When We Thought We Knew Everything

I see 20 year olds now and from this vantage point they look like babies. But on this morning 20 years ago, at 20 years old, I awoke in my bedroom in my parents house and set about with the primping – preparing to marry the man of my dreams.

This year it’s official – I’ve been married longer than I was not married.

When I think of the first 20 years of my life it feels like so much more changed. From tiny baby to toddler to riding a bike on my very own. School and then high school, and sports and clubs. I learned to speak, to feed myself, to be a friend, to drive….plus all of the words to some pretty terrible salt n’ peppa songs.

It’s hard to think that anything can top the learning curve of the first 20 years of life. But I dare say I’ve learned just as much in the second 20 years simply by being married.

Sure I already knew how to talk but I certainly wasn’t a good communicator. I might have known how to be a friend but I knew nothing about being a wife. I’m going to bet I’ve even become a better driver. And learned to appreciate better music.

The learning curve hasn’t stopped even for a second.

Of course I set off into marriage thinking I knew all. We knew exactly what our life was going to look like and of course we knew exactly how we were going to raise our kids. Expertly, I might add.

But that first year was an eye opener of so many kinds. While setting up home was fun and cooking together was always interesting, we were caught up in our own selfishness. We were blinded by our own expectations of the other – sometimes even of ourselves. We had no idea how to serve the other above ourselves, let alone communicate our wants or needs.

Did we have some fun? Of course.

Was the world our oyster and everyone a tad bit dumber than us? Yes and amen.

I couldn’t have believed it at the time – all of those ‘old’ couples who told us it only gets better. How could it? Time only means more responsibilities, children who drain you financially, bad hair and an even worse wardrobe!

No, life at 20 and marriage in year one was where it was at. Earl’s Restaurant cooking us dinner pretty much nightly, movies and concerts whenever we wanted, skateboarding around the city to get where we needed to go. What could be better?

Turns out it really does get better with time. Because above the need to be cool we now totally get that we’re not and are 100% good with that. In fact, we’re happy to be the ‘old’ people now telling other couples that it only gets better. Because there’s a knowing behind our smiles now. A knowing that the vows we said when we had no idea what life would look like were actually ones kept. It’s easy to say richer or poorer when you’ve never been poorer. And it’s simple to think you’ll stay in sickness and health when there’s never been an illness beyond a cold. We scoffed at the better or worse because it would always be better but, my oh my, did we learn that there was going to be a worse.

And yet – here we are. Having waded through muck and mire, seasons of storms, and so much more. We still look at each other and smile – though we smirk a little more now. Sometimes we downright laugh at all of the things we thought we knew and where God has brought us today. It’s a life we could never have dreamed.

The beauty comes in having lived the good, the bad and the ugly together and still being able to walk away holding hands. The best parts of marriage are realizing that you don’t have to win or be right, but that we can totally disagree and still love and respect each other unendingly. The mystery comes from realizing we have a few more wrinkles, a less hip wardrobe, 4 teenagers that suck every one of our resources away and yet we still have love, in fact, an even deeper love, respect and appreciation for each other.

If we’ve learned this much in 20 years I simply can’t wait to see what the next 20 hold. We still have so far to go!

Gary Thomas says that cherishing is seeking to enhance the life of the other in both big and small ways. I can’t wait until we rock at that. We try. But so often we’re tired or stressed or still a li’l bit selfish. It’s our year 20 goal. Enhance each others life in small ways. We already do it in so many ways but we want to do it even more.

Because we can’t wait to be 60 with even more wrinkles, a worse wardrobe and yet still look at each other and smirk because those 40 year olds who think they’ve got it all together? Well, they look like babies now.

Here’s to 20 more, my love! You are not my everything. I hope you never will be. I can’t wait to get my first grandma perm and to see you wear your first pair of suspenders. Walking this path of life with you is the best gift.

 

When School Isn’t Made For Your Kid

Early in his school years a teacher stated to my son that if he didn’t sit down on his chair, which he never did, she would take it away. He said, “Okay!” handed in his chair and continued to happily stand for the remainder of the year.

In seventh grade he failed to tell me there were any sort of sign ups for sports. It wasn’t until nearly Christmas when I clued in he was fairly free after school and there hadn’t been any sort of after school sign ups. When asked about it he said, “Oh yeah. I didn’t sign up. I don’t want to play sports.”

