Tag Archives: Friendship

Losing Myself in a Selfie Culture

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Losing Myself in a Selfie Culture

treeThe sun was high, it’s beams breaking through the trees; shadows danced at my feet as the leaves and branches swayed with the gentle breeze. Though the air was cool, the jacket slipped off my shoulders, tied around my waist as I walked. It was as if the woods were drawing me in, inviting me to stay a while.

I inhaled deeply; the loam under my timid steps was damp from recent rains, rich with the scent of mud and wildflower blossoms. The river was just steps away, the color of my morning coffee and scattered with limbs downed by the weight of the past winter’s snow.

A plastic grocery bag was tucked into my pocket; it’s the season for morel mushrooms and this was a great spot to hunt. I determined to pay close attention to every detail as I wandered this plot of ground, wild and yet mere yards from a house filled with many beautiful and well-appointed rooms. Wilderness and refinement are neighbors on this Midwest homestead.

I was not alone. My cousin, a skilled hunter and woodsman, hiked ahead of me. I followed his lead as we broke the thicket and entered the deeper brush. I had slowed to take in the details. I thought he might have intentionally passed a patch of the prized morels as a test. He’s like that… a teacher and trainer at heart. It would be like him to set up an opportunity for me to succeed.

Woods collageOther family members went off in various directions. I couldn’t resist stopping for pictures of flowers, or downed logs and animal burrows. I fell behind, no longer within earshot of the crackling of branches and leaves as my companions trekked through the brush.

For a moment, a tremor of panic welled up, threatening to overtake my joy. I didn’t know my way out. While I had carefully surveyed every tree and wildflower in the shady thickets and examined hollow logs and the play of light with the curiosity of a child, I paid no attention to the direction I had wandered.

He would never leave me here, I reminded myself. And almost to the moment, he called out. I responded, assuring him I was fine, moving in the direction of his voice.

There were others in our small group and we occasionally caught site of one another, always hoping for a report of a find.

Finally we regrouped back at the trucks, driving out. We hadn’t gone far when he stopped and we jumped out again, this time walking to the end of a long thicket. “This is a good spot. I’ll clear the way for you to step in.”

Skillfully he parted the thorny, twisted branches and held them back as he led the way. He continued to coach and lead as I finally entered a clearing. Again I ventured off, exploring and searching but staying within earshot of my trusted guide.

I heard creaking overhead and looked up to see a huge log perched precariously between two trees – a widow maker, I would be told later. I wondered how many eyes were peering out, watching me as I was completely unaware of them. There was some calculated risk in this place, but it was beautiful and wild. There was no need for fear, rather awareness of potential danger.

Once home, I surveyed the scratches; they were superficial. Tick checks were conducted by buddies, since they tend to hitchhike in hard to locate places.

Later, as I lay quiet in my bed before sleep came, I reviewed my wonderful day. There were glorious reunions with loved ones, the simple joy of watching a dog work like a champ for a master he adores, and the peace found in a place of worship seated between two people I love.

I remembered the hike in the woods and I was grateful, even thought we never saw even one mushroom. As I thanked God for a walk in the woods, he used it to speak to me about my often misplaced hunt for affirmation.

“I’m clearing the way for you to step in. Just follow me. You’ll get some scratches, sure…but I’ll be just ahead of you, making a way. Call out to me; I’ll be listening for your voice and I’ll respond.

I’m giving you some space to explore; I want you to experience all that I’ve created for you. There is danger, sure. You may get some wounds, but they will pale in comparison to the beauty of walking with me.”

Friends I know he is leading me toward something new. I’m scared that I’ll get hurt. And I might. This life was not intended to be easy.

He is teaching me to think less about myself in the midst of a selfie culture.

I’ve found myself returning to the empty cistern of people to get my tank filled, looking for likes and loves and affirmation that only he can give. I’ve asked friends (while not openly because that’s just weird) to fill me up, to refuel me for service and I’ve come back empty. Every. Single. Time.

It’s not his plan. He’s the one and only one who never tires of me, who calls me beautiful and beloved. He will literally leave the entire flock and come searching for me (Matthew 18:12) as I wander, trying to find my way, sometimes getting lost in the distraction of the pretty things along the way.

He never tires of you. He is waiting for you to call out; I’m convinced he’s setting up scenarios for your success. He called to Peter to step out of the boat, knowing he would not sink as long as he kept his eyes on him!

Your salvation and honor depend on God alone. He is your mighty rock; pour your heart out to him and never fear rolling eyes or impatient sighs. He is trustworthy. Go ahead, lay it all out in front of him, your REFUGE. Follow him, even if you fear a few scratches. He’s got you and he’s got something beautiful for you just beyond the thorns.

By grace alone, I’m following into this new thing,

lorraine

 

Yes, my soul, find rest in God: my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people.
Pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
Psalm 62:5-8 (NOV)

 

I’m Way Too Busy for You!

