Saturday, June 28, 2014

When Vacation Teaches You to Release Control

I loved the Pacific Northwest wind in my face. The salty air filling my lungs. The memory of last night’s amazing sizzling salmon still savory on my pallet. 

Tranquility whooshed by in rhythmic waves of cerulean surf rushing past the ferryboat bow. Every care and worry carried away in the current.  We were on vacation! 

But I was anxious. 

My mind raced with questions: Where would we stay? What would we eat? What would we see? How much would it cost?

Since we stayed local for our honeymoon two years prior, this was our first big trip as husband and wife. And of course, I wanted it to be perfect. So as soon as Chris booked our flight from LA to Seattle, I got to work planning our ten-day stay in British Columbia.   

I spent countless hours scouring the Internet to find the most idyllic bed and breakfast on Victoria Island and hours more researching the best off-season deals for Whistler ski resorts. I mapped out prime hiking trails and Googled must-see attractions. Then passed my thorough findings to my husband so he could make reservations according to my carefully crafted program.

But my wonderful husband wasn’t interested in my perfect plan.    

He was skeptical of whether these B&Bs were actually quaint or just uncomfortably quirky and he didn’t want to be tied down by reservations if we got bored with a place or liked it so much we wanted to stay longer.

“We’ll just find a hotel when we get there,” he stated confidently. “It’ll be fun to figure it out as we go.”

Being the accommodating newlywed wife that I was, I forced a smile and offered weakly, “Okay, whatever sounds good to you. I’ll just go with the flow.”

But me saying “I’ll go with the flow” is like Monica Geller saying, “I’m breezy.

And as Joey so astutely pointed out, “You can’t say you’re breezy, that totally negates the breezy!

I wanted to be flexible. Easygoing.

But I had to fight my inner rigidity and reign in my desire for control.

As I squashed my need to know exactly what to expect, I began to find a small (yet appealing) freedom in letting go. Yes, going with the flow.

Did we find a place to sleep? Yes, we did. Did we enjoy good food and festive sights while making memories? Yes.

Was every moment flawless and carefree? Nope.

But perhaps that was part of the gift God was giving me through deferring to my husband’s laid-back style. 

Whether painstakingly self-planned or fully God-surrendered, life on this earth will never be my version of perfect. Yet the journey is most enjoyed, most meaningful, when I’m following God’s lead instead of plowing forward alone.

Being in control of this trip could not have made the real sweetness any sweeter.

The lush beauty of Butchart Gardens would not have been more picturesque had I known the exact time we’d arrive.

The setting sun splaying glory across the rippled sea would not have been more magical had I booked the ferry in advance. 

The mountain air would not have been crisper or the forest greener had I pinned the trail on a foldout map. 

And time with my husband would not have bonded us greater had I pressed my will to vacation my way instead of submitting to his.      

Sure I could have done without that awkward night in Vancouver sleeping in a stranger’s dank basement on a springy sofa bed and sharing a bathroom with two startled foreign exchange students.
But even so, it was hands down the best vacation ever.     

*     *     *  

Joining The High Calling to share our Best Vacation Stories.

Monday, June 23, 2014

When You Need to Grab the Wonder Back

 When you need to remember that every breath is precious,

When you need to know deep in your soul that today is a gift,

When you need to feel the weight of grace in a moment like this,

When you need to grab the wonder back,

Start by slowing time by giving thanks,

Start but leaning low to see the glory in the small, the ordinary, the fleeting awe.

Because responsibilities can wait and time can't rush on when your skin's touching grass and you're taking in the full amazement of a bubble round and shimmering, an everyday miracle made of soap and magic breath.

Because you can't focus on that burden or predicament or what feels so very urgent when you're giving the weight of full attention to this one moment right in front of you. This gift before you. This gift of now that wasn't given to be discarded or ignored.

This breath is a moment to be savored. Enjoyed.

To be joy full.

The worries and to-dos will still be there waiting for you. But will a bubble wait? Will a child's delight and giggles and hope for summer days that never end wait for you? Or will a could-be moment of wonder slip past without your notice? Or will it never even happen without your willingness to be present, to open today's tiny present?

