Turning the page and living in grace (a few lessons from my thirties)

Welcome again to my little blogging world, that has been silent for several months as I have learned more about little boys, ministry and marriage. ūüôā I’d like to find some words to process this new season that I’m moving into. It’s a funny business getting older. I can’t say I dislike it, because God has been gracious to bless and grow me along every stage, but there are certainly surprises! Getting married in my early thirties and having kids in my mid-late thirties is a little different the “norm.” Do I regret it? Of course not. Has it had challenges? Yes! But with it too has (hopefully) come some wisdom and grace for a season that we may not have had otherwise. What I’d like to do here is share some of the amazing lessons God has taught me in my thirties, kids or not. Because the Story of Grace has similar lessons no matter what our demographic!

Repent, rest, live grateful – I wonder if I will ever move on from this repeated lesson? Most of my last decade was spent on this topic! Isaiah 30:15 has been my battle cry: “This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‚ÄúOnly in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. (But you would have none of it.)” When I feel confused or disoriented, unsure of my next step, God often brings me back to this theme. It really is a welcome relief to “hear” God speak this to my heart – don’t forget me child; lay it all down; let go of your plans; rest. And then it comes next – repent of your discontent, and focus on gratitude. I’m less likely now to be frustrated, but instead find this to be a warm, safe hug from my Father. It’s a familiar, refreshing place, and I’d bet you will find safety there too. Give it a try?

Lock arms with others – Finding safe people has been a journey for me, and God has been faithful to create community for me wherever we have gone! Looking for “your people” is worth it. And the advice of Anne Marie Miller (while I don’t agree with all her writings) has been spot on here – be willing to go first! When I open up my heart and share vulnerably, inevitably there is someone there who will resonate with my struggle, and appreciate the chance to “go second.” Of course there is much prayer this leads up to these moments, and that continues as every relationship unfolds, but if we always “stay safe” in our relationships, how can anyone grow? Hebrews 10:25: “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Laugh and lighten up – Wow, thank goodness for kids! Before I was a mom, I was a teacher, and before that I did lots of camp ministry, so I’ve been blessed with lots of hilarious kid moments! But it’s obvious that God has a sense of humor – silly looking animals and plants, quirky people, and our own mistakes to laugh at a grow from. My “men” help lighten up my sometimes melancholy nature, and I am so very grateful! See also Nehemiah 8:10 – the original word for strength here is “refuge” or “stronghold.” Amazing! Not only are joy and laughter enjoyable, the fruit is a place of safety.

Stay in the Word – I am not the student of the Word that others are, but I have resolved to keep at it! Don’t get me wrong, I love love love the Word of God, but I can have a bent towards being a bit of an “emotional reader.” I know this is common for women, but I want to keep growing and using my mind to study, not just my intuition. Thankful for those who are gifted in this area and push me to grow! I can see how over the past decade, the more I have become “grounded” in the word, the more fruit I have seen in my life and I’m confident there is a correlation.¬† May I commend to you Jennie Allen’s studies? I have done both the Anything book and now I’m working through the Proven study and both have been excellent!! I also love Jen Wilkin to stretch me!

Pray and keep praying – I’m eternally grateful for my rich heritage of prayer warriors! My parents and grandparents have set an amazing example in this regard. I have always been able to ask them for prayer (though my grandparents are gone now) and find it such a comfort to know they are fighting in the heavenly realms for my good and His glory. Paul and I have been through some pretty heavy stuff in our marriage as I have written about elsewhere – but prayer has sustained us – our own and the prayers of others. I’ve always sought out praying friends as well, and this has been such a life-saver! Literally!! There aren’t words enough to thank God for making a way for us to have this intimate communication with Him!

Christ is the way forward – Similar to the theme of repentance and rest is this. Leaning into the service and sacrifice of Christ and applying that to my whole life, every task and relationship – this. changes. everything! I’ve been reading and studying the book of John, and chapter 13 has been soaking into my marrow. Jesus knew what he was called to and he moved into it. He didn’t shrink back but fully surrendered to the will of the Father, even to the point of death. How often have I stepped back to protect myself? Thankfully, Jesus never did this. May my next decade be a testimony of this radical service.

