Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I'm a White Girl from Whittier and I'm #GoingThere


 I was raised in a city that is 65% Hispanic.

Growing up, my family hosted a slew of international students. I heard hushed tones of Japanese whispers sneaking out from the downstairs bedroom and boisterous bursts of Argentinian laughter booming from the corner room upstairs. College students from Taiwan and China, Finland, France, and Spain gathered around our dining room table to share food and culture and conversation.

Later we rented a spare room to an older woman from Sri Lanka. I remember liking her coffee colored skin but having a harder time with the pungent smelling leftovers she left uncovered in the fridge.

In high school I dated a Vietnamese guy whose parents weren't too keen on the fact that I was white.

There was a black girl on my basketball team and apricot was not the most common colored skin in our school.

Through the years my mom dated several men of color and my dad's second wife was Korean. I celebrated a half dozen Christmases with my three Asian American step-siblings and never minded my step-mom's special kimchi refrigerator. 

I have one niece and five nephews on two sides of my family who are half Mexican and beautiful.

I adore my boys' pediatrician who is from somewhere in the Middle East. His thick accent and foreign inflection have become comforting indicators of expertise and care.

I live in Southern California, one of the most ethnically diverse regions in the entire country.

So, I'm kind of good, right?

I've rubbed shoulders and shared meals with people who don't share my pale complexion. I'm used to hearing different languages spoken in Target and the nail salon.

I don't have a problem with race.

I honestly don't think much about it.

So, I'm kind of in the clear, yes?

Or maybe not so much.

Maybe some people I care about, some voices I respect, are starting to speak up, speak out to say that the status quo of quasi-diversity isn't "all good" after all. Maybe there's a whole lot about how God designed, how God desires the Church and Christian community to look like that people like me are completely missing.

Should I feel badly that I'm a thirty-something white female living in an upper-middle class neighborhood in a predominately white pocket of LA? No.

I am who I am, I am where I am because of God's design for my life.

But have I ever stopped to consider that the design that looks similar to mine — the same one I primarily sit next to at church and play with at the park and read online and listen to at conferences — is not the only one God made? That white is not the only hue, form, voice God cares about? Not the only story, perspective, experience I can learn from, be blessed by, or call mentor, friend, pastor, or teacher?

Of course not, I say. Surely not all the roles I respect, people I cherish in my life have to be white.

But have I ever purposed to seek out something other?


Have I ever intentioned to pursue someone unlike me for the purpose of discovering the unique value they would bring? 

Have I ever considered inviting a person with another color skin into my life for the goal of delighting in who they are and how their perspective might be rich and beautiful, necessary and crucial because of our differences?

Honestly? No.

Maybe not even once.

And this, I am awakening to, is part of the problem.

My part in the problem.

.     .      .     .      .

I scribbled down these mind whirrings, heart stirrings in my journal last week, days before the news of Michael Brown's tragic death and #Ferguson made its way into my tiny life bubble. I poured out these honest reflections rooted in deep questions after having the privilege of hearing a perspective from someone who feels "other," from someone who I viewed as "in" but opened my eyes to how horribly skewed "being in" may be.

I feel wildly inadequate to enter into this conversation. I fear that I have nothing noteworthy to share, nothing of value to add. But as I listen to others chiming in to this #GoingThere conversation, I realize that every voice is important. 

Every voice has value. That's kind of the point.

As a white woman who doesn't have a "problem" with race, I worry that I'll make things worse or sound stupid or say the wrong thing.

But what if not saying something is wrong?

What if you don't have to be a race-relations scholar or diversity expert to offer a thoughtful contribution? 

What if you don't have to be an outright racist or full-blown bigot to be a source of contention?  

What if not having all the answers or understanding all the facts or being able to own all the wrong aren't good enough excuses to keep quiet? 

What if just saying that I've been wrong, that I've excluded or discounted the rainbow of God's people, is a right place to start?



What if better actions need to trump good intentions?

With the heated debates and warring words exploding on social media right now, I feel even further disqualified to add my tiny white-girl-from-Whittier two cents. 

But God never said I had to be qualified to be obedient. He didn't say I have to be qualified to love, to speak up, to bend low, to say I'm sorry, let's do better. 

He didn't say I have to be qualified to open my hands and reach out.

So here I am. 

Hands open and outreaching. 

