Have you seen the movie Begin Again? My favorite scene is when Gretta, a disenchanted musician is coerced by her friend to perform at an open mic night at a pub. While she’s singing, Dan, a down and out music producer, is ordering a drink at the bar. But at the sound of her voice and her acoustic guitar he turns around. And everything stops.
Like magic, a few chords resonate from the piano on the corner of the stage, accompanying her tune. Drumsticks are raised by invisible hands to pound out a beat at the exact right moment. A cello and bow appear on stage and play a few perfectly placed notes all by themselves. Dan might be going through a rough period—with his family and with his job, but he has a God-given gift. He can produce music. And he can do it like a maestro. He rubs his chin, tilts his head, and as he nods a violin appears out of thin air playing the coup de grace for the song’s bridge. All it takes are a few notes from an unknown singer, and Dan inexplicably knows precisely what instruments, beats, and harmonies should be added in at exactly the right time to turn a good song into the kind that strikes a chord in your heart.
This is what God-given gifts look like. Effortless to those who weld them. Unbelievable to those who witness them. We usually spot them quickly in others, but falter when it comes to identifying them within ourselves. What are your God-given gifts—the things you do so naturally, that you might not even own up to them?
Recently I hit a brick wall while in the midst of responding to edits on a book I’m finishing. I knew what I wanted to say and why it was important to me. I understood what the reviewer was communicating, but I could not for the life of me make the two concepts work together. But my friend, Amy? She talked me off the ledge. She took a look at a passage that paralyzed me and said, “Oh, this is great. You just need to tweak this sentence by adding this and deleting that.” It was like she’d waved her magic wand and instantly fixed something I’d been tangled in for over an hour.
I was considering tiling the backsplash in my kitchen but I’m clueless in the home décor department, so I texted my friend, Jamie, who along with being an artist, stages houses. Five minutes and fifteen texts later she had pulled a Joanna Gaines and suggested what she would have a carpenter do on my cabinets and what color of paint would be the perfect accent to the tile.
Have you witnessed something like this? Someone who steps into a challenge and simply slides and turns what are obstacles to you as easily as the squares on a Rubik’s cube, and within moments has all of the sides and colors in neat little rows. The rest of us stand with our jaws hanging open saying, “How did they do that? What just happened?”
This is what God-given talent looks like. Effortless. What can you do like this? You might not even know you can do it, because it comes so stinking easy to you. You might not even think about it, never even consider it. It’s just what you do. But that’s not what everyone does, how everyone looks at things, this is your special thing. This is how the Creator of the Universe created you. Can you pluck a fabulous harmony on the upright bass? Can you look at a chemistry equation and immediately see which reactants and products in what quantities are necessary to balance it? When a friend is frazzled, do the right words, nods and gestures come naturally to you to calm and soothe them?
According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts…Romans 12:6
That gift you have? God placed it in you the day He made you.
You have a special thing! There’s something you do that awes the people around you, that leaves them asking, “How do they do that?” And when you find that thing—do lots of it. Do more of it. Find additional ways to integrate that thing into your daily life. Seek more opportunities to apply this skill, to exercise those muscles, to play your song. Don’t let your talent sit on a shelf collecting dust. The world needs you and your gift, because the rest of us can’t do it, and even if we can somehow accomplish that thing you do so well, when we do it—it is with great struggle and frustration. I needed friends to help with edits and with decorating. The world needs you to line it up, click things into place, plug them in, and light things up.
Because God gave you that gift in the first place, when you put it in His hands, it can soar like it’s on steroids! Even more masterfully than a music producer, God inexplicably knows precisely what instruments, beats, and harmonies should be added in at exactly the right time to highlight and accentuate your talents. Ask Him to guide that gift He gave you, and watch Him turn the tune of your life into the kind that makes people dance and cry and sing at the top of their lungs, the kind people remember, and play over and over again, because it strikes a chord in their hearts. Today you can begin again. You can tap into your God-given talent, ask Him how you can use it to serve Him, and together you can fill the air with magnificent melodies.
Seven new planets were discovered orbiting around a star named Trappist-1 last week! Seven! They’re about the size of earth, and we didn’t even know they existed!
Closer to home, this Amaryllis grew out of a bulb in the middle of winter in my own house. It’s not quite as remarkable as the planet thing, but considering any plant I come in contact with withers at my touch, it’s pretty amazing. (I’m like the Freeze Miser without ice).
