A letter to my daughter as I go back to work…

Dear SweetE,
If these last 3 months have taught me anything it’s that I’m not cut out to be a stay-at-home mom but that doesn’t make this day any easier. I have loved our long days where day turned into night in one continuous blur. I’ve enjoyed watching you go from a wrinkly, squinty face to a “little human”. I love seeing you experience this world and learn new things every day. I love to listen to your giggle, see your sweet smiles, and get the opportunity to nourish your body with my own. Though today, someone else will witness those sweet smiles, will hear those giggles as hours are spent in someone else’s care.
I want you to know the immense amount of heartache and guilt I feel when I put you in daycare, but know that allowing me the chance to pursue my passions makes me a better mom.
I want you to know the fear I feel that you may one day know your caregiver more than me. I pray that never happens, but I worry none-the-less. I worry that you’ll get hurt, sick, upset, scared, and I won’t be there to comfort you. In my eyes, no one will be able to take care of you the way I would. I wake up in the middle of the night with intense worry over this one decision. If I’m being honest, no caregiver will ever be good enough, yet here I am leaving you in the hands of someone else. I’ll constantly question and worry from the time I drop you off to the moment you are back in my arms because I am your mother and I love you.
I love you enough to show you that your mom is the best version of herself when she is free to pursue her God-given passions to make this world you live in better. I love you enough to demonstrate the strength, resolve, and intelligence of a working mom. I love you enough to allow someone else to watch you because from the moment you were created in my womb I have given you over to God. I have entrusted my Savior with your very life and I trust that He will keep you safe every day when we are apart. If by chance you are hurt one day, I’ll trust that He will give me the strength and tender mercy to make it through. I pray that He will remind me that you were His first and that your life is His gift to me lived out in precious moments every day that will make the exhaustion, separation, and sadness fall away as I joyfully live into this new journey as your mother who works out of the home and holds you loosely enough to let you grow even in the care of another.

The problem with working out to “work it out”

 Last Friday, as I was heading out the door to meet my friend Cait at the gym my phone buzzed. A quick glance showed me it was a text message from her. She wasn’t able to make it to the gym that morning to work out with me. I know what you are thinking, she gave the usual excuses our workout buddies typically do, ‘I’m too tired, not feeling well, or just plain don’t want to’, however that wasn’t what the text said. What her text said made
me ponder our inclination to work out so that we can “work out our junk”.
Cait’s text simply read that she was feeling grumpy in her soul and
knew she needed to take that hour we would have spent in the gym to be with Jesus instead an
d refuel her soul before the day began. As I read the text I thought to myself, “well come to the gym anyway, you’ll feel better when you’re done, and isn’t
that the best time to workout? When you’re mad, frustrated, or annoyed?” And there lied the problem.
As a culture, we tell ourselves that if we just knockout a few miles on the pavement our problems won’t seem so big. Though what I admired most about Cait’s text message was that she dug deeper and realized that no 30 minutes on a treadmill or lifting weights was going to fix what was going on with her. She needed time at the feet of her Savior not a pump session.
How often do we let exercise or even food be our way to “work it out?”  I’ve been guilty of it. I’d rather bake in the kitchen when I’m mad or move my body for a little bit to forget the frustrations. I mean that is what endorphins are for! Elle from Legally Blonde told us, “exercise builds endorphins, endorphins make you happy, happy people don’t shoot their husbands.” So how can working out to work out my junk really be that bad for me?
Well, it would like putting lipstick on a pig, for lack of a better analogy.
When we choose to work out during those times we may feel better for a little while afterwards when all that “pent up aggression” has worked its way out of our system as happy endorphins work their way in however, those things are external fixes while sometimes that problem is solely internal, spiritual. We need to be aware that there is a spiritual battle happening in our lives and choosing to cope with our issues by means other than our Creator will not satisfy.
So while I believe there can be good that can come from working out during times of anger or frustration (I mean you are moving your body!), I want to choose to drop my knees before my Father before I pick up my barbell or lace up my shoes. In those moments, that is where I will find my true strength, not in myself to deal with my crap but in my Creator who is way more equipped than I will ever be.

