Thursday, November 19, 2015

When the World Falls Apart: or showing up in a cluttered life.




I look around and the world feels like it is falling apart.
There is evil every where.
Paris is broken.
Isis is powerful.
There are refugees that no one knows what to do with.
There is hate and racism and deep-seated distrust in our country.

And that is just the world out there.
At home it is my cousin's cancer.
And the broken seatbelt in the back seat.
Sales numbers that need to double and only nine selling days left.
There are exhausted outbursts at the end of the school day.
And home work that feels too hard.
A toddler who won't give up her bottle.
And a cavity in my back molar that irritates the corner of my brain more than my jaw.

And if I can't do anything about the small things close to home, how can I even hope at having an impact on the world out side my front door?

I drive down the highway flipping between bitter debate and saccharin music. So the radio goes off leaving me with my own thoughts. And my father's voice plays over and over shuffling between two thoughts.

"We chose to clutter our life with people not things."

and

"Show up."

The first a line from letters he wrote my husband and I on our wedding day. A motto he and my mother applied to their entire marriage. A motto my husband and I strive to embrace. The reason we bought our home. Not for status or security. But to fill it to the brim with family and friends and laughter and God's goodness.

The second line from a sermon he once preached. It was a difficult season for us. A toddler and a newborn with a close family member ill. We were in constant pain and it was easier to check out and shut down than to actually show up and be present in our lives. We were on a path that could have destroyed our  marriage. During the four hour drive home that day we made a choice. No matter how painful, no matter how messy, no matter how inconvenient or irritating, we would show up for our lives. When with each other, with our children, with our families, at church, we would stop shutting down and start engaging.

I don't really know what these two things have to do with a broken seat belts and cavities, much less bombings and refuges.

But there is homework tonight.
And Thanksgiving is next week.
And Christmas is coming.

And so I pray.
And bake bread.
And clutter my life with coffee dates and soup suppers and date nights and family nights.
And wherever life puts me I will show up.
Because some days, that's really all we can do.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Best Laid Plans


I am a planner. It is in my nature. I have an unhealthy obsession with school supplies and get down right giddy about back to school shopping. Nothing makes me quite to happy as an empty notebook or blank planner pages. So much so that I collect them. My wildly disorganized office is full of stacks of notebooks and planners in use, discarded, or waiting for their time.

I can schedule and map out action steps with the best of them. Making to do lists and figuring out what needs to be done to reach a goal are a piece of cake.

But the best laid plans.



You see there is a flaw in all my planning. Though I have been a mama for almost 8 years, almost with out exception, I make plans failing to take into consideration this crazy bed head and her two big sisters. Despite careful thought and planning I am rarely able to accomplish all I set out to do.

With this toddler's big sisters starting school last week I set out to take steps to grow my blog, as well as submitted my application for the largest, juried show our area has to offer. I made plans to grow my offering at this show and introduce new products. I started doing yoga. I added name to my happy mail list. I attempted to rearrange the girls bedroom.

I forgot my pint size companion was on a sleeping strike. I forgot that I was running on fumes. I forgot that when we move toward what God is calling us to there will inevitably be set backs. There will be road blocks and distractions and there will be other work to do.

And I would like everything to be simple and clear cut. I wish the answer was as tidy as forget the to do list and play all day. Forget the dreams and focus on the dishes. Or, forget the dishes and sew up a storm, your family needs the money. But it's never all or nothing. I am a mother, and a wife, and a friend, and a writer, and a creative, and a church member and all of those things require my attention. So some times and answer is to cut back on the to do list and some times the answer is to stay up till 11 pm to knock it out. Some times the answer is rest, and some times the answer it to kick myself into high gear and get things done while the baby plays and the kids are at school so that I can cook dinner and do home work when they get home.

I really like planners. I like the boxes and the lines and the check marks. And life is so much messier than my plans. It's complicated and pushes back far more than I would like. There are days when the hats I wear get confusing and I am not sure which is supposed to have my attention at the moment. Life isn't as easily as defined as I would like to think on my notepad pages.

So I keep trusting that as long as I keep moving forward, and doing the next thing, that it's all leading to the perfect place for me.


P.S. For fellow planner addicts you can find my planner instgram account at https://instagram.com/plannerofjoy

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Don't Grow Weary

Galatians 6:9
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

I don't have a well thought out, edited post for you all tonight. I have tried but my brain is just not working the way it needs to. I am lucky to be getting this up.

Some days are about simply doing the next thing.
The thing right in front of you.
Doing the right thing because it's the right thing.
Some times faith is big and bold.
Some times it's folding the laundry and baking bread and sending an e-mail.
And it's easy to get weary when the work is mundane.
Some times doing good looks a lot less changing the world, and a lot more like changing my heart.
And so you play JJ Heller music way louder than was ever intended and brew your third cup of tea and keep on keeping on till harvest time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Resting in Grace



It was our last day of Summer together as a family. The girls started school Monday and since Josh doesn't get Saturdays off, Wednesday was our last day to do something fun. And so we did just that. We sat around in our pajamas till 11 and then got chicken nuggets for lunch and surprised the big girls with a trip to the movies-complete with a large soda and extra large popcorn. They loved every minute of it.

