Friday, April 18, 2014

On Good Friday I Don't Feel Good

Sometime in the middle of last week, my spirit was filled with a deep sense of dread. This awful feeling of exposure and soul-vulnerability and the feeling that all my brokenness was being exposed and put on display and I just could hardly handle any of  it.  I started googling every possible get-out-of-town scenario I could come up with to avoid being here during Holy Week.  I felt a bit frantic and scared and on-the-run and like failure was chasing me down and wanting to shame me to the whole world. I show up at church on Sunday feeling raw and bruised and almost ran out when it all ended, but I opted to just walk very, very quickly. The voice of shame kept insistently whispering to me, "Run and hide!"

I began to realize that this season of Lent has exposed my deep fear of failure (because failure may lead to rejection) and my frustration of all that I lack. All my good intentions during these 40 days have been met with my lack of discipline, my lack of love, my spiritual paralysis, and all the ways that I just can't be perfect. Lent showed me my sin and really showed me again that I am not God. I am not perfect and I am not in control. I cannot earn my salvation and I cannot perform my way into love and acceptance. 

So this week I have just felt naked and weird and thinking, "Can't I just go to the beach for the weekend and skip all this and just live in an alternate reality and wait for all these feelings to go away?"

But Jesus.

He keeps whispering to me that my sin and my brokenness does not scare Him off. He is not ashamed of me and put off by me and is not moving away from me.  He sits with me here.  He takes on the weight of my pain on Himself today. He suffers for me. He receives it all on Himself today so that I can be free from all this performance, all this fear, all this shame, all this loneliness.  Chains broken. Healed. Forgiven. Loved and accepted.  He's going to the cross today for me. It's astounding.

I sit here knowing all the crap in my mind and heart.  The angry places and the judgmental places and the fearful places and the depressed places and it all feels so bad and so hopeless and yet He offers to take them from me today. He bears them for me. He suffers in spirit for me.

Tonight I will go to a Good Friday service. It won't be "encouraging" or "fun" or make me feel better. I actually believe I will feel worse come bedtime.  Coming face to face with Good Friday does not make you feel good.  It reminds us that we are spiritually bankrupt, needy, lame, sick, broken and also Pharisaical and proud and pious. We come face to face with the glory of Self that we ascribe to and that He gently and willingly and obediently chose to bear all of that Self and Ego and Ugly anyway.

It's crazy humbling and really really Good. Even though it doesn't feel that way.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

My Path to Open

Goodness. I didn't know three months ago when the Lord put on my heart to choose the word OPEN for 2014 that I would be challenged to be open to many new things and that I would want to resist out of fear and dismiss ideas and new opportunities that would come my way.  It made me wonder how often I am closed off to relationships and good deeds and spiritual growth because fear shuts the door without thought, without pause, without examination.

What have I been OPEN to this year?

1. PowerSheets. I seriously scorned these. Really. The only reason I bought them was because I read about a friend's journey and the Lord whispered, "Be Open and reserve judgment" when I was about to dismiss it. And they are really changing my life and I haven't even begun the actual monthly and weekly goals yet.  Simply having someone guide me into evaluating my life, dreams, fears, etc has been the best practice for Burnout that I have done in a while. I have carried a lot of mental clutter and those questions and prompts have allowed me to get a ton of stuff out of my head and onto paper. This has resulted in mental margin. I work hard at emotional margin, but had no idea how mentally stuck I was.

2. Hospitality. When I saw a friend post about If:Table, God whispered again, "Be Open and open your doors". This concept fit into my God-given core goals, and so I began to invite women to come for dinner and conversation. I chose an evening and stuck with that time so that if a friend couldn't come, then I would assume that God had someone else who was supposed to be there.  In the end, we had six of us from varying ages, churches, backgrounds, and relationships...much diversity! That diversity lent itself to be a lovely evening with women sharing vulnerably and how we all struggle with isolation and connection.  Being open resulted in a new best practice for 2014 for connecting women and living openly.

3. Being a podcast guest for a workshop. My friend Elizabeth is hosting a beautiful and healing workshop for women who are struggling with burnout and loss of joy. She and I discussed this idea for months leading up to it, and she asked if I would be one of her guests. I thought, "REALLY!?" I knew the names of the others she was inviting and felt rather small and awkward to be a part of it.  God said, "Be Open". So I said yes while feeling nervous and weird and scared of it all. My natural inclination was to want to hide. God honored that "yes" and I have loved receiving feedback that women feel refreshed from hearing the recording and many recognizing areas that they are not caring for themselves or walking in freedom. One of my life goals is help women walk in greater freedom in Christ and not in bondage to ideals or rules so this fit that bill perfectly.

