Friday, August 28, 2015

Back to School Tips from a Finished Mom

Back to School Tips from a Finished Mom
First day of school  Middle child. A while ago.
For the first time in approximately 3700 years, I realized last fall that I did not have to care about when school started. Or ended. Or did basically anything at any time, except as it pertained to driving through school zones. I was done. Three kids more-or-less-successfully shepherded through school. With a complicated combo of public, home, and private schooling. But we did it.

And then we launched the baby into college, and I predictably lost it, but all is good, because I got to blog about it here in one of my favorite posts that still makes me cry.

Those years were crazy. Partly because I made them so with all the expectations I put on myself to be Awesome Mom. I do not wear that title well. The tiara slips. But I wanted to.

I did the Pinterest lunch ideas, before Pinterest existed. Ask my kids about the eggs. They still remember those eggs. I'm not positive they always ate them, but they remember them. 

I created elaborate birthday parties at home. I chaperoned field trips, at least until I lost a couple kids at the Field Museum. It was totally not my fault they were not as fascinated by the minerals display as the rest of us. I even chaperoned a high school trip to Orlando, and that is hard core, people.

And now it's done. And I'm writing a post on five back-to-school tips when I am not going back to school. (Actually, I am. Me, myself. But that's another story.)

But I'm not here at the take-out end of sending kids back to school to give you great tips for kale salads that look like ostriches playing kickball (and that your kids will actually eat). I'm not going to tell you how to color-code your school supplies with brads and die cuts and washi tape. This is not something I am an expert in. I am an expert in knowing all those school supplies will be lost/torn/traded/eaten (it happens) within the fist two weeks of their life. And you do not want to be responsible for any kids eating brads and hot glue.

I'm here with five tips for life in all its beautiful feelings when you say goodbye to those kids, whether it be to kindergarten or, like me now, the second year of college. For a larger perspective at the end. Whether those kids are going on a bus, driving themselves to high school or headed right back into your living room to go to school.

#1--Feel however you feel. 

Elated? Terrified? Sorrowful? Like turning cartwheels and drinking wine right there in the middle of the morning? Whatever, guys. All of those feelings might be cycled through in one hour. It's OK. Feel them. Don't feel like you're “supposed” to feel. We all react differently, and it is no measure of our love for our offspring. No comparisons, no condemnation.

#2--Treasure the firsts and lasts. 


There's this . . . 
And then there's this. And I swear to you,
they were only about three hours apart.
Don't wait until senior year of high school to realize you will never have another first day of school, another last packed lunch (hallelujah!), or another Christmas concert. Treasure them all as they happen. I know—at times you will want to eat your own toenails more than you will want to attend another two-hour concert sitting on bleachers. But trust me, treasure it. It will be over. Enjoy the firsts and lasts, big and small, as they happen. Just don't believe you have to create a Pinterest/Facebook moment out of all of them.

#3--Be your child's best advocate but not her biggest excuse. 

She will need you to be in her corner. Especially if she has special needs teachers, parents, and others do not understand and don't care to. Stand firmly in that corner and don't back down. But—don't become his fall back for not making the effort to stand on his own. You won't always be there. Walk the tightrope of defending when needed and letting him take his consequences when needed. It's an art, not a perfect science. You will make mistakes here. When you do, reference tip #4.

#4--Nothing is a permanent mistake. 

Remember all those warnings that whatever horrible deeds you did in school would end up in your permanent record? Yeah, exactly true, except not. No misplaced homework paper, no unfinished art project, not even that one time your kid repeated the word your husband said when he missed the final minutes of the Superbowl are going to matter At All when your kid tries to get a job on Wall Street.

Yes, we care about teaching our kids to be responsible. We care about helping them to use the minds God gave them to their fullest capacity. We care about making sure they do not live in our basements forever but do get into college and get jobs. But we also care about giving grace. Offering second chances. Not acting like the end of the world hovers over our heads if they color the grass purple and the sun blue. Kids make mistakes. They are not forever. Dispense grace. Liberally.

Nothing is a permanent mistake for you, either. Not the time you forgot to pack the birthday cupcake. Not the time you sent him to school with a 102 fever because you were sure he was faking it. Not even the time you missed the first grade mother's day program because you couldn't get out of Home Depot on time. (I have no personal experience in that last one. None. Except that I still have not forgiven myself for that. And the kid is almost 25.) You, mom or dad, will make mistakes. Reference #3. Dispense grace. To yourself. It is not forever. It will not be on your permanent record unless you put it there. Don't.