Since we had a long promised sleep over scheduled for tonight we came home afterward to do some cleaning. The kids weren't too thrilled, but together the four of us managed to knock out basic cleaning in the basement, kitchen, and living room.
 
Dinner was prepped, the big girls were playing, and since Tacy was with my mother in law I was presented with a unicorn of a concept - free time! Yes there was more work that could be done (isn't that always true), but Josh suggested that enough is done for now and it would be a healthy thing to do something enjoyable for a bit while it is quiet.
I was torn. You see, my first response was that I should do something creative. I should sew, or journal, or make something with my stacks of scrapbook paper and stickers. At the very least, I should write a blog post! But honestly, all I wanted to do was curl up with a big mug of tea and watch Star Trek. I LOVE being creative and it feeds my soul on so many levels, but lately I have found myself too tired to even do that which I so dearly love.
 
While I sat talking about this with Josh, I was struck once again but what a producer I am. I have constantly struggled with this.
 
As a child I loved to read, but I often find myself disregarding this hobby as I get older. To sit in a chair with my feet up and a good book seems like to lazy a way to spend an afternoon. If I have nothing to show for my time at end of the day I feel like I have failed.
Eight years ago I learned to sew. It started out as a fun challenging outlet for my creative side, but in effort to justify the cost of fabrics and patterns I found myself attempting to grow a business. After I few years I had found a decent level of success, but found myself loosing interest once I had turned something I enjoyed into something I had to do. I thought I had to make it into something big to make it worth while. I have since found a level of entrepreneurship that works for me, but it is a constant battle. Every new design I create I find myself wondering if I should produce it for sale. I have to remind myself that creativity is worthwhile in it's own right.
 
I know that some people struggle with this more than others. That “Type A” personalities are notorious for taking control and not knowing how to unwind. But I think it's deeper than that. I think it's something that has been in all of us since the fall. It's why God put the Sabbath into the ten commandments and why we struggle to observe it.
 
We are scared that if we stop producing we will no longer have worth.
It's why I find myself texting my husband through the day to tell him all the chores I have accomplished.
It's why one of the first questions we ask when we meet people is “What do you do?”
It's why we feel resentment when we feel our contributions to ministry are being over looked.
It's why we identify with the brother in the story of the prodigal son.
It's why we LOVE Proverbs 31.
It's why we feel Martha got a bad rap.
It's why the first thing I think when something goes wrong is “I am a failure”.
If I am not producing I am not needed.
If I am not producing I am dispensable.
If I am not producing I am not lovable.
 
I started writing this post a few days ago and then came back to it. And while I was being honest and genuine when I started I realize now just how much I was censoring myself. Because talking about turning hobbies into careers is safe and even a little humorous. But talking about the deep down fear of failure, that fear that we are not enough, is ugly and uncomfortable. We don't like talking about it because it feels like we are fishing for a compliment. We don't like listening to it because it his a little to close to home.
 
So we sit quietly in our homes, slaves to our to-do lists, Desperately trying to prove we have worth. Listening to the lies of the deceiver who says our value is determined by the size of our laundry pile. So we throw ourselves into achieving pinterest perfection. Or we give up and stop even trying and give into laziness. And either way the serpent has won because he has convinced us that God can't be taken at His word.
 
I have value. Not because of anything I have done. But because on the 6th day God made mankind and pronounced it “very good.” And if I love my children no matter what, how much more does a perfect God love is wildly imperfect children. Because Sabbath isn't about do and don't but accepting that if I stop working, God will still provide, and still love, and still be good.
 
And so I'll watch Star Trek and sew dolls and color in coloring books and make notebooks and do the dishes and fold the laundry and sit in my big chair with a cup of tea and pray.
    Because grace says I can.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Back to School and Growing Up

Abi at Kindergarten Open House 2013

First Day of Kindergarten and First Grade 2014

Today was back to school open house for my girls. They got to see their classrooms and meet their teachers for the first time. Josh and I got to fill out paper work and stand in lines to figure out bus schedules and when and where to get finger printed. (Two years in and I still haven't done this. Bad mom, I know.)

Abi is thrilled and cannot wait while Maddie is in denial and walks around dejectedly stating loudly that she doesn't WANT to go back to school.
And I am in the middle.

I am ready for summer to be over. I am ready for routines and set bed times and wake up times. I am ready to know what we are doing every day, rather than trying to concoct a plan exciting enough to entertain a 6 year old at the drop of a hat. Selfishly I am even looking to have some down time with Josh on his days off and going back to our favorite walking path as soon as the weather cools off a bit.

