The Discussion We Need to Have

Reports estimate that that American women spend a staggering $426 billion a year on beauty products. We place a high value on beauty.

We want beautiful homes, beautiful weddings, beautiful getaways to exotic places. Beauty is a good thing, in our eyes. But do we want beautiful holiness?

The Bible describes holiness as a beautiful thing. “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”

This got me thinking, “Why don’t we value holiness like we should?””Why don’t we think of holiness as beautiful?”  I asked several teen girls and a few of my friends their thoughts on this matter, which I’ll share in the next few days.

But for now, the first, question: “What’s the first thing you think of when you think of a holy person? The good, the bad, the ugly?”

Some of the answers:

A person who:

  • tries not to sin
  • is reserved, serious,
  • is a monk, priest, nun,
  • is judgmental, outspoken about how people should live,
  • always looks down on everyone else,
  • knows God and tries to pursue Him,
  • always assumes that everyone else is less spiritual or too liberal.

Obviously, from these answers, we’ve got some confusion about what holiness is.

You’d think holiness looked like this:

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Yet the Bible describes it as beautiful and expected. In fact, we only know what holiness looks like because of Christ. He was the epitome of all that is lovely, and kind, and humble. So why do we have such distorted views of this? And further, how do we follow the command to “Be ye holy, for I am holy,” if we don’t know what it is, or associate it with so many negative and untrue connotations?

I think we need a discussion on this, which is exactly what I plan to do this week.

What are your thoughts? Do you think of holiness as a desirable, beautiful trait for a Christian woman?

Chime in.

When God Gives You Trials, When You Asked For Tiaras and Truffles

I tend to want my own way, but God tends to do things differently.

If I had it my way,

my kids would be perfect, my money would never run out, our house would self-clean, the people in our life would be perfectly kind, considerate, and just, and my energy levels would always keep up with my demanding schedule. Scratch that–I wouldn’t have a demanding schedule.

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If I had my way, I’d live a Pinterest-perfect life, thank you very much. But sometimes, God’s given me trials, instead of the tiaras and truffles I asked for.

See, God knows that I’ll be truly happy when I am holy. God’s made me in His own image and while selfishness reigns, I’m defiling that image and misrepresenting Him. I can never be happy until I am living as I was created to live.

He has mercifully spared me from my own ideals, knowing better than I do. He’s seen fit to use what I would consider “strange” means to make me more like His Son. Upside-down methods, bumpy roads, unacceptable situations, and bitter pills. Yuck.

God, in His Providence, seems to have super-ceded my dreams.

I noticed in my study of Philippians that Paul wanted to go to Rome as a preacher, but God sent him as a prisoner. Not exactly what Paul had planned, I’m sure.

But you can’t read Philippians without realizing that Paul knew a secret that produced peace and joy: You can further the Gospel of Jesus Christ in chains as well as in freedom. When your mind is God-centered, the circumstances barely matter. A mind, fixed on Christ, experiences God’s perfect peace.

Bonus: Your ministry expands, as you can reach people in chains that you’d never reach if you were free.

Chains.

They’re about the worst possible problem we independent Americans can imagine. Nobody’s gonna tell me what to do or how to live my life. I’m the master of my own destiny and I call the shots. 

And yet God uses chains. They’re those things that hold us and limit us and make us crazy.

They’re the unwanted things in our lives–that critical person, that illness, that wayward child, that broken relationship. Chains are the one thing you can’t control. That one thing you’d wish away in a heartbeat.

Yet, in chains, we can praise. In fact, it’s when we are in chains that we must praise.

Every limitation and irritation we have in life must be seen as from God’s hand. End of story.

The sovereignty of God super-cedes our circumstances. They may not be planned or pleasant, but they are from our Father’s good and loving hand.

I like to picture God’s hand reaching down through the clouds to me, holding whatever particular trial I am facing, as though He is giving it to me. “Here,” I imagine Him saying. “If you trust me through this, THIS GOOD THING THAT YOU CONSIDER A TRIAL, will make you more like my Holy Son.”