__________________________


Related Links:
Simple Things by Deidra Riggs
On Coming Together by Alia Joy
I'm a White Girl from Rural Iowa...and I'm 'Going There' by Jennifer Dukes Lee 
I'm a white girl from the South African suburbs and I'm "going there" by Lisa-Jo Baker

__________________________


Blessed to share with the Jennifer and Holley's beautiful communities.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Wild Thing God Asked Me to Do

I'm applying a second coat of concealer to mask the dark circles under my eyes -- ugly beautiful reminders of the heart bearing, soul sharing that happened in hotel hallways way past the midnight hour.

My five year old stands besides me and rifles through my bathroom drawer. He pulls out my favorite tangible treasure from the weekend. A one and a quarter inch dome of glass secured to an antique bronze textured plate, encasing an aged-looking photo of a miniature typewriter. A message has been typed on the tiny device for the pendant wearer to wield: Wild Obedience.

"Mommy, what's this?" Noah asks excitedly, holding up the gift.

"It's a special necklace I got from the conference I was at."

"Oh, Mommy, it is SO awesome! Can you wear it right now?"

I take the necklace from him and let the thin brown chain fall through my fingers. I feel the weight of the charm in my palm. Run my thumb over the smooth glass globe.


And I think, I just came back from Declare. I don't need to wear this necklace yet. It's a keepsake. A reminder. A symbol of what I learned. (Plus it doesn't even match my outfit.) Yes, I should save it for something special. Or save it for when I forget.

My brown eyed boy stares up at me, waiting to see if his mama will comply with his simple, joy-filled request. I read the tiny text again. This time it sinks in. I know the better answer.

"Yes, Noah," I say. "I'll wear it right now."

And I slip the delicate chain over my head and let the bold words rest on my chest.

Wild Obedience. 


That's why I flew 1,400 miles and shivered three days straight in freezing conference rooms. That's why I left my three small boys the last weekend of summer, the weekend right before my oldest babe starts kindergarten. For wild obedience. To walk through the door God opened. And to make space in my life and heart to ask him which doors he's preparing for me next. (And then listen for the answer.)

I touched down in Dallas ready. Ready to share life with new sisters, reconnect with acquainted believers, and squeeze tight in the flesh friends I had yet only known online. I was ready to glean wisdom from these beautiful women, soak up inspiration from every speaker, and scribble down each practical tip and heart stirring word from workshops morning, afternoon, and night.

And I was ready to hear from God. I was ready to respond to whatever he might whisper or shout. Ready to say Yes! to whatever wild thing he might ask me to obey.

Want to know what I heard? Want to know what the God of crazy faith who calls some to sacrifice their child or brave a den of lions or bear a Savior son said to me? What the God who calls some to the African bush or the front line of AIDS or the back streets of trafficking, want to know what this God of huge, impossible, life-changing calls said to me?

He said wild doesn't always mean big. 

He said obeying doesn't always mean succeeding. 

He said wild obedience doesn't always mean having something to show someone who wants to know how God showed up for you at a blogging conference.

He said wild obedience doesn't need to begin with a game-changing post or trip around the world. It needs to begin on post-conference day one. To-day. Not tomorrow or some could-be-monumental, dream-come-true, over-the-moon kind of day.

Wild obedience begins today.
 
So what does wild obedience look like today for this stay-at-home mom in a Southern California suburb? It looks like changing diapers and loads of laundry, running the dishwasher and after school pick up. It looks like singing nap-time songs, soothing afternoon tempers, and splashing in the backyard blowup pool when I should be fixing dinner.

Wild obedience, God whispered, is what you're already doing. 
It's cleaning up the spilled milk and asking for forgiveness when you scream.
It's choosing mud for your selfishness and soaking up every exhausting and exhilarating
moment that makes up "these days."

Wild obedience isn't trendy or tweet-worthy. It's ordinary and often dirty. Like muffin tins with gunk stuck on the rim.



You had to fly halfway across the country and pay lots of money to learn that? you may ask.

Yup.

My heart needed to relearn in a deep-down-don't-dare-you-forget-it way that the wild obedience God is requiring of me today has nothing to do with the big-ideal-dreams I imagine and everything to do with the small-imperfect-reality I live. And that to Him, diffusing tantrums and scraping scrambled egg bits off the bottom of the pan can be just as courageous as writing a book or speaking to an audience of thousands.

Could God some day call me to pen a memoir or start a nonprofit? Could he open the door for me to serve in a third world country or teach in a coliseum? Yes, he could. I would be thrilled if some day he would.

