Write You: 3 Tips For Writers/Bloggers

Today I met someone who oozed passion to write and had ideas for books nearly tumbling out of her.  Like so many other fresh bloggers, she was nervous to hit that publish button on her blog for a variety of reasons.

I left that conversation feeling like there are many writers out there who need to be encouraged to write out their souls for such a time as this.  If you’re trying to create or continue a blog, write a book, or simply start putting pen on paper…may you find courage to continue with these 3 things I’ve learned as a writer.

1: WHAT YOU PUBLISH TODAY IS WHO YOU ARE TODAY

There’s nothing more frightening when you publish a blog or book than wondering whether you’re wrong, immature/imperfect, or (for me) missing God’s heart somewhere.  That fear can do two things: Make us too afraid to publish our work at all, or make us constantly second guess the writing we have published.

Over two years ago I published my first book, Gray Faith.  As excited as I was immediately after publishing, I became nervous as the months went on that maybe I should have changed something.  Maybe parts weren’t so perfect.  Maybe I shared a little too much a little too harshly in places.

It’s like realizing you’ve left all your unmentionables out on the clothes line right as a crowd of people shows up for your child’s birthday party.  (Umm…err…oops…those red ones aren’t mine…I mean….avert your eyes!!…this is awkward.)

And to be honest, that fear has caused me to feel ashamed of that precious work I poured my soul into.

Guess what?  It’s not perfect.  And some of the things I believed then have probably changed since publication.  But that was who and where I was then, and it is no less a valid part of my life for that reason.  Paul says we know in part on this earth, not fully.  That’s OK…write anyway.

People need to hear your honest account of where you are now, because someone else is exactly in that place.  They need to see some of your immaturity or brokenness so they know they’re not the only one.  They need to see you wrestle through tough issues without having the answers yet because chances are they’re in the middle of a crisis they don’t have answers for either.  Bottom line: you are human and every time you write it is where you are on your journey TODAY.   Today is real, it’s raw, and it’s important.  Don’t let fear keep you from putting your today self out there.

2: READERS DON’T MAKE WRITERS

You’ll be tempted as a writer to constantly try to validate who you are by how many people are reading your content.  How many blog subscribers?  How many books sold?  How many shares on facebook? How many comments did you get from people who aren’t related to you?

Guess what?  Readers don’t make writers….writing makes you so.

My four year old is a dancer.  Has he taken lessons?  No.  Does he dance in public?  Well…yes, but not on a stage.  Does he occasionally get a little over-zealous and remove clothing articles mid-dance? Yes.  Regardless, the boy is a dancer because when the music starts playing his body has to move.  He can’t help it.  It’s his expression of joy, rhythm, soul.  And seriously…it’s inspirational to watch.

Writing is the same.  If you write for no other reason, do it because you’re soul can’t contain the words and thoughts in your mind.  Do it because writing helps you process the rhythm of who you are and where you’re going.  Write your true self (although unlike my 4 year old, maybe keep your pants on). Sure, do it because you believe even one other person might need to be inspired by those words.  But do it first because God made you that way and He wants to create with you.

3: YOU ALWAYS HAVE ROOM TO GROW

When I first started blogging over five years ago, I had an awkward and slightly self-centered blog title, (“The Carrye Chronicles”…not even joking) no vision for who I would connect with, no writer’s conference under my belt, and the naive confidence to write my little heart out anyway.  Had I tried to disqualify myself early on, I easily could have.  But I would have missed out on something that fills my soul, and others would have missed out on sharing life with me this way.

We all start somewhere.  The baby steps of writing you take today, even if they feel awkward or clumsy, are helping you build up your writer strength and find your voice.

There’s a story I heard once (that I’m probably going to butcher) about a man around 60 who wanted a talented musician to teach him to play an instrument.  The musician said, “Sure, I’ll teach you.  You’ll be able to play well in five years.”  The would-be musician gasped, “Five years!  But that’s far too long to wait!”  And the gifted musician said, “In five years you can play well or in five years you can still not know how to play.  Either way, you’ll be five years older.”

The same is true of you: You can start now knowing nothing and grow your craft through practice, asking friends to lend an editor’s eye, going to writer’s conferences or workshops, and meeting up with other writer’s for inspiration and motivation.  Or you can wait and five years from now still be waiting.

Never believe that you’ve come to a place where you’ve got nothing left to learn and no more room to grow.

But don’t strangle the beautiful gift of your writing for yourself and others by believing it’s not worth taking that first step.  Because there’s no time like now to start writing, and no one but you with your story.


If YOU are a new writer or trying to get your feet wet, I invite you to reach out and submit a guest post to my blog!  Sometimes just the step of putting yourself out there can give you courage to create a blog or book of your own.

Jesus Saves? (From Ersatz to Emmanuel)

I recently read someone’s belief that if God did nothing other than save us from hell, we’d have nothing to complain about.

The argument is that even if our lives were left an absolute mess, how could we complain to the Jesus who created us and saves us from eternal condemnation?

It’s not that I disagree.  I get the argument that if God is God (and we aren’t) then by definition anything He gives us is grace.