A Year to Celebrate

I am declaring this to be my year of celebration. After years of running around on the never ending hamster wheel of home and work and not a whole lot of life inbetween, I felt stuck. And that unaddressed stagnancy over time became burn out. I was burned out on life and was angry that God gave me a life that I couldn’t enjoy, or at least not for a while anyway. I thought once we got through this hurtle, through this stage and onto the next phase of life that that would be when it got good. If I could just get through this my life will be better, I will be happier. After all, thousands of motivational speakers build empires on this one idea. Though that didn’t happen, each step made me the opposite of happy. Lack of a thankful heart and the need for more while over looking so much that was given to me caused me to believe that God wanted me to be exhausted, burnt out and stuck. Then a friend whispered, “God doesn’t call you to burn out.” God desired my abandoned heart, not a list of life stages and accomplishments. God has given me this day and every day to make the most of; to live into joyously, to laugh and cry and vent with friends. I have come to find that my heart is craving for a life that is full, one that celebrates every small, insignificant as well as every big and monumentous moment of my life. Because God is good and loves me enough to give me an early sunrise, breath in my lungs, and people who are hurting for more. More of life, more of God, and more of love.

I feel a little like Bilbo Baggins when I say, ” I’m going on an adventure”. An adventure where I say no to the mundane, no to sitting back mindlessly watching tv saying “woe is me” while the world beckons me to come and play, and yes to every breath, every minute, every bite and every story God intrusts to me in the day to day of laundry, work, meetings, and dinners.

Maybe you feel a lot like me right now, with the glimmer of the holidays in your rear view and a stirring in your belly to not let the days slip by. To you I say, “let’s go”. Let’s go together and figure this out. Let’s learn what it looks like to enjoy this life in the noise and in the quiet. Let’s move forward and celebrate every good, bad, and in-between moment of the day because I believe celebration is an act of worship. To celebrate, to give our minds and lives back to a God that gives us so much every day. Let’s open our eyes to celebrate this wonderful life around us. Here’s to a #YearofCelebration. Are you in?

Will I be okay with small dreams?

I’ve always struggled with small dreams. As kids we are told to “dream big”, “sky’s the limit”, and a thousand other positive things that make us to want to grow up and become astronauts and cure cancer. So what happens if my dreams stay small even when I dream big? Do I need to have a big reach to feel like I’ve accomplished God’s plan for my life?

I’ve watched friend after friend receive blessings and opportunities a hundred times over and here I am…still waiting.

In these moments I can’t help but wonder, “God when is it going to be me”, “Will there be enough left over after you’ve blessed them for the thousandth time?!”. It’s hard, brutal even. It’s hard to wait patiently while you watch blessing pour out like manna rained down on someone else. What sucks even more is that there isn’t a formula. God isn’t a Fairy Godmother (or father if we want to be correct). I can’t just say the right words, in the correct order, at the right time of day and than “bippity, boppity, boo”, everything will align for me. If that were the case, my dreams would look quite different, but I am not so sure I would want them anyway.

Somewhere along the line we got this crazy idea in our head that if we aren’t impacting thousands then what we are doing doesn’t matter to the world or to the Kingdom. Perhaps that mindset is due to our fascination with social media, viral new stories, and a world desperately seeking to be needed.

Though what if changing the world doesn’t look how we imagined? I’ve sat back dreaming and praying that God would use me in a big way, and I am not giving up on that, but I believe God turns big things out of small obediences. Lately, I’ve had to ask myself, “Will I be okay if I have big dreams and only a small impact?” The answer: I don’t know if I will be okay, but I do know I will be used for the glory of God. And that has to be enough. If it isn’t, then what’s the point of surrendering my life to God’s calling?

