Monday, October 27, 2014

Follow me over to Wordpress! (Blog is Moving)

Hey there, subscribers!

I've moved my blog over to Wordpress and would LOVE for you to join me there!

It's about to get really quiet here at blogger, and I'd love to stay in touch.

Come to the blog warming party and re-subscribe to the new site.  Lots of new features and a nicer look- I'd love to hear what you think!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Holding up Kind Mirrors

The other mamas explained to me the goals for the mother's group they lead.  They invited me to speak with their group about hearing God's voice through scripture- one of my favorite topics in the world.

In the background, my kids were screaming.  Both of them.  We had met at a giant jungle themed play structure so that they could run around while we talked.  Instead, I had to excuse myself from the conversation to climb up foam stairs and through an elephant head so I could extract my kids mid-meltdown.

I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror on the wall, holding my limp spaghetti leg tantrum child.  Ugh.  I thought.  They must think I'm crazy and my kids are wild.  It will be a miracle if they actually want me to speak to their group after this.

I apologized for the chaos.

They replied, "Don't apologize!  We were just talking how patient you are with your kids."  It was a much kinder mirror that they held in front of me in that moment.

Grace.  Like rain.

Sometimes when I fear what "others think" I forget that they are probably not as critical of myself as I am.  I realized I need kind mirrors in my life.  I need to hold them up for others.  I need to look to one for myself.

There is no kinder mirror than the reflection of my soul in the eyes of God.

God delights in me (Psalm 18:19)
He is enthralled by my beauty like a groom with his bride (Psalm 45:11)
I am very precious to him, not for my outer masks or my productivity, simply my heart (1 Peter 3:4)
He is so happy when he thinks of me, he sings over me (Zephaniah 3:17)
I am his very dear friend (John 15:13-15)
There's nothing I can do that he won't forgive or could ever make him love me less (Romans 8:38-39)

There is security and love and empowerment in grace.

Look in the eyes of God today.  Ask him in prayer to show you how he sees you and wait, vigilantly listening and watching for his answer.

Let the overflow of his wild approval, joyful abandonment, and deep love inspire you to hold up a kind mirror for someone else who needs to feel grace.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Living "the Dream"

Watching the sun set from a picnic blanket, faint music floating on the summer night's breeze, us girls laughed and told stories and ate goat cheese with honey.  We were celebrating the birthday of one of my dearest friends.

As we looked at the sky we remembered the year behind us, and dared to dream for the year ahead. 

Two of my girl friends are single and had gone to London and Paris together.  They told hilarious and charming stories of adventures abroad and quaint cafes tucked into hidden alleys. 

I always assumed I'd be a lot more adventurous when it came to exploring with our kiddos, but mothering two toddlers makes travelling difficult.  I know this season isn't forever.  They'll get older, drop naps, walk further, and be able to use an inside voice one of these days.  My soul still lets out a little sigh from time to time, knowing that so many of the things I want to experience in life will need to wait another year or two.

One of the single girls generously redirected conversation from her phenomenal trip over toward me, "Do you have a picture of your kids?" she asked.

I pulled out my phone.  The first picture on hand was of them goofing off in an aisle of the Dollar Store while I picked up some birthday party supplies.  As I told the story of convincing them to leave their huge cardboard hats behind, it sounded really uninteresting in contrast to the Eiffel Tower.  I shyly handed over my phone.

As she took the screen her whole face softened.  Her eyes lit up.

"The are so cute!" she said.  "I can't wait until this is my life."  She handed back my phone.  Sincerely smiling, she added "You are so blessed."  

Yes.  I am.  

Blessings come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes I want the ones I don't have.  I am living the dream.  It may not feel like my dream all the time, but every day of mine...even all the ones not spent in Paris...are laced with beautiful blessings.

...The sunrise.
...A squirrel on the fence.
...The squishy softness of my son grabbing my fingers.
...The dishes piled in my sink that remind me our family had plenty to eat and that our house is a well lived in home.

Every once in a while I fear that my dreams are on hold.  They feel like distant things, fragile and perishable.  I worry that my dreams are waiting for me under a waterfall, on top of a mountain, or in a publishing house far away.  

Our dreams are never far away.  We carry them in our heart.

God carries our hearts in his hand, and his dreams for us are beyond our imagination.

That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him." 1 Corinthians 2:9

So dream on sisters, of beauty and oceans and sleeping in.  Only know that on this very ordinary day, if you are blessed to love others and know how fully loved by God you are, sweet girl- you are already living. the. dream.

Friday, October 10, 2014

When Spiritual Discipline becomes Invitation instead of Obligation

I breathed in a rare moment of silence, interrupted only by a scurrying squirrel in the giant oak branches that shaded my patch of bright green grass.  Journal in hand, eyes to the blue sky, I sat very still.

I had been asked to spend 45 minutes talking to God and listening for his voice while considering what work he was actively doing in and around me.  At the end of the time, each of us in our cohort were encouraged to choose a spiritual discipline that we felt would complement God's existing work in our lives and help us be more aware and embracing of his presence.

Our group is led by a wise and gentle older man, he is lean and strong but has the silver hair and purposeful cadence of a grandfather.  His humility is almost startling.  He asked me kindly which discipline I had chosen.  I told him I was struggling to choose between two options.  He asked me a question that completely caught me off guard, a question I know I will ask myself many times again in the future.

"Do you have a sense of what God is inviting you to rather than what your self is feeling obligated by?"

"Come, Follow Me" is not a command wrapped in expectation or obligation, it will forever be a simple invitation.  Somehow when I think of spiritual discipline, I too easily forget the point of eliminating distractions and seeking out truth.  I forget the voice of Jesus and his tone of loving invitation that surrounds the journey of following him.