These days can feel long but an entire summer can slip away if you don't stop to breathe.



Because when we look for wonder, we see more of who God is; 
we see more of who He created us to be.

*     *     *

This post is inspired by Ann Voskamp, whose life-changing "Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are" has forever shaped the way I look at God, the world...and bubbles. Join the ONE MILLION readers who have been blessed by the journey of One Thousand Gifts.

"I only live the full life when I live fully in the moment. 
And when I'm always looking for the next glimpse of glory, 
I slow and enter. And time slows. Weigh down this moment in time 
with attention full, and the whole of time's river slows, slows, slow."
-Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

*     *     *

Sharing the wonder with the beautiful community's at Inspire Me Monday and #TellHisStory.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Grip of Expectations

I live white knuckled without even realizing it.
Fists clenched tight over the thing that wields power over me
from within my sweaty palm.
Concealed but not controlled.

I'm the one who's being controlled.
By my own expectations.

I don't mean to cling so tight to the lofty goals and unreasonable standards
that lay me to shame each time I can't measure up.
I say I'm doing better. I say I'm living real.
I'll let you come over knowing dirty drips from boys' backyard digging fingertips are
marring up the white bathroom sinks.
I'll invite you in even if the dishes are piled on the counter and crusted remains
from last night's dinner are soaking in pans on the stove.
I'll say "this is real life" when my kid throws a fit and you hear him fuss or see him hit.
I'll sigh and say thanks for understanding that life is a beautiful mess
and we've just got to embrace it.

But inside...

Inside my fist is the unbreakable thing that's making my insides break under the weight.
The weight of expectations.

The weight of I don't measure up as a mom or a wife or friend.
I'm failing as a leader. I'm flailing as a writer.
I'm smiling on the outside, smiling all is grace on the outside,
but on the inside I'm drowning, derailing.
I'm wailing on the inside because I will never measure up to these unmeasurable expectations.

I can't do enough. Be enough. Make others see me enough.
My boys, my man, my ministry, my calling,
Jesus, Father, Holy Spirit all deserve my best, but I'm falling.
Falling short.
Of the expectations. (Of perfection.)

Of whose expectations?

I breathe deep and will myself to loosen my grip.
My fingers trained long years to stay stiff, closed,
slowly loosen.
Relax, release.

Whose expectations am I faced with?

My own.

Just mine.

Yes, it's time to release them.

Release myself.

Into His Grip.

*     *     *

"It's Friday. The day we write together for five shared and sacred minutes. The prompt this week is RELEASE." -Lisa-Jo Baker
This post is part of the Five Minute Friday community. Please read Lisa-Jo's incredible words this morning about why your story matters. Then won't you consider joining us by writing for five minutes about what "release" means to you? Or share with me in the comments sections.
It’s Friday. The day we write together for five shared and sacred minutes. The prompt this week is RELEASE. - See more at:
It’s Friday. The day we write together for five shared and sacred minutes. The prompt this week is RELEASE. - See more at:

Monday, June 16, 2014

When Father's Day Is Not a Shiny Facebook Feed

I found myself sitting in tears on the edge of his bed.

Apparently a five year old demanding to brush his teeth and pick out a treat right before naps was just too much for this mama to handle. Too much to take right after the three year old fussed and kicked and huffed his way through his nap-time song and only stayed in bed after "I'll take away Sully" and other disciplinary threats. Yes, a little boy's longing to clean his pearly whites with big-kid toothpaste was just enough to push me over the edge because the two year old's screams were still echoing in my foggy mama brain, along with the bewilderment over how little lungs from such a sweet child can belt out so much belligerence over dropped Crocs that I couldn't pick up fast enough.

There were hugs and I'm sorry's the whole house over and somehow I made it through the last refrain of "Gentle Shepherd" and closed the last bedroom door.

The house is now calm but my soul is still in chaos.

I'm outside.

Wiping more tears.

Feeling like I'm totally failing.

Why else would each of my boys yell and hit and struggle?

