How to see the radical love of God in absolutely everything

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My firm expectation that life was generally supposed to be awesome, was only mildly muddied by the bumps I faced, in my younger years.  I predominantly maintained the philosophy that heartbreak, uncertainty, angst, and grief were the exception.  And that life was “supposed” to mostly feel good.

I thought the goal was to remove the obstacles, be always moving towards settling the disquietude, solving the problem, removing the pain, learning the lesson as quickly as possible, so I could do better.  Be better.  Fail less.  Hurt less.

And when I became a mom, I thought motherhood was “supposed” to feel amazing almost all of the time, too.  I was always thinking about how to remove or repair the things standing in the way of experiencing motherhood as mostly fun and wonderful.

The wheels of my mind spun with new answers and things I had read, formulas and systems and solutions to fix myself and my children and my home right up into the perfect versions I thought they should be.

Continue reading “How to see the radical love of God in absolutely everything”

Are you a weary and burdened mama?

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His tiny hand of butter and silk stroked my face, from the tip of my brow, to the crest of my lip, sometimes with a brief pause to pinch my nose.

It was one of those sleepless nights full of unexplained cries and sleepy snuggles, and so – ready or not – my Littlest and I greeted the morning together.

My eyelids fluttered and lingered shut for too long a moment for his liking.  But he didn’t cry.  He rustled me patiently and gently, letting me know he was content just to be close, but would prefer my wakeful attention.  The charm of the thing was almost more than a heart can hold.

The tender affection of a little one, so precious and pure – it humbles the heart.

This first moment of the morning ushered in the equally obvious and revolutionary realization that being a mama is absolutely and completely a gift.

Worth it.  Blessed.  Abundant.  A joy.

So why didn’t I seem so grateful for the opportunity to shepherd and care for my children, less than an hour later?

Another snow day, another breakfast mess, another runny nose, another fresh cover of toys on freshly mopped floor, another fight over morning chores, another pile of laundry.  A new round of bickering, tattling, back-talking, noise.  Another attempt at morning devotions ending in lecture about respect and inappropriate times for silliness.

And all before 8am.  Same old story.

There is this ever-common experience that mamas seem to share…that we unreservedly know that our children are a gift, and we manifestly struggle to walk in that truth through the mess of the day.

Continue reading “Are you a weary and burdened mama?”

Moms…is your heart aching for something to show for all of your work? (Part 1 of 2)

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Sweet messes made while I mopped the kitchen…

 

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.  Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3: 3-6

 

Do you ever feel like you get to the end of a breakneck day and look around to find that your house is messier, your connection with your children a bit more disheveled, and your insides tied in a few extra knots?

Me too.

Bedraggled at the end of a day, I sometimes wonder why I worked so hard, when no one seems to notice or care.  Down in my belly, I hope and trust and struggle to keep believing that raising the next generation is deeply meaningful work.  I know it is.  But I fail to be the mom I imagined a hundred times a day, and some days I can’t help but wonder if someone else would do a better job.  I make resolutions for better, more present, more intentional days only to find interruptions, discouragement, unexpected crises, and a dollop of uncooperativeness from my sweet little ones who didn’t get the memo on my new expectations.

 

This parenting thing requires faith that something is cultivating under the surface, that God is at work and multiplies the faithfulness of our hands.  

 

Whether you are a stay-at-home mom just dying for something, anything to show for your day, or you’re a working mama wondering how in the world to juggle it all, I think so many of us have these same questions badgering us about how we measure up and all the things the other moms seem to be doing better, the child’s needs we can’t meet, which sports or musical instruments or languages we should be learning, how exactly our life was reduced to folding clothes, packing lunches and driving to sports practices, and if anyone in the world has a clue how hard we’re working to manage it all.

 

This thing requires faith that we are seen by God when we are seen by no one else.  

 

Do you ever wonder if anything you are saying is getting through to your children?  If any of the work you’re doing in your home makes any difference?  If you will invest and serve and give it your all only for them to look back and say you were too hard on them or too easy on them or that you favored their sister or that you were too distracted with housework and emails to spend time with them?  Do you wonder if they’ve noticed your effort?

 

This thing requires faith that God will sift out the words and the lessons and the moments with grace, that he sees our children and knows their heart’s cries…that He hems them in, even through the ups and down of their well-meaning parents.  