And the God who created these stunning blooms, literally unfathomable when you look at the brown onion-like bulb they spring from, and our solar system packed with all those stars and planets (apparently way more than we could ever imagine) He created us, too.
Some days it’s easy to go around doing our thing. Rolling over, tapping our alarms, checking our phones, brushing our teeth, driving to school, work, spin class, and before we know it we’re washing up the dinner dishes, sliding on pajamas and crashing into our pillows, so engrained in our routines that we don’t notice. That we don’t notice the daffodils are poking up their heads, the people we love most have something behind their eyes, something on their minds, the song on the radio is the one we kept hearing at the beach, the scent of our soap smells like Grandma’s pies, that some time during the day God used us in some incredible way, that God created us for unbelievably phenomenal work.
Yes, I’m still a bit amazed by this whole planet thing, and I’ve pointed out the flower on our counter to my kids about 94 times each, but I also stand in awe of the way one of my girlfriends sings like a rock star, when I can’t carry a tune, how my mom makes meals for every neighbor and friend she knows when I struggle to get dinner on the table for my own family, how another friend can walk in a room and effortlessly remake the space with her instincts for color and layouts, when I’m just hoping to get around to the dusting. I’m not saying that I wish I had those gifts, sure they’d be nice, but this is not a jealous rant, just a moment to observe how many incredibly awesome and irreplaceable people God has created. To pause. And be in awe of how He uniquely gifts each of us.
And as I see the beauty in each of the women I get to hang out with, it reminds me that God created me to do specific work as well. Just like He created some of you to teach a certain skill, to listen to somebody’s problem, to mediate another disagreement, to create delicious cupcakes, to make people laugh, or to block the other team from scoring. What did He create you to do?
Don’t go through today without noticing.
Without observing the beauty in each of the individuals around you.
Without realizing the potential within yourself.
What amazing skills and talents do your friends and family members possess? Compliment them. Remind them. Encourage them, in case they haven’t detected their talents for themselves, in case they’re about to give up.
What do you do well? What comes naturally, something you might take for granted, that the people around you marvel at? Thank God for the ability to sing, run, analyze, listen, navigate, tell jokes, be patient, think outside the box, be silly, cook, make a difference. Thank Him for making you you. Now go out and shine like a planet, bloom like a flower, and knock the socks off the world.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw a yellow ball climbing a tree.
I saw it, but was listening to my daughter tell a story, so I kept my eyes trained on her. But as it ascended higher in my peripheral, I had to look again. Of course it wasn’t actually a yellow ball climbing a tree, but it was a squirrel with a golden apple clutched between its teeth scaling high branches and seemingly defying gravity.
I recognized that apple as the slightly mushy one that had been sitting in our fruit basket yesterday, as the one I’d tossed out the window, because I’m big on composting and small on mushy apples.
The squirrel must have been out of his mind with joy when he saw that giant feast in the midst of the bleak frozen January ground. I imagine he’d been foraging for anything—a piece of bark, a forgotten acorn, but this apple was something he’d never even hoped for. About two thirds of the apple remained. He’d clearly already taken large, ravenous bites.
I started laughing. My daughter joined me at the window, and we watched the little guy for several moments, teetering from the weight of the apple, yet clearly clinging to his prize. The heaviness of the fruit threw off his balance and hindered his climb upward, but he kept at it, swerving and stepping, uncertain of what to do next. After several moments of amazing acrobatic feats he set the apple down in the crook of two branches and continued his climb without it.
Every move of this squirrel was hilarious. It also seemed to be speaking directly to me.
Because if God unexpectedly drops a giant piece of juicy fruit on my path this year, I want to take a bite. I don’t want to pass it by, because it’s not part of my normal routine, because I’ve never had an apple appear on my trail before, because I was looking for something else, because it seems bigger than I can handle. I want to learn how to embrace the gifts and opportunities God sets before me, even if it means I have to alter my gait, or rearrange things to maintain balance.
But I also want to know when something is not from God and when God says it’s time to be done. When it’s too heavy, too burdensome, when something I take on is actually hindering living fully for Him.
