Friday, August 22, 2014

Worthwhile words for your weekend

The kids may be back in school, but we're still soaking in some summer. This weekend we'll be at Kentucky Lake with friends, where we'll eat well, laugh much, swap stories, spent time on the water, and surely get in the water with a heat index that's expected to be in triple digits.

We've been spoiled with a cooler-than-usual summer, so I feel bad even discussing this heat. But, you know, it's hard to ignore when sweat is dripping down my back.

So, let's move on. 

How about some worthwhile words for your weekend?

NEEDTOBREATHE has some great live music I found on the Internet this week. You're welcome. {And, yes, now I'm way too eager to see NEEDTOBREATHE live in less than a month in Nashville!} I particularly love this version of "Something Beautiful."

"... And the water is risin' quick / And for years I was scared of it / We can't be sure when it will subside / So I won't leave your side, no I can't leave your side
Hey now, this is my desire / Consume me like a fire, 'cause I just want something beautiful / To touch me, I know that I'm in reach' / Cause I am down on my knees, I'm waiting for something beautiful ..."

And now for more somethings beautiful ...

I really can't get enough of Shauna Niequist right now. I'm reading "Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes." And then there's this refreshing blog post that supposed to be about what July taught her but encourages me in what God's teaching me:

"Here’s the good news, new information for a girl like me: I can rest when I’m tired, read when I’m hungry for words, reach out when I’m lonely. I don’t have to be strong all the time, or on all the time, or working all the time. And under that, creating a deep foundation for that, more good news: God made us, he loves us, and he’s inviting us into a way of living that’s drenched in grace, in true rest, in connection and communion with him and with each other."

Speaking of books, the ever-encouraging Holley Gerth has a new one out. It's a devotion called "What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days." I have no doubt it's packed with truth and wisdom. My copy is in the hands of the U.S. Postal Service somewhere. You can get yours from DaySpring, where the code HGFRIENDS will give you 20% off, or Amazon.

Meanwhile, I can't stop listening to "Greater" by MercyMe. My kids know I will turn it up every single time it comes on the radio and may even have it on repeat when they get in the car after school.

"Bring your tired / Bring your shame / Bring your guilt / Bring your pain / Don’t you know that’s not you’re name / You will always be much more to me
Every day I wrestle with the voices / That keep telling me I’m not right / But that’s alright /‘Cause I hear a voice and He calls me redeemed / When others say I’ll never be enough / And greater is the One living inside of me / Than he who is living in the world ...
Bring your doubts / Bring your fears / Bring your hurt / Bring your tears / There’ll be no condemnation here / You are holy, righteous and redeemed ...
There’ll be days I lose the battle / Grace says that it doesn’t matter / ‘Cause the cross already won the war ..."

You can listen here.

What's on your weekend agenda? Have you read or heard anything worth sharing?

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mid-week relief for all your days

Sometimes I get to Wednesday relieved I survived Monday and Tuesday.

When I start my to-do list of things that need to happen the next week, I always write it on my Monday calendar. And then I spend Monday running errands, replying to emails, and taking care of all sorts of business – like it all has to be done before lunch the first work day of the week.

Whatever doesn’t happen Monday is rolled over to Tuesday. And surely I get it all done by Wednesday, right?

Of course not!

There’s always something to be done. It’s not always important or even necessary. Some days I get the priorities messed up. And other days I realize it’s OK to sit down with a fiction book that may not help me solve all the world’s problems.

My tendency is to bow down to productivity. I’m such a work-before-play girl. But I’m slowly realizing that’s no way to live – not on Mondays or any other day of the week.

Because it doesn’t all have to be finished today.

It’s impossible it’ll all be done today.

So don’t forget to rest. I’m encouraging you while reminding myself: Read your Bible. Write someone you miss a letter. Call your friend on the phone. Pick up that fiction book you’ve been waiting to read. Get a pedicure. Go on a walk with a friend. Play a game with your kids. Bake a pie, if that’s your thing. Watch a movie with your husband.

