Just Show Up

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I was told a story recently about one woman saying to another woman, “Let’s get together for coffee sometime!” To which the other woman replied, “Please don’t say that if it’s not actually going to happen. It’s hurtful to me if you say that and then it never happens.”

I was first struck by the boldness of this response. It felt a bit much to me. As if to assume that everyone’s intentions aren’t genuine. But the more I thought about it the more I want to be the woman who speaks with such honesty.

We are a culture of platitudes. We know just the words to say to come across as thoughtful, charming, insightful. I’ll call you. I’ll pray for you. Oh girl, I’m here for you. I just want to support you.

And while I believe that the heart behind these words is right and good – intention doesn’t really get us anywhere! I’ve long told my husband that it is certainly NOT the thought that counts. It is action that counts every time. You may not simply think about my birthday gift – I want the actual gift!

We can talk ourselves up all day long about all the things we will do – we want to do, even. But then, we just don’t. Life gets busy and things happen and those prayers we really meant to pray get forgotten. We all have enough going on in our own lives to worry about the happenings of the family next door, right?

It turns out – talking about something enough actually confuses our brain into producing the chemical response which makes us feel as if we actually did the thing we’re talking about! So talk all day long about how you want to help the poor, and you  start to feel like you’re actually helping the poor though you haven’t done a single thing! Strategize all day long about that business you want to start and you have the same great feelings as if you’d have started the business – except you haven’t.

It’s a tricky business, this sort of talk.

In our lives we’ve had tons of people offer their support through various seasons. I’m so grateful for it, for the thought, for the intention even. Except I’m learning that it doesn’t actually do anything to help. I’m starting to think the woman in the initial conversation had it right. To people who say, “We want to support you,” I sort of want to say, “Please don’t say that if it’s not actually going to happen. I know you mean well. I know you want to. But it’s hurtful to me if you say that and then nothing ever happens.”

So how can we actually support the people around us? Show up. That’s it. Just be there, literally though – not just in word.

Be right beside them when they have to trek up to the hospital room. Barge into their home and scrub the bathroom they haven’t been able to clean. Send the text AFTER you pray to tell them what you just did. Leave a bag of green apples and nail polish on the front step. (You know who you are!) Drop off a dinner. (You know who YOU are!) Schedule a coffee and just show up. Make the soup. Drive the kids. (Thanks, Mom!) Pick up the groceries. Lend the book. Give up your half used gift card. (Love you!)  Steal them away for a movie out.

I’m endlessly thankful for the people who have simply shown up for us. In a million ways – big and small. It has allowed us to show up for the broadened circle of people in our life. Which in turn has allowed them to show up for their people. It’s a beautiful cycle, really.

I want to be a show’er upper. Talk is cheap, so they say – and I’m thinking whoever ‘they’ are – they’re on to something. I learned from that bold woman that talk is more than cheap, it’s hurtful. Talk can lead people to believe in something that will never occur. Dare I say, this type of talk is just a lie?

I sat with a woman a few days ago who told me evangelism was easy. I looked at her with my head tilted slightly and my facial expression saying something like, “Huh? What now?” Evangelism and easy wouldn’t be two words I would string together.

So easy, she went on. You just show up. You show up and you sit beside. You show up and you listen. You show up and you bring the meal. You show up and you hold the hand. You show up and you just sit – silent. You show up and you let the tears fall. You show up with paint brush in hand. You just show up. Evangelism is just about showing up. Once you’re there, once you’ve done the showing up, Jesus just makes sense to people.

All of the pieces of the puzzle started falling into place.

Don’t just talk – show up.

Evangelism is easy – show up.

What would Jesus do?  – show up.

Jesus didn’t send a text to the woman at the well telling her they should grab water sometime. He didn’t mention in passing that he would pray about the storm stopping. He didn’t tell those who were sick that he really wanted to support them and then carry on.

No, he showed up. He showed up and said drink. He showed up and commanded the storm to stop. He showed up and told the lame to walk and the blind to see.

Just. Show. Up.

Not sure where you can show up? Pray! Ask God to show you who needs you, who needs something, who needs your time or your resources or you hand. There are people on every street in town that need someone to show up. Maybe that someone is you.

Let’s be world changers. Just show up.

 

Pandemonium + Silence [and the lack of in-between]

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The tone in our home waffles between complete pandemonium and utter silence. Most days I long for somewhere smack dab in the middle but can we all agree that as humans we tend to swing the pendulum of our lives from one extreme to the other with just a quick blip in this place called ‘balance’ as we ride the wave to the far end of the spectrum. Again.