My mind wiggles and contorts, trying to escape like a toddler who wants to get down off his mother’s lap and run when he’s supposed to sit still.

It helps me to remember that nothing comes to me except through Him.

The-Creation

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.

Psalm 84:11

Not only does God illuminate my way, he also shields me from anything He deems not good for me.

He “screens” my life. He allows certain things and not others.

And I’m so glad of it.

 

A Christian Buzzword I Hate {Or In Praise Of Women Who Get Things Done}

I’m sure you’ve all heard it by now. The word “intentional.” I’ve really grown to hate it. We’re told we need to be intentional in our parenting, in our ministry, and in everything else under the sun.

Problem is, intentions are just that. Intentions without perseverance and good old fashioned W-O-R-K equals your pie-in-the-sky ideals never played out or acted upon. They meant to get things done, they planned and talked and wrote things down, they were intentional, but it never seemed to happen.

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Mothers don’t always have the planning luxury. Many times, we’re just keeping everyone else running and above water. But keep them afloat we do.

For all of you women who are getting things done, not worrying about the critics and philosophers and nay-sayers all around you, I applaud you.

I applaud the mother who gets up, middle of the night, and just meets the needs of her kids, having never fully nailed down her philosophy of parenting.

I applaud the woman who meets the needs of her community or hurting neighbors whether she planned to or not.

I applaud the woman who mentors the desperate younger mom, whether she feels qualified to do so or not. One of the great benefits of believing the sovereignty of God is the realization that nothing happens by chance. Every interaction is God-ordained. God brings people into your life for a reason.

I applaud the mom who wakes up in the morning and breathes the prayer “Whatever you have for me, today, Lord, make me your instrument.” She knows that children are unpredictable, but believes that God will give her the grace and strength to meet each task “as unto the Lord,” “ordered by the Lord.”

I applaud the woman who runs herself ragged caring for her aging, sick parents. She falls into bed at night wondering, “What did I accomplish today?” She lived for others needs and almost neglected her own basic needs, like food.

I am all for planning and intentions. I really am. But without stick-to-it-iveness and follow-through, your plans are wasted.

So, perhaps, instead of worrying about intentions, you should open your eyes and “Just do it.”

Just tell that neighbor about God’s love.

Just give that hurting person a hug.

Just speak a healing word of kindness to that grouchy cashier.

Just encourage your younger sisters in Christ to keep on keeping on.

Don’t over-analyze or you’ll miss out on opportunities to live in the here and now. Be faithful with the people around you right now, and God will continue to lead the right people to you.

God will use the willing, ready soul RIGHT NOW, if you are prepared and willing to do good unto all men.

 

Free Resource! “Your Reactions Are Showing” {PDF Download}

Years ago, I bought a helpful pamphlet entitled, “Your Reactions Are Showing.”

At the time I was dealing with some anger issues that I was trying to “kill/mortify” from my life. My children’s behavior “made” me angry—or so I thought. The truth is, I was angry because I had anger in my heart. My children’s behavior was just a pressure that exposed what was already there.

This booklet was so helpful, that when a woman sought advice last week about the hold that anger had on her life, I told her she could borrow it and told her how helpful it had been to me.  Lo and behold, it’s online free!

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“A cup brimful of sweetness cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, no matter how suddenly jarred.” Elizabeth Elliot

 

“These kids are driving me crazy! That’s why I snapped!”

“My husband is so inattentive. He’s lucky I stay with him at all.”

“My mother-in-law is such a beast, so I just gave her a piece of my mind (Or the silent treatment).”

We’re all prone to magnify the sins of others and minimize our own sin. But if we are truthful with ourselves, we’ll admit that nobody causes me to sin. I choose it.

Whatever your “pressure” right now,

a stressful job, an unreasonable boss, interpersonal conflict, cranky kids, marriage problems

God is using it to conform you and change you into the Image of His Son. Your choices reflect you. Your words reflect your heart, and nobody “made” you do it. Not even Satan. (“The Devil made me do it!”–This phrase always confused me because it denies the truth of free will and choice.)