When new things come my way, I get excited and often say, “I want to seize the day, change the world, make a difference, dream big, have bold goals, get busy, and I want to do it N-O-W!” But I also want to be conscious of allowing for down time, Sabbath. So, other days I worry about taking on too much and say, “Maybe that will be too challenging, demand too much from me or my family. Maybe we should just stay home, pop on our pj’s and watch a movie?” I live on both sides of the balance beam, so where does that leave me? I guess with a giant apple clenched between my teeth, not sure what to do next.
But, God knows exactly what to do.
So my prayer this year, is to check out those apples. And if I feel God has placed them on my path, then take large, hungry bites. But as I chew them, I want to ask God again, “Now what?” And if He says, ‘keep eating’ or ‘pick it up and run with it,’ then I want to do exactly that. And if it gets to a point where the apple grows burdensome and challenging, I want to ask God again. And if He says, ‘You can do all things through Me,’ or ‘Keep running the race,’ then I want to muster all of my energy and keep climbing fervently. But… if God says, ‘It’s time to put it down,” then I want to set that apple between the crook of two branches and walk away. No matter if that means that apple is now for another squirrel, or for me to come back to later, or so I can pick something else up, or for another reason altogether, great.
This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike, “What’s next, Papa?” –Romans 8:15
I think of life like walking along a balance beam, trying not to lean too far in either direction. But this doesn’t mean taking each step, methodically and measured. Yes, the end result requires balance, but the actual journey might mean sprinting full speed ahead until our sides hurt and then pushing ourselves even further, ravenously sinking our teeth into opportunities. Being feisty, scrappy and gulping down large swallows of life. But at other times it means sipping life sweetly through a straw, going for a quiet stroll, or just sitting still. It means experiencing the absolute freedom of setting down our burdens and exhaling a deep breath of relief. It means some nights making homemade pizzas with multiple toppings and dough that needs to rise all day and other nights ordering Papa Johns. At the end of a long day, both taste delicious. Both are satisfying. Both are sometimes necessary.
So no matter what God has in store in 2017—whether that’s picking something up or setting it down, let’s do it adventurously and expectantly.
Different folks and different faith backgrounds within the Christian church meditate on different words or ideas during the four weeks of advent as they prepare for Christmas. This week I’m focusing on love.
One of my favorite Christmas movies is Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. How I trembled at the sight of the Abominable Snowman when I was little. Gratefully, I’ve conquered that fear.
Each year as I watch, I’m a little befuddled when Rudolph and his buddies arrive at the Island of Misfit Toys. To me, none of the toys live up to their “misfit” name. A cowboy riding an ostrich seems exotic. A toy gun that squirts jelly sounds super fun, especially if it’s strawberry, because yum. A Charlie in the Box is clever, and that spotted elephant is so stinking cute. I have no idea why he’s a misfit. And Dolly? No one in my family can even figure out what makes her not fit in. Yet, each of these toys bemoans their quirks, the things that make them different. They play the comparison game and end up feeling unloved and unwanted.
Sounds a little bit like us.
We wish we had skin like her, or a set of wheels like him. We think if only we had this aspect, that job, those boots, that relationship, or wore that size, then we’d be happy.
But God tells us differently. God tells us we are His masterpieces, His perfect creations, who He has equipped for the specific work He has uniquely designed for us. God asks, “I made you in my image, why would you want to be any different? Why would you want to be like someone I created for an entirely different purpose and destiny than the phenomenal one awaiting you?”
Why would we?
Santa shows up on the Island of Misfit Toys and puts every toy in his bag. He doesn’t turn down any of them. Not one. Santa doesn’t say there’s no room for a train with square wheels or that only flying birds (not swimming ones) can sit with him. Santa sees and values each toy’s individuality. He understands that every toy has the power to bring joy and love into the heart of a child. Santa loves them all for exactly who they are. And at the end of the movie, when each misfit toy grabs a colorful umbrella and floats to the home of their future child owner, they are transformed. They are still them—polka dots, square wheels and all—but they realize their potential, they begin to see their true reflections.
And when we understand how loved we are by our Creator, that He crafted us perfectly and intentionally, that there’s room for all of us in God’s kingdom, that He doesn’t reject any of us, not a one, that our uniqueness can accomplish things no one else can accomplish, that we each have the power to bring love and joy to this world, just as we are, then we too, can begin to see our true reflections.
This is what Christ’s love looks like—a flawless mirror showing us we are not misfits. We are worthy, and we are treasured.
As you light your Christmas candles or your tree or plug in your giant yard blow-up Minions with Santa hats, breathe in God’s incomparable love, and remember that to Him you have infinite value.