I am not ready for them to be in first and second grade. Always before starting a new grade, it has seemed like an exciting mile stone to celebrate, but this year I am dragging my feet a bit. It's a little more bitter sweet. They are growing up in front of me and I am thrilled with the exciting things they will get to do and learn this year, and terrified of the challenges we will face.

The past two years, my mother, sister, or both have been present with us over the weekend. While I knew it was impractical to think this would go on forever, my heart aches and I find myself wishing for them. I'm not ready to do this on my own yet! And yet it is time.

The first year my mom and sister were here to help me after I had just had my third baby by c-section. School supply shopping, large crowds, and even fixing lunches was a challenge and I was beyond thankful for their ability to expertly hold everything together so I could be there for my terrified kindergartener.

Last year we found ourselves once again in the middle a massive transition at the start of school. My brother and his family had found their own home after living with us for 18 months and we were doing home renovations. We had another one entering kindergarten and public school for the first time, and to top if all off underwent a pretty intense tooth extraction the day before open house. I remember my one year old grabbing my cup of fresh brewed tea and dumping it all over her and I just about thirty minutes before my parents arrived that weekend. I was at a point of shear exhaustion and my parents found me on the sofa tears rolling down my face holding ice packs on the baby and I.

And then there is this year. My sister is busy with her own back to school things as she prepares for another year of teaching first graders and my parents are getting ready to have one of my nephews come visit for a week before he starts 6th grade. While I might miss them all desperately, this year I realize we don't NEED them like we did in years past.

As my children grow and I adjust to this season my confidence grows-as does my ability to navigate this whole school experience. My children are growing and so am I  and we all find a new level of independence.

I take a step back and look at all of us; my mother, my sister, myself, and my three daughters. The two that have gone ahead of me, the three following behind, and me, in the middle.
And I know that another step back would reminder me that we are a links in a chain extending past and future.
 But today, it's those three links I see.
 So I take a deep breath, brush tears from my cheeks and say a prayer of gratitude for my mother and sister, a prayer of protection on my daughters, and a prayer of grace for myself

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Something To Say

 

 
 
I have three amazing little girls. Each one a unique individual in their own right. 
 
My oldest developed speech early or so I am told. She had complete sentances by a year and would follow my younger brother around the house demanding that her "Unce Etcher" give her a "cacker" By three she had a vocabulary that more often than not left me shaking my head.
 
"Mother, there is a situation with Madeline and the body lotion."
A situation?
Seriously?
The kid had emptied an entire tube of Bath and Body Works body cream into her head.
 
My middle one was a little slower, though pretty standard when it come to speech. Her first sentence was "I la oo" on Christmas day at 18 months. Once she picked up on the whole talking thing she loved it. Thought we could only understand about 1/3 of what she said until she was nearly 4 that didn't stop her from a steady stream of communication. I once tried to count how many questions she could string of in succession and zoned out after question 30. Her last timed talking streak lasted 45 minutes with minimal response from any one around her.
 
My youngest is now two and gives her sisters a run for their money. What she lacks in vocabulary she makes of up for in volume and repletion.
 
It comes as no surprise to any one who knows my husband and I, that two of our kids are talkers. It am fairly certain if physically pains them refrain from joining a conversation.
 
For my middle daughter this means conversations often dissolve into her bouncing from one foot to the other, eyes roaming the room looking searching for something to talk about. She has a voice, and she wants to be heard, she just hasn't figure out what to say yet.
 
My youngest pulls the pretty typical two year old move of saying your name over and over and over until she has your attention, only to respond with a long drawn out "Ummmmmmmmmmmm" when you ask her what she needs.
 
And, while I waver between amusement and irritation and their constant interruptions, I find myself startled when I see so much of myself in them.
 
Not because I talk a lot, though the fact is I do, but in my writing.
 
I have a voice. I have a burning inside of me to tell story. I want to be heard. I want to be part of the conversation going on out there in the great big world. I want to add my own unique perspective and experiences.
 
And yet.
 
I wonder if I have anything to say.
I come to this little space on the internet and shout "LOOK AT ME!" Only to have my thoughts drift away and I am left hoping from one foot to the other hoping to hold your attention until I have something worth sharing. This post alone has taken me over an hour to write because I keep roaming around, playing on my phone, looking at instagram, reading other blogs. Searching for something to say that might keep you here with me. That might hold your attention.
 
And I have said before that I never want blog simply for the sake of blogging, and that the internet is noisy enough with out me adding to the chaos.
 
I want to be like my oldest daughter. I want to write and share because I have something worth saying. I want to post because I have thought through my words and sorted them carefully and want to engage and connect.
 
But I am a young blogger and children some times ramble. Some times my children speak because they are still finding their voice. They may not have anything to say yet, but they want to know that when they do we will be there to listen.
 
