Starting Over

Recently, I said goodbye to two old pals.  These friends were always so reliable.

Well, there have been a couple times over the last 14 years–since we first met–that I couldn’t count on them.  More on that later.

Every time we met I was filled with a gamut of emotions.  But mostly gratitude.  More than anything, my friends lightened my load.  We were comfortable around each other.  I could cry.  Pray boldly.  And talk to myself.  All without embarrassments.  No judgements.  I was always met with a simple acceptance.

We usually got together once a week and spent the whole day together.  There were times on other days when we would meet.  Times when I just needed a quick meet-up.  That’s real life.

Lately, my two friends have not really been there for me when I was in need.  No reliability.  Forget consistency.  Friends come and go, right?  It was time to go.

It’s never easy to start over after so many years.  And, well, this may sound callous, but I just wasn’t having my needs met anymore.  The relationship became a drain.  I know.  I was expecting a lot.  It’s just that recently each day we’ve spent together has ended with me being frustrated.  I couldn’t take it anymore.  I had to get a new…

 

 

 

Washer and Dryer

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Stop, Look & Listen

Can I be honest here for a minute?  There are a few things about being a mom that are downright hard.  A lot of the other parts would just be considered challenging.  Momhood is filled with those challenges.  And, I would say, it seems that the hard stuff of being a mom is what matters most.

 

That hard stuff?  Easier said than done.  You see, I’m not really a talkative person.  I usually meet my word quota by dinnertime.  Two of my kids are on the loquacious side.  They have lots to say about lots of things.  And most of the time it’s about a topic that is not high on my list of interests.  (We’re being honest here, right?)  And…it’s not easy to stay focused and come up with an intelligent comment every few moments when you’re not educated about the topic.  As they get older, the topics get more intelligent.  It keeps me on my toes.

 

There are times when I’m sure the talker notices that my eyes have left the conversation.  Sometimes it’s not even that I’m looking at something else.  That staring off without really focusing on anything.  You know what I mean?  Zoning out.  Earth, to Mom!

 

Or, how about when we don’t even give them our attention in the first place?  Now, in hindsight, I can say I wish I had taken the time to look deep into those sweet eyes and memorized her face a little more.  But in the moment?  It’s more like, Just a minute…I’m almost done here…I’m in the middle of something.  Sure, there are times when those kids will need to practice some waiting, but really, how often are we doing something so important that we can’t put our agenda on hold?

 

I’ve made a rule for myself that I try really hard to follow.  When I talk to one of my daughters, I look into her beautiful eyes.  I try to remember to not talk to her with my back turned.  Eye contact.  It speaks volumes.

 

All this may make me tired and I may have already used up my words for the day, but this is one of those mom jobs that no matter how tough, it is a must.  I can say that when you look back, all those long days of challenges will finally seem like the fleeting moments they are.  And, flying through those moments, not being IN them, will only pile on the regret and mom-guilt later on.  I know that for a fact.  I go there sometimes.

Your most meaningful work in the Kingdom of God may not be the big things that you do — but the one little person you love.   (Ann Voskamp)

So, let’s strive to be intentional.  Yes, we’ll blow it.  Stop and take a moment to pray.  Get back up.  Ask forgiveness.  Brush it off.  And move on.  Each moment will count whether or not we’re trying.  Today, make eye contact with those precious little people and really listen.  Are you up for the challenge?  

Laundry

Why does laundry take me into the deepest of despairs?  I’ve shed more tears while doing laundry than while doing any of the other hundreds of tasks that consume my days.

Many aspects of laundry could make anyone cry.  How about its endlessness?  Or, when a towering pile of neatly folded clothes topples to the ground?  Ever shrink your favorite sweater to a size smaller than your adult body has ever seen, but not small enough for your toddler?  And, bleach.  It is not my friend.   Add to that the fact that I usually wait to do laundry until it’s late.  Way past my bedtime, late.

Those feelings of never making progress with laundry seem to transfer easily to all other areas of my life.  For example, will I ever get to go to the bathroom with the door closed?  Will I ever again shave my legs on a daily basis?  Will there come a time when I can shower long enough to wash my hair and my body on the same day?  Will I ever again eat a hot meal without getting up from the table even once?  It’s true…the simplest, mundane tasks are great at bringing out those ‘ugly cry’ urges when they don’t go as planned.

So, if you are a fellow, teary-eyed, late night launderer…listen up.  Take heart.  You can be sure that everyone in your family changes their underwear every day.  Besides, I think we may be on to something here.  Our well-placed tears could save money on the water bill, and, who knows, they may have some secret, stain-fighting power!  So, enjoy a good cry.  Keep pressing on.  Bloom where you are planted.  And, remember: bleach happens.

Freedom

flag

It struck me again yesterday.  How we are free.  We enjoy freedom in this country.  But that freedom was by no means free.  It came with a great cost…which continues to demand payment.  Our original freedom was secured hundreds of years ago by forefathers and fighters.  They gave their very lives.  And, today there are those who are still fighting.  The fight may not look the same, but a fight it is.  There are countless men and women who sacrifice comfort, time with family, and yes, their lives.

I want to take the time to stop and remember what a great cost has been paid for me to be free.  I pray that I never take it for granted.  That I never think I am just owed freedom.  So many people in this world do not have claim to the kind of freedom we experience day in and day out.