This semester, Asbury Seminary has challenged us to #AttemptSomethingBig. It is a great and wonderful thing to dream big and believe in our God for big things because I believe when we are aligned with His will He will accomplish them and even more than we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20) but “what if?” What if the something big we attempt is just small, slow acts of obedience every day and allowing our God to be brought glory through it? May we trust our God in the big and the small.

Slow is scary

I’m learning to slow down the pace of my life.

If I’ve learned anything this past month it’s house much slow and silence scares me. When faced with quiet, and without the go, go, go I am used to I find myself overcome with fear and anxiety. It’s where Satan gets me best. In the quiet, I allow thoughts that I am no good, make huge mistakes, and “won’t be able to do this” make their home not only in my mind, but my heart. These fears speak to a greater worry I have, and the fact is that my hope isn’t completely in my Creator like I keep telling myself and everyone around me.

The truth is, I am very much scared with the slowed rhythm. I once thought that this new season would bring immense amounts of happiness, contentment, and relief but I am finding that more than anything it is allowing for me to clean up the junk I’ve kept hidden in my closet and, like a hoarder, it is now overflowing and needs to be addressed (much like my home nowawdays). Though silence breeds the uncomfortable, it also brings forth clarity. Every day feels a little more different than the last and I am finding that I am able to breath a little easier as the room gets a little more organized from the last several years of throwing things inside and shutting the door to avoid looking at the mess. We do that, ya know? Avoid the pain, the junk, the reality of our depravity by shoving it in a closet and hoping no one decides to come over and accidentally open the door while searching for the bathroom allowing for all our hoarding to come to light. Though, I believe we miss a great healing and an even greater renewal of Spirit when we box up and put away the ugly stuff, the hard stuff to make a “more presentable home”.

(you’re welcome for this little gem of a clip)
So today, I’m spending some time in the silence, talking to my Jesus. And you know what I’m finding out? The silence is kind of nice. Yes it’s hard, and I cry (truly ugly cries) and it sucks, but through the silence His voice seems louder than my own, His directions don’t seem muddled, and I am forever changed by entering into His presence every morning. Lamentations 3: 22-26 says:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
    his mercies never come to an end;
   they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul that seeks him.
 It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.”

“It is good that one should wait quietly.” For this reason, I know that by creating this new rhythm, I will be able to be renewed for the journey ahead.

Falling Forward: Pumpkin Blueberry Steel Cut Oats

IMG_1396I love Fall – the sights, the smells, the cool, crisp weather, and all the produce ready for harvest. Seriously, the best! The only downside is that it seems shortened, gipped even. Maybe it is due to Daylight Savings Time where it gets dark at 3p.m. (I’m exaggerating a bit but you get me) or the reality that Christmastime is looming. I am a purist and think that Christmas decorations shouldn’t make an appearance until the day AFTER Thanksgiving, that’s after Thanksgiving, not Halloween. Anyway, Fall feels a little less leisurely and a lot more like your falling forward…into a black hole filled with Christmas lights, gift lists, parties to attend, endless airings of Elf & A Christmas Story etc. etc. As my husband says, “Halloween ends and we skip right over Thanksgiving and head straight into buying things”.

Don’t get me wrong I love Christmas and I am waiting expectantly for the chance to usher in that moment with complete joy and attention. However, before I can enter into a season of Christmas bliss remembering the birth of my Risen Savior (who, by the way, most scholars will say wasn’t born on December 25) I need to spend some much needed time cultivating a heart of gratitude.  So with that in mind, I’d like us to continue to savor the Autumn season and come together with thankful hearts before we rush through the impending chaos that is Christmas.

