Remembering to Float

Remembering to Float

So, Lord, I have these problems.

And in some ways I’m thankful.

Without hard stuff I tend to glide through life with a friendly nod in Your direction.

But when the problems come, I catch my breath and lean into You.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6

So this hard stuff is my opportunity to trust You. To please You by believing that You will make a way out.

It helps that my feet can’t touch the bottom. It’s almost hard to not trust You.

But, while I’m here treading water, waiting for Your intervention, I can think of some ways that You can solve this.

May I let go. Release my solutions and timetable. Float on the water of Your unfathomable goodness.

My ears submerged, muffling the chaos. Enveloped in the other-worldly peace of Your presence.

May I be like that astonishing Roman centurion who prompted singular praise from You. (Matthew 8)

He knew that You could do a miracle without human scaffolding.

He didn’t need a plan.

You were sufficient.

You are Sufficient.

So I remember Your power and goodness. And my heart inflates with hope.

Photo credit: https://static.pexels.com/photos/27324/pexels-photo-27324.jpg

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10 Things I’ve Learned in 20 Years of Marriage

10 Things I’ve Learned in 20 Years of Marriage

“We’re going to show the world how marriage is supposed to be done!”

We actually said this before we got married. Of course it was before we got married. Marriage itself has a way of humbling people.

And now we’re celebrating 20 years! Our slogan now might sound more like, “We know how marriage is not supposed to be done!”

Here are my top ten things that I have learned in 20 years of marriage.

  1. Be humble. In some ways I am a model American – proud and independent. My whole frame of reference from birth has been myself. Being married forced me to consider his point of view. So unnatural and uncomfortable! Impossible to imagine that there is another perspective on how to celebrate Christmas or what to do on a Friday night. Or, that our disagreement might be more easily resolved if I try to see it through his eyes.
  2. Slow down. This is an outflow and discipline of humility. My personality leans toward fast thinking, fast speaking, fast acting. It’s been awkward, but so helpful, to slow down those fast reactions. It’s hard to retract words that spew from reflexive anger. I even try to have a little speech prepared that will give me time to reflect before I speak. “I feel too angry right now to talk about this. Let’s talk about it later.” The challenge is to actually talk about it later!
  3. Journal. Everyone has a different way of processing muddled thoughts and feelings. Writing in an old notebook gives me a safe place to write out my feelings and thoughts. I start by spilling all the feelings on paper, and then I’m able to get a little deeper and unravel the source of my frustration – which is usually fear of some kind. It deflates my defensive anger, and I’m more able to engage in discussion with him.
  4. Sit on the couch. We are not always in this habit. But, it is a great discipline to sit and relax and connect for 15 minutes at the end of the day. Little things that happened during the day come up. Even though we’re usually exhausted it is good to connect. Our lives are usually so constrained by daily obligations that couch time doesn’t come naturally. But, it’s a good way to nurture the friendship of marriage.

  5. Date night. Of course! You can’t have a top ten marriage list without date night! Over the years, our date night currently looks more like date afternoon. And we have found that grabbing a cherry limeade and sitting and talking at Sonic is a nice break from a house full of kids. We also realize that hiking together is a great, budget-friendly way to do dates. Actually, it was a surprise to realize that we both like to hike! We are certainly thankful for colorful Colorado! Afternoon dates are a good way also to compromise the energy levels for a night owl and an early bird.
  6. Pass the pencil. I have become a conflict avoider over the years. It’s taken me awhile to realize that just blowing off conflict doesn’t make it go away. But, oh how I dread those hard conversations that can be a door to reconciliation! A great tool for us is passing the pencil. We each get a turn to “tell our side.” When it’s his turn to talk, he holds the pencil. I am not allowed to speak until he hands me the pencil. And then, during his turn, when he hands me the pencil, I am only allowed to paraphrase what he has just said. The goal is that he can express his “side” and that I can show that I understand. So much of conflict is simply feeling “not understood.” Then, when it’s turn for “my side,” we switch the pencil. It’s a great tool, but I find that I still need a time limit as we do this. Even if we don’t get to actual steps of resolution, just feeling heard is huge.
  7. Celebrate! My romantic husband insists that we set aside time to intentionally celebrate our anniversary each year. This year, the big 20, he actually asked me to take a day off of work for it! Not easy for me, but what a great way to prioritize celebrating our marriage! We even re-enact our first date every December 1st. He brings me a poinsettia like he did on our first date and we do our best to copy what we did on that first date.
  8. Keep learning. Before we were married we felt pretty confident that we knew how to do marriage, but since our first heated argument on our honey moon in Hawaii, we’ve been undeceived! We’ve read marriage books and blogs, attended retreats and workshops, and done some counseling over the years. No silver bullets. But a lifestyle of growing and learning. (Couples that have been married for 40 and 50 years tell us that this never changes!)
  9. Kids take a backseat. This is counter-intuitive for me as a mom. From the moment the kids arrived on the scene I was consumed with caring for them. I’ve sometimes thought, “I’ll prioritize our marriage when they leave the house.” But in the same thought I realize that it would be too late. One of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is parents that worked on having a healthy marriage.

