Thursday, May 29, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Nothing

Nothing I have done or wish I did or am trying to do or will one day do can earn me the love of God.

Not my high school grades and accolades. Not losing five pounds or toning my abs.

Not baking wholegrain banana muffins or making a meal for that brand new mom.

Not losing myself in front yard tag or hanging on to my temper.

Nothing good or wholesome or witty or admirable can make me earn His love.

Not writing a post that everyone loves or being known or seen or wanted or esteemed.

Not reading my Bible every single day or being still at His feet to listen and pray.

Not organizing that cupboard or that fundraiser or my thoughts before I speak.


Nothing of the everything that fills my anxious thoughts and striving ways can get me one step closer to God's everlasting love.

That's not who He is.

He isn't a god whose love can be won or earned or bought. He is The God who is love, so knowing Him means being loved.

Yes, my actions can bring Him joy and delight. My obedience will bless His heart and bless my life with the peace of walking in His will. I can make Him proud and gain a "Well done" one day at Heaven's gate.

But gaining God's love? That's His free gift to every man, woman, and child made in His image. God's love is not available for bribe or barter. It's not a prize for having the most friends or likes or retweets or religious service feats.

Nothing can can buy His unconditional, lavish love.

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

*     *     *

I'm joining Lisa-Jo's Five Minute Friday community to write for 5 minutes without editing, over thinking, or worrying about getting it just right. Today we're writing on the word: Nothing. Won't you join us?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

These Are The Days

These are the days so looooong that it’s hard to understand why some say the years fly by.
These are the diaper days and bedtime battle nights.
These days that blur together because the nursings and nightmares leave but moments chopped together to make up a mama’s sleep.
These are the shouting days where you scream right back and then cry in pained shame because you know two wrongs don’t teach what’s right.
These days filled with too many “No’s” and “Don’t touch that’s” to keep track. 
These are the days where you need two extra eyes and four extra arms so you can feed the baby while you make spaghetti and fix the Lego masterpiece that the Evil Emperor Zurg just destroyed.
These are the days of endless snack fixing, spill-proof sippy cup spill cleaning, crumb sweeping, and exhausted weeping. 
These days when getting sick feels cosmically unfair because kids aren’t a file that can wait on your desk or a project you can pass off. Because somehow you signed the 24/7 contract with no time off allotted as the CEO of your kids who need to run, play, eat, bathe, every day, round the clock whether you’re throwing up or not.
These are the days where your body is not your own. It’s the baby’s nourishment and the toddler’s comfort and the preschooler’s jungle gym, but it’s still soft and squishy because there’s no time to entertain actually going to a real gym. 
These are the days.
These days where going to the grocery store or the bathroom alone feels like a luxury. 
These days where all the love and the need and the whining and the training make you feel like you can barely breathe. 
Yes, these are those days. 

But they are also these days…

These are the days where you are a little person’s world. The prettiest, smartest, grandest thing they’ve ever seen and every day dream to be.
These are the days where they fight over who gets to sit next to you in the restaurant booth and want to show you twenty times the empty spot from their first lost tooth.
These are the days of tickle wars and endless kisses, of hugs tight around your neck and “I miss you, Mommy!” wishes.
These are the days that they actually want to hear you sing, to hold your hand, and gently twirl your diamond ring.
These are the days where hot chocolate and mini marshmallows make you the all time greatest hero. You, the Princess, the Mommy Queen.

These days where their eyes light up over dragonflies and kitty cats, bubblegum treats and cheesy goldfishes.
These are the days where you can squeeze their tiny buns and stroke their satin pillow cheeks, where you can learn the curve of their eyelashes by heart and watch their chest rise and fall while they sleep.
These are the days where your kisses have magic healing powers and little faces plaster mesmerized out the window at God’s drip-drop showers.

These are the days where finding worms and spotting rainbows are amazing feats to be applauded.

These days where you are the only one they want when they get teased, or poked, or prodded.

These are the long and trying and precious, time-flying days.

These days I far too often want to wish away.  

But then I STOP. 

And see.

SEE THE GIFTS ALL AROUND ME. And I want to unwrap them slowly and savor each sweet and sticky, salty nape neck, summer buzz cut moment before it slips away.   

I want to laugh over lips dripping with watermelon juice. Memorize each sun-kissed freckle and the coconut smell of sunscreen on skin ready to jump out, run free.
I don’t want to dread the long of these days that I miss out on the delight.
I don’t want to stay stuck in the haze that I miss out on being amazed.
I don’t want the pain and drain to be my main refrain. 
I don’t want to erase these days when I could embrace these days.
These are the days that won’t last forever. (No days ever do.)
And I don’t think we’re meant to throw them away. Bemoan them away.
Yes, they are hard. I’m the first to raise my hand and say it!
But can we savor them anyway? Choose joy? Count gifts?
Let our children know that THEY are JOY. THEY are GIFT. 
Let’s make sure that these days don’t pass slow or fast without making SURE our children know that IN THEM their God and their Mama take great delight.