Some times my words will have weight and depth and some times it is just me, leaning in close, wanting to connect.
 
 
 
 
 


 





Thursday, August 6, 2015

Kansas



I heard a sermon once on mountains and valleys in our spiritual journey. It was a great lesson and has stuck with me over the years. The pastor talked about our spiritual journey and the highs and lows and the contrast and importance of both.

Mountain top experiences are important in our walk with God. There are a number of stories in the Bible recounting God meeting with and speak to people on the top of mountains. We all want those experiences. Conference, summer camps, sermons, and personal devotions. Seasons where God is so close we feel as though we could physically touch Him. Those moments when we know He is speaking to us with startling clarity.

In contrast valley's aren't as popular. When we think of the word valley in the Bible I think it's safe to say many of us jump strait to Psalms 23. Valley's are the low places in our journey. It's where we encounter pain and doubt and questioning. The speaker pointed something out that we often over look the fact that while mountain's are wonderful, things grow in the valley. We all desire mountain top experiences, but it's often in the valley's that we grow. The struggling that comes with our spiritual valleys can bring forth a lot of fruit.

It's a wonderful analogy. But he forget something. He forgot Kansas.

Let me explain.

I have spent all but 3 years of my life living on the East Coast. My roots run deep into Maryland's sandy soil and Virginia's red clay. But my younger brother and I are the only ones in my family who can say that. To my parents and grandparents the Mid West is home. My mother is a Midwest farmer's daughter, and my dad's great grandfather was a circuit preacher. Starting in their 20s my parents started migrating East to eventually settle in Maryland, but Kansas and Illinois especially are sacred places for my family.

While salt water my run in my veins, my father's are fill with the Colorado mountain stream water. And so, as often as he could my dad would round up as my of his six kids as possible, pile us into a mini van and drive from Maryland to Colorado and back. Personally I have made this trip three times that I can remember, though pictures show more trips than that.

To get from where we were to where we going we had to pass through Kansas. It's a long drive. Land locked on every said Kansas is flat. No mountains, no valleys, not even hills. Flat strait roads as for miles. Valley's my be lush, but Kansas feeds America. Over 88% of Kansas land is farm land. Over 9 million acres of wheat and 4 million acres of corn are planted there every year. I looked it up. It may not be much as far as scenery goes, but it get's the job done.

I think back to those drives across Kansas. Mile after mile of predictable scenery. It wasn't the forests and streams of home or the wilderness of mountains we were driving towards. It was the in between place. It held little interest to my adolescent imagination, but it was necessary to get where we were going.

When we see our faith as all mountains and valleys we loose perspective.
We expect everything to be either an emotional high, or a season of crisis.

Most of life is lived in the middle.

The day to day of our faith.
Waking up
Reading our Bibles even when it doesn't seem to make a difference.
Choosing to loves those around us.
Walking the dog.
Diving car pools.
Interacting with our co workers.
Showing up and choosing to stay engaged when what we see before us is the exact same thing we see behind us and there doesn't seem to be any change in sight.

It may not be the popular thing to say, but some times faith is about going through the motions when things seem flat. We shy away from these seasons saying that they are lukewarm, or that we fill in-authentic. We are afraid of a faith that is about checking boxes. We become so wrapped up in being genuine that we drift away from daily discipline lest they become route or routing. But some times faith, some times obedience, is accepting the ordinary and trusting that it is needed to get you where you are going.

Some times the plains are the hardest season. Things are fine and steady and we forget the joy of the mountain and who gave it and the pain of the valley and who brought us through. There are stretches of struggle, and there will be stretches of shear joy, but in between is the spiritual Kansas.









Monday, August 3, 2015

Being an Extrovert in a Introvert Society: Part One



Years ago my dad started a tradition. Whenever one of his children gets married he writes two letter. One for his child and one for their spouse to be opened on their wedding day. Being the fourth to get married I knew these letters were coming and looked forward to reading them.

Though my father wrote about many things in those letters, there was a common theme in both that has stuck with my husband and I through nine years or marriage. Dad wrote about cultivating a home that was focused on people. As he put it "We chose to clutter our life with people not things." In that one sentence he summarized a family culture I knew, but never knew how to articulate.

Josh and I have tried to make this a motto in our own home, though often it isn't always as easy as I wish it was.

In many ways I am a perfect storm when it comes to the need and desire for community. I truly believe that God places in his church a call to walk to through life with others. I think this is especially strong in women. Add to those two things my bent toward being an extrovert and you end up with some one who doesn't always know what to do when left to her own devices.

As a child my out going personality was easy to see in a positive light. Between my dad being a pastor and my mom working for the school I attended I was often expected to play greeter for the new kids and it was a role that felt natural and easy to me. People like outgoing children who smile and strangers and talk to the new kid.