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I’m Way Too Busy for You!

 

Don’t you just love it when you ask someone how they are and they quickly respond “Busy!”? There are times that I walk away from that person, feeling that I’ve been an unwelcome distraction from the important stuff that just lagged behind because they slowed a bit to respond to my question.

I absolutely understand that often people are truly busy. Everyone has a lot going on.

I have some little grandchildren who are BUSY. On a recent visit I followed one toddling little munchkin along a trail of pint sized clothing to find that he had opened a dresser drawer and was methodically removing all of the carefully laundered, folded and matched up tops and bottoms and scattering them about the house.

I tried, to no avail, to interest him in play with age-appropriate, entertaining toys. He preferred running amuck and creating havoc. He is the cutest little mess and I love him!

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As I’ve thought about my penchant for overscheduling, overcommitting and overextending, I keep going back to that toddler’s mess. I wonder if that is how my life looks to my heavenly father as he observes me dashing from one thing to another rather than settling down and allowing him to lead me into worthwhile, enjoyable activity. Thankfully, he loves me!

But wait, people who are making a difference, people who are movers and shakers are busy, right? Perhaps, but I’m learning that the people I admire, people who accomplish much, are avoiding busyness – they are taming the beast with intentional planning.

Reaching this stage of life is no joke, friends. There is an undeniable reality; life is now fleeting. Nearly every week we hear news of someone we know who has passed into eternity. This verse is speaking to me, bringing me to a place of longing for God’s plan for every day, so much more than my own:

Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well! – Psalm 90:12 MSG

So, I’ve been paying attention to smart, Godly people when they speak about time management. I’m searching Scripture. I want to know that I am ready for the next thing, especially if the next thing is meeting Jesus.

Here are four things I’m doing to make sure busyness doesn’t rule my life:

  • Plan. Count the cost, for every yes is a no to something else.“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” ~ Luke 14:28 ESV

    I’ve found that a planner is a great visual; it is easy to see when the squares are filling up and spilling over into each other. I use washi tape and markers emphasize the important days and events, the time that is sacred to me and/or the ones I love. I find myself protecting it, drawing actual borders around those hours and days. Make dates for happiness and keep them.

  • Build margin into your planning. Make room for the unexpected, the divine encounters.“We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it.”.~ Prov 16:9 MSG

    When every square is full there is little opportunity for spontaneity. I don’t want to be an inhospitable, unapproachable busy person who doesn’t have time for people.

  • Establish priorities. While some priorities are set (God, Family, Work) the way that we manage them is fluid. Different seasons of life may change your time allocation to each.

    “There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens…” ~ Eccl 3:1 ESV

    What are your goals? Make sure that you have time set aside to work toward them. Write that list of books you want to read this year in the margin of your planner. List the steps required to reach those ambitious goals. You will do it!
  • Establish an inner circle of friends. Are there so many people texting you that you lose track and don’t respond? Have you offended someone close to you because you just didn’t have time for them?Consider this. The Lord himself invested himself personally in just twelve others. He narrowed that even more to an inner circle of three who were there for him in his darkest hour.

    “Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.” ~ Matt 26:37-38 MSG

    I’m focused on building meaningful relationships with a few. I will be a better friend and will have dear friends to walk with me through the most difficult days. Influence many, but invest in a few ~ that is the example of Christ.

Time is the one of the few resources that is equally granted to each of us. When the master comes, will he be pleased with the way that I invested mine or disappointed in my foolish spending?

Only by the MARVELOUS grace of God,

lorraine


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It’s Not Fair – A Book Review and Giveaway

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It’s Not Fair – A Book Review and Giveaway

For the past couple of summers, I’ve been getting together with a group of young moms for book club. We agree on a book by a contemporary Christian author and spend most Wednesday nights discussing sections of the book around a table outside our favorite local coffee shop.

2016 Book CLub

A few of the beauties from Summer Book Club 2016

 

This past spring when Women Are Scary was suggested, I was not familiar with Melanie Dale but I was intrigued by the title (because, well…they can be) and the premise of the book. In it, Melanie compares “momlationships” to dating, complete with analogies of rounding the bases. I fell in love with her writing style.

Melanie’s sarcasm is totally relatable for me; I grew up surrounded by it and it might be one of my love languages. And yet, she has a kindness about her that draws you in close and makes you want to spend time with her words. (And her, but there’s only so much of her to go around, so we can be thankful she wrote this stuff down!)

When I learned she had written another book, I managed to worm my way right into the inner circle of awesomeness that is her launch team.

 

I’ve been privileged to settle into It’s Not Fair over the past few weeks. While our stories are radically different in detail, we share the inevitable reality that life has not been fair to us. And if we stopped there, the book would be nothing more than a reminder that some seasons of life just blow and we are not alone in our angst.

Melanie is authentic; she shares her journey through infertility and adoption with candor. She said herself that she can’t solve your stuff, so if you’re looking for a self-help book, move along…nothing to see here.

