The one word you need to get through your day


I have a bad habit of pushing myself to the absolute max.  For most of my life, my default answer has been “Yes” and my default custom has been to stay up too late, wake up too early, do too much, and rest too little.  I know I’m not alone and books are being written and we’re all talking about how we need to slow down, and you are right there with me with days too full, nights too short, eyelids too heavy, and schedules bursting at the seams with too much of everything.


I push hard knowing that coffee and eye liner will be there for me in the morning.  I push hard because I feel like I’m supposed to for my children, for God, for community.  There is a time to push.  We need each other — and let’s be honest — if we never pushed, we wouldn’t see each other much.  And yet, I also know the truth that we were made for rest…pure and simple and free of agenda.  I know that our bodies were made for sleep, and we were made to believe that the world keeps spinning if we stop for moments in the day, and seven or eight hours at night.  As much as I resist, somewhere deep down, I believe that our need for rest and sleep is a God-given daily source of humility, a life-line to remind us that He’s God and we’re not.


I’m sometimes inclined to think that my opposition to sleep is a result of being a grown-up with responsibilities, but than I see even the tiniest people resist it.  Every mama knows the maddening vexation of watching an exhausted child scream or wiggle with “I’m not tired!”.  How many times have we seen another question, another book, another kiss, another blanket, another song, another back scratch, another drink, another trip to the potty, another anything to restrain from being overtaken by relaxation?  One of mine will hold an arm in the air or bounce a leg off the side of the bed for minutes on end, unyielding to the calm.  Another child of mine often says she just “can’t” close her eyes – doesn’t know how.

How many times have all the moms said “Just go to sleep!”?

There was the boy on the road trip the other week, who said sleep was impossible, leaving me simultaneously frustrated by his noncompliance and struck with the truth of what he said…  because he was absolutely right.  There is no amount of obedience or work or doing that could render sleep.  It cannot be forced or rushed or demanded.


It is pure, unbridled surrender.  It does not come unless we let go. 

Sleep can’t go on your To Do list, because you can’t do it.  You have to let it undo you.


Perhaps that’s why it is sometimes so hard for my little man of passion and action and concrete solutions, and why I can’t seem to get myself into bed on time, either.

How curious that sleep never seems like a good idea until it’s too late and we’re left with our heavy bones and sticky eyelids.  And how curious that the same is true of all the things that require our surrender.

Because it’s hard to be told what to do, but it’s even harder to know that there is nothing we can do but “let go.”  I think surrender and letting ourselves be undone might just be the hardest thing.  Waving the white flag feels like defeat in the most miserable of ways.  I think we will always avoid surrender unless we believe there is a greater victory on the other side.

We say “No” to one more thing for the greater “yes” of being refreshed and having new life breathed into our bones. We say “No” to doing all in our own strength for the greater “Yes” to Christ through whom we can do all things.

I’m so painfully aware that all the things I might be inclined to do, to say, to write…that they will be empty unless I simply abide.  Jesus says that apart from him, we can do nothing.  We, the branches, can bear no fruit apart from the vine.  All the things with which I could worry myself to no end… All the things that keep me up at night…  All the things I tell my sweet ones I need to finish before I’m ready to play or snuggle or read or get the snack… there is no lasting fruit apart from Christ.

But abiding in Christ, remaining in him, waiting on him…it requires the deepest and fullest surrender.  As sleep requires our physical surrender, so abiding requires our soul surrender.  We surrender our swarming thoughts, our burgeoning need for productivity and efficiency and impact.  We surrender our agenda, our pride, our worry, our control.

As sleep refreshes our bodies, so stepping into quiet submission to the King of Heaven has the power to refresh and recharge our souls and spirits, the power to change our perspective on our day.  God has the power to change the lens through which we see the circumstances of our day.

If you’ve had to stop reading this post a couple times to wipe spit up off your shoulder, take someone potty, break up an argument, or race to chauffeur your people to the next thing, I am so with you.  If you have to rally three or four people to do your job as mama in order to get away for a couple hours or days, I am so with you.  If you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders, and it feels like your home and everyone in it would crumble if you let yourself breathe, I am so with you.  If you have an incessant list of things running through your head about the medicine you need to remember to give, the food you need to remember to pack, the babysitters you need to remember to find, the ride for your child you need to request, the diaper rash that needs a better cream, the meal plan you haven’t made, the errand you are procrastinating because you remember the chaos of last time, the behavior or ailment that you wonder if you should be concerned about, the sport or class you worry you should be signing your child up for…I am so with you.

But when I sat on a plane with my daughter yesterday afternoon, after a weekend away with sweet friends, and the stewardess reminded me to put my oxygen mask on first, my spirit said “Yes, ma’am and amen.”  I have nothing to give without a source.  I must believe that yielding to the Spirit of God in the middle of the unyielding pace of my day is the only way for my life to yield enduring fruit.