Remember the big picture. 

China. Better than school.
Life is not about perfect papers or team sports or science fair projects that get your kid in the newspaper. It's about doing what God has for you to do and being what God has for you to be. For both you and your kid. Step back. Breathe. Drop activities that make you crazy. Your kid isn't going to the big leagues or the Olympics. Take the time to enjoy one another now and grow in God. Don't sacrifice those things for the things that will not matter in the end. Make the time to put them first.

We took our kids on a mission trip during school. The world did not end, and they did not fail first/fifth/sixth grade. I took my daughter out of school for a zoo trip on her birthday. No one turned us in to DFS. (Sh did, however, get food poisoning from the zoo cafeteria. Karma?) Sometimes, the big picture memories are far more important than the daily urgent. Remember the big picture. Step back. Breathe. Trust me on this one. Earth will remain in orbit.

So there you are. Your five back-to-school tips from one who is finished going back to school. What are your tips?


Happy fall!


And remember--you're egg-straordinary!

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

If it Isn't True for Everyone

(More Musings on For the Love book and new musings on the gospel)


I have been blessed for the last several months to be a part of the launch team for Jen Hatmaker's new book, For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards (available now on Amazon).

For the last couple and one more week, I'm taking chapters of the book that meant a lot to me and discussing them. Thus far, we've covered crazy self-imposed expectations of parenting and responding to the millennial generation (without being crappy Christians :) ).

This week another topic dear to my heart and the heartbeat of God's kingdom: what is the gospel really, stripped of our ever-present tendencies to make it what we want it to be? Jen has a great standard from which to start that conversation.


But then God changed my life, and everything got weird. I discovered the rest of the world! And other cultures! And different Christian traditions! And people who were way, way different from me! And poverty! Then the system in which God operated according to my rules started disintegrating. I started hearing my gospel narrative through the ears of the Other, and a giant whole bunch of it didn’t even make sense. Some values and perspectives and promises I attributed to God’s own heart only worked in my context, and I’m no theologian, but surely that is problematic.

There is a biblical benchmark I now use. We will refer to this criterion for every hard question, big idea, topic, assessment of our own obedience, every “should” or “should not” and “will” or “will not” we ascribe to God, every theological sound bite. Here it is:

If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true.(Chapter 3, On Calling and Haitian Moms)

I love this. I absolutely, stinkin' love this. It's so simple. Some time ago, I wrote a post on the gospel and what it really is. I asked people to narrow it down to 25 words or fewer. Some of you did, and it was great. (Mine was fourteen. Top that. OK, maybe Jesus would not be quite so . . . competitive.)

If the last year of political posturing and pontificating on how Jesus' gospel relates to this crazy world has taught us anything at all, it's that Christians have wildly different views on that answer. And that we are quite pleased to knock our brothers and sisters out of the kingdom ring like Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots if their interpretation differs from ours.

Ferguson a year ago touched off a hurricane of argument that has rebounded with every touchstone event. Staten Island. McKinney. Supreme Court decisions. Charleston. Perhaps the fact that the list refuses to end should be a clue that we are to take this seriously. There needs to be a gospel response. And it needs to be the real gospel. Not the gospel I carry around in my head and heart because it's near and dear to all I've ever known.

It needs to be a gospel for the Haitian mamas. Because Jesus came for everyone—including me and everyone else. If what I'm saying is Jesus' gospel response to the issues of our day is not true for the Haitian mama, it's not true. If it's not true for the black daughter grieving the loss of her mother in a church basement, it isn't true. If it sin't true for the illegal immigrant mama terrified of returning to a country that will sell her son to drug lords, it isn't true. If it isn't true for the gay person who won't consider any claim of Christ because he's read between the lines of “hate the sin but love the sinner” and knows he's not loved at all, it isn't true. 

Are these tough issues? Yes. Is the gospel capable of handling them? Yes. If we let it be what it is. All it is and not all it isn't.


“Theology is either true everywhere or it isn’t true anywhere. This helps untangle us from the American God Narrative and sets God free to be God instead of the My-God-in-a-Pocket I carried for so long. It lends restraint when declaring what God does or does not think, because sometimes my portrayal of God’s ways sounds suspiciously like the American Dream and I had better check myself. Because of the Haitian single mom. Maybe I should speak less for God.”