 

These secret, sacred things of parenting – terribly and wonderfully invisible to the rest of the world – are the weightiest things I’ve carried, with the least amount of training, input, or feedback.  These up-all-night, argue-all-day, hang on for dear life, just make sure to say “I love you” and try to mean it kind of days…these are the ones that make up the most formative years of our children’s lives, the ones they talk about in the counseling sessions later.

 

These are the years that shape us…that make us brave or make us afraid.  It makes me want to give them my best.

 

And yet, if you stop by my house at 5pm any day of the week, you’d never know I’ve tried to teach them anything.  You’d never know I worked to create a home of peace and belonging.  You’d never know there were 87 moments of reconciliation and 743 corrective words exchanged today.  You’d never know by the look of things, with hair-pulling and clean-up refusing and their mama muttering something about will they just wash their hands for dinner, for the love of all things good and holy.

 

My motivation for this work at home cannot rest in seeing immediate results.


This thing requires faith that seeds are being planted and God — our Faithful Gardener — will bring a harvest in their lives and mine, in time and with great care.  

 

I’m discovering that I surely cannot rely on my children’s words or behavior to tell me how I’m doing at being a mama.  My hope must rest in faith alone.

My hope rests in faith that God’s mercies are new every morning, and so I don’t need to sit in guilt over imperfect days.  My hope rests in faith that God will fill in the gaps their daddy and I leave with precious friends and family, and the power of His Word and Spirit.

 

My hope rests in faith that God is writing my children’s stories, and He doesn’t need perfect threads to make a beautiful tapestry. 

 

If only I could have a guarantee that my work is going to make a difference, that all these moments of showing up and investing and shepherding and trying to be consistent will add up to more than heavy bones and sticky eyelids…that these moments will add up to the kind of childhood that shapes a person of character.  If only I could know for sure how this story ends.

But we do!  This story ends with a God who is making all things new.  This story ends with the victory of Christ on the cross that covers all of our frailty and all of our flubs.  This story ends with a God who never lost sight of us, and never lost sight of our children through every one of these sloppy, bedraggled days.

 

But this thing requires faith.  And I think that’s the point.  God is after our hearts and calls us into sweet communion with him when we’re dying to know who we are, why we’re here, and what kind of legacy we’re leaving.

Look for Part 2 next week…

 

And this is real life at my house right now…

 

 

When you feel like you’re in the desert…Why you might need to look for a burning bush

Now Moses was tending the flock…There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”  When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”  “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”  Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.  

The Lord said…”I am sending you…”  

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go…?”  

And God said, “I will be with you…” 

Exodus 3: 1-12 (Paraphrase)

 

No matter how many words I spill about how we mamas don’t have to be the perfect heroes, because we have a perfect hero in Jesus…  No matter how I breathe in freedom that God chose me and delights in me and offers me his never-ending, ever-sufficient grace… I still rise in the morning and sit to this keyboard, feeling like I should offer strength, bring wisdom, do it better.  I wish I could tell you how to make it all easier.  I wish I could tell you that I figured it all out.

But truthfully, I grasp for my own encouragement as I sit with a heavy body, a burdened soul, a fickle heart, a cluttered mind.  Perhaps you feel the same as you grasp for a quick minute to read words that you hope can encourage you for your day.

I used to think being a mom was just about making good decisions, about doing it right, about meeting needs and saying “I love you” and guiding and disciplining with wisdom and patience and grace.  Yes!  To all of these things, yes….

But it felt so straightforward.

And then I stared back at these little eyes staring at me.  Eyes that didn’t look like mine and needed me to tell them who they are.  Eyes that longed, wondered, tested, and needed more than I could give.  I looked at a little body that was sick or hurt, and I couldn’t fix it.  I saw these eyes that stung when I was not patient.  I watched my unique children experience the same events, transitions, words completely differently — one laughs, and the other runs and hides.  One has days of tears and irritability after a change, and the other seems to have only relief.  I peered into little souls that were afraid of things that we could not control.  I have sent my heart out on legs into unknown places and watched them be scared, face hardship, get hurt, feel confused.  I faced eyes of tiny people who just wanted to know I was pleased, and I sometimes felt my face contorted into a scowl that I never wanted to have on my face.

At some point I was faced with the question that perhaps parenting was about something other than doing it all right?