Yield… this is the word that has me tied up in knots and spreading my wings.  This is the word I think might just be the answer to everything our souls need and our spirits cry out for today.  

Yield   | yēld | verb
1. to produce, provide, deliver
2. to relinquish, surrender, relent


How tremendously lovely and rich and mysterious that the same word means both surrender and productivity, both to admit defeat and to deliver results, both achievement and relinquishing control.  How beautifully ironic and perfect.

As we lose our lives, we find them.  As we yield ourselves, we yield beauty in our lives.

Whether or not you can get a good night’s sleep tonight, you can choose to yield to the Spirit of God in the midst of your crazy day.  You can yield to the belief that drawing away with God is the one decision that yields the most fruit.

Today, I’m not going to resist the moments of my day that make me feel small.  I’m surrendering my pride and laying my life down a million times over, in faith that God will give me His.

Today, even as I work, on laundry and food prep and shepherding and emails, I’m choosing to relinquish my hyper efficiency and drive for productivity, in faith that the Spirit of God will enter into my openness and deliver moments of beauty and grace.  I am letting go of the unrelenting push, and choosing to be interruptible. ”For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8: 35)

How to find your pace, when you’re an Oh-So-Tired Mama


On Saturday mornings, I like to take my two eldest daughters for a short run. Typically, the outing transforms into some sort of game or adventure, as it never occurs to them that the magic of moving their bodies should feel like work. They run hard, with reckless abandon.


And so, I breathe and soak up their joy. I breathe and allow my bent view of exercise to be straightened and redeemed by the light of God in these tiny faces.


Almost without fail, at some point, my four-year-old will ask if I will carry her. This comes without warning, as she never slows down, but simply runs her heart out until she can no longer. And when her legs give way, she innocently and joyfully lifts her arms to me. She collapses into the rest of my arms, as if to recharge in my strength, as if to relearn her identity as my daughter, as if to reclaim the security of not being alone.


Then back to a sprint. There is no fear of tiring, because she has the assurance that I will not. Her hope is in my presence.


Though I attempt to explain that finding a steady pace will help my girls to run farther, they prefer their way. After all, their reckless abandon is what makes their youth so beautiful, so free. And for these sweet minutes, my spirit rejoices to join them in their freedom.


But I also know the truth that, perhaps unlike a small child, I need to bring a different wisdom and regulation to my running…knowing that my own legs will need to carry me home. And to some extent the same seems true in life, as we grow up and responsibilities pile…


Something in my spirit wrestles with wanting to run each day with reckless abandon, but knowing that I cannot exhaust myself, that I will need to keep going, that my children could wake in the night, that the alarm clock will buzz in the morning, that the work of the day will be repeated, that I will need rejuvenation to be a gracious mama. Truths about how God never tires, and can renew our strength beat against truths that Jesus himself drew away to be alone with the Father, and that God grants rest to those He loves. I find myself unsure about whether I should be forcing more rest into my days, or pushing harder to collapse at the end of every day, having given it all.


He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” – Isaiah 40:11


When I first read this verse, I saw myself in the lamb, and the thought of being carried close to the heart of God was salve to my soul. Since becoming a mama, this verse has changed for me, and I have been washed in the pleasantness of God’s gentle heart towards mamas.


But today, an interesting distinction jumps from the page and impresses on my heart. Those who have young, the mamas, are no longer carried, but led… The Shepherd leads, and we follow with our little lambs in our care.


And so, I wonder if wisdom would lead us to a change the way we run our race in such a season.


One thing I know we mamas have in common is that we are so unavoidably tired. The constant demands on a parent are unrelenting. And yet, the more I examine my days, the more I see how very many opportunities there are for me to choose the pace I’m running. I choose whether or not to mop the floor, to answer the phone, to say “yes” to host the thing, or join the committee. I choose whether to scramble or to let the toys remain in disarray when leaving the house in the morning. I choose to make the sauce from scratch, or find a jar with decent ingredients. I choose to promise homemade cupcakes for the preschool class. I choose to set the pace on responding to texts and emails. The work is never done, and so each time I stop to read a book with my child, or build the Legos, or sit still while a couple children nap, is simply a choice. Though there is much out of my control, I am responsible for the pace I run.


There is much to make us tired, but I believe we find hope, and the strength to keep taking the next step when we choose to keep pace with the Shepherd – to be led in his grace and wisdom. Perhaps the goal is no longer to live in a carefree sprint until we wear out and need to be carried. Perhaps the goal is simply to keep pace with the Shepherd. We look for where He’s moving, and allow ourselves to be interrupted. And our confidence, our hope, as we run, must be in His infinite wisdom and absolute goodness.


