A Real Life Mom’s Take on Spiritual Disciplines

cross-2598300_1920

The Spritiual Disciplines. I love them, but sometimes I feel like I love them the same way I love the Jimmy Fallon Show.  I love to watch, but our relationship is less than consistant.

Take for instance, silence. A few days ago our adorable baby boy woke me up at 4:45 (one of the reasons God made babies cute: so you can still be sweet to them when they wake up crying at the wee hours of the morning). I had just listened to an inspiring podcast the previous day by Pete Scazzero on the spiritual discipline of silence. As a mom of six under 10 (4 of which are under 5) this discipline usually seems the most daunting. Nevertheless, this morning, in the early hours, I had a great idea in my delirium. This is a great time to practice silence.  5 minutes later: Zzzzzzzzz. Ha! Next time I’ll have coffee first!

Then there is fasting. I love fasting. I have never regretted a fast. However by the time 10am rolls around I’m ready to tear my bath robe and put the fireplace soot on my head.

I guess my point is, my flesh is still very alive and very much a pansy.

I joke. I’m sure some of you are reading this thinking, “I feel you. My heart is willing but my flesh is weak.” There may be others who have a grace for these disciplines and you’re saying, “What’s the big deal? There’s a reason it’s called a ‘discipline.’ And you could use some.” To all of you I would say, YES. Just a hardy YES.

I remember a time as a new mom feeling so overwhelmed and like time ran me rather than me running my time. It was all I could do to find a few minutes to pray in the shower. God didn’t look down on me, or distance himself from me in that season. Being a mom is emotionally and sometimes physically draining, and we are flesh. When we are down and out, we don’t want another thing to do. So my challenge is to the mom’s out there who are struggling to connect with the Lord, or sometimes struggling to even want to connect. Sometimes you need to deal with a “deeper” issue, but often times the enemy is taking your tired, worn out self, and having a hay day with it. Here’s are some steps to walk past it:

  1. Ask God for help. In Him we live and move and have our being, and it’s by His grace that we get anything done. He delights in your asking, and He delights in answering.
  2. Don’t feel overwhelmed by what you feel like you “should” be doing. It’s a trap.
  3. Don’t feel like you can’t do anything. The enemy would love for us to follow our feelings until the day we die. We want to be effective and productive citizens of God’s kingdom, and He wants us to too.
  4. Just start somewhere. Tell yourself that instead of making mental lists in the shower of what you have to do that day, take 5, 4, or 2 minutes to pray. If you don’t know what to pray, just start thanking God for anything… eventually it will be so easy, and it will change your outlook. It will. Or tell yourself you will find one scripture to read that day, and you will think on it at different times.   Psalms is a great place to start, or the YouVersion always has a great “verse of the day” to encourage you.

The opportunity to grow and connect with God throughout our day is central to walking in the Spirit. While I may not always get in silence, and while my fasting may only last until noon sometimes (hey, it’s something), I can find time connecting by reading my word first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee. Sometimes this happens while a toddler is next to me eating breakfast and watching (gasp) Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Sometimes it happens when I’m doing dishes and tell I say, “Hey, Alexa! Turn on the Elevation Worship station, and make it louder than my children.” Sometimes it happens with an extra thirty seconds spent in the only room in the house I seem to find a moment of privacy. Then there is my new obsession, my planner (which has very little planning in it). It’s where I jot down encouraging and challenging things that I feel the Holy Spirit speaking to me (and add cute stickers and colorful washi tape <-I’m certain God loves washi tape too).  I feel like I’m the most connected when I find multiple ways multiple times a day to intentionally connect with God.

The spiritual disciplines are a great tool for us to submit our day and our lives to the One we chose to trust daily. I feel the enemy loves to make us feel one of two things, A. I’m not doing enough. B. I can’t do anything. These feelings can only be remedied by actually connecting to the God who loves you in this moment more than life itself . Only He can help us balance our lives. Be encouraged not condemned, mamas! This job is tough. These little unpredictable balls of energy are No. Joke. Take heart! It is God’s “divine power [that] has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness (2 Peter 1:3).”

Blessings and Grace!