Maybe speaking less for God involves first taking a scalpel to my God-in-a-pocket version of the gospel and learning what it truly is. All that it is and, maybe more importantly for today, all it is not.


God created. We broke. God loved. He fixed. 
We love back—we help fix. 

That's the gospel. Winnowed down. All that it is. Not all it isn't.

We messed it up. We all messed it up. We keep messing it up. But every once in a while, we have a chance to look around, see clearly how messed up things really are, and declare, “Not on my watch.” 


Not so long as the gospel means what it really means. That Jesus came to unmess our mess. And once we accept that beautiful, intense, mop-up grace, he wants us to help clean up the mess. He wants us to be restorers and reconcilers. Not restorers of the American God Dream. Restorers of God's creation plan. I think it looks a tad different than we imagine. I think it's beautiful.

To order Jen's book, click here.

Are you interested in a book club discussion of her book? Comment below!









Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Are We Muzzling the Next Generation?

(further commentary on Jen Hatmaker's new book, For the Love)



I have been blessed beyond expectations for the last several months to be a part of the launch team for Jen Hatmaker's new book, For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards (available now on Amazon).

For the next few weeks, I'll be taking chapters of the book that meant a lot to me and discussing them. Please, chime in.

Given my current book writing project (and it is very exciting!), it should not be a surprise that Jen Hatmaker's chapter “Jesus Kids” both broke my heart and validated everything I know about raising the next generation to be followers of Jesus.

Not followers of me. Or a political party. Or a church. Or a code of behavior.

Of Jesus.

It makes a huge difference.

Seventy-five percent of our younger generation is leaving the church, and the worst part? Some people seem almost glad about it. Their us-them outlook on following God allows many folks to say good-bye to the backside of anyone who criticizes the church with self-assured conviction that theirs is the high ground of defending the faith. (See her chapter “Dear Christians, Please Stop Being Crappy.” Just the title . . . yep.)

But isn't it about time we stopped wringing our hands over how unhappy being criticized makes us feel and started being more unhappy about losing an entire generation for the kingdom of God? Isn't it time we stopped building our own little kingdoms and looked around at the havoc defending those personal fiefdoms is truly causing? Do I want to stand up for His kingdom or mine? The former may not look like what I think it looks like. It may not even look like what I want it to look like. But it will be His.

Jen mentions a great first step.

First, pay attention to the grievances. This is no time to defend our perspectives and dig in our heels. We have to raise the kids we have, not the kids we were. Young adults are abandoning church, so we can either listen carefully or watch their backs as they go. We cannot be more committed to our methods than our message. Do we want to raise disciples? Then pay equal attention to what isn’t working as much as what is.”

She pounds out a message you'll hear continually on this blog. A message central to the book I'm working on.

Listen.

Just. Shut. Up. And listen.

And realize that we have churned out a generation who knows what movies are OK, what books will send them straight to the devil, what clothes are not God-approved, and what groups of people are untouchable.

But they have no clue why any of this matters.

They know Jesus loves them and wants them to be good. But they do not know Jesus. They don't know what the width of their shoulder straps has to do with the gospel. They see this kind of gospel as lacking anything of substance for meaningful life.

And they are right. I can't say how much I love her take on this:

Are we arrogant and judgmental? Do we subtly (or overtly) teach our children to suspect anyone 'other'? Do we put mainly defensive spiritual tools in our kids’ hands, fostering an 'against them' rather than 'for them' posture? Do we emphasize behavior over character? Because good behavior won't guarantee anything. If they don’t love Jesus and people, it matters zero if they remain virgins and don’t say the F-word. We must shepherd their hearts, not just their hemlines.



Shepherd their hearts. To do that, we need to know their hearts. We need to hear them. We need to just stop talking long enough to listen to the heartbeat that informs their life and gives them passion. Then shepherd them into using that passion for the Kingdom. But it can't be done if we care more about setting them straight than showing them Jesus.

I so want to hear the heartbeat of the next generation. I want to see them unleashed to do what God has put into their hearts to do. I do not want to hold them back, even as I do want to make sure they are equipped with all the truth they need to pass on in their turn.

This book has great insight into how we do that. 