But the God-surrendered, grace-filled women at Declare taught me that, more often than not, wild obedience doesn't happen out in public view where many can applaud. It happens in the private places where only One can silently see.

I walk to the kitchen and refill sippy cups with milk and stave off the pull to answer email.

My necklace taps gently against my chest with each step.


And I whisper back to God, and to myself,

Wild obedience is not for an extraordinary someday. 
It's for each ordinary everyday.

Wild obedience is not just the words I write. 
It's the message that I live.


*     *     *

Sharing my reflections with the Declare Conference link-up, as well as with my God-story sisters at Jennifer's and Holley's blogs. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Beginning Again {Big Announcement!}


 
No, I'm not pregnant.

It's not that type of big announcement and beginning again. We are content with our three-boy crew and have no plans for birthing anymore boys (or girls for that matter...but, oooh, little girls. I love them! ...I digress.)

BUT, this big announcement I hold in my heart is a whole lot like giving birth in many ways.

There's the hopes and dreams. The prayers and preparation. The anticipation for what this new life will look like, feel like, sound like. How he will change you; how she will shape you. And amidst all the excitement and anticipation, maybe even a little longing that things would just stay the comfortable same, being scared of change.

That's how I felt before I birthed each of my boys.

...

And that's very much how I feel as I get ready to birth my new blog.

For the last four and a half years "Moments...from becky keife" has been my online home. In some seasons I have resided here regularly, putting my feet, my heart, my ponderings up on the proverbial sofa of frequent posts and poems. In other seasons my little corner of the Web has fallen quiet, collecting dust and cobwebs from isolation, under use.

But this past year has been an especially fond time for me here. I have loved inviting you into my beautiful mess, shining light on my amazing grace Jesus, and sorting through how it's all intertwined in the moments of my day and stirrings of my soul.

Things aren't fancy here in my green and blue blogspot abode. And yet it's been my home.

And though I love it here, know it here, have some of my sweetest memories and most painful moments stored here, I have to admit that sometimes we outgrow a home. Sometimes it's time to move and begin again.

It's that time for me.

God's been stirring this in my heart for almost a year, asking me to be patient. Trust Him. Wait.

(It feels so much like that year we were trying to get pregnant for the first time with Noah and not knowing why it took so long for this longed-for blessing to come along. It also feels a lot like that year we waited for a new home; five people busting out of our two-bedroom house seams, poor baby Jude having to nap in the bathroom.)

But by His sovereignty, the waiting is always for a purpose.   


In less than four weeks my waiting for a new online home will be over. 

I am over the moon excited to share it with you! To invite you into my new living room where we can share laughter and tears, ask tough questions and point each other to hope-filled answers. Together. I'm excited for this new space that will lend itself to easier interaction, deeper conversations. God has put things on my heart to say. But I so want to hear you back.

Things will probably get a little quiet around here in the in-between. That's what happens when you're nesting, preparing for new beginnings.

In the meantime will you consider joining me over at my new community Facebook page? This is where you'll be first to know when my new website goes live! And in the coming weeks I'll be sharing other makes-me-God-giddy announcements coming down the pike.

Click here to join me, won't you?



*     *     *

I'm four days late to the party, but I've been itching to write this post since Friday and share with Lisa-Jo Baker as she hosted her last Five Minute Friday with the word: begin.
Lisa-Jo, I have LOVED being part of your writing flash mob community. I understand how hard letting go of something so good can be. But I am excited to watch where God will lead you as you trust and make space for Him to begin a new work. 

I'm also linking up with two of my other favorite gals online, Jennifer Dukes Lee and Holley Gerth.

Monday, August 4, 2014

I'm Going to Declare! (And 16 Fun Facts About Me)

In October, God opened the door for me to go to a blogging conference called Allume. I came back from that long weekend in South Carolina heart overflowing, heart set on telling you about everything I had learned. Telling you by living it.

It's been a wild nine months and God has grown and stretched my faith and writing like no season before. I haven't lived it out perfectly, but day by day I trust that God is perfecting my faith --not for my glory but for His.

It was my deep desire to return to the Allume this fall, but like God often has a habit of doing in my life, he closed the door I expected...and opened another instead.

This year that door is Declare

In three days I'll hop on a plane during morning's first light to Dallas where I'll gather with women from around the world to be encouraged and equipped in following hard after Jesus in the call He's put on my life. I will continue to learn how to live out the lessons God is penning in my life. 

Declare's theme this year: Wild Obedience. I couldn't be more thrilled!