With four teenaged boys living on a single level home we can’t seem to sit in the place I long for. Fun and animated conversation, filled with deep intellectual moments all at a volume that is just below what I deem appropriate. Moments that are joyous and yet still. Calm and yet silly. For the record, none of these have ever happened in our home.

Rather it’s loud, bodies everywhere and conversation yelling atop one another to be sure we’re heard. It’s nerf bullets whizzing past heads as we’re trying to concentrate for just a second, and heaven forbid anyone could gather the troops for dinner in a wander around the house and find everyone sort of manner. Instead it’s like a bugle blast of a holler to ensure all boys gather round.

Dinner is loud. Just loud. It’s piled with quotes from favourite movies, accomplishments on the latest video games and the constant retelling of stories of one another that are sure to embarrass/rile up/start a brawl right there at the table.

There is so much laughing. There is so much arguing. There is just so much noise.

Until there isn’t.

There are so many times when silence befalls our little home and I sit for a moment and think yes! This is it! But silence only comes when all headphones are on, each one lost in their own world. I use to begrudge these moments. I couldn’t help but think – why can’t we meet in the middle? Why does it have to be chaotic and boisterous or deadly silent.

Because deadly silent means that everyone is in their own land. Headphones are on and each ones personal taste in music is blasting into their ears. Or their favourite youtuber is filling their mind with their view of the world. Or some podcast is breaking down current cultural events or pastors are sitting around a mic giving their take on who makes the best burgers.

I use to worry about this silent time. About everyone being in their own land. About each person choosing to block the other out. Because it gets silent in our home when we’ve all just had enough of each other. When the close living gets to be too much. When the lack of personal space just isn’t there. When that persons words starts to feel like a drum beating constantly in our brain, or the way they munch on crackers feels like fingernails on a chalk board or their very presence is just too much for right now.

I falsely believed that if my kids weren’t connecting at all moments of every day then they were disconnecting and that was bad. Until I looked at my own life and saw the ways that I recharge and found that if my kids recharge the same way – it’s nearly impossible for them to ever recharge in our home.

Thankfully I get the house to myself for many hours every single school day and I can embrace the silence and I can play my own music and I can think and pray and not be bombarded with anyone else’s presence. Some call this selfish. I call it sanity.

A bad reputation has come around the whole premise of having ‘me’ time. I disagree. I need (yes, need!) time alone to recharge, to gather my thoughts, to still my heart and to spend time in much needed prayer. I’m not talking about me time that involves expensive outings or abandoning children or choosing self above others. I’m talking about finding time in your day or week to just be still. Me time isn’t bad. Me time is rest for a weary soul. It isn’t spa time or shopping trips, for me it’s a calm and quiet time to do something I love. Read a book, write, more than a few minutes to pray.

It took me many years to learn that my teens need recharge time too and considering we are 6 people with 3 bedrooms, no one really gets the opportunity to just escape each other. Thus, headphones.

While I’m at home revelling in the quiet, they’re in the busy halls of their schools. While I have moments to regroup, they have on their best face and are working hard to please teachers and grow relationships and be ambassadors for Christ in their schools.

I’ve learned when they come home to give them the space that they need. To give them ‘me’ time. For one it’s time to write, for another its flopping on the couch and surfing their iTunes playlist, for another it’s hoops on their own without a brother correcting their shot, for many it’s getting lost in the pure entertainment of a screen.

Where I use to worry about the silence and the lack of connection, I’ve learned to embrace it and take the time to prepare myself for the crazy that will come when we all reintegrate into each others worlds.

As parents, I think it’s important that we learn how our children regroup. It may be with friends and doing something active. It may be alone time with mindless entertainment or music. It could be curling up on the couch with a book or simply falling asleep for a few minutes.

Our teens are growing and learning and changing and, while I’ve never been one to promote entitlement, I do believe that they need time to do a bit of what they want. Just like I do. Each in their own way. It doesn’t have to be hours and it doesn’t have to be selfish, if we teach them that it’s a time of resetting and being ready to come back to connection feeling recharged and able to connect again.

So while I still long for that middle ground of happy yet quiet – I’m thinking that just now with boys that are 13, 15, 16 and 17 – that’s probably expecting a bit much.