If you want more information on our own writing project on this theme, visit here

To order Jen's fantastic book, available today--click here. You will not be sorry.

Are you interested in a book club discussion of her book? Comment below!





Friday, August 14, 2015

For the Love of Five Great Quotes



As I mentioned in Monday's blog, I've been blessed to be a part of the launch team for Jen Hatmaker's new book, For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards, (officially releasing next week!). It has been a ride I won't forget for a book that should be on everyone's bookshelf and heart. This Friday, we are linking up to share our favorite five quotes from the book. Let me tell you, this was tough. Five? Five???? I have, like, five hundred. But here we are. I whittled it down. Here is a quick taste of why I love her words.







"If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true. 
Theology is either true everywhere or it isn’t true anywhere. This helps untangle us from the American God Narrative and sets God free to be God instead of the My-God-in-a-Pocket I carried for so long. It lends restraint when declaring what God does or does not think, because sometimes my portrayal of God’s ways sounds suspiciously like the American Dream and I had better check myself. Because of the Haitian single mom. Maybe I should speak less for God." 

This one has gone into a sermon already. And will again. Amen, sister. Soooo amen.






"May I suggest a starting place as truth receivers? It is okay for someone else to struggle. Furthermore, it is okay to not fix it/solve it/answer it/discredit it. Another believer can experience tension, say something true that makes people uncomfortable, and God will not fall off His throne. It is not our responsibility to fix every mess. If someone steps onto the scary ledge of truth, it is enough to acknowledge her courage and make this promise: I am here with you as your friend, not your Savior
We are not good gods over one another; we are better humans beside each other."




"Are we arrogant and judgmental? Do we subtly (or overtly) teach our children to suspect anyone “other”? Do we put mainly defensive spiritual tools in our kids’ hands, fostering an “against them” rather than “for them” posture? Do we emphasize behavior over character? Because good behavior won't guarantee anything. If they don’t love Jesus and people, it matters zero if they remain virgins and don’t say the F-word. 
We must shepherd their hearts, not just their hemlines. 
The best we can do is give them Jesus. Not rules, not behaviors, not entertainment, not shame. I have no confidence in myself but every confidence in Jesus."


"You’ll never regret parting with grace, but you might deeply regret burning a bridge that might one day be safe to venture back over again."




"The breadth of God’s family is mercifully wide. Grace has no discernment, apparently. Jesus created a motley crew, plucking us from every context and inaugurating a piecemeal clan that has only ever functioned with mercy. We should be grabbing hands, throwing our heads back, and laughing that God saved us all, because surely this is the messiest family ever and He loves us anyway. 
Our shared redemption should keep us grateful and kind, because what other response even makes sense?"



Is this enough to make you preorder the book? Take a look on Amazon? Well, you can right here. Be back Monday with more.










Monday, August 3, 2015

Mostly Good Is a Raging Success



I have been blessed beyond expectations for the last several months to be a part o the launch team for Jen Hatmaker's new book, For the Love (available for preorder now on Amazon).

Beyond expectation, because beside the opportunity to read a fantastic book before anyone else (I am slightly competitive?), the community that has formed among the launch team members has been phenomenal. Advice, weeping with those who weep, laughter, and discussions about online dating have been just a few of the things discussed. You may not want to know. We hang it all out there, and it feels like community. Which is kind of what this book is all about.

For the next few weeks, I'll be taking chapters of the book that meant a lot to me and discussing them. Please, chime in.

Chapters 1,9,10:
Worst Beam Ever, Hope for Spicy Families, and Surviving School

Because balance beams are for gymnasts, not parents.
Raising kids. In a Pinterest world. Can I get an amen on that dilemma? The subtitle of the book says it all here: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards.

There is a reason my talk “The Enemy of Good Enough” is popular among MOPS groups. (Though not as popular as the anger management for moms one. That's a ringer anywhere.) We all feel “not good enough.” We all doubt ourselves. No matter how many birthday parties we throw, how many classrooms we volunteer in, how many times we read Good Night Moon together (and it is a lot of times), we still feel there is more we should be doing to ensure our kids will grow up safe, sane, and with a low likelihood of criminal activity.

Not enough. Not enough. Never. Enough.

The funny thing is, as Jen points out, no generation of parents has ever done more to effect that guarantee.