So now I'm linking up with my Declare sisters to get to know one another before the conference extravaganza begins!

FOUR THINGS ABOUT ME

1. My Man. I've been married to my husband Chris for nine years. Our first photo together was walking down the aisle...not at our wedding but at my sister's! My middle sister married Chris' best friend, so Chris was the Best Man and I was the Maid of Honor. Though he turned me down when I asked him to dance, he made up for it by asking me out five days later. We got married almost three years to the day after my sister and now Chris' best friend is his brother-in-law.

2. My Boys. We have three of the most spirited, dirt-loving little boys the Good Lord ever made: Noah (5), Elias (4), and Jude (2). Though I never asked God to give me three sons in just three and a half years, His plans are always better than any I could write or dream. I wouldn't trade any rowdy, wrestling, stinky, adventuring moment with them for the world.

3. Culture Shock. I grew up with mostly just my single mom as the youngest of three daughters. Though I was a tomboy when I was little, I still find myself in complete culture shock at times over this house full of boys I now call home. Fart humor. Constant climbing. Light sabers and dragon duels. I live in a world of sweaty necks and dirty fingernails. I'm not a prissy girl but I'll be getting a manicure before Declare and enjoying every feminine minute with my writing sisters!

4. California Girl. I was born in Arizona but have lived in California almost by entire life. I rarely have a tan and I've never surfed, but the mild weather and sunny skies are delights I wouldn't easily trade. Yet, sometimes my husband and I dream about what it would be like to trade this life of crowded LA freeways and sky-high cost of living for wide open spaces where our boys could roam wild and free. Only time will tell if God leads me to be a California girl forever.


FOUR OF MY ENDEARING QUIRKS

1. Special Orderer. I special order. Everything. (So does my man.) It's not so much that I'm picky. I just like what I want and want what I like. Okay, I'm a little picky. If we went to lunch at say, Pei Wei, and I ordered a Teriyaki Chicken Bowl, it'd go something like this: No Cabbage, Add Broccoli, Onions Well Done, No Sesame Seeds, Easy Sauce, Brown Rice. Sounds delicious, right?

2. Recovering Stutterer. When I was in fourth grade I had a horrible stutter. I, I, I, couldn't t-t-t-talk w-w-w-without stuttering. When I wasn't stuttering I was jabbering a mile-a-minute. My mom used to tell me that I stuttered because my mind was on hyper drive and my mouth just couldn't always keep up. Kids at school made fun of me, but I think God had my back because the teasing never deeply bothered me. But what does bother me is that sometimes still as a grown woman, when I get really excited or my mind is on overload, my words get twisted and my fourth grade stutter rears its ugly head. It's like I suddenly become that awkward ten year old with greasy bangs and a bionator.

3. Multiple Sneezer. I always sneeze in multiples, usually in threes, and sound like a tiny mouse. I'm not trying to hold it in, honest. That's just the way it sounds. (My husband on the other hand sounds like he's trying to blow down the house.) In Junior High my best friend Emily would count every time I started to sneeze. My record: An impressive 17 times in a row!

4. Paradoxical Preferencer. I love vineyards, but I don't like wine. I love dessert, but I don't like cake. I love Mexican food, but I don't like tomatoes or cilantro. I love paradoxes, but I don't like irony.


FOUR THINGS ABOUT MY BLOGGING & WRITING

1. Since Second Grade. I've known since I was a freckled nose second grader that I wanted to be a writer. Words have always been magical to me. Full life, dreams, and possibilities.

2. During College. My love for language and the power of words propelled me into choosing a college with a Creative Writing Major. I wanted to be a children's book author and crafted my own independent study course toward that end since that specific focus wasn't offered.

3. As a Young Mom. I didn't step into adulthood as a world renowned children's writer. I spent years doing medical billing and then landed a great job as an editor for a university marketing department. But my soul burning, soul stirring need to write never died. After I had my first son and stepped away from the full-time workforce, I started this little blogspot to give a voice to all the words still churning. But now I didn't write words for kids. I wrote words for their mamas.

4. One Significant Year. The last year has been the most significant in my journey as a writer and blogger. I've discovered that this is more than a passion. It's my calling. Using Words to give thanks to the Lord and tell of all His wonders (Psalm 9:1) is what makes me come alive. It's the way Jesus speaks to my heart and at times uses me to speak to others. This year I have written more about living thanks, growing faith, and embracing motherhood than my prior three and a half years of blogging combined. It is the delight of my heart. And I trust the journey has just begun.