But a save us and leave us God would be hard to follow.  (If you’re freaking out about the theologically suspect state of my soul, let me explain.)

The whole statement just made me wonder what people think about my Jesus.  With Easter right around the corner, what do people think it means that Jesus saves us?

How many times have you seen a billboard or church sign with “Jesus Saves!” on it?  And how many times has that sign prompted you to deep gratitude or action or even a Hallelujah? (If you’re a hallelujah person, rock on, friend.  It’s just not my M.O.)

I promise I’m not boycotting Jesus Saves signs…but maybe for you, like me, “Jesus saves” gets filtered out with the rest of the background noise of life.  I’ve seen it a million times.  I’ve heard it my whole life.  As a kid I even laughed over that cheesy joke about when the power goes out suddenly but Jesus doesn’t lose any of His computer files because- you guessed it- Jesus saves.

But what exactly does that phrase mean?  I’m all for avoiding eternal misery, but if being saved from hell were the only thing that made Jesus appealing to me…I’ve got to be honest, He’d be more of an insurance policy than a savior.  Still good…still sovereign…but so different from what I know of Him.

Is Jesus just some symbol of hope to ease my fear of death?  Is He just a plastic placeholder to get me through the junk of this world?  Is He a cheesy salesman trying to sell me on a boring life I’m going to regret later?

Sometimes there’s so much veneer over our idea of Jesus that he seems either too holy to understand or too contrived and cheesy to be real.  So let’s just come right out and ask it: Who is this guy people make such a big deal over and what exactly is he saving us from?

If I were to ask you right now what you thought about Jesus, what would come to your mind?

Would you think of stained glass and Latin, something a little too distant or holy for the regular guy?

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Would you scoff as you pictured Jesus in the white robe and blue sash (apparently his fashion of choice) of children’s bibles- would he feel to you like just another childhood myth?

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Would you think of words like sin and redemption and righteousness…words that sound weighty but don’t quite connect with the bread and butter of your world?

Before you can think about Jesus as redeemer or rescuer or radical or …you have to know Him as relevant.  Relevant to you.  Relevant to your life.  Relevant beyond heaven and hell.

Does Jesus fit into now?  If we’re just holding on, eyes clenched shut, till an afterlife when everything is OK…then God isn’t relevant till later.

I’m not here to diminish what Jesus did on the cross; in fact, I think what He accomplished is far more significant than we even imagine.

Because the cross to me is no longer a mere symbol of heaven and a happy escape post mortem.  And this may sound sacrilegious, but “Jesus saves” is not the phrase that keeps me from ditching church and God and everything with it.

I’m pretty stuck on the phrase “Jesus with” because it tells the why behind Jesus saves.

God created us to be with Him.  Jesus came wearing our flesh not to infiltrate and spy on his creation or to judge us…but to be with us.  And He died for us to be with us in a way we never could be otherwise.  It was never out of obligation or charity alone- God wants us.  And he doesn’t just want us later- to gather us up in heaven and take a giant awkward family picture on the streets of gold.  He wants us now.

The reason I hold onto Jesus and love Him even is because one day He stopped being an idea or a slogan and I felt Him like He was right in the room with me…closer even.  I’ve sensed Him even in the moments when my fear is so suffocating I don’t think I’ll make it through.  I’ve felt Him in the rush of wind and waves and the stillness of dew peppered grass at dawn.  He’s with me with in my children’s laughter and in the daily finger pricks of my diabetes, in the dish washing and the writing.  Nobody else can quite enter all my moments like He does.

When I’m not focusing on Him for awhile I end up chasing myself and what feels right to me and I end up angry, irritable and unsatisfied.  But when I actually acknowledge Him…for real…and do what He says…there’s freedom and peace that shouldn’t make sense.  That’s what “God with” does.

He’s not my band-aid.  Trust me.  There are so many times I just wish I could wear Him to feel better in the moment, but He’s not some genie that I snap my fingers at to fix every problem in my life.  And sometimes I kind of hate that I can’t just ask for what I want and get it because He’s Jesus after all.

But deep down, I know that “with” is better than fixed.  Because no matter what changes in this life…I have with.  Emmanuel (God WITH us): that’s His name and also one of the most powerful theological statements I know.   And yes, I believe His with will follow me even in death, but it means He’s also right here, right now, no waiting required.

Jesus saves? Yeah. I believe that.  But He doesn’t just save me from sin, from death, from hell even.  He saves me from emptiness, self-destruction, purposelessness, and loneliness of soul.

“Jesus saves” speaks to his power and position.  (No…I don’t care to argue with that.)

But “Jesus with” speaks to my identity in Him. (And I find it’s even harder to argue with His heart.)


What about you?  Have you always wondered how church signs and billboards might relate to your life?  What is your picture of Jesus?  Whatever your honest thoughts, I’d love to hear!  So don’t be afraid to add to the conversation…

 

 

A Letter to Men in the Church: How You Can Affirm Our Worth

Dear men in the church,

Some of you may be aware that there’s a teensy little debate over the role of women in the church.  Should women be elders? Should they be allowed to teach? Can they be involved in leadership?  To what extent?