My standards have been lowered. They are now more along the lines of everyone being kind, everyone getting enough food and we all simply live to survive one day at a time together.

I’m not sure you’ll find that on an inspirational quote poster on pinterest but we celebrate regularly that we’ve made it through another day. It’s in the little things, right?

 

 

 

 

My Tiara Needs to be Removed Repeatedly

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The day was long and I’m sure every parent anywhere ever can nod along with me knowing the feeling that comes as the day winds to a close. Our resources running on empty, our emotional give tanks dry.

I’m not sure about you but when I hit this point I stop seeing well. I wish I could simply put on my old lady reading glasses but that’s not it. When I’m tired, and dare  I say just a tad cranky, I tend to focus on everything that isn’t all that important. Though believe me, it seems it at the time.

You know the days when you’re running helter-skelter every which direction you can barely tell which way is up? The days where you wake and wonder how on earth you can accomplish all that needs to happen but, God be with us, you manage to keep everyone alive and in the right place at (generally) the right time?

At the end of those days, as the sky darkens along with my resolve, I find my perspective taking a turn for the worse.

To be clear, I came home last night in a huff.

Did I have reason to huff? My evening, tired perspective said – sure did! My running on empty thoughts said – oh man, they’re going to hear it.

When I get in this place I tend to hover over my life and look down and in on it. From this vantage point I can only see all that’s going wrong. When I’m up above everyone else looking in, I see the whole tapestry of mess. I see every dish left on the counter and every pair of socks thrown, clearly disrespectfully, into a random corner.

When I’m in this place, when my perspective is above and over everyone else, I can only see the chaos, the turmoil, the faults and the mess.

After stomping around for awhile, all dishes clanking and vacuuming under feet so that maybe they’d get the point (they didn’t) I realized the fool I looked. Because getting all snitty and acting like the fact that I’m perturbed is something everyone should cater to – never accomplishes what I want it to.

Imagine for a second that Jesus just stayed in heaven looking down on humanity. What a head shaker that would be. If anyone would have reason to come down miffed it would be Him. But He didn’t.

He came to earth humbly. He walked among the mess, looked at the broken hearted and saw them. He took up residence in this place not fit for a king. His sandalled feet dusty from the roads just like the people whose lives were in shambles that He hung out with.

He didn’t show up all pretentious and haughty, pointing fingers and telling everyone what to do and how exactly to do it so that He felt respected in this, His own house.

No, He showed up and had tea. Chatted with ragamuffins at the well. Washed feet. Broke bread. BREAD! No Boursin cheese and expensive crackers. Normal, everyday, commonplace, bread.

After flitting about my proverbial kingdom for some time, tiara all lopsided, I whispered a prayer and changed my tone, half begrudgingly.

Instead of hovering over all, I laid down beside a little, rubbed his back and asked him to tell me all of the things about his day. It took exactly 3 minutes.

Instead of continuing my rant, I sat alongside some teens and asked them what the upcoming week held for them, chatted through all of their schedules, and got the benefit of a few funny stories amidst it all. It took 6.5 minutes.

Instead of coming in all high and mighty, I sat beside a kid, peered on as they watched their latest netflix binge and they lovingly removed one headphone to tell me what was happening. It took roughly 4 minutes.

In under 15 minutes things changed in our home and in my heart.

It seems to me that connection – normal, everyday moments change everything. When we come alongside people instead of above them, when we enter into their moments, their days, even their mediocrity, it brings us together in a way that ruling over them never could.

And it’s not just with our kids. When we see one another – all people – on level playing fields, when we drop all feelings of superiority or greatness, when we cancel out the fact that we think we deserve things and we just sit with people – it’s transformative. The mood shifts, the tones are adjusted, the whole air around us is modified into one of love instead of animosity.

When we sit side by side and we care about each other it strengthens the links that bind us, it tosses a rope to one another that we can each grab hold of, it weaves the tapestry of our lives into each others picture and ties it with a tight knot at the end. This can only happen when we choose connection. When we make seeing one another and hearing each others stories the priority over winning a game that doesn’t even exist.

How thankful I am that God  sent His son to connect with us. How thankful I am for the example of how I need to connect with my children in the same way He connects with His. In love and humility. With words that speak I’m with you’s. With grace that abounds. Our imperfect love can still be a reflection of His perfect love no matter how flawed we are. Because flawed we are. As evidenced by the very fact that my tiara will show up again. And I’ll walk through these motions again. And I’ll remember grace – again.