Live loved – This is the fruit. The fruit of so many hard-won lessons. As I have repented, prayed, studied, served, laughed, all of the above – you know what? I’ve come to realize in such a deep way that I am LOVED! God has called me live as the beloved daughter I am, and when I do, not only am I blessed, but many others are as well! The enemy of our souls wants nothing more than to convince us that God is against us – that he is holding out and keeping good things from us. Nothing could be further from the truth! In all the hard and bad and sad, there is ALWAYS a purpose. Trust me, I have been through it. It probably didn’t look exactly like your “hard,” but we could cry together and find common ground, I’m sure. Through all the hardships, when my soul heals and I grow and find my way back to trusting and leaning into God, the fruit is this. I am known and loved. I am protected. I am safe. I CAN trust him. And you can, too.

 

Finding joy as a woman – Mom or not

You might be surprised to know that this is a hard weekend for me…even though I’m a mom. For years, I only wanted to be a mom. Actually, before that I wanted to be married, and before that I wanted to have a great career, and before that I wanted to graduate college, and before that… (you get the picture…!) I’m popping in this weekend to encourage you, no matter where you are on your journey, mom or not, graduate, single, grandparent, or young woman dreaming of all that is *hopefully* to come. Still, my heart aches. Why, you might wonder?

You see, I’ve discovered that no matter what God gives me, I always want more! I am currently in the throes of the “threes” with my Big Boy, and the full-on scooting around, into everything phase with my Little Guy (while also managing a busy schedule as a ministry wife, and still searching for homes). Trust me, it is truly delightful some days, but if I’m honest, it’s a near disaster other days! I’m happy to get the dishes done and tuck everyone in with smiles, with a few minutes left for myself and my husband, most days. It is all good and wonderful, but it doesn’t fill my heart fully. And it never will. I had good friends warn me of this, when I longed for the married /family life they had. We married in our thirties and were five years into marriage as well before God gave us a little boy to love. There were lots of tears every Mother’s Day for me, and a miscarriage before P ever arrived. Even when he was finally born, and I breathed a sigh of relief that he was healthy, three months later I was struggling with postpartum depression in a major way. This was not the journey I was hoping for in motherhood!

My littlest guy is sleeping now, and Big Brother and Hubby are running errands (so I will be jetting soon to get a shower while I can!) but my hope is that you will find your worth this weekend in being a daughter of the Lord Most High, more than any other “title” you could have. (If you are not, run to Him to find that eternal joy, please!) Honestly, now the struggle is to be the “perfect” mom/wife/homemaker, so this can still be a hard weekend, as I struggle to know that I am doing a good enough job with all I have been given, and longing to know that I am.

We have a big God, and He will be WITH you this weekend, and in the weeks and months to come, if that is your desire. Even if it isn’t foremost in your heart, He will pursue you in the midst of whatever you are facing, as He most certainly has done for me. As for me, I am grateful for all He has done for me/us, and will be praising Him this weekend…whether I accomplish all I want to at home, or get the breakfast in bed that I think I deserve – haha! He alone can fill your heart friend, and may we all find comfort in that truth this Mother’s Day. You are loved, known, and cherished by your Heavenly Father.

With you in this journey!

 

Overcoming roadblocks to rest

Yesterday I sat for 15 minutes at the piano…headphones on while my baby cried and my three year old clamored for attention in his room. Eventually I was able to let go of their needs and think about my own for just a small window of time (and they were okay anyway!) This morning I’m thinking about what keeps us from shutting out the noise and coming to God for rest. What is it for you? Maybe a few of my roadblocks will shed some light on what is keeping you from finding what your soul needs…

True busyness – This first one is a key culprit to look at for ALL of us, I’m sure. Our schedules are jam-packed and it can be hard to realistically find much time to care for our very real needs. Whether you’re a mama, single lady, working woman, or tough guy, life shouts at us with all the things we need, need to do, must accomplish, etc. Letting the voice of love permeate our schedules is truly unusual for most. Scheduling some margin into your day is such a beautiful habit….literally putting an appointment on your calendar to be alone, or to be with someone or doing something that brings you deep soul joy.