But if you are looking for someone to “sit next to you in your stuff” (or if you want to learn how to be a BOSS at sitting next to someone in their stuff) this is a must read.

Have you ever wanted to help but didn’t know how? There is an entire section titled “100 Things You Can Do to Help” but while you are at it, be sure to check out “Things You Should Say If You Want a Good Face Punch”. Let’s face it, we’ve all been there.

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Are you wallowing in the middle of something unimaginable right now? You will want to speed read over to the chapter on coping mechanisms but take your time because there is some really good stuff before you get there, some validation and empathy and I bet you could use that right about now.

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I have a list of favorite quotes. I laughed and I cried; I folded corners on pages so I wouldn’t lose them and I highlighted with fury. I drew smiley faces and sad faces and mad faces and I might have created some emojis of my very own. I felt validated and understood. Did you hear that? Validated. Understood. Seriously. Life. Changing.

Here are some of my personal favorites that:

  • “The words inside are like family. They’re raw and awkward and offensive and loving and encouraging and hopeful.” – (regarding the Bible)
  • “Safe people can let you lead the conversation and talk about what you need to talk about, not what they need to know.”
  • “Sometimes we need to stop trying to make each other feel better and just be together. Just join our friends in their ashes and sit quietly by their side.”
  • “Find the grace-bearers in your life. These are the people with whom you can be disgusting and they offer you grace and forgiveness.”
  • “But we need each other. We don’t need hordes of people, but we need a few to tether us to reality and remind us why our altered life might still be worth living.”

I loved all of it, including the rudimentary stick figure drawings and the chapter of recipes, because, well…food.

At the conclusion she didn’t wrap it all up with a nice bow and suggest we follow her step by step program to heal all of our pain and live happily ever after.

Rather, we display our scars, and when we pass each other and notice them, see the beauty in them, we nod. Solidarity.

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It’s not fair; we know it and we own it. For ourselves, yes, and for each other.

 

Wouldn’t you love to read this book? I suggest you run on over to one of the sites below and preorder it today! And if you comment below, right here on the blog page, I will enter you in a random drawing for a copy of the book! That’s right…I’m going to give a copy to one of my readers. I am so excited to bless you with this, but go ahead and order one, because you will want to give a copy to a friend!

By his grace, because Life’s not fair,

lorraine
The contest is closed. Congratulations Miranda! 

Thanks to everyone who participated! Now, order yourself a copy – you won’t regret it!

Pre-Order It’s Not Fair Today

FREE “Sur-Thrival Kit: Coping Strategies Activity Book” and “It’s Not Fair Discussion Guide” with pre-order.  Just email your receipt to unexpectedmel@unexpected.org to receive recipes, coloring sheets, group discussion questions, and Mel’s undying gratitude.

 

 

 

Wait! I Have to Wait???

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Wait! I Have to Wait???

Last Saturday we got up at three in the morning for a one day road trip to a destinatIon four hundred miles away. There was a new baby at the end of that road and it was time to meet her.

I had waited a week and I couldn’t wait any longer. I’d kept reminding myself that there were others helping my daughter with the day to day; I knew it was my turn to wait. I didn’t like it, but I waited.

Waiting

When we arrived at the house, Nana greeted us, baby in arms. She whispered that the other children didn’t know we were coming. I couldn’t wait to surprise them!

The five older children were in the backyard with Mom, enjoying some play time before the sun was high and hot. I paused to watch them play and then turned to my daughter. She looked tired; with a newborn and a four month old in the house, she hadn’t had much sleep. Wait, what?

You read that right. The youngest, just about four weeks old, was just visiting; her foster parents were on vacation at the beach and were getting a respite. My daughter was willing to cuddle a newborn for a short ten days to give them some time of refreshment.

A call came on Friday; Mom was enjoying caring for the wee one and they were all looking forward to Dad and their oldest brother returning from camp the next day. When she heard the request, the answer was an immediate yes. Yes, they would foster the baby, a four month old, currently in the hospital and a sibling to their adopted daughter.

Mom would be spending the next day at the hospital to meet with doctors and begin bonding with the precious girl. Hospital time; she waited to take her home.

The following day, a little girl who had been living in an unsafe situation moved into a house filled with children and love. The details aren’t mine to share; her story is still being written and by the grace of God, I am only part of it.

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The troops were rallied; friends, neighbors and family began showing up. Thirty-six hours isn’t much time to prepare for a new baby.

In the meantime, Dad and older brother were experiencing some delays of their own. Homeward bound and anxious to reunite with family, their bus broke down in the middle of nowhere. They weighed options and waited.

I’m a doer. Over the years as my daughters gave birth, I helped. I loved to pop in with food and while I was there do some laundry or a little cleaning.

This time, when I said “I’ll come”, she said “Others are here. Just wait, mom.”