When we love God most, we’ll desire to do His will. We’ll choose conformity. We’ll surrender our own sinful desires, knowing He’ll do what’s best for us if we obey His Word.

I’m not saying that this is easy. It’s not. It’s hard, and humbling, and it drives you to your knees and to the cross. And that’s a good place to be.

An excerpt:

Were a person to watch my actions, he would not really know me. My actions would not reveal to him what I really am, because my actions might be planned and practiced for his benefit. But it is our reactions–our spontaneous, unconscious, unscheduled reactions–that reveal what we really are.

Have we ever been in “hot water”? Have we been in hot water with a husband? Or wife? Or
children? Or relatives? How did we react? How did we respond? Like the dark-brown color that comes from the tea bag, something unchristian shows up in our reactions. We cannot blame someone else for putting that into us. The truth is he or she merely brought out what was dominant in us at that moment.
The hot water did not put the color in the tea bag. It brought the color out. Squeezing a lemon does not make the juice bitter or sour. So this is what our reactions do. They reveal what is already in us.

Be sure to download the free version of Your Reactions Are Showing. It’s a super helpful resource for yourself and your kids.

 

 

How To Have A Beautiful Day

Rushing through life is not a good game plan. I know because parts of my life have been defined by trying to keep up and they are now just a blur. As a counterbalance, I think our minds rebel against the rush by making us agitated and discontent, forcing us to crave slowness and to seek the beauty we’ve failed to see.

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Isaiah calls the weary to “wait upon the Lord” when our strength needs to be renewed, and Jesus tells us to “come unto Me” and I will give you rest. The remedy for the busy, rushy, crazy-instant life is purposeful rest and quiet. Be still, my soul.

I had five kids in 10 years. To say that this was a busy time of life would be an gross understatement. I was pregnant and so sick FIVE times in those ten years–nearly 50 months of vomiting due to morning sickness that never.went.away. I was just trying to survive most pregnancy-days, so I understand seasons of survival, but I also know that my attitude affected that season.

During that “crazy”– the times that stand out as “beautiful days” were the slow days when I mentally “checked in” and gave thanks to God for what was in front of me right then, morning sickness, messy house, toys strewn and all. Because choosing joy is not dependent on your circumstances, but on your heart. It’s a daily choice. And moms, you are SO much more fun when you are choosing to have a beautiful day.

Hope and I noticed a nest of baby birds in a hole in the wall on our back porch.  It flew the coop and we caught its first stop...on our screened door.

Hope and I noticed a nest of baby birds in a hole in the wall on our back porch. It flew the coop and we caught its first stop…on our screened door.

other babies seem concerned that one flew the coop.

other babies seem concerned that one flew the coop.

Landed safely but not sure what to do next.

Landed safely but not sure what to do next.

Some highlights of our “beautiful days” include times when we:

  • cozied up under blankets and read aloud some new book
  • took walks in the woods after a big snow storm to see the sun reflect through icy crystals
  • practiced violin or made silly music together
  • learned a new school concept
  • watched birds in the back yard with them by sitting “statue still”
  • painted together in our nature journals
  • went on nature walks or picnics
  • packed up and went to the beach
  • did normal tasks together, like baking or preparing for company

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IMG_7406IMG_6013Beautiful days happen when we choose to see details and enjoy them.

If you’re not careful, you can be together physically with your kids, but not  together at all because we have so many electronic escapes.

And let’s face it–sometimes a world of information is so much more interesting than listening to Great Aunt Jo tell about her recent hip replacement, when we’ve heard the story twice before and, and I think that the sound of her voice may actually put me to sleep which would be so rude, so it’s better to quietly engage somewhere else and stay awake…so I’ll just check my email…click, click.

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IMG_3635And we enter the world of instant information-intake. Instant gratification. Right now news. Up to the second Twitter. Always out there, the next new thing.

It’s like standing in front of fire hydrant drinking water that is gushing into your throat and trying to enjoy it long term.