FOUR OF MY FAVORITE THINGS

1. Hiking with My Guys. Most weekends you can find me and my guys tromping the shady trails in our local foothills or trekking through a nearby state park. We call these our Adventures. I love being out in nature and watching my little men explore and enjoy God's creation.

2. Coffee with My Friends. Filled with ice or swirling out steam, I love my coffee with Italian Sweet Cream. And I love even more to share it with a friend while sharing our hearts. Crying together, laughing together, unloading our burdens and uplifting our prayers. Together.

3. Back Porch with My Jesus. My favorite time of day is my time alone with God. Usually it's when my boys are napping and my coffee is brewing. I sneak out on my back porch, turn on the soothing fountain, prop up my feet, exhale all my worries and inhale God's sweet, amazing grace. Reading His Word and giving thanks. 

4. Taking a nap, eating ice-cream, and watching Chopped. Okay, that's three, but it's fun to end with a little extra randomness. 


And that's a wrap. 

If you're a Declare sister reading this, I can't wait to meet you! 

If you're a friend or faithful reader, would you consider praying for me on my Declare journey? 

I'm wildly expectant that God has a plan and a purpose for me (for each of us) going to Declare. I can't wait to savor each moment, soak up each lesson, and come back ready to share and live out the message He lays on my heart.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Music: The Memory Keeper

I'm the girl who can never remember names of artists or song titles or lyrics. I'm always, "You know that one band with that song that goes kind of like this..."

I'm the girl who tapped her foot on stage at her first trumpet recital for ten awkward minutes to find an internal beat before ever blowing a signal note.

I'm the girl who likes music. But I'm not a music girl.

In high school I miraculously landed one of the leads in the school musical, but only because I auditioned for the role of Oklahoma's Ado Annie, a quirky character who could get away with singing completely off key.

In college I figured out that a guy liked me because he complimented me on what a great singer I was after we sat together in a worship service.

To say I can't sing is an understatement. I could easily become Simon Cowell's new "favorite" worst singer in the world should I ever try out for American Idol.

But despite my lack of natural talent, I can't deny that music moves me.

Music is art. It's a language of the heart. It has a way of capturing, stirring, expressing emotions unlike words spoken staccato, alone.
 
Music is a memory keeper. It awakens sights and smells and feelings of days or years gone by. It brings you back to significant moments with one swell of chorus sung.


I can't hear the classic melody of Amazing Grace without thinking of my dad and remembering the feel of the plush stadium-like seats the day we memorialized his life and the tears that ran down my cheeks as that song soared through the sanctuary at the close of his service.

Music.

If I'm in store and hear the melodic voice of James Taylor come on over the speakers, it's like I'm back in our old kitchen on California Avenue, singing Sweet Baby James and setting the table while my mom makes dinner.

If I'm surfing channels on the radio and catch a chord of "You've got a peaceful, easy feeling," I'm transported to the backseat of a tan 1980's Honda Accord next to my childhood best friend while her cool older brother drives us to school and lectures us about trying harder in sports and staying away from the wrong crowd of boys.

Music. It's a gift.

For the singer, songwriter, dancer, instrument player, yes! But it's also a gift for the rhythmically challenged, tone deaf, popular artist clueless girl who soaks in the sounds and belts out the notes when nobody's around to notice or complain.

I unwrap the gift on Sunday mornings when I use my voice to praise the Good Lord.

I unwrap the gift each evening when I press play on iTunes and let instrumental wonders seep into my heart and weave through my prayers while my hands scrub dinner dishes.

I unwrap the gift every afternoon and night when I sing bedtime songs at the bedside of three little boys, ushering them into sleep with harmonies of hope, lyrics of God's love, peace, and protection.

But perhaps my greatest unwrapping was when I was eighteen years old and God used music to wrap me in His love.

It was my senior year. While my friends were agonizing over SAT scores, college visits, and prom dates, my heart was in agony over the date I'd lose my home. The repercussion of my parents' divorce was almost a decade in the making. Now that I was no longer a minor, they would finally sell our family home and part financial ways.

I had long known this day was coming. But now it loomed like a huge storm cloud, ready to pour after graduation day.

I was sad and angry and depressed. Their divorce was final eight years prior but selling the house reopened wounds that had never really healed. I didn't know how to sort through what I felt. I didn't want to talk about it with my parents, and the pain of divorce wasn't exactly a hot topic among my teenage friends over Friday night pizza.