When the other kids were outside running around the neighbourhood my boy was filming them with a video camera. When they went inside for dinner, he took his spot behind the computer screen and edited it all into a little montage complete with title sequence and closing credits.

His days were spent writing scripts for plays that he could never rally enough kids to actually participate in. His nights were spent with his nose buried deep in books.

In eighth grade he begged for piano lessons.

All along I couldn’t help but think – who is this kid? While I loved every facet of what he was doing and the creative things he was pouring himself into, I also worried. Because kids need an outlet and when the outlet is creativity and not sports, they don’t necessarily fit in naturally at school.

I’m so thankful for a teacher who told me, when he was still so young, this kid of mine – he was an outside the box thinker and school wouldn’t necessarily be the place he shone. She understood a regular sit, read, answer questions curriculum didn’t resonate with him, though we also agreed sometimes you have to do the things you don’t love in order to learn important facts.

She told me to get him through. Don’t worry myself too much with grades. He’ll do big things once he’s out of school and off in the world where there is more to explore out from the confines of a desk. Where there’s a place for diving into your passions, creating things that are beautiful and where you might even find a few more people who think like you do.

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That teacher saved me from years of questioning my parenting with her words. She clarified what I couldn’t. She told me that he would go places, that he would find his niche, probably a bit later in life because the younger school world didn’t cater to this type of kid.

I wrapped those words up as a gift and kept giving them to myself whenever I needed them. Whenever I worried about him. Whenever I felt like he just didn’t fit in.

Through middle school he stayed inside and read novels through lunch. He poured through Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and dove into cult favourites like A Wrinkle in Time, The Outsiders and soaked up characters like Holden Caufield in A Catcher in the Rye. I couldn’t keep up with his reading so I finally just had to let him troop on and choose what he liked.

Friends in the arts assured me that he’d be okay. As long as he had an outlet.

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He found his outlet in writing. Every single night we’d find him curled up somewhere frantically typing out a new story. Or adding to his novel. Or casually saying, “Hey Mom, want to read my new poem?”

When your kid doesn’t fit the mould, when they don’t fit into categories of ‘normal’ or just do what all of their peers are doing, it can be difficult as a parent. We can wonder if they’re going to be okay. We can question if we’ve done it all wrong. We can fear for their future.

17 1/2 years into this deal I’ve learned that he will be okay. I learned early that there’s nothing wrong with him.  I learned to stop trying to make him answer questions the way I thought they should be answered. I learned that I didn’t need to explain why he wasn’t in sports to other parents.  I learned not to worry because he’s different then his peers. It can be a hard place to parent a kid who’d rather discuss the latest character in a novel he’s read than the latest comic book hero and who thinks his generation is being ruined by every selfie posted and every meme made.

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At 17 he doesn’t understand his generation. He feels like he’s been born in the wrong era and yet he knows that God made him for just such a time as this. To have no social media accounts in a world of snapchat. To write books in a sea of video game obsessed children. To wear jeans with rips made because he doesn’t care about fashion and his jeans have literally worn threadbare, not because rips are cool and so he needs the latest trends.

It shouldn’t have surprised me that he’d want out of high school as quickly as possible and that he’d choose to graduate early and get out of the place he deems all drama and narcissism. And it shouldn’t surprise me that he didn’t attend his graduation ceremony two nights ago when he should have been donning cap and gown and received his diploma.

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“I don’t understand festivities,” was his answer. “So I finished classes I was supposed to finish – why does that need a celebration?”

So I have no photo of him walking across that stage or in his school colours and I’m totally fine with it. Because to have a kid like him, one who doesn’t follow the crowd, one who maintains strong convictions of who he is and what he believes, one who doesn’t care if everyone is doing it or not – well, that’s something special.

It’s such a privilege to raise each of our kids, mamas and dads – no matter what they’re like. Sure there are days we don’t get it, there are times we wish they would have said something different in public, there may even be times we’ve been embarrassed – but looking back at what I’ve learned from him and what I’m continuing to learn every day – I wouldn’t change it for anything.

 

 

When We’re Short on Time but Big on Love

My husband snuck into the house late last night. It’s been that sort of season. So much work. Travel. On set shoots. Long days. Little sleep. Even less time at home.

