A Priceless Work of Art
One of my favorite places in all of Kansas City is the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. As a preschooler in the ’80s I walked those gray marble halls to my first art class in the museum’s lower level and still, to this day, wonder whether that waxy security guard just might be real. A trip to the museum isn’t complete until I stand face to canvas before my favorite painting, Claude Monet’s Boulevard des Capucines (1873-74). It depicts a city view of wintry Paris…(continue reading HERE)
A Forest of Weeds
My feet fell in a steady rhythm as I pushed the sidewalk behind me on another sunset run. Cool evening air and long shadows make me a fair weather runner this time of year. My feet were light, but my heart was unusually heavy, so I pounded on hoping to outrun my thoughts.
I came around the curve on the sidewalk where tall trees give way to wild prairie flowers and I stopped. Truthfully, my heart and thoughts paused long before my feet when I saw the scene stretching out before me. Instantly, I realized why my heart felt heavy. The weeds in my life- the messiness, the unknown, the what-if, the worry- had grown into a forest of giants right before my distracted eyes.
I needed a fresh perspective. I know to fix my eyes back on the One that puts all other things into their rightful place, but I needed to stop running and do it. So I bent low and tilted my lens to capture this moment of unraveling life and abounding grace.
Then I stood up and pointed my lens behind me to see the shadows of what was compared to the Source of Life right in front of me. The weeds went from light blocking giants to light covered paths in my hindsight. Even my shadow covered their blooms. We say God is good, but it can feel shallow and trite. We say God is in control, but we worry and fret our words and emotions. What if we don’t like His plan? What if it hurts? What if we have to watch those we love the most suffer? Is God and His plans still good?
It depends on our perspective. It’s not what if, but why. Why do I trust during uncertainty? Because God knows and sees. Why can peace be my constitution when fear threatens? Because the deepest, truest part of me is more than a conqueror. When mole hills begin to look like mountains we can stand up on a Rock that doesn’t move, and see from a higher perspective. We can fix our eyes to what’s right under our feet and let weeds look like giants, or we can tilt our perspective up and out to see a bigger, eternal picture. Our hearts can’t beat for eternity just yet and our eyes cannot envision it today, but hope knows it and faith perceives it, even when our earthly senses cannot.
Let’s run our races to strengthen and nurture our faith senses; the eyes to see and ears to hear God both in and above the weeds. There’s no place to low or too high where we can outrun God’s love. He sees it all with eyes fully lit of eternity, and offers it to us grace-by-grace, one eternal perspective moment at a time.
“So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever”. 2 Cor 4:18 NLT
Be the Sister
“Go make it right with her.” It’s my most popular mom-ism lately. We’re one week into summer and my three daughters are squaring off over everything from sharing a coveted pack of gum to whose responsibility it is to haul in the slew of riding toys left in the cul-de-sac after dark. No object or opinion is safe from swift sisterly accusations at any given moment. This morning it was a 4” stuffed toy dog that through my two youngest into fits of kicking and hysterics. I was tempted to remove the dog, but it wasn’t really the dog’s fault. I was tempted to remove the children, but it was raining outside and some people might frown on inclement weather parenting tactics. The only remaining choice was to remove myself, so I laid ground rules and stepped away. They had to make it right with each other. That means, address the other person’s specific hurts with apologies and accept forgiveness as well. After all, I’m raising daughters today, but I’m raising sisters for life. I’m a mom raising up daughters who will go on to be someone else’s best friend, my grandchildren’s aunts, someone’s sister-in-law, a college roommate, teammates, leaders, employees…More importantly I’m raising sisters: my girls are sisters within our immediate family but also sisters to future friends and family as well (to my children’s future in-laws, you’re welcome). My parenting goal is to raise up girls into women who know the influence and value they have within relationships. Life is fuller and richer when we know our role and live with purpose. As daughters of God we have a sisterhood because we share a common Heavenly Father with anyone in God’s family. This sisterhood comes with certain responsibilities and honors. What defines a sister?