Why else would these ordinary everyday trials bring me to tears?

I breathe deep.

Listen to the birds.

I know I'm not a failure.

I know this raising the next generation thing is really hard.

And I know my torrent of disproportional anger and sadness is not just about the next generation. It's also about the last generation and this swell of grief over the one in it I lost.

My dad is dead.

It's the day after Father's Day. 

I don't really know how I feel. I just feel—a hole.

And it makes me want to crawl into one.

Because the endless Facebook feed of aged pictures from years gone by and moving tributes to "The best dad anyone could ask for" stirs in me more than thankfulness for the gifts my friends have been given.

It stirs longing for what is gone and for what I never had.

But it also stirs me to pray...

For all the sons and daughters who have lost their amazing fathers.

For all the kids (small or grown) who met their dad yesterday for a family BBQ but have never had their fatherly needs truly met.

For all the wives who can't post, "My husband if the best dad ever!" because he walked out or gave up or cancer took his life or he took it himself.

Really, I'm praying for us all. Because while it's great to celebrate dads—(Yes, celebrate we should! My husband IS an amazing father and I cheer him on with gratitude and admiration!!)—every dad, like every man and every woman, is a mixed bag of blessings and mess-ups because we live in a fallen world. 

And chances are, Father's Day (and Mother's Day, too) stirs something up in all of us becuase no one is living the full technicolor picture of a fairytale life.

We all carry hearts that have been both bruised and blessed by our earthly parents. 

And the only way to reconcile the unmet longings and unfilled gaps is to turn to the only Father who will step in, hold you up, meet your needs, love you perfectly, always keep His word, and  never disappoint.

So for me, for you, for us, I'm crying out:

Abba! Father! Holy One! Please hold me. Hold each of your children, so precious and loved and seen by you. Hold us close and let us feel your love. Help us to invite you in to every heart hole that's aching.  That we may allow all our gaps and lacks and longings to be filled with more of YOU. Amen.

*     *     *

I'd love to share more with you about the journey of losing my dad. Read about how my heart was blessed by my earthly father. And how my life was also bruised by him

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Generation of Esthers

When I approached Esther, the new twenty-something, beautifully blonde staffer for our Navigator campus ministry, I didn’t know exactly what it meant to be “discipled.” But I knew the longing to be known. The longing to grow. To be okay. The longing for someone to guide the way.

We started meeting in my beige-painted cinder block dorm room my sophomore year at Long Beach State University. We’d sit cross-legged on opposite ends of my periwinkle duvet for an hour of weekly “discipleship.” I guess I expected to learn about God’s Word and the how-to’s of walking with Jesus. I thought someone more spiritually mature could keep me accountable in my physical relationship with my boyfriend and my progress with scripture memory.

But what Esther really taught me was how to care for someone’s heart.

I doubt that was ever her deliberate “lesson of the day.” But it’s what she modeled by caring for mine. The way she asked intentional questions and leaned in to hear the answer. The way she was comfortable in my uncomfortable silence. The way she wasn’t afraid of my messy past or confused present.

Esther was just there to be with me.

To hold the brokenness and fears of a straight A student who may have looked like she had it all together. With her disarming smile, inviting eyes, and commitment to meet consistently, Esther made space for me to explore who I was, where I had been, and where Jesus was leading me.

We had been meeting for several months when she pulled out a little fold-up keyboard and attached it to her Palm. She started typing as we talked and I asked what she was doing?

“I usually take notes about our time together later, but what you’re sharing is really important. I don’t want to forget it.”

I must have had a strange look on my face because Esther quickly added, “I just want to remember how to pray for you and follow up later on what we’ve talked about. Does that make you feel uncomfortable?”

“No. Not uncomfortable,” I said wiping the tears that I couldn’t will to stay welled in my eyes.

“It makes me feel seen. Loved. Invested in. Like no one ever has.”

It’s been 13 years and Esther has transitioned from a mentor to a soul sister and life-long friend. But she’s still a difference maker. A life changer. A love and service leader.