Christians: Our Canvases Aren’t Blank This New Year

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It’s a new year and around these parts we were showered with a most beautiful gift on New Years Eve. This morning fresh fallen snow covers like a thick blanket over the earth. The covering of white making beautiful what only yesterday looked drab and dreary.

The bare trees now perfectly majestic. Our brown, weed filled lawn is now fluffy frosting atop the very best birthday cake. The rooftops and the streets, the little hats atop the lamp posts and the fields where we stretch our eyes beautifully fresh, gleaming white.

I peered out our windows late last night as I watched the massive flakes fall from the sky, like God’s very breath pouring out onto the land. This is it. This is redemption. The ugliness of the barren land mid-winter now covered by something so spectacular. The cracks in the driveway now covered by only perfection.

This is what Christ offers us. All of the cracked and broken parts of our lives filled and covered. The muddy places, the bare, the worn thread thin. He comes and He lays his perfect white blanket atop it all and says, what cracks? All I see is beauty. What murky, dark crevices? All I see is white. What bare and fruitless trees? I see majestic covered branches.

What messed up life? What blackened hearts? What broken relationships? What past all shady and dark? What harsh words? What addiction? What scars and bruises and gashes? You are covered. You are blanketed in love. You are gleaming white as the snow.

It can be too much to comprehend that this is how we’re seen in the eyes of our Saviour. I tend to focus on the unpretty parts, revisiting the past, playing scenarios over in my head  I’d rather not have said. But Christ looks at us and sees His Son’s righteousness. His perfection. His sacrifice and our gain from it.

This New Year there may be talk about fresh slate’s and blank canvases that are yours to fill. Fresh pages of your life to scribble on. Ponder for just a second maybe your canvas is not blank but rather one of those magical paint with water pictures. On the blank looking canvas there is already a story written for you. Pages filled with words, beautiful pictures of what your life will hold. We just can’t see it yet. But it’s there. Written for you.

This year is not a blank canvas with fresh starts, it’s an already filled story for us to find out. We simply need to splash the water of our yes’s, our willingness and our obedience to reveal the story yet to come. We need to use the brushes of our lives to walk all over this canvas, wherever He leads, to unearth the glorious picture He’s had waiting there for us all of this time.

It isn’t a new year that can offer new beginnings but Jesus. It isn’t the flip of a calendar which hands us fresh starts and clean hearts – it’s only the blood of one who loved so much. It isn’t a blank canvas for you to fill up as you please, your life is already his handiwork.

As I peered out the window last night, the snow already laying thick, my eyes filled with tears and my lips could only worship. What a beautiful tangible reminder of what He’s done for us, what He’s doing in our lives, and how foolish we are to think our paint strokes might be better than his.

They aren’t. His are the most exquisite, the most adventurous and the most life we will ever live. I pray this year my heart would be full of yes’s to the paint He’s already laid, yes’s to the words He’s already written. I pray I wouldn’t constantly be trying to change the story to gain the glory of authorship but I would know the greatest author shall get all the glory for this story already written for me.

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18

Because I ruin Christmas [and maybe you do, too?]

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My son prayed last night that we would have low expectations this Christmas.

“Please, Lord Jesus, help us not to have our expectations too high, but help them to be low so we won’t be disappointed in how it turns out.”

This, my friends, is 100% my fault.

It’s a strange thing because for most of my life I’ve set boundaries and barriers. Walls of protection so that large hurts can’t leave a mark and small ones? They can’t even touch me. I’ve always been the one to set the bar low knowing that disappointment is a feeling I don’t want to allow in.

I call it realism. The world calls it cynicism. This knowing that things aren’t going to go right anyway, so why delude ourselves into thinking it might.

But for some reason, Christmas is different.

At Christmas (and if i’m honest, Mother’s Day too) my expectations are huge. And not in the way you might think! It’s not that I’m ever dissatisfied with gifts or the amount of them there are under the tree. It’s not that I want more stuff or more trinkets or more tinsel. Instead it’s that I’ve held Christmas up to be this perfect day – I mean, Christ was born! The shepherds came, the angels sang, the wise men showed up with gifts and Mary just treasured all of these things up in her perfect, little, calm heart.

It’s not too much to ask that my Christmas look and feel like that too, is it? Like perfection, I mean. Like peace and joy. Like Christ himself come down into our living room with fairy dust and sprinkle it on all of our heads so that suddenly we’re perfectly selfless and only desire the good of our fellow man.