You know how your “heart” is the seat of your emotions but your actual heart is pumping blood and keeping you alive? How is it then, that when your heart is aching the pain is in your chest? I struggled for a week with putting my finger on the emotion that was bringing me so much discomfort.

Was I jealous? Was I suffering from a severe case of “fear of missing out”? After all, other grandmas were there, in my daughter’s home, doing all sorts of things to help her. Oh dear Jesus, take the wheel, I wailed. Am I jealous? But when I got still and honest, I felt nothing but gratitude and love for those women who were there to help.

On Thursday afternoon, as I cleaned the break room kitchen at the office, I prayed (a great thing to do while taking care of mindless chores, by the way). Give me some clarity, I asked. Help me sort all of this out.

Suddenly it was clear. A new grandchild was waiting. I needed to hold her and speak words of hope and love over her. “It’s time…go” HE said.

For the fifth time in just three years, I took a baby that might leave in my arms; I opened my heart without holding anything back. I will gladly surrender it in exchange for the assurance that this little one will know the love of a grandma.

Waiting. This very minute, I have two grandchildren in waiting. Oh, not in my heart; they are sealed there forever, but the courts are still doing the legal stuff and so we wait for the day their names will be written in our family Bible just as they have been etched in our hearts.

In the waiting there is a beautiful picture of God’s waiting for us. He loves us even before we have all of the legal stuff (our sin) figured out and he loves us first.

Teach me to wait with your patience and steadfast love, Lord.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us… 1 John 4:10a ESV

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 ESV

 By His grace alone,

lorraine

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Giving Up Wasn’t an Option

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Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. – James 5:16

I had forgiven her. I laid the offense at the feet of Jesus and left it. My dear friend had been part of something that wounded me deeply. I knew that it would take time to heal, but forgiveness was my part of the process and I’d offered it up with complete abandon.

But something was off; it was a sort of niggling in my spirit.

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I’m thrilled to be sharing this story over on Kelly Basham’s blog, Blossom in Faith. Please click here to read the rest of my story.

 

 

Relationship Status Update

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girl-925284_1280I was having coffee with a friend. We were sitting outside, enjoying a beautiful fall evening and one another’s company. In the course of conversation, I mentioned a picture and grabbed my phone to share it. I was immediately distracted by notifications and actually lost my train of thought (what WAS I looking for?). I wish I could say that was an isolated incident. Not even close.

Riding in the car with my hubby, the radio is always loud. His philosophy is that if the music is too loud, you are too old. While he is always willing to turn the volume down and listen to my chatter, I have recently taken to pulling out my phone when we are riding together. Before I know it, I’ve been perusing status updates, checking email and twitter and browsing Pinterest far too long and I have no idea where we are or have been. Next to reaching our destination, my favorite part of any trip is the journey. Lately I’ve been missing too much of the journey.

Sunday mornings are the best; coffee at home from a real cup and leisurely breakfast with my hubby before church. Recently we slept in. The extra rest was much needed but we were a bit rushed. After a quick breakfast I hurried to get ready. In record time we were on our way. Settling into a chair in our small group, I reached for my phone to turn the volume off. It wasn’t in my purse. My chest tightened—I was anxious. I learned later that I was suffering from nomophobia – the fear of being out of mobile phone contact (really, it’s an actual thing now). If you think I’m exaggerating, try separating from your phone, even for a short time.

Hubby quickly offered to run home to retrieve it, but I declined. Honestly, it is rare for me to get a call or text on Sunday morning. And my children know that the parents are together, so they would reach out to dad if mom didn’t answer. But what if there was a need to research a term during class or locate lyrics from a worship song (I actually do this)? What if something in the service was awesome and I wanted to share a picture on Facebook or Instagram? I felt the anxiety of losing connection – to my people (although a lot of them were in the room with me) and to information. The truth is, absent that instant connection to the WORLD, I was actually present in MY world—100% engaged, fully focused on the people and happenings aound me that morning. It was refreshing.

AdultBinkyAll of this led me to an article in the Huffington Post referencing a study from Iowa State University. You can read it here but the key for me is the scientific test attached to the article. I took it. I am embarrassed to share my score, but I will admit that I have a problem that implies serious FOMO. I am a smartphone junkie and as a result, I am distracted in almost everything I do. Reading a book? Phone within reach. Having dinner/coffee/walk with friends or family? Phone is a third wheel. Even at work, my phone is in my sight, although I don’t take it into meetings (don’t get me started on the madness of people in a meeting checking their phones). Watching TV with the hubs? Phone right next to me.

Worse than my constant connection is the tether (implied and perhaps more me than them) that gives everyone I know instant access to me, with an expectation of immediate response.

I was a child in the 60’s. We had one phone in our little home and it hung on the wall in the living room. Most of my married life was the same. When we were away from home, we were out of touch. When we took a vacation we made sure the people who NEEDED to know had emergency contact information and we truly “checked out” for a period of time.