“Who here is a library nerd?” John Wood asked the crowd at the Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Miami University last week. Not only did I raise my hand, but I was all in. Because I may be the BIGGEST library nerd. I am a lover of books, a collector of stories. I want to read every classic, every new series my kids pick up, every book my friends recommend. I want to read them all and learn and get carried away and discover new friends, places, and perspectives. I am a reader and a writer and a storyteller. Words and books are my very pulse.
But one seventh of humanity can neither read nor write. They don’t have access to books, any books, let alone books in their own languages, books that teach literacy. But founder of Room to Read, John Wood is changing that. The man famous for his book, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, was on a trekking trip in the Himalayas when he was challenged by a native schoolmaster, “Perhaps sir, you will some day come back with books.” Something inside John was stirred. Deeply. He left his high-paying executive position at Microsoft despite being repeatedly asked by his peers, “Are you crazy?” and has since reached 10 million kids. Ten million! That is world changing.
John believes every child should have the right to be educated, that just because they were born in Nepal or Sri Lanka doesn’t have to mean they lost the lottery when it comes to their future. Every child? Now that’s a bold goal. Bold goals are one of the lessons John says he has learned leads to success.
Are you being bold in your goals today? Because I know I’ve let some of mine slip. I have big dreams and God-inspired ideas. I have talks I’m itching to give, books I crave to publish, blogs I want to write, lives I hope to touch, people I long to remind that they are marvelously created by the ultimate Creator, and therefore they are a-ma-zing! But some of my grandiose dreams get lost in to-do lists, get squelched by rejections, get buried in the ins and outs of daily life. Sometimes I’m checking boxes, getting back on the treadmill, doing what I’ve always done. Sometimes I tell myself I’m doing all I can, but that’s not true. And it’s not enough. It’s not.
I’m not saying God calls us to grind ourselves to the quick. But He does challenge us to get going, get moving, get doing for Him. He has His hands on all of us, for something special. What’s the special thing God is urging you to do? The God who came up with the original designs for volcanoes and invented thunderstorms is not wimpy. He’s not a half-way kind of guy.
He doesn’t want me or you to be either. God strengthens us and empowers us and gives us these dreams, and He expects us to boldly chase them.
The question is, what are you going to do with yours? What has God put on your heart that you’ve been tinkering around with, dipping your toes in the water? It’s time to dive in head first. To be bold. As John Wood says, “Bold goals attract bold people.” And they do. Will people tell you, “no”? Of course. Will obstacles get in your way? Most definitely. Will God part the Red Sea, tumble the walls of Jericho, turn water into wine—make crazy, awesome, amazing, huge things happen that are supposed to happen when you are faithful to His call. Absolutely. So be bold today, and together, we too, can change the world.
What bold dreams are on your heart? What are you going to do with them?
I was recently at a parent’s meeting for one of my children’s athletic teams. No one asked me what I brought to the table, because all I brought was my calendar App, a pen and some blank checks, just like every other parent in attendance.
At a different meeting two nights later—one for the Bible study teachers at my church—each attendee was asked what we brought to the table for the project we were working on. Each person named a strength or specific talent or skill they had. We were all passionate about learning more about the Bible and about teaching it, so we all had an invested interest in the cause, and it was easy for all of us to name a reason why we were there, what we hoped to contribute.
It was important for me to be at both meetings, but one was something I was fired up about, and one was just something I needed to gather information at. How do we embrace our true reflections, shine the lights God has put within us all of the time, not just when we’re in our groove, but when we’re in the every day, in the comings and goings and necessary parts of life?
What if you’re a connector—someone who’s fabulous at introducing people with similar interests or like minds? That’s great at a conference or a retreat or for matchmaking prom dates, but how about when you’re scrubbing the bathrooms or filling up your car with gas? You can’t introduce the toilet to the sink or send a group text to the people at the other pumps. My dear friend, Jamie, is an amazing artist. But how does she apply her artistic talent to bill paying? She can’t paint a check to the car insurance company. Well, I guess she could, but they probably wouldn’t accept it as payment. I believe even in these routine scenarios there are ways to tap into our talents—to make a difference.