Over the years though my desire to build relationships has started to feel like a burden. My outgoing personality and pension for initiating have become a personality quirk to be managed rather than celebrated.

In the age of social media, texting, and telecommuting it seems that the introvert is king. Search "introvert" on pinterest and you will come up with pages and pages of links on how to care for, understand, love, and be friends with an introvert. Search "extrovert" and you will find a number of links as well, most of them about introverts.

On the one hand I appreciate pieces like this. For most of my life my closest friends have been introverts and so insights on how to understand them are appreciated. On the other hand there is a small part of me the curls up and pulls back with every one of these I read. I fear that my desire to engage in friendship and build up the Church body is perceive as needy, clingy, obnoxious, and ultimately unwanted.

I have noticed a change in myself over the past few years. An unwillingness to initiate contact. When my husband and I purchased our home five years ago it was partly because we wanted more room to build community. We had a desire to have people in our home and use our space to minister to others. And yet I can't remember the last time we invited people over.

People are busy.
We are busy.
Schedules conflict.
You can only hear excuses so many times before you start to pull back. 
Before the door that once one wide open slowly starts to close.
You can only hear no so many times before you start to guard your heart against the inevitable disappointment.
A guarded heart is hard to share.

And so I find myself at times in a season of isolation. Holding every one at arms length, afraid of committing some social blunder. Afraid of being rebuffed again. Resisting the urge to reach out to others. Ignoring the promptings I may feel to send a text, make a phone call, or suggest a coffee date.

I can defend this behavior to myself to no end. Declaring I need space and that it is simply self preservation. I argue that I am pouring into my kids and husband and that those are the only relationships I have time for right now. I hide behind this "season" saying it will pass and I will make community a priority "later."

But we can only dodge the truth for so long. Eventually it will catch up to us and shine a light on all the lies we have been hiding behind. The truth is God designed His church, Women, ME for community.

So now what?

I have been trying to reach out more. To invite people into my life more. To ask a friend for coffee, to initiate a phone call, to text more often. To listen to the still small voice I had come to ignore.

At times the out come is balm to my slightly bruised, extroverted heart.
A friend thanking me for taking the initiative and extending a dozen different invitations over the summer.
A late night cup of coffee while our hearts are slowly being knit together.
The unexpected, initiated text from a friend who will never truly know just how much her reaching out first means to me.

And for the times when I feel rebuffed again, when I feel to weary to place my emotions on the back burner in consideration of a friend, there is God's grace. His gentle reminder that if I am full of Him and His love and provision that there is ALWAYS enough. That I can give love and attention and compassion and not have to worry that my tank will run dry. When I meet with Him first, and invite Him into all that I do, then there is more than enough to go around.

God made me this way. And so I trust He has a purpose for me. I trust that my friends, my family, and my church need people like me. Even if I do invade their bubble from time to time.





Friday, July 3, 2015

To The One Who is Finally Using Her Gifts




I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a group of local creatives and just enjoy each other's company. We shared our stories, our backgrounds, our business and creative struggles and our hopes for the future. I normally love these meetings, but for whatever reason my heart just wasn't in this one. My brain jumped from thought to thought, not entirely sure why I was there or even if I fit with this group I normally love.

And then my attention was caught by the story one woman told. She is a women I admire and respect personally, creatively, and spiritually. I have never heard an unkind word from her. She is unfailing positive and kind, always encouraging, always offering a smile. She is one of the most welcoming women I know. Any one who meets her at the shop she works in, or a show where she is selling her beautiful work, walks away feeling like they have bee seen, like they matter.

She was telling her story about how she got to what she was doing now and how she has always been an artist and a painter. And yet, when she got to college she didn't study art, she studied ministry. She shared how she felt like art wasn't good enough because, "we have to do something big for God" and it was, "soul crushing." And I wanted to cry.

I think we all have felt that way at some point. I wonder how many women still feel that way. How many women are serving in ways they were never created to because they have bought into the idea that there things we do that are "ministry" and "God's work" and then  there is everything else? How many women are dying inside because they have been told that their gifts at passions aren't "right"? How many women are missing out on the work God has prepared for them because it doesn't look like what they, or others, thought it would?

I looked at this woman and thanked God that she listened to God's prompting. That she used her passion for art to teach children. That she paints beautiful things that brighten the lives of so many. That she is there, in that place, offering herself and her gifts to others. She allowed herself to see past a narrow interpretation of ministry and in the process found the work that God had created her for.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Instagram Summer

We are a few weeks into break and we have been summering hard. It's been a crazy week full of spontaneous activities and reworking plans. Nothing has been set in stone and we have been successfully embracing the spontaneous (not always my strong suite).

I have been having a lot of fun using my nice camera and I can't wait to show you all those photos. But until then here are a few of my favorite Instagram photos of our summer so far.


Happy mail coming and going.


Lots of time at the sewing machine. 