And I wish it was as simple as one person’s opinion verses another person’s, but I realize everyone is trying to justify their answer with the Bible.  Because in truth, I’d like to believe most of us in this debate care an awful lot about what God has to say.

So guess what?  I’m not going to sit here today and re-debate the same old same old.  (Not that I mind a good two way conversation.)  I’m not going to start a protest outside your church’s men’s breakfast gathering, or challenge you to a public scripture boxing match.

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But I am going to ask you to listen to my story.

Recently I saw a John Piper tweet about women teaching men in seminary, followed by a hailstorm of comments from dissenters and allies alike.  And as I processed the comments and the emotions that arose, I had a moment of clarity as to part of why the debate is so hard for me:

It makes me feel like I’m not enough. And it always has.

I grew up as a pastor’s kid, compliant and rule-following, with the exception of whatever rebel stories my mom has on me.  And by a young age, I soaked up the belief that men were the head of the house and of the church and I saw the verses that seemed to back that up.  From what I gathered, that meant that there were clear and present limitations on what women could do in the church. (Again, not getting into debate here.)

But I realize, despite my fairly balanced religious upbringing, that all these Bible verses were making me nervous.  See, I had a growing suspicion that I wasn’t as good as a man…that God maybe saw me as less.   In fact, as I read the Bible, I worried that I had two strikes against me in God’s eyes: I wasn’t Jewish (the race that God chose to reveal Himself through) and I was born a female.

Not much I could do about that.

I remember asking my dad once for all the verses on women in the Bible and asking him what God really thinks about us females.  I needed to know then, and now, that God’s love and value over me wasn’t tied into my sin, my talents, or my gender.  And he graciously supplied me with not one or two verses, but many, covering women from Old Testament to New.  And he helped me to see the value of women in the Bible as a whole.

Anyway, as the debate rages, I see the way many people quickly end a discussion about women in the church by pointing to a verse and saying, “Well, that’s what God says.  End of story.”

And like I said, it’s not that using the Bible to back up your belief is wrong. (I think it’s actually important.)  But please be aware that in debating certain passages, we may be overlooking some very black and white verses that share exactly what God DOES think about women.

And in the intensity of the debate, in the angry back and forth, I think you may not realize the unintended message that some women are internalizing: that we are not worth as much in God’s eyes.

I’m not sitting here asking you to give us dignity.

To borrow from John Perkins, God has given each one of us dignity, and we can’t give it to someone else we can only affirm or deny that God-given dignity.

I’m simply asking that even if you never see women’s roles in the church differently, that you would acknowledge and affirm the God-given worth of women through your words and actions. 

Because the Bible also has a lot to say about our worth.

Both men and women were made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27).

God promised to pour out His Spirit on both men and women (Joel 2:29).

We are co-heirs of life with men (1Peter 3:7) and as children of God we’re co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).

Before God we’re not more or less than men, but one in Christ (Galations 3:28).

Further, Jesus valued women, taught them, encouraged them and called them friends.  I never saw Jesus diminish or devalue a woman.

Whatever our roles, our value and ability to be used in God’s plan is undiminished by gender.

What does all this have to do with you?  I’m simply saying this: it’s still a process for me to fully allow the truth of God’s love and worth to seep in between every crack of who I am, regardless of my gender, race, qualifications or role.

Maybe as a man you’ve never wondered if God sees you as any less than a woman.  And maybe you’ve never thought that a woman was less valuable before God.

All I’m asking is that you acknowledge that.

All I’m asking is that when you look your wife in the eyes, you affirm her dignity, worth, and God-given gifts.  I’m asking that you consider what it means that God sees you both as equals.

All I’m asking is that when you teach your little girl about what God says about women in the Bible, that you make sure you start by teaching her that God loves her, LIKES her even, just as she is.  That she’s not “second-best” or “second-choice”.

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I challenge you to teach your daughter that God made her with a plan in mind, and whatever her role or future, it’s no less important than your son’s.

All I’m asking is that when you interact with that woman who serves alongside you in your church that you see her as an integral part of what God is doing in His Kingdom.

And if you find yourself in a sharp disagreement with someone, man or woman, please remember they equally bear the image of your Creator.

And to all the men I know in my church and beyond who have encouraged, mentored, challenged, affirmed me and even disagreed with me in love…thank you.  Because YOU are part of why I’m growing to see myself as God truly sees me.  And I hope to turn around and do that for others.

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Sincerely,

Carrye

 

 

 

Stop Photoshopping Your Personality

Four+ days in a cabin with 10 adults and 7 children has taught me many things: don’t put your cup of water down without marking it as yours; be cautious of trying to use the bathroom during a game of hide-and-seek; and if you play your cards right, you can avoid doing any dishes without anyone realizing.

But mostly I’ve learned something about personalities.

My four siblings and I discussed our lives over an unprecedented lunch by ourselves (read 0 of our 7 children were present…whhhhaat?).   We talked about growing up and the ramifications of our parents gradually throwing assorted rules and limitations overboard (to keep their sanity afloat, I assume).  I insisted on singing along to “Wagon Wheel”, on my short list of acceptable country songs.  (I know.  I clearly don’t belong in the south.)  We wondered collectively, for the love of squirrels, why our restaurant table needed a giant tv screen, and my brother coached me on his theology of tipping.