Sisters love confidently and generously
Sisters don’t care if your room, house, or life is a mess
Sisters sit by your side during mundane hours
Sisters are quick to laugh and cry with you
Sisters hold each other accountable
Sisters show up
Sisters cheer you on when you doubt yourself
Sisters stand by your side when life hurts
Sisters say sorry and expect the same in return
Sisters can’t wait to tell you about their latest find
Sisters live with a holy confidence for themselves and others
Sisters celebrate when you succeed
Sisters understand seasons and minds change
Sisters talk with their Heavenly Father on their sisters’ behalf
Who comes to mind when you read this list? Who are the people in your sisterhood? Have you let them know how much you appreciate and treasure them lately? Be the sister you want others to be for you. Relationships are never perfect, but the best ones are so worth it all.
My blinker is on and I’m checking the rearview mirrors. Please excuse us as we merge over.
This summer, we’re pulling out of the fast lane. Our girls were in three different schools this year. That means three carpool schedules, twelve different teachers, three schools communicating through emails and take home papers. Gotta love take home papers. Then there was basketball, soccer, violin, track, theater, swim lessons, softball…did I mention it was our first year as middle school parents? That in and of itself…but then we have a traveling work schedule, writing commitments, and other weekly ministry roles, and it’s all added up to nine months living in the fast lane. Nine months of white knuckle, mental focus to stay the course. Many of you know the pace all too well.
I like fast lane living, and that’s okay to admit. It moves the needle forward in measurable ways. Ambitions and hard work are rewarded with jobs completed. I’ve learned how to be efficient with time in the fast lane. I’ve learned how to move forward in bumper to bumper scheduling. My kids have learned a lot about fast lane living this year too. The middle schooler is outgoing and active, so she begs for fast lane living by default. The youngers learned to survive on quick meals, long carpool lines, and busy routines. We’ve had crucial car conversations about eating loads of candy in heaven, why the word “poop” doesn’t necessarily make every joke funny, and countless discussions about being the only family without a dog. Clearly they’re deprived.
To the extent that I like the fast lane, it also wears me out. It wears my family out, and we’re no longer offering each other or our relationships our best selves. We’re also missing out on just being present and absorbing the joy of the moment. There truly is a season for everything and I think our season to just relearn who we are as a family is now. Now, before we’re drawn in 50 different directions. Now, while our daughters’ lives are still centered around home. Now, while we’re in the thick of identity building years.
In an attempt to make this downshifting transition actually happen, and not just be a good idea on the clean slate of summer here are five ways we’re slowing down…
1. Unscheduling. Weeks in between traveling where we have nothing planned. No camps, no clinics, no appointments, no commitments outside of spending slow time with family and friends.
2. Traveling as a family. It’s where memories are made, and traveling provides rare opportunities for us to all be on the same schedule.
3. At home training. When we’re home, my parenting goal is to do a lot of on the job training. Laundry, yard work, cooking, cleaning…learning to serve each other and work hard as a team. There are countless life lessons wrapped up in learning to be faithful in the small things, in the dailies of ordinary living.
4. Prioritize the arts. We’re an artsy family and whether it be painting with watercolors, strolling through a museum, writing, reading, or listening to music, making the arts a part of our family’s summer is part of the slow lane. Creativity is nurtured and stretched when we can take time to process beauty and life, so more of that, please.
5. Keep a list. Forgetting is one of our biggest obstacles. We’re keeping a jar out on the counter to fill with gratitude reminders. Simple slips of paper counting our blessings. I know they’ll be days we forget to write things down and weeks we’re traveling, but when we come back to it it’ll be weeks, not years, and the blessings will still be fresh in our minds and hearts. It’s one way we strengthen our faith and really learn to see God in the every moment, every day.
There are going to be mornings I wake up and realize it’s a fast lane kind of day. It’s just how life goes, but those days will be the exception, not the normal. God paves our road and purposes every mile, and He offers grace for our best efforts and biggest fails. Check back in with us at UG and see how our journey is going this summer. I’d love to hear about yours too! If you can’t get me by phone, text, email, comments, snail mail, or FB message I’m probably on the deck with a fruity kombucha and a good book. The more the merrier, come join us.
The Anti-Burnout, Anti-Exhaustion Plan
Does your family feel rested and relaxed (no, that’s not a joke)? Here’s one way to begin the conversations on how to create a Rest Plan personalized to your own family’s needs and schedule.
Girl on a Mission
I’m easily distracted. If you know me well, don’t laugh…I know you’re laughing.