Turns out I’ve elevated the story of scripture to such a lofty place that my expectations of it all go through the roof.

I mean, my whole life I’ve been told that it was a silent and holy night. That there was heavenly peace. I’ve sung loudly about joy to the world and that the earth is ruled by his truth and grace.

What I’ve done is take this to mean that our Christmas would reflect these things. That we would have a silent night. A holy night. That all would be calm and all would be bright. I’ve taken it to mean that radiant beams would be streaming from thy holy faces of MY children. That it would be all in excelsis de-o’s and loud shouts of Rejoice! Rejoice! Ema-a-anuel. I took the songs at their word and that the Lord God would fit my children for heaven to live with thee there.

Do you see where it’s all gone wrong?

I’ll tell you what our Christmas looks more like. It looks like 5 humans who like to get their own way suddenly all huddled together in a room trying to be thankful in their own strength while really just thinking, “My brother is such a jerk, why can’t he stop chewing so loud!”It looks like sinful hearts in a broken world trying to pretend that we aren’t sinful and aren’t broken for this one day so that mama can get her dream of silent and holy and calm and bright.

But then someone uses a tone that implies they’re better than everyone else, and someone else gets up to get cereal during morning devotions and someone didn’t get quite excited enough over that gift that cost way too much, and so why do we even bother? And someone showers for too long, and the coffee gets cold and they want to play Beastie Boys instead of carols and somewhere along the way it gets too much and I cry. Because they all suck.

And this is my own sin. My own broken heart in this fallen world. The hope of perfection in a day on this earth that is never going to be perfect. Never meant to hold all of our hopes and dreams. Never meant to fill our hearts completely.

I’ve set my kids up to think that they ruin Christmas. My tears and disappointment in the day, my own selfish pride, shows them that they aren’t enough. They’ll never be enough. They can’t measure up to my lofty goals of everyone getting through one hour of opening presents without an argument or a harsh word.

The truth of it is my kids aren’t enough and yet they are. I’m not enough, and yet I am. My husband can’t be the enough that I sometimes thing he ought to be and yet, he is completely enough.

We are all broken, limping along with bruises and scars in this busted up world. My tears on Christmas morning evidence of my own wicked heart.

We aren’t enough because we weren’t made to be. It’s the very reason we need a Saviour. And yet, in Him, we are enough because He has made us righteous through his own death on that savage and sacred cross.

I don’t think we need to set the bar low this Christmas. I think we need to look around and see that none of us are different, none of us more holy, none of us more righteous. We all come wounded, sick and sore. We all come weary. We all come with dark patches still on our hearts that we wish we could overcome. We all try to cover our limp with a swagger. Bandage up our bruises to be more beautiful. Slap on a smile to cover up the scars.

If only we could see that the limp and the bruises, the scars and all of those things we call imperfect is what brings us to Him – then maybe we could embrace Christmas for what it needs to be. A celebration of Him who came down from glory for us who are so far from glorious. If we saw that, we wouldn’t need to perform or perfect or polish. We would simply know that we’re all broken and in need of Him – and our Christmas morning will be no different then broken people gathered, displaying their foolishness, yet knowing we’re covered by all that He is.

No tears this year. No bar set low. Instead, grasping I’m just like my kids. A flawed and weary traveler on this earth, longing for more. A broken heart longing for heaven.

Never Ready for Christmas

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With just over a week until Christmas I keep getting asked if I’m ready. There are years when I proudly exclaim – oh, of course, aren’t you? I’ve been ready for months. As if being ready means gifts have been bought and copious amounts of sweets have been stored away in the freezer.

How quickly I fall into the societal norms of the season when it’s the last thing I want our home or my heart to reflect.

I’m not ready for Christmas this year. Truth is, I’m not sure I’ll ever be. Because how do we ready our hearts for a babe come to die? I’ll never be ready enough for that. And how can we prepare for a gift that we’ve done nothing to deserve? I simply can’t.

As I work through the genealogy of Jesus this advent, as I study His family line – seeing with fresh eyes who His people are, I’m reminded that there is no fully prepared. No, I’m all ready. No, I’ve got this all together.

All I see is faith and hope.

The lineage of Jesus reads like a Netflix series. Plot twists , unsuspecting characters, scandalous women. Nobody along this journey was ready for Christmas. Nobody was fully prepared for what was to come. Nobody assumed they had all their stockings hung and so now, yes now, Jesus could be born.