In the midst of my soul searching God’s over the mystery of having children — a road of failure and uncertainty and giving beyond my limits and letting go beyond my comfort — I have become aware of a quiet invitation This invitation was set ablaze in me.  And in these wildly arduous and agonizingly beautiful days with little ones, I want no mom to miss this thing that now burns in my belly and drives me to keep spilling these words.

I hear a voice calling — in the middle of deserts of inadequacy and invisibility and uncertainty and mind-numbing repetitiveness – God’s voice is beckoning me to come closer…

When I feel weak, He says “Come, let my power be made perfect in your weakness.”  (2 Corinthians 12: 9)

When I feel invisible, He says “Come, let me tell you how I see you…” (Psalm 139)

When I feel tired, He says “Come, let me renew your strength…” (Isaiah 40: 31)

When I feel pressure, He says “Come, cast your burden on me, and I will lift your chin and lighten your step” (Matthew 11: 30)

When I feel ashamed of my failure and inadequacy, He says “Come, let me cleanse you in my grace, and you will give away what you receive.”  (1 John 1: 9(

When I feel worried and anxious, He says “Come, let me give you my peace that passes understanding.” (Philippians 4: 6-7)

When I feel worn by the dishes, laundry, diapers, arguments, words, He says “Come, whatever you do, do it all unto me.  The work of your hands is as a song of worship to my ears.”

The very things that make me feel like I have nothing to offer…these have been a door to find God’s heart for me in motherhood.  The very things that stretch us beyond our limits and make it feel just too dang hard…these seem to be a key to unlock the elusive joy and peace and freedom we all know we should have.  When I feel like I’m wandering the desert, the Lord says “Come.  Draw close.  Fear not.  I am calling you.  I will be with you.  Though you feel weak and unimpressive and never enough — I am sending you to be my ambassador to my people…these tiny, adorable, royal bearers of My image.  To these, you will be a vessel of MY love, a mouthpiece of MY truth, a fountain of MY grace.”

Take off your sandals, Mama.  You are on holy ground…

My friend, whether you have little ones or grown ones or simply dreams of a full home in the future, listen today for the voice that beckons you through the things that you might think are in your way.

 

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A sweet moment of invitation from the weekend… And the Lord says “Come.”

Why you don’t need to be afraid to give it all

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A short-antlered buck gnaws at the lime green leaves of our freshly planted dogwood, and the fresh anxieties of the day begin gnaw at my heart.

My first sip of hot coffee touches my lips with all it’s promise of a boost of energy for the day, and the first cries of precious voices touch my ears, and my heart opens desperate wide for a touch of grace from my King.

Yesterday was one of those days when I drove my van sputtering into the gas station after my gas light came on way too late to be helpful.  And last night was one of those when my body and soul came sputtering into bed, having run the last few hours on empty, as well.  I should have noticed the needle creeping down on the fuel gauge, and I should have seen the signs of my patience and grace wearing thin.

But sometimes we just don’t know what we need until it’s almost too late.

And I want to think that these are just little insignificant moments, but then life is just a collection of little insignificant moments, and what does it looks like to live them well?  These few short years when my kids are here and listening…what does it look like to give them my best?

Sister, it frustrates me to no end that I sometimes try to function like I was made in the image of my gas tank – when, truly – you and I were made in the image of the Almighty God of the Universe.  Our gas tanks and our hearts are actually nothing alike.  We don’t have to use up all our resources, only to hit empty with sputters and short-fuses and failure and fatigue and desperation.  We don’t need to refill with some magical boost of energy and wisdom that will last us the next week or two.

We are far more like a branch on that sweet little tree in my front yard, with roots that grow further down and sit steadier and drink deeper and stay connected.  Unlike our gas tanks, we can choose to keep our souls attached to the source of grace, trusting that the supply will not run out.

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There is a still small voice that beckons and pursues our hearts, and offers a lot more grace than my gas light.  We can listen and align and drink and stretch to new heights, as we give the refreshment of that grace away.  

As a mom, I often feel like I’m giving away what I’ve had for about two seconds.  I wake and decide where my spirit and attitude rest, then my children wake and I set the tone with that thing I just decided.  In ugly moment, I have to stop and breathe, and receive the grace not to react – and in that very moment, I get to give away the grace I’m receiving.  My children ask me what’s wrong as I hang up the phone, and I have an opportunity to speak out loud the truth I am deciding to believe right in that very moment about the news I just heard.  The truths we speak reshape our hearts.