  10. Hang with Jesus. The greatest gift I can give our marriage is a heart that is close to Jesus. My times of quietness with Him re-calibrate how I approach our relationship. Where my instincts are self-focused, He tends to whisper wisdom. When I start to forge ahead in emotion, He tends to slow me down. He gives me courage and peace and deep, true satisfaction no matter the ups and downs. Marriage is from Him and through Him and for Him. A mystery indeed!

Here is a little list of resources that have been very helpful to me in the marriage area:

  • Family Life marriage conferences
  • For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn (I’m sure that For Men Only by the same author is great for husbands also!)
  • The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller
  • The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian
  • The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

I also gain so much wisdom by talking to other people about their marriages. Everyone has a unique experience and perspective. It really encourages and enriches me to hear from others.

SO, I would love to hear your nuggets of marriage wisdom or favorite marriage resources. Please comment below so we can all be encouraged!

It Is Well

It Is Well

Though the money runs out before the paycheck comes in…. It is well with my soul.

Though political and social upheaval unsettle my world and even my mind…. It is well with my soul.

Though just the right job that suits my passions and my strengths eludes me…. It is well with my soul.

Though the corn dog casserole flips upside down onto the kitchen floor just in time for dinner…. It is well with my soul.

Though my unconscious, unrelenting commitment to self over others brings relational brokenness …. It is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul.

On the deepest level.

God fills the emptiness.

He imbues with deep, eternal purpose that which seems meaningless and futile.

He Himself pulses peace in the heartbreak of grief.

He radiates brilliant beauty in drab, dirty, darkness.

He supplies unnatural hope when it seems there is no way out.

He inundates abundance over the mean and meager.

When there is nothing left in me He blasts His mighty strength through my feeble weakness.

When anger wells up and threatens to lay waste, His arrows of humility and wisdom level my pride.

When daily living seems like endless drudgery, I light a candle. The single, brilliant white flame reminds me that He is right here. I can hardly avert my gaze. Relief and deep comfort.

May I continue to serve faithfully and gladly by the power of Your presence.

And so.

It is well with my soul.

Photo credit: http://res.freestockphotos.biz/pictures/2/2302-a-burning-candle-pv.jpg

How To Be a No-Guilt Mom

How To Be a No-Guilt Mom

I have Mother’s Day all planned out. First I’m running a Mother’s Day 5K. (They give you a rose!) Then I’m going to my favorite coffee shop (alone!) to write my annual I Love You So Much letter to each of the kids. Then after church on Sunday, hubby and kids will take a hike with me. Even if some of the offspring aren’t exactly into hiking. It’s my day, doggone it.

Hubby points out that a lot of my Mother’s Day choices seem to involve me being alone.

Whatever. I seriously don’t feel guilty about that.

I revel in the joy of being a mom! No guilt at all as I celebrate Mother’s Day by replenishing my soul to love for the long haul.

The other 364 days of the year however, I carry pervasive, low-grade mom guilt.

Heavy, heavy weight.

At the core: “Am I doing enough? Am I providing enough: opportunity for growth and responsibility and discernment of their callings?”

My true breath of freedom and hope comes when I take time away. To fill myself up on a regular basis. The irony is that sometimes the best way to serve my family is to step away.

So I sit quietly with Him. Just on the edge of my bed, a blanket wrapped around me because I’m usually cold in Colorado.

I look out the window and marvel at the towering, graceful tree across the street. I drink in the serene blue of the sky. The distant, snowy point of Pike’s Peak.

I open His Book, and His true Words pour into my heart.

“I love you. I love you differently than I love other people. Not because I change. But because you are unique. I love you out of the overflow of Who I Am. I Am Love.”

So He fills me up. He quenches the thirsty, wistful parts.

And in little ways I can parent without guilt. I am loved deeply. His overflow helps me to love them deeply. Each one uniquely.

Who knows how my beautiful children will turn out? I don’t.

He gives me patience to keep sowing. To keep loving. To keep disciplining. To keep doing laundry and making meals. To keep having kid dates at McDonalds. To keep reading stories and listening and laughing.

There really doesn’t seem to be much to show for all this little humble work.

But it seems like when Jesus died and rose again and returned to heaven, there wasn’t a lot of showy produce among His followers.

And yet His sacrifice had watered and fertilized the scattered seed of His children. And they grew- slowly, steadily, awkwardly- into the global Body of Christ.

I will trust Him again (for today, anyway) to produce beautiful fruit in the lives of these beautiful, human children.

Walking by faith.

No guilt.

Photo credit: http://www.uncalke.com/i/spring-flowers-wallpaper-background.jpg

Joy Will Come

Joy Will Come

Her husband and children died, and now she is alone in a foreign land.

So begins the book of Ruth.

Impossible sorrow.

Impossible because, really, what could redeem that kind of tragedy?

This Steven Curtis Chapman song wafts through my mind:

“Out of these ashes
Beauty will rise
And we will dance among the ruins
We will see it with our own eyes.”

Glimmers of hope in the wake of tragedy.