Or just sit there.

There’s no right way to rest.

But there’s power in remembering that to-do list doesn’t haven’t to be conquered by lunchtime on Monday. I’ve been telling myself: It’s OK to slow down and sit down. In fact, there are plenty of days it’s not until I sit down I remember to Whom I should bow down. I lose sight of God when I’m rushing around, striking the next task off my Monday calendar like it owns me.

I’m linking this post with Jennifer Dukes Lee’s #TellHisStory and Holley Gerth’s Coffee for your Heart. I've written on this subject before, inspired by Jennifer Dukes Lee's "Love Idol."

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Out there where God calms my soul

I loved my view this weekend.

Greg kept calling it a lake, but I disputed that and referred to the body of were as a big pond. I have no idea if there’s a scientific difference, but we’re both stubborn like that.

I used to say I didn’t like the country. But now I sometimes dream about the quiet out there. Out there isn’t a specific place, but it’s away from the hustle and bustle that happens even a small town. It’s out of my extroverted comfort zone. It’s where life moves slower.

My out there involves water. I may live in a landlocked state without an ocean, but lakes are peaceful too. No, oceans and lakes aren’t the same, but both sing God’s glory.

And calm my soul.

My specific view Saturday involved my husband fishing off a pontoon, the kids going back and forth between fishing and talking about everything that came to their curious minds, my eyes reading the pages of my fiction book, Cate building a sand castle, sharing lunch around a picnic table, Ben playing in mud and then cleaning himself by swimming, Ben discovering the echo out there, and my mother-in-law gracefully joining us in the adventure.

But it wasn’t just around that lake/pond that offered a soul-filling view this past weekend. We had friends over three nights in a row. Another view I love: People around my table. We fed them with food and they fed me with conversation and community.

It’s a new week with another weekend on the horizon. I’m guessing God has all sorts of views ready for me and I don’t want to miss them.

Tell me about a view in your life you’ve loved lately.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Only & Never :: On God Being the Only Absolute

As a preschooler, I wanted to wear only pink and purple dresses. As a young adult, I refused to eat at the local Chinese buffet, telling my husband adamantly I didn’t like Chinese food.

I never wanted to live in Murray after I graduated from college, work for a specific small-town newspaper we criticized in my journalism classes, or send my kids to a private, Christian school. Of course, I also assumed I would have kids biologically when I was ready.

You know that cliché about “Never say never …”? Well. I’m here to tell you, it’s true.

And while you’re eliminating “never” from your vocabulary, but go ahead and strike out “only.” Never and only create absolutes that are impossible to uphold.

Truth is, we don’t have any authority to create absolutes. Only God is absolute.

God is The Way, The Truth and The Life (John 14:6). Unlike my childhood clothing preferences, God never changes. He’s steadfast and constant too – something that can’t be said about my food choices either.

Here I am, regularly wearing jeans, T-shirts and flip flops while eating (and sometimes even cooking!) Chinese food. I’ve been back in Murray for 12 years since moving away briefly after graduating. That newsroom I swore I’d never enter turned out to be the job I loved. I only left that job because God called me to something better and harder – mothering. Of course, those kids weren’t born in my way or my time. But God wrote a story of adoption that built my faith like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.

{Read the rest of the post at, where I'm thrilled to be a regular contributor.}

I'm linking up this post with the weekly Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood Gathering.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Words for your weekend

The Internet is full of much stuff. Some of it's good. Some it's offensive. And, well, I could go on and on. But I've read some good stuff lately that I believe is worth sharing. Below I'm just going to share some favorite quotes from each post, but they're worth reading in full if you're looking for some encouragement this weekend.

Because, really, there's some good stuff out there.