Instead of the fire hydrant approach to life, I think we should choose the little cup approach. A cup that we can comfortably lock our hands around and savor. Yes, the cup is smaller, but we can contain it and process it and know its limits. The cup can be measured and valued and discerned. The cup may not be quite as up to date, or as all-encompassing as the hydrant, but then again, wouldn’t it be better to know one or two things deeply than to know a very little about a lot?

I propose that maybe unending and bigger and more are not always superior when it comes to enjoying life. Maybe slow, little, deep, knowable, intimate, exclusive, and relational are better options. 

When you rush through life, you breeze past people. People.

  • Did you notice the hurting eyes of your teenager who was trying to tell you her little story, but she went on a little long and you got a little impatient and cut her short so you could move on to the next thing–the really important thing?
  • Did you ask your friend about her current apathy about life? She’s actually discouraged and spiraling downward, and nobody seems to notice.
  • In your rush, did you speak callously to another person, so oblivious to your own tone of voice that you’re hurting people and shutting them out and you can’t figure out why they won’t warm up to you later?
  • Has kindness taken a backseat in your home? You’re too busy to sit with that child or connect with him in a meaningful way. You don’t have time for a cup of lemonade with your kids, but you’ll drop anything for a friend?

I understand that life gets busy, but I also understand that life is more busy than it needs to be. We need to decide if our “busy” is meaningful or meaningless, because let’s face it, there are a thousand-and-one ways to flitter away the day. But just because time passes does not mean it all passed equally. Some 24 hour days were lived better than others. The best days are the ones where we poured into the lives of others and were also poured into. Mutual respect and love receives and gives. (Don’t take on the martyr complex of always having to help all the needy, clueless people around you. You also have needs and can benefit from friends pouring into your life, mutually.)

Call me old fashioned, but I think if we focused more on what was in front of us and less on what was inside the magic 4″ electronic screen, we’d live happier, more thoughtful lives.

What say you?

*PS: You know I love technology as much as the next girl, so I’m not knocking it, I’m saying it’s hold on our life should have definite limits, because the people that are actually in front of us are precious.

 

What Delights You Will Drive You

What makes you tick? What motivates you? What “thing”, if you have it, puts you on cloud 9?

What “moves” and motivates us is what drives and delights us. (And conversely, the thing that sends us into despair when we don’t have it, also shows what rules us.)

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Many things delight me. I have strong delight in my children. I delight in books, iced coffee, my husband, and my dearest friends because they hold a piece of my heart.

Because I know this about myself, I must also be aware that these good things can become “ruling” things if I am not careful.

C.S Lewis said, “Love begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god.”

“Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which you were called…and be ye thankful.” Col. 3:15

Ruling desires.

Desires have a way of taking over and driving us. For instance, a desire for love can lead us to compromise our purity. A desire for respect and reputation can lead us to build up walls of self-protection, pride and deceit.  A desire for order and efficiency can quickly morph into a stubborn desire to rule and control other people. The desire for security may morph into a controlling worry and a fear of the unknown.  It’s helpful to know our own tendencies so we can keep an eye on our hearts.

There’s one desire/pursuit that will never lead us wrong, and that is a desire for God and His Word.

What are you pursuing today? What’s driving you? Is it a pursuit for God and a desire to be more like Him? If not, I think we need a fresh look at the love of God for us, because it’s not only overwhelming and humbling, but it’s the model by which we are to love other people.

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God has gotten a bad wrap. Today He’s portrayed as a distant, moody, unstable deity that we can’t really know. (WHO do you think perpetrates this lie?)

The Old Testament tells another story. Over and over again, we’re told that God has steadfast love for His people. This love never changes, and it’s not dependent on us. It means that He knows that we are sinners and still chooses to love and do good to us, because that is how He is. God is love.

Did you know that God delights in you and thinks about you?

The thought of “steadfast” love is almost unbelievable in our broken world. Our concept of love is marred by sin and bad experience:

  • Husbands, who promised to love and protect, end up walking out or cheating.
  • Parents who claim they loved their kids end up abusing them verbally or physically.
  • Family members hurt each other.
  • Friends walk away and are unfaithful.
  • Church members cut each other down and gossip.
  • Leaders don’t lead to “serve”, but to serve themselves. It’s all about them.