Ann Voskamp writes about the Esther Generation. We, the North American Church, who are tired of being satisfied with comfort and are ready to be satiated by God. The Esther Generation who is ready to stop giving minimally to meet the status quo and start giving sacrificially because the gut-wrenching stats are real people. Who wants to use their excess for a purpose. Who is God-ordained inside the gates of status, education, access…for such a time as this.

I’m saying Yes! with Ann. We Jesus believers need to bend low to help our sisters!

But I am also ready for another type of Esther Generation. To be like my Esther and offer more than a passing “How are you?” and religious “I’ll pray for you,” and start giving our time, our ears, our arms sacrificially to invest in each another. I’m ready to influence the many by influencing the one. The one woman on my block, mom in my playgroup, college student at my church.

To be a generation of Esthers and take what I see as my not-enough and still open up my life. To lead by caring for someone’s heart.

*     *     *

Linking up with The High Calling to explore the topic of "Leadership Influence: Beyond the Stereotype." And sharing with Barbie's wonderful community at The Weekend Brew.

Monday, June 9, 2014

8 Ways to Feel Lousy about Your Life

Ready to start your week off right?

These eight steps may be all too familiar, but I encourage you to read slow, breathe deep, and don't miss a beat. 


1. Focus on everything you don't have.
The job, the spouse, the sleep, or the house—continually dwell on each aspect of your life you wish was different. Keep everything you lack at the forefront of your mind.

2. Compare your worst to someone else's best.
Take that friend who's an interior designer and peg your mismatched decor against her magazine-ready living room. Or evaluate your mediocre cooking skills against that gal who thrives in the kitchen. Forget about everything you're good at. Identify each thing you struggle with and measure it against someone who's strength is in your weakness.

3. Remind yourself over and over how tired you are.
Continual yawning, clock checking, and shoulder slouching will help. Harbor a little bitterness against the person or responsibility that requires your attention. Sigh heavily when anyone asks how you are and make "I'm so tired" your first response.

4. Keep track of another person's faults or grievances against you.
Don't let anything go. Dwell on what they did wrong and overemphasize how right you are. Have imaginary conversations in your mind about what they should have said. Never give the benefit of the doubt. Feed any ache for intimacy or reconciliation with avoidance, anger, and justified entitlement.

5. Think in absolutes. 
Resolve that you will NEVER get to do that and your life will ALWAYS look like this. Convince yourself that your hardship will last for-ev-er and that difficult person will be everlastingly difficult. Allow EVERY possible "always" and "never" to suck ALL hope and joy from your life.

6. Get so overwhelmed by the big picture that you fail to take the first step.
If you marriage is in shambles or your kid is out of control, if you dream to write a book or go back to school, if you're in a pit of addiction or a dark ditch of debt, go ahead and ruminate on the vastness of your predicament or how out of reach your dream. It's the very best way to stay stuck.

7. Believe every negative thing anyone has ever said about you. 
And why you're at it, take all the stuff you think someone might have possibly thought about you but never actually said as total truth. Set those tapes of hurtful words on repeat in your mind. Allow them to take deep root in your heart until every wound and insecurity cripples you. Defines you.

8. Go to bed way too late every night so you wake up really grumpy.
(This helps facilitate #3.) Add poor eating habits and zero exercise to this step for optimal success; depriving your body of it's basic needs will put you on the fast track to physical, mental, and emotional ill-being. Set yourself up to struggle and fail before you even start.


Clearly this is a "How To" list no one is going to post on their fridge as a best life plan to aspire to. 

But how many days do we live this way? How many times do you get stuck in one of these traps? These perspective pitfalls that sound ludicrous when written out but somehow weasel their way into your approach to life.

I'm committed to Christ. I'm hard set on choosing joy, seeing all as grace from the Giver, living truth by the Word. I say I want to walk the walk not just talk the talk. I read and write and speak for the sake of Spirit-filled encouragement.

Yet, I struggle.

I get stuck in a funk more often than I should. My eyes drift away from God and get stuck on myself more than I want to admit. My heart gets tangled in the weeds of the world.

But there IS hope. For me. For you.