“Condemnation is a trick of the enemy, not the language of the heavens. Shame is not God’s tool, so if we are slaves to it, we’re way off the beaten path. And it is harsh out there, debilitating actually. If your inner monologue is critical, endlessly degrading, it’s time to move back to grace. Then we can breathe and assess our own parenting with the same kindness we extend to others. Only our overly-critical, overly-involved generation could engineer such carefully curated childhood environments and still declare ourselves failures. We are loving, capable mothers reading the room all wrong. . . .We no longer assess our lives with any accuracy. We have lost the ability to declare a job well-done. We measure our performance against an invented standard and come up wanting, and it is destroying our joy. 
We need to quit trying to be awesome and instead be wise.”


You know what a huge part of the problem with not letting ourselves off the hook is? We truly think that, if we remain on this self-manufactured hook, we can control the outcome. The problem is, there is no guarantee. Ever. No amount of quality parental hoop-jumping will ever ensure your kids turn out perfect. They will never be totally safe from either harm in the world or their own bad choices. And that kills us. So we try to control it with every little pinterest-approved healthy meal or bonding craft we can muster. We will get it right. Enough will ensure the future.

Enough never is. It never will be. Stop trying to be awesome. Rest in the grace of knowing, really knowing, that the One who is in control has this. No promises of safety. But abundant promises of care and provision and loving arms that wrap around you in all heartaches and fears.

Because this is just not real life.
We can't ensure the future, and in fact, we shouldn't. Our kids do not need to grow up expecting mom to create wonderful experiences every time something scary or threatening or sad happens. They need us to hold their hands and bring them before the One who can get them through the sad/threatening/scary times. The times they will face someday without mommy around. They need us to teach them how to handle sad and scary. All by themselves. Without dolphin sandwiches. (You'll just have to read the book to understand that one.)

I love this quote that lets us all off that terrible hook we put ourselves on:

“Can I tell you my goal for my kids? That their childhood is mostly good. People, I declare “mostly good” a raging success. If I am mostly patient and they are mostly obedient, great. If we are mostly nurturing and they turn out mostly well-adjusted, super.”


Isn't that freeing? Isn't mostly good truly good enough? Can we give ourselves grace to be mostly good? Our kids will thank us.

Find Jen's book here. Trust me, this is so worth it. I'll keep telling you why for the next couple weeks!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Anything Can Happen Anywhere



My “anything” prayer happened in a credit union lobby, viewing security tapes. The image on the tape was shady, in more ways than one. He wore a hoodie pulled low over his brow, not surprising, since having anyone see his face would have been detrimental to his purpose. The tape was grainy, at best. Still, I could identify the vehicle, and its driver.

Explaining this all to the security woman at the credit union felt like an out-of-body experience. Surely, this was not my pretty, suburban Jesus life. Yes, I said. I do know who the young man in the tape is using my debit card. Yes, I do know he's a drug addict and what he'll do with the money. Yes, I know if I don't press charges you won't return the money. No, I still don't want to press charges.

Her look called both my sanity and my intelligence into question. I just shrugged my shoulders. “I'm a pastor. It's an occupational hazard. I can't really explain.”

I didn't pray “anything” intentionally. It happened to me the day Casey happened to me, and I might well have told God I had other, more pressing business had I any notion of the rough road ahead. Fortunately, God does not give us those notions. He knows my heart that would probably have embraced the fear and the comfort rather than the strange boy in my back hallway.

So I never offered God everything. But by the time he asked it of me, I could do nothing else. God knows, sometimes, that's the way we work.

Casey began life with us as our daughter's boyfriend. (That didn't last long.) Fortunately for him, that shock of overgrown cocoa-colored bangs and those huge brown eyes beneath the ever-present hoodie endeared him to people before they knew him. At least they did to me, a sucker for shy smiles and already well aware of my daughter's penchant for collecting what we could euphemistically term “the least of these.”

He had nowhere to go, could he maybe sleep in the basement? OK. I guessed that would be fine. For a while.

Two days later, his mom came knocking on the side door, letting us know the reason he had nowhere to go--she had a restraining order on him, because he had stolen from her, again. The same day one of our mutual friends informed us of his past in detail, containing more interactions with law enforcement than Snoop Dogg. “He's a loser. He'll never change. You're out of your mind if you let him in your house. He'll take you for everything you have.”

