Luke 5:16 NIV
Jesus also took time to share meals with the disciples. We don’t have any scripture passages depicting Jesus eating lunch at His desk while working on His next sermon or scratching on pieces of parchment during meals and handing them to messengers to deliver in the middle of dinner with His disciples. But we have several passages where Jesus is dining with them, talking with them, listening to them, showing them love, and teaching them about the Father. In fact his last interaction with his disciples was a meal, the last supper. And His one of Jesus’ first interactions with his friends after His resurrection was breakfast.
Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. John 21:12 NIV
So yesterday I dropped the kids off at school, grabbed a few groceries, and picked up supplies one of them needed for a project. Then I headed home. By 8:30 AM my husband and I were sitting in the family room, not at the table, not near one of our desks, not in the front seat of the car headed somewhere, but on the soft, cushy couches in our family room with the sunshine streaming in through the windows. We sat and talked for hours. About things we’ve been reading, and sermons we’ve listened to, and what God’s been teaching us. We talked about a trip we’d like to take and the state of our hearts and concerns on our minds and the blessing of our marriage. At some point we milled in and out of the kitchen, came back to the family room with our plates of sandwiches and fruit and watched a movie together. In the middle of the day. On a Tuesday. We even figured out how to work Netflix by ourselves, without any of the kids to help us. Score!
And then we went for a walk. Yes, it was twenty-two degrees outside. Yes, I was dressed in running clothes, because I’d planned to get in a strenuous workout. But, instead, we stretched our legs, inhaled crisp air, reflected on how bright azure the sky was, and exercised our souls.
And then it was time. Time to get the kids, and work on homework, and make dinner, and answer email, and run a load of laundry, but I did it more refreshed. More aware of how God is working on me. More grateful for the world I live in, my incredible husband, my amazing children. I know I can’t take every day off. And neither can my husband. But I know I need to take more of them.
It’s easy to let the demands of life fill my calendar and dominate my thoughts. It takes effort to slow down and unwind and intentionally set my phone somewhere I can’t reach it. But the effort is so rewarding. Because it allows God to restore my soul.
David got it right in the 23 Psalm (and my friend, Holly Starr, sings it so beautifully above)
The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
Let God lead you to still places, lie down, rest. Let Him restore your soul.
When was the last time you slowed down? Truly took a day off? Maybe it’s time to pull out the crammed calendar and schedule one.
Is pulling your grade up in a class worth skipping Netflix until after the exam?
Is taking that trip to Europe worth giving up Starbucks in 2015?
Is rehearsing your instrument worth giving up your “chill” time on Trivia Crack?
How about that person next to you, the one you’re hanging out with? Are they worth your time?
Don’t get me wrong. Every human being is worthy of love and respect, but some people are nutritious for you, and some are not. Some friendships and relationships are worth your time energy and effort. Some aren’t.
As we dive into a new year, I’m trying to reflect on what is truly worth it in my life. This housekeeping applies to all areas. Is it worth eating that brownie? For sure! Is it worth paying that much for a pair of jeans? No. I don’t really need a new pair. Snap. This week I’m focusing on relationships.
I came out of a restaurant yesterday where I’d had lunch with a friend to find this on my windshield.
First thought that popped in my head? Totally worth it.
And it was. A $10 parking ticket for the time I had with this woman, so very worth it.
See, she’s not an average friend, or an acquaintance, but she is a true sister in Christ. Every single time we get together one or both of us has some sort of revelation, a bit of divine wisdom from our Creator delivered to us through our conversation. She’s a friend I know I can be completely candid with about my insecurities and inadequacies, and I know she’ll not only love me despite them, but also listen and help me grow. We are always praying for each other, sometimes in ways no one else even knows we need prayer about. And yesterday was no exception. There was literally a moment while chomping on the crisp lettuce, salty almonds and chewy Craisins in our salads when she shouted out, “That’s it!” We grabbed hands and saw something we’d both been struggling with separately, in a new light, together.
A $10 ticket? Well worth the price!
But not all relationships are like that.
Some are gossipy, draining, or deflating. There are some parties I go to where I linger along the walls feeling like I don’t belong, get stuck in conversations that make me feel uncomfortable, or where I find myself engaging in the dangerous act of comparing myself to others. There are other gatherings I attend where I find genuine conversation, nuggets of information, or perspective by spending time there. What’s the difference? The people.
So how can you tell the difference? Answer these questions about who you’ve been hanging out with:
1. Does the person celebrate your strengths?
2. Do you learn from this person?
3. Do you find yourself in healthy activities with this person? (This doesn’t have to mean eating carrots and running marathons together, although it could. It could be taking a class together, reading a book together, swapping recipes or DIY ideas, volunteering together, doing a Bible study together. You get the idea.)
4. Does this person point you back to Jesus?
If you answered yes to all of these questions, then this is someone worth your investment. Nobody can meet all of these criteria every time you get together. One time you have a blast laughing and playing cards. The next time you talk about what you’re reading. The next time you share what Scripture has touched your heart lately. Awesome! Sounds like you’ve found yourself a friend.
But if every time you’re with someone you feel like you had to pretend you knew about something, so you wouldn’t sound dumb, or you are tempted to start gossiping about some mutual friends, or are always doing things that are borderline toxic for you – watching an inappropriate movie, slipping into bad language, telling others white lies to cover your tracks – beware!