You may not be able to control your circumstances but you can choose your outlook.

A positive perspective is possible. Not by might or will or discipline, but by continually turning your heart to the One who holds your life in the palm of His hand.

You can renew your mind. You can re-fix your thoughts. You can be transformed.

You and me both.

*     *     *

Which of these snares do you most easily fall into? 

How do you steer clear of these "lousy life" traps?

*     *     *

Joining Jennifer's community of story tellers. Because we need one another.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

730 Days of Blessing

Dear Jude,

For two years, I've been blessed to be your mama! That's 24 months; 52 weeks; 730 days.

What a gift you are!

Birthdays always make me reflective. As I look back over the last two years, my thoughts can't help but drift to those first few weeks of your life in my womb. And how woefully unaware I was of the gift you would be.

Because to be honest, sweet son, I was too overwhelmed by my circumstances to take in the overwhelming blessing of being gifted with you.

Your brothers were still so little when we found out about you: Noah two and half and Elias fourteen months. They were a handful! I was frazzled. At least that's how I felt inside. Life was already so full with the demands of diapers and discipline, wild climbers and miniature wrestlers that I knew anything else added to my juggling act would make me crumble. Anything else pushed in would add perilous pressure.

So when I saw that little pink line that my nausea and fatigue already told me was coming...


My bubble burst.

The breath sucked right out of me and I was filled up with anxiety.

How am I going to do this? 
How am I going to handle three little people three years old and under?
How am I going to meet everyone's needs and still maintain my sanity?
How am I going to nurse the baby and potty train the toddler while making dinner when Daddy's out of town?

All the "How am I?"s filled my anxious heart and mind. It became hard to determine in those early weeks if I felt sick because of the pregnancy hormones or because I fretfully bemoaned every unknown.

Then one day I was reading my Jesus Calling devotional and the words leaped off the page and into my heart. Written as Jesus speaking to the reader, I read:
"Anxiety comes from envisioning the future without Me."
 I breathed it in again as if the Holy God was talking just to me:

"Becky, your anxiety comes from envisioning the future without Me."

The pang of conviction and power of hope washed over me.

Yes. Exactly.

All my, How am I's were about ME. I felt so insufficient for the journey ahead. But in His grace, God affirmed that I was totally right. I AM insufficient on my own. But with Him, I am able to walk whatever path He leads me on.

Every anxiety-filled picture of life looming with three small children left out the One big God.

I'd like to tell you that after that epiphanic day I was forever perfectly at peace. But that wouldn't be true. For the next 9 months of waiting for you, Jude, my anxiety ebbed and flowed. I still doubted my ability to mother you and your brothers well. But God continually reminded me that as He was forming you in my womb, He was reforming me, too. Whatever difficult terrain we encounter along the way, He'd be there to guide us through.

And He has.

730 days of seeing God's faithful hand, God's beautiful plan in giving me you.

Not every day has been easy. 

Not the three months of soul-piercing colic screams. Not the thirty days you couldn't poop. Not the countless times I lost control of my anger because I couldn't control you or my three-boy crew. Not the trips to the ER with late-night croup or a banged up face and bulging bump on your forehead. 

But I've learned that a lack of ease doesn't mean a lack of blessing.

Every day I've been blessed by your baby coos and giggles that have now become astounding words and pure-joy laughter. Blessed by your tiny arms that hug so tight and all your unsolicited kisses. Blessed by how you love your big brothers and adore your Daddy. Blessed by your coy smile and endless curiosity.

But for all the blessings that YOU are for just being you, the greatest blessing I've received through you is God drawing me closer to Him.

You've made me see more clearly my need for the One who sustains.
You've made me reach the end of myself faster so I could fall into the beginning of His grace sooner.
You've made me understand that my plans, my ways are always worth laying down for the sake of taking up His.

It's your birthday, Jude, but I'm the one who's been given the greatest gift:
Loving Jesus deeper because of loving you.

You are my joy, my blessing, Little Man.

Love you always and forever,


*     *      *
Sharing my heart with my Jude and the sweet communities at #TellHisStory and The Weekend Brew.