We also talked about our differences.   Apparently we differ in how we communicate, where we draw our moral lines, how we raise our children, and how we choose to caffeinate.  Between us, we have hundreds of variations in perspective, process, and personality.

Personality differences sound so beautiful in theory, because on paper our combined uniqueness is supposed to add color and dimension to the world around us.  You’ve heard what they say: We’re better together; we need each other; there’s beauty in diversity!

Pullllease.  Try telling me all that rainbow, sunshine mumbo jumbo after throwing a bunch of different personalities into a cabin for a few days and shaking them up.

The obnoxiously loud kid up at the crack of dawn is clearly no good for his sleep-loving mom or the poor guy on the couch by the kitchen.  The one whose idea of adventure is an obscure coffee shop or thrift store mixes like oil and water with the other who’d rather be kayaking.  The worriers and people pleasers clash with the self-confident and matter-of-fact.  Oh it was a wonderful vacation…but I’m just saying…our uniqueness didn’t always look a whole lot like a painting by Picasso.

And I re-realized this week (no, I’m not stuttering…I just relearn things a lot), that I’m constantly wanting to photoshop my personality.  Maybe nip and tuck my random anxieties or give my emotions the equivalent of a nose-job.  At least I’d prefer to soften the edges of my personality so I could blend in with the person nearest me and be really liked by everyone 24/7.

But my personality isn’t the kind that hides my emotions well, so one fateful evening smack in the middle of the chaos of bedtime, I leaked a little personality all over the family dinner table.

My dad had brought an ample supply of old family pictures to peruse together while we reminisced about the memories they evoked.  He began sorting pictures in preparation, and the family members who didn’t have to put kids to bed yet were sitting around the table laughing over a few loose photos.

Not pictured: My Mom who is the picture-taking personality.

I wanted to be totally cool with that arrangement. I wanted to be Miss Go-with-the-flow.  I wanted to not care at all that they seemed to be starting without me.  Pff…I wanted to act like I totally didn’t mind if I was missing the beginning of an epic, monumental, family activity enterprise that was three years in the making.  I wanted to not be the person who used dramatic words like “monumental” and “enterprise” to describe a simple family moment.

But I am that person.

So I flipped out a little on everyone and told them to wait because -hello!- some of us are trying to adult here and get the kids to bed.  And my temperature was probably elevated and I was making zero eye contact with anyone and exited my melodramatic stage feeling just as angry at myself as at anyone else.

Why did I care so much? Why wasn’t I born with the emotional evenness of a manatee?

Photo Credit: Ben Brandt (pixabay.com)

Why did I have a hyper-active sense of being left out?  And why couldn’t I just keep it together so everyone at least thought that I was the amazing personality chameleon that conveniently matched the color and mood of those in the room at any given moment?

The problem is, I wanted to take all the parts of my personality that test well in public and divorce them from the equally “me” parts that are a little less presentable.  Keep my outgoing nature and my love of new people; keep my creativity and my whimsy; keep the crazy big dreams and quirky fashion.  But for God’s sake leave out my neediness and irrationality; my emotional highs and lows; my tendency to not always follow through on crazy dreams; and the insecurities that lie under the surface.

But it’s just not possible to itemize my personality and extract the unwanted.  Each of us is a mixed bag, and the parts of us that seem easy to love wouldn’t exist without the parts of us that don’t seem quite normal or easy.

But there’s power and freedom in owning who we are…all of it.  

It’s not that we don’t have room to grow, or places to improve.  Accepting our personality isn’t the same as making excuses for poor choices or hurtful actions.

But if I hadn’t been trying so hard to stifle who I was, ironically my freak out moment over a pile of family pictures would have looked more like a calm dialogue than a panicked outburst.  If I had accepted who I was, I would have given others the chance to accept me too…and to make room for my personality just as I make room for theirs.

Owning who we are and letting others see our true selves is so brave.  It means others are going to be irritated by us sometimes.  It means we’re not always going to mesh with everyone all the time.  It means we won’t make everyone happy.

Well that’s a relief…because frankly, no one else makes me perfectly happy either.  Seriously.  If we’re all so different, obviously we’re going to get on each other’s nerves sometimes.  We can spend our lives trying to photoshop ourselves so people like us more, but it’s exhausting and it’s really just not working.  In fact, it’s making things worse.

We really do compliment each other but not always in the ways we’d think.  Our differences stretch and grow and balance and teach us how love truly covers over it all.  And our collaboration of personalities might be messy at times, but there’s a lot more beauty in our authenticity than in pretense.

So whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, emotional or level, irrational or practical, dreamer or planner, coffee lover or hater, assertive or compliant…you simply are you.

You DO add color to the canvas that is the world.  And yes, your personality might also leak all over someone’s kitchen table one day in a not so pretty way.  And that’s really OK.

So I dare us both to start living like it’s OK.  (Because it sounds like a lot more fun.)

