My greatest fear

DL Moody said that our greatest fear should not be of failing, but of succeeding in all the things that really don’t matter.

I’m going to confess; this fear cripples me. If I’m not watching closely, the anxiety of this fear can push me into making awful, dumb choices…or to stop doing anything at all and prefer hiding out at my house, busying myself with cleaning behind my fridge or something else as important. Often, I am haunted by the thought that I may trade in any care about eternity and all these souls walking past me in the grocery store for a safe, happy life with great home décor and a yard of grass that isn’t dying or needing to be cut…again.

Do you ever feel that press deep inside of you, whispering “hurry, hurry”? When all you want to do is sit and bemoan how fast time has gone by and how big those kids have gotten or how much the world has changed since the invention of iphones, but deep in the pit of your stomach, you know just how little time we all have left here? And women older and more experienced in life than me, often nod their head in acknowledgment of my passion and youth, insisting that it’s part of the joy of younger years, but also insisting that it’ll fade. It often makes you feel like you’re on the Titanic and no one will believe you that you’re all going down and though there are enough lifeboats this time, no one will tell the people down below that we’re sinking OR about the lifeboats!

“Oh Lord, don’t let me be tricked into believing that all I must do is take care of me and mine, and you’ll be pleased. Don’t let me trade the definition of success from risky and effective for your Kingdom to safe and stable, well-educated and salaried. Please don’t let me stand in my yard, caring more about the shade of green of my well-watered lawn than about the neighbor on the other side of the fence. Please don’t let me get distracted by prices and lists so that the people at the grocery store blend into busy instead of standing out as imperative.”

He won’t mess with free will. It’s one of the most wonderful, most horrible parts of this broken world. We love him freely, but just as freely turn away. I do. Daily. Sometimes, by the minute. My life is a circle, and if it wasn’t so danged detrimental for all the others around me and myself, it’d almost look like a dance. Me, twirling around, swaying back and forth with my head leaning this way and that, sometimes pulled in close to him, sometimes reaching out away, for my iphone or a mirror or whatever else I can use to make me feel like something…like someone. Without him. But we’re running out of time, and so are all the people around us. Statistics say it’ll be longer, but the reality is that if I get to live as long as my dad did, I have less than 19 years left. But I’m not promised that. I’m not promised tomorrow. But if I get to live 19 more years, that’s not long. 19 years ago, I was 11…that was just yesterday, ask my mom. Ask any mom. We know how time passes. And so often, in so many ways, I wish I could go back and have another chance. Maybe I wouldn’t have made so many mistakes, said so many hurtful things, made so many idiotic choices…maybe I could have been kinder, less self-righteous, more grace giving. There are so many things I have said over the last 19 years that I pray so hard no one remembers…

A friend read a question written in her study Bible aloud yesterday morning in my kitchen that has had me thinking of almost nothing else since. “If Jesus gave you a nickname, what would it be?” I know what it could have been all through my past, geez…not even far past, but last night. ..but luckily for us, and Peter and Abraham and all the others, he wouldn’t nickname us what we are and have been, but what we could be, will be with him. Rock. Father of Many. What would I be? What could I be? I hope it would be something about how much I love and look forward to seeing him…something about passion or justice and his glory. just nothing that has anything to do with what I am and would be left alone to myself.

So what does it all mean for us? Maybe we should talk to the stranger. Ask the question. Offer the forgiveness or ask for it. Form a relationship. Do whatever risk that could be uncomfortable and awkward for a minute, because eternity is on the line. It’s real. Heaven and what will be there. My dad is already there now…he has a job and purpose…probably something to do with water. I know of so many who have gone there just this year alone. The new earth will be filled with art and architecture. Nature, music, food. There will be cooking and building. Writing and painting. Organizing…oh, Lord, let there be organizing…you are the God of order, after all. But it’s real. And we need to live like it is.