Today we have information at our fingertips and instant access to people. We follow “friends” on Facebook (I have almost 600 and I bet you have lots more), most of whom we would never take the time to sit with over coffee. Why? Because we don’t have that much time! And yet, I scroll through status updates and see the highlight reel of their lives, and often get the feeling that I’m missing something. All the while, I’m likely sitting with or near a real, live person with whom I desperately need to connect. I recently took one of those Facebook tests, this one to analyze how many hours I spent on Facebook in the last year. I have no idea the accuracy, but I was mortified when it returned 907 HOURS. That’s an average of two and a half hours a day. Lord help.

I am struggling with this, friends. There are so many things I love about social media. But I am feeling and hearing this more and more from others: I have hundreds of connections but few I can count on. Sobering, but for many that is reality.

I have been thinking a lot about Jesus and his friendships. He had a few close friends…three to be exact. Those were the men he poured his life into – they hung out a lot and they worked together. I imagine that on any given day, they knew one another’s whereabouts. They knew about the struggles and the triumphs of one another’s lives. They were in the trenches together and had each other’s backs. They were tight.

Then there were the twelve, and even among those he had a doubter, a denier and a double-crosser. Jesus’ life and ministry touched the masses at times, but he spent his time with a few. He poured his life into even fewer.

I’m beginning to think these last ten years of my life, as I’ve added to my friends list and spread myself thin among relationships, that I’ve been totally off course. While I hope that I can occasionally touch the masses, I’m looking at his example for friendship. I want a few friends who will show up; friends who come in my back door and know the sodas and water bottles are in the garage fridge. I want to be the friend that will change from PJ’s to clothes to meet you because you really, really need to talk. I want to be the friend who takes the time to sit with you in the ER, and cries with you when tragedy touches your life.

And the thing is, we have limited capacity: physically, emotionally and spiritually. I know this because I’ve been disappointed and I’ve disappointed others. I’ve grieved lost jobs and lost kids alone. I’ve known there was a need in a friend’s life but I just didn’t have anything left in me to join them.

Perhaps this has resonated with you. Did you sense a little anxiety as you read? I wish I could tell you I’ve got this, but I am working on it. I’ve begun intentionally spending less time with my virtual connections and intend to return my focus to the people who are part of my inner circle. I’m putting some distance between myself and my smartphone, especially when there are “real” people in my vicinity. I’ve already left home without my phone again, and I’m happy to report the anxiety was much lower!

If you made it this far, here’s a treat for you!  Isn’t this just gorgeous? It was last fall, on my cousins pontoon boat. The only thing we did with cell phones that evening was take some pictures.  Precious time spent with people I love.

StJoe

I would love to hear your perspective and insight. Talk to me by leaving a comment below.

For the Love of Jen Hatmaker

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FortheLoveCoverFor the love….the whole world seems to have gone Jen Hatmaker crazy and for good reason. If you’ve not read anything else by her (for the love, why not???) you must get your hands on a copy of her latest book, For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards. I would demand that you not put it down until you’ve finished, but this is a fact…you won’t want to.

There was a song back in the early ‘80s called “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool”. Catchy tune and one that I am reminded of now. You see, I discovered Jen Hatmaker before it was cool to know her. Several years ago hubby and I were hosting a bunch of newly married couples in our home on Sunday evenings. After we spent several weeks talking marriage we really wanted to challenge the group. I went searching around the internet for something that might do. I discovered a YouTube video for a book study and there she was, in her white peasant blouse and signature long earrings, talking about giving up her prized cowboy boots and walking out of church barefoot in the freezing cold. That was the beginning of my obsession friendship with Jen, and I was all “We HAVE to do this”! And because my husband doesn’t really like to search the web for anything other than stuff to buy on Ebay trusts my discernment, we did the study and it challenged our hearts and we had many wonderful evenings of sharing how a barefoot church might look. That study was Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity. They’ve recently released a new, updated version but I can’t imagine how it could be improved. Life. Changer.

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Notice the dog-eared cover. I’ve read it more than once and I’ve loaned it out several times. This is one you will want to have in paperback – no E-book!

From there I was hooked. I went on Amazon and bought a copy of everything she had written to date. Next life changer from her heart to mine was The Modern Girls Guide to Bible Study. It was as if the woman had been riding in my car, listening as I talked to myself (and sometimes even to Jesus) about how frustrated I was with my inability to read and understand the Bible. I was over studies written by authors with contrived questions that would lead me to the same conclusions as them and for the first time in my adult life I wasn’t teaching a Bible class so I had no structured guide to exploring the Scriptures. I wanted the Word to speak to my heart. I decided to adopt her approach of reading the Bible a new way so that the words of LIFE would become my life.