"Jesus' call was to journey with him.  In addition to his emphasis on the costs of discipleship, he assured his disciples that he would never leave them alone, would share the intimacy he experienced with the father with them, and ultimately would seal his friendship by laying down his life for them."
- David G. Benner, Sacred Companions page 64

Our Christian journey is meant to be a friendship with God that grows in depth and intimacy over the time, he invites us to "follow in his steps"- steps which lead to loving people who aren't like us, through suffering, and occasionally out on the water.

The invitation is to recognize a powerful, wild God in our own real world and follow him wherever he leads, knowing that if he is leading he must be close by.

God comes down from the cosmos once again.  He is no longer a distant power reigning over humans as a master rules over his slaves. Jesus says:

"I shall not call you servants anymore,
because a servant does not know his master's business;
I call you friends,
because I have made known to you everything I have learned from my Father." - John 15:15

Jesus considers you a friend, not just a follower.  "Follow me" is simply a loving invitation to journey with him.  He is offering to walk a few steps ahead of you as you follow the trail of his divine presence through the uncertainty, anticipation, beauty, suffering, joy, and all that life has to offer.

Discipline helps us follow Jesus well and nurture our relationship with him.  While there are many practices that help us maintain our focus, sharpen our character, and nourish our souls, such as:

  • Prayer
  • Silence and Solitude
  • Worship
  • Scripture Reading and Study
  • Fasting 
  • Serving
  • ...and others

None of these things will ever make him love us more.  None of them are designed to make us bored or stressed or guilty or shamed or miserable.

Could it be that the discipline of being mindful of our steps, looking ahead of us to keep our eyes on the one we are following, and spending time with our friend is ultimately a loving invitation?  Not an invitation to prove our worth, faithfulness, or goodness.  Simply an invitation to intimately follow.

What is God doing in your world?

How is he inviting you to engage with him as he creates beauty and goodness and acts in love?  How might he be inviting you to abandon obligation and simply follow him?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Monastery of Motherhood

I struggled through my initial launch into motherhood, unsure of who I was or what it looked like to be an ambitious woman staying at home with young children.  I wondered if I was in a "season of waiting" or a "desert" and just needed to persevere until I somehow became worthy of my real calling. The long days, silence, and isolation of the newborn months with my daughter made me question the decision I made to stay home.

My life changed when I discovered that Brother Lawrence, one of the key influencers of modern Christianity, was a dishwasher.  At a monastery.  During that initial transition out of my career, I felt like little more than a dishwasher in my home.

Suddenly I had a new appreciation for the silences of my day.  I began to pray and walk and fill the white spaces with truth and beauty.  I decided to be purposeful about my time "washing dishes" so now when I wash dishes or fold laundry I am almost always listening to a podcast or recorded sermon.  It has changed me. It has changed the way I view my time, my chores, and my calling.  The silence is less of a desert or waiting, and more of an invitation to slow down and explore and think and pray.  

I've had a few people ask about my favorite things I've listened to, and though this is not an exhaustive list, it's my "Greatest Hits" of 2014 so far (many of them are much older than this year but I only recently discovered them).  Some of them are pretty meaty, but I've loved challenging my brain and inviting it to keep turning even in the midst of mindless tasks.

So grab a set of headphones and spice up your housework!  I hope you enjoy these talks as much as I have.  They are truly the only real motivation I have to do chores.  If you have any of your own favorite podcasts, leave them in the comments!  I'm always excited to discover new people.

Best Podcasts/Sermons of 2014

Tim Keller
Brene Brown 
Christine Caine 
Francis Chan
John Ortberg
NT Wright (heavier stuff, but really thought engaging)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

All God's Children say "I Love You"

My son is the embodiment of joy.  His laugh explodes like a million blue birds flying up from the rain forest into the sun. He just turned two and my heart is wrapped around his.  My daughter is three and she is somehow a woman and a child and a sage wrapped in a tiny, porcelain body. She and I will argue and laugh and drink tea for the rest of my life, and it is beautiful and terrifying how all of those moments with her feel wrapped in the present.

As I dropped my sweet girl of at her class this morning, I said "Bye honey, I love you." She looked over her shoulder and smiling, said "I love you too!" That brief second seemed to freeze and last just a little longer than usual. She looked like such a big girl.  I felt sincerely loved by her and proud of her and so aware of how precious every word that we speak to each other is.

Carrying my son on my hip as I walked away, I wanted to be sure he didn't feel left out so I wiggled my nose into his cheek and said "I love you too, buddy." He pulled his head back with a huge dimpled smile, and burrowed his blonde little head into the soft space between my clavicle and shoulder. His silent snuggle could not have shouted "I LOVE YOU TOO" any louder with all the words in the world.

My eyes started to moisten as happy tears were held at bay, such an ordinary concrete sidewalk beneath my feet on the most ordinary of days.

I felt so loved.  I felt so much in love.  

For a moment I realized how special each of God's children are to him.  How he sees our maturity and brokenness and goodness and heart and soul.  It's not a ladder or a race.  As much as I cherish the growing depth of my relationship with my oldest daughter, I don't love her any more or less than my silly son who doesn't say much other than "mama" and "choo choo".  I don't love her any more or less than when she was a newborn in my arms.  I just love.  And they just love me back.  

So push on to spiritual maturity, and seek new depth of understanding.  Only understand that reading your Bible or learning greek may enable you to have a new kind of relationship with God- but it will never make him love you more.  Nothing can make him love you more or less.  His love is infinite, unconditional and inseparable from our very being.  

Moments like these make me pause and breathe deeply, in wonder of the infinite God who would bind up sacred secrets such as these in a mother's heart.

Romans 8:31-39

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.