Legos, legos, and more legos


Reading for hours on end.



Lots and lots of time at the pool.

Friday, May 29, 2015

On Showing Up



I was cooking dinner with a dozen different, semi-related, thoughts running through my head. I stood over the stove, fork in hand, turning bacon and trying not to get grease all over everything.

My thoughts felt scattered and disconnected. Over and over I went back to the story of Jesus telling the disciple to throw their nets over the side of the boat.

I am horrible at remembering details so as the bacon drained I pulled up Bible Gate way to search for the story. Turns out there are two similar stories recounting two separate events.

The first one is Luke 5. After fishing all night Simon is told to go put his nets into the deep water. Despite having nothing to show for a long nights work, Simon did as he was told and ended up with so many fish he had to call for help pulling them in.

The second story takes place after Jesus is resurrected. After all the miracles and amazing things they saw at his side, Christ's disciples have gone back to fishing. Again they have caught nothing when Jesus tells them to put their nets on the other side of the boat. And again the take is to plentiful the nets almost break.

I stand back at my kitchen counter assembling BLTS (or rather BLs for the girls and I and a BLT for Josh) thinking about these men. Things weren't really going their way. Work was rough, and unfruitful. They had put in hours and hours of labor and saw literally NO return. It would have been really easy for these guys to have called it quits. What would have been the harm in calling things early? The fish weren't biting. Why not clock out and catch a few extra minutes of sleep? But they didn't do that. They were faithful. Even when things seemed pointless they showed up. And as a result they saw miracles, but beyond that, they saw Jesus.

Showing up when things are going well is easy.
People want to be part of something big.
As a church it's easy to show up when babies or born,
when the church is putting on a big out reach event,
when funds are being raised after a natural disaster.

It is easy to show up when God is clearly moving and there is revival.

It's a lot harder to show up to serve in nursery,
to clean the toilets,
to mop floors,
to fold laundry.

We all want to be part of the harvest. But being part of the planting isn't as glamorous.

My daughter wants to read her princess books, but doing sight word flash cards is boring.

I want to have deeper community with the body, but chasing a toddler around at prayer can leave me feeling frazzled.

I want to be close to my husband, but the to do list is long and by the end of the day I am too tired to spend real time with him.

I want to be closer to God, but I struggle to make time to open my Bible daily when I feel like He is silent.

I think about those fishermen and their faithfulness. I think about them showing up in the mundane every day. I think about what they would have missed out on if they hadn't.

I think about where God is asking me to show up. Not in the big ways. The conferences, the out reaches, the dates nights, and the school programs.

But the small things. The letter written, the meal cooked, the home work finished, the questions asked, the verses read, the hug given.

I think about what I a might have missed by not showing up.... and what might be in store if I do.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Changing Seasons.

It has been pretty quite on here. Not unusual I know. But it seems like a very long time since I have been here. Five months to be exact. It doesn't feel quite that long, but dates don't lie. The last time I shared here we hadn't even had snow yet. And now we are in the middle of a heat wave. We have already hit 90 a few times this spring and we are due for a few more 90 degree days in the next week.

When I sat down at the start of the year one of my few goals was to write more. Granted this is always a goal of mine but I had a slightly more concrete goals this time. Write a rough draft in 2015 and grow readership here so when I finally go to a publisher I have a decent size platform to present.  (You can read about my 2015 goals here.)



Best laid plans and all that.

There are a lot of reasons it has been silent here.

* In February and even a bit of March we had a number of heavy snows that kept my kids out of school for nearly three weeks. Not a whole lot gets done when you have three stir crazy kids stuck inside all day.



* I forgot how absolutely crazy toddles are. Tacy is in that into everything stage. She is amazing and wonderful but doesn't leave me a ton of time to sit and write. If she isn't into the toilet bowl she in the cat food and if she isn't in the cat food she is in my lap informing me that she "Wana bye bye." My family demands (rightfully so) to be my first priority. In this season and in every season to come they have to be what I think of first. Even if I some how manage to achieve my goal of being published and have the chance to do things beyond my current reach, to be the kind of writer and woman I want to be I cannot let go of that. Too many writers now become successful and as a result can no longer write about every day life with any sense of genuineness because their every day life looks NOTHING like that of their readers. Lord willing I want to write in such a way that allows other woman's souls to say "YES! Me to!"



* God has been calling me to other things. He has been showing me small ways to serve and minister to other's in His name.(You can read about that here.) In some ways this is hard. While I love what He has been calling me to do and know with out a doubt He using me, I ache for something bigger.  And yet, isn't that the very point of my writing? That God uses us right where we are, in our life stage, with our gifts. That living out the great commission doesn't require this big crazy extreme life. That a quite life in the suburbs can have as big an impact for the kingdom as one spent in an orphanage in a third world country.