If God leads at a pace that feels too fast, we must hope in his provision of strength in the midst, and of rest in the miles ahead. If He leads us at a pace that feels too slow, we must trust that the slow miles are a gift to recover and prepare for the hills ahead that we cannot see.


In these days with tiny ones, I am keenly aware of the Biblical charge to run our race to win (1 Cor 9:24). I often wonder if that’s what I’m doing when I feel completely emptied out at the end of the day, as if life is made up of a few tens of thousands of sprints. But it doesn’t feel so.


My children can sprint in reckless abandon, if they choose. And they go straight from running, spinning, wrestling craziness to snoring in about 8 seconds. By grace, their bodies and souls recover quickly, and by grace, they have their parents to help when their joyful unrestraint leaves them exhausted.


But for me, running a day at sprinting pace sometimes feels in vain. It feels like I have something to prove. It feels like I get ahead of the Shepherd and look around and wonder where He is. I am beginning to find freedom in running my days more like a small part of a long, long race.


I sometimes flip-flop between sprinting and feeling like I deserve to be carried. I feel a pressure that if wear out, than everything will crumble. So I react with a creeping sense of entitlement that says…. I deserve a break, deserve another coffee, deserve a night out, deserve a Netflix binge, deserve for my children to leave me alone while I finish my quiet time.


Hope is not found in grasping for these things to numb us or treat us or make up for a lack. Hope is not found in running every day at a sprint pace. I believe hope is found in keeping pace with the Shepherd. I try to create quiet moments to listen to His voice. I make space for gratitude in the real life moments. I look for the things that make my spirit come alive, even if they are not on my To Do list. I look for opportunities to connect with my children, and sometimes choose to walk away from unfinished work. I try to give myself permission to take two hours to fold the laundry with my preschoolers, instead of trying to get them to leave me alone so I can do it in twenty minutes.


And I try to remember to choose rest…


Not as a reaction to exhaustion because I sprinted too hard, but as an intentional part of keeping pace with the Shepherd. I can take the “flat road” to grab a quick nap, a babysitter, 10 extra minutes before my children rise in the morning – as a crucial part of the race. Settling my pace to recover and prepare for the hills ahead is not giving up or failing; it’s a part of the plan.


In physical races that I have run, I have often regretted not collapsing across the finish line, having given it all. I’ve never had the faith in my body and strength to persevere at top speed. I have always been afraid of burning out before the finish line. So I reserve and reserve and reserve.


Those who win…they leave everything on the course. That is how I want to finish my life on earth.


But in the race of our lives, running hard after God, we ought not to collapse across the finish line at the end of each day. We can trust our “pacer,” our Shepherd, to lead us through hard miles, and easy ones, fast minutes, hours, days, years…and slow ones.


As we keep pace with God, our Shepherd, we can trust that he will lead us well, given all our human and earthly limitations. And as we keep pace with Him, he will lead us to collapse across the finish line at the end of our earthly lives, to be greeted with “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”


Rest was God’s idea, as were our fleshy bodies and the cycle of night and day. It was God’s idea that we could not maintain a sprinting pace for all of our days. It was God’s idea that we would have to keep our eyes fixed on Him to know our pace, despite days when fog settles in around us and clouds our vision. It was God’s idea that we would be drawn into deep intimacy with him, and dependence on him, in days with young children.


To run my best race, I must let the wind carry me when it is at my back. I must let a slight downhill in the course – the easier days – gently elevate my pace. The significant declines, when things feel swift and easy, I might be inclined towards self-sufficiency. But these require caution, remembering my frailty and my need for God’s leadership. And when I reach a hill to climb – the hard times – I must tune in, fix my gaze, shorten and quicken my steps, and run with exceptional hope that I will come up and over in the strength of my God.


We mamas must resist the pressure to sprint.


Perhaps when I was young, I could stay up all night, or book my schedule every night, or say “yes” to all the things. When I overdid it, I would be scooped up, carried close to God’s chest (i.e. and sleep until noon on a Saturday). But now, I must keep pace, on my own feet, as God gently leads me with my little flock.


When He quickens his pace, we can as well, in faith. Our Shepherd knows our needs, our strength and limitations. We need not fear that we will become exhausted. Our God can breathe new breath into our lungs, and soften our pounding hearts. He can lift us up to our feet when we fall, and his touch infuses us with new strength. But we are not carried as we once were…we are gently led.

We run hard in response to the love of the One who gave it all for us. But sometimes the seasons shift and, when winter comes, we are running our race with some bruises and stress fractures. Children are a tremendous blessing, and a constant source of laughter and profound joy. But sometimes days with little ones can grow dark and wintry. While we once ran with the winds at our back, making us feel like our feet had wings, we now must tuck our chin and run straight into the wind, face stung by the blustery air.