4. Menu Planning. I have always hated it and it hasn't been a sustainable practice for me in the past.  I like to keep a well-stocked pantry and freezer and work from that on a daily basis.  Along came February and again, I needed mental margin and to stop thinking about so much during the day. I needed to find some areas that could run on auto-pilot without my mentally engaging.  God whispered, "Be open again to this". Whenever we think things in our lives will always stay the same, God moves us and tweaks us.  That's why we must not follow rules or formulas or strict ideals...because we may begin needing to do the very things we never thought we should or could. God delights in keeping us dependent and humble and listening to Him and when we do, we live well and without unnecessary burdens.

5. Computer-based/Online Classes.  Now that I am beginning to think about our learning plans for this season, I realized that homeschooling wasn't on my list of things that "fire me up" as I worked through my PowerSheets. I certainly feel called to it during this time, but recognize that I need it very simple and streamlined right now.The children need to be more independent from me so that my time and mental/creative headspace is free to pursue other ideas that God is calling me to do.  I have always held high to the ideal of interest-led learning, and yet right now I know that my kids need some structured programs and morning schedules that is less teacher-directed.  Teaching Textbooks, Rosetta Stone Spanish, Typing and their taking outside courses on writing and science have helped immensely to lighten my load and my children enjoy all of those things.  I have to be willing to be open to a style of learning that I don't necessarily connect with or find as an ideal learning environment in order to follow God's path for me in this particular season. He's offering me freedom and yet so often I am tempted toward the bondage of my ways, my paths, my resources.

I have to say that for the first time in a long time I am very hopeful and excited and visionary about my life. I feel like God is giving me a lot of clarity that has been so deeply needed. Facing fears and stepping out in faith to be open to new paths and new ways of looking at life has been so humbling and freeing and invigorating. What are some things that you are saying Yes to right now? Where do you desire more openness and less control?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

On Lent

Lent. I really had no idea what it was . The extent of my knowledge was that people tended to give up chocolate or sodas. I had zero interest in knowing why.

Last year as we approached February and were now attending a Lutheran Church, I realized that we were going to "do Lent". At least I was.  I wasn't going to push it with my family since I felt like I was wading in uncharted spiritual territory.  As Ash Wednesday approached, I looked at the calendar and realized that Mike was going to be out of town that night. Oh man.  I felt a bit of dread.  I so wanted to understand Lent and the ashes and be in community with others observing (not doing!) Lent, but the thought of entering the church alone and receiving ashes was intimidating. I really had no idea what to expect.

I stepped out of my comfort zone and went. I knew that our church was "safe" and I didn't need to do anything there that I didn't feel comfortable with. And really all of my memories of that evening are blurred. The memory is that Ash Wednesday is humbling and that I wept a lot. I don't remember the words spoken, the songs sung, or the prayers that were prayed. I remember the fact that all of it opened up some deep sensate part of me and the tears just would. not. stop. And I was perfectly fine with that. I felt near to Jesus and His Spirit was tender.

As we progressed through the Lenten season, I ached for Wednesday evenings. I didn't even know what I was aching was some deep spiritual ache that I couldn't name. A desire to feel my smallness and obscurity and yet to realize the intimate way He loves and sees me.  A desire to be vulnerable with all my sin and brokenness and know that He forgives and accepts me. A desire to know the reality of the Cross that was coming and the ugliness of it all. On Maundy Thursday  my feet were washed at church. More humility, tears and a tangible act of the tenderness of Jesus. Good Friday I was sobered and silenced by the darkness and its reality. I was feeling ready and hopeful and in need of Resurrection!

I awakened on Easter morning filled with joy. LIFE! I have been given life! His life for mine! Death and sin conquered! Brokenness healed! For the first time at Easter, I received a deep and amazing sense of His completed work on our behalf. Before this season, Easter was really a date on the calender for me to think about getting a new outfit, throwing together some goodies in a basket for my kids and thinking through a good dinner menu. I had really missed out.

So this all brings me to this year. I was really inspired to bring my family along on the journey now. I made a Lent table on Monday filled with symbolism and a few ideas from this post.  Candles and rocks and purple ribbon and a crown of thorns and the basket of flour to represent dust...eggs to draw on with Sharpie pens as a way to pray. I made purple paper chains to represent  the days of Lent along with a green link for Palm Sunday, red for Passover, blue for Maundy Thursday, black for Good Friday and Saturday and white for Resurrection Sunday.