All this to ask, “help me?” Don’t let me become complacent. Don’t let me trade in now for forever. Join me. Let your passion and zeal rub off and fan the flames that so easily begin to die out to barely warm embers. I’ve written on my big girls’ chalkboard, “Have fire in your soul and grace in your heart.” Part of the reason is so that they live that way themselves, but also? I need them in my life, on fire for God and his people, but loving his people hard and him harder. I need that reminder as the years tick on and these random aches of thirty turn into longer, lingering aches of 70 and 80 and all I want to do is what I want to do, I’m already there now. God is real, heaven is real, and that means something right now.

Journey to the Sabbath

I decided to use this space to write only when I felt I had something worth sharing, which obviously, has become less and less often as time passes. However, I do want to share with you about some lessons I’ve been learning over the months on the Sabbath.

We have some interesting ideas on the Sabbath and what it means. I know this, because I’ve asked a ridiculous number of people their thoughts on it, and all of the ideas are quite different to one another. But the overarching themes seem to be 1) Sabbath means church day. 2) Sabbath was for the Jews 3) Sabbath seems to be the 90’s outlook on Heaven. Lots of quiet and holiness and choirs singing and boredom. In fact, though no one would dare use the word, holy=boring to many.

But the more I read on the Sabbath for theology classes and papers that were due, the more my heart was stirred to lean into it. Then, our church hosted an amazing conference back a couple of months ago called Dwell that spoke on dwelling with God in several ways, and one of the ways was through the spiritual disciplines. If you’re anything like me, you may be like, “what are those?” and “they don’t sound fun.” 😉  I had never heard that term before classes and Dwell, but spiritual disciplines simply mean habits that we live to draw closer to God, several or all of which you already live out. There’s a list of these disciplines and the lists seem to change in minor ways depending on who has written it, but the gist of it goes prayer, worship, serving, Scripture reading, solitude/silence, Sabbath, fasting, giving, meditation, and confession, in no particular order of importance.

I want to share with you what I’ve learned about the Sabbath, about what it is and why it’s still in that list of disciples even this side of the cross. But first, let me share why our family has started the change into observing a Sabbath day with freedom in Christ.

Yes, rest sounds lovely and we could all use a good dose of it every week, but the restfulness we receive from the Sabbath is really just a byproduct of the real reason we observe it. The Sabbath first and foremost was set to be a reminder. God created the world, then rested on the seventh day and told people from then on out to follow his modeling. Work six days, rest the seventh. Why? Because we tend to overdue it? maybe. Because we need to rest and get ready for the next week? maybe.

But God has a really amazing habit of giving us good gifts along with a way to remember him and his provision. He established many festivals and celebrations for his people to remember his provisions like rain and a good harvest, or to remember major milestones of his provision, like freedom from Egyptian slavery. So with the Sabbath, he gave rest and refreshment to remember that he created the universe. He did. Not me. Not us. He lets us rest so that we understand we aren’t God.

It sounds easy and nice, right? Relax and remember he’s the One in control? yep, sounds like a good day to me. except, no one hardly does it. We work and work, then we sit down to rest and maybe read a book only for a laundry basket of clothes to catch our eye. I knew it was hard for me to sit still and relax, but I assumed that was just part of the mom in me, but then something caught my attention a couple of months back. Jennie Allen posted a list on facebook yesterday from A.W. Tozer of Rules of Self Discovery. I actually go through this list several times a year, because introspection is oddly fun to me. But when I went through the questions back in February, I felt like I was looking into a mirror and seeing for the first time the heart behind my busyness. Here were several of my answers a few months back when this journey to the Sabbath began.

What we want most: to learn. quiet/order

I enjoy reading and learning. I love my school work and growing in my understanding of what God has revealed of himself. So there’s that desire, but I also want order. I struggled to find the exact words without sounding petty, but honestly, I want a picked up house, organized meals, calm and happy children, a mowed yard, my car to be clean inside, and on and on. I don’t need perfection, and when everything goes crazy, I roll with it. But I was unaware of how much of my desires revolve around order. I basically want my life to look the way I think it looks best.