My faith was young but genuine and somehow God met me in that broken place through the most unexpected way.

Music.

He put a song in my heart.

He helped me pen lyrics to give voice to my hurt and answered me in refrains of hope and truth.

This was my song...

Home for My Heart

For sixteen years I made this house my home
And now the day has come; I feel so all alone
The day has come and we must move away
The only day I've ever felt the need to stay
The sign on the front says sold
To tear it down I'd give a lifetime's gold
Thing will never be the same

As I look upon these walls that my great grandfather built
I see lasting childhood memories as they begin to wilt
The laughter love and kisses, the echos of divorce
The piercing sound of silence
My tears of grief run their course
And I fear that the sixteen years of memories I made
When packed away in boxes will begin to fade

But I don't want to place my heart in a house made of wood
I don't want to place my heart on a mantel
Hold me, Lord, keep me safe
Hold me, Lord, in this place
I want to see your face
I want to give my heart to you

I'm graduating high school, opportunity's knocking loud
"How excited you must be," they say. "And how very proud"
But my excitement has now dulled, my pride has now paled
And the perfect vision of my dreams has sadly been derailed
And I yearn for the comfort and security of routine
To feel your arms around me, Lord, is all I need

And I don't want to place my heart in a house made of wood
I don't want to place my heart on a mantel
Hold me, Lord, keep me safe
Hold me, Lord, in this place
I want to see Your face
I want to give my heart to you

I'm tired of the anger, I'm tired of the pain
Lord, free me from this agony and wash me clean with rain
And let me see the sun of all tomorrow's bright
Cleanse me of my bitterness and a heart of spite
Let me show my thankfulness and let me shout my praise
To God, my provider, for the home where I was raised

Because I don't want to place my heart in a house made of wood
I don't want to place my heart on a mantel
And I don't want place my heart where the world thinks I should
I just want to place my heart in You, Father
Hold me, Lord, keep me safe
Hold me, Lord, in this place
I want to see Your face
And I will to give my heart to you

I belted out this song in front of a panel of teachers for my senior project. (If I had a recording of it I'd share the off-key wonder with you.) 

With tears in my teenage eyes, I thanked God for the gift of music, for the gift of His love.

It's been 14 years since I wrote those lyrics. But sometimes still, if I find myself alone in the car, I turn off the radio and turn on the music God wrote in me. In a whisper or roar, I allow the memory keeper to speak to my heart again as I sing to the One who will always be my true home.


*     *     *

Sharing with Jennifer, Holley, and Elise. Inspired by this week's "How I...Community" prompt: Music.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Making Space for Him to Bloom

I'm craving my own space, my quiet, my time to think, breathe. Find reprieve.

I'm missing what's been mine for the last five and a half years -- my midday security, sanity -- that's now slipping through my fingers.

I'm craving the ability to make things not change.

(I've never been good with change.)

Yes, I should be grateful for half a decade of nap-time solace (which means two years of mastering three boys' concurrent afternoon sleep.) And I am. I am SO thankful because I know it's been a gift to meet a need...

My need for a little uninterrupted time for me.

Write, read, pray, sleep. Work, clean, call, or weep. Ponder, wonder, dream, or sweep. Whatever the time is, it's alone time. Just me.

And I guess what's making me feel all angry and anxious is that I still have that need. But the means to meeting it must change, and I can't yet see how or when the replacement gift will come.

But the gift before me now is a little boy in tan shorts and a red plaid shirt, whacking away like a backyard golf pro.


He's beautiful and strong and sweet. He's stubborn and way too much like me.

I know I can't keep him small forever. I know he's meant to blossom, grow.

But today my son's sprouting (which I know will bear fruit, beauty) is a painful part of the process for his mama, who needs to make more space in her life, her heart, for him to stay awake and bloom.


*     *     *

I'm joining Lisa-Jo and her beautiful friends to just write for five minutes, without over-thinking, double-checking, or worrying about getting it right. Today's word is Bloom.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What If You Chose Rest?

What if you just rested?

What if you closed the computer and powered down the phone? What if you turned off the music or the podcast or the great preacher on TV? What if you put away the iPad and hid the remote control?

What if you didn't post, tweet, share, favorite, comment, like, or link up?

What if you exchanged the noise out, noise in, for quiet? For more of Him.

What if you just stopped? Chose rest.

Breath.

What if you laughed over little boys in backyard buckets or ran through the sprinklers?