Advertisements

Bird Food, Fire, and Old Hymns

I love the story of Elijah. You know, the one where God speaks to him, but it’s not in the earthquake or the fire. It’s in the still, small voice. That’s not the part of the story that I love the most; it’s the part before and after. Let’s look at what Elijah had done up to this point:

  1. Taken care of through birds dropping off meat (Ew, but awesome).
  2. He boldly calls out the wicked king’s false gods.
  3. He slays the prophets of Baal (figuratively and literally) with smack talk and fire from heaven (definitely awesome).
  4. Then Jezebel threatens to kill him, and he completely shuts down (Insert tire screeeeeech).

Wait what? He single handedly kills hundreds of bad guys, calls down fire, and some lady says, “I’m gonna get you,” and he just quits life? Yep. Totally depressed. The man of God has left the building. He decides to hide in the wilderness.

The wilderness.

It’s the place where Moses went when he saw the burning bush. It’s where Jesus went right before beginning His ministry. It’s a place where crossroads come into view. It’s where we’re asked “Will you take up the cross before you?” It’s where we recognize our own weakness and are forced (by the grace of God!) to decide: Do I trust Him? Do I really? Because if I really do, I have to face my fears. And if I really do, that means I need to step onto holy ground and say, “I don’t need all the answers. Maybe I can’t trust who I am right now, but I know who you are. You can do big things, and You will if you say You will.”

Elijah stepped into the wilderness depressed and terrified. In his terror, he said, “God! She wants to kill me!” Elijah knew that the Lord was His Refuge. He also knew that if the Lord chose he could kill her in an earthquake or set her on fire just as he did the alter. But God’s might is not what Elijah really needed in that moment. He needed to learn to focus on the One Thing and trust His plans. So he cries out to God, and God says, “Go back from where you came… and find your replacement (my paraphrase).” What???! God doesn’t even address the death threat? God basically says, “I’m God. I’ve called you to do some things. Did you think you were going to live forever? Do you want to be a part of my big plan, or not?”

See, God’s plans are generational, and our participation is life-giving and fruitful as we focus on our loving, intimate, joy-filled relationship with Him. From that relationship our course is set. It’s through Him and what he has equipped us with that we keep moving forward. We do what He says and all other things are under his mighty and loving hand. We get to be with Him and simply trust.

As I child I spend many evenings in chapel services at one of the homeless shelters that my parents started and ran. People would come off the streets for a warm meal, which would be followed by a short service presenting the hope of Jesus to those who knew they needed it desperately. One of my most vivid memories of those services is singing old hymns including one that is still a favorite, Trust and Obey. The lyrics drive home this message well:

“When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear only trust and obey.”

It’s so easy to let the cares that the world presents weigh us down. It’s easy to be afraid of what could happen. I hope Elijah encourages you the way that it has me as I struggle to fix my eyes on Jesus, “the [b]author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

The Bridge Builder

I’m not sure if it was the Amanda Cook song playing, the engineering feat, or my heart mourning over all of the metaphorical bridges I’ve burned throughout my life that moved me so much.  But there I was teary-eyed at the sight of a bridge being built. Something about one piece of land connecting to another, the intentional dreaming and planning, and the out-of-the-box mindsets it takes to construct such a structure caused something inside me to explode. The Holy Spirit was definitely beginning to speak… (Not to mention the next morning my daughter was talking to me about building bridges at school. Coincidence??!)

Throughout my life as I transitioned from one place to another I almost always left relationships in the dust. The roots of rejection spoke clearly. “Don’t reach out, they may not want to hear from you.” “Don’t try to connect, you’re relationship is worthless to them.” Queue the gasoline and light the match. Burn the bridge. This wasn’t always caused by my transitions. When others left, the same fears would take over. Who knew that a simple video could shed light and begin the healing… Thanks, YouTube. 🙂

Jesus was a Bridge Builder. He came as a man to connect heaven and earth. He came to connect the Redeemer to the sinner, to connect the Healer to the sick, to connect Love to the broken hearted, and to connect Hope to the hopeless… He came to connect us to Him, and to connect us to each other.

And then He commissioned us to be bridge builders, taking the Love we have received and giving it freely and boldly to those around us.