 

 

 

 

Recipe for a Rocky Road Trip

Are you planning a leisurely road trip with spontaneous stops at places like the world’s largest flea market or that java-shop-turned-glorified-monument that’s actually shaped like of a coffee pot?  Are you hoping to go solo or possibly with one or two of your best sane friends?  If you’re betting on a smooth trip where the greatest obstacle is deciding between “Kansas” and “Styx” on your road trip playlist, well…this blog isn’t for you.

But if you’re planning on going on a trip of 4+ hours of inherent chaos with children in tow…then this recipe just might hit the spot.  Enjoy!

RECIPE FOR A ROCKY ROAD TRIP:

  • 1 minivan (may substitute with any vehicle meeting legal seat requirements for all passengers)
  • 3 Children with Assorted Bladder Control (Note that decreasing or increasing number of children will alter recipe.  This depends on altitude, sugar consumption, age and child temperament.  Sometimes one child= chaos of 3 children, but we recommend multiple children for peak back seat arguments.)
  • 1 Supportive But Reluctant Spouse/Extra Adult (Preferably someone who did not grow up with many road trips and who worries about really practical things.)
  • Assorted Bags and Food (Increase or Decrease Luggage/food in proportion to number of children.  May substitute paper towel for Norwex cloth.)
  • 1 Overly Enthusiastic Pit Stop Planner Stuck in Denial (It’s best if this person loves road trips, overestimates children’s ability to sleep in hotels and not break things in quaint stores, and has unrealistic expectations of spouse’s conversation capacity.)
  • A 15 Hour Drive (For best results, don’t decrease hours)

Take first ingredient and place children, reluctant spouse, luggage/food and overly optimistic planner inside.  Be sure to whip all carefully packed luggage and food items for several hours until items are disheveled, disorganized, and (for best results) strewn over inside of van. 

When adding multiple children, be sure to wear hot pads as friction is likely to occur.

Slowly add final ingredient, over 1-3 days.  It doesn’t matter how fast or slowly you stir in hours…every option will result in parental exhaustion.

Add pit stops to taste, but be aware this will increase your overall trip hours.

Congratulations!  You’ve just followed a recipe for Rocky Road Trip!  Enjoy!


Stay tuned as I chronicle my family’s epic Rocky Road Trip to visit my sibs in Alabama!  More chaos to come. 🙂  

 

Putting Our Needs in the Mailbox

Who knew a game of pick up sticks could prop open a stubborn window into my son’s world, releasing the beautiful breeze of his soul?

My middle child and I had been going to counseling for a few months for a behavior issue that my husband and I felt ill-prepared to handle alone.  In the end, I found that counseling changed my parenting and perspective more than my son, but the resulting confidence has helped me immensely.

Though he sometimes fought our counseling visits, my seven year old’s favorite part was playing games with me.  We’d snicker over role-playing, and his infectious laugh filled the room when we tried to create a story together, each adding one ridiculous sentence at a time.

The counselor pointed out that part of what he craved was simply time with his mom, and the games provided that opportunity.  But she also had a knack for turning games into tools to shape us and help my son to talk more.

One of his favorite games during counseling was pick up sticks.  Despite my beating him the first time, he was hooked to play again.  The second time we played, the counselor asked each of us to share some important part of our life every time we picked up a stick successfully.  It could be something that made us happy, sad, afraid or angry…but we couldn’t keep playing until we shared.

How precious to know the joys and even fears of his seven years of life, the things that he counts as important.  And how wonderful that he was enjoying the game just as much as I was.

In fact, he enjoyed it so much that after the first time we played, I ordered him his own set on Amazon for his upcoming birthday.  When the package arrived, I tore into the yellow bubble wrap to reveal the anticipated toy.

But once past the shrink wrap, I uncovered an unexpected flaw within the small box: the wooden sticks were covered in some kind of mold or mildew!

Disappointed, I decided to return the sticks and get new ones.  So I printed the return label off amazon and promptly…delayed mailing the package for weeks.  Ahem.  I forgot…or I got lazy…or we had the stomach bug.  You know.  The usual excuses.

The point is, I ended up mailing that package of pick up sticks much later than I planned, on a Tuesday….the day of my son’s last counseling appointment.

That day at counseling we played pick up sticks again while my son shared pieces of his heart.  As my son cleaned up the pile of sticks so we could leave, the counselor looked at him warmly and said, “Those are yours to keep.  That’s my parting gift to you.”

My son could not have been happier with that little pile of used wooden sticks- it was an absolute treasure to him.

And it ended up being an unexpected treasure for me as well.

As I contemplated the events later, I felt God impressing on me the symbolism of me putting the old sticks in the mailbox the very same day that my son received a set as a gift.  It was as though God was reminding me that when I let go of my needs and surrender them to Him, only then can He provide for me in His delightful way.

Which brings me to three questions for myself and for anyone of you who has burdens or needs weighing your soul.

1: What needs do you need to put in the “mailbox” today and give to God?

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What stresses, needs or worries are you trying to hold onto or fix on your own that you need to release to God?  Is it work? Your children?  Your finances?  Your dreams? Your marriage or relationships?