What if you walked with family in a place with no wires and looked for signs that Yahweh is looking for you?




What if you captured the day's last light and marveled over the Artist's evening masterpiece?



Would the world whiz on without you? Would the busy buzz on beyond you? Would you be lost, passed up, or forgotten? Would you miss out on God's best because you chose to rest?

Or would you find new life, new meaning, a new way of connecting over jigsaw puzzles and white lacquered dominoes?



Would you discover that you can actually find refreshment for your soul without refreshing your browser? That you can hear the message your heart needs without receiving another text?

Would you uncover that you're not overlooked or left out when you unplug your devices, but that you're actually seen and known best when you plug into relationship? Plug into living present?

Your blog and Facebook, Twitter feed and Pinterest board all serve a purpose. But do they sometimes keep you from living life on purpose? Do the voices you hear there sometimes drown out the Voice you need to hear everywhere?

What if doing more wasn't the answer? What if being still was. Listening. To Him. Resting. In Him.

What if your longing for the bigger picture, the larger story, could be fulfilled by slowing down enough to notice the smallest of creation?


What if it's in the still and quiet and "unproductive" rest that you gain the wisdom to see, gain the strength to believe, gain the power to power it all back up for a greater purpose?

What if you chose to rest?

What if I did?  For more of Him. Less of me.

Today.


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Sharing with Jennifer at #TellHisStory and Holley at Coffee for Your Heart.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Working for Free, But Wanting Someone to See

My work day begins the moment I rise, often before the sun ever does, and doesn't end until my head hits the pillow when it's dark again. I'm also on call through the night, every single night, and I always work weekends. Holidays, too.

I've been doing this round the clock job for more than five and a half years.

You know what it is.

I'm a mother.



I'm a life-grower, love-giver, boo-boo healer, meal maker, taxi driver, house cleaner, butt wiper, fort fixer, puzzle doer, wrestling referee-er, mama to three little boys. I dole out hugs and kisses and snacks by the hundreds. I lift up prayers for grace, mercy, and strength by the thousands.

I'm a mother.

And it won't surprise you the slightest when I tell you I don't get paid for it at all.

It won't shock you a smidge when I tell you it's the best and hardest and most important job I've ever done.

You'll knowingly nod when I suggest that it's the most rewarding, fulfilling, heart-wrenching, joy-giving job that perhaps the good Lord ever made.

And while I think I would become the most popular woman on the planet if I could figure out how to give every mom a fair wage for the blood, sweat, and tears she pours out over a lifetime of raising her children, I think I can also speak for mothers the world over when I say that it is our privilege to do this job for free.

Yes, I've reconciled to the fact that not all meaningful, necessary work is paid. I don't bemoan not getting a monthly check for my motherly service. God has called us to work for Him and not for man. I'm at peace with the reassurance that my reward waits for me in heaven.

Or am I?

Because money is not the only way of getting paid. I'm fine to work without the hope of dollars, but am I content without the payment of praise?

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men," Colossians 3:23 says.

And that's where the "working for free" rub comes in for me.

If I'm really honest with myself, I struggle with working without expecting affirmation in return. Without wanting kudos for my days and nights of service.

The endless dishes, diaper changes, and grocery shopping. The countless questions answered for the world's most curious three year old. The way I fashioned blankets and couch cushions into a monstrous monster-truck ramp for the racing delight of three miniature drivers. I want recognition for it all.


I want someone to see. See the effort and patience. See the way I die to self every day for the sake of loving someone else.

Even as I write these words I know. I know that someone sees. I know that the One who's opinion matters sees. I know deep that God's approval is the only one I really need.

But there's the flesh in me that fights.

The part of me that wants to download on my husband when he walks through the door about every parenting struggle, triumph, and completed chore he missed while at work. I want to post witty Facebook updates about the awesome or appalling mom-moment I faced to receive one (or better yet twenty) virtual pats on the back for surviving this mom job another day.

Is sharing with my husband wrong? Of course not.

Is building community and exchanging motherhood stories bad? Not at all.

But my motives need to be kept in check.

I find the same is true for my writing.

It is my joy to write. It makes me come alive. I see the world through literary descriptions. I soak in my surroundings with similes streaming through my mind. Writing brings me clarity and understanding. It's how I learn the lessons, how I see God move. 

So I write for me. I write for the gift God gave.

Sure, it'd be nice if one day my writing led to a financial blessing for my family. But I work at it for free because it's my calling.