I’ve been asking the Holy Spirit to show me simple ways to be a bridge builder to you and others around me. Here is what I have so far:

  1. Seek to understand. Don’t assume.
  2. Pray for the people in our spheres of influence. Ask God to use us to build towards others in courageous authenticity.
  3. See the value and treasures on the other side. It’s easy to see what’s different and wrong with others, allow God to give us His eyes for others.
  4. Do the hard work to bring connection. Forgive.

To those whom I’ve cut off in years or months past,  please forgive me for allowing fear to rob me of your friendship.

While this is something God is doing in me on a personal level, I also want to address this as a word for the Church as a whole. The bridge in the video was built as a bypass to the Hoover Dam connecting Nevada to Arizona. The road leading up to the bridge on the Dam had many hairpin turns and didn’t permit the large amount of traffic in the area to move through freely. When building this bridge they first corrected the road, making a straight path in Nevada, “The Silver State’” (silver prophetically representing Wisdom). The bridge connected Nevada to Arizona, “The Copper State” (copper prophetically representing tools and weapons).  I feel that as the Church courageously begins to operate as bridge builders, individually and within church communities, the Lord wants to bring together the Wisdom and the Tools that the Lord has imparted to his people. I believe that the choices that individuals make affect cities, and the influence of cities affects states, then regions, then nations.

I say all this to say: courageously, and in Love… I want to be a bridge builder.  Are you with me?

Trust me…

I don’t have any cute stories this morning.  Well, actually I did have one, but I thought it would get me in trouble, so I’m skipping it.  If you want to hear it (and how it relates to this post), you’ll have to prove to me that I can trust you with it. 🙂  I may even show you the corresponding picture.

If you know anyone who has trouble trusting, the challenge is partially yours to help them. It’s impossible for people to build trusting relationships if we aren’t being trustworthy.  How can we be a trustworthy friend?

  1. Be kind and compassionate.
  2. Have integrity. Tell the truth. Keep a secret.
  3. Go deep. Know people well enough that you can almost predict their behaviors and responses. Healthy trust happens in sincere relationships.

It’s easy for someone with problems trusting to feel like they simply need to step out and trust people more with deep information, but in reality they need to learn WHO to trust. In fact, one of the biggest sign that someone has trust issues is that he is trusting people that he has no business trusting.

King Saul had serious trust issues  that sabotaged his relationships and eventually his reign. That’s what happens if you don’t have a trustworthy community, your relationships are seen with suspicion leaving no room for sincere trust. Eventually your calling with be stunted (if it even has a chance to unfold). It’s important to look at problems with trust as self-sabotaging rather than self-protecting.

Where does someone with trust problems start?

Trust in the Lord.

It sounds simple and perhaps cliché to you, but you have to see, admit, and surrender your fear to the Lord. It’s important that this comes first. Otherwise our other relationships will replace a role that He is meant to have. This is the cause of many problems with trusting others.

Second, start surrounding yourself with trustworthy people. If you don’t know if people are trustworthy, look for the signs listed above.

God desires us to find people with whom we can live in community—sharpening, comforting, confessing… sharing life. Let’s be that people! No more isolation. Let’s let the pain caused by others heal. Let’s try again.

Here’s the picture. You can guess the connection. 🙂

IMG_5895

Being a Friend… even when it’s messy

I recently went to a retreat with women from my church. There were lots of tears shed, chocolate shared, and connections made. We all learned that we need the pieces of each other’s stories to live the fullest life that God desires us to live…. It’s God’s design. I have recently been asking God to teach me what it means to be a good friend. Facebook, Instagram, kids gymnastics, school activities, packed schedules… so many things make it easy for real friendships to become drowned out. BUT, we all long for good friendships, don’t we? …Even if our issues or introversion cause us to push them away.