We spend a large chunk of our time doing the daily stuff. Miniature golf (much like going to the bank or chopping vegetables) is not any of my family member’s calling. None of us are professional golfers (just like none of us are hoping to win that chopping veggies scholarship). But we all enjoy playing on vacation, and we all bring something different to the course. We all choose a different colored ball, maybe even different lengths of putters. We approach the holes differently. And even though it’s not any of our ultimate games, we all need to bring our best to the game.
In the realm of green Astroturf and blue-colored fountains one of my daughters loves to keep score. She likes to be in control of all things—from where we place family photos on our bookshelves to how we arrange snacks and napkins when company comes over. Being responsible for the scorecard and the pencil allows her to be in control. She also loves to be in the know, and in this role she has constant access to everyone’s standings.
My mom does sound effects. Seriously. She cheers for the hole-in-ones and sympathizes with shots gone awry. Virtually every stroke evokes a “Wow!” or “Ohhh!” or “Uh-oh!” from Mom. If you’re lucky, she’ll shout, “Yippee!” Her energy makes us feel like someone cares about our shots, like it’s worth trying again on the next one.
My golfer son gives advice. “A little to the left.” “You’ll want to hit this one a bit harder than you think.” He understands the engineering of a course and how force and momentum play into each hole. His gentle suggestions give me a place to start and an idea of what I’m supposed to do when I set down my bubble gum pink ball.
My youngest has a sense of wonder. He stops to chase a salamander, picks up a rock to feel the weight of it in his hand, and asks what kind of butterfly just flitted past. The rest of us are mainly playing Putt-Putt, but he helps remind us of the beautiful details around us. Miniature golf is fun, but it’s not necessary and it’s not my passion. But even in the ordinary, God calls us to live fully, all in for Him.
In these normal spaces in life, how do we embrace our true reflections? By doing the same thing we do when we are in our sweet spot—thinking through our strengths and weaknesses, about our unique giftings. Then using our God-given talents in these seemingly uneventful or unimportant spaces. All those things my family did on the Putt Putt course? They do those things in all aspects of their lives. My daughter is an organizer. My mom is a cheerleader. My older son is great at instructing others from helping his younger brother with a math problem to showing his sister some new chords on the guitar. And, my youngest is always ambling down paths, picking up leaves, and noticing things the rest of us fail to see. By bringing their strengths to everything they do, including a family game, they are making the overall experience for everyone better and truly being the best versions of themselves, even in something that’s not a deal breaker or game changer for anyone.
What are the mundane activities in your life? Cleaning out the garage? Going to the doctor? Working the booth at the school carnival? When we’re doing those activities we are still called to give it our all. If you’re a baker, make sure you sign up to bring the snack. If you’re good with numbers collect the checks or run the spreadsheet. If you’re musical keep your iHome handy and play DJ while pitching in.
We have all been gifted. There isn’t a soul alive who hasn’t been. And God calls us to use our gifts to make this world more awesome. But He doesn’t just call us to use these gifts in the magnificent moments to achieve our deepest dreams. He does call us to that, and He calls us strongly. But, God also calls us to use our talents to cheer someone up, move something along, or make an everyday moment extraordinary.
How will you use one of your gifts to make an ordinary thing extraordinary this week? Share with me in the comments below.
I am blessed by the incredible gift of a loving mother in my life, and blessed by the honor and privilege of being a mom to four fantastic kids. So this Mother’s Day, I reflect on the honor and privilege of this thing God invented called motherhood. He created moms to give us a sneak peek of His love for us. Envision a movie trailer highlighting a new film—that’s how the love of moms helps us understand the love of God.
Imagine five short scenes in the trailer, each giving us a preview of God’s love for us.
Scene One: Healing
The eye-witnessed accounts of Jesus healing the infirmed fill the pages of the New Testament. Jesus enabled the blind to see, the lame to walk, the lepers skin afflictions to clear up. And the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years? She reached out and touched the hem of Jesus’s garment and her hemorrhaging immediately stopped.
Moms give us a sneak peek at God’s healing touch by having Band-Aids on hand for a cut or a scrape, and by knowing how to kiss a boo-boo and make it feel better. Moms can wield Epi-pens and Insulin pumps like trained ninjas. And this time of year moms are doling out Claritin and Zyrtec like it’s nobody’s business. Moms heal us, just like Jesus healed people, because they love us.
Scene Two: Feeding
Jesus understood that humans get hungry, that we need food for energy and nourishment. And so He fed us.