Such is life in a sin-sick world.  We don’t even know what love is like until we look at God. But when we do look to God, we see what TRUE love looks like:

We see,

  • love that is constant, steadfast, never ending,
  • love that is not dependent on our worthiness or unworthiness
  • love that corrects and guides
  • love that is faithful
  • love that does what is best at all costs, even if it cost His “one and only Son.”

 

Even more amazing is the “mandate” to return that love by loving Him with all our heart, soul and mind.  It’s hard to comprehend why a God who is all sufficient would desire our love, isn’t it? But he tells us that He desires for us to love Him back.

And, sadly, even after we “know” Christ, we still misplace our affections and allow our hearts to chase temporal things.

Leon Morris said “Idolatry is the investment of ones love in the wrong place.”

Any time we sin or “fall short” of His standards in Scripture, we’re showing that our affections are elsewhere. Perhaps we thought that giving someone a piece of our mind would bring happiness and delight rather than following God’s mandate to kindness and self-control. Perhaps we thought that a prominent position or power was to be coveted, rather than taking our place with the lowliest servants. Perhaps we thought that we were arguing for a righteous cause, when in fact we just enjoy division and contention rather than peace and unity.

A younger mom recently told me that she couldn’t stop herself from yelling at her kids no matter how hard she tried. I can understand her frustration, but I also know that God puts us in situations where we are stretched and thin and worn to test our responses. Yelling at the kids is not okay because you’ve abandoned self control and given in to anger and frustration. You may have the right to be upset but—you can be right but still wrong at the top of your lungs.

Anyways, a hard situation is our “growing soil” and the soil is chosen by God. He plants us right where He wants us. He prunes us when He chooses. He waters us, shades us and even replants us if He desires. God’s sovereignty can never be forgotten. He is in control and He wants us to love Him and obey His word.

We shouldn’t say that we “can’t” do right, because His Spirit does empower us to live a godly life. It’s more honest to say we “won’t” stop yelling, or worrying, or obsessing over problems. We won’t choose joy. We won’t stop comparing. We’re focused so heavily on THAT problem that we’ve put our spiritual life on the back burner. We’ve chosen to follow something else, and forget, temporarily, about  God. (I’m speaking from experience here.)

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We all must grow and sometimes the growing is easy, and sometimes tough. Your “soil” may include clinging kids, no money, a messy house (due to the clingy kids) and emotional distress…. or maybe you’re in a stage of life where you’re not dealing with “bratty” kids anymore but messed up adults or hurtful relationships. You may be “planted” somewhere where you get no encouragement or support.

Your situation may be different than mine, but God’s love for you and His plans for you are always the same:  He wants us to look like His Son. To be conformed, molded, restored.  He loves us too much to let sinful junk rule and ruin our lives. 

Truth: You are where God wants you and He has something for you to learn. Truth 2: If you don’t learn it, but fight and kick and scream, He’ll continue to bring similar trials your way until you do.

His sanctification comes as we submit to His will and ways. Joyful living comes when we really do love the Lord our God first and foremost—>we must love Him back. We must love Him more than our dreams or wishes. And when we realize the amazing love that our God has for us, somehow we’re able to rise above our circumstances and minister to those “unlovable” people around us. Yes, even our enemies.

Ps. 119:16 I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

It’s easy to say we love God because nobody can measure that relationship. But God says that our love for others is a good indicator of what’s going on inside.

1 John 2:10,11 By this it is evident who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

We all fail miserably in the love department. We love the right things for the wrong reasons and we love wrong things for the wrong reasons. But life is so much simpler when we focus our love where it belongs–on our Savior.

When you sin, confess it and begin again. “Conscious repentance leads to unconscious holiness.” God’s steadfast love should be an encouragement to us to return to Him again and again when we’ve given our love to the worthless and temporal junk of this world.

Psalm 40: 8 I delight to do your will, O my God: your law is within my heart.”

 

 

 

DIY Italian Ice {Lime, Lemon, Orange}

Today I have a refreshing summer recipe for you!