For my personal devotional time, I am using this Lent Journal and reading the book Simplifying the Soul. I am also planning on reading Hands Free Mama and Praying In Color. Following a few Lenten playlists on Spotify is another way to add in theology and beauty and worship and is a daily centering place for me.

A few links:

This is a great post to read about Lent and "giving up" things and giving in to Jesus and it's just so good.

Another fun place to visit is Christine's art journaling journey through Lent.

If you are interested in a Lent filled with acts of generosity, join in on the joy at this website!

A nice list of resources are compiled here for an easy reference.

Elizabeth's book lists for children always help guide me on how to connect these sacred days to my kids.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

What I Learned in February

Happy Saturday, friends! I have really been enjoying these monthly posts where people share what they have learned the previous month. As I read some of them I decided that this would be a nice way to gather some thoughts and share them with you...a way for me to begin again to write.

1. Reading A Million Little Ways with other women is good for my soul.  Simply getting together with other women in a purposeful way is good for my soul. I have had several opportunities for deeper discussions with groups of women recently and again I am reminded that we are to walk this journey with Jesus with others.

2. Giving and thoughtful care for others really fills my cup. And I pray it really blesses the receivers. I have really begun building a habit of looking for ways to tangibly love others and for now it seems to be bringing meals and bits of creativity to others who are sick, sad, or in need of knowing that they are not alone. My life is full at home and I don't have hours to devote to service outside of it right now, but I CAN use my time at home to make extra food and  put together a bit of love for someone else.

3. Powersheets are rocking my world. I heard of these last fall and immediately rolled my eyes. Anytime I scoff and roll my eyes at something you can be sure that God will usually have me enter into it. :) Several friends began using them and when I saw the difference that this focused God-centered planning was doing in their dailiness, I decided to humble myself and give it a go. So far I am amazed at the simple clarity I am receiving about my life and the plans God may have for me.  I am feeling more focused and intentional and less reactive and aimless. Good stuff.

4. The library is the best place for planning and productivity for me.  Coffee shops are just too dang distracting. I listen into other people's conversations and people-watch and the music is always way too loud. The library gives me hours of relative silence which really helps me focus. Right now I come on Saturday mornings for several hours and for 45 minutes on Monday evenings when my oldest son is at Boy Scouts. I haven't made time for a formal planning time like this in a while, but reading this post got me motivated.

5. Spotify Premium is worth the 10 bucks a month. I can listen to any song or CD that I want to at anytime. I use it on my laptop but mainly I keep great music playing through the phone app. Best subscription EVER. I don't have money to buy new music so this allows me to listen to huge volumes of new music and artists that are new to me, and it sounds dramatic to say but IT'S BEEN LIFE-CHANGING.

6. Podcasts in the tub with a renewal soak really does renew me. It feels like an hour of chatting with adults without having to. Lol. Great for introverts and weary bodies.

7. Getting away with my family in February for an overnight is always worth making happen.  The last few years we have either gone to Great Wolf Lodge or to the beach in February and it is a nice sanity break. We have so much cabin fever and infighting and the break does us all a whole lot of good.

8. Coffee made in my thrifted ($1.50!) Chemex is almost like a bit of art in my morning. Simplicity and beauty and smooth coffee in the morning is the right way to begin my day.

9. Doodling is cheap therapy.  When I took Heather's Hibernate workshop, she taught us about meditative journaling. This practice has been very therapeutic and centering for me. It's opened up the world of art journaling  and is one of the few "crafts" that really focuses my mind and doesn't allow it to wander. I think that's why it feels so good to dailiness is marked by chronic distraction.

10. Aldi has Choceur chocolate bars that are the best evening treat ever. One individually wrapped chocolate wafer is a smooth and delicious treat.  I keep a bottomless stash in the top drawer of my bedside table.

11. Showing up in the mornings peaceful and planned makes everybody calmer.  Duh, right? I can get into bad habits post-holidays and somehow don't realize that I am not nearly as planned and peaceful as I think I am.  Guiding my children's mornings is essential...peacefully and lovingly and not as a drill sergeant.