Pride – Ouch. Are we really that important to keep the world in motion?? I have to remind myself that my little people and close circle – even reaching out further to my community and extended connections – they will be OKAY if I back off on some things. This one can be just. so. hard!! It feels good to be wanted and needed, and it is easy to think it is more “spiritual” to be doing lots of good things… rather than just being with God and your “people.” I have really had to look at my schedule lately and trim some things down. It’s hard! Trust me, I really get it. As a mom of itty bitties, and wife to a pastor, our schedule is far from relaxed. But there’s so much joy in surrendering my priorities to God, and letting him fill my days, rather than jumping in to try and “save the world.”

Shame – Do I even deserve this time to myself? time to be with God? time to simply ENJOY something? This can be a real toughie too, at least for me. When the chores are piling up and others around me have legitimate needs, how can I put some of my needs first (even just occasionally?) A friend has lately been reminding me of the oxygen mask analogy – you know it – the airline stewardess always reminds us to put our mask on first, before we attend to others. Of course the analogy breaks down because we are also called to serve selflessly, but even Jesus got away from others and felt no shame doing so!

Resources – This seems like a legitimate reason to power through life working, trying harder, being “all things to all people.” You may need to work two jobs, you might be strapped for cash and can’t afford some “luxuries,” you may think there’s no way you can truly “afford” to take time for yourself, time to relax a little. But trust me, this is simply not true. Growing up in a family of eight kids, on a farm, I get it. There can be 5,000 things to do to just make life “work.” And now, as a ministry wife, we don’t have a lot of extra. But I still find ways to rejuvenate! We have gotten gift cards for several occasions, which is super fun for treats here and there. We were gifted a piano, and I truly enjoy that! I do yoga videos on YouTube, take walks with my kiddos (using a Black-Friday-deal baby carrier and second hand stroller!) Drinking enough water is a great beauty tool, and that is free! Ten minutes here and there with simple little things is not going to break the bank for anyone.

Boundary issues – I’m slowly reading the book Boundaries, by Cloud and Townsend. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, because it’s been around for a long while. The idea, if you’re not familiar with it, is that we have a responsibility for our lives and many times others cross over our boundaries that are God-given. We can also walk all over others. I highly recommend this book if you find that you are often getting into situations that lead to resentment and frustration. Are you doing more than you want to do because you simply “can’t” say no? Is someone loading guilt and shame on you for wanting to take a break? Lots to say on this topic – read the book!!

Lack of self-knowledge – Lately I have realized that in the busyness of being a newborn / toddler mama I have quite literally “forgotten” what brings me joy!! There are things I really loved before Baby A came along, and I have had to dig deep and really think about what will bring rest to my soul. The easy “Sunday school” answer is that we need to read our Bibles and pray more. Shocker – sometimes we need a nap more! My favorite author, Emily Freeman, talks about this concept in her writings on the blog, in her books, and on her podcast. I’ve had to ask God to remind me of how he made me and what things I might start back on now that my baby sleeps a bit more. ūüėČ

These are just some of my own ideas, things that I have to work through in getting back to a good place in my soul, with God and with others. What about you? What is keeping you from rest? I’d love to hear.

Thriving on rest – thoughts for the Lenten season

It’s been an amazing year for our family as we have walked through our third pregnancy (second live birth) and welcomed our second son. There is nothing quite like new life to change your perspective and also keep you humble! We have been through a lot leading up to this and are now enjoying this older baby phase. I love ages six to ten months! Our little guy is coming up on seven months this weekend, and I just can’t believe it!

If you take a look around at my blog, you will see that it has been quite a while since I have last written. I think I was hugging a toilet bowl the last time I wrote (thank you, baby A!) and decided I would sit out until after he was born… I just didn’t think it would take this long, but more on that later. I do very much enjoy encouraging others in this space, so here I am again.

Spring is hopefully around the corner, and since I last wrote, we have seen summer, fall, and what I’m hoping is nearing the end of winter! So too, have we walked through the seasons in our family. End of pregnancy brought some sleepless nights, growing pains for all, and lots of quick meals. Early newborn life brought more sleepless nights, but so many cuddles, copious help from friends, community, church and family, gifts, meals, prayers….in a word, abundance! Winter settled in and that brought some challenges as it is quite the busy time for my husband, and our reinforcements started fading away. However, my beloved mother’s helper, as well as a mature retired mom (and again, lots of prayer!) has seen us through. I must also mention that I have the world’s most patient and servant-minded husband who has done more than his share of diapers and dishes!