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If you’ve ever been to the North End in Boston, you’ve most likely tasted Polcari’s lemon ice. When the weather’s hot, Polcari’s hundred-year-old barrel of lemon ice appears on the corner of their family owned store. For around $2 you can purchase the best lemon Italian ice in Boston.

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Authentic Italian ice is easy to make. It’s not like the rock-hard frozen cups you buy in the supermarket, and it’s not icy-crunchy like a snow cone. It’s smooth like a sorbet and has the consistency of a frozen lemonade. It’s also perfect on a hot summer night or on a sore throat.

So today I’m sharing my favorite Italian Ice recipe. It’s one of life’s simple pleasures! (Plus it’s pretty frugal to make!)

 

Today I made Lime Italian Ice, but you can substitute any citrus fruit.

Any Flavor Italian Ice

4 cups water

4 cups sugar

Bring to boil on the stovetop, and simmer for 3 minutes until sugar is dissolved, stirring frequently.

Allow to cool to room temperature, then add

3/4 cup *freshly* squeezed lime juice, (about 8-10 limes) ( or lemon, or orange juice. Lemon and Lime juice should be freshly squeezed. Don’t use lemon juice that comes in a plastic squeezy lemon. You won’t like the results. You can use 100% orange juice with good results.)

2 cups water

2 T lime zest (lime, lemon or orange, depending on what flavor you are making.)

Combine well. Pour into 9X12 glass pyrex dish and freeze for 2 hours. Then “rake” the mixture every hour until the ice is snowy and smooth. This can take up to six hours. Transfer to a plastic container with lid for storage.

*Actual freezing time varies by freezer. Can take over night.

*”Raking” with a fork can take elbow grease! :) Use a large serving fork.

*The ice goes through several stages: slivers of ice, to a thick goo-ey mess that feels like you are stirring petroleum jelly, to fluffy, smooth ice.

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Let me know how you like it!

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Praise of the Pensive Child

One of the best ways to validate your children is to accept them for who they are.

There is a huge tendency to push our kids into what we love or what is currently pushed by society. Peter has often said that “what you praise, you produce.” For instance, a school that is constantly praising and showcasing sports and promoting their athletes will produce more athletes, because children want to please and mankind grasps for mutual admiration.

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In the Christian home, if we praise virtues like thankfulness and faithfulness, versus “outcomes” like straight A’s, we’d be more apt to have hard workers and less apt to produce kids who’ll obsess or even cheat for the A.

Although this post is not theological, I believe that God has given us gifts and talents–we were fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator– and to stifle that gift in a child defies the God who gave it and is extremely cruel.

The world needs a variety of personalities to make it interesting. Imagine a world where everyone was a visionary, a conqueror, a leader, an entrepreneur, a pusher-to-the-topper, a warrior. Certainly we need these, but we also need the beauty created by poets, writers, painters, philosophers, and musicians. We need to value those who stop to think really long and hard about a topic and research it rather than just spouting off the first thing that comes into their head, because we need more depth and truth seeking in a world stretched thin with information.

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The world needs the pensive child.

In a blaring, media-filled, message- saturated, lights blazing, get-your-moment- in-the-spotlight-and-be-famous Kardashian world, we need to encourage the pensive child.

They’re not seeking spotlights. They may even avoid crowds. They don’t want attention drawn to them and they don’t appreciate being forced to perform by pushy parents.

And please don’t mislabel them as directionless or lazy because they haven’t started the college application process by age 10.

The pensive child is an evaluator of life. She considers her place in this moment of time. She thinks before she speaks, if she ever does.

You see, she’s learned that not everyone appreciates this beauty that she sees, so she stifles her sharing, fearing the labels: “out there” or “weird” or “space-y.”

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In truth, she doesn’t mind quietly enjoying beauty alone or with a special friend, because appreciating beauty and living with eyes wide open has its own rewards: inner contentment and happiness. She may secretly feel badly for those who choose not to see. Those who’ve been consumed by the tyranny of the urgent and of electronic worlds.

She’ll lumber on, steady, intentionally, writing, drawing, observing, painting, composing, practicing.