I rolled over but I couldn’t lift my head off of my pillow to greet him properly. This many days of single parenting and keeping up with the schedules of 4 teenagers takes a toll. A toll that means once I crawl into bed I’m not moving for a solid 8 hours. (don’t judge. some of us like our sleep!)

It’s not how we like our schedules to be. The visions of happiness in my mind look more like kneading bread dough on the counter, growing vegetables in our own soil, writing with pen and paper and long drawn out talks around the fire late into the night.

These days, however, look more like frozen pizza and a bag of baby carrots, quick text messages with all of the abbreviations possible, and Cole’s notes versions of all of the things we want to share.

It may not look exactly how we want life to be just now, but we’ve also been married long enough to know that these seasons don’t last forever. They show up with force, barging their way in and then they slowly mosey along and leave the door swinging behind them.

The thing is – what’s a couple supposed to do in the meantime?

One day together in the last eight is not the best streak. Most days we aren’t even able to see each others eyes (either because we’re not in the same city, or because mine are already closed!)  And yet we know that in order for our family to maintain its strength, integrity and any semblance of sanity – we need to stay connected – the hubs and I.

We’ve figured out a few ways that work for us, thank the Lord, and while they aren’t as good as Saturday morning coffee in bed, or long walks along dusty trails under a canopy of trees, they do what we need them to do in this particular season of crazy.

What do we do? We rely fully and completely on technology!

I know you’ll find a thousand articles online stating that communication through technology is not true connection. But when there are no other options for a married couple to talk – I contend it beats letter writing and waiting 2 weeks for our thoughts to arrive!

So we text constantly. Of course there are good mornings and good night’s but there’s also everything in between. There are quick questions about home details or kid schedules or weekend plans. There are long paragraphs about what we’re thinking about or going through at the moment. There are one liners of encouragement when we know the other is in a tough spot. There are apologies for the irritated tone we got the day before. There are prayers lifted up, inside jokes thrown back and forth and basketball games watched ‘together’ though we aren’t together at all.

I can’t even explain what a gift this is to our marriage. When hubs is at work and I’m working/kid driving/all of the other things – we can’t very often sync up times to actually talk for more than 4 minutes. But texting back and forth gives us opportunity to reply when we can and feel connected all day long.

This constant way of staying connected to my husband has given me a new picture of what scripture means when it tells us to, “pray without ceasing.”  I could never grasp just exactly what that meant – how can we be constantly in prayer and yet live life? But I think I get it just a little bit more. Because while I’m not endlessly on my phone texting my husband, I am constantly in communication with him, whether listening or reading what he has to say, or formulating my own thoughts back. The action isn’t the unceasing part, the mode of the heart is. So I would say that, “I text with my husband all day!” But of course that doesn’t mean I’m texting every second. In the same way, I think we’re called to be constantly in connection with our Heavenly Father. Does that mean our mouths can never speak a word to another human and interrupt our prayers? Of course not. It means that our hearts and minds are always turned to Him in everything that we’re doing. The same way my heart is staying connected to my husband when we aren’t in the same city or province!

I know our lists probably look different but I’m sure you’ve been in a season of busy, as well. What do you do to foster connection with your spouse when you’re just not getting tons of face time together?

 

Small Changes Matter

I learned something about myself last week that I’m sure everyone around me already knew.

I like routine, order and structure. I like systems and rules.

To this my family gave a collective – uh, we know! You had to go to a workshop to learn THAT?!

It’s interesting when we have others pinpoint things about ourselves though because sometimes our actions and minds and passions and wants line up and sometimes they don’t.

Let me just tell you, it’s not easy having a creative mind that craves routine. Often artists thrive on chaos and are moved to inspiration at the oddest times. My best work comes when things are planned, when I have set aside time and order surrounds me.

So what does this mean for my life? Well, it means that I’m not prone to making drastic moves, grand goals or casting major visions that I feel I can’t attain. Instead, I find my happy place – the place I feel and thrive best – is when I make small changes that I implement for the long haul.

Practically this means that while I can’t afford organic meat for our tribe of 4 teenagers – I can consult the dirty dozen list and implement food change in the areas of worst offence.

It means I’m not going to do a 7 day juice cleanse but I love incorporating 2 veggie-heavy, wheat grass/probiotic/spirulina filled drinks into my daily routine.