* And so I find myself living with a tension of peace and desire. Peace with knowing I am serving how and where He has called me. Desire to minister and share and encourage on a bigger scale. Not always knowing how to share both of these sides with genuineness and transparency. Not wanting to preach contentment and being used where you are at, while my heart pines for something bigger. Not wanting to share about my desires and dreams for bigger things, when I think that in many ways this notion of doing "big things for God" has bred a generation disillusioned with the path God has placed them on.



* So that leaves me here. May 27th with only a few pages and a hand full of blog posts written toward my goal. Seasons are changing here. From summer to spring and perhaps the season of silence is coming to and end it is time for me to write again. Only this time I am reminded that seasons don't always come the way would expect. Spring here was all over the place. Sunny and 85 degrees on a Monday and rainy and 55 degrees the following Saturday. We can't always predict what the weather will be. This season of writing may not look like what I expected. Leaps and bounds, pages at a time, readership growing. Living out the great commission right where you are means knowing when it is a season to sit on the sofa with your kids, and when it is a season to push yourself and pursue opportunities God is giving you. Even if they don't look like what you would expect.



Here is to the next season. Whatever it may be.







Thursday, January 22, 2015

How Sending Mail Has Become My Ministry.



I only have  short window of time while dinner cooks and the kids watch Hercules, but I felt the need to write a bit more after Tuesday's post.

Like I said in my last post I am slowly finding a balance between serving in my local church where I see a need, and finding other ways to use my gifts and talents to minister to others.

Obviously serving looks different for every one depending on their church, their gifts, their talents and their life phase. But I thought that maybe it would help to see what that looks like for me right now.

Aside from serving in our church nursery and, of course, taking care of and ministering to the members of my family these are a few ways I have found to serve God, bless others, and worship Him with my life.

I have taken countless spiritual gift tests over the years and the outcome varies. I do believe that, in part, God equips us for a task at hand. But, I also think many just have a God given bent toward certain things. While I have had a number of different outcomes both "mercy" and "encouragement" tend to crop up in my top three gifts.

(There are times when I roll my eyes and shake my head because what I see is my short tempter and tendency to be critical. But I have to remind myself that spiritual gifts aren't about me at all but God's work in me.)

Over the past month or so I have found a rather fun way to combine my spiritual gifts of mercy and encouragement with my God given creative talents, and my love of writing. Through Facebook and Instagram I have been able to participate in a number of swaps, secret sister groups, and Random Acts of Kindness with other like minded women. I have been able to send letters and small packages of creative goodness to other women who needs a reminder of God's kindness and goodness. And it is brought me so much joy!



I've enjoyed it so much that I find it extending beyond just strangers on the internet to people in my every day. I find myself picking up a card at the store because it reminds me of so-and-so or grabbing an extra notepad because I remember a friend saying they were looking for one.



I find myself praying over the letters and packages I send. Praying God will give me the words to share. That seeing a package in the mail will bring a smile to some one's face and remind them that they are loved and a valuable part of the church. I pray that God will prompt me to include the perfect items that will speak to their hearts. I pray that they will feel known. I find myself praying for people I have never "met" that they will come to find a relationship with Christ.



I realize that to many sending out mail and care packages may not sound like serving. It may sound silly and unconventional and not at all "ministry" but for me for now it is a perfect fit.

What are ways you can use your gifts and talent to minister to the body and bring glory to God? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Some gifts given to me lately that have made me feel loved and known and show God's grace and goodness. (Exactly what I hope to do for others.)



Tuesday, January 20, 2015

When You Don't Know Where To Serve



I have been having an ongoing dialog/struggle with myself for the past few years. Mostly it takes place in my head or journal. Occasionally it will spill out and I will include my husband in the conversation. But lately I have gotten just a teeny tiny bit braver and started to share bits and pieces of this conversation with other women. And I realized is that I'm not alone.

In fact, I think a LOT of women are probably having this same conflict with in themselves. But it's not an open conversation yet. It's shared in whispers in the hall, quite sighs in our living rooms and guilt ridden confessions over text messages. More and more I am hearing women cautiously admit that they don't feel like there is a place for them to use their spiritual gifts in their local church.

It's an awkward position to be in.

It can happen for a number of reasons...

*Really big churches where there are so many people that it can be very difficult to really plug into active ministry.

*Smaller churches that are still growing so the ministry opportunities are fewer and less varied.

*Ministry needs don't line up with spiritual gifts.

*Season of life (college, your job schedule, your spouses job schedule, young children ect) make it difficult to serve in an "official" capacity in the church.

And here is the thing none of those things are wrong. But they can be hard to deal with and can lead to a lot of frustrating situations.

*Feeling guilty for not serving.

*Ineffective ministry from serving in an area you aren't meant to.

*Keeping some one ELSE from using their gifts by serving "just to serve".

*Burn out from serving an in area you aren't well suited for.

*Resentment from serving where you feel pressured into serving.