That was four years ago. I’ve filled a couple of journals, and better yet, I’ve got my tribe of young moms coming with me on this journey through Scripture. I can honestly say that through this approach I’ve come to love the word of God. I spent over forty years following Christ, but never really mastering getting into the Bible and consistently hearing from Him. Sad, and a little embarrassing to admit, but true. If you are in the place that I found myself, earnestly desiring to hear from God, I recommend you read this one. I went from loving and respecting the book that’s called the Bible to loving the very words of God within that book.

Out of the Spin Cycle CoverJen, if you ever read this, can I just say thank you for that devo you did for moms called Out of the Spin Cycle: Devotions to Lighten Your Mother Load? Our little Bible study group goes all “summer book club” in June and we read that together a couple of years ago. We laughed and cried and agreed that every new mom should get this book at her baby shower…and then reconsidered and decided that might be premature. There is so much honesty it just might scare her! This is one of those that you deliver to that mom who is in the midst of the struggle, thinking she is the only one:

“Motherhood triggers something that went dormant about the time we left middle school. We’re seeded with this desire to be thought well of, to be admired, to be affirmed in our hard work as moms. We tend to report our babies sleeping longer than they do, our discipline as working more often that it does, and our systems as creating some efficient home that doesn’t exist. We are masters at propping up our lives, spinning a thread of truth into an elaborate tapestry of grandeur–when in fact, during young motherhood most of us live in what my girlfriend Loren calls a “poop storm”.”[i]

Read it, then gift it to a mom friend who is overwhelmed…and be thankful for the honesty (she confesses the time she told her son, who had just opened a sassy mouth, to grab a shovel and start digging his own grave), the humor and the truth within the pages. In these forty devotions, she shares stories from her journey of mothering along with thought-provoking questions and honest, practical steps out of the spin cycle. If I had read this back in the seventies, I would have been a better mom and friend to other moms, I’m sure of it. Of course, Jen was a baby when I was raising children, but you know what I mean…

And back to where we started…For the Love. Jen covers it all in this one, from fashion and family to recipes and the church. I love my church, but all of my life I’ve struggled to know where I fit. Jen’s affirmation of women and the kingdom is spot on:

“God is unveiling women around the world. He always has and continues to work through women and girls, who are half of His church. They are, like men and boys, His image bearers. They are also, like men and boys, gifted, empowered, smart, and anointed.”[ii]

And this…this has much to do with why I’m now posting a blog. Every. Week.

“Say yes to that thing. Work with a mentor. Stop minimizing what you are good at and throw yourself into it with no apologies. Do you know who will do this for you? No one. You are it. Don’t bury that talent, because the only thing fear yields is one dormant gift in a shallow grave. How many trot out that tired cliché—“I’m waiting for God to open a door”—and He is all, “I love you, but get going, pumpkin, because usually chasing the dream in your heart looks surprisingly like work. Don’t just stand there, bust a move.” (God often sounds like Young MC.) You are good at something for a reason. God designed you this way, on purpose.”[iii]

Are you tired of trying to live a balanced life? What IS that supposed to look like, anyway?

“Balance. It’s like a unicorn; we’ve heard about it, everyone talks about it and makes airbrushed T-shirts celebrating it, it seems super rad, but we haven’t actually seen one. I’m beginning to think it isn’t a thing.

Here is part of the problem, girls; we’ve been sold a bill of goods. Back in the day, women didn’t run themselves ragged trying to achieve some impressively developed life in eight different categories.”[iv]

Yes, Jen, a thousand times yes. So, trust me on this. You have to read it. If I cited every quote that spoke to me I’d have to pay her royalties and besides, the book has a great cover.  Just buy it and you can thank me later.

When I got to the end of For the Love, I saw that list of the 500 launch team members and I grieved. You see, 500 people were chosen to form a launch team for this book, seeking authentic endorsements from real people. I so wanted to be in that number, rather than the #4500 (the rest of the applicants who were not selected) where I landed. But grace is a beautiful thing, and I forgive you and your publishers, Jen, for not selecting me. Now that I have a blog and I’m a writer and everything….maybe next time. Because, for the love, why not?

After all of this, surely you can see that I AM her BFF. If you want to challenge me on that, I’m going to need someone to hold my earrings…..

[i] Out of the Spin Cycle: Devotions to Lighten your Mother Load – Jen Hatmaker

[ii] For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards – Jen Hatmaker

[iii] For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards – Jen Hatmaker

[iv] For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards – Jen Hatmaker

I’ve Got to Find Those Keys!

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I’ve Got to Find Those Keys!

I spent the weekend with a group of younger women, some of them half my age. I  have to admit it has been while since I was doing anything at 2 a.m. other than possibly making a sleepy trek to the bathroom. It was so much fun!

It was a “Key Women” retreat, a time to renew and refresh commitments to be and be surrounded by women who, as Ann Voskamp puts it, “free you to be your best you, your unbound you, your beautiful you”. There was a lot of laughter and a few tears.

As I looked around the room I was overwhelmed by the power of what I witnessed. These were diverse women: an attorney, state at home moms, an administrator, and teachers…some are fashionistas and others are most comfortable in yoga pants and t-shirts.