What we think about most: theology (it’s my major so it’s currently my life) but also, more order.

I was not surprised by the theology part, I often wait eagerly for someone who actually wants to chat about justification or theories on the Tree of Life. But, again, I was pretty unaware of the overarching theme of my desires, but what do I spend a lot of my thought life on? I put a lot of thought into planning, organizing, reworking any issues. I use planners, to-do lists, and pinterest to rework my life over and over in an effort to make it flow more smoothly, because….I want order. If there is an behavioral issue with one of my kiddos, I will think and think, obsess, talk to those I respect, and whatever else trying to help correct the issues before laying it before God’s throne and stepping back. If our schedule has issues and we just aren’t making it somewhere on time, or we keep running out of this product repeatedly, or anything that may throw a kink in my life running the way I desire it to run.

How we use our money: food! and on things my kids really don’t need, sigh. but also? controlling chaos

yes, I totally spend my extra money on yummy food and cutesy things for my kids, and I’m totally trying to stop the excessiveness of that. However, I also spend my extra money on tubs, food that is not as healthy but easier and faster, and other random things that when I really stop and think, I’m trying to keep everything running smoother. This question wasn’t incredibly revealing, but I really think that may have more to do with not having unlimited money to spend at The Container Store than my own self-control.

What we do with our leisure time: ? pinterest? reading. 

Because of the current season of life, I struggle to call any of my time “leisure” time. I know that’ll change when I’m not sneaking textbook reading and paper writing into my evenings and all open spaces in my days. However, if I am zoning out and wasting that time, I’m probably planning something or pinteresting ideas on meals or ways to fix some situation, house thing, or whatever.

The company we enjoy: friends, especially those who have a contagious love of Jesus

This one wasn’t that eye opening, except that it made me really grateful! I really enjoy people, and we’ve been really blessed with our friendships. There are so many that have such a love for Christ that they’re a breath of fresh air to be around them.

Who and what we admire: ironically, I most admire people who submit to God and live a life of dwelling with him!

Despite my obvious life of trying to control things, I really admire those who don’t! Sometimes, it’s what we lack that we admire most in others, so introspection and questions like these are really revealing to ask ourselves!

What we laugh at: Friends (the show, though I have some funny friends too ;)) my kids

This question was the most convicting. Wanna know why? Because it was hard for me to find something I regularly laugh at.   When you’re elbow deep in trying to run the world, you don’t have a lot of extra giggle time, you know what I mean?

 

This list was pretty revealing this year on where my heart was and how little I was trusting and submitting to God. I wanted the job of ruler of my own world, and I spent as much of my desires, thoughts, money, time, and more as I could on keeping a white knuckle grip on my life. Enter: Sabbath.

Do you know what the Sabbath means for a control freak? Sabbath means you have to stop. You have to let it go, be still, and breathe in deeply the knowledge that you can’t do it all and it’s a waste of energy to even try. Peter Scazzero said in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, that one thing we must accept is that we will all leave this world with a list of things we never got to do. We will never accomplish all that we wish or even all that we need, because we’re human, fallen, and time is ticking. So, you stop, rest, and enjoy God’s creation once a week, refusing to pick up that laundry basket or try to be the one who holds your life all together. It means submitting to the truth that I am not a special snowflake, and everyone in my life will not dissolve into tears if I’m not there to save the day. On Sabbath, I’m small and weak, but wholly loved. He is huge and all powerful, but waiting for us to let him love us. The strangest thing is that I never realized until the Sabbath that sometimes, not doing something turns out to be the most worshipful thing I can do.

I plan on sharing more of the details of this journey to the Sabbath I have been on, including what that actually looks like in a crazy house with three young children (because it does not look like the silent, rules-oriented day some seem to imagine), and I hope you’ll follow along and give me your own insight into your thoughts on the Sabbath!