And he tried. I'd never been called to a bank to review security videos, never had someone steal my debit card and use it to buy gas for ten of his closest friends. Never had police bang on my door at random hours. Never sat at the hospital bed of someone who felt so little hope for life he'd OD on heroin, again. He progressed to grand theft auto while we were on vacation. Not the video game. The rage I felt when the gift cards I'd saved points for to give our kids for Christmas turned up missing the week before—from my underwear drawer, which feels relentlessly violating—mixed with the sorrow and desolation of knowing that by this time, I loved this kid.

OK, he was no kid; he was 23. But only chronologically.

When Jesus told me to love the least of these, he wasn't being rhetorical. He didn't mean sending money to African orphans to satisfy my conscience or buying a pair of shoes so a needy child could have one, too. Yes, those are good things. I do those things. But until Casey, I didn't understand that real love takes risks, gets personal, gets hideously, nakely messy. Real love looks a messed up kid in the eye and says, “I'm with you for the long haul. What do we have to do?”And sometimes the crapshot you take with love comes up bust. There is no guarantee.

Every time I thought I had had enough and was ready to turn this kid in and wash my hands, I asked God if I could. Well, I kind of begged him. There were some pretty bad days. And every single time, he said, “No. I am not done with Casey. So neither are you. Anything? Really?”

As part of our “I'm not turning you in so now I have some power over you” strategy, we “sentenced” Casey to community service at our church. He met people. They loved him no holds barred. He came to a few services. He went forward to the altar, trying to start over and get out of the iron-bar-less prison he knew he was still in. He got better; he got worse; he got better. I felt the Spirit moving me to go back down to him one night at 2am, long after I had gone to bed but not to sleep.

“Casey, what's keeping you from turning your life over to God?”
“I'm afraid I'll have to give up the fun I'm having.”
“Really? So, this homeless, jail time, drugs gig is fun? How's that working out for you?”
He shook his head sheepishly. “Yeah. Not so good.”

He told us no one in twenty-three years had made him feel so loved. Like the security woman, he shook his head at us and said he could not understand why.

But eventually, he got it. He got that love beyond all human ability comes from Jesus alone. A tiny bit of comprehension seeped in that, maybe, possibly, it wasn't too late for someone like him. A God who would die for any sin on the books just because he loved us would love him, too. The Recovery Bible got a used look to it.

Eventually, I got it, too. I got that compassion means so much more than a thoughtful email, and mercy is the greatest inexplicable gift someone might get from me. I wrote my senior seminary thesis on grace. But I don't think I knew it at all until I knew Casey. I know now how amazing grace is not just when its received but when its given. I've hugged Jesus in the form of a messed-up, love-bewildered kid. And I'll never see Him the same.

You know those stories with bittersweet endings that you hate but know are really more true than the happily ever after ones? This is that kind of story. Casey didn't make it in this life. He tried hard. He went though recovery and was on the road. But there were too many years of pain and bad choices, and one last time on heroin, after being clean for a while, was the last. I had to find out through Facebook, not the number one choice for devastating your heart.

Sitting looking at the waves of Lake Michigan roll in that week, I cried for the man he might have been and the life that could have been his. But I also cried because I knew, absolutely knew, that at that moment, Casey was looking at Jesus through eyes free of fog. He had no pain, no past, no chains of addiction or scars of abuse. He had no tears of hopelessness or self-hatred. He was free. And I'd never been so happy for someone in my life. Or sad.

“Anything” prayers may take you no farther than your own back hallway. But they'll take you much farther than that, once dangerous love sets in.


Monday, June 22, 2015

We're Not Here Today

Today, if you haven't read this post already, please head over to what I wrote last Friday on another blog I frequent. Happy Monday! It's a topic too important to ignore. As I read this morning elsewhere, we could be at a moment of "see it or lose it" for the American church. Let's not lose it.

Monday, June 15, 2015

SEE

I am blessed thrilled grateful-because-I’m-too-tired-to-eat-let-alone-write to have some fabulous ladies (and any gentlemen who are brave enough) guest blogging for me over the summer. Here is Andrea, a friend I met through Jen Hatmaker’s launch group for her upcoming book, For the Love. I love Andrea’s heart and good sense. I also love the theme of this piece, which is one of my themes for this year. 

Just. See.

Here's Andrea.


I ordered a personalized leather cuff from a friend recently. I'm not a leather cuff kind of gal, but I loved the look of one that she had in her portfolio. But the words she had on it didn't fit me. So she customized for me because well, I am special. 