12. Dates with my husband need to happen. We have a 15 year deficit in taking time and money for dates. We have been diligent this past year to find time and space and resources for this and it makes us so so so happy. Our life with six children begins early in the morning and ends late at night so there is no quiet for us in our own home. Making the time to steal away for a lunch or coffee is vital for us...especially since both of our #1 love languages is quality time.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


My word for 2014.  I played around with trust and acceptance and surrender, but as I drove quiet roads to deliver a meal to a mama, OPEN came to me and I knew that was it. I have been drawn to songs with the word "open" in it for the past two months...the Avett Brothers Open Ended Life and The Brilliance's Open Up.  I like the simplicity. Four little letters that convey a lot.

Open-hearted and open-handed.  One flows from love and one flows from trust. The more I drink in His deep love and care, the more open-hearted I am with Him and others. Love begats love.  The more I trust in His sovereign goodness, the more open-handed I am with life, plans, trials, expectations. 

I want to live open to my family and friends.  I can get touchy and defensive and closed-off at times and I want to keep my heart open and soft and tender and gentle.  Relational pain can cause me to retreat and grow cynical. That is not the kind of woman I want to be. This will be the work of the Holy Spirit in me and my choosing to be open to others even when I don't necessarily feel like it.

I have also sensed that I am on the edge of some change.  Don't know what exactly or even how to put it into words. It's been rumbling and brewing for this past year...I wait and pray and stay open.  Watching and waiting to see how God may use my gifting and creativity and life for His glory out in the world.  I have been quietly faithful at home for years and sense that God wants to get me out more in the world.  So I remain open and brave...submitted to Him and walking by faith.

Now I just need to head to a shop and buy an "open" sign to hang in my room as a reminder :)

**how did I just now notice that my last post was on Openness?! Crazy.  Obviously the Lord is speaking this to me!**

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Ministry of Openness

My husband and I have talked a lot recently about "ministry" and how we complicate what it "should" look like. We tend to think in terms of programs or events or a strategic plan to fill our calendar with "reaching out". Our spirits begin to feel burdened before we ever even start. How can we do this "plan" with six children? How can we keep from burning out? Why does this sound hard and tiring? So we shelve the dreams and get back to being mired down and closed off in our own little stories while the years pass by.

In order to demystify "ministry" or "reaching out" or "being missional" or whatever your Christian sub-culture calls it, I am simply seeking to be more open.  Open to what? Sharing my Jesus-life with others in simple ways.

I smile at cashiers in the check-out line at Kroger.  I ask them how their day is going.  I listen to a lonely older woman share with me all about her life and children as we wait to have our fabric cut at Hobby Lobby. I hold doors open for others. I give drivers the right of way and a wave. I ask people questions.

I text other mamas.  I have several conversations going with many different women almost every day. Sharing prayer concerns, sending each other encouragement, offering wisdom and insight.  Being available. Laughing and debating and pondering the deep things of life.

I make meals. For the sick, for the ones with new babies, for the family that needs tangible support. I send packages and cards to those that need to know that God sees them and He cares.

I keep my schedule simplified so that I can watch for needs. Opportunities to show support and care and to cultivate an environment in my home of service and warmth and thoughtfulness. Someone may mention that they need a date night on Facebook, and if my time and energy allows, I offer to take their children. I take mental notes to check-in with the  friend who mentions they are tired and hurting during the next time I see them in person.

Ministry doesn't always look like running a children's program or leading a Bible Study or working in the nursery. It can simply be an openness to God and where He is at work and an openness to loving others in small ways. An open heart is willing to be vulnerable, to share weakness, to listen without judgment, to discern and offer wisdom, to give time and a meal and a hug. Availability to be used by Him wherever the steps in your day takes you check-in to social media, as you go through the line at the bank, as you talk to your librarian, as you pick up a couple of items for we are going, we make disciples.

With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming so quickly, the opportunities to show kindness and care will abound.  The hurting need hope during this season. Pain is magnified this time of year. How can we be the open and gentle and loving hands and feet of Jesus? May we have open hearts and willing hands  and eyes to see as we go into this holiday season.

To write

Writing. Why write?

I need to get my thoughts out of my head. They became clear and I can make connections when I can literally see them.  

I write as a way to worship.

I write for emotional release. To allowed the pent-up to flow-out.

I write because it feels good and right. Healing. Energizing. 

I write because paper and pens are dear friends. Allies. Trustworthy companions. Confidantes.

I write to connect with others. To put words to what we both think and feel and experience. 

I write to encourage. To remind us that we are not alone in our struggles.

I write as prayer.

I write to confess.

Lord, show me where I am.  With my blog. With writing. With my voice.

Why do you write?