Instead, Eve ate the fruit and Sarah laughed at the downright crazy of her life. Moses straight up said he wasn’t ready and God, can’t you choose someone else? For some reason I’m thinking should Rahab have been asked, she wouldn’t have looked at her life and agreed that she was ready for Jesus. David was just hanging out in the field and Mary was simply planning a wedding.

I’m not sure anyone was ready for Christmas. I’m not sure anyone’s hearts were fully prepared for Christ come down.

I’m not either. I’m not ready because gifts aren’t all bought and stockings haven’t even been hung. But more than that, I’m not ready because my heart is still selfish, prideful, impatient and harsh. My prayers still come out inwardly focused. My desire is still for things that benefit me.

I’ve decided ready isn’t what I’m going for this advent season. Because who of us can ever feel prepared for a gift this big, this undeserving, this immeasurable. I don’t need to be ready for Christmas, I just need more faith. I just need more Jesus. I just need more prayers that say – I’m not ready. I’m weak. My wicked heart wins time and time again, but that’s not the way I want to be.

This advent I  want Jesus.

Not the perks or the presents.

Not the memories or money to pay for it all.

Not the safety or slow my prayers often plead.

Just faith enough to see that Moses, though he wavered, was willing. That Rahab, though scandalous was still seeking. That Jonah, though he ran opposite, he still came through obedient. That David, though he didn’t compare to the size or stature of his brothers, he  came in from that field. Ruth, Simeon, Mary. The Inn Keeper, the Shepherds, Joseph and the Men who came from afar. None of them had it all together. None of them were poster children for the ‘I’m ready’ campaign.

But they all had faith. They all had a greater hope then the situation they found themselves in. They all believed.

This is advent. It’s not pretty or perfect. Not even slow and simple. It’s madness that God gave up heaven to come to earth as a babe. It’s simply preposterous that this babe grew to go to the cross willingly. It’s scandalous that the God of heaven gave up all His comfort and glory to come to this war torn earth knowing that suffering and death would be his story.

It’s beautifully painful.

Why should my story be any different?

 

Trust + Control Issues { And How These Culminate in Very Clean Floors}

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My floors have been especially clean lately. I know that’s not exactly the thing you came here to read about but hang on. I have a point.

See, I like control. I like to know what’s going on, what’s coming my way, how exactly it’s all going to shake down and what time it’ll all be over so I can crawl into bed. Turns out, when life is a bit out of my control – I turn to the things I can absolutely control.

Like the cleanliness of my floors.

Timothy Keller said, “If we knew what God knows, we would ask exactly for what He gives.”

Yeah, read that again. I did at least 17 times when it rolled across my instagram feed this morning. (Thanks to the lovely, Jen!)

Turns out, I want clean floors. And control. Also turns out that the things I’m asking for look different in my mind then the way God is giving them.

Here’s what I never ask for. I never ask to go through things which make me feel really scared. I never ask that I would encounter moments I would have to be especially brave for. I never plead to have feelings of complete and total lack of control.

Here’s what I do pray for. I ask for complete reliance on God – though in my mind that looks all happy and cozy. I do ask for more faith and more trust for whatever He brings our way – though in my mind what He brings is lovely and, if I’m honest, quite easy. I do ask that He stretch me, but what I really mean is make me feel like I’m doing things for Him in big ways but that don’t really require much of me because life is full enough – amiright?!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m praying honest prayers. I do want more faith and more trust and more reliance and more Jesus. It’s just when He gives me moments, days, weeks of putting these to the test – well, I tend to get all, “where did this come from?” and I go hardcore into floor cleaning mode. (aka control freak syndrome)

It kind of boils down to this fact – I want to know what God knows – and in an instant I find myself naked in the garden being seduced by a serpent and reaching for an apple.

It’s so easy to say we want more of Jesus but it’s downright terrifying when He decides to hand us Himself. When He comes into our lives and holds out His hands and shows us that more of Him looks like loving deeper, broadening our circle and inviting others especially near.

It’s so easy to say we want to have more faith and feel like that means super powers to walk forward doing bold things with a big red J on our chest (Jesus, duh!) and our cape flapping in the wind. But I’m learning  in increasing measure that more Jesus looks like a pounding heart and trembling fingers and moving forward completely scared. I’m finding out that courage doesn’t come with a cape but with a whispered yes. I’m seeing that faith doesn’t come with ferocity it comes in the quiet with questions, “Really Lord? Me? Are you sure someone else isn’t more suited for the task?” and walking forward anyway – knowing we are completely inadequate to accomplish what He’s called us to.