Just like we have a certain amount of calories that are ideal for our bodies to function each day, and a certain number of dollars in our bank accounts to spend, we have a limited number of free hours to devote to relationships. How are you going to spend them?
And if you’re in a relationship with someone who you answered mostly “no” to the questions above, then what?
1. Take the proactive role. Suggest healthy activities to do together—go see Night at the Museum 3, grab frozen yogurt and chat about your goals for 2015, go on a walk together somewhere with great scenery.
2. Pray before your time with that person, that you can be true to yourself, to the person God created you to be.
3. If after doing giving one and two the old college try, you find yourself still feeling manipulated, unappreciated, unworthy or uneasy put your foot down. Start filling your schedule less and less with this person, and seek out new friends or time with other friends who help you be more like the awesome child of God that you are!
Anything else? Anyone have other litmus tests for how to determine if your relationship is worth getting a parking ticket for, or how to resolve or bow out of friendships that aren’t?
“I get by with a little help from my friends.”
Lennon and McCartney
A family member of mine who has never, ever, ever (feel free to sing Taylor Swift in your head if you must) asked me for an opinion, or help ever before in my life called last week seeking advice.
After I picked myself up off the floor from a dead faint, I had a blast sharing what knowledge I had with this person I love. It. Felt. So. Good.
It felt so good to be asked, to be valued, to know that they cared about my opinion on something and believed in me enough to want to garner knowledge from me. It felt even better to know after all of these years of me asking this family member for ideas, answers and sometimes actually sending them S.O.S.’s that I was able to give just the tiniest thing back in return.
At the end of our call I said, “I do believe that’s the first time you’ve ever asked me for advice.”
Their answer dumbfounded me. “I’m not good at asking for help. It makes me feel needy.”
And all these years, I’d felt this dear, dear person, who I looked up to, didn’t value my opinion.
They didn’t sound needy. They sounded like a friend. It felt like relationship. It felt fulfilling and gratifying from my end. Just like it felt rewarding and reassuring every time this person helped me in the past. That’s what help looks and feels like. Like friendship. Like love.
It’s okay to ask for help. Better than okay. You’ll gain the knowledge you need, an opinion of someone who’s gone before and build someone else up in the process. And you know the best person to seek advice from? God! So whatever has you puzzled, perplexed or stressed out today, ask someone who you value their opinion. It will make them feel valued, and you'll get some helpful hints. And make sure you ask God too. He always has your best interest in mind, and whenever you ask, He says it will be given to you.
What are you waiting for?
Summer is fantastic! But August always brings a flurry of back to schoolness. This means lists of things to do to get ready and lists of uncertainties as you wait to see…. if you made the team? Who your roommates will be? What dorm you're in? For someone to call/text/email you back? If you got the scholarship? If you got the job to help you pay for school? Maybe you're just waiting for a parking place or to get to the front of line at Chipotle and finally place your order as your stomach grumbles. But you might be waiting to see If you’ll be asked to homecoming. If you’ll make call backs for the audition. Are you waiting to see if you got Dr. Palumbo for Biology? For the movie you’ve been itching to see to come out on DVD? If your locker will be anywhere near your bff’s or at least near your classes? Maybe you’re waiting for test results or x-rays back from a doctor or waiting to hear if the seller accepted your offer.
There’s big stuff we wait for and small stuff we wait for, but it seems we end up spending way too much of our lives waiting. So, what to do when we find ourselves in the dreaded Waiting Place? In Oh The Places You’ll Go, Dr. Seuss describes it as this:
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No….
We sit around and wait and worry about the out comes. But Dr. Seuss tells us, "That's not for you!" And so does Jesus.
Do not be anxious about tomorrow. Matthew 6:34
What if while we’re waiting, we make a pact, you and I? What if we make a pact to be productive during our waiting?
Waiting to see if you got the job? How about you spend some time on Linked In writing endorsements for others you’ve been encouraged by, Google and then read some articles about the job you’re seeking and learn more about the field. Waiting for your nails to dry, or to board the plane or for the person you’re picking up to come out of the building? Grab a great book you’ve been meaning to read. Keep it with you at all times, and when those boring pauses occur, immerse yourself in words and story. Who knows, you might learn something new. Waiting to see if you made it? How about working on your skills – dribbling, drawing, playing octaves, rehearsing to get better at your talent no matter what the reply is to your most recent try out, submission or audition.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Phil 4:6
Let’s promise each other we’ll pray about it, pray for peace, for God to have His almighty hand in the outcome. Let’s praise God for the hallway while we’re waiting for Him to open the next door.
I L-O-V-E this song by John Waller, “While I’m Waiting”.
Next, know that whatever you’re waiting for God already knows the answer, and He’s planned it for your good.
If He already knows, why do we have to wait? If He already knows then can’t we play first chair, get the job, always be healthy, on time and be surrounded by our best friends all of the time? I don’t know about that. Because I don’t know if moving (or any other change in your life, any outcome you’re waiting for) will introduce you to your new best friend or future husband, or teach you something to help you later on, or strengthen your sibling or something else grand all together. But God knows. And He’s got your back.
I have it all planned out--plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. Jeremiah 29:11
If He’s got it all planned out, there really is no reason to worry. So, how are you going to get out of the Waiting Place today?
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