When You Ache Because of the World's Suffering by Kristen Strong

"... and she helps me clean up the mess before fetching me a new carton of blueberries. One soul can do that for another, help you through the mess. She can reflect Jesus Who is a helper, not a hinderer, Who is a burden-easer and shame-defyer. And what’s more, our Savior does this for all of us. He puts everything right again."

What Really Defines Motherhood by Kayse Pratt

"You are a momma. Nothing can change that. It’s not defined by the way your baby comes into this world, or how you feed that baby, or what material you use to catch their poop.

Can we get off our cause-driven soapboxes and agree on this one thing? God has made us mommas. He has filled us with wisdom and intuition and an intense, desperate, all-consuming love. We would do anything for our babies. God has given your child to you, and given you to your child. Your place as his momma is a divine appointment, and you can trust that He didn’t make a mistake!

Our stories are different. Our decisions are different. And that’s okay."

Public, Private, Or Home School? How Moms Can Support Each Other Regardless by Kim Hyland

"As Christian parents, our methods may vary, but we share the same goal: to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Keeping that common end goal in sight enables us to stay focused and determined as we walk out all the ups and downs of our education choices. Moreover, it frees us to support our fellow moms in their choices."

Other words I've read lately have come from books, both of which I highly recommend ...

"Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes" by Shauna Niequist

"Life at the table is life at its best to me, and the spiritual significance of what and how we eat, and with whom and where, is new and profound to me every day. I believe God is here among us, present and working." 

"Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity" by Jen Hatmaker

"He often healed people first; they believed second. If I’m wrong, the worst thing that could happen is that some desperate people are cared for, and I’m guessing Jesus will look the other way. He seems to favor unmerited grace. To me, this is a wheat-and-weeds issue, and since that’s not my call to make, I’ll just err on the side of mercy and let Jesus sort it out at the harvest."

Happy weekend, friends! Have you read anything good?

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Walking into a new season – together

Jaclyn and I used to meet at the park between finishing work and cooking dinner and walk laps. She told me about her day in an elementary school classroom and I shared stories from the small-town newsroom.

We talked about marriage and careers. We reminisced about our college days at the beginning of our friendship. We made plans and dreamed of what would come next.

And then neither of us got what we wanted next when we thought we wanted it.

Both of us, her first and then me, we wanted to be moms. Charting temperatures, having countless vials of blood drawn, going to more doctor’s appointments, keeping a calendar on paper although we knew it so well in our heads, and crying out to God dominated our conversations for what seemed like a long time.

She had a miscarriage not long after she first saw a positive pregnancy test. With one tube, she went on to birth three healthy babies in five years. Meanwhile, I never got good news from a pregnancy test, but adoption made a mom – twice in less than three years.

Together, we have five kids in five years.

And for the first time since we became mommas, they all went to school on Wednesday. Her first two and my oldest are all about a year apart, but then there’s 19-month gap before the next two, who are almost exactly nine months apart. So we don’t have a kindergartner between us this year, but we do have third-grade, second-grade, first-grade, and two different preschool classes covered.

I texted her Tuesday night: “Do you want to walk tomorrow morning WITH NO KIDS?”

Her response: “YES!”

We’ve spent some time as adult friends while our husbands or some other childcare provider had our kids, but it’s not regular. We mostly do life with these five in five years – or more recently some smaller combination of them – tagging along. We’ve pushed single and double strollers and figured out what to do with our kids who were too big for strollers while we walked. We’ve picked up toys our kids dropped while trying to share {or steal!} from each other. Those same kids have shared fruit snacks, claimed Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star as their song, and ended up in each other’s strollers.

That’s fine and good – and, really, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This is what we longed for. 

Seeing these kids who don’t know life apart from each other is the best testimony to God’s faithfulness. He heard the desires of our hearts. But walking our laps at the park Wednesday morning reminded me of just how far we’ve come.

Yes, we’re mommas now, but we’re also not the same people who walked and talked a decade ago.