Today I’m going to a doctor’s visit that stresses me…I need to put that in.  We have new financial twists in our road ahead…I could stand to drop that in the box.  I’m trying to finish a book and need clarity of next steps…maybe I need to mail that out too.

Those burdens aren’t doing me any good sitting in a package that I won’t let go of.

2: What is keeping you from putting your needs in God’s hands?

As I mentioned, it took me a very long time to put that small package of pick up sticks in the mail when it could have happened immediately.  Putting that package in the box was a small thing, but it required a specific action from me.

In the same way, we sometimes hold onto our needs much longer than we need to, with one excuse or another.  We’re afraid to give up control, we’re afraid God won’t answer as we want, or maybe it hasn’t even occurred to us yet to ask God for help.  Maybe we think we’ve given it to God, but we find that we keep taking that package out of the mailbox because what if something happens to it in transit?  Trusting God seems simple…but it really does require us to act.  And that action is a daily, even an hourly thing.

3. What does it mean for you to accept God’s provision instead of yours?

For starters, we all know that giving our needs to God doesn’t always mean that the answer will show up in our hands at the end of the day like my son’s pick up sticks.  God’s ways are not our ways, His timing isn’t always obvious to us, and His provisions sometimes don’t look the way we’d expect.

I was expecting to order a brand new game for my son with my money and have it show up in our mailbox.  Instead we got a used set from a surprising source.

In the same way, God’s answers may not always come in the timing or manner we expect.  But if we give our needs to God and ask Him to help us see His provisions, we may be surprised by all the ways He’s already showing up.  He longs to give us good things and for us to trust Him as a child trusts their parents.

I hope you’ll stick a stamp on something you’re holding onto today and set it free…and if you do, please share with the rest of us what you let go of or how God provides for you as you wait.

 

 

 

The Thief Called “Not Enough”

I’m currently writing a book about living powerfully purposeful lives not because of what we do but who we are and who we reflect.

It’s a book about not striving, not comparing, not trying to measure our worth by the world’s standards.  So freeing.

Ha.  Don’t go writing God books unless you plan to let God write a thing or two in your life in the process.

See, the tricky thing about writing a book is that you’re supposed to market it.  You’re supposed to try to convince a real-time publisher to look your way which, in today’s world, often requires accumulating thousands of followers on social media, beefing up your list of email subscribers, or already being famous.

So…let’s see…um…unless you want to play super fast and loose with the word “famous”, I got nothing.  Not a great checklist for me.

And I’ve wrestled lately with how far my reality lies from that ideal platform I’d love to achieve.

I have my precious and faithful readers online and I’m so grateful to you all.  Seriously- your encouragement and your presence here has been amazing to me.

But don’t we all have those gaps in our lives that make us wonder if we’re really enough? If we really matter?  Whether it’s a lack of facebook followers, job title, education, recognition or apparent influence…don’t we sometimes feel like we’re always missing “enough”?

Going into January I had all the intentions of getting my ducks launched, my email subscription started, and baiting people to start following my blog with the virtual candy of choice: a free download.  (Which may come one day- I’m not knocking the idea.)

Photo Credit: USA-Reiseblogger pixabay.com

But January brought a slightly different perspective (and also a stomach bug, but that’s hardly the point).  Here I am literally writing the book on being completely content in my identity in God and serving people instead of striving.  And I’m struggling with those two things.  OK God.  I’m listening.

And I really believe that one of the greatest thieves of our joy, of our hope, of our contentment…is the thief of “not enough”.  The brutal lie that who we are today isn’t as significant as who we’ll be tomorrow.

Because tomorrow surely we’ll have accumulated those online followers.  We’ll have mastered that diet plan.  We’ll have proven to our boss that we have what it takes.  We’ll have managed to stop yelling at our kids, because we will have figured out how to turn them into tiny angelic robots.  Someone will finally give us the chance to really shine.  Tomorrow.  Yes, tomorrow we might be worth something.

Only it’s not true…at least not the way we think.  The fundamental premise of my book is that you and I are absolutely valuable TODAY.  No strings attached.  Nothing we’ve done (wrong or right) in the past or will do in the future changes that incredible reality.

You are worth so much more as is than you could dream.  You were designed in the image of your Creator.  You were given life as a co-creator, free to breathe life back into the world around you.  You are loved to the point of death and back.

I know this concept seems small and redundant, but if we were to actually embrace this idea in our lives it would change everything.  No more need to measure our worth by looking around us, no more thinking we’d be loveable if we could only get our act together.  No more pressing the reset button on or lives every New Year in a quest to finally be that person we thought was worth something.

Because we already are that person…worthy.

You are.  I am. Barefoot and empty.  Come as you are.  Nothing could be more freeing.

pixabay.com

And aside from the sheer joy of knowing that worth, there’s a secondary freedom between the lines: we can choose to serve others instead of striving.  We don’t have to earn our worth, so we can simply live our lives out of the overflow of our worth.  We can lift others up and bring freedom to those who don’t yet see their dignity, beauty, and value.  How amazing is that?

So this year I’m still going to write and speak for all I’m worth. I can’t really help it, it’s what I’m made for.