I asked her to put the word "see" on it. Simple. Lower case. Just “see."

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. ~Psalm 34:8

My grandson has this “tasting and seeing” thing figured out.

Some of my favorite words lately are grace, peace, and hope but those all seem overused on jewelry so I wanted something different.

See...
See grace.
See peace.
See hope.
See love.
See brokenness.
See redemption.
See beauty.

See? It works.

Open up my heart eyes and see all that good God has for me.


I have come to the conclusion that I can see better when I take my shoes off.
Isn't it like us to keep our shoes on (aka heart closed off) and keep all things potentially painful at bay and not allow ourselves to see? Really see.

If we walk barefoot we might step on something painful or in something gross but it also means we FEEL!

We all have stories. Some of our stories are out there and some stay hidden until we're ready or until it's time. God is being so faithful to show me so many stories in people around me that I didn't see before. Even my own! I didn't take the time to see. And maybe didn't WANT to see.

What I'm figuring out is, and it's a molasses-slow process for this girl, is that God wants me to see what HE is doing all around me. His work, His Heaven. It surrounds me. Even in my hidden story and your hidden story. I only have to take my shoes off, open my heart eyes and SEE.


May I encourage you to take our shoes off for a little while today (either figuratively or literally)? And see.


About Andrea Stunz

I’ve been a wife for 26 years. My husband, Tommy, and I did some of our best work in our 3 amazing gifts from God. I’m a mother in law of 2 stellar humans beings and a Gimi of one adorable little dude. I’m a Christ-follower, a homemaker, a traveler, a seeker, a writer, a pilgrim. I love cooking and sharing good food with others who love good food. I take pictures that tell a story, my story, God’s story. An almost empty nester. A fellow struggler. A fellow stumbler. In need of God’s grace. Oh, and coffee. Grace and coffee. Then I’m good. Oh, and a sunrise. Grace, coffee and a sunrise. THEN I’m good. Oh, and my grandson. Grace, coffee, a sunrise and my grandson. … you get the picture. :) I have many favorite scriptures but my “go to” scripture which seems to encompass all I may be stumbling through or rejoicing in is always this: “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17

You can find more of Andrea’s stories over on her contributor blog, wwwemptyplatefullheart.com

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Letter To Me: What I Wish I Had Known about "Different" Kids (and parents)

We interrupt this series on the book 7 to bring you . . . something else.

The truth is, I don't have time to write The Things right now.  This means that 1) I also don't have time to clean the house right now, which means 2) I have nothing to purge from my life per the 7 book rules for June. I will get back to it. I promise. And maybe, I'll get back to cleaning the house, too. But, well, let's not go overboard.

So today, I am linking to  a post I did for a friend over at her fun blog called Mrs. Disciple. She is doing a series on letters we could write to ourselves at a younger age. Oh yes, all those things we wish we had known. All those things we wish we had done differently. All those things we know God has covered with grace anyway, in spite of us.

If you have been the parent of a special needs child, or you know one, you know. Those moms need special grace. They need some things I wish I had known all those years ago. I hope and pray that these small words might help just one be supplied with that encouragement.

So please, click on the post above. (It's the word "post." Or it's here again.) Enjoy, share, whatever. And have a great Monday.



Monday, June 1, 2015

Overboard: Jettisoning the Junk We Think We Need


My daughter and I have been embarking on a second round of Jen Hatmaker's book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. A more detailed explanation can be found here. And here. This is my weekly progress check in.


MAY 20-JUNE 20? We are getting rid of stuff. 
210 items, to be exact. 
Seven things, each and every day. 
Maybe I should post pics of what I actually still own that I definitely should not??


I am a hoarder. Not bad enough to get myself on a TV show that embarrasses my children to the third generation, but a hoarder, still. I keep stuff. Too much of it.

For example, the five pairs of great jeans I kept for years, because some day, they would fit again. You know what I'm saying here. I loved those jeans, and they had not gotten nearly enough wear before my size, ahem, changed.

Fast forward a while. I took them out last year, after having lost weight due to the celiac debacle. Tried them on, all excited to get to wear those fashionable things again. Guess what? They were huge. I saved those jeans for years, and they never, ever fit again. (Plus, the likelihood of them still being fashionable was . . . not.)