And in this state, the goal is not record-breaking pace. The goal is to Just. Keep. Going. When we are weary, we just keep making the choice to take the next step…and the next…and the next. We squint to look through the wind and fog to our Shepherd, always just ahead.


If we find we have run ahead of our Shepherd, we must slow our pace and fall behind His leadership. If we find we can’t make our feet to move, we must invite His healing touch to restore us.

Joy comes in staying the course. Joy comes in running in step with the Shepherd. And when we run in step with the Shepherd, we can know confidently that we are set to win.



Biblical references: Isaiah 40: 28-31, Luke 5: 16, Psalm 127: 2, 1 Corinthians 9: 24


The thing our kids do better than their mamas

You can’t hurry a toddler with eyes full of wonder. You can’t motivate her to rush into the carseat when an anthill has caught her eye. You can’t convince her that clouds taking new shape in the breeze aren’t the most important thing happening right now. Little ones dwell in the places I rarely remember to visit. They dwell in the colors of the butterfly and the feeling of blades of grass under toes. They revel in the magic of sand running between fingers and snowflakes landing on eyelashes.  From a daddy’s tickles to a sibling’s knock-knock jokes, young children can delight in a silly moment and want to recreate and relive it as many times as they can (perhaps until an adult tires of it, and asks them to play a new game). Living in a house full of small people who know how to embrace and enjoy the moments of their days, I realize that I am the only one who doesn’t get it.  So, these days, I am a student of my children, in the school of “Stop and smell the roses.” I long for more of their joy, their calm, their freedom, their humility. They rarely feel that life is too heavy to giggle. They don’t feel too important to slow down. They never feel too busy or stressed to play. In their view, life is play. When something beautiful or interesting or unexpected crosses their path, they are not inclined to view it as trivial or ill-timed. They receive it as gift.

And, marvel of marvels, Jesus instructed us to be like them. What hidden treasures might be found in encountering God’s world through their lens.

Mamas, do most of your arguments with your children begin with being in a hurry? I know mine do.  Children move slowly… they have a natural drive to take in, experience and learn about the world around them. It can be maddening when the rest of the world is moving so quickly. When there is a clock ticking, a place to be, a thing to be done, I can look at my children and think that their slow pace simply reflects a lack of responsibility. But it strikes me, that as children of God, we are given the opportunity to live with the same freedom. If it’s all up to me, and the weight of the world is on my shoulders, than there is simply no time to spare. But if God is on the throne, and I’m just a child in His world, destined to live in this fleshy body and with a limited number of hours in a day, then I am actually and truly free to slow the heck down. It has always amazed me that Jesus never seemed to rush. He was highly demanded of – perhaps more than anyone else who has walked the planet. Crowds by the thousands were desperate for his teaching and his healing touch. They chased him across bodies of water, and interrupted his quiet moments.  He knows how we feel, mamas!  And yet, he never seemed to hurry. Perhaps there is a childlike faith that allows us to believe in our depths that God only intends for us to be in the singular moment that we are in right now. When we feel we need to be in more than one place at a time, we are believing a lie. God can be all the places – we are only meant to be in the one.  Children seem to get it, but as we grow and gain responsibility and start believing that we are desperately needed to keep the world spinning, we forget how to live with this kind of presence.

I am watching my children, and trying to do everything in my power to NOT RUSH. I am vowing to never try to squeeze in a grocery store run on our way to another appointment. I will always build in time for someone to need to poop. I will expect the unexpected and stop viewing it as an inconvenience. I’m learning that life is sweeter when I spend more time observing and learning from my children, and less time trying to make them like me. If we play by their rules a little more, maybe I will spend a bit less time making the perfect birthday cake, and a lot more time enjoying the rolly polly on the sidewalk.  Friend, I’m finding this sweetness in building in “kid time.” Let the 8 yard walk to the car take 18 minutes so they (and you) can smell every flower and throw 47 helicopter maple seeds and pick up a caterpillar or two. Of course, many many mornings in my home still begin with my barking orders to put on shoes, or buckle up seat belts. Many times, we simply run out of time, and I grow quickly impatient. But, I am trying to shift my view and change my goals – delight versus efficiency.

I want to stop and smell the roses with my children, even if it means it’s going to take a little longer to get to where we’re going.  After at least a million failed attempts, I now know fully and officially that I cannot muster up patience, especially when every moment that I try has been preceded by all of the things that make me want to pull my hair out one strand at a time. No, I can’t muster up patience. But I can choose to stop and delight. I can choose a gratitude that slooows the mind and body. I can soak the laughter, and the long silly stories from the lips of my children. I can ask them why they think that beetle is so amazing, or to teach me how to turn a cardboard box into an amazing day of adventure. I can laugh as they eat an ice cream cone upside down, praising Jesus for washing machines.