 

There is a time to draw away and be alone with God, yes… seek and pursue this!  But a mama’s reality is that often when we wish to draw away, we cannot…and so, we are invited to give away not what we received yesterday, last week, or even this morning, but to give away God’s grace, as we are drinking from the fountain that never empties.

Don’t be afraid of running of steam today, sweet sister.  Go ahead, give your service, your attention, your caring, your patience, your grace.   Not in a way that is resentful, or martyr-like, or neglecting self-care, but in a genuine fearless offering of yourself through those moments when you are needed beyond what is comfortable to give.

As you give your life away, you will find it in your Savior who gave his for you.  

There is an ever-flowing, never-emptying fountain of grace available for you, sweet friend.  As you pour yourself out today, don’t empty out like a gas tank… stay connected to the source of refreshment.  Breathe and drink of God’s grace right there in the midst of your moments, believing that the water only gets sweeter and the color of your life only get’s richer, and the heights of your joy and peace only get higher, and the fruit only gets more plentiful.

The one word you need to get through your day

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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 make a difference when your hands are full

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The privilege of my life to be this little guy’s mom.
“We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”
1 Thessalonians 2: 8

My eyelids were heavy on this Monday that came around a bit too quickly, with it’s dimly lit sky and it’s drizzly rain that says “Stay under the covers.”  Sweet ones were unready for the hurry of the morning, drowsy bodies in slow motion.  But the clock doesn’t wait, and time just keeps ticking on tempo with deadlines of school bells and appointments and naps and To Do lists.

On the days when I’m just muscling through to get to the end of it, I’m a smidge desperate for my life to mean something.  I think we all are.  We’re made with a longing for the things that endure.  We yearn to do something that will be remembered.  We long to be exceptional, to make someone’s day, week, life a little better, to grow God’s kingdom, to offer the world a unique idea or message or mission, to run a family, a non-profit, a school, a company, a church, a country, a home…in a way that’s never been done before.

I want to make an impact on the world, but some days I can barely get my weary body out of bed.  You too, mama?

I was squarely in the Monday grind, and thinking about what it looks like to be a disciple and make disciples when you are so dang tired, and your hands are so dang full.  It is the privilege of my life to be called “Mama” by my little ones, but I wonder how to bring an energy to it that bears fruit?  How do we live a life of purpose, and not just survive our days?

I write today (and most always) about things of which I claim no particular expertise.  I’m humbled and often hesitant, as I have little in regards to earthly credentials.  I am simply compelled to share a thing that God has granted me the great privilege to do, and a work he is doing in my heart.

There is this one thing that I believe is making my life and love bigger than the walls of my skin, and it has nothing to do with expertise or high capacity or doing it all right.  There is one thing that is encouraging my heart to believe that I have a God-given unique and valuable role to play in the body of Christ and on planet Earth.  And you do, too.
A key that God is giving me to unlock purpose in my life is letting go of perfection, control, striving…and stepping into the light, to let the light of the Lord in me be seen.  I’m letting go of trying to make my life look put-together and pretty enough to be worthy of making a difference and I’m giving away the sloppy, messy, sleepy, and redeemed life I’m living.  I’m giving it to my children.  I’m giving it to those who might want to enter in.  And I’m giving it to you in the ashes of a mess of words, in faith that God just might make them into something mysteriously beautiful in you, as he is in me.  What if we don’t hide in shame over all that we cannot do, but give away what we have…a broken and sanctified life, hidden in Christ.   

About six years ago, at the very time logic said I was too busy and too exhausted to have anything to offer — with a fitness business to run, a ministry in Young Life, a husband running for public office, and a toddler and a newborn at home (seriously)— God offered me an opportunity to invite someone in.

A recent college grad was looking for a family to live with.  In the middle of our crazy, we simply said “Yes.”  We gave a whole pile of qualifications about how we were in a wild season, and it’ll be messy, and I have nothing to offer, and I’m not sure how it will go, but she could come in and be a part of it, if she wanted to, and we could just see what God would do.

And you know what?  He did a miracle.  He changed a life.  Several, actually:  ours and hers.  And I began to catch a vision for how God could use my brokenness to pour out his strength. When I give my empty, He gives his fullness.  When I give my weak, He gives his strength.  When I give my story, He gives his healing and redemption.  When I die to my comfort, he gives true, abundant life.  When I give my mustard seed of faith that I truly am an ambassador of Christ, He moves mountains.