So much so that I’ve read articles on adult ADD just to make sure I wasn’t overlooking a clinical problem (thank you, WebMD). I forget things, important things sometimes, and miss the details of life like parent-teacher conferences for example. Super smart people have shown me their e-calendars and organization apps. Lovely. I’ve been gifted awesome planners with suggestions on how to actually use them. Great idea. Last year I was challenged by a friend to take inventory of how I spend my days in 30-minute increments. Tracking it was tedious because I found I wasn’t spending that long on any one task. It was a little here and a little there. I start one thing and get distracted by another: laundry, carpool, phone call, email, dishes, bills, Instagram, pray for a friend, back to the laundry I left sitting on the couch, cook dinner…and on, and on. Is this all sounding a bit familiar?
I know I don’t need a diagnosis. I’m 99.7% (leaving room for error) certain I don’t have a serious condition. I’m suffering from this thing we call Life. Most likely it’s not my circumstances that need to change it’s my perspective. I need to know my mission. I’m a Jesus loving, warrior chic who gets antsy without clear orders. Then there are many times when I do get clear directives but Life distracts me to the point of ineffectiveness.
It’s one thing to forget peanut butter at the store or my wallet when I leave the house (thanks for the loans [you know who you are] and to my daughter’s elementary school for still letting me enter without my I.D.) but it’s another thing to forget my purpose in living. How quickly I live like my life is about tasks and to-dos, just getting from one day to the next. I need to stop and remember:
- I am a daughter of God
- I represent His Kingdom here on Earth each moment, every day
- I am Josh’s wife
- I am Mom to three wonderful girls
It really is that simple. Everything I do and how I spend “my” time and energy is best sifted from the top of that list down. My mission is to have God-directed influence in every relationship and responsibility I encounter beginning with those top priorities. Sometimes that means I teach and write, other times that means I’m at home baking cookies or enjoying a slow cup of coffee with my husband. The point is we are to actually live what Jesus says in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
We have our mission and we can step into it with confidence and courage. The craziest part is, when we feel like God is asking a lot of us He’s actually giving us what we need most. Himself. When we get distracted and lose sight of our purpose we can, with courage and confidence, turn to our Father and ask Him to remind us who we are and why we’re here.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
Brooms and Band-Aids
Admitting we are wrong is tough business. As someone who’s followed Jesus for nearly 17 years, realizing I have blind spots of self-reliance and self-righteousness is no easy truth to swallow. Part of me (a big part) wants to be a perfect daughter for my perfect Heavenly Father. One of Jesus’ messages to His followers was to repent because God created us to be in relationship with Him and unrepentant sin has a way of fogging up our view of God. He desires our sinful selves to be so near to His Holy Self that he allows us to say we’re sorry…and accepts our Jesus covered apologies so that we “by the help of our God, return.” (Hosea 12:6). God doesn’t ask us to repent because he’s cruel, or unjust, or unloving but because He is our perfect parent. One who is for not only our salvation, but also for our sanctification (us becoming more like Jesus). A parent who loves us enough to want our freedom instead of complacency, our joy instead of sorrow, our trust instead of fearful control.
Like the children we are (no matter our actual age or spiritual maturity) we run hard from truth that may hurt, we hide evidence of the leftover cookie crumbs of sin, we ask for a Band-Aid to cover our wounds when what we really need is surgery for our souls. We are desperate for our God who loves us enough to send obstacles to slow our frantic pace, says that it’s ok to sweep our messy sins right up to his throne, and isn’t afraid to rip the Band-Aid off when necessary.
Mark 1:15 says, “The Kingdom of God is near. Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” Repenting is God’s way of admitting we’re wrong and literally turning away from our sin. But because God parents his children in perfect love he doesn’t stop there. Our Father is FOR OUR FREEDOM. When he asks us to turn away from something, it’s because he has something eternally better in mind. Thankfully we don’t have to wait an eternity to experience his promises. When we come before God and admit and apologize (two words I use with my own daughters often), God begins the hard work with us of clearing out the clutter of our souls to make space for his kingdom. One of God’s love languages is giving good gifts. They’re the type of gifts you’ll never need to keep the receipt for because there’s no such thing as refunds or exchanges. Perfect Love knows the exact size of your need and the specific quantity of gift necessary to fill your deepest, truest desires…peace, love, joy, mercy, forgiveness, meekness, faith, hope…It’s never too much and never too little. God is good, his gifts are real, they’re available right now, and they’re so much lighter than any pre-repentant load we could ever carry.