It means that I make small changes every now and then and I work them out until they just become part of the routine and don’t feel like a big deal.

I did the same when it came to finding products that are toxin and carcinogen free for our home. I couldn’t immediately throw out all of our furniture, but I could invest in safe cleaning products and safe beauty products.

This month is my one year anniversary of using Beautycounter!

In case you don’t know what that means – Beautycounter is a line of beauty products that puts our health and safety first. Before profit, before quick product release, before everything! They’re main purpose is to ensure that everyone has access to safe products that we use everyday.

And in my typical fashion, did I instantly change all of my products? No. Because I was already using some (emphasis on the some!) great ones – but the ones that weren’t great, I switched up.

People often feel overwhelmed as to where to start on a journey to a less chemical-laden life and I think the best way is to just start with one thing and make it normal. Once you’ve got that down – find the next thing and change that. It’s the little changes over time that add up to make a real difference rather than doing a “clean” binge and then going back to fast food after a few weeks.

To celebrate one year of safe make-up and skin care I thought I’d answer the most popular question I get. What are your top 5 products if you could only change that many.

The first two are super simple: change your cleanser and your moisturizer. These are things we use twice each day. That’s 4 x a day that we’re rubbing potentially harmful chemicals into our skin. Simply change two items and you’re on your way.

Looking to change just one thing?

The next 3 are a toss up as to the order but are hands down my best Beautycounter switches and the products I love the most.

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While I’m thrilled with the products, my biggest goal is to share the information about safe products with more and more people. As I was inching close to my year anniversary of being with Beautycounter I thought – what do I want?

The truth is, I want more people to be using safe products. I want people to be educated about what’s in the stuff they’re buying off the shelves at their local stores and I want women to know that these things do affect our health and the health of our families. Does this mean using only Beautycounter? No! It means being smart about our choices. Beautycounter is just the easiest way I’ve found to cover all my beauty basics with one company.

And in case you were wondering – the products aren’t just safe – they’re awesome!

If safer products are something you love – why not share about it with a friend? Your Mom? Your Grandma? Your co-workers? Your Mommy group? You can be as big of a part of the mission as I am. Spread the word for the health of the people you love. Educate one another on the things we’re doing in life to battle cancers and hormone disruption and the many other things toxic chemicals can cause.

It’s been one year and my skin has never been better – but more than that – I’m not worried for a second about what’s soaking in to my families skin. And that’s worth everything.

If you want more information on any of these things, send me a message! I love helping people navigate the oft-overwhelming waters and because I’m passionate about it – I could talk about it all day!

p.s. if you’re interested in joining my team – drop me a line here!

How to Survive Anything: Parent Edition

My son has a book entitled, How to Survive Anything. It walks you through various calamities such as shark attacks and embarrassing parents, blizzards, being adrift at sea, being the topic of your classmates gossip, and other such perilous situations.

It made me think about what chapters I’d include if I wrote a book for parents on how to survive anything. I could only come up with three super perilous chapter titles thus far.  At seventeen years into this parenting gig and the most catastrophic places I’ve found myself are year 3, year 9 and year 14. (Yours may be different but the point is – there are some strange phases kids go through, amiright?)

There are already dozens of books written about the terrible two’s so I’d likely just copy what they had to say and replace the two with a three. Two’s were easy compared to three. At least in my world.

At 9, my children became weird and ridiculous and I’d find myself unable to relate to them on any level. They’d grown out of the cute stage and their teeth were just altogether too big for their mouths. The things they say are no longer adorable but eyebrow raising. At 9 my boys think potty humour is the most hilarious thing on the planet and they want to talk endlessly (and I do mean endlessly) about things like Pokemon and snakes. I just don’t get it. It’s all a bit alien like.

Thankfully, there are a few years grace before they hit 14 because 14 is a strange culmination of 3 and 9 all put together. Don’t think on that for too long. Parents, I’m not trying to frighten you – just let you know that when your kids go through hard/weird phases that you don’t understand at all – it’s normal. Put on the armour which forces you to laugh, only to keep from crying, and know above all else, you are not alone.

It seems to me that at 14 our children are plagued with some sort of illness. It’s symptoms run like the warnings at the end of a pharmaceutical commercial.

Warning:  being 14 years old may cause your child to speak incoherently about everything while simultaneously knowing everything about everything. It may cause eye rolls and general attitude all aimed in your direction because clearly, as a parent, you know NOTHING about everything.