But this year I don’t want my online pursuits to overshadow my offline endeavors.  I don’t want to prop up my virtual community at the expense of my flesh and blood friendships.  I don’t want to chase facebook influence over motherhood influence.  Whether online or off, I want to see souls and stories, not numbers.

I want goals to be tools that stretch me to defy stagnant and comfortable, not measuring sticks of my worth.  I want to believe with all my being that the weight of a moment flows not from productivity (or success, or bank account numbers) but from love.

Yes.  There it is.  I’d rather be known offline for my reflection of God’s love, than online as the girl with a million followers.

And I’d rather simply know and be known by God than chase anything else.  Because right there in His arms I find that I really am simply enough…and I can barely breathe that much peace in.

So what do you think it would take to make you worth something?  Would you dare to believe that you are already worth more than you believe?  When you trade in the thief of not enough for the Giver of worth, you’ll find yourself loved exactly where you are…simply as is.

John 10:9-11 (NIV)

9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

 

2 Timothy 1:9

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,

 

1 John 3:1

3 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

 

Romans 5:8

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.


Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

 

New Year Family Time Fail

You know those moments when everything is going perfectly and then it all falls apart in slow motion?  The second before your toddler elbows his milk off the edge of the table.  The instant before you say that snarky comment that sets your spouse on defense.  The insane laughter just before your boys accidentally head butt each other while playing superheroes.

Yeah….ummm…this particular family time wasn’t one of those moments.  Oh it ended in full-on fall-apart chaos, don’t get me wrong.  But instead of starting with shiny promise, it was ugly and doomed from the beginning.

I’ve been trying to be more intentional with my kids about real family time.  Not just the family moments where we’re all facing the same direction towards the nearest screen, but where we’re all facing each other.  You know. Like they did in the old days.

We’re trying to turn a new leaf where I actually make dinner (I know…I’ve shocked even myself), and we all eat together whenever possible.  I even bought little conversation cards from the thrift store to get us talking, and I’m trying to focus more on the deeper life conversations, including prayer and talking about God.  (Always interesting with a three year old.)

So last night, with the New Year right around the corner, I thought I’d create a cute little family moment where we shared some of our hopes and prayers for 2018 based on this cute little free printable I found from JellyTelly!  It was the recipe for a perfect happy moment like this picture:

How easy could it be?  What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, how about everything?  (I think I need to stop using “cute” and “little” in reference to family moments.)

First, let’s talk timing.  I decided to call everyone to the table while my poor husband was trying to pull together a meal for the kids because I was clearly shirking my previous commitment to cooking.  So he was only half there, and my kids were hungry.  (Note to self: never do anything important when the kids are hungry.  I should have picked up on the “Jaws” music looming in the background.)

I asked the big kids to bring a notebook which lead to a disagreement because I didn’t make the three year old bring one because the blessed child can’t write.  (By the way, does anyone know how to say “let’s be reasonable?” in 7-year old boy language?)

Then there was the part where I tried to explain in a calm, positive voice why we were sitting down together and what my plan was, which would have gone better if the children were listening and if I’d stayed calm and positive.

When we finally started sharing our hopes and prayers for the New Year, I sighed an internal sigh as my daughter shared that she hoped we all had good birthdays…and Christmas…and Easter…and New Years…and Mother’s Day…etc.  OK…so she wasn’t exactly pouring out her soul.  But at least she was participating.

My 7 year old apparently had zero hopes or prayers for 2018.  Nada.  Nothing. Zip.  Big dreamer, that one.

My almost 4 year old was more interested in finding all the ways to bang or smash his new toy than in whatever gibberish I wound up saying in my repeated attempts to coral the family into a unified, vision-sharing, team.  Someone should have gotten me a megaphone for Christmas.

The family moment finally ended when my husband put the 4 year old in time out and I finally stopped waiting for my middle son to miraculously access his joyful cooperative side.

Epic family fail.

Or was it?

We did learn to sit and share, even if it wasn’t even on the fringes of cute.  Good things don’t come easy, and sometimes the fruit of our intentions starts with tiny seeds that we plant in faith.

But as our pastors shared today, we have to be bold, give up our fear, and be focused.  Basically…we have to know what we ultimately want, be intentional about pursuing it, and persevere even when chasing that vision gets hard (whether that’s because of an illness, setback, or a child throwing a toy at your head.)

So this new year I’m sure I’m going to fail at something.  I’m not going to make a meal every night, and I’m going to lose my temper with the kids despite my best efforts.  I’m not going to be perfect and some days I’m not going to see the fruit of my efforts.  But I don’t want that to keep me from trying, from planting seeds anyway, and from persevering into what I know God wants me to do.

My theme for this year is simply to persevere in God’s promises.

What are your hopes and prayers for this year?  Consider yourself a part of my messy kitchen table discussion and share what you want to be intentional about pursuing this year?  Where can you lead yourself or your family deeper into what really matters?  What seeds do you want to plant in 2018?

 

If My Kids Were Santa’s Reindeer

 (Sung Mostly to the Tune of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer)

 

If my kids were Santa’s reindeer,

Helping him deliver mirth,

They’d need a little practice,

Before taking trips ’round earth.