Teaching my kids about identity through blue hair

This morning, I was looking through pictures from the last year on my instagram account, laughing at the silly ones and smiling at the memories. To be perfectly honest, I was going back to look at photos from last February because I couldn’t for the life of me remember what in the world we did for my eldest’s birthday last year. oops. Does anyone else use social media as a memory organizer? In my defense, it’s been a year and she couldn’t remember either!

As I was scrolling through the ones from last summer, I saw several of me when I had blue streaks in my hair. I stopped and looked at them, because I feel like I have had so many conversations lately about me putting blue in my hair and how crazy it seems to most people…since I am a 30 year old mother of three, heh. But, for one, it sounds more extreme than it actually was, just look. You could barely see it unless my hair moved just right, or I had it up.

But also? I loved it. I think it was super neat looking and if it didn’t cost me an arm and a leg AND take up a whole saturday of bleaching and dying and washing, I’d totally keep it done. But mostly? It was not about what I thought of it…or anyone else above the age of seven, actually. It was done with a very intentional purpose.

You see, there are three young people living in my house who have HUGE jobs of kingdom work to do one day, and I needed to send them a clear message.

We live in a lovely part of a lovely city. We really do love living here. But, it cannot be denied that it’s definitely a more affluent, white-raced area. It doesn’t mean the people here aren’t awesome. It doesn’t mean the people around us don’t need Jesus and love and friendship. It just means that most of the people around here look like us. And after living here less than a year, I began noticing the way my children noticed people who didn’t look just like us. Suddenly, people who weren’t dressed nice or who looked eclectic in taste or flat out down on their luck seemed not as approachable to them as people who stepped out of an suv wearing chacos. And, Disney and their marketing and princesses hasn’t helped matters, even though we love Disney.

I am grateful we live on a safe street. I’m grateful we live in an area with a good school zone (yeaahh we homeschool, but you never know ;)). But, that’s just where we live. It’s not our identity. And I really needed to drive that fact home with my girls. Talk after talk didn’t work, because? it’s just talk. So, I decided to try something I’ve wanted to do for years and been too afraid of what some might think. I dyed my hair. (honestly, it was between that or a nose stud, but I figured the metal detectors at the prison would make that one an issue.)

My girls thought it was weird, and then they thought I looked like a mermaid. (do mermaids have blue hair?) And several of my friends posted heart eyed emojis to my pics of it, and it was cute. But I remember the first look I got of disgust in front of my girls. My oldest especially noticed, and asked why a woman gave me such a weird look. I laughed and explained that she didn’t seem to care for my hair, and had actually even said something about it. But, I told her that it really didn’t bother me. That it’s just hair, and there will never be a way to make everyone happy, and you never should even try when it comes to appearances, or anything else for that matter! Plus, that it’s truly crazy for someone to care about what another person’s hair looks like. crazy.

I told her we ask ourselves if what someone says about us is true, then if we’ve been selfish or hurtful. If so, we apologize and repent. If not, we shake it off and remember that God made us uniquely, He made me to love crazy color in my hair and others not to. She smiled and said, “like how I like to dress in sweats or comfy clothes, and other girls like to dress up?” Exactly, baby. You. Be. YOU.

Something I did notice? I noticed how disarming being myself was to some. I got compliments from cashiers and women working in restaurants. I had something to talk about when the women in the prison noticed it, and talked about wishing they were out and had the freedom to do something fun in their hair, or just cover their roots!

When we ignore the fear of what others might think of how we look, we can embrace the opportunity to love others no matter how they might look.

Because? I have a seven year old who loves to wear whatever is comfy. She is my wild bird of a girl, and she hates to be constricted by anything. What if she is called to live in a third world country? What if she’s called to marry a boy who will live out his life serving God in a meaningful work that builds up treasure in heaven but not so much money in the bank here? What if she never marries and that’s her purpose?? Good. Great! But I don’t want her held back in fear of what she looks like.