So how do we do it? How do we build Godly friendships? I found some answers in the story of David and Doug. Ok, it’s actually “Doeg,” but “Doug” is my American translation. …and the story isn’t actually about Doug and David specifically, but their roles reveal something really valuable. So here’s the story (1 Samuel 22) in a nutshell:

Doug is Saul’s chief shepherd. He follows Saul, not out of relationship or honor, but rather out of fear. In fact, his name means “careful” and “anxious.” Doug is the kind of friend that has to be manipulated and enticed in order to show his loyalty. Doug sees the priests gave David the consecrated bread from the temple and he tells Saul. Why does he tattle? Telling our of the wrong motive (aka tattling) is often times about gaining status, power, or favor. (1) Doug is willing to do what it takes to gain attention from Saul. After Saul confronts and condemns the priest of feeding (literally) the “rebellion.” He tells his soldiers to kill the priest and the other men in his family. The soldiers refuse to kill God’s priests. Doug is then told by Saul to do it. He turns around and kills all but one who manages to escape. The fleeing priest who survived the masacre finds David.

David comforts him.

And here is where David teaches me a thing or two about friendship. Listen to what David says:

  1. “Stay with me. Don’t be afraid.” The priest was probably feeling more alone than ever. David responded with compassion and tenderness. Being a friend means we are making sure we stay open with each other. We don’t ignore or detach from the “hard stuff.” We implore others to not run from the support friendship can provide. Intimacy can be scary, but on the other side of that fear is a treasure that can only come from being open and broken with each other So often we are looking for answers and quick fixes to our circumstances while ignoring the fact that the struggle is where we are often refined and strengthened. I believe this is multiplied when we process through in a community of friends. As we come out of isolation, the emotional connection with friends can lessens the effects of life’s trauma. (2)
  2. “The man who is trying to kill you wants to kill me too.” David may not have known what it feels like to have your entire family slaughtered, but he could identify with running away, with feeling like your destiny is far from vision, and with feeling like you are one step away from death. David didn’t pretend to know what the priest had just experienced, nor did he try to fix his problem or act like it was no big deal. David showed sincere empathy, and reached him with compassion. This was an eye-to-eye, “I’m in this fight, too” moment. He connected and pulled him higher. I’ve learned that my compassion will be substantially limited if I’m unwilling connect with empathy. Any compassion I show without chosing to connect with their pain, lacks depth and runs the risk of looking like pity.
  3. “You are safe with me.” A good friend will surround you in your time of need. We usually can’t stop the problems in other’s lives, but we can add perspective, and lighten the load in areas that need it. Genuine friendship will combine this with #1 and 2. Without creating a safe place and emotional connection, surrounding the needs of a friend can still lack intimacy. However, when combined, they are a powerful act of friendship.

 

What do you think it means to be a good friend? What do you struggle with? Ask the Lord to show you!

If you long to be a better friend, consider praying this with me:

Dear Lord,

Thank you for being the perfect Friend to me no matter what I am going through or how I respond.  Open my eyes to see the Friend you are, and the friend that you desire me to be to those around me. I want to love well. I want to build deep community.  Show me how to be who you want me to be.  Build my empathy and compassion for my friends so that I can love well.  Free me from fear so that I can draw closer to those around me. Help me to be a vessel of unity to the Body of Christ.  In Jesus Name. Amen!

 

  1. http://www.parents.com/kids/development/social/why-kids-tattle/
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/overcoming-child-abuse/201006/stop-the-world-i-want-feel-safe

Three Ways to Be a Better Mom

mother mountains

A few days ago I woke up to SIX kids at once. Imagine it: snuggled into your fluffy, down duvet and favorite 400 count sheets collecting REM when suddenly—“Mom, MOM, mom, MOM, Moooom.” I was all like “Whoa, Nelly!” Coffee, COFFEE, coffee, COOOFFFEEEE.” It seems like mornings like this can impact my whole day. I get off on the wrong foot, and Cray-Grumpy Mom wants to run the morning. Let’s not be Cray-Grumpy Mom.  Lets read these three tips to be Sane-Happy Mom. Here they are…