But what’s staggering about this song is that he wrote it in response to his own daughter’s accidental death. He fiercely holds on to the belief that God redeems all pain and suffering. He doesn’t claim to know what the beauty will look like. But he simply clings to the gut level knowledge that God is the redeemer. The beauty that will rise from such horrible tragedy will result in a fountain of joy. Irrepressible dancing in its wake.

Who could imagine the beauty that would arise from Naomi’s sorrow- grieving her husband and children?

Who would ever predict that it would precipitate a journey back to her homeland, tenacious Ruth in tow?

And Ruth, this Moabite girl, would be grafted into the family of God and become a colorful piece in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

It takes my breath away.

Ruth didn’t know that she was the great grandma of King David or the many times great grandma of the Lord Jesus. But maybe she hung on to the hope like Steven Curtis Chapman does.

In the darkness there is brilliant light.

The gray, dreary dawn is ready to burst into brilliant pink-orange.

Even if we don’t see it until we join Jesus in eternity.

Our sorrow is tinged with purpose and hope. And our faith simply pleases Him.

“Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning.”
Psalm 30:5

Photo credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/67/Golden_sunrise.jpg

Sacred Sink

Sacred Sink

If you’re looking for me, try the kitchen. I spend about 98.3% of my waking hours there. (I should verify that number, but it sounds right.)

As a new wife I almost killed my young husband with rich, nightly feasts of beef stroganoff and creamy casseroles.

Then the babies started coming! And the food allergies.

And the kitchen became my laboratory. A little intense like high school science lab. But I was able to nourish my family! Which felt fulfilling. And exhausting.

The whole three meals and two snacks a day thing took a little of the bounce out of my culinary enthusiasm.

And I’m still in the kitchen! Years of feeding these growing kids who are now beginning to tower over me. And my kind husband who eats everything with gratitude.

The day is coming when my kitchen time will ease up. But it’s not right now.

Sometimes I resent this little room. So many tedious hours of hard work. It’s quite a long process to make a batch of pancakes for dinner. (They are definitely too much work for me to consider pancakes a breakfast food.) And then they’re gone. In a blink.

A weird combination of fulfilling and flattening.

That felt like a lot of work to see no tangible results.

Except dirty dishes.

Ah, the dirty dishes!

My bane and blessing.

More kitchen time. More ordinary, tedious work. That will be undone again at the next meal.

And yet – what blessing! We have dishes! And, thank You, God, they’re dirty! Which means that our family had food to eat.

daffodil sink

And so this ordinary little sink becomes a sacred workplace.  It holds a vital rhythm of life to go slow. Which is not my reflexive pace.

To feel hot water and carefully, thoroughly wash each plate. Each spoon.  Each pan.

Fresh smelling suds.

And quiet.

And maybe half way through the rhythm of washing and rinsing, washing and rinsing, the thought occurs to me that You are here, too, Lord.

Thank You for being here.

Thank You for grace.

You forgive me all. the. time.

And I love You.

Whatever You want, Lord. Anything. I’m Your girl.

I’ll go to the dark, remote corners of the globe.

I’ll speak on stages.

I’ll learn new languages.

I’ll translate the Bible.

I’ll be kind to my husband.

I’ll read stories to my children.

I’ll make pancakes for dinner.

I’ll wash dirty dishes at this sink for 5, 10, 50 years.

I’m Your girl.

So I find contentment.

Because the mystery of my mundane kitchen is that God is here. Always.

Photo credits: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/4c/48/be/4c48be63173557d89afc8ebf73fea729.jpg and https://toolkit.climate.gov/sites/default/files/Spring-fed%20stream%20on%20a%20Sky%20Island.JPG

Refreshed

Refreshed

Deeply tired – body, mind and soul.

Now the gift of an open afternoon! I long for replenishment. To be filled back up.

So what to do? Alone with a book? Coffee with a friend? A nap?

I only have three hours!

It reminds me of the time my sister spent a summer in far-off Siberia. Back in the 90’s before Skype and Facebook and smart phones. She got to call home on an old-fashioned, land-line telephone. For about $1,000 per minute.

“Mom! How are you? What’s the weather like? Wait, don’t answer that. It’s not worth the money.

What did you guys have for dinner? No,no, nevermind.

I really miss Taco Bell…. Aaaaah!

Just tell me the most important thing you can think of before I have to hang up.”

That’s how this open afternoon feels. So rare and expensive! Trying to choose the absolute best activity to fill the time is nerve-wracking.

I open to Psalm 87. “All my springs are in you.”

Those few words bring peace. They ring true.

You satiate me. Quietly. Deeply.

I was parched, and I didn’t even know it. Until I paused. Your Word lights up my path. And Your simple, deep love seeps slowly into my soul.

Thank You for the cool, fresh draught, Jesus.

My thirst is being quenched and sharpened at the same time.

I don’t feel pressure to fill my time with the best thing now. I feel refreshed to the degree that I can hear Your whispers again.

Thank You for these next few minutes with You. I can stay home now or go out. Either way, “All my springs are in you.”