*     *     *

Thursday, May 22, 2014

My Best Friend Jack and Why God Gave Me Boys

When I was seven, my best friend was a boy named Jack. He lived up a windy road on a hill that felt like a mountain. My mom knew the pass code for the huge black gate. When the wrought iron swung open my heart swung free.

I kissed my mom goodbye and promised to be good. Then off we ran—me and Jack.

Across the lawn bigger than a football field to the edge of the earth where we collected bottle cap treasure and rocks that must've been Indian arrows. We raced back to show the dogs our discoveries. Laid each precious relic carefully on the deck so the slobbery pooches could get a good look.

We left Jack's watchdogs keeping watch over our riches and headed off for the next adventure: The dirt dune. (Who knows why such a large pile of dirt was left lying about other than for the pure delight of wild children?) Who knows how many times we scampered up and slid down that glorious slope? Over and over till our shoes and pockets were full of dirt and my pale skin was plastered in enough dust to make me look like my tan-skinned best bud.

Next we'd sneak into the small building near the main house—the one with the shiny wood floor and black leather couch. Jack knew where all the snacks were hiding. We'd plop on the sleek sofa and devour an entire box of fruit snacks. Leaving plastic wrappers and dusty butt prints in our wake.

But my most favorite thing about Jack's place was the climbing tree.

Up that tree I was no longer a little girl with scraggly hair and a gap in her teeth. I was a monkey. A leopard. A gorilla. A bear. Strong and nimble, climbing easily, fearlessly up the white-bark tree with smooth branches that bowed and swayed with the wind, our weight.

Higher and higher we climbed like little elves without a care in the world. If we found an extra sturdy branch we'd stop and swing, toes dangling in the summer breeze. But then the race would be back on to see who'd get to the tippy top first where the branches were more like twigs and the whole tree would bend. Where we'd somehow perch together and wait for my mom.

She'd pull back up the long driveway and the black gate would swing open for her maroon Isuzu Trooper II. Then she'd spot us near the clouds and start calling to "Be careful!" and "Get down now!" Feet finally back on the ground we'd wait for the appropriate reprimand about how we were far too high and so unsafe.

But no matter how harsh the scolding, it was worth it. Every. Time.

Because even if the height and freedom were temporary, my heart was made to fly, be free. 

 I wasn't the typical little girl who played contentedly with dolls and toy dishes all day.

I was a climber. A seeker. An adventurer.

I was a risk-taker and boundary-tester. Independent, determined, often stubborn, and always full of spunk.

...I hadn't thought about Jack and our summer adventures in years.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday morning when I peered out the kitchen window and saw my five year old in the backyard without shoes, digging in the spot we've told him not to dig. I opened the laundry room door to reprimand him for breaking two rules, but as soon as he saw me his eyes lit up.

"Mommy, Mommy! I found this HUGE buried stone and I think there might be GOLD underneath it!" 

I heard the excitement in his voice. Saw the the dirt wedged between his toes, crusted on his knees. It wasn't even 8 am, but I knew deep in my heart he just needed to be free.

All my treasure-hunting, dirt-sliding, tree-climbing days with Jack came rushing back.

I breathed. And sighed. And nodded.

"Yes, buddy, I think you're right. I think there IS gold underneath."

He kept on digging and I went inside seeing. Seeing the riches just unearthed.

You see, there is a richness to our stories and I was awe-struck with the beauty of how God weaves them together.


So many times since becoming a mom I have wondered why God gave me three boys. I grew up with mostly my mom and two older sisters. In a house full of girls my tomboy days with Jack were short lived. I knew more about periods and makeup and how to get that guy to ask you to prom than I did about playing trucks and why little boys always play with their penis.

So many desperate mama days where I wondered what on earth to do with this house full of boys who scream and shout and wrestle till they laugh or cry. These boys who have no volume control and make me feel out of control. These boys whose deep down wild I can not tame.

For so many years I had forgotten me and Jack.

Twenty-five years, in fact, of growing up, numbing over, facing reality and responsibility had made me forget what it feels like to fearlessly crave the heights. Forget the deep need to live beyond  boundaries. Free and brave and wild.

But this window to my past was the way to remembering.

Now I see the beauty of an out-of-the-box little girl who God was shaping to one day become a mama who needed a heart that understands how children thrive in freedom. (Not in an unsafe, unsupervised, become-a-little-delinquent kind of way.)

Freedom to explore. Adventure.  

Cast off the shackles of a shoes-always-on, dirt-always-off life.