  1.  Heart Posture. Motherhood calls for a lot offerings. First it’s sleep. Then when you get your sleep back you lose your peaceful mornings. Your Anthropologie budget turns into your Gymboree budget.  The hour of reading before bed turns into an hour of folding laundry. There is the added whining, the extra chores, the shriveling life… It can make it easy to feel frustrated.  But here’s a trick to help: We have to see everything thrown at us as an opportunity—an opportunity to teach, learn, stretch in our faith, grow…  But, the struggle is real, right? The benefit I have as a follower of Jesus is to know I can cast my burdens at His feet and rest in His activity in my life. I don’t have to stress. If I’m looking to Him, he will use me and make me more like Him even in the ugly or ordinary things.
  2. You deal with you. Parents, quite making your children deal with your issues. When I’m frustrated it’s easy for me to project that onto those around me. This is especially dangerous with young hearts that are easily crushed with our words, expressions, and actions. When I suddenly feel frustrated or angry, it’s important to step back, see what triggered it, and deal with my heart before I unintentionally take my issues out on the kids. Sometimes it’s difficult to take the time to take inventory of our emotions, but if we don’t, the consequences can be huge.
  3. Say Yes more. Parenting little ones can require constant mental and physical activity throughout the day.  It’s easy to say “no” to our children simply because we are drained. “No, we can’t go to the park today. Mommy is tired.” “No, you can’t play with Play-Dough right now. I don’t want another mess in the kitchen.” Saying “no” can create important structure at times, but saying “yes” nurtures and builds trust in your child. This is especially important for children from hard places. (http://empoweredtoconnect.org/building-trust-by-saying-yes/). We all have limits and responsibilities, but parenting requires connection and doing lots of things (not just needs, but also wants) outside of ourselves.

Let’s be honest, these areas don’t really allow us to “arrive.”  But as we allow the Holy Spirit to be Lord of our hearts and minds, we can trust HIM to do the work in these areas. It’s important to remember that we don’t have to strive to be an amazing mom.  We can trust Jesus to teach us and work in us.  I hope that these three things bring light to areas He wants to mold in you as He is in me.  ❤

DIY String Art Map

IMG_7124We recently put new hardwood flooring throughout our main level. By “we” I mean my husband and some of our amazing friends.  “We” also tore out a large built-in in the middle of our living area, and had to refinish some drywall. Neither of these projects are complete, and could be considered a bit of an eye sore.  I decided that despite those projects, I needed a DIY (for me: DIY therapy). *Enter DIY string art project.* I’ve loved string art since we moved into our first Colorado house in 2011. I printed off some large block letters and made a “WASH  DRY” sign with colorful string and galvanized nails for our laundry room.  It was pretty cute if I do say so myself.  I decided that that single, small project qualified me to create a massive string art world map for our new home.  🙂  Truthfully, string art is fairly simple, but can require lots of TIME.  For this project, it did indeed.

The supply list was simple:

Large Map

Level

Weather-strip Nails

Sharpie

Painter’s Tape

Embroidery String ( I used grey)

First off, I decided where I would like to create it. Since I didn’t use a board or similar material, I needed to be certain since I wouldn’t be able to move it.  Next, I hung my map using painter’s tape and a level. It would be so sad to do all of the work to end up with a crooked map, so I highly recommend NOT skipping that step. Now, it’s time to get to work. Make a LARGE cup a joe, and let’s go!

I used a sharpie to mark the spots on the map I would be putting nails.  I drew a guide with the spacing size I wanted on my thumb to help things move a little faster.  When going around small countries, I did closer spacing to maintain the shape.  I skipped small islands, and didn’t get ridiculously detailed.

After my spots were marked, I used small copper weatherstrip nails and nailed them into each of my marked spots.  I used a small stool for higher portions to help keep my nails straight.    IMG_6579

Once the nails were in I took pictures of each section with my phone.  When you remove the map, the borders can get confusing.  Picture references really help.  I tore off the map one continent at a time, and strung it before moving on.

IMG_6588 2

To add the string, I tied the end to a nail, and cut off the excess. Then I randomly wrapped the string across and around nails until I achieved the look I desired.  After I completed a section, I simply tied it off like I started it.  I tried stringing in a pattern initially but wasn’t happy with the effect.

IMG_7127

I may add more string to sections in the future, but overall I’m really happy with how it turned out!

String art is endless fun!  I whipped together a string art arrow in like 10 minutes the other day by staining a scrap piece of pallet, and eye-balling the nails.  You can really make it as simple or intricate as you want.

If you live in the Colorado Springs area, and are looking for a home with a wall to pound a million holes into (hehe), check out my husband’s facebook page!  He would love to help you find a home to make lovely!