One day He was speaking to a crowd of 5000 men (plus the women and children who came along). He knew at the end of the day that the crowd was HUN-GRY. The thing on all of their minds was when and where could they grab something to eat. And so, Jesus gathered up the few fish and pieces of bread people had with them, blessed the food, multiplied it, passed it out, and miraculously fed everyone until they were not only full, but there were baskets of leftovers.
Moms feed their crowds, too. As a mother of four I can’t count how many times a week I hear, “What’s for snack?” “What’s for dinner?” and my personal favorite, “Do we have any food?” Really?!
Moms stock the pantry with the perfect items to pack in lunches and to pull out for snacks when friends come over. They can somehow forage ingredients in a seemingly empty fridge to create a pasta or salad for dinner, to refuel and reenergize her children.
Scene Three: Listening
Jesus knew people long to be heard—that there are some days when we just want someone to listen. And so, He listened to Mary and Martha when they were grieving their brother, Lazarus. Jesus stopped what He was doing when He sensed the centurion who had an injured soldier really needed to talk. Jesus even knew a corrupt tax collector, who was just trying to catch a glimpse of him, actually needed someone to listen. So, Jesus called Zacchaeus down from his perch in a tree, and said, “Let’s go back to your house…and talk.”
Moms also know their kids want to be heard—that some days they just need someone to listen. Moms listen to what happened in the cafeteria and at practice. Moms listen to stories about the cute jeans their daughter saw at the mall and the cute girl their son saw at the game. I call my own mom several times a week, because I know she’ll listen to things that nobody else wants to hear about. Moms want to listen to all of it, because they care about us so deeply.
Scene Four: Praying
Jesus prayed for others and with others. Sometimes He went off by himself to pray alone. He prayed before meals, prayed for God’s direction, and gave praise. He even taught us how to pray by teaching us the Lord’s Prayer.
Moms mirror this love incredibly. Although there are many times when moms feel overwhelmed, inadequate, stressed and tired we pray for our kids’ happiness, health and futures, because all we want what’s best for our families.
Fifth and final scene: Love
The greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
Jesus said loving is the most important. Moms, you love your kids beautifully. You save the last brownie for your kids and watch the movies they want to watch (even if it means watching Camp Rock 2 for the 19th time). You love your children if they win or lose, pass or fail. Moms long for their kids to have the best friends, the healthiest lungs and the happiest hearts.
Moms, there are no boxes to check or points to earn. You already love exquisitely.
Moms thank you for:
Healing us physically and emotionally
Feeding our tummies and our souls
Listening to us in our ups and downs
Praying for us all of the time, even when we don’t know we need prayer.
And mostly for loving us.
Because the model of love you exhibit us gives us a sneak peek at the perfect love Jesus offers.
How does your mom reflect Jesus's love? I'd love to hear. Leave a comment below.
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.
How many times in the last few weeks have you asked someone, been asked by someone, or overheard someone asking, “Have you seen the new Star Wars movie?”
The original Star Wars, Episode 4, was the first movie I remember seeing in a movie theatre. I was in elementary school. And it was big and exciting and electrifying. As a girl who grew up with the record-breaking, crowd-drawing characters of Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker, I felt compelled to go see The Force Awakens. Also I have two boys. Three, when you count my husband.
The movie didn’t disappoint. And the thing that struck me most about The Force Awakens wasn’t any of the action scenes, or the way old characters were integrated with new, or the special effects, but the evolution of a hodgepodge of apparent misfits into their true beautiful selves
Finn He’s a Stormtrooper. What could be more hated, despised, or disliked by our beloved Resistance characters and fans? Who would think he is valued? But when we look behind the mask Finn wears, we find a sensitive young man, who despite his station in life, not only senses the difference between right and wrong, but is willing to risk his life to avoid being a part of what he instinctively knows is the latter. Is there a mask you’re wearing? Hiding your true self from shining through?
Rey A junk scavenging young woman, who appears to be orphaned and abandoned by those she loved. Definitely wouldn’t have a huge Instagram following (look at this rusty old cog wheel I scavenged today). But this beautiful girl is tough as nails, nimble, determined, and a brilliant pilot, plus so much more. Her stunning eyes and smile intensify and brighten as she discovers her self worth, what she’s made of, and what she’s made for. Are you scrounging around trying to get by, or are you seeking ways to utilize your talents and gifts?