Some struggle with perfectionism and others are comfortable with a sink full of dishes and piles of waiting laundry. Introverts and extroverts, melancholy and sanguine and more.

How can a group of women, so diverse, so different from one another in many ways, love each other at this level?

It began with a choice to stop “holding one another to a standard of perfection instead of letting us all be held by His arms of grace.”[i] (Ann says it so well…take a few minutes to read her post, referenced below)

They’ve decided to release and free one another to be the best and most real version of who God has designed them to be.

It doesn’t matter if they stand at a sink or sit at a screen, spend their days with children or in a courtroom; whether they occupy a cubicle, the corner office or the driver’s seat of a minivan; each one has a unique calling and giftedness.

They won’t judge one another for their housekeeping, design choices, parenting skills, size of their waist or the style of their hair.

I wasn’t there to speak or lead. I was just their mentor, at a very different place in my life. I am amazed by what I see God doing in them, individually and collectively.

My generation was expected to perform with perfection. Perfect walk, perfect home, perfect marriage. The mentors in my life encouraged striving toward clean homes, clean children, clean cars and clean living. It was exhausting and impossible. I felt the sting of criticism rather than open arms of grace.

These women are encouraging one another to become rather than do. They are liberating one another from self-doubt, self-pity and self-loathing. They are encouraging one another to let Christ be real in them.

They are women who have chosen to clothe themselves with love and do the hard work of cultivating relationships that go deep and require looking at women with eyes of love and compassion rather than through lenses of criticism and judgment.

Do you have key women in your life? How are you encouraging them? What have they brought to your life that has helped release you from the bondage of perfectionism and performance?

Praying you’ll find your keys.

 

 

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. – Colossians 3:12-17

 

[i] http://www.aholyexperience.com/2014/07/how-women-can-stop-judging-each-other-a-movement-of-key-women/

Summer Isn’t Over but We Press On

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If you’ve been reading my posts you know by now that I’m writing all over the place. It’s been quite a ride already and if you are actually one of those wonderful people faithfully navigating the twists and turns with me, THANK YOU! We exceeded 900 views last week – that’s just crazy talk and I know that’s only possible because of your shares. Please keep it up.

Over here where I live, it’s still hotter than blazes. In Central Florida summer lasts until, I don’t know, late December? Maybe not, but it definitely outlasts its welcome well into November. Don’t get me wrong. I love that I can swing through Dunkin’ Donuts for a pumpkin latte on my way home from the beach. How great is that? In the style of my BFF (in my dreams) Jen Hatmaker, thank you Southern Living magazine for delivering the Fall issue this week. In the name of all that is holy and sacred, how do you people not know what the weather is like in….well, the south? It’s a cruel tease when our air conditioners are cranking at full capacity and if not for the daily thunderstorms every living thing in the lawn would be dry and shriveled. Fall is what happens in Northeastern Indiana. I know this because I have been there and it’s glorious. While I wouldn’t trade for their winter, right about now I’m pining for their fall weather. So thank you from a Florida girl who mostly loves the climate.

Dock on St Joe

Dock on the St. Joe River in Leo, Indiana

LaCroix

Until it cools off enough for spiced cider and lattes, I’m exploring all sorts of cool refreshing beverages. My current favorite is LaCroix Coconut water with a splash of lime. While sweet tea with lots of fresh lemon is my standby, this is a wonderful sugar free alternative. Another new favorite this summer is iced coffee from Chick-fil-A. This treat is worthy of nomination as a comfort food.

Eli

On other fronts, I just have brag on God’s faithfulness in the little things. We have a sweet little grandchild who is getting some therapy to help with developmental issues. The therapist was excited about a toy that he really responded to in therapy and recommended it. Unfortunately, it is no longer sold in stores. While it could be located through an online channel, it was expensive. That evening, my daughter shared a picture on her Facebook page, hoping that a friend might have one or see one at a garage sale or resale shop. Early the next morning, someone reached out. There was a brand new post on a local resale board, offering a menagerie of infant toys. And in the midst of them…the very toy that we needed for little guy! So often I want to swoop in and make things happen on my own when often our God, Jehovah-Jireh (literally, the LORD will provide), has already provided. Ask, wait and receive.

Nobody’s Cuter Than These Sweet Things!

My tribe of young moms (I’m obviously the elder) reads a book together every summer. I can’t talk about summer without mentioning this year’s read. It’s a new release by one of our favorite mom bloggers, Melanie Shankle. “Nobody’s Cuter than You” celebrates friendship. We laughed and cried over the honest stories of developing friendships and learning how to be a friend along the way. We give it a big thumbs up.

Mike and I enjoying a mental health day at the beach last weekend.

Last week I wrote about marriage. On a recent weekend Hubby knew I needed a mental health day and he declared that we were going to “look at water” on Saturday. Honestly, the very best thing ever for my soul. It was a little mini vacay and I love him for knowing when I need this.