Being 14  may also bring about lowered voices, pimples, hairy legs and a general bambi-like awkwardness as your child learns to cope with their limbs which are oddly long and flailing at this stage of the game.

The hardest part about 14 is the limit testing. Somehow 14 brings about this feeling of grown-upness in our children and yet their minds regress back to their 3 year old defiant self. They’re constantly shifting between adult and toddler, and I assure you, they’re just as confused about it as we are!

I’d love to say I have some sage wisdom on how to parent the 14 year old, but the truth is, I don’t. I’m simply here to affirm to you that your child is not the only one to have succumbed to the disease. It happens. Even to the sweetest and most loving of them, I’ve learned.

There are a few ways to cope, however. I’ve found the simple knowing that it will pass to be of enormous value. There were times I truly feared that this was who they’d become and that I’d somehow failed in every realm of parenting. That this person, who now towers above me and yet can’t remember one simple set of instructions, is going to have to function out in the world like this.  But, thank the Lord, it passes. It really does.

Secondly, give them enormous amounts of grace along with your many (MANY!) words of discipline. Remember 3? When you felt like all you did was discipline all day? Yeah, it might feel like that again and that everything they do is just off and wrong and not what you expect of them. They feel it too, like they’re constantly messing up and just can’t get anything right enough for us. I know the temptation is to rant at them about all the ways they’ve gone wrong but at 14 they can simply tune that out. Instead, talk rationally and kindly.  This is something they don’t hear from their peers and it might just confuse them into listening.

Lastly, love them well. There is no greater way to show our kids the love of Christ than when we love them hard through the messy, awkward and frustrating times. Keep hugging them, keep pointing out their beautiful qualities, (look hard – they’re in there!) and keep telling them with your words that you really do love them so much even when you think they’re ignoring you. They hear it. It’s going in. Keep filling their minds with your love and soon enough they’ll be 15.  <enter huge sigh of relief here>

Birthdays + Culture + Rejoicing in Each Day

I sat on the couch in the living room curled up next to my husband of 19.5 years, looked around the room at our 4 boys who border the line of being called men gathered ’round and stated, “If this is 40, I’m a fan.”

Sure, I was only some 16 hours into this next decade of life so I don’t have a whole lot of comparisons I can make just yet but the Lord has been changing my heart over the past several years surrounding birthdays. (and a few other celebratory days too)

This year particularly it was impressed upon my heart that in this call to live counter-culturally, could there be a way for our birthdays to feel just a bit different too.

In the past, I’ll admit, I’ve boldly proclaimed to my family a month out from the big day that they have 30 days to find me a great present! They’ve heard my voice in weekly intervals breaking down the T-minus however many days until I need to be celebrated. It became a joke of sorts in our home. I patted myself on the back for teaching my many boys how to celebrate a woman well. But this year it just didn’t sit right.

In a culture that is already so ‘me’ focused I struggled to make a big hoopla about, well – me! And I assure you it’s not only the culture. My own murky sinful heart spends enough of her days self-focused – fighting against the sins of pride and self-righteousness. I daily battle the wants and longings that are only temporary satisfactions of my very human flesh. I press back against frustration that comes from self-entitlement and the feelings that I deserve more than what I’ve been given.

These all come on any given day. Often. Sin, wash, repeat.

My heart felt so unsettled as my favourite people asked what I was doing to celebrate the big day. My ever-loving husband (who knows immensely better than to plan any sort of surprised) consulted with me multiple times to see what I might enjoy. What might make me feel celebrated. Who I might like gathered around. What event or gift would make me feel entirely special.

I couldn’t help but find it completely opposite to the ways I’ve been journeying these past few years. As the Lord has been gracious to show me my struggles, my idols, the very icky places of my heart – a day that brought all of them out – that said I deserve this, this is what I want, celebrate me – just didn’t seem fitting to the life stage I’m in.

There’s a way we think we need to do things based on culture, tradition, or instagram. But why? Everyone seemed defeated by the fact that I was letting my birthday slide without much made about it. They questioned whether it was the age I was turning that made it hard. But the truth is, the age didn’t change a thing for me. I prayed hard and asked the Lord what celebrating should look like. What it could look like to allow those who love me to show it, but not conjure up sin in my heart that I deserve things a certain way.