Because? I have a six year old who doesn’t understand why a tiara isn’t an everyday accessory for everyone. She has four she wears interchangeably, depending on the outfit. And that’s great! That is just so her. But, does that mean that she should always look like that? That when she sees people who aren’t dressed up in whatever the adult equivalent of a tutu, tiara, and fairy wings are, that she’ll view them as not as great as her? Should it be the gateway of pride in her life? heck. no. She’s a warrior. She has passion and an eye for detail. That girl can sit for hours focusing on one piece of work, losing track of the time. The rest of the time, she can’t sit still! She’s got to go and move and live! God has great work for her to do, and if she wears a tiara while doing it? well, He and I both won’t be surprised at all.

and Because? WHO. KNOWS. what that little one will do. a mixture of storm and quiet all balled up in one. I pray that she uses her passion to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves, and she uses that quiet to love and speak words that bring life.

Is any of this possible if they think a woman looks less because she has blue in her hair? probably not. Sure, they can still serve and love, but I am putting all my eggs in three baskets. I am loving Jesus and chasing Him and hoping so hard that they catch the same bug and chase after Him. and? it’s just hair. It’s just shoes. it’s just stuff. it’s just right now….but oh, eternity.  and? I hope all my hair is blue there 😉

Why I’m deleting all my facebook friends-and it’s not why you might think..

So, yeah…like the title of this post says, I’m deleting all of my facebook friends as this new year begins. My choice has nothing to do with: time management, elections, annoying posts, privacy, person opinion, or any of those sort of things.

So why am I doing it? So I can be a better friend in person.

Facebook is great! It’s sooo useful. I love how it connects people! But, this year, I want to strive so badly to make one on one connections with others, even if through email, text, or instant messages if I have to settle for that, but not in mass statuses and likes. I don’t want to assume I know you because I’ve seen your posts. I want to ASK you questions because I haven’t seen them! Because when I ask? You give me more than a post, you give me just a tiny piece of you…your opinions, fears, delights, life. And I want to be trusted enough to hold that dear and care for it. But, I can’t do that if I stay status distance away.

So, why not just deactivate facebook? Good question. First of all, deactivating means nothing…it’s just a hard log out. All I have to do to return everything just like it was is to log back in just like I did before. PLUS, I need facebook! ha! I need the pages to know when consignment sales or food festivals are happening! I need to see posts in a neighborhood facebook group that is kind of insane in how active it is…seriously. you should watch it. I also need it to contact people when I don’t have their number or email. Facebook is useful! So, I’ll still have it and the ability to check all those things. I’ll even be able to instant message people as long as they have it set to allow others to do that. But, I won’t see statuses or anything.

Will I miss it? Heck. Yes. I’ll miss the cute pictures, the hilarious posts, the ability to ask the entire facebook world a question and get so many trusted opinions. And I don’t know how long it’ll last, but I just kind of need to do this for my own personal social experiment on myself.

I’m not making this long post because I think missing my posts of food or crazy antics of my third child will impact your life at all, haha! I just wanted to throw this post out so that no one may be hurt if they notice that my name is no longer on their friends list…or, for those who have special software additions that tell you when someone unfriends you…oh it’s real. don’t get it. trust me. ha!

And do not panic, grandparents of my children and extended family, I’ll still have instagram to supply the social media world with those lovely food and children photos 😉 and hopefully, I’ll be on here more this year as well as my other facebook page for posts.

So, wish me luck! I’m terrified! ha! But, I love having a word of the year. Love it so darn much. Last year? it was hope. and I learned sooo much. This year I have had sooo many issues finding the word to encompass what I know God wants me to focus on. I made lists and lists of possible words but none seemed to cover it. Until I came upon one in the Greek (those greeks are so smart). Phileo. This word is different than agape, because agape is a choice. True Godly love that chooses to love no matter what. Phileo means you actually feel that love. It’s a desire to be friends. To pursue them, encourage them, go through things with them, and genuinely enjoy them.