My oldest would be quite ready,

To lead the team o’er field and brooks,

But she might steer much better,

If she weren’t reading stacks of books.

My middle would help to tinker,

If something broke on Santa’s sleigh,

But he might need five reminders,

To know if left or right’s the way.

The youngest would be so eager,

To run and jump and bring kids joy,

But he might pretend he’s batman,

Power punching all the toys.

They would argue on the way,

Over which one gets to lead,

And sneaking Santa’s cookies,

Their belly aches would slow their speed.

Santa might throw his hands up,

And say, stomping on the ground,

If you three cannot listen,

I will turn this sleigh around!

Yes they might be a bit late,

Dropping off their gifts world-wide,

But that means they’ll sleep for Mommy,

Snuggled up on Christmas night!

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!!

 

 

 

 

 

God Thoughts From My Recycling Blunder

I recently made a major domestic “oops”.

Our town sends out the trash truck weekly, but they only pick up recyclables every other week.  By the time week two rolls around, historically we’ve been overflowing with seltzer bottles, milk cartons, empty cereal boxes and more.  In fact, we actually called the waste company to upgrade us to a larger recycling bin…but apparently I should have asked them to supersize that.

Needless to say, during recycle week we are on high alert, prepared to deploy our bin at a moment’s notice.  Occasionally we forget which pick up week it is, and glance as inconspicuously as possible at our neighbors’ driveways hoping for a clue.  When in doubt, we send the bin down anyway; better to let the neighbors know we can’t count than be stuck with overflowing heaps of #4 recyclables.

But a week and a half ago my husband said he was going to take the recycle bin down and I uttered roughly the following fatal words: “Don’t take it down yet; I have a little more to add.

Did I remember to add more?  No.  Did I remember that I was supposed to take the recycling down?  Yes.  Right as the recycling truck passed by my house the next morning.  (I can’t think about it too long or I’ll have trauma flashbacks.)

Perhaps I could take my bin across the street at a neighbor’s house?  Maybe they’d listen to my pleas for mercy!  I could stash a few recycle items in the bins of some good-natured friends!  Ooooh! I could drive up the road, cut the recycle truck off with my mini-van and stage a truck heist!

OR…I could be a rational person for once and just wait.  Eventually recycling day would come again.

But nearly a month of stashing recyclables has a way of changing “waiting” to “longing”.

So here I am, recycle day dangling a mere three days away, with an overcrowded bin and more besides. 

This is a calendar worthy event, rivaling my children’s own birthdays.  In fact, I may have to resist the urge to hug the recycling people in my sheer elation at their arrival.  If you pass my house on Thursday and catch me twirling my empty bin in the driveway and crying passionately, please know they’re tears of joy and promise me you won’t have me committed.

Ahem.

But I’ve found lately that the recycling truck isn’t the only thing I’m waiting expectantly on.  Recently I felt impressed that God was doing something new in my life, but I couldn’t tell you what for sure.

I had some ideas, (don’t we all?) but I wanted the full, detailed, google maps version of my life plan, complete with pictures and alternative routes in case of an unforeseen delay.  I figured if I pestered God long enough, He’d give me the complete 411.

It’s been weeks now and in place of piles of recycling I have pages of journal entries contemplating what God is up to.  I’ve been praying and wondering and using my master’s degree in overthinking.

And the truth is…I haven’t gotten any burning bushes or writing on the wall.  (OK…there’s writing on the wall, but it’s crayon and suspiciously includes all the letters in my three year old’s name.)  God hasn’t made plain whatever it is I thought He might be leading me into.

So….maybe God’s just reminding me that He’s always up to something and I should keep my eyes open.  Maybe He will give me some more direction in the future.

But no matter what, I think He’s smiling a bit because in all my wondering and journaling and waiting…I’ve been sitting at His feet a little more.  I’ve found that the waiting has turned into a renewed longing for God.  In all my straining to see what’s ahead, I’ve been humbled to find that there’s no clearer place to view my life than on my knees in prayer.

And even though I’ll probably forever want to stay two steps ahead of God when it comes to my life plan, I’m learning something about what it means to wait on HIM instead of treating Him like a divine GPS.  He doesn’t just want me to wait on Him for directions, blessings, or dreams.  He wants me to learn to wait WITH Him…eagerly expecting that when I set aside my to-do list to seek Him, He’s there already.

In this season we’re all waiting on something.  Maybe it’s the look on your child’s face when they open that gift they never thought you’d get them.  Maybe it’s a long anticipated trip to see family for the holidays. Maybe it’s a fresh start in the new year.  Perhaps you too are waiting for that recycle truck so you can finally be rid of all your empty amazon boxes!

My prayer for each of us is that those places of temporary expectation cause us to be aware of a deeper anticipation bubbling up in our souls.  In all our other waiting, may we learn to desire God Himself and find that what He has to offer us in His presence today (and tomorrow and the next day) is more than enough for us.  He is greater than anything else we could hope for or dream about.

And He won’t keep you waiting.


Psalm 63:1

You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.

Psalm 130:5-6

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
6 I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Luke 10:39

She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.

Psalm 37:4

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Acts 17:26-28

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.  God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.  ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’

 New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.