So why not give them away years ago, when they still were fashionable and someone else could have worn them? Because they were still perfectly good. The fact is, from cars to clothes to craft items, this family doesn't get rid of anything that still works. That's good. Usually.

But what about when it's not perfectly good for us? See, I've been asking the wrong question all this time when looking at something and deciding whether to give it away, throw it away, or keep it. My question has been, “Is it still good? Can I still use it?”

7 has taught me to look at it another way. To ask another question.

Is it still good for me? Will I still use it? 

Or—is it perfectly good in order to bless someone else who needs it? I can't let go of something, even something I will never use, if it still can be used. Even if it's a pair of jeans that was two sizes too small, and is now five sizes too big. How crazy is that?

It makes me ask other questions. What other things can't I let go of? If my hold on material stuff is so strong, how is my hold on other stuff? Intangible stuff that, like piles of unused clothes and craft materials, can strangle the life and sanity out of a person? Stuff that takes up too much mental space with my need to cling to it and defend my possession of it.

The need to be right.
      The need to defend myself.
The fear that someone else is doing better.
      The pursuit of safe work rather than the risks God wants.
Doing what's easy rather than what's necessary.
      The defense of my time.
The right to get angry.

Are there other things I can't let go of, even when it would bless others immeasurably if I jettisoned them ASAP?


I'm here to tell you, getting rid of stuff is freeing. My closet and my craft room and my sanity thank me. But I suspect that getting rid of mental junk is even better. I think I'm going to work on some questions to ask about that kind of stuff.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix
 your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4.8

Stay tuned.


Meanwhile, what mental junk might you need to toss over the side? Let's help each other.



Monday, May 25, 2015

To Whom Too Much Has Been Given

Some of the things that came out of that craft room.
Only some.
My daughter and I have been embarking on a second round of Jen Hatmaker's book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. A more detailed explanation can be found here. And here. This is my weekly progress check in.


For May20-June 20, the plan is to give seven things away. Every day. That's approximately 210 things just for me. This does not count the daughter. Or, potentially, the other daughter who is coming home from college this week and may want to join us. Or not. She probably feels deprived enough already having just spent the last year eating dorm cafeteria food. Still, she should read last month's conclusions on food, I guess.

OK, so you have to know, I started this giving away stuff long before the beginning of this month of Possessions. Like, over spring break, when I enlisted a friend of mine who had foolishly offered to help clean my craft room. She offered. I needed the drill sergeant to make me toss stuff. It was a match made in, well, second grade when our daughters became best friends.

We gave away/threw away five garbage bags of stuff. And trust me, that room is still full. I promised myself that a year from now, if I haven't used it, more is going to go. The girls are done with matchstick eiffel towers and unidentified clay creations. 4H years are over. Get a grip, mom. It's time.

Then the linen closet. At least ten old towels and various wash clothes donated to the wildlife center. Just in time for baby animal birthing. And I don't miss them at all. About seventeen sheets and pillowcases. Why? Why? I have no idea where some of these even came from or whose bed they ever graced. Out.

Next came clothes. Again, three huge bags of them. Losing 45 pounds does something to your wardrobe, namely, causes most of it to hang on you like a needy girlfriend. Not to mention expose parts of your underwear that are not, sorry ladies, for public view. Necklines that used to sit right just . . . don't now. So, out they all went. Yeah, are you ready? 60 pieces of clothing. And one winter coat. I am not done yet. Why do I have so many clothes? How can one person wear that much? When the washer was broken for a month, I still had enough clean shirts to wear every day—and that's just depressing. Yes, most of them are $5 Old Navy specials, but still. Who needs that much?

When someone has been given much, much will be 

required in return; and when someone has been entrusted

 with much, even more will be required.” (Luke 12.48)

I know, in context this is not talking about possessions, per se. But I think it is still applicable for those of us to whom so much has been given. I've not just been given things. I've been entrusted. Am I acting in ways worthy of God's trust? Do I think about my things in a way that makes Him glad He trusted me? I'm doubtful.


So now, after all that, we are starting the month of giving away seven things every day. You'd think I would be out of things to toss. Sadly, I am quite sure this won't even be difficult. The thing is, I want it to be difficult. I'm not sure how to really feel this one. But I am sure God will have it figured out. Time to listen. And toss. And give. I am excited.


After. So wish I had taken a before. You would have been
suitably appalled.