*Pulling away from the church body because you don't feel like you "fit" or "belong".

*Using your gifts out side of your local church, but worrying that people are judging you for not being more involved.

I grew up being actively involved in my home church. I loved serving and was involved in a number of different ministries. But since graduating college and getting married I think I have experienced every single one of those frustrating situations. And, for eight very long years, I thought I was the only one. I kept my mouth shut and my heart closed and played "good little church girl."

And then, in the past few months, I started hearing whisperings from other women and started adding my own. (To the woman who let me speak these things out loud or over text thank you!)

I made room in my life for the conversation and in time an answer.

The Conversation.
In many ways that is what this blog post is. This is me putting the conversation out there in hopes that other women will realize that they are not a lone and that it's ok if you don't know where you "fit". God can still use you, He still has a plan for you, and you are still oh so important and valued.

Some Answers.
I think answers look different for every one. Maybe you need to step out of your comfort zone and start a new ministry in your church! Maybe you need to push a little hard to get involved in an existing ministry you feel called to be part of. Maybe you need to let go of the guilt of "not serving" and focus on your family or your own healing. Whatever the answer is I am sure it will involve a lot of praying and perhaps some counsel.

Personally my answer involves a few things....

*Serving in my church where I see a need:
I may not be great with kids, but I can change diapers and rock babies. Every church I have ever been part of needs nursery workers. Rather than feel pressured or resent serving there I am choosing to do it with a content heart because 
a) I believe in the local church and contributing to the body.
b) I cannot even begin to express my gratitude for the people who love on my kiddos so I can sit in the worship service clear of distractions. Being able to be simply a child of a God for an hour and not worry about the role of "mom" is what keeps me going most weeks. I want to offer that to other parents.

*Letting go of what serving "should" look like:
I am learning so much lately about my spiritual gifts, my love language and, and my God given talents. I'm also learning to accept the limitations (and opportunities) that arise from having two grade school kids, a toddler and a husband who works unconventional hours. The more I embrace all of this and open my eyes to opportunities around me the more ways I am finding to bless others and honor the Lord. They may not look like what I was expecting or even what other's may see as "ministry" but they are the things He has placed in my life.

Colossians 3:23-24 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Come back tomorrow and I'll share some of what my unconventional "ministry" looks like.




Thursday, January 15, 2015

Hello Again




Well with out meaning to I seem to have taken a three month (!) break from blogging. It definitely wasn't intentional, but it was very much needed. 2014 was a crazy up and down year and the last two and a half months of it were a crazy whirlwind of busyness and processing. It may not have been a "quiet" season but it was good to take time to think through things on a more personal level and not share every thought that came into my head. (I have always had a habit of oversharing).

We are now two weeks into 2015 and while dealing with a crazy case of cellulitis in my ear I was able to do some thinking and reflecting. God and I have been talking a lot about what the future looks like for me and while I still have some things up in the air I feel like for the first time in  long time I have a little more direction and focus.

I have always struggled with a bit of creative ADD and have a habit of picking up every new craft trend that crosses my path. There is something in me that just HAS to try every new sewing pattern and paper crafting technique. It's fun and crazy and means I am always learning something new. The down side to this is that I am a little scattered and can feel a little stressed when my perfectionist/driven side takes over. It is impossible to be amazing at everything. I often let my need to turn my hobbies into more than that take away my enjoyment and pleasure in making pretty things.



The fact is if I look back in 20 years and never take Goose Beary Shop further than it is I will be ok. If I never make it onto a design team I won't have any regrets.



The flip side of that coin is that there is something I will regret no doing. Writing! When I think about all the things in my life writing is the thing I cannot NOT do. I could sell all my fabric and give away all my paper crafting supplies and be ok. I would miss the hobby, but I would find something else to fill my time But if I couldn't write... well I wouldn't be me!



So where does that leave me for 2015?




* Well, I am still selling my dolls at Pastiche at Main because it has opened up doors for me to meet people and be involved in a creative community that has enriched my life in so many ways! Not to mention it lets me play with new patterns with out my house constantly being cluttered with rag dolls. Not a whole lot will change other than my heart and attitude.



* I am focusing more on combing my natural talents (creating) with my love language (gifts) and my spiritual gifts (encouragement) and have started participating in more swap and random act of kindness. It makes me smile and allows me to use my unique combo of gifts and talents to bless others and honor God.



* Finally, I am really focusing on my writing this year. After years of my husband and I pray for a project for me to work on we finally had and answer this past summer. This is the first time I have shared this project publicly! It has taken a lot of guts for me to work up the nerve to talk about it beyond a few close friends.  I am hoping to have a rough draft for my first book done by the end of 2015. I also will be blogging here more and working on marketing to that when it comes time to take a project to a publisher I have an audience behind me.
 

So that's what I am hoping 2015 looks like for me. Hopefully I will see you all back here soon!