A verse was impressed upon my heart repeatedly in the weeks before my birthday. “Today is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Each day is one He has made. Each is to be rejoiced in. Not this one simple day that holds the number on which I was born. But, every day. And on the flip side, this wasn’t a day to NOT celebrate because I didn’t want it to be about me, but it was to be rejoiced in, to be glad in for the same reason we ought to do it every day. Because HE made it. It’s His day. Let’s celebrate!

I walked through my birthday the most content I think I’ve ever been on a celebratory day. I normally conjure up expectations and then get upset when they don’t work out. But this day, instead of seeking the glory for myself, I simply turned it back to my maker. Lord, you made this day – thank you. So every text message that came my way, simply reminded me to thank Him. The chocolate and the flowers that were gifted reminded me to be thankful for the people He’s surrounded me with and to be glad. The dinner I didn’t have to cook made my heart rejoice.

But most of all, sitting on the sofa in the living room surrounded by my people and getting worked up at the ref’s in the Golden State Warriors game, looking around and seeing so tangibly how good and gracious the Lord has been to me, to us, to our family – secured in my heart what I knew I wanted this birthday to be about. It’s not the age that matters so much, or at least it doesn’t feel like it does, it’s not even the fact that it was my birthday. But rather when we simply rejoice in another day, right where we are, with whomever He has surrounded us with, our hearts will be glad.

I’ll say it again now that I’m 3 days in. If this is 40 – I’m a fan.

Read This.

After posting this last week I’ve had more than a few requests come in for books I’d recommend so that people could do something similar. I’ve been hesitant because when I find a book that’s particularly moving, it’s often because it’s speaking to something I’m currently facing. And so, I thought – what if others aren’t facing the same things? Perhaps these books will be rubbish to them.

But then I got over it because why wouldn’t I want to encourage more people to pick up a book and spend time studying and mulling over the words the author has chosen to share. Why wouldn’t I want more people spending time in contemplation and prayer over passages of scripture. Why wouldn’t I want people to read about the journey of others and be inspired – perhaps in different ways than I was – but inspired nonetheless.

I’ve been brainstorming about books that have been meaningful in my life and turns out – there’s been a lot. Also turns out there are many that I’m not thinking about right now so I guess this will be an ongoing sort of post.

These were a few that immediately came to mind. I’m praying for you, friends, as you choose a book to read on your own journey, that God would challenge and convict, that you would find rest and joy and most of all that your heart would grow in love for our great Saviour as you seek Him through study and word.

In no particular order:

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The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

This is the first book I remember rocking my world, opening my eyes to big things and challenging my heart to pray prayers that seemed so scary. It’s been years since I’ve read it and I’m thinking it might be time for a redo.

You can read it for free as an e-book here.

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What’s So Amazing About Grace – by Philip Yancey

If you’ve asked this question – read this book. Such a simple breakdown of why grace is the massive changer in a christians life, how it changes us, our interactions, our ability to forgive.

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Bonhoeffer – by Eric Metaxas

I’m a sucker for a good biography. I find that for my style of learning, watching the lives of others is inspiring to me. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians to, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” When someone is living a life that is a journey of following the God they know and love, I want to follow them. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we do exactly what they do or are called to the same ministry they have – but it does mean that their ways, their journey, seeing how they know God, trust God, seek God and abide in God are things I want to imitate. Bonhoeffer lived a life most extraordinary and yet even the most ordinary of us can be inspired by Him to follow Jesus in the most radical ways.

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Radical – by David Platt

Noone challenges me more than David Platt when it comes to living a life that is counter cultural. He gets the upside down kingdom language and in this book he shatters a very North American “me” centred gospel and forces us to look at what the bible ACTUALLY says about following Christ. His questions, call to actions and challenging prayers are scary in that life-transforming, am I really willing, sort of way. I was pushed to ask God for things I was quite sure I didn’t want and yet if we say we want a life lived for Christ, well then….

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Falling Free – by Shannan Martin

Shannan Martin shares the story of how God rescued her from the life she thought she always wanted and pushed her deeper into the life He had for her – which, of course, is the life she really always wanted but just didn’t know yet! Her journey spoke deeply to me in her no-nonsense way as we were walking similar paths, asking questions about what caring for the widow and orphan means (uh, it means caring for the widow and orphan) and challenging the ways we get so caught up in ourselves that we don’t look any different from the world around us. She is a beautiful soul who writes with raw honesty and pulls no punches.