We don’t know what God knows and so all we can do here on earth is trust that what He knows is best even when to us it seems – ridiculous, terrifying, disheartening, too big, too hard, too…. – you fill in the blank.

Time after time in scripture we see completely unqualified people stepping forward in obedience to do things too large for them. Time after time in scripture we see armies defeated, walls crumbled, babies born, dead raised, crowds fed, fish caught, wine overflowing, bodies healed, storms calmed and then there was the fish with a coin in its mouth!

Yet after all of that we look at our pitiful little selves and say, me? Not me. You couldn’t possibly mean me.

But He does mean us. He means those of us who are frail and weak and just plain scared. He means those of us who think we don’t possibly have anything to offer and He means those of us who have tons but just don’t want to share.

Shannan Martin, in her book Falling Free said this, “There’s a difference between being too scared to do hard things and doing hard things scared.”

It’s scary to take God at His word. It’s scary to not know the things He knows and yet move forward in the ways He commands. It’s downright terrifying to feel unqualified and yet do it anyway. But isn’t that precisely the way? So that we can never take the glory for the things that are accomplished, rather point straight to the Great Accomplisher and thank Him for all the ways HE is enough.

Today I don’t know Gods ways, I don’t understand them and I can’t even say I like the way He’s operating very much. Today I wish I knew His thoughts and His plans and how it would all turn out in the end. But apparently it’s time for me to learn what faith is and what trust means.

Today I’m  turning off the vacuum because the Christmas Tree just fell over (again) and it means the floors, just cleaned, are all messed up again. Turns out my perceived ways of garnering some control are also an illusion. Nicely played, God. Nicely played.

 

 

 

Real is Messy

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There are days when I feel completely ripped off. I usually only feel this way when I’m not getting what I want. I admit – I like things to go my way.

Thing is, I rarely get what I want when my kids come home from school. Oh, it’s not a snack that I want or a mushy hug, necessarily, but I would like a bit of time, a bit of info and maybe just a bit of cheer.

But here’s what’s more likely to happen.

They’ve been at school all day working hard to give their best to the world. Trying to please their teachers, impress their friends, or be a contender for MVP in whatever is happening in P.E. They’re taking notes and writing exams and learning new languages. They’re trying to be witty and kind and creative and help someone around them. They’re taking in assemblies on mental health, navigating the swearing and inappropriate humour in the halls, overloading their brains with talk of graduation and requirements and plans for the future. And, as if that’s not enough, they’re just trying to fit in!

I, on the other hand, have been alone usually. I work from home in front of my computer screen in mostly silence. While I put time and thought and energy into what I’m doing, I haven’t had to deal with outside voices or social pressures. (as evidenced by the tights, favourite cardigan and glasses!)

Our days are different, my boys and I. By the time they get home I’m ready for interaction. I’m ready to talk. My introverted self has had enough alone and quiet and I’m ready to regroup with my people and gab about all of the things.

But they’re feeling exactly the opposite!

They’ve been out – busy and talking – and come home feeling physically and emotionally drained. They’re ready for quiet. For down time. For no prying questions. Just time to be.

It took a long time for me to figure this out. Before I did I would get so frustrated. They would come home from school and I would be cheery and ready to greet them and they would give me a shrug and an undecipherable grunt for an answer.  If I pushed they got snappy. If I pried they retreated more. If I got mad at their lack of engagement, well – it just got ugly.

It’s a hard place to be – knowing that everyone else gets the best part of your kid. The world out there gets the best foot forward, the carefully chosen words, the laughs and the smiles. I get the tired, the grumpy, the arguing and disengaged.

Once I realized what was going on I had to learn to change my expectations and my tone. We developed a motto for our home as a reminder. Of any place in  the world, home was a safe place to not be okay.

Our kids hold it together for so many hours out there in the world. They stuff down the harsh words people speak, they act non-chalant about the jokes someone threw in their direction or the criticism a teacher offered about their work. They build walls to protect themselves. They barricade their heart so they don’t look weak. They pretend that nothing is ever a big deal. They’re good. Life’s good.

And then – home. Home needs to be a place where our kids can unravel. Where they know that it’s safe to show weakness. Where the barricades can come crashing down and the emotions are allowed to come out. Home is a place that the pretenses get dropped and we get on with the getting on of being real.