Freedom to experience. Discover how God made the world and how He made you.


Why did God give me boys?

Because of a grubby little girl and her best friend Jack.

I'm wonder struck at the grace in God's work. That he cares enough about my boys today that he started preparing their mama's heart decades before they were born.

I hear a lot these days about the power of stories. How we need  each others' stories. I wholeheartedly agree!

But sometimes, we need our own stories.

We need to remember what has been to understand what is now. We need to record today's moments so we can make sense of tomorrow's.

I watch my boy try to unearth his treasure. I think of Jack.

And I wonder with excitement,

How will God use my now story to prepare me for my next story? 

*    *    * 
Writing in community with Jennifer to #TellHisStory and Barbie at The Weekend Brew.

Friday, May 16, 2014

How I Thought Being a Mom Disqualified Me from the Sabbath

I grew up on Little House on the Prairie reruns and flannel board Sunday school lessons. Good and wholesome. But somewhere between Nellie Oleson's antics and the fabric loaves and fishes, I missed a few key points.
Like what I believed about the Sabbath.
I thought God finished all his making-the-world work in six days, so with nothing to do on the seventh he rested, and we ought to do the same.

As a freckled-nose third grader I envisioned early believers busting their faithful behinds to tend the fields, thresh the wheat, and bake the bread, dawn till dusk, six days a week so on the seventh day they could stop working and sit in holy righteousness.   
Though I’ve grown in faith and stature, my understanding of God’s command to rest has remained Half Pint size like my favorite Ingalls family character.
I saw the Sabbath as a simple noun: A place for resting. A thing you do that means doing nothing at all. 
As mama to three young children, I counted myself out.
Because the mom job never stops. 
There is no end to making meals or changing diapers. Sure, I could let the dishes go undone and the laundry pile up for one more day. But the work of mothering can’t be stored up and finished.
So if it's impossible to stop working, I reasoned, then it's impossible to keep the Sabbath. 

I thought I was disqualified.
How could I make 24 hours calm and quiet with three wild boys? My sons won’t sit all day and whittle toy trains out of blocks of wood. Their legs can’t help but run; their lungs breathe to shout.

I was disqualified from the spiritual duty (would-be luxury) of a day of rest. Like I didn’t even have a Sabbath chance.

But then I had to ask, Would God really do that?

Would He really give a command that mamas couldn’t keep? And not just mothers, but fathers and farmers, doctors saving lives on Sundays and preachers who spend the Sabbath preaching. 

Did God disqualify them all?

No, that can't be right.

I must have gotten something wrong.

I'm a word girl who learns from writing—I go back and read to find the wrong.

The Holy Spirit shines a light on my mistake.

Noun: PERSON, place, and thing. 

I forgot the person. 

Could Sabbath mean keeping company with the person of God?

Oh, yes! Breathes my soul.

I wrack my brain for anything else missed:

A word could be a noun and a verb. Like fly. The buzzing thing with six legs, two wings. But it’s also an action! To take flight. Soar!

Defining Sabbath as a state of inaction could be completely upside down backwards.

Rest is more than being sedentary or asleep. Rest is reflecting, remembering. Giving thanks for all the great things God has done! Rest is refocusing. Fixing our eyes on things above.

Maybe I can keep the Sabbath even in motherhood.

I Sabbath when I plop beside my boys, phone away, just sit and play.

I Sabbath when I prop my feet on the back porch stool, watch squirrels scurry and scribble down the morning’s gifts.

I Sabbath when we hike the canyon. Snapping photos of boys with blue-bellied lizards and spiky-backed caterpillars. I Sabbath breathing in nature’s perfume and marveling over sticks and snakes with my sons.

I Sabbath when we pull back the covers and kids climb in bed for snuggles warm and long.

Maybe as a mom I have this Sabbath thing down better than I thought.

Maybe I’m not disqualified at all.

*     *      *

Blessed to share my story with The High Calling community over the theme Keeping the Sabbath. Also sharing with the How I....Sabbath linkup over at Elise's most delightful blog, The Giving Place.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

How Mom's Night Out the Movie Made Me Feel Like a Million Bucks

It wasn't that I got to exchange my yoga pants for a fancy dress.
It wasn't the Hollywood hotel with the primo view or dinner out with my man, no high chairs or kids meals, just table for two.

It wasn't the red high heels walking the famous red carpet or the free movie theater popcorn smothered in addicting salt and butter.

It wasn't the high style after party with  the loud music, tiny gourmet burgers, self-serve ice-cream bar, and mingling movie stars.

These were amazing perks of winning tickets to the Hollywood premiere of Mom's Night Out the movie! But it wasn't the fluff and stuff that made me feel like a million bucks.

It was the message.