Yes. That is my 2017 mission. To be a good friend who is a good friend because I want to be there for you, not just because it’s the right thing to do.

What about you? any word of the years coming up yet? Any plans for 2017? I’d love to hear them!

A life prepared

In what is, arguably, the busiest season of the year, I find myself in the middle of a time-use overhaul. In the last several months, I found myself painfully overstretched in my time, and somehow even in the leftover moments, I was still floundering with it. I have lamented over the hours flying by to God, to my friends, and my husband, a lot…bless his heart. But no matter how I tried, I felt like I was walking through a life wasted.

Do you ever feel like that? Like your entire body can be present and at work in good, and even meaningful!, things, but your heart and mind are so distracted and absent, that you feel like you missed it? I have sat across from inmates in prison and wasted it. I’ve had coffee with a woman aching from a hard situation in her life and wasted it. I’ve gone on a rare date night with my husband, and yet, wasted it. I don’t mean wasted as in, not worth it, I mean wasted because I walked away wishing it had gone different, desperate for another chance to encourage and be there for them. The primary cause of my wasted opportunities was because I wasn’t prepared for it all. I didn’t ready my heart to make the most of my words and their time.

When it comes to regulating something, I am very much like a horse in need of blinders on. I am strong-willed and very much like the dog on the movie Up who is always snapping back to thoughts of squirrels, no matter what important moment is happening. So, I’ve gotten a bit drastic in my time management lately, and asking my husband to hold me accountable to my attempts to form new habits.

It may seem like an overhaul is drastic especially this time of the year, but sometimes drastic is what is needed. At least when you’re as hard headed as me, it is. But why SO rigid on my time and determined in my efforts? Because reading through the story of Jesus’ birth, there are two words my eyes rest upon. I stare at them, willing them to be untrue but seeing myself in them despite my desires: no room.

I am the innkeeper.

I talk a big talk as the season approaches, and I have such desires of where my  heart focus will be, but once Christmas is upon us, I look around and realize that my time and choices said there was no room for Him. No extra room, at least. No room for His birth. No room for the prophesies leading up to that moment. No room in my heart to look through all the Christmas glimmer to see Him standing there on the other side of it, looking at me with calm, patient eyes, willing me to  drop it all and walk away with Him for a moment.

He has gone ahead of us and is busy preparing a place for us, and yet, I don’t do the same so often for those He has placed in my life. I live out a life that believes the lie that there’s no room. No room in my time, no room in my head, no room in my heart, my home, my budget….

And to be honest? I’m pretty sick and tired of the lies. Because when I step outside of it a minute, I see the truth. But inside of it? As hard as I try, and as much as I care, I find myself rushing and rushing to check off lists and squeeze things in. I want to spend time with people, but often I feel like they need me as if I’m what stands between them and collapse. But I am no savior and I have no healing powers.

But, there is something I do have to offer up with open palms: a heart prepared. A heart that has readied for time with others so I can sit across from them over coffee, dinner, or the ever-watching gaze of a guard and listen instead talk. I can look into their eyes and know that the only One who can save them is One who was born and placed in a manger, but grew into a man and changed the entire world. I can remind them of His promises and love for them, and that will be so much more than enough.

I have a great desire to leave the presence of others almost bursting with all the words unsaid, so that I may pour them out to Him instead. I want to ask questions that cause true reflection and help me to know them. I want to walk away empty, because I have filled them up. But what I have found, is that the catalyst for all of that starts way back down the line in time before that moment. It can only happen when I have been so intentional with my time and gifts, that I may not be great and as boastworthy as an inn on a dark night, but I am as welcoming and warm as a stable.

Normally, this is a New Year’s sort of thing, but the people in my life are there now. Max Lucado says that you change your life when you change your heart, and that is so, so badly what I want for Christmas. So Merry Christmas, and may your gatherings this year be full of the light and warmth of a stable, even if they aren’t as done up and fancy as an inn.