The deepest desire of my heart is that I could encourage other women in this Lenten season to find rest. Similar to the Christmas season, it is easy to make this another “try hard” season. Spring cleaning, decluttering, Easter gifts, Spring break plans, and spiritual preparations during Lent, as well as more gatherings with friends and family, and it is understandable why summer beach vacations bring a sigh of relief! Let’s all just make it to the end of the school year, right? I suppose I didn’t even touch on all the school activities that you may be doing with your kids. Perhaps you find yourself wondering how you will make it through this demanding time of year. I know I have had many seasons like that!

As I look back on those hard seasons in my life, I realize that sometimes I chose rest, and other times I chose to “try harder,” the latter coming with poor results. I believe this newborn stage of Baby A’s life has gone well thanks to God’s grace, but also because of the choice to rest. With much help and prayer, I have let the laundry go most days, dishes have piled up, calls have gone unanswered, and emails not returned. Perhaps that would sound like defeat to you. However, given the fact that postpartum was ten times as hard with Big Brother, I must gather that the choice to rest has made an impact.

Whatever is on your plate right now, might I encourage you to set aside what feels most urgent, and look to God for rest and help in Him? It can be a colossal feat to find even a few minutes to reflect and regroup at the end of a busy day, but in those moments of honesty with ourselves, God, and those we love, we can find peace. Choosing to rest in the knowledge that we are known and loved by God, no matter what our homes (or other performance area) may look, will bring long-lasting benefits. Peace and joy be yours, my friend. New life in Christ can be yours!

Isaiah 30:15: This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.¬†

What I learned // Spring 2018

The first quarter of this year just flew by!! (Partially because I’ve been growing a baby and that first trimester was just hard!) I’ve loved¬†this link up that blogger Emily Freeman does every quarter to reflect on what she and many others have learned. Though a bit late, I still want to take time to reflect for myself, and maybe you’ll enjoy it too. I’d encourage you to think through it for yourself, even if you don’t make it public. Such a good discipline!

  1. The DayOne app is so fabulous for recording gratitude – ever since we got married seven years ago, I’ve made it a priority to record a gratitude list almost daily. This was spurred on by this book, and has brought and sustained so much joy in my life! I used to use a good old-fashioned journal, but this app makes it quick and easy, and it’s fun to add pictures from the day as well. Totally recommend!!
  2. Late on this one, but Downton is totally addicting. And I must get the final season¬†(soon!) – a friend loaned us the first five seasons of Downton Abbey and we have thoroughly enjoyed it! It’s rare that hubby and I find shows we both love, but this is definitely one on the short list. The character development and plot line are just amazing (as most of the world already knows, but I’m so happy to have found out too!)
  3. Feeding toddlers takes a huge amount of patience – I was not expecting this AT ALL. I suppose I had a bit of pride in this area, having grown up on a farm and surrounded by super-healthy people… somehow I thought eating healthy and loving it would just miraculously be natural for my son. (I hope you’re laughing, because I’m not.) Nothing is more frustrating to me than making a healthy meal and my sweet toddler refusing to eat it! We are making sloooowwww progress in this area, but suffice to say this has been quite the sanctifying experience for me. This blog has given me some good ideas, and I love this¬†kitchen gadget!
  4. Creative outlets are super important for me – being sick from pregnancy for four months really limited me to just the basics of life, so I wasn’t able to write much or make time for any “extras”. It’s been so nice to get back to some of the creative things I enjoy, and I really hope I can keep that up once baby two comes. I feel so rejuvenated after spending even 15 minutes writing, playing piano/guitar, or coloring. Really anything that involves beauty or creativity gives me a boost.
  5. Living frugally can be a fun adventure – though our church is very generous, living on a pastor’s salary requires some creativity and effort! (We are so happy to be where we are, and don’t feel it’s a sacrifice as some might see it.) But I’ve found that second hand shopping, groceries at Aldi, and thrifting online can not only be fun, but can also help me grow in contentment. I’m looking forward to reading this book that’s been on my list for a while!

What about you? What did you learn this Spring?

 

Prepping your soul for Spring

Did Winter get the best of you? No thanks to Phil the groundhog, it seemed this Winter would never end! We may have finally shaken the cold weather, but I want to offer some suggestions for warmth and refreshing in your soul – regardless of what the weather does. Here are some reflections from my Winter hibernation as well as some forward moving ideas for Spring in your soul.