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You Are Free: Be Who You Already Are – by Rebekah Lyons

This is the  book that I most recently spent the evening with. The truths in this book are not new information for a christian but rather a lovely re-hearing of the things we already know and need to be reminded of. Rebekah shares her journey with anxiety and panic attacks and striving to keep up and tackles the ways that we’ve lost our freedom as we’ve grown older. When was the last time you felt like running, arms wide open in the wind, or danced or laughed with abandon. She challenges us to look at our lives and the things that have bogged us down, the ways we are living burdened or striving to one day be free and instead speaks the words of scripture to us – free isn’t something we are in the future, it’s something Christ says we are – right now. Let’s live like it!

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Morning and Evening – by C.H. Spurgeon

If you’re looking for a devotional to go through in a year, this is my favourite of all time. Every single reading is impactful and truth-filled and just – dear Lord thank you – inducing. I’ve gone through it a bazillion times and it never ever gets old. Also, do yourself a favour and get the leather one. It’s timeless and something that may be a legacy passed down.

These are just a few, so obviously not an exhaustive list. If it was it would include everything by Edith Schaeffer, Madeleine L’Engle, C.S. Lewis and so many more. As I remember or discover more I’ll add them and if you have any that have shaped your journey, would you share those with me? If you missed my post on spending a night with a book and scripture and pen and paper and prayer – you can catch it here!

Time Alone + How to Spend It

The other night something absolutely CRAZY happened and I found myself alone in my own house for an entire 16 hours. 16 hours!

It wasn’t supposed to be, which made the gift that much sweeter. I didn’t have to plan and prep to have the other 5 members of this tribe taken care of – it just happened. I watched a few drive off, a knock on the door signified another was being picked up and then, just like that, I realized it was just me. House empty. Complete silence. Thank-you, Jesus!

My mind raced for all of 60 seconds on what I should do. I could go get groceries and cook like a mad-woman preparing for the upcoming week. I could go window-shop and poke through some stores I never get a chance to. I could curl up with a bowl of Chicago Mix and binge on some show that probably isn’t even that good.

What do you do when given 16 hours of alone? These all seemed like good options to me until I thought a bit more about what I really need right now.

What I don’t need is to cook. I mean, I do, but I can do that when teens are underfoot and picking at whatever it is I’m chopping. It’s not something I need alone time to take care of. In fact, I find it more enjoyable when there are kids sitting on countertops chatting away about the current band they’re into.

I certainly didn’t need to be out where I would most definitely be tempted with the latest in measuring spoons or the cutest succulents or – oh look! Cute dress!

TV isn’t my preferred choice of escape, though I do like to indulge now and again. I just find it more enjoyable with someone so it seemed a silly thing to waste these precious hours on.

I racked my brain for another 2 minutes and then I knew. What I don’t get enough time for is to read in silence. Really soak in the words. I also never get enough time to pray long and deep and with heart ready. Prayer these days is out loud and offered up one frantic sentence at a time. Lord, help me! Lord, thank you! Jesus, we need you. God, look at that sunset – you are amazing!

I prayed a quick, “What would you have for me, Lord,” pulled out my kindle and browsed some books when one popped out. The one I would start and finish in an evening. I chose a christian author who was writing on an area of life I wanted to dive into. Her use of scripture throughout, her love of ‘the dead guys’ when it comes to theology and her beautiful reflection questions at the end of each chapter were exactly what I didn’t know I needed.

I spent hours soaking up her words, pouring over scripture, petitioning God in prayer, sitting in the silence and frantically writing out thoughts, confessions, questions and revelations in a journal.

The hours couldn’t have been spent better. I finished the book, got on my knees and thanked Jesus for the provision of the time, the words, and Himself.

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so refreshed. I can’t imagine that shopping or tv could have brought these feelings just now (though of course are awesome sometimes!)

How do you spend alone time? Do you hop out at the chance to do things you don’t normally get to, or have you ever spent it in quiet and prayer?

I can’t recommend it enough. In fact, I think I want to be sure to make it happen a few times a year. It really was a rest and solace to my soul and it gave me time to get my heart before the Lord and get really honest. Things that don’t happen quite as easily on the fly.