We’ve experienced joy and pain in ways we never expected. We’ve settled into a community here that we weren’t sure we’d ever have. We’ve quit jobs and taken on new ones. We’ve changed more diapers than I’d ever care to count, swapped kids to help each other, and gathered around each other’s tables and in each other’s mini vans.

This is our life. And here we are in a whole new season – together.

Linking up with Lyli Dunbar's Thought-Provoking Thursday.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Fresh Start :: On Brokenness & Restoration

Sitting on the front porch, the spring-like breeze made me forget today was our last day before school starts tomorrow. The kids played in the front yard while I finished editing a friend’s book. A couple guys worked on building us a deck in the back yard. The kids read/browsed books of their own while I soaked in the silence.

We met Greg for lunch at the Thai restaurant of the kids’ choosing to celebrate summer’s end. Honestly, I haven’t felt like celebrating. Summer went too fast. It’s not that there was more I wanted to do, but I want more of what we’ve done. I want more adventures and more afternoons at the pool.

But today has been good for my weary soul.

This summer has been full of fun times – with friends, at amusement parks, on the road, in our front yard, in our pajamas, on the calendar, and in spontaneous moments.

And this summer also has been a time of processing old wounds.

Watching a dear friend walk through a family situation that reminds of my own history that left the deepest scars has brought me to a place I wasn’t expecting. I’d walk through the hard days with this friend over and over again, but I wasn’t emotionally prepared for where her journey would take me. I wasn’t ready for the scabs in my heart to be ripped off. I thought the scars were fading, but I realized this summer they still need to heal.

So today as the spring breeze blew through my last summer day, I typed out some words I’ve held inside for decades. A relationship that plagued me when I was 8 is still haunting me at 35 years old. Through my husband’s encouragement, my friends’ support, and God’s grace, I’ve realized I need to forgive. The anger I’ve held onto for so long has overflowed into my life as a wife, mom, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. The bitterness has robbed me of the joy and peace God wants me to know.

I get the sense there’s freedom on the other side.

Yes, the kids will go back to school tomorrow. But our adventures don’t end here. Hopefully I’ll get to the point of forgiveness sooner rather than later. Because that’s just the beginning of whatever God has for me next.

“I don’t want to get so stressed about bedtime this year,” I told Greg at lunch while my kids listened. They all knew what I meant because they’ve regularly witnessed by nagging, rushing of putting the kids away because I’m often tired by daylight’s end. Really, I’m weary from the inside out.

Bedtime sounds minor, but it’s in the ordinary moments I’m realizing God is continuing a work he started long ago. And it’s here in the process of getting to the other side of forgiveness that I’ve learned only through brokenness does God have a chance to restore.

“Become broken and poured out for hopeless people. Become a living offering, denying yourself for the salvation and restoration of humanity. …

Doesn’t this concept of being broken for others ring true? It’s a spiritual dynamic that bears out physically. Why is it so exhausting to uphold someone’s heavy, inconvenient burden? Why are we spent from shouldering someone’s grief or being an armor bearer? Why is it that lifting someone out of his or her rubble leaves us breathless? Because we are the body of Christ, broken and poured out, just as He was. 
Mercy has a cost: someone must be broken for someone else to be fed. The sermon changed your life? That messenger was poured out so you could hear it. The friends who stood in the gap during your crisis? They embraced some sacrifice of brokenness for your healing.” 
{Jen Hatmaker in “Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity”}

It doesn’t feel like summer anymore – both with this relief in humidity and the school calendar looming. But I want to hold onto a summer mentality that recognizes one more book, an extra song, or an adventure that stretches beyond 7:30 p.m. is okay. More importantly, I want to remember what God’s taught me this summer: Our brokenness can feed each other and give God a chance to make us new.

Perhaps a fresh start with the new school year won’t be so bad after all.

I'm sharing this post with link-ups at Jen Ferguson's Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood Gathering, Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart, Beth Stiff's Three Word Wednesday, and Jennifer Dukes Lee's #TellHisStory

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