  • Assess where you are, body + mind + soul – We all have some pretty atrocious closets to clean out and cobwebs to dust, but when clutter starts building up in your soul, every aspect of your life is affected. Start by taking inventory. How do you feel? Are you sleeping and eating well? Moving your body? What do your relationships look like, as far as you can control? Where are you with God?
  • Start with one goal – and follow through – There’s nothing more discouraging than getting to April and realizing your January goals are buried in a pile and needing some attention. I like to start with ONE area, and ONE goal – and follow through on just that one thing. A¬†goal of mine that needs a little attention is gentle exercise. Yoga is always my favorite way to move so I’m heading back to class and also spending a few minutes in the morning or evening to refresh. This post inspired me lately in remembering that even one pose a day is better than nothing!
  • Try something new – I’ve been stuck in my reading and haven’t enjoyed the study plans I’ve been using, but it’s taken me a while to try something new. So I pulled an old Bible off my shelf – the¬†Daily Chronological Bible and I’m getting back on track there. You can switch it up too! Maybe it’s time to change your routine in some way, and breathe new life into this season. In the kitchen, I’ve been using this weekly meal service to keep my meals fresh, and it’s been a lot of fun.
  • Make it beautiful there’s nothing like beauty to refresh you inside and out, and it doesn’t have to be big. In fact, making your daily environment or beauty routine refreshed for Spring is better done small and intentionally. Think through one area that could use some life – your wardrobe, your kitchen towels, maybe a new candle for the bathroom? Try pulling out a bright scarf instead of the winter grays and blacks! Get some fresh linens on clearance or put citrus oils in your diffuser to brighten up your everyday.
  • Give yourself grace – This one has to be mentioned, and though I talk about it a lot here, it bears mentioning again. Oftentimes for me, I don’t realize how much I am neglecting my soul or demanding perfection of myself until emotional dashboard lights start going off. Dial things back even as you move ahead, by creating more white space on your calendar, making an easy meal, or saying no to something. One small step to give yourself grace could make things so much smoother elsewhere – I know from experience! (PS – thanks for giving ME grace as I’ve been growing a new baby – coming August of this year :-))

All I want for Christmas is a changed heart

It was a small thing, really. The store clerk couldn’t have known that the stamps she had weren’t going to be my favorite, but it revealed a yucky heart attitude in me and showed me I cared more about myself in that moment than the message of the Nativity stamps I wanted. I held my tongue and took those Santa stamps, reminded that Advent is made of all these small choices. I’ve been a slow learner, I’ll admit. Thankfully, I’m on the road to making Christmas more about Christ than all the other things it sometimes is.

We all come to Christmas with our baggage – albeit wrapped up nicely with shiny paper and bows. It has taken me a while to see the yucky amidst the shiny wrapping in my own life. Good deeds mixed in with selfish expectations, gift giving tied up with my own desires for affirmation, forcing traditions so I’ll have plenty of picture-worthy moments. Certainly, it is good and right to have quality family time, reflect on the meaning of the season, and cultivate habits of service. But God has shown me how having a quiet heart of anticipation, over expectations (for myself or others), makes for a Christmas worth remembering. Am I striving in my own power to make Christmas amazing, but over-spending, over-stretching, over-everything to do it? Am I expecting others to come through for me to make the holiday special (whether I express it or not?) I have in the past, sadly.

The shift in my heart is big – but it’s happened slowly. Too slowly, sometimes. But God is never late, and He has prepared this December with you in mind – and your people. Just like that first one, with all the messy beautiful. Oftentimes we find ourselves either trampled upon, or having made too much of ourselves. Only God knows where our hearts are. I’m stepping back from the big and bold Christmases in my past, in exchange for a quiet, humble, and hopeful one this year. And it feels so good. I’ve gotten all I want for Christmas – God has changed my heart.

You might feel like God is giving you a lump of coal this year, when you look around at your circumstances (I’ve been there) but His heart for us is good. Trust me when I say, I have had those hard (very hard) Christmases. Even though this year is full of joy and hopefulness, the greatest gift God has given me is a changed heart. And the bumpy path is what brought me here. Keep fighting for joy if it’s hard, and give thanks if it’s not right now. He is good, and here is here. Emmanuel, God with us.¬†

And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. РRomans 5:3-5