Spoiler Alert: Real is messy.

But isn’t it in the messy and sometimes ugly that we get vulnerable? And isn’t it in the vulnerable where real relationship grows? And isn’t it the real relationships that we want to have?  I do.  

It can become our bent as parents to want our kids to be shiny happy people all of the time. We can’t help it. REM sold us on it decades ago. And so we set unrealistic standards for them to be something we could never even be ourselves. But what we need to understand is that even when they’re grumpy, even when they want quiet, even when they can’t get out more than a grunt – we’re getting the honest. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the messy but honest any day of the week.

I guess what I want you to hear is that it’s okay. It’s okay that you aren’t engaging in deep conversation every single day at 3 pm. And it’s okay that they just want their headphones on for an hour or to lie on the couch and play an app for some time.  

Home is their haven too. This is not just my home to operate in the perfectly slick way that I want it to. It’s the home of five people. Each with their own mode of operation. Each with their own need for time and space. Each with their own need for love and safety, retreat and relaxation, quiet and calm.

Be encouraged parents, if your kids are giving you real. It’s the relationship you want.

Eeyore Syndrome (aka the negative child)

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It didn’t matter the time of day or where we happened to be, my son’s sentences always started the same. . .

“You know what sucks, Mom?”

It could be first thing in the morning. Or tucking him into bed at night. They were often the first words escaping his mouth after school. And, any old time I was standing in the kitchen, he meandered in with the same line;“You know what sucks, Mom?” I knew I was about to find out.

I was so frustrated.


Here I was providing everything for my  child – all he could ever need, and yet, he was starting every sentence, every conversation, every moment with a negative.


Of course, I handled it like a champ – with gentleness and grace and, “OH COME ON! STOP IT! YOUR LIFE IS NOT THAT HARD!”……

I’m over on FamilyLife Canada today talking about how to combat negativity in a child. If you want to finish reading, just clickity-click right here!

Thoughts for a Thursday

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This morning I opened the curtains looking out over our front yard. A young deer was standing on the lawn looking right back at me. She was way less interested in me than I was in her. She simply looked, saw and got right back to her business. I didn’t phase her morning. I didn’t upset her day.

The boys and I chatted about it on our drive to school. There are 3 deer that we see quite often in our neighbourhood. If we let the dandelions in the grass grow long enough they’ll stand and graze on them for quite some time. But most often they look as though they’re on a mission. They have a sense of unwavering about them.

We talked about how scripture likens our thirsty souls to a deer panting for water. Watching the long legged beauty march with determination up our street made this picture so clear. Every deer I’ve ever seen seems to have outstanding focus. They never look as though they’re just meandering for meanderings sake. They aren’t easily distracted by the goings on of the birds or the passing vehicles. They always seem to know where they’re going, what they’re doing, and with a specific goal in mind.

Oh that our lives would look like that. It seems that too easily we’re thrown and tossed by the circumstances of our days. We get good news and we’re over the moon, bad news and we’re hopeless, tragedy strikes and we’re angry, sickness falls and we grumble.

What if we were more like the deer, though. With our eyes set on our purpose, our mission, our goal. What if we were unwavering in our resolve because distractions were only that – distractions.

As we become more focused on Christ, our eyes and our hearts in tune with His, the happenings of this world should shake us less and less, should they not?

Because this world is not our goal. It was never meant to be. He is.

And this world is not our home. It was never meant to be. Our home is with Him.

While the things that we have in this world are nice, they were never intended to be what fill our lives. He is.

We can spend so much time being tossed to and fro by the waves of life, but if we keep our gaze fixed on Him who brings storms and celebrations, knowing that He is the author and the perfector of our lives – does it not steady us?

He is called our rock, our fortress, our shield, and cornerstone. He is our potter and our shepherd. He is our bread and our light.

Each of these offer us something special. They offer  protection and guidance. They show how we are shaped and moulded, covered and cared for. They are our sustenance  and our very way illuminated.

If we believe that God is really what these metaphors say He is, when our days look different then we imagined we need not be shaken. He is with us – providing, guiding, shaping and securing.

If we take Him at His word then we needn’t be tossed about by the waves, the waves of culture, the waves of circumstance, the waves of security or lack thereof.

We need only have our gaze fixed on Him. This means lifting it off of the things of this world. There’s simply no other place we can feel secure.

 “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Psalm 42:1

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12