These Pumpkin Blueberry Steel Cut Oats are a favorite because it’s a time-saver, you make it up the night before and pop it in the oven in the morning, and it is good for family time on the weekends. So let’s get to it.
1 & 1/2 C. Pumpkin Puree (I make my own)
1 C. Steel Cut Oats
1/3 C. Ground Flax Seed
       1   Egg White
1/4 C. Honey (or more if you like it sweeter)
1/4 C. Pecans, chopped
1 tsp   Pumpkin Pie Spice
2 tsp   Cinnamon
1 tsp   Baking Soda
2 C     Almond Milk
1 C.    Blueberries ( I added mine right before baking because they were frozen but if you have fresh add them in before!)
1. Grease a 9×13 pan (If you forget to do this first, no biggie- I always forget!)
2. In a bowl, combine pumpkin puree, ground flax seed, egg white, and honey.
3. Then add pecans, oats, spices, baking soda, almond milk and blueberries (see note above) and stir to mix.
4. Pour mixture into prepared 9×13 pan, cover, and place in refrigerator overnight.
5. In the morning, preheat oven to 375 and bake for 55-60 minutes.
IMG_1397         IMG_1399

Get together with your friends or family this weekend over a batch of these oats. Talk about life, struggles, blessings – everything and let’s be grateful for them all.

What recipes do you enjoy this time of year?

What if I don’t want to be brave?

I have to admit, it was unusual. The decision to quit a “stable” job in return for healing, rest, and a re-ignition of purpose. I’ve been called brave but honestly, brave is the last thing I feel. I had this idea in my head of feeling valiant and re-energized but after a month, I still feel anxious, I still worry, and I still have no idea what I am doing. Perhaps it is because bravery isn’t an emotion, bravery is surrender. And today, my “brave” decisions feel like painful, little deaths lived over and over.

In the Bible we find the words brave, strong, courageous mentioned many times. One Greek translation for the word brave is “hupomeno” (hypoménō) meaning to remain, not recede or flee (Note: Greek translations are a benefit of having a husband in seminary but I am no biblical scholar, so be gracious and know that I’d love to learn from you!). Remain; a word I loathe and for good reason – I like to move it, move it! (insert Madagascar reference here). I have “ants in my pants” my parents would say. Though while I am to remain, I am also not to recede. To be brave is to move forward or stay right where you are and those two things are scary and brave and exciting all at once.

In the Old Testament, I’ve found that words for brave are commonly linked to warriors and seasons of battle. Usually, the battles were times where the underdog was on our side and the other side looked pretty well stacked- yet somehow the underdog would end up victorious. It was always through the warrior’s surrender to God that allowed him to be brave and victorious.

In the New Testament, bravery is associated with words like strong and courageous. I like that. I like the idea of being strong and courageous. Though those characteristics are not my DNA so I can only assume that my strong and courageousness must comes from Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit working in me. My bravery comes only from the surrendering of my life to God’s will. Because of what Jesus has done for my life, I have a decision to make to move forward or to remain, and not flee- even when it scares me.

I will say, it is a surprising road and some days I wish I knew where my feet were going to land. Lately, when people ask I tell them that I feel as though I am standing on the edge of a cliff looking out over a great land (I have been reading a lot of Old Testament passages about the promised land so that may be why). As I look ahead, I can choose to recede, to hide under my warm, safe, and comfy blanket allowing my introvert self to indulge in another Netflix binge, or I can surrender and move forward when He calls and remain for now. I can wake up every day with this truth in mind, “Don’t lose your courage or be afraid. Don’t panic or be frightened, because the Lord your God goes with you, to fight for you… and to save you”. ( Deuteronomy 20:3-4, ASV)

I may not feel brave every day but every day I choose to be a little more brave, to listen for God’s voice , and die a little death to myself- my desires, and my own assumptions of how this life is going to look.

As I was looking more into this word, brave, I found that the very definition means “ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage”. This is how I would define this season. There will be pain, uncertainty, and emotions I really don’t want to deal with, though my bravery will never be true bravery if it comes from me. Bravery will only work when I choose to surrender myself to the One who has already won the battle. He’s also the one who knows my heart better than I. So today, I may seem brave but today is just another day in surrender.

So how about you?
What are some of the ways you are being “brave”? Are you moving forward or are you remaining? Are you scared? (It’s okay to be – you are welcome to join me in the scaredy-cat corner). Here’s to victories in the little deaths and enough Jesus, coffee, and pie to conquer it all.