And finally, you have to see the new movie “War Room”. From the Kendrick Brothers (“Fireproof” and “Courageous”), this one stunned the box office watchers over the weekend with its $11 million debut. I know nothing of Hollywood and critics, but I bawled my eyes out. It is a beautiful story of mentoring and the power of prayer…two of my favorite things. My favorite line? “Submission is ducking so God can hit your husband.”

Finding Ways to be With Them

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If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember.
You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you. ― A.A. Milne

We are weeks into a friend’s cancer diagnosis. It sucks, and what sucks more is that there are three thousand miles between us. These two have always fought hard…for their family and for their lives. In fact, they are veterans in the battle against cancer; but I want to shoulder up with them on the front lines. With every week that passes my longing increases to be there with them as they walk this path.

And I will be….in a few weeks. But in the meantime, I’ve been scouring the web, talking with survivors and gathering as much information as possible on ways to touch my friends from a distance. If you read this post a couple of weeks ago, you know that for me, love is action. Close on the heels of my longing to DO something is my fear that it will be the wrong thing or I’ll do it at the wrong time. (Case in point, mailing a candy bar in the middle of August without proper cold packs.) If I’m not careful, I will do nothing. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this quest to do the right thing.

First and always, pray. I know…it sounds so cliché. But when asked, so often that is the first answer from a cancer patient. Asphilippians1_3 a friend, you’ll often know exactly the needs and pray specifically for those. There are times that I have no words of my own but I need to speak them (they are sort of my thing), so I pray verses from Colossians 1, Philippians 1 and the Lord’s Prayer. These are the prayers of the saints!

Send a card. Don’t fret too much about the card itself, but focus on the words. When I asked a survivor friend, she said “I’m a Words girl so the personal hand written messages, even from people I didn’t know very well, carried great meaning.” And don’t be afraid to use humor. You know your friend best – if they are playful, celebrate that with fun cards and inside jokes.

If your friend and/or their caregiver likes to stop by Chick fil A or Starbucks for a treat, send a gift card to cover the cost of a visit and add a corny message like “If I could pop in with your favorite treat, I’d be there in a minute. Next one’s on me, and there’s lots of love sent with it.”  Double smiles if they enjoy your goofy humor!

Gift cards to cover convenience meals come in handy on treatment or appointment days. Check to see what is in their area, but places like Boston Market and Cracker Barrel for hearty meals or Panera for soup and lighter fare are some options.

Every visit to a doctor, hospital or treatment facility involves a copay. Those add up a quickly so another wonderful gift is a grocery store gift card. Sometimes, more than a meal, the family needs some cereal or toilet paper, or a prescription refilled. If you aren’t sure of the appropriate retailer, consider a VISA or MasterCard gift card – they can be used almost everywhere.

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Small yet thoughtful items for pocket or bag

A care package is another wonderful way to bless. Consider mints or ginger drops to counter bad tastes from drugs. Include some special tea and shortbreads. A good quality lip balm and skin lotion are great options – just be mindful of any issues with scents. Note cards and postage stamps (there are so many great designs – check out this one on the USPS website – I love it!) are also great to include. The emphasis in this is quality over quantity – so thoughtfully choose a few items that will truly be used and are perfect for your friend. You know them, you love them, so handpick items that you are drawn to. Most important, add words that will encourage and bless and even entertain.

Send a super soft, comfy throw or pillow – it’s great for car trips and chemo, or just resting at home. It may well be their favorite thing. Emphasize – QUALITY – it’s a subtle way to send the message that you expect them to get well and be around to use it for a long time. Being generous, even magnanimous, gives hope to the one receiving that they have time to enjoy the gift.

Create a recovery playlist – send the playlist along with a gift card to cover the cost of the song downloads. This is especially wonderful during chemo.

Gift a subscription to a magazine related to her interests/hobbies. Fatigue may interfere with reading novels but short stories/articles are just right. A gift subscription to Netflix or HuluPlus is another wonderful idea.

If their dietary restrictions and your budget permit, send a fresh fruit arrangement. They are beautiful and a wonderful treat. I’ve had great experience locally with Edible Arrangements. A nice box of cookies or chocolates that they can offer guests is a great gift – if they are a host at heart, it’s a way for them to show hospitality to visitors.

Send lots of text messages – include a funny picture or encouraging quote – and always add “No need to respond”. Sometimes texting is exhausting, but getting messages is awesome. Funny-Text-Messages-Google-logo

Gentle readers, cancer touches each of us. The National Cancer Institute predicts in 2015 there will be 1,658,370 new diagnoses in the United States alone. It’s likely that you have either been personally touched or have a near friend or family member who is presently in the battle. I will be blessed if you leave a comment.  How have friends encouraged and blessed you and your family?

 

Note: The recommendations above that specify a particular brand or service are based on my personal experience alone and I was not compensated in any way.