So moms of the pensive child, readjust your expectations and encourage your child. Don’t equate thoughtful and slow to unmotivated or air-headed. And for heaven’s sake, don’t assume that because your child is not a born “goal maker” or “go getter” that he’ll never amount to anything.

While you may be caught up in the busyness of life, they are busy studying the shapes of clouds and noticing how most of the colors of the spectrum can be seen in a sunset. They are wondering how to translate that exact green of that spring leaf into their painting. They noticed the ripples on the water and wondered how to paint them. They noticed how one ripple affects the entire pond, though only seen for a moment.

They live life differently than you, maybe,

but they feel deeply and appreciate much and stop long enough to wonder. And to wonder is where real education begins. Self- education. 

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Boys, especially, are encouraged away from quiet pursuits. Poetry is seen as effeminate and painting isn’t as manly somehow as sacking someone in football.

Imagine a world without the great painters and musicians of the past. Imagine if Bach’s mother told him to head outside and play with the real boys and discouraged her son from what he was clearly born to do. Just imagine no Bach.

Whatever your child’s bent, when you embrace it, you’re loving that child where he or she is. Not trying to change to fit your ideals. Just loving and nurturing and encouraging.

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That is one of the best ways to really reach the heart of your child. It’s not hard. It’s loving them—not loving who you want them to be or who you think they should be to make you feel validated– but truly loving them.

The pensive child is relational and as a parent, you must, must, must enter their world and relate to them where they are. Show them by listening that  you love their music, that you appreciate that insight or poem. They’re sharing a piece of themselves with you.

If you don’t completely understand your pensive child, ASK them questions about what they are thinking and then just listen. Then appreciate their little insights and tell them so.

 

 

Does God Like Me? {and What Motherhood Can Teach You About God}

Sometimes my role as a mom helps me understand God just a little bit more.

As a mom, my kids are constantly on my mind. 

I think about what’s best for them, what’s hindering them, what’s hurting them.

I’m protective of them and hurt when they hurt.

I want to do special things for them. I want to talk about them because I delight in them. I want to show you pictures of them, so I will. (See what I did there?)

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I keep a protective helicopterish eye on them.

I pray for them when they get into a car to drive, or when they go to work or school. This morning I woke early to pray for my youngest who is at camp this week.

My love for them drives this interest in them.

Even with all of this,

my love for my kids is marred by my own sinfulness.

Can you imagine how much a perfect God must love and watch and protect His children?

Unfortunately, I believe we forget about God’s love for us as Christian women. In fact, this topic has come up several times in the last few weeks. Women who, deep down under all the hurt and despair are struggling to believe that God loves them. Well, academically, we know that “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so,” but deep down inside we wonder if God really likes us.

I believe that this is the root of so many of our problems.

There are many a miserable Christian woman out there who are stumbling their way through their Christian walk because they’ve forgotten how much God loves them. They’ve believed the lie that they’ve been shortchanged, and that everyone else is treated better than they are. They are constantly comparing themselves to others. They really doubt whether God likes them, and it shows up everywhere in their life. Instead of understanding her position as “adopted and accepted in the beloved,” she:

  • fears that God is somehow out to get her.
  • fears what others think of her. She can never fully accept others gifts and talents without feeling bad about herself. She lives an out-shined, left-out life in her own mind.
  • fears open relationships because who would actually love me if they really knew me, she reasons.
  • is touchy, sensitive and quickly takes offense, believing she’s not as loved or admired as so-and-so.  Every comment becomes suspect, every perceived slight is felt deeply. She never gives anyone the benefit of the doubt.
  • deals with others with “walls up.” Self-protection is always the game plan. It shows up in selfishness, irritability, indifference, peevishness, pettiness, sarcasm, put downs.
  • she can never let anything go. Resentfulness, grudge holding and feuds characterize her.
  • she clings ever so desperately to anything she believes gives her meaning or identity (children, ministry, friendships, you name it.)

These are symptoms of forgetting God’s great love for you. You always feel like an outsider. Insecure and unsure.

As Christian woman, the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross saves us from Hell, yes, and that is an amazing thing, but it’s not the only thing.