I spent too much of my life trying to make the tree of my life look prettier, and more worthy of bearing fruit.  I wanted my impact to come from the tidy and beautiful corners of life.  We can decorate the tree of our lives with twinkling lights and ornaments, trying to impress each other, or volunteering for things we don’t want to do.  We can live ashamed of the behind-closed-doors truth of our lives while we offer a tidy and beautiful corner to the rest of the world, but we’ll end up feeling like a fraud and we’ll mostly leave others feeling jealous and insecure.  

I’m beginning to see that true enduring fruit only comes if we are willing to live authentically, planted and rooted where God puts us, when our roots lie deep in the secret places of intimacy with our King, who gently prunes our branches and refreshes us with the rains of his daily mercy and provision.  His delight shines down like the sun to revive our spirits, and we surrender to being used by him, given away just as we are, believing that Christ’s work on the cross was enough to cover all our splintered places.

Purpose is unfolding in the middle of overfull days when I swing my doors open and let a few come in and watch God at work in my mess – let them watch me apologize to my loves, watch me sweep the same floor and fold the same clothes again and again, watch me fail and be washed anew in God’s grace, watch me hope only in the Lord and soar on wings as God renews my strength, watch me need Jesus every hour.

Friends, though we struggle, God calls us pure and blameless and white as snow, in Christ.  We are free to claim that, as we follow Jesus, we are worth following.

If the Spirit of God resides in us, than we ought to confidently proclaim, as Paul did, “Watch me and do what I do!” (paraphrase).  When we know we’re the worst of sinners, and we boast only in Christ, we have nothing to fear in giving our lives away.  We have nothing to fear in opening our doors.  We have nothing to fear in letting someone walk alongside, and believing we will have something to offer.  We have nothing to fear in letting our light shine.

If we believe the light is in us, as the Bible says it is, then we ought not hide in the shadows.

When your life is messy and your hands are full, you serve as a perfect backdrop for the vibrant and striking life of Christ to be made known.  When you feel emptied out with nothing to offer, you might just have made room for the Spirit of God to pour through you and do something groundbreaking.

I’m beginning to see that as I come out of the shadows, and invite a young professional to spend the day with us or another mama to come and do the real life bedraggled and beautiful mom thing side-by-side or a 20-something to come live with us, we create space to encounter a God who left heaven and put skin on.  Humbly…I’m watching God change lives when I give away my mess of brokenness, and trust in a Jesus who made us his hands and feet.

Friends, I have sat to write this post a dozen times, and stopped short the last eleven because I’m on my face over the thought that you would feel for one minute like there is one more thing you need to do.  Mama, if you are in over your head and dragging your weary, unshowered body to the coffee pot in the morning, I am right. there. with. you.

But even more, I can’t bear the thought that you would miss out on this miracle that I believe happens when we shake off the shame, and share our lives with whoever might want to come along.  It’s a precious treasure, burning a hole in my pocket, and I don’t want even one of you to miss it.

My encouragement is not for you to take on commitments that you don’t have time for.  My encouragement is that you open your door and let someone come in to see exactly what you are already doing, to believe that God could do something miraculous.  And if this is already your habit, then carry on sister!  And never let shame tell you that you’re not enough.

When Jesus invited men to be his disciples, he never stopped his what he had set out to do , he simply said Come along.  Be with me.  Walk with me.  Watch what I do, then do it.  Our example for making disciples is one that says “Come along.”

If you’re like me, it’s hard to imagine that anyone on earth would be interested in spending time with you and watching you change diapers and fold shirts and send small people to Time Out.  This is a step of faith.  It’s a choice to believe that there is something going on in the heavenlies as we serve our families unto the Lord.  It’s a step of faith to believe that, as we trust God with our muck and invite God’s grace into our homes, it is a precious sight to behold.  It’s a step of faith to believe that we are chosen, redeemed, ambassadors of Christ, royal daughters of the King of Heaven.

Maybe there is another mama for whom you’ve been mopping your floor and saying you are loving every minute of being a mom….stop doing that.  Just let her in.  Maybe it’s a colleague, a neighbor, your kids’ friends, a high school or college student (try connecting through your local church or ministries).  Step out of shame, and consider sharing the life you are already living before the throne of grace, not leading from your strength but from Christ’s strength in your weakness.

If you follow Christ, you are worth following.  You’re a world changer.

 

christian parenting blog
A rainy day at the zoo with my loves.

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

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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