 

 

The Gift of With

We know by now that navigating the world of social media can be tricky, yes? But recently I’ve been thinking about it beyond just the realms of simply discontentment from seeing everyone else’s perfect or that need to keep up or fit in or have all of your backgrounds a gleaming white.

I’ve been chewing on the thought that perhaps we like social media so darn much because we choose who we let in. We surround ourselves with only the things we love, the things that are easy, the things that inspire. As I scroll through my personal instagram feed in particular, it’s decorating feeds that hold exactly my same style. It’s healthy living feeds that eat just like I do. It’s outfits of the day that I would always choose to wear. It’s funny humans who make me laugh. Inspiring humans who make me want to be better. Self-deprecating beauties who show off their ‘messy’ living rooms just to be real. Bottom line – my feed is who I want to be in picture form.

Here’s what my feed is not. It’s not needy or annoying. It doesn’t talk too loud or too long. It doesn’t have an embarrassing laugh or smell a little off for lack of showering. My feed does not believe things that are different then what I do. Doesn’t cook food I wouldn’t eat. Doesn’t take up my time or my energy on things that I don’t want to do. My feed never argues, never complains and never disagrees with me. My feed doesn’t require more energy, time or money than I want to give it. Ever.

No wonder it’s easier for us to hang out with our phones then with real people – real people can be annoying and real relationships take work and real moments mean our very real feelings may end up hurt or stretched or any number of other emotions, none of which Instagram feeds that we curate can do.

I’ve been playing the thoughts of Pastor Judy Peterson over and over in my head since I heard them well over a month ago. She’s not on any form of social media, hasn’t written books and doesn’t do podcasts. But she did walk across the United States with one mission – she wanted to stop doing things for God and learn to be with . She contends that it’s really easy to learn how to do christian things and really hard to learn how to be with Christ.

I think it’s something we can get caught up in. Doing all of the things that we think God would have us do. Good things, even. And there’s nothing wrong with it. But so many of us really don’t have an understanding of what it means to be with God. To abide. To be near to Him. Instead we end up being busy for Him.

Pastor Judy walked across the entire United States because she wanted to simply live alongside whomever God placed in her path. She wanted to stop choosing who she surrounded herself with and instead allow God to bring people into her life.

How vastly different from our online lives, no?

When we’re on our devices in the grocery store line up, we don’t have to acknowledge the people around us. People who may be standing a little too close or may be lonely and in need of some conversation. When we have our heads buried in our twitter feeds in the waiting room of an office, we get to hear the one-sided conversations that mesh with our hearts (and if they don’t we can have the most brilliant arguments back in our heads). What it doesn’t offer us are moments to see whom God has placed around us in that waiting room. It doesn’t give us a chance to engage with those who could be our new friends, our next dinner guests, our next person to pray with and for.

Our devices are so easy because they cater to our comforts and personal preferences. The real world is hard because it involves actual opinions and circumstances.

On top of our own preferences for our social media feeds, these sites have created algorithms to feed us more of exactly what we want, think or feel. So if we read a certain headline, it will feed us 5 more articles that say the same thing to make us believe that this must be the right opinion because look at all these articles!

We’re becoming…”more controlled by an algorithm online than a God on high.”

When I consider the life of Jesus and wonder what it would have been like if He had a phone in His tunic that He whipped out every time He had a moment, would he not have missed Zacheus, the woman at the well, the person in need of healing?

Who are we missing? Who is there right beside us that we’re giving no attention to? What sort of moments could we be having? What sort of excitement could there be?

If we’re bored it’s simply because we’ve created a perfect unreal world inside of a gadget and we’re never challenged to be bold, brave and even a bit nervous as we enter into relationship with those who might be different then us. Those who might make us think deeper or challenge our views. Those who might lead us to our knees because we lack the wisdom or the energy or even the desire to give.

It’s hard to be with people. It’s rare that we feel like giving of ourselves. It’s not a natural desire. Our natural desire is to serve ourselves, but it’s a willingness – a yes – that allows us to serve others.

There are people placed right next to us that we don’t see. I think there is a work  to be done amongst these people that God is placing around us. Along with Pastor Judy I say, let’s enter those relationships and see what God has in store for us here. Let’s give people the gift of with.

 

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

 

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?