Still, there is an even greater freedom that I don’t want to leave out.  One that is available to everyone.  That freedom?  It is free to us.  No person can do anything to earn this freedom. The freedom I’m talking about is found only in Jesus.  Sin separates us from God, but in him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12)  “It’s important to keep in mind that salvation encompasses what God has done for us, not what we can do for Him. God has taken the initiative in His plan of redemption, reaching out to us through Christ.” (Focus on the Family)

Jesus.  He gave his life in exchange for our freedom.  That if we confess, repent and place our trust and faith in Him, we will be saved.  Free.  Free from being controlled by sin.  Free of eternal condemnation.  Free to live life eternally with God.

John 8:36  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

2 Corinthians 3:17  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

But, we can’t take for granted this freedom either:  Galatians 5:13-14 says,  You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

As an American who is a follower of Jesus I have so much for which to be thankful!  Freedom abounds.  Paid with a price, for me.  One way we can show our gratitude is to be generous with our lives.  We may never fight a war or serve our country, but we can serve each other in our own realm of influence.  And, as Christians we are part of the Church (big C) and given a commission to “Go!”.  Tell the good news.  Help.  Serve. Love.  Live out your freedom well.

The Beginning of the End?

from the archives…

This week, my 13, I mean 3, year old said, “You’re cool, Mom!”.  My first reaction was a sly smile and a barely recognizable head nod along with a mental pat on the back. (Get the picture?)  You know what I’m talking about.

pride on grass

Then, in a panic I started to look deeper into this simple phrase.  What does this mean?!  That my toddler even know what that means causes me great distress.

Now that she knows what it means to be ‘cool’, she’ll soon figure out what it means to be ‘so not cool’!  What is a mother to do?

I’ve decided to soak up any and all praise while it lasts.  And brace myself for next week.

5 Elements of a Successful Quiet Time

So, what does a ‘successful’ quiet time look like?  We’re not looking at outcome here. Not measuring results.   The question can be answered in as many ways as there are people on this earth.  You may have your own routine and the next person is entirely different.  You may read, pray, sing, write, listen, cry.  Bow, stand, sit, walk, lay down.  We all have our own style.

However, I would suggest that there are certain elements that should be involved in every quiet time, no matter your style.  But first, let’s define quiet time.  Simply put, it is a time of day set aside for just you and God…and I would stress the importance of it taking place first thing in the morning.  Many would argue that’s not necessary.  I disagree.  Giving our firsts is a theme in the life of a Jesus-follower.  Why not the first part of your day?  BUT, any time of day is better than not at all.
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Jesus set a good example of the essential parts of a daily quiet time.  Go figure.

1. Recognize your need for Him.  Often we see Jesus going to the Father with a heavy heart.  He went sorrowful, burdened, weary.  I don’t know about you, but I have plenty of all that to go around.  Take it with you when you meet with Him.  And leave it there.  Again.  And again.  And again.  This is also the time for thanksgiving and praise.  When we truly see our need for Him, we can’t help but be grateful!

2. Go to a desolate place.  The word desolate is used repeatedly, especially in reference to Jesus being alone.  In Matthew 14:13 says, “Now when Jesus heard this [of John’s death], he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.”  In this verse, the Greek word for desolate is érēmos – an uncultivated, unpopulated, deserted place; (figuratively) a barren, solitary place that also provides needed quiet (freedom from disturbance).  It’s so important to carve out some time that is in a desolate place.

Now, let’s make that real for our lives.  That will usually mean getting up early.  I know.  I strongly dislike that idea.  I don’t even like to say that phrase.  To get alone, without distractions and with a sole focus.  It is worth whatever effort it takes to make this happen.  Be creative.  Remember, your quiet time will morph over time. It’s ok to try something and realize it doesn’t work.  Try something else.

3. Be without sin.  Jesus was without sin.  We, as followers of Jesus, are forgiven and cleansed.  That does not give us a license to sin.  But, we still sin.  We still need to confess and repent when we sin.  Imagine a person with which you have a close relationship.  If you do something in opposition to that person, the relationship with that person will not be the same until you go and make things right.  It’s the same with our relationship with God.  When we sin against Him, we must go to Him and make things right.  Confess and repent…turning from our sin and realigning with Him.

4. The Word.  Jesus is the Word.  Big W.  The Word.  Praise God, we have the Word in the form of our Bibles (and the Holy Spirit).  This is where it may look a bit different from one person to the next.  We can read it or hear it.  Paper, screen or headphones.  It doesn’t matter.  Just get it in your heart and head EVERY DAY.

5. Obedient heart.  Jesus set the ultimate example in this.  He ‘emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:7-8)

For this last element of a successful quiet time, we need to say, “Yes, Lord.”  We’ve laid out our concerns, we’ve confessed, our sins and we’ve ingested the Word.  It’s action time.  At this point, some days it will be a joyous consent.  Other days it will be with clenched teeth.  Many days, through streams of tears.  Yet, the answer should still be yes.  Oh, friend.  Of course, there will be days when you can’t find your ‘yes’.  Weeks or sadly, even years, when we say ‘no’.   Like a toddler who just wants her own way.  And now.  But there is blessing in the yes.  Let us trust the One who knows all and is Love.

Philippians 2:12-15a Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence

but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,

for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent…

Quiet time will not look the same for all of us.  We are each created unique by our loving Father.  Just like our own children and the time we spend with them.  The style of the time will vary, but we still need that quality and quantity time with our kids.  So the Father wants quality and quantity time with us, His kids.  Quantity time…every day, more than once a day, if needed.  (I need it.)  Quality time…recognizing our need for Him, getting alone with Him, confessing our sins to Him, taking in Him by the Word and saying “yes” to Him.