Mom's Night Out is a movie about a stay-at-home mom of three little ones who loves her crew desperately but also finds herself desperate for a way to breathe. A way to remember who she is in the midst of the mundane chaos that consumes her days and dreams.

Hmmm...I may just be able to relate!

So when the lead character Allyson, played by Sarah Drew, receives encouragement from her husband Sean, played by Sean Astin (my Samwise Gamgee-loving husband was in love with this!) to do something to find herself before she totally loses it, Ally musters the courage to rope her best friend and pastor's wife into the mom's night out of their life.

The men are left to tame the kids while the ladies leave for a should-be quiet evening out, which turns into anything but. The writing in this movie is hilarious and the portrayal of kid antics and parent angst is spot on. I laughed out loud and shook my head yes and probably muttered several Amen!s under my breath.

But it was an unexpected scene toward the end of the movie that really got me. I won't give away the full context, but let's just say Ally was feeling like all her efforts to take care of herself, her kids, and her friends had failed. Miserably.

Once again, she just felt like not enough.

 A wise man says to her, 
"It’s a beautiful thing watching one of God’s creation just doing what He made it to do… And that’s enough."
 Without knowing the profound mark he was making, he continues,
"I doubt the good Lord made a mistake giving your kiddos the mama he did. So will you just be you? He’ll take care of the rest."
My popcorn box was empty but my mama heart was right full.

Back at our hotel room I took off all the glitz and set it on the shiny desk. I saw myself in the reflective surface. Saw that it wasn't all the sparkle that made this night so special. 

It was being reminded that I'm a good mom, that my mothering is important, and that our loving, all powerful God (the One who gave my kiddos to me and me to my kiddos) will equip me to mother them well. 

And even when I don't, He's there to catch me.
To wipe my tears and hand me chocolate.
To give me grace to start again with joy another day.

Mom's Night Out opens in theaters tomorrow, May 9th!! 

And it's Mother's Day weekend! So PLEASE, go treat yourself, your mom, your sister, or your best friend to 1 hour and 39 minutes of feeling like a million bucks.

*   *    *

Non-original photos courtesy of Mom's Night Out the Movie. 
Show your support and Like their Facebook page today!

Friday, May 2, 2014

When a Messy House is Better than a Messy Heart

I sprayed the bathroom mirror with Windex and watched the light blue mist trickle down in icicle drips over white toothpaste splatters.
"Come be with me," I heard God whisper.
 "But, but..." my heart immediately stuttered.

But my desk is a mess and I didn't dust. But I haven't changed the sheets or chopped the veggies or hung the Happy Birthday sign. But there are crusties on the highchair and crumbs in every corner. But...
"Come BE. With ME," He called.
I suddenly saw Mary at the Lord's feet and Martha reflecting back at me in the streaky bathroom mirror. 
"You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed," 
Jesus said to Martha.
Jesus said to me.

Yes, there was only one "but" I needed to pay attention to. The answer to all of mine.

BUT only one thing is needed.

Sitting with Jesus. Listening to Jesus.

In two hours and 39 minutes (give or take) my home would be filled with people to celebrate the first birthday of my sweet niece, Abigail Ann. My sister lived out of town and I was excited to host this special gathering to honor her little girl. I wanted everything to be perfectly prepared.

But the Gospel's words were stirring my heart. I thought of Mary. I thought of Martha.

And I had to ask myself...

Will my guests really notice little boys' dirty fingerprints polka-dotting the walls?

Will they complain about the piles of papers on my desk?

Will they crane their necks to spy dust bunnies lurking beneath the sofas and side tables?
Very unlikely.

But will they notice a hostess who is neck-tensed, jaw-clenched stressed in gotta-look-perfect, gotta-be-in-control agony?
Absolutely. Glaringly.

I had to ask myself, what does "perfectly prepared" really mean?

So in those precious pre-party minutes of calm while my three boys slept, I stepped away from the Swiffer and Clorox chaos to calm my spirit.

To clean my heart.

 Because a messy house is better than a messy heart. 

And my heart was messy. Mucked up with distractions and misplaced priorities. I was like Martha. Worried and upset about many things.

I removed myself from the mess in my house and I sat on the back porch with Jesus. Let the breeze touch my skin. Let His Word take precedent in my mind. Let prayer pierce through my preoccupation with self. Let praise  pour back from my lips to lift up the One Who Matters.

And time expanded. There was time to do the one thing needed, and then time to do most of the rest. And the undone stuff didn't matter anymore that afternoon.

There's nothing wrong with a clean houseshiny sinks and sparkling toilet bowls can speak love and hospitality when prepared unto God.

But if the choice is between the state of your home or the state of your heart, I understand now more than before the better choice.

*    *    *

Today I'm joining Lisa-Jo  to write about "mess."