Yet there are days I do it as if for men. Days I write what God has stirred in me but then wait for words that man approves of me.

I know this isn't how God intended me to work.

I'm reading Jennifer Dukes Lee's book Love Idol. Her words hug my heart with whispers of understanding and invitations of freer living. She writes,
"When you and I no longer rely on praise or approval for our performance, we find new freedom: We can enjoy affirmation without craving it. Because it has lost its grip on us."
It's a process and slowly I am growing.

Day by day I remind myself of God's unchanging love and approval of me. I remind myself that he delights in the silly made up songs I sing to my boys and is proud of the way I patiently disciplined a particular disobedience. God smiles when I give words to the heart stirrings, the struggles, and the wonder.

He sees me when I mother. He sees me when I write.

I'm learning to let His seeing of my work be not just payment enough, but approval abundant.



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I'm linking up with The High Calling this week as we wrestle with and rejoice over what "working for free" really means.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Does God Really Listen?


Listen, my precious daughter,
 
Do you know how much I love you?
Do you know how beloved I see you?
Do you believe how deeply I know you?
Do you believe how clearly I hear you?

Your cries, your questions, 
your curiosities, your concerns,
I hear them all.
It is my delight to hear you call.

When you pour out your heart,
whether in praise or confession,
confusion or profession,
whether with confidence or feeling condemnation,
I'm listening.

I'm listening when you're worried,
I'm listening when you're whining.
I'm listening when you're content
and when you're stressed and pining.
I'm listening when your joy is full
and when your peace is perfect.
I'm listening when you're scared and nervous
because your path seems uncertain.

I'm always listening.

Not because I'm looking for your failures
or scouting out your faults.
I'm not planning my rebuttal
or rehearsing my defense and righteous laws.
I'm never preoccupied with what you might say next.
My focus is never anywhere else but in the present.
With you.

I'm just listening.

I'm listening because I love you.
Because I care for you.
Because I delight in you.
Because I'm committed to you.

I listen because I need you to know that I am with you,
for you.
That I see you--
not just what you do but who you are.
(I have always known you;
who you were then, 
who you are now,
who you are becoming.
It is my joy to see you.)

Sure, I could take a spectator's seat in the nosebleed section.
I could watch you from afar in the stands.

But I don't ever want to be far from you.
I want to be near, standing with you.
Walking beside you.
Listening to your heart.

And if you share with me,
there's nothing you can say 
that will ever change the way 
I feel about you.

But what you share may
very well change the way
you feel about me.

So pour out your heart to me, precious one!
Sing, shout, whisper, wail.
My ears are tuned to your cries.
Your voice is my joy when you call.

So speak, sweet child.

Then take a turn,

and 

listen.


Love,
Your Listening God


*     *     *

The Good Lord stirred this letter in my heart in response to the prompt "How I...Listen" at Elise's inspiring new"How I...Community." If you haven't read this girl, you need to. 

I'm also blessed to link up with wonderful heart sisters, Jennifer and Holly.

Friday, July 4, 2014

How to Savor and Celebrate Summer

I bark orders in Costco to "Stay by ME!" and answer too harshly at home to the boy who is SO hungry and needs one more snack.

I bemoan the brotherly bickering and strain my ears to discern whether the crying is fake or real from three rooms away.

These summer days are hot and long. Yet they are slipping by.

I flip on the TV too often.

I tune out their questions too much.

I forget to savor each blessing.

I forget to celebrate each moment.

But I'm learning that wishing I had done yesterday differently doesn't make for more full living today.

You savor by savoring. You celebrate by celebrating!


So here's a Hip Hip Hooray for a borrowed blowup pool and boys with sun-kissed skin slipping down a crocodile slide!

Here's a Three Cheers for picnic lunches on the living room rug and a Yeehaw for little boys stealing special sips out of my special coffee mug.

Here's a Yowza and Yahoo for sword fights in their skivvies; strong arms and legs, minds and hearts fighting courageous battles from the tender age of two.

Here's a Holy Prayer of Thanks for brothers who love each other even when they fight, brothers whose smiles and hugs, sing song voices and crazy noises make their mama's heart burst with gratitude and love.

I can't conjure more joy for the crabby moments of yesterday. But I can commit to slowing down and giving thanks today.

I can savor, I can celebrate
When I exhale the could-haves of then
And breathe in the sweetness of now. 




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I'm writing with Lisa-Jo's Five Minute Friday community, where we don't worry about getting it right. We just write. Today's prompt is Exhale.