Han Solo Come on, do you think this girl who grew up drooling over Harrison Ford could leave him out? He’s a smuggler. In this installment, he’s a senior citizen smuggler. But as in all the other Star Wars films, we find this corrupt bandit has a surprising understanding of the Force and one of the most loyal hearts in the galaxy, endearing him to audiences for decades. Not to mention that lopsided smile. Are you misunderstood? Are you stuck in a rut of bad habits or seizing opportunities to make a difference?
Maz. This bizarre looking alien, who Han Solo describes as, “Maz is a bit of an acquired taste, so let me do the talking and whatever you do, don't stare.” But despite her wrinkled face, thin lips and costume-like goggles; Maz has sweet, loveable expressions that remind me of E.T., wisdom reminiscent of Mrs. Who, and a fab collection of bracelets. She is the ultimate encourager; pivotal in helping others find their true reflections. Do you take time to truly see others for who they are? To share your valuable insights to help them see their potential?
Each of these characters originally appears evil, worthless, selfish, or plain weird to outsiders, to their entire galaxy, until they find their purpose, their calling. And when they do, their beautiful true reflections dazzle us all the way home from the theatre. We are being called too. You and me. As Maz says, “The Force it’s calling to you. Just let it in.” God is calling you. He’s calling me. He’s calling right now. All we have to do is let Him in. And when we do, we can shake our brutal, ugly, dirtied pasts, overcome our scars and weaknesses, stand strong against those who persecute us, and evolve into the beautiful heroes and heroines He’s always designed us to be.
So have you seen it? Who was your favorite character? I’d love to know. Just click on the “Read more”/”Comments” tab below.
We all have them, in different shapes and forms, huge, enormous obstacles that seem to blockade where we want to go and how we want to get there.
We look up at these mammoth roadblocks in our lives and find them insurmountable. I mean we’re just little old us, and they, well, they’re giants. Our giants come in different shapes and sizes, with different names wearing different types of armor. What’s your giant?
I have friends this week facing job interviews, awaiting medical results, starting new volunteer positions, being scouted by college coaches, meeting new teachers, making big presentations. Me? I’m making my painful transition full of tears as my kids return back to school and awaiting feedback from a publisher on a new book, knowing their decision could make or break the project.
But the thing about our giants is God says He won’t give us anything we can’t handle. Sometimes that’s easier to say than to believe down to our gut. But it’s true. I promise. It takes changing our perspective and finding a handful of stones.
And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 1 Samuel 17: 3-4
We’ve all heard about David and Goliath, that giants can be slain. But do we focus on how David conquered the mighty Philistine champion, and how we can do the same to conquer the hulking Goliaths in our own lives? There were two things David did, that gave him the edge, secured his success. These two things we can tap into as well, to knock our giants down to size.
1. David relied on God
Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. v.45
David, the youngest in his family, the kid who wasn’t in the army at all, but had been sent to bring snacks, he knew the most important thing in his life was his faith, and that with God on his side, everything would work out. Do you believe that? Completely? 100%? When you look at your giant, at this thing you’re facing, are you convinced that because God is on your side, you’ve already won? If not, pray about it. Turn this over to God; ask Him to help you completely rely on Him, because when you do, well the giant starts to shake in their shoes.
2. David used the gifts God had already given him.
Saul tried to suit David up in his armor and helmet. But they didn’t fit, and David knew it. Instead David used what he had.
And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground. v.49
What five smooth stones do you have in your bag? Are you energetic? Dedicated? Creative? Thoughtful? A hard worker? Analytical? Do you make people smile? Are you resourceful? Fast? Are you organized? Do you have family and friends you can rely on? Are you quick to grasp new concepts?
Don’t try to wear someone else’s armor. You don’t need an oversized helmet, or a sword too heavy to lift. God has already equipped you. What you’ve been equipped with might seem insignificant or simple – a slingshot, really? But you don’t have to worry about how your stones appear. Remember, we have God on our side.
So reach into your bag. Pull out your stones one by one, and sling them at your giant. This doesn’t need to be violent or combative. It just involves you being strong in God’s love and in His provision for you. The funny thing about giants, is that often when we stop thinking about how big and strong and imposing they are, and instead focus on how big and strong God’s love is, those giants shrink down to size, fall to the ground, and seem so trivial, we can simply step over them, and get back to being the children of God, to who God intended us to be.
How do you intend to slay your giant this week? I’d love to hear what stones you have in your bag?
Laura L. Smith