The cross of Christ shows His great love for us, AND THAT IS JUST THE BEGINNING of His love and of the innumerable blessings He has planned for us here and in heaven. We have an amazing inheritance in heaven. You’re not just saved “by the skin of your teeth” if you are a child of God. You are lavishly loved and accepted into His beloved family. A joint-heir with Jesus.

This should change you. Anyone who is lavishly loved upon can never be the same. It heals wounds, and makes you a grace-giver.

God’s two great commandments, loving God and loving others, are easier to live out when you’ve experienced His great love.

Receivers of such love overflow with the same love.

How do you know when you’ve forgotten God’s love?

You become small and self-centered in your dealings with others.

You no longer love God before all else and look out for what’s best for your neighbor.

But,

When you realize your own great sin,

and the even greater LOVE/LIKE/DELIGHT that our God has for us

that grace moves us, propels us in thanksgiving towards Christlikeness.

Imagine what our homes and churches would be like if we truly treasured all that Christ accomplished for us on the cross and all that He has planned for us in Heaven?

And imagine if God’s love satisfied us? Truly overwhelmed us with thanksgiving on a daily basis. Wouldn’t that joy overflow and sweeten all of our relationships with our family, friends and neighbors?

 

 

 

Do Small Things

What would the world be like if we encouraged each other to do small things?

We’ve all heard “Do Great Things”….

But what if doing truly great things means doing exceptionally small things?

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In a Christian world that encourages the “radical,” I believe we’ve underestimated the “ordinary.” And in doing so, the ordinary has become the exception to the rule.

Moms everywhere,

{yes you, who just plopped down for a five minute break to catch your breath between diapers and dishes, whining and sippy cup searching}

what if you are the one truly changing the world?

Although you’ll never get a Grammy for singing the best lullaby,

Or have your name written up in Bon Appetit for your teddy bear pancakes,

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Or make the pages of National Geographic for your amazing discoveries,

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what if the daily “small” that you share with your loved ones is the most important of after all. 

If you’ve been on the receiving end of these small, tender mercies, you’ll know that these small things change us and form us into “civilized” and loving people. They teach us how to love. They communicate, “You belong and are worth the effort.”

These tiny acts, almost too small to mention, shape the person and

as that wholehearted person raises their wholehearted child,

generational influence begins.

Some examples of small kindnesses that I’ve received that are indelibly etched on my mind:

  • Entering my Noni’s Italian kitchen, greeted by the warm smells of garlic and chicken, and her rushing to offer me ginger ale and cookies or grapes.
  • My grandmother, taking me out for blueberry muffins and hot chocolate with whipped cream. Her cards, with her gorgeous handwriting sprawled on the front. Her little bowls of cookies and goldfish that she’d take down when we’d stop over.
  • As a child, my own mother’s influence was the greatest. She spent time with us. She lugged us all over creation, she entertained our friends and was a mother to anyone who entered our house. She was hospitable and then some. She served tea, she served meals. No one ever went hungry in our house. She made a difference to us kids and to all of our friends.
  • Peter’s mom always has time for people. Even when we were dating, she’d sit and talk. She’d offer tea and drinks. She made me feel included instead of “under inspection” as a daughter-in-law. She makes and serves Sunday dinner every week and has for as long as I’ve ever known her. To some this may sound like drudgery or menial work, but I can tell you as someone who has experienced her Italian cooking that it means the world and communicates love because she loves us and loves to cook for us.

So, when you feel like everything you do is small and unseen,

when you’re tempted to think,

it’s just a cup of tea,

it’s just clean sheets,

it’s just a friendly chat,

it’s just a meal, or clean laundry, or a little note, or teddy bear pancakes,

remember that your small deeds communicate. They shape another person. And especially in motherhood, we’re showing love to the littlest among us, the least of these. It’s teaching by example. It’s pouring your life into anyone God put into your path.

It’s like doing it for Him. And that totally matters.

Embrace the small things. In a world that is so fractured and independent and dysfunctional,  we could use more of the small and self-less and loving.